These last few weeks have been a time of soul searching and reflection, culminating with the realization that I want to do more, to give more, to be more. For the past six years I was a teacher and I loved it with all my heart. I loved pouring into my students, forming relationships with them, encouraging them, and yes teaching them Spanish. On January 2, 2017, that chapter of my life closed and a new one began with the birth of our daughter, Savannah Grace. I chose to walk away from the classroom to better focus on raising my daughter and becoming a full time photographer. However, it only took a couple weeks before I started feeling like my life was missing that “giving back” portion that I loved as a teacher. I love photographing high school seniors and weddings and I know that through photography I am giving my clients beautiful artwork that captures some of life’s most important memories. That said, I felt called to do more, to be more, but I had to figure out what that “more” was going to be. Should I donate a portion of my proceeds to charity? Should I do the occasional free photoshoot for a worthy cause? Should I work harder to give my clients an amazing experience to make their wedding day more unforgettable?
After a lot of thought and prayer I realized the answer to all those questions was “yes.” But just because I knew the answer didn’t mean that I wasn’t afraid of it. The reality is that for over a year I have felt called to donate a percentage of the proceeds from every wedding to charity, but I was afraid to get my clients involved. I was afraid that they would ask if they could instead just not pay that last five percent, or afraid that they wouldn’t like the organizations I chose. In quitting my teaching job we lost a good deal of income and we’re learning that diapers aren’t cheap, so I also wondered if this was really the best time financially. Five percent of a wedding is a lot of money, especially when I am not currently booking as many weddings as I would like. Despite all those fears, my time of prayer and reflection has affirmed that this is the direction God wants me to take with my business. This entire photography venture has been a huge, unforeseen blessing, and so I would like to use it to bless others. So what will this look like?
Beginning in May 2017, I have committed to donating five percent of the proceeds from each wedding to one of four charitable organizations; International Justice Missions, Samaritan’s Purse, Frederick Rescue Mission, or Collateral Damage Project. In future blogs, I will explain why I chose each organization and the significance they hold for me, but in short each organization deals with issues I am passionate about. Ending human trafficking, providing disaster relief, helping the homeless of Frederick county, and providing support to veterans suffering from PTSD should be a rallying cry for all humanity. I have personally worked with each organization and I feel confident that they will be fiscally responsible with my donation. One detail that I find particularly exciting is the decision to allow my brides and grooms to choose which organization they would like to support! It is my desire that my clients will be excited about this aspect rather than put off by it, and I hope that it also helps them learn a little more about these amazing organizations and the great work they are doing.
Another business goal I’ve set is to seek out opportunities for pro-bono photoshoots. This year I hope to do a photoshoot for a family who is recently celebrating an adoption, a “welcome-them-home” shoot for a family whose loved one is returning from deployment, and a photoshoot for a family or couple whose loved one is battling a life-threatening illness. I will advertise these photography opportunities and hope for you to nominate worthy couples or families that you think are deserving of the gift of photography.
My mission remains unchanged in the pursuit of every possible avenue which would enhance my ability to deliver the experience my clients deserve. For seniors, I’m working on a senior shoot “essentials” kit consisting of snacks, water, bobby pins, nail polish, etc to make their photoshoot more fun and help them feel a little more special. For my wedding couples I am in the midst of creating a new client welcome gift that would include products that are unique and memorable but also support charitable organizations. I also have a few other surprises up my sleeves but I want to keep them that way (stay tuned to future blogs)!
My hope for this process is that my clients will realize their power to make a global impact, and that I will also feel like I am doing more than “just” taking pictures. And who knows what the future has in store? I would love to one day take pictures for the organizations I have chosen to support. My dream is to someday start my own photography non-profit where I use my skills in photojournalism to document missionaries in their day to day ministries. I am only twenty nine years old and Mary Sarah Photography is only five years running. God-willing, there will be plenty of time and opportunity for future adventures. What I do know is that I cannot leave for tomorrow what can be accomplished today. With my transition into full time professional photography, I want my business to reflect who I am and I am so excited for this step that I am taking!