I had this cute little darling girl, Kate, crawling all over, doing cute things. I can remember being frustrated since using more of my 3.2 megapixel Olympus point and shoot (which I only ever used the internal storage for – yes, that used to exist – I would run and dump it every 16 shots). For the longest time I’d used my Nikon N55 film SLR camera. So flustered with my home setups and random photos not working out with the electronic shutter 1.5 inch LCD screen Olympus, I went back to using my Nikon film camera.
Take photos. Send out. Get scans. Rinse, repeat. For a long time.
2007 comes along, little boy coming. I purchase a higher end point and shoot – a Sony brand. It’s nice, but I go back to the film SLR. Control. A few months later, in the fall of 2007, I purchase a Canon Rebel – a silver one at that. I remember weighing with the guy my options at the Best Buy store when trying to stay within my budget and choose between the Canon or the trusty Nikon brand I’d went back to over and over for film. I chose the Canon, paid for it, and drove the 40 minutes home.
Then I called my husband, who was on duty that day – and sobbed into the phone that I just spent $700 dollars on a digital SLR that I’d hoped would give me the same feel as my film SLR camera without the film expense and delay. I cried because I thought I was a fool (and I thought he might be a bit unwound over my spending). I cried because there were no photography friends except the two I had online and I didn’t know if I’d be successful at it. But I wanted to learn, so badly, how to put the things I was seeing into an image – how to take the moments I wanted savored forever into print. And, I wanted to do it right. And I wanted to do it for other people. There really wasn’t much of that here in my small town at that time, in fact, there were only studios here.
I dreamt of taking photos of people at their houses. In there houses, around their houses. At parks or places they loved. I wanted to take photos of little babies as they were.
Who was going to trust me, who was going to let me do… that?
Side thought: (What I didn’t realize in the fall of 2007 is that mentally as well as physically, I was still recovering from the traumatic effects of a horrifically and violently ill pregnancy – and part of my sudden dive into all of this was growing out of the feeling that I was going to die. I felt that I’d survived the train wreck pregnancy and now I had to do – immediately – everything I’d ever dreamed of. Because, what if I get sick again? And while I KNEW this would only happen if I was pregnant, it didn’t matter. The post-traumatic stress is unbearable and it left me unable to make rational decisions, you know, such as maybe watching my kids grow a little longer. But that didn’t make sense, because I wanted to learn to photograph them as they grew. What a mess of thought, right?)
After a few weeks I realized at the skill level I’d taught myself at I needed a bit “more” camera ability to accomplish what I wanted. Not only did my darling husband never balk at the $700 I dropped on the silver Rebel, but he took a deep breath when I asked him if I could drop another $1400 on a different model. I cried then, too. Because he didn’t bat an eye – and he made it very clear that he believed in me. I needed that. I needed someone to tell me I could do this. I needed someone to know what my vision was. And He saw it. He saw that I wanted to go outside of the typical and he pretty much sent me on my way. I definitely didn’t expect that.
I started a blog (side note: that blog got accidentally deleted in February of 09 and I sobbed. My journey was gone!) where I could interact with the images I was turning out. I let real professionals make me cry. I let them tell me that, what I thought was my best yet, was crap. I sobbed. I looked into the resale value of my cameras on eBay. But then I remembered why I asked them to critique: If I wasn’t doing it right, I wanted to know. They gave me what I asked for. Why was I so mad, because I wanted to be spoon fed a bunch of butterflies and glitter and bullsh*t lies to make my confidence better? I think I did. I didn’t have a Facebook, all I had were real people who did this for decades before me, being real.
Side thought: (I think if I did have a Facebook, my friends would have blown smoke up my ass telling me how awesome I was because lets face it, even I love a crappy edited poorly shot photo of my kid because… it’s my kid. With that, I never would have gotten better).
There was no instagram, no iphone. No instant professional photographer because I have a Facebook. I AM SO THANKFUL I began my journey when there was a time when you HAD to learn to be successful. I began meeting people who graciously allowed me to, for free or a very minimal fee, photograph their children and their families so I could build a portfolio. I’d figured it would take years for me to get to where I was in a short amount of time. I was my toughest critic and I wanted to get better and better.
Most of those who started with me, stayed with me and are still here today. Even when I went from being a $30 photographer with a-la-carte ordering on the side to a $150 photographer with a-la-carte ordering, they stayed. Not all, I became out of budget for a lot of people and I understood. I began to offer smaller, less inclusive sessions (mini) here and there to still accommodate when I could. One of those pros told me, better to start high and stay high – you’ll lose people if you start low and raise. They were right, but those who stayed mean so much to me – I’ve seen their babies grow to school aged children. I’ve seen them grow and laugh and cry. They are a huge part of my success and they are almost like family to me.
I call them by the cute nicknames their families gave them early on – still. Every change I made, they said “can we please make our appointment this fall”. To say I felt lucky was an understatement. I never EVER took them for granted.
They believed in me, too.
These are the connections I wanted. I wanted to form these relationships, so that when we were together, it showed in their photos that I knew them. If their kids pouted, I took it anyway. That was who they were that day at that point in their lives, and surprisingly, even the parents said “I didn’t know I could love a photo of my child messy this much” and the like.
