When we started this business 9 years ago, this was our “office”: a tiny shared desk in our attic bedroom which barely fit our two computers. It was just the two of us at the time; we didn’t have very much, but we were happy. With our first baby arriving in just 7 short months, our lives were about to be upended beyond our wildest imagination.
There’s a saying that goes: “Make a living doing something you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”
The reality is more like: “Make a living doing something you love, and don’t even think about sleeping for the rest of your life.”
While I still genuinely enjoy what I do, my needs have always taken a backseat to the needs of the business and our clients; whether it’s taking a 9pm phone call, missing birthday parties, or running out of the house on Thanksgiving Day to client meetings in the city (with a turkey leg in hand, mind you). I remember when my pregnant wife used to drive me into the city every Friday evening, just so I could take the late-night Megabus to Baltimore to photograph my friends and their families over the weekend. We knew exactly what we signed up for, and making this business work wouldn’t just be a priority, it would be a necessity. We had a baby on the way, and failure was definitely not an option.
Because I was just starting out with a limited portfolio, making uncomfortable concessions became a daily fact of life. Whether it was giving discounts, freebies, or even shooting in ways that were incompatible with the kind of work I wanted to produce – the needs of my clients always came before my own (a statement which still rings true till this day). I gave a little piece of myself away with each heart-wrenching concession that I made. For the sake of sustaining this little business that we had built, we slowly found ourselves shooting for the clients, and we were no longer shooting for ourselves. We no longer enjoyed the creative freedom we once had, and our business became more transactional and less personal. After grinding out hundreds of weddings over the years, we finally realized: this was not sustainable by any measure.
I recently met one of my heroes in the world of wedding photography, and I asked him how he managed to get the creative freedom that he enjoys in his work. “Easy. I shoot the way I want to shoot.” he says to me with a big smile. “The people who love my work will book me. The one’s who don’t, won’t.”
It all seemed so devilishly simple, and I couldn’t believe it’s taken me 9 years to come to this revelation.
Needless to say, 2019 will be a year of many big changes for us. After personally grinding out 45(ish) weddings/year for the better part of a decade, I’m officially announcing that we will be drastically cutting down the amount of work we’ll be taking in the coming years. We’ll be taking this time to focus on our personal growth, the development of our other brands, and most importantly, our family. To all of our wonderful clients, you need not worry: we’re not going anywhere (these professional selfies don’t take themselves, you know). But as we dive into this next chapter of Ben Lau Photography in 2019, we look forward to a new and improved “us”, and we sincerely hope you’ll join us on this adventure together!