I’m a wedding & elopement photographer for laid back couples that value the idea of being married more than just having a party. They want photos that show their true selves and represent their love of nature, and prefer to be more natural than overly posed.
Being a photographer is a tough business these days, especially as I’ve decided to specialize in PNW elopements & weddings. The market is over-saturated and it’s easy to just pick up a camera and call yourself one. There is no real professional standard, unlike many other trades. I didn’t have to take a test, I don’t need a special license, and if I’m being honest, you really don’t even need a business license or insurance for someone to hire you (although I definitely have both because I want to be legal). So, it’s no wonder the competition is stiff out there. I learned early on in my photography journey that competing on my skills or price alone isn’t worth it, nor is it something I ever want to do. I have worked with a business coach in the past, and we touched on the concept that you must really hone in on a why statement. I watched the now famous Ted Talk from Simon Sinek called “How Leaders Inspire Action” about four years and it made sense. As I worked on my wedding brand and my ideal client, I tried to keep that talk in mind, but didn’t fully explore the concept of why until recently.
In the past year, I have felt a pull to work towards narrowing my brand even further, focusing more on the intimate weddings & elopements that truly make my heart sing. I am working through an online course during this down time that the pandemic has brought us. As part of the course, we work hard on defining your why statement, and the book Find Your Why by Simon Sinek is the recommended reading. I started working through the book and I realized I needed to find a partner to help me out. I reached out to the online support group from the course, and I found Ashley, a wedding photographer based in California. We set up a FaceTime meeting and began chatting. We agreed to work through this together, and help each other discover our why statement.
One of the exercises in Find Your Why is to think back to all of the powerful childhood and young adult memories and write them down in as much detail as possible. The stories we remember the most. It isn’t always pretty, but these stories are an integral part in shaping us. So I sat down and wrote. Ashley did the same. Once I had written my stories, I had to narrow it down to five or so that had the most impact on me and then share those with Ashley. The goal is to have a partner that doesn’t really know you well (which is why doing this with a spouse or best friend is discouraged), find the recurring themes. These themes are what we use to draft our why statement.
As I read my stories to Ashley, she worked on pulling out the themes within them. The central theme from my stories seemed to be about control, especially in regards to not having a choice, as well as not allowing others to control how I felt. One of my stories from my childhood that I shared with Ashley was the time I was sent to the principal’s office in middle school because of my clothing choice. It was spirit week and each day had a theme. This particular theme was beach day, and I wore a cute little purple shorts and tank top outfit that had palm trees on it. My teacher sent me to the principal because it was a spaghetti tank top and the shorts were too short, and she deemed it inappropriate. I was mortified! I was made to feel bad about how I looked because the teacher and principal chose to sexualize my outfit. I was 13 years old! My mom was called and told she had to bring me a change of clothes. She complied, but she also laid into the principal for their decision and stood up for me. That moment was pretty impactful! I have a host of other stories, many of which are too personal to share, but the trend about not having a say or choice, and then the subsequent feeling of lack of control, really became clear.
As I worked through developing my why statement, I wanted to come up with a clear message, but also a positive message. Finding positives about lack of control is really hard to do! But ultimately, I realized that it has to do with being true to myself. Having a choice. Doing what I want to do and feeling good about it. My why statement is a reflection of myself on the deepest level. It’s my purpose behind what I do. It’s also what I feel draws me to the couples that I most connect with. Specializing in PNW elopements & weddings truly speaks to my why.
So, here it is folks, my why.
When I really examined my why statement, I realize that it’s about having a choice, which is what I want for myself, but also for my couples! I don’t want to hide behind a façade and be afraid to speak my mind or be myself because I might offend someone or hurt their feelings. I don’t want to not do something that speaks to me on the deepest level because I might disappoint others along the way. I’ve done that in the past. It never serves me. And I don’t want couples that decide to have the big wedding because it’s what their family wants, when it’s not what they want. I don’t want couples to be forced into a situation that creates so much anxiety and pressure to be perfect, that they forget to enjoy their day. I love all weddings, and if you truly want a big bash, I’m all for it. But I want you to want that! As I think back to my clients, I realize the ones I’ve connected with the most are free-spirits. They do things their own way, much like myself. Choosing each other and their wants in having their dream day is the most important thing for them. I connect with them on a deep level and it really fulfills me to know that I am there to not only document the important moments in their lives, but that I get to witness something special, so intimate and so loving.
So, as I go into the unknown and with everything going on this world right now, I am here to encourage you to follow your heart, and let’s go on a journey together.
Hi, I’m Erica, a sentimental wedding photographer specializing in PNW elopements & weddings for free-spirited and natural couples here in Oregon, the Pacific Northwest & beyond. If you have plans to marry your best friend in your own way, get in touch! I still have some availability for 2019 and I’m booking 2020.