Oh hello, I’m back. I’ve been gone for a bit for reasons, and I promise to tell you about all of them as soon as I can, but in the meantime, remember how I mentioned that there were things going on in the background for me? This little enormous project – a full visual rebrand (designed by friend and amazing creative Jennifer Olmstead), an updated website with amazing new content, and a fresh new focus for Kelly Sauer Ltd. Co. – is one of the things, and I’m SOOOOOOO excited to share this sneak peek with you, even if it is only a tiny preview. This is not my final logo, but when this came through on my logo comps from Jen yesterday, SO. MUCH. fell into place for me. I have been smiling and giddy and absolutely over the moon with the dreaming.
I held out on hiring a designer for years because I was being generally stubborn about wanting things *my* way and paying somebody money to do what I could already do myself.
I, quite honestly, stumbled into my business, and for a long time, I wasn’t sure if I was going to take it the design route or the photography route. I didn’t know if I wanted to shoot commercially, or if I wanted to shoot everything and the kitchen sink or just weddings or the fine art that just wakes me up in the morning. I wanted to do everything.
As a new business owner, it’s hard to know where to begin when you are marketing yourself and your services – you have this idea of who you are, but there is a huge gap sometimes between your experience and your dream. I needed time to putter, and time to decide where I was going, and time to learn my limitations and my workflow. As the business strengthened and my work grew to the level I’d wanted it at the beginning, we realized that we needed to invest in a designer to make the front end of Kelly Sauer Ltd. Co. as strong as the back end.
I don’t know about you (many of whom have suffered patiently through my metamorphosis and loved me anyway!), but I can’t WAIT to see the end result.
I wish I had done it sooner. I wish I had been able to let go of my need to control every aspect of my brand, because there are some things I’m just not as good at as other people, ability be hanged. I wish I had invested much sooner in someone who could take the “feel” of me and my work and make sense out of it all in a coherent design.
I do think my constant redesigns have damaged my brand. I have owned that, because I knew I was growing, and it was MY brand and MY choice. But I stopped marketing outside of my blog and some publications this year because I wasn’t ready to be a full blown business to the whole world yet. I knew there was more to me than I had presented before, and I needed to learn what it was before I really pushed my name out there.
But now I’m ready to stick with something. For a good, long time. And that, I think, is what excites me the most about this process, because the value I’m placing on myself, my work, and the design surrounding my work is very, very high. I want the design to be something that will last because I want my work to be something that will last.
My photography isn’t just something that anybody with a nice camera can do. It is passion and personal and memories and so thoroughly its own thing that I love to give to my clients. It’s something of a forever thing, pulling eternity out of the moments, and I’m officially all in. I’ve been off the fence for a while. I hope you’ll bear with me while I prove it.
If you’re a photographer plugging away with your visual branding on your own, I absolutely recommend hiring yourself a real designer, someone who knows a LOT about branding, someone who can differentiate their design for a variety of clients.
This process has given me the chance to react to my visuals the same way I react behind the camera – instead of putting all my mind into “getting it right,” I’ve been able to respond emotionally and uncover exactly what feels right to me. After three years of struggle to make it WORK on my own, that feeling is worth every penny I’m paying, and then some.
“The little boy nodded at the peony and the peony seemed to nod back. The little boy was neat, clean and pretty. The peony was unchaste, dishevelled as peonies must be, and at the height of its beauty.(…) Every hour is filled with such moments, big with significance for someone.”
― Robertson Davies
I have a friend who absolutely believes in me and in my work, and she stubbornly refuses to let me lock myself down to “industry-standard.” (Everybody needs a friend like this in their life, someone who sees through what you’re doing to who you really are.) She is both the most frustrating and the most wonderful friend I have when it comes to my business, because she is HONEST with me about her perspective. She gives me something to wrestle against besides the wedding industry and the marketing and publication issues. Recently, she practically dared me out of my “safe” zone by challenging me to show more of my work and less of what “publications” want to see.
And to be perfectly honest, I’ve been grumping her direction for a week or so, muttering about bandwidth and editing my work and the best of the best, while sorting out her words about my direction. But after a crazy, crazy year that started in January and didn’t stop until just a couple of weeks ago, I’ve suddenly found myself with a lot more time (and a lot more creative block) on my hands than I know what to do with.
So I opened up my Reader yesterday and got in touch with many of my old blog friends, effectively tapping into something that has been missing for a long time in my world – the dare to be what I dream I can be. Blogging for me has never been just about me or just about my photography or just about my business. It has been about building relationships and processing my life and just generally being a person in the world, connecting with other people in the world. I just wanted to do it prettily, which is, in many senses, the reason I began taking pictures in the first place.
