A year ago November, I stepped into the identity of brand photography and, what we call in the business realm, a pivot.
See. I love being a photographer. Always have. Yet, the long hours of editing and weekends/evenings filled with shoots didn’t quite align with my original intent in starting this business. The mantra I carried into entrepreneurship was freedom. Freedom in my time and finances to be able to go and do as God calls without hesitation.
But as time went on, I lost this compass of freedom, took on workaholism and threw myself into a few boxes of my own making.
– We’re talking boxes from my own skewed mindsets and opinions of myself and what I could/should do.
– Boxes inspired by an image of success that never quite settled well in my heart.
Let’s just say none of them were ever proportioned to fit me in the first place.
Okay – I’m sure you were expecting this bright-eyed, success story of how I [Rachael] pivoted my business focus from a full time wedding photographer to brands over a two year span.
And trust me, we’re getting there.
But I can’t honestly share that story without giving you a look behind the curtain of some of the harder, less than glamorous things that happened pre-pivot.
It’s easy to point fingers at outward influences to distract from an unsettling feeling in your gut that life might not be going how you wanted it to – and at first you don’t know what to do about it.
From the beginning, branding has been one of my specialties. (more like obsession, but it’s fine)
In the shadows of my business, I moonlighted as a wannabe brand designer. Built websites and helped family & friends get their brands off the ground. But somehow, I didn’t quite make the connection of how I could pair that specialty with my photo work.
So publicly, I “stayed in my lane”; pursued goals in the wedding & portrait photographer world while taking on a branding gig here and there to make some extra cash and keep my spirits up. All while being a serial-re-brander of my own business because I never felt comfortable in my own skin.
Listen, I loved that season of life. And still do – my chapter in wedding photography isn’t entirely closed yet. It just needed to shift from the main thing so that I could thrive in it once again. The importance and passion of telling a wedding story with intentional photographs for genuine couples will always warm my heart.
Yet, I couldn’t help but feel that whole time that there was something more. Something missing. Something that was holding me back from fully embracing this entrepreneur life and chasing after a dream original to me rather than one that I’d templated from all my heroes in the photography realm.
I wish I could say that inspiration struck, I discovered brand photography, the stars aligned and I went for it. But this isn’t a Hallmark film with a predictable plot. It’s an ever-refining brand run by a less-than-perfect human who at the root of it all was afraid of being seen as a failure for pivoting out of something “successful” that had consumed her identity and her work-life for a long while.
Over the course of two years, I tried on the idea of brand photography. Pitching myself to a few friends who needed updated headshots and content imagery for Instagram. Taking a few courses. Traveling for a workshop. Throwing a few images in the myriad of wedding and portrait photos that littered my instagram feed. And slowly . . . my confidence for this whole brand thing started to spark.
See, a strong brand is more than skin deep. It’s brewed in this continual process of discovery and refinement that works best over time.
I began getting a few inquiries. Started hearing positive feedback on the few photos I dared to post on my IG stories and kept chugging along with photographing weddings to keep my business afloat.
Twenty-twenty was my test zone for if this thing could actually work. I started introducing myself as a brand photographer in real life. Trying on that title just felt right. My passion for what I did began to grow exponentially and for once in my career, I could tell you with boldness why I did what I did and how that was different from someone else.
Another mentorship and a handful more brand shoots later, I nervously set a date to publicly announce my new title. A rebrand and a new website set the perfect stage for the debut.
The phrase “good things take time” works for confidence, business, and especially a brand. Living in the idea of brand photography without having to own it gave me the wings to fly when it was time to jump off the cliff and embrace it as the next season of my business.
November came and went. My new offerings launched and I’ve now lived in the reality of being a brand photographer for a year. It’s been one of the most daunting, yet liberating seasons of business yet. And I have to say, I’m loving it. Never would’ve imagined how much, honestly.
If I could go back and write a letter to the Rachael who dared to try this thing out at the end of 2019, here’s what I would say: “there’s something on the horizon that you can’t even fathom and it’s going to be better than alright.”
“It’s going to take leaping outside the four walls of your comfort zone and trying something you haven’t seen done a hundred times before.”
Friend, I don’t know where you’re at right now. If you’re feeling like everyone else but you is “getting it right”. . . maybe you’re looking at the wrong thing altogether.
Please, don’t measure yourself by someone else’s success.
Your’s will look different.
And that’s okay.
Better than okay.