I was so proud to say “I am a photographer”. Finally. I’d waited forever to say it, and I said it proud.
And now, I feel like I have to hide that some days.
Somewhere along the line, I decided I needed to adapt to the market. Which is partially true, we all do. I changed the way I did things but put my own spin on it. Still happy with that for sure. But I do miss the documenting I used to do – it’s just not as popular here as I’d hoped. That being said, I found other ways to do that. I did weddings, shot birth stories. I filled that need.
I struggled as the market became saturated here. Everyone is a photographer now. Everyone. And honestly, I don’t really care – I am a firm believer in everyone should chase their dreams. From sun up to sun down, chase them. Run with them, carry them. Cry with them. Grow them. But I feel like the desire to LEARN has disappeared. That being said, I am not above recognizing all of the true talent that I am surrounded by here. There is quite a bit – and there are a few who are up and coming here who “see” and who are desperate to learn. And they will knock it out of the park.
I have been so, so incredibly lucky not to suffer because of this, given my rates ARE higher than most in the area, but still very low (believe it or not) compared to those 20 miles from me. I have stayed busy, there are indeed people who value hard work and can see the difference. But I have also experienced hurt. I have experienced the pain of seeing people I love go elsewhere. You’d think that would be a silly thing, right? But when you’re like me, and you become attached to these kids and their families, jealously sets in. Jealousy that someone else could do it better or that someone else was chosen. Hurt that maybe you (I) didn’t do a good enough job last time. Or that it was something personal. I have pretty darn thick skin, but sometimes it becomes a lot to bear. It seems stupid to even care or be upset or hurt about something like that, it’s just business after all. Some hurt, most don’t. The ones that do, really do. And that’s my own fault. However what that becomes though is almost… obsessive. Searching for ways to figure out how to stay on top, how to improve what I already know. Improving is a good thing, but not being able to sleep at night because of it, is not.
For as many as I have gained in relationships, there are many I feel like I have lost. My poor husband has seen me cry and has had to lift my chin more times than I’m sure he cares to. He’s seen me want to give up but never told me to give up. He’s seen me get mocked, copied, royally screwed over, used, and have all of the things I support and value be taken over by other people to make their own.
He’s witnessed me become sad. We all get our inspiration from others – that’s how we do it. But at some point, the hurt, the backstabbing (the photography industry contains some of the most ruthless, evil people I have ever encountered but also some of the kindest), and the rat race to convince people that I’m worth the investment becomes exhausting. I am tired. (Remind me again why I would ever care to convince anyone that I’m worth it, if they can’t just see it? No, I wouldn’t want anyone to ask me to photograph for them if they didn’t feel it was worth it, it would show.)
Those of you who know my husbands job, he works 24 hour shifts. This leaves me with limited work time and my goals of completing my work are often unrealistic and I have had my fair share of disappointing people because of this. I do my best, but it isn’t always enough. I’ve lost friends over it.
I. have. Lost. Friends. Over. It.
But, I have also gained friends from it and felt like a part of people families as well.
I stop and I look back to 2007 and I see how far I have come. I contemplate if everything I’ve cried over and worked for is worth what I miss out on with my family and worth the pain the job gives me socially and personally. I stop and I think – have I lost the knack I started with? Have I become so robotic that I’ve simply lost it?
Funny: did I really cry over a $1400 initial investment in a big girl camera when the cheapest one I own now set me back $3500… before the $2000 lens?
When people ask what I do I mumble that I’m a photographer because I feel like I will get lumped into group. So instead I say I manage a studio. Or, I work with babies. I want to yell out, “But I really do know what I’m doing!”
And then, this happened a few weeks ago:
I had the chance to document for the first time in a long time. I had the chance to watch this incredible female human, that I’d just met, be fearlessly determined to deliver this child. I watched her amazing husband tell her, over and over while he breathed with her:
I believe in you. I support you. You are strong. I love you. You’re almost there. You can do this. You’re so close. If you want the epidural, you can have it. You just say. I believe in you.
I hope when mom looks at those photos, she forever hears her husband repeating that mantra. I hope she can hear the nurse encouraging her. I hope when she looks back she will see that she is believed in, that she is supported, that she is strong; loved. That when she is tired, she’s almost there. That when she needs to cave, she can (even though she totally didn’t and toughed it out!).
THIS IS WHAT I WANTED.
I wanted my images to continue to speak. To remind. The busy day baking you had me photograph, I want you to remember how you laughed about the flour that spilled instead of got angry. I want to you lick the spoon and not worry about getting sick and remember how fun it was to have that carefree afternoon.
I want you to remember how your child’s hair smelled when you look at the photo of you snuggling; the squeal of your child when they get the bubbles from the bubble bath on their nose.
That’s where I started and, I don’t know if I’ve been delivering that for people any more. I love posing people and waiting for magic, I love the open field I can take people two twice in two years and get a totally different effect because my focus is on the people. I don’t NOT love that part of my job, but I also feel I haven’t been doing what my heart loves to do enough. Part of that is being with my family, too.
