I secretly bought a mail-order 35mm camera when I was 15, and took lots of ordinary photos of animals and nature for several years. Although I majored in art and studied photography in college, my career started in marketing and advertising, from the client service end. Then I had the most beautiful baby, found my old camera and realized how much I love photographing people.
After photographing some friends’ kids (and deciding that I wanted to be home with the two babies I now had), I made the decision to return to my long-lost interest. I had no real plan. Just desire.
After eight years of learning and making all sorts of mistakes, I’m very clear about my mission now: photographing women and their families. I want to give every woman the most beautiful portrait of herself she’s ever seen.
Each year I set a goal for number of sessions I’d like to shoot and how much income I’d like to make. I print a small picture from each session and hang it in my studio when the session is closed, as a way of motivating myself. Having that visual reminder of how far I’ve come and how far I need to go is great!
I have a marriage, a family, a business, a house and my own interests. Most days I can give some attention to three of those five things. I call that a good day. Five out of five every day is a losing proposition and one that I gave up long ago.
Fortunately I work from home so I can be around for my girls. The upside is that I can just pop into the studio to get one more thing done. The downside is that I can always just pop into the studio and get one more thing done! Which can turn into hours if I let it. So I try to be done before dinner. If I go back to my desk it has to be for a specific, time-sensitive project.
When I’m not working I love to read and set book goals for myself. This year is ambitious: 50 books. I’m part of multiple book clubs so I have forced deadlines to get stuff read.
First, I live in my calendar. I use iCal and have different color codes for daily chores, work tasks, appointments, and my kids’ activities. It forces me to think about how much time things take; otherwise I’d overschedule myself. A lot. I print out a week view and love crossing things off. I move items around a lot because I need flexibility, but it’s really the heart of what I accomplish. I keep work tasks and appointments during school hours as much as possible, although I usually work for a few hours between pickup and dinner.
I also have a one-page workflow for my portrait clients. Every step is there and it helps keep me on track. I keep my list of work-related tasks that I want to remember but aren’t ready to be scheduled in GoogleDocs so I can always get to it.
For me, writing things down makes them happen.
After 20 years working for ad agencies and marketing departments, I absolutely love being on my own boss. No weekly staff meetings and I’m not on a single committee! The flexibility to be around for my girls is the best thing, and the creativity involved in my work is the next. When I decide that I need to change things up, I don’t have to ask anyone. I just do it.
A really understanding husband. When we were looking for a new house six years ago, we found one with a big den with giant windows and a separate entrance. He looked at me and said it looked like a photo studio. We bought the house and he’s been a solid partner from painting the room to proofreading copy to critiquing design to helping me plan. Whatever I ask for, he’s on it. My girls are pretty good about tolerating my busy seasons. And I have a fabulous group of friends for support.
My kids are teenagers now, and it’s a lot easier to run my business than when they were little. At-home moms with babies: give yourself some grace and realize that caring for young children is hard! But it’s worthwhile, too, if that’s your path. Just know that a whole new world will open up when your youngest is in kindergarten. Use the time to practice and learn!
Marci Lambert is based in Memphis, TN, and specializes in portraits of women and their families. She’s married and has two daughters, and finds nothing wrong with a good Netflix binge or spending a rainy day reading a novel or two.