2013 In Review

Last week was a whirlwind of editing my two Christmas weddings, but I’m excited to finally get a chance to sit down and recap on the last year of my little business. What a great year it was 🙂 I get a little emotional writing these kinds of posts (so bear with me), because most days I really can’t believe this is my job and this is the kind of work that I get to do. I really feel that the job of a photographer goes outside of us as people…it’s bigger than us, and the slices of life that we forever freeze in time with our cameras are truly monumental parts of peoples’ lives. When our skin is wrinkly and our hair is gray, images are reminders of people, places, and years bygone, they are proof that love existed, they are feelings and moments that you can relive again and again long after our once vivid memories have slowly washed away. They become something so valuable the longer time goes on, these little pieces of us that are passed on time and time again after we are gone. Being able to be a part of so many wonderful couples lives, to basically be an extended member of their family for a day…it’s awesome. It’s a huge responsibility and a true privilege. I really love this work 🙂

In 2013 I crossed paths with so many new wonderful faces, and plenty of special familiar faces, too. I made new vendor friends, new photographer friends, new friends in my clients, met lots of sweet four-legged friends, and did a lot of traveling. I put over 28,000 work miles on my car. So a huge shout out to my ole SUV who has carted me all over the daggone east coast since 2007 haha! She’s a special vehicle and has been such a big part of my business! I shot 4 weddings in Georgia, 9 weddings in Maryland (but made 12 trips total), 1 in New Jersey, and 6 in South Carolina. I attended Making Things Happen in North Carolina…and it changed me so much. I strengthened friendships (both personal and professional), got pretty far out of my comfort zone probably a dozen times (and it always paid off), quit the Facebook news feed almost a year ago (one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!), cleaned house on the social media information I allow into my head (yay!), got in front of the camera of one my favorite photographers and now friends, and crossed some really great goals off my list. I shot a handful of rolls of film, and loved every single frame. I photographed 35 dogs in less than 6 hours and helped raise over $500 for the pets of the Aiken County animal shelter…annnnnd I felt it in my back until the chiropractor fixed me haha ouch. I second shot a lot this year, too, and am endlessly grateful to Paige Winn for being such a great friend, inspiration, mentor, and allowing me to share in so many of her client’s beautiful weddings (and crash at her house, and also oogle over her dogs and kid haha). And I defined my version of success and read some really powerful books.

In 2013 I also learned so much about why I do what I do and the purpose and mission of my business. I still struggle with it, but I’m becoming more confident in being different than the masses and listening to my gut rather than doing this, that, or the other because someone else is or because it works so well for X, Y, or Z. Because of all that I learned, I knew it was time to make some big changes in my “internet home” so I made the somewhat scary financial commitment to give my blog a face lift and convert it into my one central internet home for my business. I’m so excited to be working with Renee again starting this week and I look forward to collaborating with her to really mature and elevate my web presence so that it now matches the heart of my business and the style I’ve come to develop with my photographs.

2013 was such a wonderful year and such a year of growth, and I get so excited at the end of each year…about having the time to reflect on what worked and what didn’t work, to plan for the next year, and to craft a new set of goals. 2014 will be more about fine tuning and consistency rather than trying to continue to grow. I’ll always be growing as a photographer, business owner, and person, but I’m not looking for actual growth in numbers. As always, it’s quality over quantity for me. I’m really happy with where I’m at and just want to keep doing what I love and making people happy through the images I create and the emotions and moments that I freeze. I could never do this alone, though, so thank you to everyone who has ever assisted me on a wedding day, believed in me, cheered me on, supported me, encouraged me, shared or featured my work, or given me a pat on the back. A special thank you, of course, to my husband for never telling me to “get a real job” back when he probably wondered if I could really make a career out of this (haha), and for always listening to me whenever I need a ear. He never fails to tell me how proud of me he is or to recognize how hard I work. Thank you to my mom for giving me the means to make this business happen in the first place and for passing on her love of photos to me. And a huge thank you to her (and my brother a time or two) for picking me up and taking me to the airport countless times this year, and for always giving me a place to stay and a car to drive when I’m back home for work. And most of all a huge thank you to everyone who trusted me this year…to everyone who got in front of my camera, hired me to photograph their wedding, or allowed me into their life for even just an hour or two hours so that I could create something beautiful out of their love or connection. I know this sounds like an Academy Award thank you speech or something…but I just honestly feel so humbled and grateful to get to connect with so many incredible people through this job. I love being a part of such raw and emotional times in peoples lives, and to create something tangible out of something you usually just feel. It’s amazing and I’m a pretty lucky person 🙂 Happy 2014!