And I don’t know why. Why I haven’t tried harder to do that. Was it just easier not to? Was it just easier to pose’m and go? I don’t know. I haven’t blogged since the beginning of the year, and that’s not like me. I’ve become afraid to share.
This could all be crazy talk.
Side note: The last few sessions I have done have been responded to so well. I’ve actually received texts or emails of folks saying that they loved them. I needed that, as I’ve been discouraged – so thank you to you if you’ve taken the time to do that.
My kids are four years apart and next week they will both start school full time. I will finally have 5 days a week once my son has his first full week where I CAN work. Where I can be done when they are home from school. I longed for this day and now that it is finally here, I am a mess.
Did I seriously wish for this? Did I honestly hope for the day that I could work every day uninterrupted, and now they will be gone? Did I really spend the last 5 years hushing them?
Can I please have a do-over? Did I never really make the time? Was I really more upset and hurt by things that the photography industry did to me than I was focused on being a mother?
Probably. But it’s not over.
It’s not over.
I cut back on weddings because I need the weekends with my kids in the summer. This will take effect and will help. My rates increased to make it worth my time. A huge piece of me lies in the wedding industry, I grew up in it. It’s in my blood. But my children, ARE my blood.
I thought long and hard about this every time I wanted to throw in the towel and realized without it, I lose a piece of myself. I lose my outlet, I lose.
But I also need a metamorphosis. A change. Wings. I need to love what I love because I love it, not because it fits the industry standard. The Ford dealership doesn’t sell new Hondas, yes it’s still a CAR, but it’s a different make. A different model. A different company.
Ford does not sell Hondas.
It has to be okay to not sell what everyone else sells, and to be your own product.
In my small town, a change can kill off a good thing. However, I’m drowning and I’m emotionally the equivalent of burnt toast. Sloughing off on the butter knife little crumbles of what I wanted to be.
I need to get back to my roots. I need to find it. And I will share that journey with you just as I shared it when I started.
The announcement is as follows:
As of September 1, 2013:
Danielle Luc Photography will ONLY be accepting NEW clients for:
- The age range of newborn through age one.
- Birth Stories and related.
- Noted mini session specials.
Danielle Luc Photography WILL STILL BE photographing her returning families and children that have been photographed in the past.
What is considered a returning/past client?
Those who’ve been with me from the start, and annually from there onward.
Those who’ve had a regular paid portrait session of any kind (weddings included) within the last year (in 2012 and beyond) and who are already registered via portrait agreement.
After September 1, 2013, I will be on hiatus for taking any new clients who are not looking for a maternity, birth, newborn, milestone, or first birthday. Prenatal through age one ONLY. Family/sibling shots are still taken during maternity and newborn sessions as desired, as normal.
Anyone NOT a returning client can register HERE to reserve a spot on my schedule through the fall for family portraits until September 1, 2013. PLEASE TYPE THE SESSION DATE AS SEPTEMBER 1ST! The session is obviously not then, but you will have to fill in the field to continue. After that, there is no ifs ands or buts. As a courtesy, the retainer/payment in full is cut in half with the balance due the date of your session to lessen the financial obligation of registering on such short notice. Those registering by September 1, 2013 will also be considered as a returning client in the future. Note, that scheduling for fall sessions will not begin until mid September.
I have a list of the best in the biz that are around me here that I will be able to happily refer you. Just ask.
I am hoping to use this time to focus on those who have been so understanding, loyal, positive, and supportive through the years as I gave and continue to give my artistic side some wiggle room to find my way. My heart lies with them and my love for newborn through age one photography. And unless I follow it, I cannot truly be putting out there my very best. There will be opportunities for all along the way to partake in, returning client or not.
I leave you with this – those of you getting started? Don’t sell yourself short. Learn. Get your work torn to bits. Cry about it. Threaten to sell your stuff once in your life when you’re down, know the feeling of “maybe I just can’t” then learn from it and try harder. Make mistakes, but not on paying clients. Don’t undercut the industry, don’t use others – don’t be sneaky. Don’t use your talent to be hurtful. Be humble, keep learning. Know when it’s time to grow and know that you are never done. You are not better than any one else as a person just because you are good at what you do. Take the criticism some more, cry some more, and use it as fuel. Don’t pretend something you had help creating was yours alone – don’t falsely represent yourself. Don’t hurry. Don’t lose out. Be careful with who you share your “secrets” with but don’t be stingy either.
Don’t stop doing it for you, your way. Or you’ll be just like everyone else.
Thank you for all of the years of support and encouragement and patronage. I look forward to continuing serving those of you who’ve been with me this whole way (eh, and this past year!) and I look forward to meeting all of these NEW babies and seeing them through their first birthdays.
Hopefully when the new door opens, I will see some of you again and that you’ll still hang out and follow me on here and on Facebook.
Hopefully, I am not closing the door on myself by following my heart.
I believe in you. I support you. You are strong. I love you. You’re almost there. You can do this. You’re so close. If you need to change things, you can do that. You just say.
I have to believe in myself.