The whirlwind that was 2018.

Officially my busiest year in my business to date filled with plenty of highs, a few lows, immense risk taking & a new studio. A year where I have definitely learnt so much about the photographer I want to be, & how my self care is essential not only for my own happiness but for my business, that people change & there’s nothing you can do about it, your family are everything, doing things that scare you really does pay off, it’s okay to say no, it’s okay to put yourself first, planning a wedding isn’t easy, but finding your dress is, there will always be people who try & compete or outdo you, there will always be people there to support you, it’s okay to take a break, spending time with loved ones is VERY important, don’t reveal everything as a listening ear can also be a running mouth, but also don’t bottle your emotions, never settle & never regret decisions that you make because at the time you believed it was right & it leads you to where you are now. Other than my journey of self discovery, I have mostly learnt that I really do have the best job in the world, because this year it really is my clients that have opened my eyes & kept me going. Especially when I was at burn out point & struggling to see light at the end of the tunnel, not helped by a never ending editing pile & spending every free hour in front of the computer. BUT I promise I really have learnt now, not to take on too much, which is why I am shooting less weddings next year, so I can still keep the love for them alive, & so I can concentrate on expanding in other areas, like my studio, & so I don’t look like a dead pigeon for our wedding! & although the editing pile tires me, I wouldn’t change my job for the world, as when I send my clients their photos, making them happy & receiving such lovely words afterwards is such a rewarding feeling which has the power of completely outweighing the ‘burn out’ & eliminating any doubt of me ‘doing the right thing’.

My business has grown so much this year & I have also taken huge steps, such as switching to Sony from Nikon in the middle of my busiest season, shooting two destination weddings - one of which was for my mentor when I first started out in the photography world & one was in the same week as shooting another four weddings! Finally investing in my own studio which will be launching in January! I have met some truly incredible couples & families this year, that will honestly always hold a special place in my heart. I count myself very very lucky & I look forward to meeting more next year, & also in a very nearly fully booked 2020 - which will come around super fast!

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So before I leave you with some of my favourite moments / highlights of 2018, I just want to emphasise how grateful I am, firstly if you are reading this blog, if you read my other blogs, for following me on social media, for commenting & liking my posts & mostly for choosing me to be your photographer whether that was this year or any other year previous or to come! I am not a photo machine, I’m a real human being, with feelings, just like you, so trust me when I say it means EVERYTHING.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year & I look forward to 2019 & all the new things it’s going to bring me. Including becoming a wife! If you follow me on social media, you would have seen a video of me walking through a field filmed on a drone which I posted ages ago saying ‘soon to be revealed.’ Due to being incredibly busy, I haven’t been able to put my new advert together just yet, but it will be revealing that we will be able to offer drone as Rob’s best friend has got his licence! So watch this space & keep your eyes peeled! You can see the video by clicking below….

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Source: www.jessicaraphaelphotography.com

My top wedding planning tips!

This is by no means another blog about our engagement & planning our wedding, as I have already done this, which you can read by clicking here. However although I stand by everything I said in my previous blog, we have been on a very stressful wedding planning journey since. We fell into all the traps we personally didn’t want to fall into. We were halfway to planning a very big, expensive wedding & this was the total opposite of what we wanted & who we are. We were booked to have our wedding at The Lost Orangery. Which still is now one of my favourite venues. Well, probably my favourite. If we weren’t wedding photographers, & didn’t have the financial pressure & other personal issues life throws at us, this would be our place. But unfortunately we couldn’t go ahead with having our wedding here. However, on the plus side, I will still have the pleasure of going there a couple of times next year as ‘the photographer’ & hope there’s many more to come in the future!

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You can see one of my weddings there by clicking here. It has also been blogged on Rock my Wedding.

Now I feel so much more positive & chilled about our wedding & feel it has all worked out for the best. We are having a much smaller scaled intimate ‘celebration’. I say celebration as it probably won’t feel like a wedding at all - apart from when we get married, of course! Again, I am not going to go into it again as by the time it comes around to me actually talking about our day & sharing photos, everyone will be sick to death of me!

But I do want to share a few tips which I think will help, in my personal opinion. As I have definitely learnt a lot from being a wedding photographer, & more so, planning our own in between hundreds of others!

  • Please please plan the wedding for YOU. This is actually much harder than it sounds & seems so obvious on the surface. I thought it was so easy before I started planning, but then I naturally starting falling into “but they don’t like”, “how will they”, “what about”, “we can’t do that cause”. When I finally heard myself doing exactly what I didn’t want to do that’s when everything changed & we are now making decisions for US. Obviously there are some things that you just have to take into consideration. But at the end of the day, everything else & everyone else who loves you will follow.

  • If your photos are one of the biggest things to you, really think about your locations. You may have a gorgeous venue, but where are you getting ready? What’s the room like? Is there room for all of you, your belongings & a photographer? Bridal prep is one of my favourite parts of the day to photograph, if in the right surroundings, so I already knew this would be a great importance to me. So I have made sure to find somewhere I know will photograph well. Not only will you feel lovely on the morning & night of your wedding, if you are staying in the same place, but you are actually also helping your photographer. You could have the greatest photographer in the world but if you are trying to shoot in a box room with stuff all over the floor & dark walls - there’s only so much they can make look good….sorry but true! So really think about the imagery - making your photographers job easier will help them be more creative as well! Bonus!

  • Break traditions. Remember you don’t HAVE to do anything. A wedding is what you make it. If you don’t like the rules - break them.

  • If you have your heart set on certain suppliers - book them as soon as you can. Especially venues & photographers, they get booked up super fast!