I’ve been following rules all year – mine, the industry’s, my clients’ – and I think it was a God thing that I ran across several different things about art that challenged me right out of the “everybody’s doing” box. I realized that I’ve been competing against hundreds of photographers who are shooting the same thing and seeing the same thing, and I’ve been wanting to see what they see, so I’m trying to make what I see look just like what they see, only better.
Guess what? THAT. DOESN’T. WORK.
Do you know, I like my work from two years ago better than I like my work this year? Sure, I got some amazing opportunities this year, but did I have the LIFE to shoot that I’ve had in the past? Or rather, did I SEE the life that I saw two years ago? If I’m honest, I have to say no, I didn’t see it. I stopped looking. And as the understanding dawns on me that I’ve locked myself into something that isn’t me, I can feel myself backpedaling fast out of the industry that has begun to invite me in, waving my hands in front of me as I smile politely and race for the door.
I have felt so empty since all my work wrapped up this year. I know I want more, but I haven’t known HOW I want more, or WHY I want more, or WHAT more I want. I shot the same photos all year, and though consistency is a good thing for what I do, I absolutely hate feeling blocked. I hate feeling that I am doing what everybody does (and why oh why am I still doing it or even NEEDED if everybody is doing?!), hate the sense that the thing that differentiates me or any other photographer from the other photographers is the colors or the mediums we use.
I’m not dumb enough to believe that my equipment and my post-processing makes me worth hiring. It is my heart and my eye and the way that I see that got me this far. It is my tendency to get distracted by the little things and make a big deal out of them, my sense of the overall story within the smallest elements. I think that is why I love shooting at the sea. It is always the same, but it is never the same. It teaches me to look for the nuances, to FEEL what I am photographing, instead of just pointing the camera and pressing the shutter button.
As I am finally going through my first official branding process with a real designer, I have found that I *do* know my truest voice, and the stories I want to tell and feel. I know that some of my best work was done long before this year, and that to get back to doing that best work, I am going to have to deconstruct my rules a bit and allow myself to feel what I see, instead of filtering everything through a “magazine” perspective. I’m going to have to practice more. And I’m going to have to keep listening to the voices that remind me who I am, however grumpy it makes me.
I was only supposed to get a couple of headshots done when we met with Catherine Marciniak here in Charleston at the end of the summer, but she pulled my family in for a couple of special photos I just can’t resist sharing here – I mean, when does the photographer EVER get photos of herself with the family she often photographs? We’re a bit of a motley crew, since Pete and the kids didn’t know they’d be photographed, but it’s us being us, and we’re pretty good at that, camera or no camera. I am just glad to have pictures, especially since I didn’t think to ask anyone to take any of us this year!
I figured out last week what I want 2014 to look like. I’ll need to travel a bit less, shoot a bit less, and have a completely free summer. I’m hoping to book four AMAZING weddings and at least two editorial shoots, and oh – maybe I could fit in a workshop somewhere too? It doesn’t feel like very much compared to what I did this year, but really, it is a lot – these are HUGE goals that will involve a lot of growth for me on both personal and business levels, especially considering the changes I will need to make in 2014.
As I was showering yesterday (yeah, I usually do my best thinking in the shower), I realized that I will need absolutely everything I shoot next year to count, both financially and visually, as well as emotionally.
I have shot a lot this year, but I wasn’t paid for about half of it, and I can’t use a lot of that work toward my brand or my portfolio, largely because *I* devalued myself in not charging properly. This left me without the resources (or the balls) I needed to tell my clients HOW to get the Kelly Sauer photos they wanted. My own investment was a bit half-hearted at times because I was underselling my own value, just for the sake of getting *something* to shoot. And you know what? I hated a lot of it. A lot a lot of it.
Nobody has time to waste on mediocrity, and as a person, I absolutely need to be deep in love with everything I do. I feel that I wasted so. much. time. this year chasing my own tail, spinning, as it were, around my own voice and vulnerability and creative reality. I’ve been in a constant deconstruction zone in my head, pulling other photographers apart to see what makes them work, pulling my own work apart to see what it is about it that makes me what I am as a photographer. It is no way to live, and I hate everything right now, because *nothing* is good enough. The wonder is gone.
So yesterday’s shower brainstorm resulted in a new determination: I will LOVE everything I shoot. I will take the time during my sessions to FEEL. I will screen my clients and screen my weddings and charge what I am worth so that I don’t have to detach myself from work I don’t like. And I will look for WONDER, wherever I am, so I never run out of things to photograph.
SPIN GIVEAWAY WINNER
Mariah E. Wilson
If you didn’t win, YOU STILL HAVE TO GET A COPY OF SPIN.
I promise you – it will change your creative life!