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While we often talk about how to build our wedding photography business, take better photos, and where to invest our time and money when it comes to advertising, nobody ever talks about how to balance a career in wedding photography with our personal lives.
We don’t live inside a wedding photography bubble and we can’t just brush off our loved ones, conventional jobs or health to pursue a dream of establishing a successful wedding photography business.
In this podcast episode, I’ll chat about my experience early on in struggling to find a balance between working on my wedding photography business, a career in engineering, and other things going on in my life...and how that has evolved today with a newborn in the family. We’ll also talk about the negative effects of living in a wedding photography bubble when it comes to your relationships and health.
The struggle is different for each individual and no two lifestyles are the same but there are ways we can address the issue by first acknowledging it and then looking for solutions. I’ll explain how I try and use both the business and personal sides of my life to motivate the other, creating a more balanced lifestyle that works for me and my family.
When I first got started as a wedding photographer in 2007, I was consuming all this educational content, attending seminars and workshops, and networking to help build my brand.
But one thing I noticed was that none of the photographers or educational experts talked about the world outside wedding photography. Yes, they talked about how to shoot, branding and marketing to help grow my wedding photography business but nobody even touched on how we can go about doing all of this while balancing our personal lives.
This is what I like to refer to as living inside a wedding photography bubble where all of our time, energy, and money are focused on managing our business while our lives outside suffer.
In this episode, I want to talk about what this bubble is and what it means to be living inside of it. How do we go about balancing the life outside to have a healthy, rewarding and fulfilling lifestyle while creating a successful wedding photography business?
Here are a couple of examples of what it means to be living inside the wedding photography bubble. This might relate to you if you’re just getting started and are really passionate about building your wedding photography brand and business or you’ve been at it for a couple of months/years.
As you can see, it’s never just as simple as “I want to be a wedding photographer”, so you buy all this gear, pay for advertising and it’s going to be smooth sailing. It doesn’t work that way.
And none of us live in a world where we can just focus on wedding photography and nothing else, i.e. the wedding photography bubble.
We have to balance our personal situation and other aspects of our lives on top of being a wedding photographer. If you can do that, your chances of being a successful wedding photographer are going to be much higher.
Now I know that it’s difficult to run a workshop or seminar about being a wedding photographer while balancing your personal life as everyone has their own lifestyle and set of challenges to face.
When time is limited, we can’t go through all of the myriad of reasons why we can’t find enough time to work on our business and it’s something that’s more suited to an intimate group session or one-on-one.
For me, in the early years of my business, it was balancing a full-time career in engineering, finishing my masters, and interning for an NBA team. Not to mention trying to find time to visit my parents and have a social life outside of wedding photography.
I was struggling to do all of these things and find the time to work on my business and wasn’t sure what I should prioritize or was more important.
Should I be spending my weekends working on my business, networking and improving my photography skills? Or should I devote time to maintaining my health, working out, and hanging out with my family and friends?
Ten years on and I’m still trying to balance things but now it’s finding time to spend with my wife and newborn baby. It’s never going to be straightforward or a situation where you can focus just solely on your business.
It’s not like in school when things were relatively simple and many of life’s challenges were handled by others. Now you might have bills to pay, a mortgage or need to save for your retirement fund and can’t just invest all of your resources into building a business.
But how can you book weddings and shoot more if you don’t have the time or resources to work on your business? It’s not just about learning to market your business, establishing a brand and deciding where to advertise and what gear to purchase.
It’s about juggling all of those things with the world outside of the wedding photography bubble to maintain a balanced lifestyle.
When you first start out and are really passionate, perhaps you are going to find a lot of happiness in just being a wedding photographer and working on your business. Maybe you do want to invest all of your time and resources into building your business and you don’t have a family to consider or a mortgage to pay off. But you can never spend 100% of your life in that bubble or your health and relationships with those around you will suffer.
Sometimes you need to step away from your business, spend extended time with family and friends or even go on a trip or two. I think it really is an unspoken skill to be able to balance both the business and personal sides of your life and sustain that.
To create a consistent schedule, have great communication with your loved ones, and expectations on ourselves that are realistic. It’s going to be a far more rewarding path that solely immersing yourself in the wedding photography bubble.
Unlike with a conventional job where you might be able to leave the office at 5PM and cease thinking about work until the next morning...when you’re a self-employed wedding photographer or small business owner, it can be much harder to “turn off”. Our business and personal lives are much more intertwined, particularly if you are working from home.
