Several years ago, I left my relatively cushy job as the manager of a chicken factory to pursue a career in professional photography (100% true story). Equipped with nothing more than a Nikon D80 (which was 5 years old at the time) and several months of savings in the bank, I gingerly set out with the goal of booking a bajillion weddings into my brand spanking new Moleskine planner (which Karis had thoughtfully picked up for this very occasion). However, this excitement would be short-lived: by the end of that first month of desperately cold-calling bridal lists, attending bridal shows and placing expensive magazine ads, I only had 3 booked weddings to show for it. Over the course of those next few months, I unsuccessfully begged/pleaded with seasoned photographers to let me shoot with them, and begged/pleaded with all of my friends to let me take their photos. I don’t think I’ve ever been rejected more times in my life. In a saturated industry which was already inundated with talent, personalities and politics, my days of becoming a professional wedding photographer were unquestionably numbered.
In all, I shot 6 weddings during my first 2 years in the business, and I literally fought for every single one of them. I spent the majority of my remaining free weekends photographing birthday parties, families and babies – if only for the sole purpose of never having to face my family with the prospect of failure. In those first few years as a struggling entrepreneur, I missed birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and major milestones in my kids’ lives. To top it all off, I was “this” close to missing the birth of my youngest son. The truth was, despite my mediocre skills as a photographer, I had been a terrible father and husband. What exactly did I have to prove? Has it been all worth it?
In the 6 years since my very first professional gig, this photography career has put me on a plane more times than I can count. It has allowed us to visit all kinds of interesting places and meet wonderful people from all walks of life. This career has allowed my wife to quit her 9-5 job as a graphic designer, so she can work a 16 hour workday with yours truly (12, if she’s lucky) as a
slave co-owner/co-photographer/co-pretty-much-everything. This career helped us spawn a second brand, hire additional staff, and recruit additional talent to help us grow even more in the coming years. In 2015 alone, between the two brands, we shot 110 weddings between Ben Lau Photography and Pearl Paper Studio. That’s a huge jump from 6, that’s for sure.
Despite all of our struggles, I can honestly say that I’ve enjoyed every single minute of it, warts and all. When I find myself working till 2am on most nights, stranded at an airport overnight, or driving home from a wedding half-asleep – I remind myself of all our early struggles and to be genuinely thankful for all of the beautiful couples and families who’ve invited us into their lives not only as their photographers, but also as their friends. Not many people can say that they’ve had such a career in such a relatively short amount of time: one that they truly enjoy, and one (most importantly) that can comfortably pay the bills while making all these wonderful new friends along the way.
For that, we are whole-heartedly, and humbly thankful.
We are truly excited to see what 2016 has in store for us!