I've heard it said, "Starting is easy. Finishing is hard." I feel like the poster child for that phrase, sometimes.
I was first empowered to take pictures when a dear friend asked me to take her Winter Formal pictures and then her senior portraits way back in 2010. It’s now 2016, and I’ve created thousands of images since then, but never did get around to creating a website or putting all these images up anywhere.
In my recent journey of launching into full-time photography, I knew the obvious first step was to finally create a site. During the process of putting this site together and linking my social media accounts, I came across my old Tumblr where I found not one, but two photo blogs I had started. (There was one single post of some engagement pictures.) I also stumbled across a Facebook page I started in 2011 with a bio that said something like, "Finally. It's about time I started this Facebook page." Aside from posting a couple photos, writing that bio was where I stopped.
"Starting is easy. Finishing is hard."
You see, in 2011, I was about a year into photography, and felt behind because all these people around me had started marketing themselves, putting their portfolios out there, buying all these lenses, etc. I would get random bursts of motivation to catch up with them, but would get swept up in the current of trying to pass my college classes, build my resume, create a portfolio worth putting on display, and all that jazz.
As the years passed, I was still caught up in that current and I wasn't slowing down.
I ended up feeling really burnt out.
The thought of starting a photo business seemed daunting and I wasn’t sure if full-time photography was what I wanted to do. That uncertainty was definitely scary considering I was about to graduate with a photojournalism degree...Guess what I did! Started another blog! This time - to write about this leg of my journey. I ended up only writing one post (of course), but I believe it's worth sharing.
Transparency, for the win!
March, 2nd 2014
I got over it. I didn’t feel like taking pictures anymore.
I was working as the Web Photo Editor for my school’s newspaper, shooting more and more senior portraits, families, school dances, some weddings here and there, interning for a photographer, and trying to launch my own business.
After thousands of shutter clicks for moments I couldn’t get myself to care about, after hundreds of hours of editing photos while my mind raced with countless draining questions about what my client would think, if the photo would even be used for the newspaper, if I was the only person who thought this image was fantastic, if this all really mattered anyway, I felt exhausted.
I’d look around and wonder if any other photographers ever went through what I was going through. I felt so anxious anytime photography came up. Please don’t ask me what I shoot with. Please don’t ask me to shoot that event. And please don’t ask me for the RAW files. Wait, how did that person shoot 15 weddings in a year and I'm tired after 1? Is this all just a sign that this really isn't for me?
I hadn’t heard that there’d be seasons like this, so when it happened, I was really surprised. And scared. And disappointed. Surprised that something I thought I loved so much was starting to be more draining than life-giving. Scared that I wouldn’t want to take pictures again. Disappointed that something I’d just invested so much time, thought and energy into was starting to feel so tiring, like an obligation rather than a joy.
But, I kept shooting. Kept saying, “Yes.” Kept picking up my camera every day and sitting at the computer for hours on end. I stayed this worn out, disappointed, overwhelmed, and defeated photographer, and wondered if I should just give it up. But at some point, this quote caught my attention:
“All things are difficult before they are easy.” - Thomas Fuller
It didn’t make sense to expect that this would always be easy. Where did I get this idea that I would be excellent right away? That I should know what I was doing already? Or even that I had to do the same thing as everyone else?
I loved photography, but realized that love had been uprooted in a flood of muddled motives. As long as I was motivated by earning class credit, making money, gaining the approval of others, making my boss happy, I wouldn’t feel fulfilled.
I knew deep down that I couldn’t help but take pictures. But the questions I've had to ask myself are: How do I ensure that photography stays life-giving, refreshing, honoring to God, an avenue for loving and serving people?”
A lot has changed since that season.
A friend suggested I shoot strictly film for a while - Thanks Andrea!
I got better at saying, “No.”
I got a job as a Student Ministries Worship Coordinator and was able to put professional photography on pause.
I got married to a man who has helped me learn to slow down, cultivate creativity, and find beauty in the ordinary.
God has refreshed my love for photography and allowed me to pursue things I'm passionate about in a slow, peaceful sort-of way, where I get to breathe while I'm creating and take my time with it all. He is daily helping me break free of the pressures that drain me dry. He's brought me to this place of wanting art to be what I get to do full-time, wanting to take pictures and paint and write and more. I'm in a place right now where I get to pursue all these creative endeavors, and I'm truly stunned at God's grace in bringing me to this place of opportunity.
You may have noticed that my first blog has zero pictures, ironically. While I kind of feel obligated to post a photo, I think I’ll just let this be a text post. Because I love pictures, but I also love writing, singing, watercolor lettering, and discovering new art forms I enjoy.
At this point, I’m unable to come up with an accurate third word to follow “Emily Illuminate.” I kind of think of “Emily Illuminate” as the umbrella over all my creative endeavors. It’s like my own little creative pseudonym, the one that reminds me to keep letting the light in, to keep creating, to keep illuminating all that’s around me with the light of Christ shining through me.
Here's to seeing where He carries me next!