But it’s also one of the things I love about being a wedding photographer - being my own boss and being able to connect with like-minded individuals through networking events and my educational efforts. I’m really driven by this and find it rewarding but I need to balance that with spending time with my family and maintaining my health and social life.
Rather than just asking my colleagues and those in the SIWP community about their website stats and how their business is doing, I try to ask about how they are going about balancing their lifestyles. Some examples of the struggles I’ve heard include:
You’re not alone.
As I talked about in episode 116, all the information is out there - how to build your audience, get leads and bookings and top tips on how to market your business and capture incredible images.
But there’s not so much addressing the root causes of why we are not able to do these things because we can’t find the time or schedule that works for you...your conventional job requirements with your personal obligations.
I want to let you know that you’re not alone or on an island in this struggle. By connecting with people through my educational efforts, I want to reach out and let you know that I understand what you’re going through and have been there myself.
We can’t live inside this wedding photography bubble and brush off the reality of life. If we did so, it would be a huge disservice in helping each other grow our businesses and be successful in the long run.
Before our baby girl arrived last year, I couldn’t relate to juggling a full-time business and raising a family. But now I understand the challenges and certainly, it’s far from easy.
I don’t know that if I was starting my business from scratch in the competitive market that I’m in if I would have been able to go full-time with a little one.
Even being single when I started my business in 2007, I was still trying to balance a career in engineering while establishing my business and I put my social life and health on the back burner.
Despite enjoying the extra income and finding something that I really loved, I became burnt out and had to make a decision about what I really wanted to do, which is when I quit my engineering job to go full-time in wedding photography.
Maybe you have a steady job but can see your wedding photography career taking off or maybe you’re making a side income shooting a few weddings a year. But if you’re struggling to find time to work on your business, before you know it, you can never take that next step.
If you’re living inside the wedding photography bubble and spending all your time and resources on your business, your personal life will suffer. You’ll alienate yourself from loved ones and let your other passions and hobbies fall by the wayside.
The work of a wedding photographer never ends and it’s difficult to clock off at 5PM. But in saying that, it’s also important to set boundaries.
On the flip side, if you’re living solely outside the bubble and always putting your personal life first, then you won’t be able to grow your wedding photography business, achieve the goals you want, and see the success you've dreamed about.
Finding a balance between the two means compromising and making sacrifices. We all only have 24 hours in the day, so you might have to make some tough decisions about how you use that time effectively and for the wellbeing of your business and personal life.
After struggling to balance both the personal and business sides of my life for much of my career, I now try to use aspects of both to motivate me in the other.
For example, I really love being a wedding photographer and especially working on the educational side of things. They have impacted my personal life by shaping the person I am today. Despite all the ups and downs, I’m so glad that I pursued this career ten years ago and wouldn’t be the person I am today without it.
Through being a photographer, I can also instantly connect with people I encounter, both professionally and personally. Photography is a universal language and everybody loves to take pictures.
When I travel and people ask what I do, they are instantly intrigued and photography can help bridge the gap between us. It’s something I can share with my family and friends and hope that in the future it will be a way that I can connect with my daughter.
On the personal side of things, I’ve developed a strong love for travel and backpacking through the opportunities I had early on as a wedding photographer to shoot weddings and engagement sessions interstate and abroad. It gave me the confidence to travel to other places and experiences I may not have had if I’d just pursued my engineering career.
Backpacking in the wilderness also provides a great break and escape from being in the office and the opportunity to see the world differently. I think these passions outside of wedding photography also have a big influence on my business and the images I capture. This is especially true of my internship as a basketball photographer, which I know has significantly influenced by the style of photography.
These days, I’m really excited to do the work that I do and be able to focus on my business and my educational efforts. But I also know that the sooner I get things done and more efficiently that I work, the sooner I get to spend time with my wife and daughter. I want to embrace both sides of my life and not just live in the wedding photography bubble.
It’s important to come up for air, socialize a bit and indulge in the guilty pleasures of life. It will help to fuel your energy and fire to continue doing what you love and build your wedding photography business.
When I look back at my mentality from many years ago when I was first started out, nobody was talking about this or acknowledging it and I wondered if I was the only one. But after talking and listening to others, I know that it’s something we all go through at one time or another.
Is this something that you can relate to and how is it affecting your business or personal life? Are there certain aspects of your personal life that could positively impact your wedding photography business or visa versa?
First and foremost, you need to have a solid foundation in your business before you can put all the bells and whistles on top or it’s going to fall apart. And that starts with establishing a balance between the business and personal sides of life to ensure that both are embraced, rather than living solely within the wedding photography bubble.
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