2013 Goals

The last few years I’ve proudly blogged each of my goals for the upcoming year, and it’s been really great to be able to share the journey with whoever wishes to follow. In the last few months though, and especially right around the holidays and the new year, I did a TON of soul-searching. I really looked at what worked and what didn’t work in 2012, where I wanted my business and personal life to go in 2013, and what is best for ME. I suffer badly from the comparison game, and that’s something that I really want to focus on improving this year. So to change things around and do what’s best for me, this year I’m not listing out each individual goal.

However, I do have some goal-setting tips and am going to share my over-arching goal for the year…basically what all of my little goals put together will hopefully achieve.

When it comes to goal-setting, I may be different in that I take lots and lots of time to think everything through. I don’t just sit down one evening and think about all the wonderful things I want to do the next year, throw it down on paper, and call it a day. Instead I really try to picture where I want to be a year from now, and even a few years from now, and use that as my starting point. What do I want my life to REALLY look like? While numbers and achievements are also a part of goal-setting, I start with the big picture first and then determine the smaller goals that will help me reach that big picture little by little throughout the year. I also put a lot of emphasis on my family, my physical and emotional health, my marriage, etc. because without those things, achieving success or reaching goals means nothing. To make this even more organized (hello Type A/OCD), I break my goals down into categories, because that’s just how my brain works 🙂 For 2013, I have goals under each of these categories:

– Business Foundation/”My Why” Goals: goals that build on the core of my business and why I am a photographer. These goals are key to the long-term health of my business.
– To Do Goals: random goals I have been wanting to accomplish for some time, all business related.
– Achievement Goals: long-term goals that would be awesome to accomplish this year but may be a bit of a reach at this time. These are goals that are sort of “dream” goals 🙂
– Personal Goals: These are misc. goals that I want to accomplish on a personal level this year, like finally running a 10k, and maintaining a daily gratitude notebook.
– Numbers Goals: These are financial and number related business goals.

It’s also key that these goals are specific and measurable. For example, “run more” doesn’t really get me anywhere, because how can I measure that? But “Run a 10k” makes that goal totally different. Then I need to actually follow through. For a goal like that, I should be proactive and go ahead and sign up for a 10k sometime this spring or summer that fits into my schedule. Then, make sure all of your goals are written down, and post them somewhere you will look as much as possible. My goals are printed out and hung on the cork board in my office so that I see them all the time.

Overall, my goals are centered around developing a much more balanced life this year. Being a business owner, it’s so easy to eat, sleep, and breathe your business. To be at clients beckoning call all hours of the day. To sacrifice family time to scratch one more item off that never-ending to do list. I don’t want to live like that. I want to be purposeful with my time and my business, to allow me to be more present and available for my family. This year is about setting boundaries, being organized and efficient with my time, having systems, and staying on track financially so that we can reach one of our biggest goals for the next couple of years; to re-build the main house on our farm. I want to get back to doing things for me…spending time with friends, reading, riding, shooting for me, and experiencing new things with Dustin and Landon. I don’t think years are meant to be any better or worse than the previous, but a new year is a clean slate and there’s something really refreshing about that. I am hopeful that  2013 is my year to re-gain control of my business while also allowing it to continue to grow. We shall see!

PS. For those of you interested, so much of my inspiration for finding this balance between business owner, wife, mom, etc. comes from the fabulous Emily Ley and Lara Casey. I would absolutely recommend following their blogs for weekly inspiration on finding that elusive balance many of us strive to find 🙂

This picture is from our trip last weekend to Maryland. One of my goals for 2013 is to BE in more pictures…so this is my start! 🙂

The 2012 Wrap-Up and a HUGE Thank You

On Monday I mentioned how much of a blur 2012 has been. It’s been a huge year personally and in my little business. With the end of the year quickly approaching, I’ve finally had some time to reflect on the year, start setting goals for 2013, and become re-inspired. It’s kind of crazy, but I’ve been super emotional lately. It probably deserves a post of it’s own, but I’m just feeling so overwhelmed with gratitude. This year I learned what the phrase “my heart is bursting” feels like. I have more love than words could EVER describe for my beautiful family. I love Dustin and Landon times infinity. My dogs are my absolute rocks. They are children, they are key parts of our family, and they are my best friends. And of course I have the most wonderful group of supporters. Without ALL of you who trusted me, patted me on the back, emailed me with support, “liked” and shared my images, blog posts, and Facebook statuses, published my work, inspired me, and cheered me on; this year wouldn’t have been what it was for me.

