One Year Down | The Story of My First Year as a Full-Time Photographer

Today is the 1st anniversary of my journey of working full-time for myself. I opened up Felicia Marti Photography 3.5 years ago. Wow, that sounds crazy to say. I’ve shared before how making the leap to full time was a huge risk, and I had no idea what to expect. I can honestly say that everything I thought it would be, is nothing that it is.

I pictured myself waking up without an alarm clock every morning when the sun woke up, heading peacefully to the gym- enjoying that time to take care of my body and get my priorities sorted out in my head for the day. When I came home I would start connecting with customers- working with photos, designing albums, sharing blog posts, connecting with new customers and helping inspire the brides who’s wedding days we’re counting down ’til. I imagined that I’d be on top of everything all the time, my desk would be perfectly organized, and life would have absolutely no worries at all.

Let me tell you…. that’s not been my experience. Most days I wake up exhausted. I’ve been to the gym maybe 1/3 as often as I’d like to. Most days I have found myself working in circles. Yet every new month has held a different opportunity, a different schedule, a different focus, or a different scary moment that I’ve had to work through.

So today to honor this crazy year I thought I’d share with you a special insight into highlights as a full-time employee. I’ve got my favorite photo from each month, and I’ll share either what I learned or what I went through and how I plan on growing in the future.

April was all about finding my new routine. With my new found time off I had no idea what I do with myself.  My journal containing my to do list was forever long, but nothing felt comfortable from day to day. I tried to focus on not being too crazy, but instead taking care of myself. Luckily April was also the start of last year’s wedding season, and I was SO thankful for the reminder of what it’s like to be in the groove at a wedding. It’s like coming home.

May wedding’s brought a new opportunity to meet with my couple’s before their wedding. This way we have a chance to actually deep dive into details that you can’t know at the beginning of the process. Lucky for me Katie and Robert are such a fun couple and our coffee chat still stands out in my mind, and I learned how much reconnecting in person before the wedding makes photographing at the wedding so much better!

June was dedicated to finding new ways to tell the story through photos. Of course, I’ve always been doing this on some level, but I finally had the mental space to break out of certain photo limitations. It’s weird to share because I can honestly say there’s never a wedding I’ve photographed that I haven’t done my absolute best for the couple, but there’s always new ways you can push yourself as a creative and a professional. Jonah and Stephanie’s summer wedding up in Estes Park was the most beautiful opportunity to practice breaking out of the traditional box to capture fairy-tale like moments.  

When July arrived it was starting to feel like the heart of wedding season for me. It finally felt like I was getting what I had envisioned while working for myself- like while I was working it felt a lot more like hanging out with friends. I was so blest by gorgeous weather too, and new locations to celebrate in, and just so much joy that life then felt like a whirl wind. This took us all the way through August where I found myself stepping into more bravery. Sound weird? I used to be the photographer that didn’t want to mess anything up- but when I had to crawl up a small spiral staircase covered in bird-poop to get to this roof top to photograph these girls across the way, I felt so proud of myself. The old Felicia would have been freaking out inside, this new girl felt excited for the opportunity to be up there. 

September was more balanced than previous months, and it brought with it this one very special couple. Jessica and Michael had booked just a few months earlier, which helped remind me that you never know what opportunties may come your way in a year. Jessica also spoke to the part of me as a photographer that excels in big moments of change. We put a ton of planning into her timeline to make sure they had enough time to take photographs outside before their sunset ceremony. Not knowing when we planned that there would be the craziest weather on Lookout Mountain which would bring sprinkles, storm clouds, tons of wind, more rain, and somehow all move out before the wedding ceremony. Luckily, I felt our timeline really supported us, and we were able to move quickly together to ensure they didn’t have to forsake any moment they wanted to enjoy on their day.

October was crazy busy and so much fun. The fall colors were incredible and seemed to last all month long. That’s why I had to include one of my favorite engagement sessions (that adorable dog has nothing to do with it, I swear) and what my very last big wedding of 2017. Anna and Steven were perfect: they giggled together, couldn’t take their eyes off each other, had the best family and friends surrounding them, and every beautiful detail came out perfectly. Being able to focus on capturing those candid moments that would mean the most to them was my primary focus, and I learned so much from looking at photographing their day through that candid perspective.

