When I packed my bags to move to France for my school year-long teaching position, I felt like I had made a very clear ‘one or the other’ decision. The choices: move to Lille and fulfill my dream of spending an extended period of time in France, or stay in Virginia, work hard, and make my photography business a real thing, At the end of last summer, I had some good momentum and consistent work. I had work to do every day, and was really motivated to improve on my workflow and systems to make it a real thing. Living in France, or nurturing my photography business; two very different dreams, both things that I wanted very much.
It’s obvious which dream I decided to pursue, but the less obvious part is how I felt about it. I really saw my move as me ‘abandoning’ my business at a time when it really needed my full attention. I went from a summer of putting together my website, photographing my first wedding outside of Virginia, and nailing down my editing style to moving out of the country and turning down multiple fall wedding inquiries (which is insane, because it’s not like I get inquiries everyday.) It was difficult to turn down people who appreciate my work and wanted me to be the ones documenting their memories and most special days.
Eight months, a lot of self reflection, and nine new wedding clients booked later, I realize that I completely, absolutely misunderstood my dream versus dream choice.
I was not abandoning my business or my photography dream. It wasn’t one or the other.
France has given me so many things. Time, inspiration for how I want to live my life, beautiful opportunities to photograph my trips and better understand my own style, moments of self reflection, and most importantly: the hindsight to see that I was dreaming way too small.
My move to France gave me, quite literally, the space I didn’t know I needed to grow. Because photography can often be a daunting and intimidating field to break into, my dreams were small and my confidence was low. I didn’t understand how to hone in on my non-photography related skills and experiences in my business. There was no huge turning point, and no real change in my photo style or anything like that; just a gradual realization that my time in France is a huge asset to my business, will keep me inspired for years, and that I just need to be a little scrappier.
I started using my free time to reach out to potential new wedding clients, writing blog posts (something I really used to cringe at), and sharing my random thoughts about life, travel, and myself. I tried to get sorta brave and share real thoughts on Instagram, something I thought only established, big photographers had permission to do. The connections and responses were immediate. Being so far away, it’s easy to forget how many people support alllllll of my dreams and me as a human, not just my occasional pretty pictures. I’ve gotten encouragement, really connected with people, and became motivated to keep sharing my reflections, even when it’s uncomfortable.
Perhaps the most obvious change was randomly starting to talk about my dad, something I’ve never done...with pretty much anyone, and certainly not on social media. It’s not that all of a sudden I have these life-changing ideas to share, or some kind of authority to share them. Quite the opposite; it’s that I get really frustrated feeling like I’m the only one feeling these feelings…and it’s so much the opposite. Every time I’ve leaned out of my comfort zone and shared something slightly uncomfortable, like my dead dad emotions or bad pacifying habits or travel being exhausting and maybe not for me, a lot of people seem to share those feelings.
Understanding what and how to share myself has already helped my business grow, and I can’t wait to keep it up once I’m back in the US. When I move back to Virginia, or wherever, I won’t just label myself a ‘photographer.’ People often need a photographer, but they really want is a human being with feelings and a personality and the ability to create genuine connections. France gave me that. I can’t wait to be that human for many people to come.
I didn’t abandon my business. I moved it to a new home to help it grow into something way bigger and better than it was.
Thanks for reading, sharing, and following. xx