Being a college student is a full-time job! For most of us, if you are not in class you are studying, writing papers, doing homework assignments,working, participating in extracurriculars, and just trying to keep sane. Being a college student is a skill in its own that I'm not sure ever gets mastered 100%. I want to share with you my story on how I got to the point of starting Greatly Loved, and how I managed to photograph full-time while being a full-time student. 

When I started school, I knew that I was going to have to work to be able to pay for housing, food, and all of life's necessities. I began by working in dorm halls, and then made my way to becoming a chef assistant in one of the dining halls. While these jobs were easy going, I wasn't happy. I was going in and doing the same thing every day and felt like all my talents and interests weren't being used to their fullest. I then made my way to a retail position at a clothing store, which I loved because I could help others find outfits that made them confident. I had opportunities to train others, and every day was something different. However, it was not a healthy environment as far as management went, and I often felt that my voice was not heard. After a while, I decided that having this stress added onto my student work was not worth what I got out of it. So, I quit. I was jobless for about six months, which was great because I was able to dedicate all my time to school. But of course, I hated not having a job. I am a person that likes to be on the move at all times, and it was making me miserable not having anything to dedicate free time to. My husband wanted me to dedicate my time into things I loved doing. I began with trying to sell paintings, then I began making succulent arrangements, and finally I became tired and stopped trying. Now, I'm not usually a quitter, but I felt helpless. But, that following Christmas my husband gifted me a camera, and I instantly fell in love. I started taking photos of anything and everything, and began to wonder if this was finally what I was meant to be doing. After a little while, I decided to go all in and start Greatly Loved Photography. I think that's an important step in anything you want to thrive in. If you're serious about something, the amount return you get out of it will reflect the amount of effort you put in. Although I am able to bring in a consistent income today, it was not always like that. At the beginning, it took a few free sessions and charging less to build up my clientele. This process took several months – an amount of time I now realize equates to an entire season of senior portraiture. Luckily, my husband supports me and supports us and provides when I am in off-season.

When I began booking more and more clients I quickly became overwhelmed. Even though it took months, it felt to me that Greatly Loved had started to succeed in what seemed like overnight! I was getting bookings left and right, and school seemed to be throwing curveballs at exactly the same times I was busy with photography. When things became unenjoyable I knew it was time to reevaluate my process and find a way to do both efficiently. So here is what I did:

1. I took a deep breath! 
It was so easy for me to just try and do everything at one time. This was not healthy for me, and I felt like I was drowning in everything I was doing. When I have these moments I have to tell myself to just breathe and take it one step at a time. If you ever feel this way, I suggest doing the same. You will be surprised what a few deep breaths will do. After I have a moment to recollect, I have to find a way to maintain that composure. I am a very visual person, so I had to find a way to put everything out on the table and piece it together like a puzzle. I had to find a way to make everything easier for myself. Which brings me to my next step:

2. I stay as organized as possible!
I am a planner and calendar snob! I love being organized – color coding, making lists, scratching out those lists, and making sure to maintain a schedule. It’s really funny how particular I can be about organizing these things, because when it comes to my room and life I can be a complete mess! But hey, I guess something about my life needs to be sane! When I was in school I had to find a way to keep both photography and school equal priorities. When I would get my syllabi, I would write in all the due dates, homework, projects, tests, etc. After I did this I decided to only schedule photography clients on weekends and weekdays I was not so busy. I also did as much schoolwork I could in the middle of the week, since at the beginning of the week I was editing sessions and at the end I was getting ready for my clients. This system helped me a lot, as I was able to split my time enough to still be able to have me-time, hubby-time, and friend-time. Even if you aren't a student, you may be working a full-time job, taking care of kids, or just generally have a busy schedule, so making sure to keep track of when you're least busy is essential to building your photography portfolio, even if you aren't doing paid gigs. Like I said earlier, the reward you get out of your endeavor will only reflect how much effort you put in. This type of time management also works into my next point:

3. I had to learn to say “No”! 
This was extremely hard for me because I am a people pleaser; I just want to make everyone happy, all the time. Now, I'm not sure if you know this, but a little birdy told me that it was impossible to please everyone. I had to learn this the hard way, and I’m sure that i’m not alone in this. Eventually, I worked up to a point where I would have individuals interested in booking after being completely booked for that season. It was really hard for me to say no because I felt that this would give me a bad reputation. I’m not sure why I had this mentality, but it was eating away at me. I began to put off school work to help out. I completely overwhelmed myself, and what I loved became work and not a passion. I knew at this point that I needed to be selfish. But, in reality it wasn’t selfish because I had my clients' best interest at heart. If I wasn’t loving what I was doing, I wasn't putting forth my best work. It was unfair for my clients AND myself. It’s okay to not be able to take on every single opportunity that comes your way. You still need to make time to focus on what is important, favoring quality over quantity. For me that was my personal life, school, and photography. I needed to be able to put my full heart into all of these things, and that meant wise time management and taking on less clientele. 

4. I made a system for post-processing!
If you are photographer or have dabbled in photography, you know that editing can be a long process. When i first began photography, I had no clue what anything in my editing suite meant. I spent days watching Youtube videos and reading online tutorials in order to educate myself. In the beginning, I even used presets to make things a little easier. After time I noticed I was getting great results but it still wasn't quite individualized to me. I educated myself even further, weened myself off of depending on presets, and started my own process. Now I have a method of syncing cameral calibrations, profile corrections, and transformations to all photos straight from the start. Then, I go through and choose my favorite photographs from each pose, style, and location, and get rid of the bad copies and duplicate photos. After all of this, I finally begin the editing process. From here I edit one photo and apply the settings to all the photos of that same pose, lighting, or location. Out of all the things I have learned through editing, this has singlehandedly saved me the most time. After that, I then make whatever individual tweaks are needed for each photo and finally get the photos ready for export. Dedicating time to finding an efficient process gave me a vast improvement in total time spent with each set of photos. After finding what works best for me, I am now able to get photos to clients between 1-3 days, depending on the session size! Getting photos edited quickly gives me so much more time to focus on school and research! While my exact editing process may not work for you, there is a process that will! Take your time, educate yourself, and find your groove!

As you can see, the overall theme of how to photograph while also having a full-time occupation is excellent time management and simply knowing what will work for your individual situation. Have fun with your new hobby or career! Don't be afraid to experiment a little and figure out what works. Photography is such a fun passion to explore, be creative with it and don't let anything get in your way. It is possible to balance photography with your other responsibilities...if you figure out what balance works best for you!

Now go take some photos!

Miranda West
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