*This is a paid post from an APW Sponsor*
Today I get to introduce someone who needs no introduction: Maddie Eisenhart, APW’s managing editor. The thing is, Maddie also happens to be an extremely talented wedding photographer. Not like, wedding photography is her side gig. No. Because Maddie is Maddie, wedding photography is her… other full time gig. She hasn’t been sleeping much. But I’m super proud to announce that today, change is in the air. Maddie’s first photography business Hart & Sol is still going strong in the Tri-State Area, helmed by her original partner Monica. But today, Maddie is launching her first solo photo business, Eyes And Hart photography. (GET IT? GOOD.)
I’ve watched Maddie build this new business from the ground up. (Fun fact, I texted her at eleven at night well over a year ago and suggested the name.) She’s poured herself into branding (done by the excellent APW designers at Cooper House), her website, her portfolio, but mostly in building the business that’s right for her and right for her clients. (Hot tip: Want to see some of Maddie’s amazing clients? Check out her boudoir section.) As of today, Maddie is scaling down. She’s taking on fewer clients and putting more of her heart (hart) into each couple. She’s mixing up her crazy glittery purple haired self with the fact that she’s just the nicest person you’ll ever meet (and will charm the pants off your most difficult aunt and your grandma for sure).
I’m super thrilled to introduce Eyes And Hart to the world, and kind of teary about the fact that you guys built all this together. So here’s Maddie. This one’s worth a read, looking for a photographer or not.
When I first started my wedding photography business, launched right here on APW three years ago, I wrote a love letter to the APW community (really, a manifesto of what I hoped my business would become, since at that point it was more of a dream than a reality). From that post I was able to grow a business, built always on the philosophies I’ve learned from this community. But over the past two years, I’ve also been living a double life. You see, two years ago I got the awesome opportunity to start working for my favorite website, A Practical Wedding (you may have heard of it). Since starting this job, I’ve been trying to manage the impossible task of putting 100% of myself into two jobs I’m extremely passionate about, and it’s only been through the patience and kindness of my clients—and my husband… and Meg for that matter—that I’ve slept at all in the process. So last year, when faced with the reality that taxes for a bi-coastal wedding photography business are a logistical nightmare (seriously, don’t try it at home, kids), I decided things had to change. I pulled together everything I’ve learned from APW clients and tasked myself with creating a new business that acknowledges everything I’ve learned and that also honors my job here at APW. And thus, Eyes And Hart was born. As a business owner, this new home for my passion scares me a little bit because I’ve spent almost half a decade working with the word “build” as my primary verb, and now I’m letting that go for a new verb: “change.”
What’s different? Well to start, I’ll be shooting fewer weddings each year and working to provide the most awesome service to my clients.
What’s the point?
When I first started my business, I was not in a good place. I hated my job, my commute, my town, you name it. Photography was a lifesaving creative outlet for me. But in the years since starting my business, it has become so much more than that. Photography (and really, my clients) has allowed me to realize who I am, and (without sounding overly dramatic, just kidding, totally sounding overly dramatic) what life is all about. Believe it or not, I never used to cry at weddings. And when I planned my own wedding, I thought the point of photography was to get really cool trendy blog-worthy photos of Michael and me looking awesome. But then I started working with my clients.
So many of my clients have overcome incredible odds and been through the trenches together (hi, me). When I’m working with couples who have survived cancer diagnoses, and who have built blended families together, and who have stuck by each other’s side since high school, I feel like what I’m doing is helping to celebrate what you’ve accomplished together. When I’m photographing your first dance, I’m not just watching you dance. I’m seeing your grandparents coming to America from Italy, watching your parents work so hard to raise a kid capable of such love, seeing your siblings meet your partner for the first time and accepting him or her as one of their own. And I’m seeing your future together, long after this day is done. It’s my job to encapsulate that, to distill the essence of everything that led up to this one moment into a single image. And well, that’s when the ugly tears happen.
COMMITTING TO LESS SO THAT I CAN DO MORE
What I’ve discovered in the past few years is that clients who have fought really hard for their joy (and who wear said joy without shame), these are the couples who teach me the most about myself. It’s my top priority with my new business to do justice to their stories by taking the time to get to know what makes them different from every other client I’ll work with this year. In that first post I wrote for APW, I described the intent of my business. I said:
What we’re really about is building a relationship with a couple over the course of their engagement that makes them comfortable enough in front of us to really let loose. I remember we recently shot an engagement session of an APW reader and at first her fiancé was really, REALLY shy. But over the course of the hour or two, we started having so much fun that he actually began directing the shoot. It was sweet and funny and made us feel like we’d done our jobs. Then when that was over, they invited us in for tea and snacks and we met the bride’s grandmother. Over tea, Olivia, the bride, said that her goal was not to have any strangers at her wedding (including the vendors). That’s exactly what we hope for too.
Three years later, I’m still at it. I want you to feel like I’m someone you can call up on the phone when you have questions. That you can drunk text when you’re feeling particularly excited about the wedding (that’s a true story). On your wedding day, I want to be someone who knows you well enough to be able to sense when you need a break and quietly close the bedroom door for you so you can have five minutes in peace to get ready and take it all in (also a true story). I don’t ever want you to be a date on a calendar, or for me to be a name and phone number on your vendor spreadsheet.
To honor this commitment, next year I’ll be cutting back on my bookings and committing myself to just a handful of weddings for the year. In fact, in 2014, I’m planning to do just one wedding a month (I currently have September–December open and am booking for 2015 as well). My goal is to be a great resource to my clients during the planning process; and someone with enough free time to hang out with you when it’s all over. (If we’ve worked together, you get standing invitation to the farm.)
Your Wedding Photos Should Be Utterly Amazing
I’m also be recommitting myself to quality. Right now there’s a trend in the industry to give clients back photos back as quickly as possible.
I’m not that photographer. I know we live in a land of instant gratification, but I believe your wedding photos are worth the care it takes to produce a quality product. Hell, I think it’s important to have some time with your own wedding memories before you get beautiful artistic renderings of those memories. But mostly, I believe your wedding photos should be utterly amazing. For me, that means not only dedicating myself to mastering all the techniques to get the photos perfect in camera, but also putting a lot of time into making each and every photo good enough to frame after the fact. (Because your favorites are going to be different from my favorites and my favorites are going to be different from your moms. I mean, that’s the point, right?)
wHAT’S NOT CHANGING
My pricing is still no-bullshit. My all-day rate is $4,800 and includes a second shooter, all-day coverage, a complimentary engagement session, all your edited images delivered to you hi-res (either via digital download or USB), and my new favorite addition: prints at cost (that means you can buy a professionally printed 8×10 for about $2 directly from your gallery). I understand that my services may be cost prohibitive for some, which is why I’ve recently added the Pay It Forward Project to my site. It’s a chance for one couple per year to work with me for free; the only requirement is that they promise to pay it forward to someone else in the future.
There are no words to describe the depth of my gratitude for this community and the couples who trust me with their wedding memories. The past few years have been a bit… grueling. I’ve learned a lot of things the hard way, and slept not nearly enough. But it has been worth every moment for the incredible stories I’ve been able to witness, and the people I’ve had the pleasure of working with. I’m so grateful for everything that I’ve been able to do, and so excited for everything to come.