There comes a time in every hobbyist's life that someone suggests that she monetize her work. I know, because it happened to me. My friends and family gushed over my photography. I was so talented! I should start a business! Why would I give away my skill when I'm so good at it?
So I started a photography business and quickly pulled in my wonderful husband Dave Hunt to join me. We spent two years building that business -- growing our brand, getting a name for ourselves, and shooting people who traveled 4-5 hours to our studio because they loved our work so much.
Almost 100% of our work was pinup or boudoir. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE both those genres. And I believe you can (and we did) put a fashion flare on boudoir photography. We worked with AMAZING people -- including a woman who flew in from the United Arab Emirates to shoot the world's most expensive pinup calendar; a Brazilian who was friends with a name-brand photographer from DC area but thought we were better; and guys and gals who have become friends we'll probably have for a lifetime.
The shoots that fed my soul were the ones where I collaborated with models, hairstylists, and makeup artists (I'm looking at you Kearston French) to make a crazy idea come to life. Or they were the ones where I finally nailed that skill I wanted to perfect and HOLY COW IS THIS IMAGE COOL?! Or the ones where I submitted the images to a magazine and got an immediate, "Yes! And do you have more??" Those shoots were peppered in among the ones that paid the rent (and not much else, when you factor in taxes, insurance, marketing, and living in a place where your target demographic has a four-hour drive to your studio). Maybe I should have been happy. After all, in 2014, we more than tripled our bookings and quadrupled our earnings.
In 2014, our business really amped up. After working 45-50 hours a week at the office, I was spendingtime on accounting, client communications, and image editing. Sure, I was shooting, but just as much I was doing the business of running a business. To add to the mix, I was also dealing with a serious injury to my hip which put me in unceasing pain and made it impossible to sit for longer than 5 minutes. I was standing 12-14 hours a day, every day. And I was exhausted.
On December 29, 2014, I dropped my iPad on the bathroom floor and cracked its screen. In that moment, as the iPad tumbled to the ground and I tried to react fast enough to catch it, something broke inside me. I broke down sobbing. Dave frantically assured me we could go out the next morning AS SOON AS THE STORES OPENED to replace my iPad, but that wasn't it. I finally was coherent enough to tell Dave the words I knew he didn't want to hear: we have to give up the business and with it, the studio.
I am certain that Dave wishes we hadn't had to. He spent the next year doing very few shoots while I simply focused every ounce of my power on finding a way to end my pain (I was suffering from what turned out to be a serious hip injury that required a major surgery in August 2015). I feel bad that my stepping back affected him so much. But for me, it wasn't just the right thing to do. It was the only thing to do.
My goal with photography is not to reproduce work in my portfolio for my clients. My goal with photography is not even to make a living from it. I have a day job in a field I love and I have no interest in giving that up. Photography is my creative outlet ... my chance to do what makes ME happy. And running a photography business does not make me happy. I can't say that emphatically enough. Running a photography business does not make me happy.
My goal with photography is to be epic. I want to be at Joel Grimes's level. I want to be as good and as well-known as Craig Lamere or Lindsay Adler. I want people to say, "You're so good, I'm just going to hand this wardrobe over to you and trust that you and your team are going to make a Jaime Lynn Hunt image. Because that's what I want. I want a Jaime Lynn Hunt image." It may take me 20 years. Hell, it may take me 40 years. Likely, I will never get there. But I know one thing for certain: I will NEVER get there doing shoots to make someone else happy.
So in 2016, everything is different. I'm not shooting anything I don't want to shoot. I am working with models that I am confident can pull off what I'm going for -- or who have crazy ideas of their own that I'm completely jazzed about. I am working with makeup artists who can bring a look together or take a gorgeous face and make it an epic one. I am working with fashion designers who have clothes that are edgy or unique. I am shooting what I want to shoot. And only what I want to shoot.
I can't wait!