I grew up in a family of engineers. My siblings and I were highly encouragedÂ from an early age to “do something practical” with your college education and future career. While this might beÂ wise advice for 18 year olds entering college with no understanding of the real world, it doesn’t always lead to the path of being happy or doing what you’re good at. It wasn’t until I was a senior in college that I knew I wanted to be a professional photographer. While I had always wanted to own my own business and make something big of it, I never knew exactly what I wanted to do. It was easy to look at my friends and follow in a path that made sense or that was “practical.” But that was boring. And after 4 years of working a desk job in a non-creative atmosphere, I needed to break free.
That’s when Melissa Barrick Photography was born. I loved the business aspect of things, and I loved trying new things with my camera. Most of all, I loved the way peoples faces lit up when they saw their photographs come back. Photographs of people in love, people in the momentâ€¦living. Their kids frozen in photographs as they ran all over fields collecting flowers. Or the look on a Groom’s face when he saw his bride walking down the aisle. Or a family clinging on to each other so dearly, knowing that life is so short and precious. Documenting these few, short minutes that we spend together is my favorite thing in the world.
It was only after spending two days last week with 70 amazingly creative, women, small-business owners did I fully understand what I was doing and why I was doing it. I had the opportunity to attend Round 2 of the Creative @ Heart Conference in Roanoke, Virginia with creatives in the wedding industry, and now I don’t know why it took me so long to attend something like this. The two days were packed full of learning, fellowship, new friendships, laughing, CRYING, and soul-searching. There were some amazing photographers that spoke, many of which I had been admiring their work for years! Information was pouring into the details of our industry: client relationships, running a business, staying fresh and creative, blogging, managing your timeâ€¦ Treasures of information written neatly in my adorable, new notebook
One of the main topics that really struck home was that of competition. There are SO many talented photographers out there, some old and some new in the industry. It’s easy to get (and feel!) lost or inadequate. Reeling over the beautiful pictures on Pinterest or other blogs generally leaves me feeling frustrated rather than inspired. In my area alone, I felt nervous and “out-done” by other people’s work. After months of sinking into these bouts of insecurity and frustration, the hashtag “Community over Competition” was born. SuddenlyÂ encouragement and joy was spread all over the wedding industry with people using social media to encourage and uplift other photographers (and wedding Creatives alike) instead of sulking or creating an environment of harsh competition. Natalie Franke and Katelyn James (two wedding photographers and community leaders I highly admire) were the first to open up about their struggles and to encourage this spirit of “Community over Competition.” Sharing the joy of others achievements and success has refueled my own desire to be creative and to love others.
Another topic and over-arching theme of the conference was building relationships. This is kind of a “duh” topic, because after all, I photograph relationships. Creating them is a whole other ballgame. It was a complete honor to listen to Mary Marantz of Justin & Mary speak about how they develop and maintain relationships with their couples. This made so much sense to me, but building and maintaining relationships is something I really have to work hard on. Being a mother of two small kids on top of being a wife and owning a small business doesn’t allow me time for much else. I feel really guilty about that sometimes. But I realize the importance and value its part in my life and business. So thankful to hear Mary’s story and even got to spend time with her in our break-out discussion groups.
The days were filled with talks of branding, blogging, social media, Google SEO, emailing, workflow, etc. SO MUCH VALUABLE INFORMATION! But goodness, so many dear and beautiful ladies. There was a lot of soul-searching as to why you wanted to be in business and why you wanted to be in the wedding industry. What defines you and what is your place in the world? I’m still reeling from all the amazing information and the new friendships I made. I’m so thankful for the experience to go and be refreshed before I begin another wedding season! But you know what? I’m ready. And things are ‘a changin’ this year. Get excited! (Huge shout out to my amazing hubby for taking on Mr. Mom duties while I was gone!)