Like many mothers, I fell in love with photography when my children were born.
My younger three are each a year apart. When I began to have babies, my husband and I decided it would be best if I would quit my corporate job to become a stay at home mom.
And then one day, my husband brought me a cheap digital camera. I became obsessed with taking pictures!
Every chance I could find, I would take pictures. After a few short years (and some serious camera upgrades), I decided to make this obsession a business. I would have never imagined that my love of photographing my kids would lead me to owning a thriving business.
Embracing my roots
I am mom with a camera. Two decades later and many with many achievements under my belt, I will never run away from this description. It made me who I am today.
With babies and little kids at home, I would spend every moment of my free time taking their pictures. I had no intentions of becoming a professional photographer. I simply wanted to capture their sweet little faces and their every last move.
But when I did decide to make the leap to owning my own business, I made it a point to build that business around my family. My boys and my role as their mother were a huge part of every decision I made.
It wasn’t until recently that I realized how my life with my children was reflected in my business. I began as a maternity, baby, and family photographer. As my children began to grow, so did my photographic interests. I no longer wanted to photograph babies. I wanted to photograph tweens and teens because it mimicked my home life. I shifted my business, and changed my photographic niche.
Professional success from personal experience
I fully believe that by embracing who I am as a mom with a camera has allowed me to take photos that demand to be noticed. I have had the opportunity to speak on the main stages at all of the major photography conferences. I have travelled the world teaching other photographers. I have had two studios in Downtown Chicago. This kind of success wasn’t an accident. It grew from me being confident in my voice and confident in shooting what I know.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was really the poster child of growing my business with my children. I found that I was more creative if I maintained the same headspace as I had within my home life.
Sometimes I would argue with my boys about wearing coats outside while they were headed to school. They would always blow me off and instead they would wear a hoodie when it was 20 degrees outside!
Then I would head to my photo session with a kid that is the same age as my own children. Like my boys, my teen client also didn’t want to wear a coat. I was dealing with the same things and it felt so authentic and relatable! Work didn’t feel like work because I knew how to capture this stage. And it was fantastic!
Learning through a new life stage
So after 17 years in business, I find myself in a new stage of life. And it has kind of left me in a funk of sorts.
My son recently graduated from high school. I couldn’t understand why this exciting event would make me feel down. But then one day it dawned on me.
As the busy mom of four boys, I have never really stopped to think about myself. My personal pursuits and professional pursuits have always been a mirror of them! This boy who is now venturing off on his own was the same one I stayed up nursing at night in one arm while editing with the other. And now he is grown and it can leave a mom feeling a little lost.
But rather than stay in the funk, I looked inward. I started to see myself and this business I love a bit differently. And the lessons I learned have been invaluable.
How to be a mom with a camera and run a business you love
You can create a business on the foundation of being a mom with a camera. In fact, your role as a mother can be a strength! These are the big lessons I have learned running my business alongside running my family.
Build your business around your family
I will never regret the opportunities I declined to be a present mother for my children.
If you can only work one day a week at a certain time of the day do that. Anyone that wants to hire you will do so. Do not let anyone guilt you into making you feel as if you’re “unprofessional.” You can never ever get back the time and years you have with your children.
When I began my career I could only work on Sunday and Monday. That was when my husband had days off. When I went to market my services, I would do so during nap time! I would strap one baby in the Baby Bjorn, and the other two were in the stroller! Even as my boys grew older, I vowed to never miss a basketball game.
Did I worry that opportunities wouldn’t come back when I turned them down to be with my kids? Of course I did! But declining those allowed me to hone my craft, be part of my kids’ childhoods, and build a stronger foundation that kept those opportunities coming back until I could say yes on my terms.
Your clients will always be there. Your speaking engagements and the sponsorships will always be there. It’s easy to worry that the opportunities won’t come back. But I promise you, they will. Take the time to take inventory of what you value most and then allow those to control how you run your business.
Build a relationship with your clients
Just as you have a relationship with your family, build one with those you photograph. I am so lucky to have an extremely loyal client base. The kids I have photographed as babies are still some of the same kids I am photographing at 18 years old and beyond.
I made it a point to build true relationships with those I photograph. By doing so, it creates longevity that can stand the time throughout any changes in the industry.
Take pictures just for you
It’s easy to get caught-up in creating photos for your audience or for work alone. But I urge you to take pictures just for you. You will thank yourself later.
There are no rules to the kinds of pictures you take. They can be of people within your photographic niche, or perhaps just a pretty snowflake you saw. You can even master self-portraits if that makes your heart sing!
In this new stage of life I have been feeling a bit lost with my work, and what I had to offer, in spite of my amazing loyal following.
I originally felt it had to do with going through some sort of creative block. Although creative blocks were a real thing, I now know where they stemmed from. My kids are turning into adults, and I feel I am losing my identity.
No one talks about life after kids when you’re a photographer! Nurturing your soul with work just for you is the best way to prevent the slump and stay connected to your camera (even as the kids grow).
Be present in the pictures with your kids
I know that it is more comfortable behind the camera. But as a mom with a camera, you are motivated to photograph your kids’ lives. And a huge part of their lives is YOU.
Get in the pictures with your kids. These do not have to be perfect! But I promise that as those kids grow, you will be so happy to see all of your smiling faces together. The memories of you with them are the reason that you do what you do.
Continue to be a student
Take the time to learn something new within the photographic industry at least once or twice a year. It really allows you to mentally grow in ways that manifest itself within your soul.
Even if you’re in love with your work, and your photographic style, stretch yourself. There is always a new technique to learn, a new piece of gear to master, and someone who can inspire you.
Print your pictures
I can’t stress this enough. You take pictures so that you can go back and look at them. Chances are, if they are trapped on a hard drive, you aren’t going to do that as much.
I take a lot of pictures. Printing all of them for the wall was a daunting process! However, I would print them as 5×7 prints and store them in albums or boxes. It is so fun to pull out those prints to look at them.
Continuing to grow
Photography after your child becomes an adult doesn’t seem like it should be a big deal. But it is to this momma.
Sometimes the world focuses so much on moms of little kids that we forget that you’re still a mom when those babies are 18 years old and they are headed off to college. Although I have a hunch that I will be ok, I do wish I had figured out who I am photographically while my kids were still young.
The bright side of this is that I can begin a new journey! There is a saying that when you reach all your goals, you should make new goals. That is where this stage of life has me now and while it’s maybe a little scary and uncertain, it’s exciting!
Regardless of where life takes me, I will always be a photographer.