Milestones give us liberty to be sentimental, don’t they? Well as I realized this fall marks my Sweet 16 birthday, my sentiments have been all over the board. I wanted to share my story.
We love to cheer for the underdog-and the new entrepreneur! We love seeing people chase dreams because it inspires us.
I actually knew a few of you 16 years ago as I began Kim DeLoach Photography. You encouraged me, cheered for me, helped spread the news of my new business to your friends and I was grateful-and I still am! Many of you have continued to be incredible clients through the years and I am so grateful for you! As a “thank you” as I want share a little of my journey.
When I was a new kid on the photography block there were literally 5-10 ( and I added -10 to be generous-I think there were only 5) other outdoor photographers in our local market. “Photographers” were guys with lots of lights and umbrellas, tripods and big expensive cameras…and studios! (I’m sure there were women in the industry but I didn’t know of them here.) “Photographer” was synonymous with the 4-5 names of the local master photographers and the studios they ran.
Outdoor photography was new and trendy. Would it even last?! We were going outside without lights, umbrellas, tripods or big cameras! Was this even photography? We shot film. Your session ended when the number rolled to 25 and the camera automatically rewound (if you didn’t still have the model that made you rewind it yourself.) We showed printed 4×6′s as proofs and created hand written orders for actual photos. We had local labs with local people who knew us better than greeters at our most frequented restaurants.
The lab was a showcase of work that I had no access to otherwise. I did my best to look at every print available for the human eye to see while I leaned over the counter waiting to pick up my 5.5×7.7 envelope full of what I hoped to be decent photographs. I would linger as I flipped through my 25 prints, hoping to have an encounter with a “real photographer”. I would step aside when one walked in- as if to pay respect. I wanted to hear them as if they may divulge their secrets to success as they were picking up their beautiful portraits. I was truly star-struck by a few of them. I spent a lot of time in my labs, just trying to somehow absorb the world of photography.
I was expectant of a future in photography when I was pregnant with our second child, Walker. I had been shooting Christmas card photos for friends and family for a few years and my spirit was quickening for more. But, “Am I good enough?” had kept me paralyzed. Somewhere in my second trimester with all my unexplainable nesting energy I decided I was going to improve my skill and boost my confidence. I enrolled in a Continuing Ed class at Greenville Tech which was going to be a follow up to my one college elective photography class I took in my senior year-many moons before. (Can we just stop and appreciate the thrill of the dark room with its funky red lighting and smells of mixed chemicals and overwhelming intrigue of creating.)
I began my night class half way through my pregnancy and before class ended I could barely fit behind the desk and struggled to stay awake. My professor encouraged me to actually ask for money for what I was doing-to really “go for it!” When a photographer says “you have a good eye” it just seems to carry more weight than family members saying they like your photos. No offense to family cheerleaders. As soon as he affirmed me I was empowered and began to be open for business. I was hungry. I was also a new mom but I juggled to shoot everything anyone would let me shoot. I would go up to parents of cute kids I’d see in public and introduce myself and ask if I could take photos of their family for my “portfolio” which was an upscaled photo book with plastic sleeves. I was thrilled to get to shoot sports teams and small schools and all of my friends families for free and I began to improve and my confidence was growing. I stayed part time until both kids were in school, then with details that only God can orchestrate my part time business became full time.
16 years! That is the majority of my first child’s lifetime and the entirety of my second’s. 16 years of juggling being a working mom in the best scenario of setting my own hours and working from home. 16 years of doing a dream job. 16 years of celebrating YOUR milestones with you! 16 years of babies and toddlers and seniors and brides and grooms and your families. 16 years of often times having my back to my family as I stared into a computer’s glow. 16 years of being my own boss. 16 years of self-promoting…because it’s hard to separate this kind of business from your own person. 16 years of being one of the few then becoming one of the thousands. 16 years of God’s provision for private school and extras then a few years of God’s provision for necessity during the crash of 2008 which killed our builder business. 16 years of being confident then insecure then confident again. 16 years of the best friendships with other photographers who are, in all fairness, my competition because some of our circles overlap deep. 16 years….is a long time.
I celebrate it all because it has helped shape me into the person I am today and I do believe it was the path God has had for me and He has been my sustainer.
I would be so honored if you would celebrate with me this Fall! When you’ve been at something for 16 years, it actually can feel like you’ve become the underdog again. And remember we all like to cheer for the underdog.
Here’s to at least a few more years to come!