What I Learned Stepping Away From My Photography Business


I’ve had quite the personal journey in the last year and a half concerning my personal relationship with photography and the role it plays in my life. I started shooting for money in 2006, finally got official in 2008 and by the close of 2010 I was ready to quit photography forever. I was burned out, overwhelmed, and the joy was gone.

I made a startling decision to my family and my clients and announced that I was taking 2011 as a sabbatical from portrait work. This was an easier choice than just saying, “I quit.” It was a way to take a step back and clear my head and in truth, fall in love with photography again.

What Good Came of This?
1. I Got Really Good At Saying No.

One reason I was burned out was from the habit of accepting any job that would pay my fees, regardless if it was my style or something that I enjoyed.  Now that I had the “sabbatical” excuse, I found it much easier to say no and refer work to other photographers in my community.

Most things were easy to say no to. Then there was the phone call I got where I graciously explained my sabbatical and the caller said,

“But who is going to take our family pictures?!  YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE that I want to do it!  I want YOU.”

I still politely declined, but I knew in that moment that if I were to choose to go “pro” again, that I would only work with people like this. Those that weren’t hiring me for photographs, but they were hiring me because they wanted Brooke Snow and no one else.

2.  I Suddenly Had Time For Personal Projects.

It was important to me to not just announce a sabbatical as a fancy word for “taking a break”.  Though I wasn’t shooting commissioned work, I was still shooting. A LOT. I was shooting all the things that I wanted to shoot. I got together with friends for lifestyle shoots, I filmed all my Inspired By Life video’s, I filmed more videos for a fabulous new class still in the works  (TBA SOON!), I shot commercial work for magazines, I shot complimentary sessions as gifts for important people in my life, I explored Beloved Sessions, and …

I shot my family. My little family.  The ones that had got short changed before because I was too busy.

In summary: I shot what made me happy. I shot what brought me joy. I shot out of love and desire and money had no place in the equation (amazing topic for another day.)

3.  I Received Opportunities That Never Would Have Happened If I Was Busy With Portrait Work.

Deep down, I really believe when we remove things from our life that are not serving us, it makes a space for other good things to come into our life.

This past year, I took three online classes (one for photography and two for business), I got my first magazine contract and was published in five national magazines and four local magazines. I travelled for a photography convention, consulted Jesh De Rox in his own online course creation, made the final cut to be profiled in an upcoming book being published in May, added two more of my own online classes to the world, and went on T.V.!  I don’t list these opportunities to boast, but to boldly assert that I passionately believe that the only reason these opportunities came is because my time, focus, and life were open for them.  Let me restate the most important point here,

“When we remove things from our life that are not serving us or bringing us joy, it makes a space for the things that will.”

Sometimes we ourselves have to close our own doors of opportunity so that another one can open.

We only have a limited amount of space in our lives. Make sure that what you allow to occupy your time, focus, and life is serving you and bringing joy. If not, explore the option of closing a door so something better can have a place.

4.  I Know What I Want.

I thought I already knew what I wanted. But it wasn’t until I gave myself a year to really listen to myself (the self that is too often buried deep in other people’s expectations and to-lists), that I learned what really makes me happy and what I want. Surprisingly, it wasn’t riding the wave of the industry. It wasn’t being a full time successful pro photographer. It wasn’t making large profits from portrait sales. It wasn’t being popular or famous or well known. It wasn’t being “busy” with work. In fact, a lot of what made me happy this past year would go against all the advice of the photo industry (like shooting for free…gasp!).

I’m not at all saying that every pro needs to take a year long sabbatical or that my own discoveries for myself are the answers for anyone else. What’s important here is to take the time to figure out what makes you happy and listen.  Those answers will change just as life changes.  But if we can make an art out of paying attention to our feelings, cutting out what no longer serves us, and embracing new opportunities, we will be far more likely to craft a joyful life.

“We must become the change we wish to see in the world.”

– Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi

Do you need time away for clarity?  How do you  personally find it? Please share in the comments below!

Brooke Snow is a Lifestyle photographer in Cache Valley, Utah.  Her deepest desire in life is to live simply and fully. Taking time away or looking for moments of solitude have proven to be among the most challenging things for her to make happen, but have brought the deepest rewards.  She doesn’t think it will ever get easier to integrate into life, but the clarity is worth it.

Brooke teaches inspiring online photography classes that bring you confidence in your skills and creativity.

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