By no stretch of the imagination did I make “the big bucks” this year. This is not a business that makes me feel wealthy in the sense of finances. In fact, this year was a struggle in many ways, as most of the first few years of any small business are or can be. My 2012 was a year of ups and downs. But this year my heart felt SO whole. Each and every


 new friend who allowed me to be a part of their story made my heart feel whole in a way I didn’t know it could. I am endlessly appreciative to EACH and every single one of you. Without you; this life, this dream, this happiness and balance that I feel, would never be possible. You are who make it possible and I hope you all know how much I appreciate you all. Thank you for allowing me to do what I love and for allowing me to call ALL of you friends.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

And yes, I still have a separate second shooting post coming that will have a lot more thank you’s, as well as a favorite images of 2012 post and my favorite film images 🙂 Lots of great stuff coming to the blog over the next 2 weeks!

Here was my 2012 and all of my new (and old!) friends who made it what it was. Thank you all so incredibly much.

2012 Photographer Goals

With 2012 just around the corner, I’ve been spending a lot of time mulling over my 2012 goals. Last week I went back and reviewed what I did and didn’t accomplish in 2011, and yesterday I talked a little about photographers, creatives, and business women who inspire me to live my own definition of a successful and balanced life.

So my goals for next year are very different from this years. I was still in college when I wrote my 36 in 365 2011 goals, I was SO new at what I was doing and just getting my bearings (still am!), and it was the first 6 months I was free from year-round college. A lot of my goals had to do with doing some of the things I just wanted to do for the heck of it (like seeing Charleston and Savannah), and some goals had a lot to do with my long term vision of my business (like working with Ribbons of Red and attending the MJ 2 Day). This year’s new and improved goals are still very business oriented but with some lifestyle balancing kind of goals thrown in there. I’m trying to keep myself accountable! 🙂 Here we go…36 in 365 2012!

Business Goals

1. Have a home office that inspires and motivates me: I currently have an office for the first time EVER!! But it desperately needs some organizing and shelving and such…going to have to be done bit by bit.
2. Learn to shoot film and actively use it for personal work: From the 2011 list that didn’t quite happen, but I’ve got a camera, will have film after Christmas, and thanks to Emilee Fuss I purchased the FIND guide before it disappeared forever! 🙂
3. Book and successfully shoot 4-5 weddings of my own
4. Actively second shoot as often as the opportunity arises: Next year learning and experience is far more of a priority than booking my own weddings!
5. Take part in a styled shoot
6. Continue to volunteer for shelters and pets in need
7. Donate portrait photography for a good cause for people: Since I do so much for pets, I’d love to do something similar but for people…maybe portraits for military families or for those who are facing hardship due to the economy and can’t afford a custom portrait session
8. Put money aside all year for WPPI 2013: Plus a little to splurge at the trade show 😉
9. Do a 52 weeks of Riley and Lexi Project: Inspired by Lexi Vornberg
10. Have each wedding I book and shoot of my own featured on a wedding blog
11. Have a pet session featured on a popular pet blog
12.  Upgrade lenses a little: Maybe a 50mm 1.4 is in my future and the f1.8 can take the backseat? Or a 35mm 1.4 and the f2 can warm the bench?
13. Make more local photographer friends: So important to me this year!! SO important!
14. Photograph more horses and cats
15. Photograph a terminally ill pet
16. Work with 20 new clients and make 20 new friends 🙂
17. Establish a quarterly online newsletter
18. Get a new backup body: Used D700 maybe?
19. Have one “review day” at the end of each month: To review what went on that month that worked and didn’t work, my plans for the coming month, make sure all receipts/records are organized and filed correctly…basically monthly mini check-in’s to keep myself on track
20. Better learn on-camera flash and completely learn off-camera flash
21. Plan a calendar for next year: With a portion of the proceeds going to benefit an organization
22. Finally find a B&W action I like, or develop my own

Lifestyle/Other Goals

23. Come up with a consistent schedule for my weeks and daily plans: ie Barn, breakfast, shower, an hour of admin work (emails, filing, contracts), 2 hours of editing, ordering, or album design, lunch, etc…you get the drift…oh and only check email 3x/day – that’s a big one!
24. Read one book a month
25. Date night out with Dustin once a month
26. Shop for birthdays/Christmas throughout the year: This is mostly because I let the craziness of this fall get away from me and I totally haven’t had time to enjoy Christmas like I thought I would and that sucks 🙁
27. Ride my horses at least 4 times a month each
28. Work one day every two weeks on wedding stuff: I loooooveeee planning our wedding but there’s always so many more business and home things that need to come first so I feel like it always gets pushed to the back burner. I want to carve out a morning every two weeks that is ONLY for wedding planning.
29. Foster at least 2 labs for the Lowcountry Lab Rescue
30. Be at least 1/3 of the way through renovating the main house on our property: Last spring it was partially burnt in a fire started by faulty wiring in the dishwasher, so when we bought the property it was gutted. We’re basically renovating it from top to bottom and hoping to do a lot of it ourselves. Renovation Realities, anyone? Yeh, gonna be us.
31. Run a 10K
32. Compile a Croft Family book for each year: 2009, 2010, and 2011
33. Create at least 10 ideas off of my Pinterest Creative Ideas board

