Weddings & Life Podcast with Taylor Nicole, a podcast by Denver Wedding Photographer,
Taylor Nicole Photography
Intro: Have you ever wondered why or how someone might become a wedding photographer? Or what the job is really like? What makes busy season so busy? Or if you have been listening to this podcast for a while maybe you’ve wondered how I got into wedding photography specifically. Well then this is the episode for you! I am going to share the full story of how I got to where I am now in my career as a wedding photographer, why I specialized in weddings, and also will share some of my goals for the years to come that I have never voiced before. I will also be recapping and sharing the wins of the busiest month of my career. I hope you enjoy the behind the scenes life stories on today’s episode!
I am back friends! I did record a small story for the 200th wedding episode I shared a few weeks ago but other than that I haven’t actively written or recorded for this podcast in almost a month. When I originally started this I had planned to literally have every episode recorded before this wedding season even started, but not only was recording in advance for almost 25 weeks basically impossible but I also realized from listening to other podcasts that I like hearing the hosts real time life updates and stories. I didn’t want these episodes to feel overly planned or pre-recorded so this is me actively fighting my inner planner and perfectionist and doing several of these episodes as I go in real time. At the time of outlining this one I am not even sure where in my condo I will record this apparently out little condo in Denver is much more echo-y than where we stay when Austin is working in Arizona where I recorded the first 20+ episodes this year.
So these last 25 days have been the sweetest, busiest, most fulfilling and challenging days of my entire career as a wedding photographer. Challenging physically because wow weddings hit you like a semi truck between lugging all of my camera and flash equipment in and out of venues, walking somewhere between 3-8 miles during each wedding day while having two cameras, lenses and flashes literally hanging over my shoulders,
and keeping reception guests safe so that means lugging my four 20lb sand bags in and out of each venue. To be honest the sand bags are actually the worst part of that haha.
These weeks have been challenging mentally in keeping timelines, family portrait lists and planning out when to leave for locations accounting for traffic ect.
However I would say if I had to pick a winner the biggest challenge at the start of this season is my creativity. If creativity was a muscle I’d say I have both stretched and grown it over the last month! I’m not a body builder or lifter so I can’t take that analogy any farther. I went in to each wedding day with a handful of ‘new’ poses I wanted to try some given the venue others the specific couple and I challenged myself to look for moments whether candid or posed, sometimes it was just the interaction between the couple and capture that uniquely to them and their day.
So here are the numbers- note that this is not my sustainable level of busyness, and I actually have the majority of June off from weddings to keep up on my editing so I adjusted my work schedule to accommodate and prepare for all of these weddings. In the last three weeks I and my associate photographers captured 14 wedding days and 3 engagement sessions and I do have to admit that my associate photography team is new this year so 11 of those weddings were my own to capture. It was over 20 hours of driving, 90 hours of photographing and are you ready for the final image count? It’s insane! 56,534
I’d say my normal workload is somewhere between 6-9 weddings per month, so having all of these within 3 weeks was quite the new record for myself.
Three of those wedding days included navigating around rain showers and 2 of the weddings had extremely high winds (30-40mph). For myself I can say that 4 of these weddings were actually chilly which was a bit of a surprise to myself, I am always prepared for hot temperatures on wedding days in the Summer here.
Here are the biggest wins of the busiest month-
- The first big win is the obvious- I was so blessed to have stayed healthy and safe with traveling to be able to be on time and photograph each of these wedding days. I’d say a few years before this would have been a given but now with the current state of covid and knowing several of my photographer friends who did have to find emergency replacements for themselves I am so so grateful to have stayed healthy. I also was very conscious of this as I entered this busy season. I found myself praying for safety as I drove to and from so many locations, especially late at night after wedding days. So extremely grateful for that.
- The next big win was that I was able to deliver previews on time for each of the weddings. I had two 5 wedding weekends (with my associates not myself to clarify) so my process to delivering a preview is to sort the full wedding then select the preview images to make sure I am sending some of the best of the day. It required some very focused editing days which I will be doing again this afternoon after these podcasts are recorded.
- The third big win is also editing related- I was able to finish my 3 remaining April weddings and deliver those during this time frame too. I had made very good progress on those before this busy season started but that was a huge weight lifted. Currently my next deadline is still 2 weeks away so that feels great!
- The last big win is personal, I was able to go on 8 runs during these busy weeks. If you are new here my husband and I are training for a half marathon in June and our very first full marathon in the Fall of 2022 so running regularly is key at this point but I knew going into this busy season that a regular schedule was going to be hard to maintain. Now ideally I would have gone on 10-12 runs over these weeks but to be honest my expectation was to run about zero times. I was prepared to take a pause on that to make sure I stayed on top of serving my clients. The most surprising part of this is that I ran at the beginning and in the middle of the two of my busiest work weekends as in ran 8 miles before a wedding day, and I felt the most refreshed and on top of it after those workouts. It proved to me that taking time for myself no matter how busy is got was worth it.
