10 Takeaways After Shooting 40 Weddings This Year

It is hard to believe that the time has finally come, I did it, I photographed 40 weddings in one year. When January rolled around this year, I remember looking at my calendar and breaking a little bit of a sweat. 40 weddings were on the forecast, in May alone I would be shooting 8 weddings, it intimidated me to the max!

 Let me start by saying that yes, this year was extremely challenging, but it was also extremely rewarding and I am forever thankful for the people I have met ever the past 12 months. Some of my brides and clients have turned into some of my best friends, I found friendships in other creatives, and I cherish each of the memories made on each wedding day I was a part of!

I wish I could put into words exactly what I took away from this year, but it all comes down to one word, surrender. I had to surrender my time, patience, willingness to serve, creativity, and the list goes on. Without Jesus, I would have never made it through this year. I wasn't a great steward of my time, nor was I a great steward for Jesus. What's cool about that is the fact that the Lord still claims me as a daughter even when I fail Him. He is good, even on the bad days!

1. Community over competition is real.

This year I was involved in numerous photography/creative groups. All of which involved supporting one another, encouragement, and helpful tips. Of these groups, my favorite personal group was A Savored Soiree, an intimate dinner hosted on my front porch with 7 other photographers in the area. We are all in our 20's, wedding photographers, and chasing after similar dreams. This group has been so life-giving, honestly more than I could have ever imagined, and I am forever thankful for those girls! I would not have made it through the year without the constant support and encouragement from people who truly understood how difficult this year was going to be.

Also, walking through this season with Casey Edwards Photography was one of the greatest gifts. We are chasing the same dream, the same age, living in the same city, seeking the same types of brides. We are the definition of competition. But, the Lord blessed us with clear eyes, He sent me a friend who would understand me better than most, and I am forever grateful. I also would not have made it throughout this year without help from my amazing intern, Sophie Grace Photography. She has been a HUGE blessing this year, not only as a helping hand to keep JNP moving, but as a dear friend. I'll have a whole blog post devoted to this girl coming soon, but until then, just know that without her, some of your images may still be waiting to be edited ;) kidding, but really she was a rockstar this year!

2. Never stop learning.

I'm not a great learner, let's be honest, I would much rather just learn from trial and error. I took a leap this year and signed up for Ben Sasso's Foster Workshop in California, Casey and I made the trip together. It came at a perfect time of creative dryness and really spurred me on when I was already burnt out. I learned simple tips and tricks that have shaped how I ran the remainder of my year. Sign up for a workshop, it's so worth the investment!!

3. Take up other hobbies that don't involve creativity.

A wise friend told me that those who use their brain for work find rest in working with their hands. I found rest by decorating our house, cleaning, too much shopping, and doing Crossfit with Braden. I gave my creative mind a rest and enjoyed other activities that didn't involve a camera. Plus, it enabled me to learn other skills and to meet wonderful people along the way. 

4. Invest in clients. 

This was a big one. This was always the goal, but it was a bit difficult when I was meeting over 80 people (brides and grooms) and their families. This year, I made it a priority to be the best I could be for my couples on their wedding day. I have learned that I don't just want to serve couples well on the wedding day, I want to serve them well throughout the entire process of working with me. I honestly put in a good bit of effort this year, but next year my main priority is investing, especially in my brides. 

5. Don't only show the good.

I am speaking into Social Media here. I struggle with comparison big time. I follow many people who I am honestly just envious of their pretty lives. Why do that to myself? As a result, I found myself curating images and stories about my own life that only showed the good and pretty side of my life. We are all guilty of it, I'll be the first to admit it. I was really convicted over this during the summer when I was told a few times, "your life is so perfect." Friends, it is far from it. So far from it. But, what I realized is that there were other people out there looking in on my life, just how I had looked in on others and became envious. I am such a big mess, a bigger mess than I let Social Media portray me to be. I started sharing some of the bad with the good, it's a humbling process and I don't do it as much as I should, but it's definitely something I'm working on!

6. Sometimes, people can surprise you.

Total transparency here, I honestly didn't predict some of my favorite people in Greenville would be a result of being one of my couples. I went into each bridal meeting with an open mind, sometimes we clicked and sometimes we didn't. When we clicked though, man oh man, it was like we had known each other for years. Some of my brides are some of my dearest friends now! I'll be honest, I had a few bad experiences with people this year. Some I developed a little bit of anxiety over because I was letting their words determine my worth & speak into my character. I had to realize that the Lord is the only one who can speak into my worth & who determines my character, not someone else's harsh words. Thick skin had to be developed, but the good definitely outweighed the bad this year. 

7. Learned to say yes to my "best yes."

This was a tough one. Lysa Terkeurst said it best, "Whenever you say yes to something, there is less of you for something else." Amen. I said yes to multiple things when I was already running thin. This lead to a downward spiral. I was skipping workouts, forgetting to eat meals, skipping church and community group, and feeling that my tank was constantly running on empty. It wasn't worth it, y'all. I tried to squeeze in any client who asked for photos because I wanted to serve them well, but in-turn, I ended up skipping on the other things that make me who I am. This fall I did a much better job of being okay with saying no, and it was so life-giving. 

8. I can't neglect making my own memories in order to capture others memories.

This goes along with saying yes to my best yesses. When I was saying yes to another session, I was saying no to quality time with my own family and friends. I was missing out on time with Braden. I was missing out on family trips. Our first year of marriage, I only had iPhone photos to make up our yearbook, and that honestly broke my heart. I earn a living by photographing other peoples moments, but had none to show for my own life. I made a much bigger effort to pick up my camera to capture my own memories this year, and I am so thankful that I did!

9. Success doesn't equal joy or contentment.

This year skyrocketed in terms of business, income, social media following, you name it. While on paper those things sound wonderful & I am so grateful, I was lacking joy and contentment. Yes, it is such a blessing to grow and flourish, but I was so overworked that I still never felt that I was doing enough or good enough. I still felt empty. It's amazing how Satan uses our strengths and turns them into weaknesses. I learned that success is wonderful, but not at the expense of my joy. 

10. My identity is not in my business.

The biggest lesson of all. My character and identity is not determined by Jessi Nichols Photography. Yes, it is interwoven in there some, but I am so much more than just a photographer. I was so aware of who Jessi Nichols the photographer was, but I lost sight of who Jessi Nichols was as a wife, daughter, and friend. This fall I took a deep breath and truly started investing into what makes me, me. It's so easy to know who I am as the business owner, but not know my purpose. Our time on earth is so fleeting, so I want to serve the Lord and fulfill my purpose, whatever that may be!

PHEW!

That's a lot to digest.

With such a packed wedding year, I learned many many lessons. Some good, some bad, some kind of painful to walk through. When I look back on my 2.5 years in business, it feels like an eternity, but in reality it has been such a short season so far. It's crazy to think how fast time flies and how much you learn along the way. While reflecting on this year, I realized just how deep these lessons went, just how impactful this year was. There were so many joyful moments this year, there really were. After writing out this list, I realized that most of the lessons I learned were hard, but that's okay. I am human, I make mistakes, I learn from them. I have struggled with total transparency this year by shrugging it off and saying "I'm fine," but here's a look into the good and the bad.