It’s been almost 13 years since I held my first SLR camera in my hands, completely clueless about how to use it. Long before the digital era, I spent a small fortune on film and processing just to learn how to photograph and how I could improve. I signed up for a beginner’s photography class and learned more in that first class than I could ever comprehend in the books I’d read. A love for photography had captured my heart.
Year after year, I began building a portfolio, attending classes, watching webinars, reading blog after blog after blog, listening to podcasts, and doing everything I could to learn how to have a successful photography business. The deeper into the “business” side of photography I got, the less I began to love the idea of a “photography business”. I am naturally creative, by nothing more than the hand of God knitting me together that way. I am not, naturally, business-minded. Marketing, accounting, taxes – not my gifting. At all. Self-promoting rubbed me the wrong way – in every way, and still does. I would rather push attention to more important matters than on my photography gift.
What you may not know, is that having a small business consumes nearly every.single.thought in your mind. When I wasn’t shooting a session, I was thinking about my next upcoming session, or what session I needed to edit next, what emails I needed to reply to, did I blog that last session, did I share it on social media, have I mailed that usb. When is my next newborn due? How is my pregnant client doing as she nears her due date? I need to design birth announcements. If I was in a slow season, I was always thinking about how I could get new clients. What kind of mini session could I plan? Where could I have it? What do I need to do differently? How can I serve my clients better? How can I be more relational? Listening to business/leadership podcasts trying to learn anything I could to grow my business and even grow myself. It consumed me.
Last year, I saw the greatest growth in my business. In my usual slow season, I had newborn after newborn to photograph. It was wonderful. I learned that word of mouth was working out just fine for me and I let myself relax on the “marketing” side of my business. I didn’t like that part anyway! But the more sessions I shot, the more sessions I had to edit, and what that really boiled down to was more time away from my family or sleep deprivation, and oftentimes, both.
I found myself, at the beginning of this year, feeling completely unfulfilled. Empty. And I couldn’t figure out why. I didn’t like who I was. I found myself yelling in frustration and irritation at my precious kids; who, honestly, just needed my focused attention. I would end up in tears by the end of the day, a lot – regretting so much within the course of that day. It kept building and building until I had, finally, reached my breaking point.
It was around 10pm one night in early March, I was sitting in the recliner, editing a session on my laptop. I was already exhausted but knew I needed to get the session finished so I could move on to the next one; another hour to an hour and a half still loomed before me. Jordan leaned in and kissed me on the forehead before going to bed and the tears began to fall. Through a very brief but deep conversation, he asks me a simple question, “do you think you would feel better if you went back to work full time?” What he didn’t know is that that was a question I had secretly been asking myself for months. But I was afraid to voice it out loud because being a stay-at-home mom is what I had prayed for for several years. I was living in my answered prayer. But I was miserable. It didn’t make sense to me. I couldn’t rationalize it, no matter how hard I tried. I had so much to be grateful for and so much to appreciate. Why did I feel this way?
I discovered a gem of a scripture in John 15:2 that clearly portrays what I believe is happening in my life right now.
“He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”
I’m in a pruning season. There are some things in my life that haven’t been fruitful. They’re not producing anything of value and those things have to be cut out. And then there are other areas in my life that have been fruitful but in order for them to produce even greater fruit, they have to be trimmed back a little.
As I have prayed and pondered this in my heart, I’ve weighed all of my decisions against what I value the most in my life. God, family, and ministry have been everything to me, for all my life. Was I supposed to quit my full time job in a commercial insurance brokerage to be a stay-at-home mom? Yes. In that season. God knew the challenges I would have during my pregnancy with Pierce. God knew that Pierce would never take a bottle in his first year of life and would prefer mommy as his source of all nutrition for 12 months. My heavens. I needed to be home these last 4 years.
“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” Ecclesiastes 9:10
I fully believe that photography was what my hands found to do and I believe I have done it with all my might. But my season has changed as my kids are getting older. Ava is getting involved in extra-curricular activities that demand more of my time. As Pierce gets older, it will be the same for him. We have new family dreams and goals and they require new things from us.
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1
On May 2, 2016, a new season began. I took a full time position at my amazing church. I didn’t seek out this position. It was an incredible opportunity that presented itself in the Lord’s perfect timing. And I am LOVING IT!! I discovered I thrive in a structured environment and being at home had little to no structure at all for me.
Sadly, as this new season begins, my season as a photographer is ending. It hasn’t been an easy decision to make. I’ve battled it out with the Lord a lot. But I have to let my no be no. It’s taken months to put these words on “paper”. The fear of disappointing so many of you has been crippling at times. But the fear of disobeying the One in whom I owe my life cripples me more. There is something more fruitful that awaits me – I don’t fully know what that is yet, but I’m excited to find out. :o)
You will never fully know how much I have loved being a part of your lives. Many of you opened your homes and your hearts to me. Each of you entrusted your memories to me. I’m honored. Humbled. Forever grateful for your faith in me and for your loyalty. It means so much to me. My heartfelt prayer is that you understand my heart in this and that you will celebrate this new adventure with me. I’ll forever love you and your family. I’ll forever be cheering you on from the sidelines of social media or however we can connect in the future. I’ll be bittersweet over watching your babies grow through the years. I’ll love all the portraits you have made by your new photographer.
And I’ll miss you. When the leaves begin to change and the hint of fall fills the crisp air and as the golden hour strikes, I will miss you. Every evening, when the sun is about to set and the light is glowing so perfectly, I’ll be wishing I was in a field of tall grass, making silly faces and playing peek-a-boo behind my camera to make your little ones smile. That’s a part of me I’ll never be able to let go. But I’m eager to exchange all of that to be a happy, JOYFUL mommy for my 2 loves.
I have a precious photographer friend who has promised to take great care of you in my place. I, highly, recommend her! Just do me 2 favors. Book her for your fall family portraits EARLY. Like in August. For real. If you would normally wait until October to book (I know who you are!! ;op), don’t do that. Please! And let her know I sent you her way. We photographers love to know where our referrals come from. :o) So, go ahead, get in touch with her today!!
Rachel Coffey Photography | www.rachelcoffeyphoto.com
If you have a baby plan with me and we haven’t finished your full one year plan yet, don’t worry!! I will be finishing out all of my baby plans until the last one turns one. ;o)
Regretfully, I will not be taking on any other sessions going forward. I, sincerely, appreciate each and every one of you and your understanding means the world to me.
If you have any questions at all, please let me know.
With great JOY and deep LOVE,
P.S. If you just need a photo for all of this to make sense, here you go. (quality will be terrible because these are just iPhone photos – bleh). This is the reason I’m hanging up my camera – to enjoy more JOYFUL moments like these with the people I love the most! :o) God bless each and every one of you! <3