So that is my recap of my busiest month of work ever. Now for the other main topic of this episode- how I became a wedding photographer
I briefly shared a summary of this story on the very first or second episode, but I’ve had several friends on Instagram suggest that I go more in depth into this story.
So I grew up near Kansas City (the Missouri side if any other midwesterners out there are wondering) and my cousin who I have always looked up to actually hired me to come carry her equipment as she photographed weddings one Summer. Now I don’t want to exaggerate this, I think I assisted her on all of 2, maybe 3 weddings. At least one or two my Mom had to drive me because I wasn’t old enough to have my license yet. My cousin was a luxury wedding photographer in the area and I remember seeing roof top weddings and fancy ballrooms. This was a teenagers dream to see these fancy parties. I hadn’t though too much about photography at this point, other than taking all the pictures with my middle and high school friends at sleep overs. Oh and that Facebook photo editing app, I think it was called picnic or something. Selective color was not a good trend friends! Anyways so I was at a wedding holding a reflector as she took a portrait of a couple under a tree. As we walked away she showed me the back of her camera and I literally couldn’t believe that picture came from what I saw in front of me. It’s this simple, but the blurry background and bokeh of the tree and light filtering through blew my mind. I hadn’t had professional portraits taken before nor had I ever used a professional or semi professional grade camera that had a low enough aperture to blur the background like that. So if I had to pinpoint it to one moment I would say that is when I started considering photography as a career.
So fast forward and the 2008 recession lead to a job change for my parents and in 2010 we relocated out to Colorado on the Front range area. Actually a very small country town but it is close to Denver and other cities too. I was a very intense student in high school. I wasn’t just straight A’s but I also took college classes concurrently from a community college graduating as a co -valedictorian of my senior class. Basically I only knew how to study and pass classes. I did’t have much going on outside of that, not to say I didn’t love my high school friends and community but I was very school/study focused and if I could go back I wish I would have spent time developing stronger hobbies and experiences. When it came to choosing colleges and majors I had two options in my mind. First, I loved math. College algebra is still to this day my favorite class I’ve taken. I love how satisfying it was to figure things out and the get the answers right. Now that it has been 10 years since my last math class I would’t even trust myself to calculate the tip at a restaurant correctly haha apparently math is a skill you can quickly diminish. I bet it would come back if I put effort in though. But I didn’t love math enough to imagine finishing a bachelors degree in it.
Somewhere in my junior and senior year I had purchased my first semi professional camera, a canon 60d, which was probably a step above a canon rebel. And I had started taking portraits of my friends and family. As I realized that portrait photography was interesting as a career and maybe more attainable than I had realized I started offering to photograph portraits for free and then for $20 then for $50 and even $100 after a while. My entrance into photography as a business was VERY very slow. Like a low grade ramp that you didn’t even realize you were walking up until you looked back and saw the progress.
I was in the running for a full ride scholarship for college and at the time I would have probably chosen to go to CU boulder and study art. When I didn’t get the scholarship I resorted to the absolute cheapest possibility in the Colorado front range which ended up being UNC in Greeley, CO. I had already finished my associate degree in high school so I just had two years left to get my bachelors. The first year I lived at home and commuted 30 minutes each way for classes. Now let me put a caveat here- photography, even wedding photography or film photography, is NOT something anyone needs to go to school or university for. I had the idea of getting a college degree so deeply engrained in myself that it was a non negotiable for me, but friends let me tell you a fine art degree and business minor is not what has set my business up to succeed. It is the time and energy I’ve put in to continuing to learn and practice the art (and all of the money I pay my accountant to keep me out of jail for tax fraud because I can’t do that myself!)
During college I photographed my first several weddings. I think I’ve shared this before but my first solo wedding was actually an accident! I was set up to be the second photographer for someone and they ended up stranded in an airport and didn’t make their connecting flight to CO in time so they sent me in their place. I’m pretty sure I made all of $300 for that first wedding, I had to edit and deliver images too and make them an album. I had noooo idea what I was doing at that point but it was a good way to be forced into it. My next several weddings were for friends and then people in the small country town community that had heard about me. By the time I was graduating college I had photographed probably about 20 weddings and didn’t really have the intention of continuing. Also my focus in college was actually on senior portraits not even weddings. The last Summer before I graduated I photographed 60 senior sessions which I actually think set me up for all of the future wedding inquiries when I did make the switch.
After I graduated I wanted to explore the possibility of serving people abroad so I did an internship for 6 months in India. I LOVED that experience and was able to help out the long term expats there with my photography too. When I came back to Colorado I still wasn’t convinced of what career to pursue so I started working at a coffee shop and then ended up joining staff with a student ministry group at UNC. I was still photographing sessions and weddings to supplement the support I had to raise to work with this group.
