The Importance of Personal Projects
Personal projects have literally saved me from going crazy. In my early years of turning my love of photography into a business it was new and exciting. There was plenty of things to learn and plenty of time to be creative. As the business grew I found my love of photography was dimensioning. Something I loved had turned into a job I literally dreaded! At this point the problem was I no longer had a balance in my life. In 2007 & 2008, business was great. I was shooting 40 weddings a year, plus quite a bit of portraits & boudoir sessions. While business was great, the problem was I was working harder instead of smarter. Although at that time I had already been a pro photographer for nearly a decade I still wasn’t quite ready to give up my day job. Yep you heard that right…I was shooting 40 weddings a year, plus 30 portrait sessions while still working a full time job as a juvenile probation officer. Which meant absolutely no time for personal projects.
In May 2008, my husband pretty much had enough. I was literally always in work mode…if there is such thing as an extreme workaholic, that was me. It wasn’t until he sat me down and showed me the math, that I was finally was convinced I could quit my job as probation office (after working almost 80 hours a week I was only bring in 12,000 a year with my day job because of income tax…hence working harder not smarter). Unfortunately it was too late, I was already burned out. In some ways getting to that point was the best and worst thing that happened to me. The bad part was I was so burned out that I wanted to quit weddings all together (the majority of our income) even though I had just quit my job. The good part is after some time I was finally able to get creative again and focus on what I really wanted.
If it weren’t for focusing on personal projects I might have lost it all. In 2009 I announced I would no longer be focusing on weddings, which did have a huge impact financially, but was something I needed to do. By cutting back on the weddings drastically I was able to literally start over and focus on what I loved…which is intimate portraits. The nice part about the portraits I do I was able to work my business into it, while still staying focused on personal projects. In 2010 I started making it a goal to shoot one personal project a week…something where no money was involved and I was able to create something I had envisioned. I created a website of just my personal work and to my surprise I started getting the type of portrait work I loved based off what I shot personally.
Personal work helped build my brand and style…instead of creating images I felt the general population would love (with making money as the ultimate goal) I started to get hired to create images that matched style I had created through my own personal style. Although my business is now focused on the style I shoot in my personal work, I still make time to always have a personal project going. There is finally a balance in the business. While I am shooting about 100 boudoir sessions a year and a little under 20 weddings my life is much easier. I’m working smarter, not harder…most because I now love what I do. Personal projects bring me balance…and even if my personal project are portraits there something about creating something for myself that drives the passion in me. Most people have things they are passionate about, personal projects give me the opportunity to express my passion without limits and without being dictated on what needs to be done. Let’s face the reality of it, even if you love your client if you are shooting for someone you really don’t have 100% control to create your vision. There is always some type of expectation…whether it is to get a special shot or to make them look the way they think look great (which I will gladly do for monetary compensation).
Now I make sure every year I have a long term personal project that represents something important to me. This year I started working on the “Love is Gré” Project. This project focuses on my passion for intimate portraits and my belief in marriage equality. I’m shooting the project completely on black and white film. The decision to shoot film was because I wanted to show unedited / unaltered intimate moments of the couples I am photographing. While the project is not 100% candid, I do not speak to my subjects while photographing them…which is a new challenge for me. As a photographer (and a control freak) not telling what the couple what to do and really just anticipating what is going to happen has given me some really beautiful results. At this time I have photographed about 10 different couples, I plan on shooting about 100 couples for the project. Hopefully I will be able to find the funding to take this project on the road and really get couples from all walks of life! If you want to see how the project progresses feel free to follow it on instagram at “loveisgre”!
Who knows what my next project will be…as long as I never stop making the time for personal projects I have nothing in life to worry about. Personal projects make me happy and relieve stress in times of trouble!
Love is Gré
Mark & West by gré
Lindsay & Alex by gré
Erin & Jeff by gré