November wasa much needed moment of reflection looking back at how the busy season went.  19 weddings in those first 10 months. Some big, some small, some far away, some close by. It was the first time I was able to take inventory of how things had been going. I felt like I was succeeding with my customer experience- making sure that everyone was having a great experience in front of the camera, questions were being answered, and pictures were being received quickly. As I looked ahead to 2018, I knew I wanted to be connecting with more couple who were the right fit for me, and who will feel like I’m the perfect photographer for them. 

I started a referral program, where customers can get credit towards sessions or products, by simply posting on social media about their experience, or of course by referring a friend who books with me. I redesigned all my pricing for 2018 and worked to streamline the intake process so it continues to be less stress for couple’s finding their perfect wedding photographer. And I was also forced to take a hard look at who I wanted to work with in the future, having to open my heart and business up to working with new photographers. 

I think, and hope, these changes show my personal value in growth. It’s not always easy, especially when everything you’ve always done has been because you thought it was what’s best. You look back and realize there were moments that could have gone better, and you surrender them to future betterment- for others and yourself.

December was much of the searching of November, but with a little bit of forced time to rest getting really sick. I hadn’t been sick like that in so long, but I think it was my immune system rebeling from not being around strangers as often like I had in past years. December also brought a twinkle of magic which was the most romantic session and on New Years Eve. I gave the bride a hug and told her I was so grateful to have a last minute session as beautiful as hers to truly be able to end 2017 on a high note.  

January started out right away with bridal shows! An attempt to connect with new people and continue to build Felicia Marti Photography as a stand out brand in the Denver area. We did one in Downtown Denver, one near the Denver Tech Center, and the final one in Fort Collins. Overall I was able to get 3 amazing new couple’s booked for this year, and connect with several more for 2019. It was a great way to kick of 2018 focusing on the future and what’s ahead. 

February was time to get back in front of the camera and back into freezing cold snow to capture beautiful memories. 2017 has brought the best snowy photographs I’ve ever taken, I have been in love with everything I’ve been creating recently. I’ve been excited to because my sessions brought me from long hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park, all the way to the top of Loveland Pass to be a surprise for a beautiful girl who was just asked by the love of her life if she’d marry him. I wanted more adventure this year, and right away I started to receive it.

The adventure continued in March as Dave and I drove from Denver to Arlington, Texas for a wedding. After so many times of freezing with a camera in my hand, I absolutely couldn’t wait for warmer weather. Miranda and Trey’s had an intimate wedding under twinkle lights in their family’s backyard, and it was all joy from start to finish. Photographing a backyard wedding is not necessarily the easiest task, but I found myself just so inspired by the light, the greenery, and of course the energy of the family and friend’s who had gathered to support these two as they kicked off their life together as a married couple. From my perspective it was everything Miranda had told me she was envisioning, and I felt like I was able to capture it so beautifully. 

Live right now, Just be yourself, It doesn’t matter if it’s good enough for someone else. It just takes some time little girl you’re in the middle of the ride, everything will be just fine, everything will be alright.

“The Middle” by Jimmy Eat World

The quote from a song by Jimmy Eat World has always given me a lot of comfort during times of ‘undergoing.’ I like the idea of calling time of change or growth: undergoing. It doesn’t have to be labelled as bad or good, but rather just regarded as a period of transition.

I thought I would snap right into the vision of what I hoped to be, but what I discovered is that the kind of transformation that I’m trying to attain requires nitty gritty and dirty work. It means diving deep, pushing ahead, and getting the right things in order…. all without being too hard on myself. There has to be grace too in the process right? 

If you’ve made it all the way through this very long recap of my very first year- well first, thank you! It’s been a series of small wins, and lots to celebrate, and so much to be grateful for. I’m especially thankful for a partner like the man that I have in my life. He’s been there through so many tears this year, so much fear, all while looking at me like I’m a crazy person because he believes in the bad-ass, powerful, creative woman that he knows me to be. It feels nice to have that kind of sounding board through thick and thin. 

Of course, I’m endlessly grateful for this community that I’m creating that is so likeminded about enjoying life fully, living in the present moment, valuing relationships over image, and experiences over achievements. Without the right clientelle I would never have took the leap to go full time, so it’s truely YOU who allow me to serve you who have been such a huge part in making my dreams come true.

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