This is a bit of a winding story but next I met my husband, Austin while I was on campus (he was getting his grad degree there) and we quickly went from dating to engaged and planning to be married. As we were considering our future Austin spoke so much life and encouragement into my photography and we decided that my income as a portrait and wedding photographer would probably equal out to about what I could make working at a retail store or office so as soon as we were married in December of 2017 I became by default a full time photographer.
I started out those years photographing sessions and I am pretty sure my wedding count looked like 20 weddings the first year, 35 weddings the next and then by 2020 I had 50 weddings on the books. Obviously that year took a detour but it was officially in 2020 when I realized I had the ability and passion to serve my wedding clients long term and I stopped advertising for portrait sessions, and then as of 2021 I have stopped taking outside portrait sessions at all because my calendar needs to be fully reserved for my wedding clients and their engagement sessions. So currently I am a full time wedding photographer, I have photographed 207 weddings myself to this date (solo weddings only not included all the assisting and second photography jobs I had as I was getting started) I am not sure if I can say I am a luxury wedding photographer but I proved luxury services to my clients and I am an expanding film photographer now too. I have a team of three photographers that work for my business and that expands the number of clients we are able to serve because I have more work than I can accomplish on my own now days.
A quick note on why I have chosen to specialize in weddings- first they suit my planner/type A/enneagram one personality very very well. They are (minus 2020) predictable. Literally I can tell you right now the days I will be working for the rest of the year and the majority of my 2023 schedule. I love love love being able to plan out my years and the predictability of weddings! Once again excluding 2020 which was an insane year for everyone especially myself and my friends working in the event industry. But that alone wouldn’t be enough of a passion to continue in weddings. So if I had to pinpoint a day/moment when I realized the important of wedding photography deep in my heart and realized I was committed to weddings it would be this-
At the end of 2018 Austin and I went on a quick get away to celebrate our first anniversary. This was ending my first year as a full time photographer, I was tired but entering the season of rest in my business (except I somehow had 5 weddings that December which was crazy and not common!) We went to a hot springs in Colorado then took a detour to visit some of Austin’s extended family before coming home. I got to meet Austin’s great grandfather on that trip. We walked into his home, which he had built himself because he is one of the coolest and most epic people I have ever me. And on the wall immediately as you came through the door was a portrait of his wife on their wedding day. His wife was taken from him far too early in life in an accident. The whole time we were in his home I couldn’t stop stealing glances at her portrait on the wall. I thought about how many house guests that portrait has greeted through the years and imagined the emotions and memories spurred on my seeing that portrait for his great grandfather every time he entered his home again. That portrait was such a testament to her presence and impact in that family and in that home. I still feel a sense of deep importance when I think about how that one moment captured on their wedding day lived on for years and generations. So that is why I am committed to capturing weddings, the first of many heirlooms created as two people become a family.
Lastly here are my hopes and dreams for the future of my career-
-I hope to become a hybrid photographer- that meaning I photograph film and digital on wedding days and my editing will emulate the film images. I am still very new into film photography but I am also loving what I have learned so far about film as an art process and am excited to press forward and develop more of my inner artist and let that creativity shine for my clients! I have been leaning this direction but have never shared that before!
-I actually know that I will never be as busy as I was in the last three weeks again. I don’t mind multiple weddings in a weekend at all but I also know that I prefer a more sustainable pace and I plan to lean on my associate photographers to help me with the work load in the future. It’s weird to say that I have passed the busiest point in my career but I guess that is a perk of when you get to plan your own work load. I am actively learning and setting my monthly and weekly caps for the future. No I’m not drastically cutting the number of weddings I take on or anything but I am committing to spreading those out more over the months and having my associates help me cover busier times too because I don’t have to do all the things and I can sustainably serve my clients long term if I stay healthy and rested during my work season.
-I would love to bring my husband Austin on board with my business at least part time one day. He has his own career and he is the smartest most caring medical provider but aside from my own bias he is also a kick butt photographer and my favorite teammate too. We love being together and I am so thankful to have found a career that can provide for our family and give us a schedule that we love. So I am praying in the years to come that Austin can play a larger role in helping me run this business. I have no idea what the future holds for his job, and mine for that matter either, but I can say that I hope our careers and schedules continue to overlap more and more. Also I am hoping to invite him on to the podcast some day soon too! We just need our schedules to line up which has been challenging given we work in complete different states!
-Lastly as I’ve continued in weddings I have missed having contact and connection with my clients after their wedding days. I love love love photographing weddings for siblings or friends of the couple but I think my goal for this year is to set up one or two days during the slow season where I offer little portrait sessions to only my previous clients so I can see them again. I don’t have time in my calendar to regularly offer portraits and I have other family photographers that I love to recommend but I think once a year would be so fun to see previous clients again!
So there you have it. That was my episode recapping my busiest month of weddings to date, the back story as to how I got here in business and my hopes for the years to come. Thanks for listening and joining me on this journey. Also I promise the next episode will be much more wedding focused!