To Live One's Dream // $1000 Giveaway

casey-vancouver-island Three years ago, we had it made.

After years of hard work and determination, we were running a successful photography business by most any standard. We knew how to capture great photos in pretty well any situation, we had all the gear we'd ever dreamed of and a full calendar of shoots; things were looking good. It all culminated in one summer, where everything was ... kind of easy. No gear needed to be purchased and we were consistently getting the kind of look we were going for at the time. At that point, the future looked pretty rosy. All we had to do was keep doing what we were doing!

Yet for the first time in a long while, I felt incredibly unsettled.

I didn't buy my first digital camera until 2008, before then I was 100% film and proud of it. It wasn't until after I had a good look through my own wedding photos (which were shot digitally) did I think "well, I suppose this digital stuff looks decent enough to shoot professionally". With my first full time year of weddings ahead of me (we went from zero weddings to about 25 weddings in under 5 months), I made the switch because it was 'the thing to do' at the time. This was something that surprised some people because I was quite the film snob before that! So off I went - with CF cards in hand - down a path that seemed to make good sense. Dropping film was cheaper (so we thought) and potential clients were asking for digital photographers - I was willing to be that photographer! Being part of the pack felt a heck of a lot safer than going out on a limb and doing something different with regards to capture medium.

In the beginning I studied the work of the best digital wedding photographers. I obsessed over sharpness, lenses, depth of field, clean low light images, whatever posing they utilized... Like a reverse-engineered product, I deconstructed the look and vision of the great photographers at that time and made them my own. I did it well. From that, we saw an ever increasing number of bookings, even though we were continually raising our prices. Sweet, right?

But nearing the end of the "perfect summer" I finally realized that because I was after someone else's dream/look/goals, whatever successes came from them would always leave me feeling uneasy.  Fortunately for me, I was able to recognize the problem, but doing something about it was the next big step. A change was in order, which was a scary thought since what we were doing seemingly worked so well!

At the next wedding we shot, I had my "old" 35mm film camera sitting in my bag, loaded with what used to be (and still is) my favourite film, Fuji 400H. I took a few shots during the portraits and some at the reception. I sent them to the lab not expecting much. A few days later I got the prints/scans back and they turned out better than I ever could have expected! It was exciting to see film work within my current skill set (which was much improved from the previous film days) and there was a certain quality about it that I was never able to get with digital . The way it made me think differently about every shot I took was the other big one. Every frame I captured had a cost. I was exposing a piece of film, not creating 1's and 0's on a memory card. I loved it. It fit. I knew everything from then on would have to change.

From that point on, we've been working non-stop towards what you see today. We've majorly revamped our previous site/brand that just kind of worked, and practically created a new studio from scratch. It's been a long yet fulfilling process that I would do over again in a heartbeat. I think about things differently now. I take about 75% less photos during a wedding day, yet come out with more 'keepers' after I do the edit (we used to shoot 4000-5000 images and come out with around 600-800 keepers, now we shoot around 1000 and end up with about the same number of keepers...Interesting isn't it?). It was once all about how little time I could spend editing/processing photos, yet now as I sit down at my commercial grade, 500lb, 220V film scanner that's the size of a deep freeze for 8 hours scanning film, I've got a big smile on my face and I can't wait to see the beauty that's been captured on those rolls of medium format film; scanning each roll is like Christmas morning over and over again. Every part of our current process is just dang enjoyable. At the wedding photography workshops we teach, it's so awesome to show our attendees that its not copying someone else, or buying someones photoshop actions that will make them truly successful, it's building a business around them and their unique view on the world that will give them the best chance of having an incredible future in photography.

Now this isn't a film vs digital post and by no means am I saying that a person can't find creative fulfilment with digital photography. This was my journey towards finding what worked for me. It's different for everyone. What I am saying is if you know that what you're doing for your career isn't cutting it, start down the path of change, it's well worth it. This mindset spread across my entire life and I started thinking things like "I used to love mountain biking, but I haven't been on a trail in years...time to grab the bike and give it shot!" and "hmm, that spot in the basement would be perfect for a drum set". Riding bikes and playing music were things that I was heavily involved in before starting our photography studio, but for some reason, chasing someone else's goals was all encompassing and I lost touch with both music and riding. Everything seems to fit together nicely now. :)

Now since we've launched our new brand, we've had a lot of people ask us what the significance is of the opening photo (which is also is the background for the rest of the site). It has got nothing to do with couples, weddings, family portraits... so what's the deal? Well that photo was taken on a beautiful evening in Jamaica. We were there a couple of years ago shooting a wedding and the first thing we noticed was the stark difference between "resort Jamaica" (with its perfect palm trees and manicured grounds) and "real Jamaica" with its dense jungle system of the most amazing trees you've ever seen. From our vantage point on the 4th floor, we could see right down over top the high fence that was built to real keep nature out and pretend nature in. It was a strange sight. I took that photo from within the high fences of resort Jamaica, looking out on what's real - what's true. That photo has become a symbol of what we want to convey with our photographs. So there it is, front and centre of our new website.

I'm writing this from my perspective and I know Beth is looking forward to posting her take on the last few years in a future blog post, so keep an eye out for that! I realize that this is a long post (longer than I expected, but what can you do?) so thanks for sticking with it. I wrote this because I know there are other people out there who are in the same boat I was 3 years ago, and I hope this post inspires them to take the leap towards a truly fulfilling and inspired life.

Now, what about this $1000 giveaway?? Ah yes, I almost forgot about that... 

The number one reason/excuse people give when asked why they're not doing what they love is "I don't have the money to do that right now" - money to buy a certain camera, money to book that plane ticket, money to take music lessons, money to pay off debt that's tying them down, money to take a week off work so they can dive into a project - the list goes on. We want to get rid of that reason/excuse for you.

If you had $1000 that was given to you to live your dream, what would you do with it?

Think about it, because that $1000 could very well be headed your way.

This contest is open to everyone, not just photographers!

HOW TO ENTER

1.   In the comments section below, tell us how you would use $1000 to start living your dream

2.  Share this post on Facebook (by clicking the Facebook share button below, or by copy/pasting this URL as a status update on Facebook)

3.  'Like' the Ryan+Beth Photography Facebook page so you can find out if you're the big winner!

Once you've completed those three steps (takes about 45 seconds), you're in the draw!

We'll be making the draw using a random number generator on October 11th, 2013. Once we announce the winner on our Facebook page we'll get in contact via email. The one thousand dollars in Canadian funds will be sent to the winner via Paypal within one week of contacting the lucky guy or gal. Only one entry per person please (yes, we can check ;)

**Also, if you post your comment but don't see it below immediately, have no fear! Sometimes it takes a bit for the comment to get through our auto-spam filter.**

Best of luck!

Ryan