10 years.

10-years

I’m not even sure where to start with this.

On October 21, 2016 I celebrated my 10 YEAR ANNIVERSARY. The anniversary of the very first wedding I photographed.

And this year, on October 20/21st I traveled to Charleston, South Carolina and photographed that same couple.

Here’s how my first ever wedding went down.

Terribly.

Does anyone’s first anything go amazing? We met in college, had mutual friends and at that point I had only photographed seniors and MAYBE one baby. They knew I was inexperienced, but Diana will tell you (at the time) she didn’t care. She didn’t think photos would be that important to her. They were on a budget, and honestly I can’t remember how much I quoted them or how much I was actually paid. We were good friends, hung out almost daily, so I didn’t think a contract was necessary.

Ya’ll, I truly had no idea what I was doing (as seen by the photos that follow). I knew what was important, but had NO idea how to use my camera. I had seriously only owned it for a couple weeks. I had one battery that I kept having to charge during the day. (I also left said battery in my hotel room that morning, and had to have a family member go pick it up…yikes).

nathananddianakiss

(face.palm.)

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(that tilt though)

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(Dark.)

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(darker.)

Afterwards, the story only gets worse and more complicated. Neither of us handled the situation well. We were young and dumb. And every day, I regret how I handled the situation. I regret ruining their wedding photos. We’ll just leave it to say there were a few seriously awkward years (and encounters) after all of this.

This isn’t a story of failures, though. This is a story of redemption and happy endings. A few years ago, when all of our friends had graduated college, we all started hanging out again. This was the definition of having an elephant in the room.

Last year, around this same time, Diana filled out my little contact form on my website. I received an email saying they wanted ME to photograph their vow renewal (that turned into an anniversary session). I truly 100% broke down in tears. My husband asks me once a year, how I define success. Previous to that moment, I defined it as booking X amount of weddings a year, charging X amount for each wedding, having all the knowledge on my camera/gear, X number of fans and followers…etc. In that tear-filled moment, when I received Diana’s email, I realized NONE of those things define my success. I worked my butt off for years after that first wedding. Building my business to where I thought I wanted it to be, and then I realized nothing meant more than that moment when Diana and Nate trusted me enough to photograph them again.

I was driving in the hills of Tennessee this time last year, heading to another wedding. The same hills where Nate, Diana and I met. Feeling nostalgic, I sent Diana a text. And for the next hour or so we talked about the past. We pushed that elephant out of the room and finally talked about all the things we had been holding on to. I cried again, but this time even happier tears.

Guys, this job, this life…NONE of it is guaranteed. Never get bigger than your britches. Be kind, love one another, and WORK YOUR ASS OFF.  Success is NOT defined by money or things or being famous/popular.

And now, I leave you with the ‘redemption’ images from Diana and Nate’s anniversary session in Charleston.

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P.S. The BEST part about all of this, Diana, Nate and I are FRIENDS. Diana is one of my dearest friends and for that, I’m thankful.

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