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5 Lessons from My First Year as a Full-Time Wedding Photographer



This first year of officially shooting full-time has flown by. I didn’t realize how scary it was to graduate college, leave school forever, and be on my own. For years that’s all I wanted. I hated school. I hated anything that held me down. It wasn’t until I didn’t have anything to hold me down that I realized just what it takes to run a full time wedding photography business. Here are the top five tough lessons I (and probably any creative entrepreneur) face the most.

#1. I Can’t Make Everyone Happy, and I Have to Be Okay With That

I think this is the hardest lesson I’ve learned while being in my first year full-time in the wedding industry. My sweet husband is so good at reminding me that my job is interacting with emotional people during an often high-stressed emotional time.

Mistakes that don’t seem like such a big deal are amplified and made into much larger issues. That makes total sense, honestly. I get it, kinda.

I think being in the wedding industry gave me a totally different perspective when I became the bride. I understood the mistakes that could happen and when they did happen I wasn’t as taken aback. Knowing that not everyone works with the industry every weekend, I get that clients don’t always understand the liabilities that can come with my profession. I learned it’s my job to be a better educator.


#2. My Success Looks Different

The second hardest lesson: figuring out my daily work schedule. Initially if I wasn’t working 9-5, kicking major butt I felt like a failure. I felt lazy. I felt… like a bum. But isn’t being your own boss the blessing of owning your own business? I have the freedom to make my own hours, which by the way, look very different than other peoples work hours, and that’s okay.

With much practice, I found that I work best after I sleep in a little bit, have breakfast, workout, and then eat lunch. This has me starting on work around noon until my husband comes home around 5:30 then sometimes working at night. I’m a late night worker at heart, I always have been.

I’ve realized that it’s hard for me to work in day time hours knowing that there are errands I could be running and people I can be meeting. Once evening hits, mentally I can be okay with sitting in my house because that’s what everyone else is probably doing. Lesson learned: my success is not determined by numbers but by my product.


#3. One-Woman Wolf Pack

Oh man, this was not one I expected to encounter. Loneliness. It’s a real struggle. I came across this article by Jasmine Star and found myself thinking…yes…yes… OMG YES!

A lot of days the only human interaction I get is at the gym or the local Target. I didn’t realized the blessing going to school everyday was until I worked from home by myself. Humans. I missed humans. White noise, chitter chatter. There was none around me for a while and I felt isolated and lonely until husband came home, then I was like an uncaged puppy — overwhelmed with joy, to say the least.

I’ve learned to take time during the week to meet with friends, chat with other photographers, and visit coffee shops. Sanity is important to me and if that means buying high-priced coffee I’m so down.

#4. Recharge Time

Whoa dang — this is an important one. As a natural introvert, wedding weekends draaaaain me. The exhaustion doesn’t hit until the noise stops and i’m driving on the interstate at one in the morning. Personal time for me looks like massages (my dogs be barkin’), library time, working out, walking outside, and intentional hangs with friends.

I pour myself out to so many clients and often times feel drained (introvert probz 101). I’m doing my job which is part of the investment but often times it’s personal for me because…well…it’s my name on the business. It’s my phone that rings when there is a problem. Anything that goes right and wrong is on me. It’s a lot to handle, which brings me to my last lesson.


#5. Everyone Say It: Boundaries Are Goooooood

It’s a fine line between business and friendship. Brides often look to me as a close friend during this process, which I totally love, but if I don’t have my self filled up as mentioned before then I can be a total grump-butt. I realized that I need business contact hours. I realized that it’s okay to define lines with relationships. That’s been a huge lesson in life in general, but that’s another post for another day.

I didn’t realize this until I had 30 brides on my books all trying to text and call me at any point of any day. I loved it, but man it was a lot to juggle. With that said let me just say how thankful I am for the brides I do have and how completely sweet and understanding they are. You are all a bunch of peaches.

About the author: Kristen Soileau is a professional portrait and wedding photographer based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. You can connect with her through her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. This article was also published here.