Early last summer I made the hard decision to close my studio doors.
I felt like a failure, even though I knew it was the best choice for me and my work.
Looking back before this epiphany, I realized I had been ignoring the little trail of breadcrumbs, the little clues indicating I needed to change my path. I loved the convenience of a studio, especially in rainy Seattle.
But convenience isn’t everything.
During this time I was also working on a 365 film project. I was really enjoying taking photos of my kids in our own home while faced with the challenges of light, clutter, and composition. I’d scan a scene and feel invigorated and creative, and would be saying, “What if?” to myself quite often.
Around this time I also realized I didn’t feel this way in the studio. The backdrop was too much of a blank slate for me. Sure, I could manipulate the lighting to get different looks, but my strength was definitely in the realm of UN-posed lifestyle photography versus portrait photography.
Then, after looking at my numbers, it was obvious. I hadn’t used the studio nearly enough in the past year to justify the rent. I was only using it for newborn sessions. All my family clients wanted outdoor photographs, where I also felt more creative.
Even typing this right now, the change I needed was so glaringly obvious. But I was fearful. I was saying things like, “I have to start all over? I am a failure. What will my peers, family, and friends think?” It’s so easy to maintain status quo because of the fear of failure and change.
I cried about it with my close friends who lifted me up. Then I lifted myself up. Once I owned the decision I felt lighter. I was excited thinking about what was going to happen. I was ready to move forward. I did just that and sold my studio gear within two weeks. The transition was as smooth as I could have asked for. It was meant to be.
So here I am now, reflecting back on that decision and what has transpired in the six months since.
Would I have made the same decision? Am I still fearful? Do I miss the studio? What have been the positives and negatives of shooting in-home sessions?
1. It was the absolute best decision for me.
Shooting on location is worth it! I love meeting clients in their home where they are most comfortable and most vulnerable, where they weave their stories. I love seeing how they interact in their own space. I get to see what their personal style is, what kind of music and artwork they like, how they like to decorate, and how they like to cuddle on the couch. When I am challenged by the confines of a living space and the quality of light I can feel the excitement build within me.
2. Don’t let fear get in the way.
I learned that I was too worried about making a change and failing. No matter how much we read or talk about letting go of fear, taking chances, or daring greatly, they are just words until we recognize fear, acknowledge its existence and live alongside it knowing it will not go away.
We can coexist with fear and that is okay. Seeing this pattern in myself has helped me in many ways! I’m taking more chances in other areas of my business and personal life.
3. I don’t miss the studio at all.
Looking back on it, I was MOST excited to have a studio space so I would have somewhere to shoot when it’s dark and rainy and have somewhere to store my equipment! (Actually I do miss the convenience of it. Ha!)
4. I’m still creatively challenged.
Shooting in-home sessions on film, especially in the dark winter months, definitely has its own set of challenges. They are not scary challenges, they are creative challenges.
I don’t feel paralyzed with the fear of failure, but I have made mistakes and learned a lot. I know I need to use artificial light if there isn’t enough natural light because film loves light. I can’t crank my ISO up to 3200. I know I need to prioritize the spaces I want to shoot in with the 130 photos I can take with 6 rolls of film.
It has been really helpful to arrive ahead of time and look at the light, the space, and the unique home characteristics I want to incorporate. I’m learning how to dispel clients’ fears of not having a clutter free magazine-style home. Who does? I also lug tons of equipment around so I’m ready for anything!
5. I have positive momentum.
I’ve gotten many positive responses about the transition which have carried over into my style and perspective. I love to use creative blur, double exposures, and 3D effects. I love the surprise of walking into a room filled with light and a beautiful window, and envisioning how a photo will turn out.
Most of all, I love how my clients are feeling. The sessions are taking longer, but no one is stressed about it. We take breaks and hang out. We chat over coffee while the kids have a quick snack. Moments are not forced into a 45-minute time slot. Kids and parents are more comfortable and that makes all the difference.
6. Big changes like this take time to fully transition.
While I am so happy with the change, it’s taking a while to steer my business down this new path. I had to make many changes to my website and copy. I’m continually marketing and selling this in-home offering to new and existing clients. Although I’d like to be busier this time of year, I will keep working away to tweak my brand for my target client and build momentum.
It’s all worth it. I’m excited! I’m motivated. I’m happy to be going in the right direction!
I hope sharing my experience has helped you in some way.
Pay attention to what is lighting your fire and also what you are dreading. Try to take note if there are little clues along the way. If you constantly feel pulled in a direction you don’t want to go, pause and ask, “What if?”
This is all a part of the journey, friends, and it never ends!