  • Prioritise where you want to spend your money. This also includes your honeymoon. Rob & I are getting married for us. So selfishly, are much happier spending more of our money on us. So we have decided to have a smaller wedding so we can have a bigger honeymoon. There isn’t a right or wrong for this as everyone’s priorities are different. If you have your heart set on a photographer but they are out of your budget, can you loose something else or go for a cost efficient alternative in another area?….& so forth….

  • Don’t get silly! By silly I mean - overspend. Yes it’s your wedding, the most important day of your life. But its ONE day & they do tend to go very quick. Only spend money on things you know will be a great essential asset to your day, or as I have said above - your priorities. I mean, Alpacas are cute - but do you really need them if it’s going to put you under financial strain? That being said, if anyone has an Alpaca attending their wedding - PLEASE can I be your photographer?

Entertainment..this can come under planning can’t it? Maybe not, so treat it as a bonus tip - cause it’s also a big one!

  • Entertainment. This doesn’t have to be ‘a band’. I mean keeping your guests ‘entertained’ in general, well looked after. When planning, think about every moment & make sure something is always planned, even minuscule so they aren’t left standing around or falling asleep in chairs! For example, a cocktail hour, magician, games, glitter face painting, ice cream, singing waitors! Generally I think things that a lot of people can be involved in together makes a difference & really brings the atmosphere up. Think outside the box. Weddings are long days so it’s very hard to keep this going constantly. We have chosen to start our day later because of this, so it really just feels like a party. Most importantly, make it a day to remember.

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Finally - don’t be a model bride & groom multiple times before the day as it turns the pressure up for you having to do a better job yourself! ;-)

Here we are modelling for Blenheim Palace recently.

Image by Kate Hopewell-Smith / Photography Film & Air by Lumiere.

Image by Kate Hopewell-Smith / Photography Film & Air by Lumiere.

Now we need to look better than this next year…..

Source: www.jessicaraphaelphotography.com

Five in one.

So, if you follow my work you would've seen that at the end of May I had five weddings in one week, one of which was in Majorca / Mallorca - I change how I wish to spell it daily. I don't think I actually realised until a couple of weeks before, I looked in my diary & saw the day on, day off line up & thought 'Ah! So they're all in one week'. Maybe it was a good thing I didn't realise as I didn't have much time to process, so just jumped straight in! Luckily I did have Rob with me for four of them, filming & second shooting, & this did help keep me going, not just as a physical back up, but also a mental one.

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Now I guess unless you are a self employed wedding photographer you may just think, five weddings in one week is just a standard working week for anyone who goes to work Monday - Friday. What's the big deal?

Hmmmm, where to begin. Pressure. Just having one or two weddings a week causes pressure. Not bad pressure, but it is pressure. You have been chosen to photograph someones most important day of their whole lives. You have to be SO ON THE BALL in every possible way - physically, mentally, making sure all your gear is ready, timings, reassuring people, having eyes in the back of your head - that kind of thing, I could go on. Then get home after 11 hours work, or longer if I have travelled far, back up & usually cull the photos there & then, so I go to bed around 1 - 2AM. Then I do a preview the following morning, which I don't have to do, I do this out of choice because I know my clients are excited, & actually - so am I! Then whenever I have the next available time, I will start the edit - which does take me 24 hours. I can't obviously sit for 24 hours a day, so this does need to be spilt for my own sanity & busy workload with other shoots, admin etc. This is just one wedding. I had five. Friday, Sunday, flew to Majorca Monday, Tuesday, flew back Wednesday, Thursday & Saturday. The following weeks since then I have had weddings once a week. I have just finished editing the third wedding in that week so you can see how the backlog does build, but I am keeping on top of it. Did I enjoy it? Yes. Will I do it again? No. Do I want a medal? Nope. Am I proud? Yes. In my first year of starting weddings I think I did just over five for the whole year, so this just proves how fast my business has grown. I have gone from 0-100 & I am feeling a little overwhelmed, & shocked.

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"What a bloody life you have. Been flown around to shoot weddings. I wish I had your life."

This comment which has been said to me numerous times over the past few weeks is meant with good intention, I hope, but doesn't help me when all my free time is sat behind a screen & I have worked so SO hard. But I just bite my tongue because as I have said before, unless you do it, I don't think you can fully understand. However, they are right in the sense that I have an amazing job, & when we were in Majorca I did feel like the luckiest photographer in the world. But it doesn't mean you don't have to work your BOTTOM off & put your all into the business everyday. This however should be a positive message to all aspiring photographers. If you put the work in, it does pay off. 

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The job is tough & you have to make so many sacrifices as I'm getting booked up two years in advance, BUT it's the most rewarding job in the world. All of my clients were just shinning stars & made the week in itself feel quite easy actually, even though I was exhausted. People can make or break this job I think. I imagine if you are unfortunate to have constant difficult clients it can make you think "what is the point", but mine give me purpose. I feel so proud for them choosing me & they motivate me to work hard. Maybe a little too hard this year, but I'm learning.... ;-)

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I shall be starting the next edit today before my friend is whisking me away to Soho Farmhouse tomorrow to relax for the day / night. Something I never ever would do in the middle of wedding season but she has told me off & wants to force me to have a chill out. So I will be back with my batteries re-charged for this weekend! I do find in this busy time, you do need someone else to reassure you that you are doing enough & it's okay to take time for you. I am so lucky to have such a wonderful supportive friends & of course, wonderful clients.

fandj.hopkins@gmail.com
Source: www.jessicaraphaelphotography.com