2015: A Photographer's Confession | Covington, Virginia

With the new year fast approaching in the next few days, I feel the need to write about how much of a roller coaster and then inspiring 2015 has been; more like a loud recap of everything I have experienced.  It's been a crazy twelve months and honestly, writing this is making me realize, I have been one busy, and emotional girl!  And so much of  the progress isn't all visual.  It's a personal and professional movement forward and then backwards and then forward again.

The first year of being a pro is like being the new kid in school and then having someone glue a pair of thick coke bottle frames to your head when you have perfect vision, and then sending you in for the first day, with nothing explained.  Everything is cloudy, you feel like your head is spinning and you feel nauseous all the time.  You walk in bumping into everything, and quite frankly, all the popular kids think you look funny (and not in a good way), so they don't talk to you; and to make matters worse, they think you are a joke.  You don't fit in anywhere  and you're completely intimidated to reach out to anyone.  OR!  So, it seems.  Then, one day, you realize you do have the courage to remove those glasses and bam!  it's not as fuzzy or confusing at all.  You do have direction, and you know exactly what you want to do.  And, as others start to see it; they want to be involved with what you are doing.  You aren't part of the popular crowd yet, but that's okay, because you are making your own way confidently.  And it's finally being noticed.  That's exactly what this year has been for me.

Initially, I started the year out with not really knowing exactly where I wanted to go.  You can say I was winging it.  Hard.  

I started by offering  low cost mini sessions and advertising on local yard sale pages just to try to get my name out there.  I advertised being a photographer for newborns, children, families, birthday events, and I even thought about boudoir portraiture.  However, it just didn't feel like any of that was necessarily my style, and to confirm my fears, no one really wanted to book with me.  I was a stranger in a new town, with a new business, with not a lot of experience to show for what I wanted to do.  I kept feeling lost. 

Then, I thought that if I did a Senior Rep Program, I could reach out to the teenagers, and with their networks of friends get a pretty good start.  It worked.  Reflecting back over this past year, I can sit here and tell you that I am in the midst of my second successful Senior Program.  Actually, I'm preparing for my third, so even if I don't include anything else, I know that's a great success in itself.

Senior Photography Rep Program Collage for N. Nicely Photography

Additionally, in the midst of all the Senior portraits I was being flooded with, I made a wonderful connection with Martha, from the Hill Crest Bed & Breakfast. Working with her, and doing advertisement projects landed my work published in four magazines throughout the course of the year and throughout the entire region, and then some. Yes, in my first official year as a pro, the same spread landed in four separate publications!  This accomplishment alone has been especially rewarding for myself.  Remember that moment of clarity for the newbie?  This was it for me.  I knew, the moment I got confirmation that the publishers wanted me, that I was doing it.  And I was good at it. 

Hill Crest Bed and Breakfast Advertisement Shoot
Tea Time Photography Shot for Hill Crest Bed and Breakfast
Photography Advertisement Shot for Hill Crest Bed and Breakfast

After doing some practice bridal shoots, I booked my first gorgeous wedding for June down in Lake Gaston, VA.  It was a small, 1950's lake house themed  ceremony and reception that couldn't have been more beautiful.  With that booking, I was able to land a few more weddings and get my name out there.  The entire summer was filled with inquiries leaving me to figure  out which weddings I would capture to build my specific style. 

Lake Gaston Wedding Picture Bridesmaid Pose
Lake Gaston Wedding Picture Bride and Groom Pose Black and White
Lake Gaston Wedding Picture Bride and Groom Pose Intimate

This year hasn't been so easy, though.  What helped was, finding a pretty awesome group of ladies to network with, and we have become close friends, which is nice because forming the relationships we have take years of practice and it can get kind of frustrating to find inspiring motivators like them.  Especially with that intimidation and confidence factor in the way.  The one where I was fearful to reach out and talk to anyone; even to include my friends who were photographers.  I felt like if I reached out to them, they were going to be upset with me for "stepping into their territory" and would wish that I just quit.  And, honestly, I even saw where a few of them have said some snarky things in vague Facebook posts about me, which really hurt because at that moment, I did feel like the lone kid in school being made fun of, but regardless, I found myself attaching to a supportive network, which has been a major feat forward in my quest to be successful.  

One thing that has made 2015 pretty great and bearable in my low moments, is the support of my husband.  At first, he knew I was lost and frustrated.  He's watched me go from "I want this so bad" to "Oh no, I am freaking out, what do I do" and cry.   He was there with me at night when I would just sit in front of my computer with my heart pounding as I edited photos with no idea of what I was doing. When I would embarrass myself enough to want to give up, he answered every single question of "Can I really even do this" with a definitive, "Yes, keep going".  My husband has been the quiet voice in my ear telling me I am just as good as everyone else.  I now know he was right, and he saw for me what I couldn't. 

Photo courtesy of Courtney Fridley of Courtney Fridley Photography

Photo courtesy of Courtney Fridley of Courtney Fridley Photography

Another progressive move forward was a change I made in going from low cost session fees with handing all images over, to portraiture work with pre-approval consultations, shoots, and order sessions where I can provide the best full experience to let my clients know that I am in this because I love everything photography.  I struggled at first to differentiate myself from being a stay at home mom with a camera wanting spending money, to a full service business with direction and a purpose.  And if you aren't a photographer, then let me tell you, it's a perfect combination of fear, uncertainty, confidence and courage all thrown into one emotion.  Making a leap like that is huge.  

I know this doesn't even cover everything I have done this past year, but it does highlight the honest truth of what 2015 was for me.  Growth.  And growth is not just the rainbows and sunshine.  It's mistakes, failures, and feeling incompetent in a sea of thousands of other creatives trying to make it in this visually gorgeous world; but I write this because of what 2015 brought for me in its entirety.  And, if I didn't include the good and bad impacts, I wouldn't be telling my real story.  

Nevertheless, my confidence has skyrocketed.  I now know my worth, and I don't quiver at the thought of moving forward.  The idea of being a successful photographer doesn't scare me.  Knowing that having to take risks to stand out in this industry is actually a motivator for me now.  I WANT to take chances, I want to offer advice to fellow photographers.  I want to grow and be known for amazing work.  That IS what 2016 is going to be for me.  A year of chances, making changes, and growing so much more.  And frankly, I know I'm on my way.