I’ve wanted to be a professional photographer since I was nineteen. So why did it take me seven years to finally start this dream of mine?
The first reason was fear. Fear that I wasn’t good enough. Fear that people were not going to like my images. Fear that I wasn’t going to get bookings. Just straight-up fear of failing. If you are an entrepreneur, no matter what you want to do, you are being deeply vulnerable and risking putting your creations and your vision out to the world for everyone to see. You think you have this talent, but you’re not quite sure if it is good enough and can compete with others. And the people you are most fearful of showing this vulnerability to is your close family and friends because it is just different when someone you know may think your work is crap. When starting this business, I literally felt like I was laying my heart on the ground and giving it to people, not knowing if they were going to like it or hate it.
The second reason it took me seven years to begin this journey was my obsession with perfectionism. I thought I had to be a perfect photographer and produce perfect images before I could ever imagine people paying me for photography. And on top of being a perfect photographer, I believed I had to know exactly how to set up and run a business. How to register my business, discover the perfect name, how to do taxes, how to get clients and how to manage my time. Perfectly. I had to be able to do ALL of this before I ever could even think of starting.
Purpose: the final thorn that was keeping me from diving in head first. I absolutely love photography with a passion. And I love being able to capture beautiful pictures of people. But that wasn’t enough of a purpose for me to do it professionally. I am a follower of an amazing man called Christ, and I always felt like just being a photographer because I like photography was not serving Him. I was determined that I needed to be doing something in ministry, or start a non-profit, or work at a church to serve Him. Or I needed to go photograph the lost and broken in a far off country to even consider my photography as a form of service.
Then, last summer, I went on a mission trip to Iganga, Uganda, along with 15 other people (including my hubby) to help run Vacation Bible School for a week at Musana Community Development Organization. I know it sounds cliché, but it was an absolutely life-changing experience. I learned so much about pure joy and happiness. I learned how to dance in the rain. I learned that I don’t always need that new shirt or paint color on my walls. I learned that the same God here, is in Africa too. I learned that every single person has a story and a desire to be a better human being. And the beautiful thing about Musana is that they help foster and grow those desires of the local people and put them into practice. They encourage thinkers, makers, doers and leaders in their community, which is starving for this type of transformation. Musana sees each person, no matter their background or beliefs, as a single light that has the potential to stand up on a hill and give their light to everyone surrounding them. And Musana gives them the dignity and hope to do so.
After returning from our trip, I was angry and confused and sad because I had to go back to my job where I was convinced I was helping no one and I was desperate to make a change. But, if you have had any life-changing experiences yourself, you know that it takes time (sometimes a long, long time) to dive into what you truly experienced and what it means for you and what you are supposed to do moving forward. Change doesn’t come instantly, only inspiration does. And then you have to remind yourself every single day of that inspiration and why you want to take different steps forward. Well, it took me another nine months, quitting my corporate job and moving to a new town to even begin to uncover the next steps for what I had experienced in Africa.
Some people gradually start to develop their idea, steps and purpose for their business. They think and contemplate for a long time on the name. They dapple here and there trying out different things. But, I can clearly remember one very specific night this past April. I was alone (my husband was traveling) and I was thinking and praying about what was next. I certainly had photography on my mind, like so many times before, but I couldn’t shake from my lips the name, We, The Light Photography and the following verse:
“You are the light of the world – like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.” – Matthew 5:14-15
The purpose was finally given to me: To discover the light in each and every one of my clients, capture it within an image, and provide it to them so they can share their light with the world. With this purpose, I no longer had to be fearful of producing perfect images, because my first priority was to learn from my client what makes their heart beat, and then it was simply my job to display that in the best way possible. And those images that capture my client’s heartbeat were perfect images to my client. With this purpose, I didn’t have to know everything and I could give myself the grace to learn and grow because I finally realized that my light, my talent for photography, is not meant to be hidden under a basket until it is perfect. Instead, it is meant to give light to others now, in this moment. With this purpose, I find it hard to fail because I am not serving myself anymore, but serving my friends and family and community. And you know what? Even if I do fail at this at some point, I know that the people I got the chance to meet and build relationships with during this time have been an absolutely blessing to my life, and I have given them something that makes them shine a little brighter.
My life is not perfect. I am still learning how to run a business and do my taxes – so not fun! I am learning every day how to grow my knowledge of photography – trust me, there is a lot to learn! I am still discovering how to best serve my clients – they truly mean the world to me. I try to give myself a little grace when I get side-tracked and stuck on editing – it happens at least five times a day. But at least I started. Started something that has been on my heart for nine years. And I couldn’t be happier about it.