There’s something from our recent past that I haven’t yet talked much about on the blog or social media. Photography. I mean, I have mentioned it a couple of times and recently put a post on Instagram about it but other than that I’ve been silent. There’s a reason I’ve been burying it though and I think it’s time to let my feeling about it out.
Photography is a passion of mine. I love it and I love learning the art and new techniques. But when a hobby became a business it all started to go the wrong way. Photography lost its draw for me, yet I do love my Instagram photography through my phone.
The Photography Business
You see some years ago Helen and I decided to start a photography business in our spare time (i.e. the time when I wasn’t working). From a small seed, it grew into a decent sized bush. Not a great metaphor but you’ll gather than a bush is no oak tree. But we loved it. We started in 2009 and grew from family portraits to weddings and even boudoir photography.
I remember diving into wedding photography with a ridiculous offer – one of the many lessons we learned. I even took a Friday off work to do the shoot and to add to that it was down in Nottingham so we have some travelling to do. But I remember that day so well. We hit some serious traffic on the M1 and the bunce I had added to our planned journey time to get there nice and early evaporated. I was panicking we were going to be late for our first wedding shoot! We were late, but so was the wedding party. As it turned out that was because Helen had put the wrong time in the diary.
Starting to Grow
Things were going well. The business was growing and we were picking up quite a lot of family portrait work, mainly through word-of-mouth, which is, of course, the best form of advertising.
We did shoots for family and friends and they told their family and friends and it spread from there. I was spending most weekends doing one or two portrait shoots and maybe a wedding too. It was a hectic lifestyle that seemed to work for us. The money was coming in very handy. Helen was a stay-at-home mum and she would work around the girls during the week on editing the photos. We made a brilliant team.
As time went on and we had built the business into a really great weekend venture we were looking to grow the business further. But there was a problem. Time. There just wasn’t enough of it for me. I was working a 40 hour week plus 2 hours commuting Monday to Friday and on top of that, I was burning the candle at both ends with the photography. I didn’t realise at the time how much I wasn’t seeing the children. In fact, I was relieved when we had a quiet weekend with no work.
To grow the business I needed to put more time into to it. To be able to give up the day job and go full time with photography we needed to put that time it to earn more from it. This was the time I didn’t have. But the business wasn’t able to support us if I gave up the day job. It was a like being caught between a rock and a hard place.
Giving Up The Day Job
One Christmas we decided to go for it. Step into the unknown and leap off a cliff. I handed in my notice at my job, we had 3 months to build the business before taking the plunge. It wasn’t the best time of year to do this at all. Just after Christmas, the family portrait work dries up and wedding work doesn’t pick up until April or May. This was the time of year photographers incomes dropped and here we were looking to live off this.
Reality set in eventually – this wasn’t going to work. I went back to my employers, who were really supportive, and my resignation was cancelled. We went back to running a successful part-time business without any long-term plan for it. I was gutted, but at the same time relieved as a massive weight had been lifted from my shoulders.
We were happy doing what we were doing and work was flowing nicely. The opportunity came up to do some work for a charity calendar for a friend which then led to some boudoir work. We had some really great friends who were happy and willing to use them to build a portfolio and this opened up a new area of photography for us.
What Changed Everything?
Despite my supportive employers, I wasn’t happy with my job. I was spending too long travelling too and from work and I was getting really fed up. I started to look for another job closer to home. We discussed it and I would take my time to find the right job, rather than take one just because it was close. Eventually, I found a job that sounded ideal.
But it wasn’t close to home at all – in fact, it was further than the job I had. But, I ticked all the boxes for this job and even the description excited me so I had to go for it. At the time of my interview, my car was off the road so my fantastic brother-in-law drove me. It became clear on that drive that should I get offered this job the commute was not possible at all. I was offered the job on the spot! But what about the drive? This is when the pieces of the jig-saw all came together in perfect harmony.
The company had a house I could rent – two minutes walk away. I accepted the job there and then and went home with a smile on my face. I got home and simply announced I had got the job and we would be moving to the countryside of North Yorkshire! And we did – just like that. My wife was amazing. We saw this as a brilliant opportunity to move the kids to a better area and start a new life in the country. And within a matter of weeks, we had packed up the house and were on our way.
My first week in the new job I commuted. It told me straight away I couldn’t have done this forever. We moved on a Saturday and settled in quickly. I had two wedding booked to do back in West Yorkshire that I did and really enjoyed but those were to be my final outings as a photographer (well a paid one anyway). We closed the business.
The New Life
We knew I had to give my all to the new job and building a business up again in a new area would have been too much. So, we quickly forgot about the business and started to enjoy living in the countryside. I did more running and took up cycling, Helen got a new job (or two) and the girls all settled into their new schools and took up dancing.
Life has changed a lot in the last few years since we moved. We are so busy with the girls’ activities, work and the volunteer work we do that it sometimes seems like we never get a moment anymore. In some way, I have even less time now that when I was working full time and running a weekend business. But there is an itch there that must be scratched.
The girls are growing up. I have started to see a different life on the horizon where they are flying the coup on their future journeys. But staying in the here and now there is something missing. I’ve really missed the photography. I was (still am) good at it and I thrived on the pressure of wedding photography in particular.
This weekend I did a shoot for our girls dance school. I was a hectic few hours with about 160 kids, shooting photos for the forthcoming showcase and the programme. I absolutely loved it. It was tiring but so enjoyable at the same time and it has in a way scratched at the itch I had been having.
Starting again with a photography business seems like a daunting prospect. I feel like if we did it we would end up in the same position as before. Having a successful weekend business, no free time whatsoever, and looking at the day jobs again and wondering what to do. But I love my job, I really do love it. The company is excellent, they are flexible with me as a parent and it’s generally a great place to work. But I also love photography and being behind the camera and interacting with clients is something I was really good at and enjoyed immensely.
Who knows what will happen, but I know that photography will come back in the future somehow. Nobody can predict the future and how life can twist and turn, as we’ve proven, you can never really be sure where things will go.
Thanks for reading.