So there’s 33 goals for this year, and I have 3 more written down elsewhere that are personal and business financial goals. I’m super excited about my 2012 goals but the important thing is to keep up with them. I’m going to print out this blog post and hang it on my bulletin board so that I can see and be reminded of these goals every day. Last year I checked in quarterly, and I’m not sure I’m going to do the same this year, but we’ll see. I’d love to see what everyone else’s goals include, though! Sometimes reading other’s goals can inspire you to do things you might not have thought of. If you’ve got a list of goals online, leave a comment with a link!

“The tragedy of life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach.”

Looking Back

Talk about one of the fastest years of my life! As I write this, it feels too soon to be writing a 2011 wrap-up post. It doesn’t quite feel like 2012 yet. I think that it goes back to my crazy schedule and how I really didn’t have time to enjoy the holidays this year. Next year I definitely want to slow down and enjoy more of what the holidays mean and represent…and take in each part of the year a little better than I did this year. Life gets in the way but that’s no excuse for not taking the time to appreciate all of the little things.

In 2011, I feel like I did  a little bit of everything. I continued to balance my business in it’s very early stages with my final semester of college. I drove A LOT from school in Baltimore to home in Southern Maryland so that I could shoot some really great clients on the weekends. I traveled to Las Vegas to attend WPPI U, something I truly enjoyed and hope to attend (the regular WPPI) in 2013. I got engaged to the love of my life. I graduated college, on time, I might add, despite transferring like a champ while I tried to figure out where I was supposed to go with my life. I turned 22. I watched my family go through some major changes…hard changes but changes that are ultimately for the best. I moved my entire life 550+ miles south to the great state of South Carolina. I drove back to Maryland a lot. I flew to Colorado for the MJ 2 Day…a really great experience where I made some awesome new photographer friends and learned a lot. I shot my first two weddings. I networked and built relationships with new business and vendors here in the South. I learned a lot more about what it takes to be a mom/step-mom and how hard but rewarding parenting is. I continued to work with rescues and shelters by donating my time to photograph their adoptable dogs. I had my images published on wedding blogs, the Tamron website, and shot covers and story images for a new local magazine. Dustin and I purchased a farm and with the help of Ribbons of Red, I launched a whole new brand…on the same day. Nov. 22 was awesome. I began planning my own wedding. I made new friends in my clients this fall, and I also booked two weddings for next year. Oh and I’m in the process of giving away coverage to a deserving 2012 couple…send them my way if you think they should win 😉

2011 was exhausting. Rewarding. Challenging. Exciting. 2011 pushed me to step out of my comfort zone, try new things, go big or go home, and to re-evaluate time management, organization, and what success means to me.

2011 never would have been what it was without the support of my parents, especially my Mom, who encourages me, cheers me on, and supports me constantly in this crazy endeavor. And then there’s Dustin, who puts up with me when I’m down in the dumps about my business, tired, moody, and who makes me sit for head shots for my new blog after I’d tried on a self-timer and gotten mad and felt not pretty and wanted to give up…but he comes home and helps me and makes me laugh and takes some of my favorite head shots ever. And all of my friends and family who are my little marketing team and cheerleaders…who comment the daylights out of my blog, share my links, and spread the word about me to their friends. I would have never met so many wonderful new clients without those awesome cheerleader friends of mine…you know who you are 🙂 There’s my business friends and photographer friends…it’s so nice to be able to vent about small-business/photographer life to those who really get how involved what we do is. And then there’s the incredible clients who believe in me, trust me, and hire me to document something important to them. At the end of the day, NONE of this would be possible without you. You’re a necessary part of the equation and I’m thankful every day that there are people out there who appreciate my vision. Oh and even my blog readers…I love you ALL for having an ounce of interest in what I write!

So as I move forward into 2012, I’m so excited to see how things grow and change for my business. I’m excited for the beautiful brides and grooms I’ll get to photograph, the couples so in love, and of course the fun and furry four-legged furbabies I’ll get to meet 🙂 Hopefully you’ll be one of them and I can’t wait to see you in 2012!

Oh and thanks to Riley and Lexi for loving me despite that fact that they have a camera in their face nearly EVERY day 🙂