My NRP Journey started before I even knew what was happening… the Lord just works in really cool ways, and it’s always so evident when you take time to pause and look back.
Nancy and I were roommates at App State from 2006-2008, where we studied Technical Photography together. Our days were filled with class, dark rooms and studios, fun photography outings on the Parkway, and Cookout (duh). These are some of my fondest memories from college – growing in my passion for photography alongside my roommate who quickly grew to be one of my dearest friends.
Real quick because it is relevant to my NRP Journey down the road… From the get-go, Nancy and I held a mutual respect for each other and appreciated everything about each other, similarities and differences. Other than the fact that we shared the same core values, I think that’s why we clicked as roommates: we allowed ourselves to be sharpened by the other person, never offended, never bothered. And goodness, college was both fun and productive that way. Whether Nancy was encouraging ADD me to spend one more solid hour in the books, or whether I was popping in a Friends DVD and telling stressed out Nancy to put the books down, we just rolled with that dynamic, and it laid a good foundation for the future.
Fast forward a few years, past the official start of NRP, past Nancy and Will getting married, past my transfer and graduation from UNC’s School of Journalism, past Robert and I getting married, to the end of 2012.
Nancy and Will wanted to meet Robert and I one night for dinner; not super abnormal considering the friendship, but the formality of it was evident to us from the get-go. My ears perked up because I was in a full-time job that I didn’t like, working out of a cubicle, and anxious to find something more suitable for my personality. Over that dinner, they asked me to come on board as an Associate Wedding Photographer (along with Callie, Nancy’s studio assistant at the time). Of course Robert and I totes played it cool and were like “Yes we’ll talk and pray about it and let you know” but we both walked out of that restaurant, looked at each other, and knew… umm, chya we’re doing that. An opportunity to work with a great friend, to grow in my skill set, to make money doing something I love? No brainer.
Over the next several months, we trained. We laughed. We studied. We grew. I continued to work full time, and I booked several weddings for 2014 – each wedding unique and special, and each client a joy to work with.
Roughly halfway through 2014, I knew three things: 1. I loved photography more than ever and wanted to continue to pursue it. 2. Pursuing photography and working full time was getting to be too much. and 3. I was starting to understand that weddings might not be for me. Full disclosure: number 3 was confusing for me. Pair it with the second part (that working full time was getting to be too much), and guys, I almost called it quits. Which would have been a shame considering where that realization actually lead.
Here’s where I tell you that my NRP Journey has been chock-full of going down certain roads with confidence and optimism, and then having to muster the guts to say, “Nope, not right” and throw it in reverse. Throwing it in reverse: that feels really, really weird at first. I’ll never forget the moment it dawned on me that that’s how businesses operate, though. Don’t nail it the first time? It’s okay. Back up, and try again.
It was a November evening in 2014, and Nancy and I had just photographed a wedding in Raleigh together, and had a fantastic time doing it. On the way home, Nancy brought it up: “Are you happy doing weddings, you know, as the primary shooter?” I was caught off guard, but relieved for the welcomed opportunity to say, “Not really”. Honesty, openness, communication, clarity. Those were the words of the hour, and they felt GOOD. The fact of the matter was, Nancy knew me. She lived with me! Y’all, I’m laid back. I’m a great go-with-the-flow person. It’s not that I can’t take charge and be assertive, it’s that it’s just against my grain in many contexts. We both had come to realize my strengths in photography, and we both knew very quickly that they’d be much more suited for families.
And just like that, right there in that Highlander, NRP Families was born. I was rejuvenated, I was pumped, I was so thrilled to do something I was truly passionate about. See, unlike Nancy and Callie, weddings never really fired me up. I mean I love marriage! And I love going to weddings, but I never scrolled through blog after blog to look at them or spent hours on Pinterest pinning centerpiece details. What did I do? Growing up and even today, it’s not strange to catch me looking at family photo albums, or looking for meaningful moments in images. I realized that if I were going to continue with photography, that my subject matter needed to be something I was truly passionate about, and I happened to be very passionate about family.
Over the next 2 years, we ramped up NRP families. It grew, the bookings started rolling in, and I quit my full-time job to focus on it. It wasn’t all perfect; things like nailing our pricing structure, the type of newborn sessions we do, the way we communicate… all of those things? Lots of tweaks along the way. But, we all grew much more comfortable being honest, open, direct and clear in our communication, and it only enhanced our unity as a team.
In the past two years, we’ve navigated 2 different pricing structures, broached and then backed away from those super-posed styled family and newborn photos, made a ton of marketing efforts, changed our mini-session approach, and ultimately strengthened NRP families through trial and error, and then building on positive experience. I’ve had the privilege and the joy of photographing many of you time and time again, year after year. And here we are.
Plain and simple, guys: my NRP Journey has not been without challenges, many of them revolving around differences in working style. Quite simply, my type-B laid back personality sometimes requires a little bit of taming, and sometimes throwing your plans in reverse is necessary! But, if I can stress anything that I’ve learned along the way, it’s this: no team, no business, is without challenges and differences. The real defining moments are found when you can work together to overcome challenges and differences joyfully, without festering negativity, without ill feelings. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the big win, and a huge underlying theme in my NRP Journey.