Ifs & Whens ~ Chicago Wedding Photographer

I’ve thought about this post for quite a while. It’s been swirling around in my brain… and marinating… and swirling some more… but ever since I went full time I haven’t had much time to write posts that don’t include a session I shot, so I just kept putting it on the back burner. But now I found that my thoughts about Ifs and Whens suddenly switched when I went full time, and I’m not sure why – but I need to fix it! Immediately.

I suppose I should explain a bit more, since I’m sure you’re all thinking… “What the h*ll is she talking about?!”

Basically, I believe there are two trains of thought that people have in life. One train of thought is the Ifs. And the other train of thought is the Whens.

This realization became clear to me when I decided I wanted to really pursue photography in a full-on, for real, let’s do this, kind of way back in the summer of 2010. (As opposed to the passive way I was pursuing it prior to that… i.e. I was more concerned with this certain boy who wandered into my life, getting engaged & marrying him than I was about making this photography thing happen. Which was fabulous, and I wouldn’t take back that time in my life for anything in the world. Because, look at us… we were oh-so-happy…  and we took pictures like this… Awww…)



But the point is – – back when I first graduated from photography school, I had this thought in my brain: If I become a photographer…”

You see, in the back of my brain I thought I may just end up working at the law firm for the rest of my life, and photography would just be this thing I did on the side, and I guess that was okay with me. At least okay enough that I just continued to float along, shooting personal work and anything that came my way (which was mostly corporate/commercial work because that’s what I was focused on) – but I wasn’t really making any effort to FIND work or MAKE work for myself. I wasn’t networking or doing a damn thing to make my dreams come true. Because deep down I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with my degree and even if I had known – I definitely didn’t think I could do it.

So I just continued to think, “If it happens, it happens.”

(Looking back on that thought process – it takes all my will power not to want to go back to 2007 and punch my 25-year-old self in the kidney. What a waste of a $50k photography degree (that I will be paying off for the. rest. of. my. life). Not to mention, what a waste of a life! …To just float along, living comfortably – but not following what is in your heart.)



Then in the summer of 2010 (as I talked about in my My Story 2 post), after casually shooting 8 weddings over 1.5 years with 3 more booked for that fall/winter, something changed in me. I stopped denying the fact that I was becoming a wedding and portrait photographer, and I realized that this was what I wanted. I realized that photographing real people, and real moments filled the space in my heart that I couldn’t fill with corporate and commercial work. Then I found other photographers online that were amazing and talented… and they were wedding & portrait photographers!! (**GASP!!**) That officially pushed me over the edge. If they could do it…. I could do it, right?!

At that moment – I stopped thinking IF, and I started thinking WHEN. (I’m pretty sure the night this realization hit me, I wrote this blog post and then I continued to write a blog post 5-days a week from that moment on.) I finally figured out exactly what I wanted to do and I put in the work to make it happen. What a novel idea… If you want to be somewhere – WORK to get there. Because there is no such thing as luck. I’m sorry – but there isn’t. There is hard work, and there are opportunities. Put those together – and magic can happen.

Suddenly I no longer thought, If I become a photographer…” – – instead I thought, When I have my own photography business…”

And THAT… THAT right there makes all the difference in the world, my loves.



So if you are out there struggling to make a dream of yours come true. The first thing to do is stop and ask yourself which train of thought you are on. Because if you’re on the IF train… I’m telling you – you’re not going to get where to want to go. You won’t. I’m sorry. Because by saying IF – you are leaving room for failure. You are making not getting there an option. I truly believe the only way to get there is to think, “WHEN I get there…” Having that thought in your mind gives you the positivity and drive to push forward… to put in the work to make it happen. There is no room for doubt, or worry, or if, when you’re following your dreams. There is only room for yes, and I can, and when I do.

And the reason I’m writing this post is to remind myself of this very thing. (Because I get stuck on the If train too sometimes.) No matter how busy I’ve been since I went full-time in September, lately I’ve had this fear in chest. And at some point in the last week or two I stopped thinking positive when thoughts, and I started to think if thoughts. Bad if thoughts.

I thought, “If this thing fails… If I don’t end up doing this for the rest of my life… If this is too overwhelming and I can’t figure out a life balance… If I can’t make my clients happy… If I can’t make this business work for me… If… If… IF…”

Then suddenly I thought back to this post that was swirling around in my head. And I realized – I was on the If train of thought. After a solid year and a half of thinking WHEN – I suddenly was back to thinking IF. (Not good.) And since I realized it, I’ve made a conscious effort to switch tracks. Now I’ve started to think, “When busy season is over, I’m going to take time to figure out a business model that works for me… When I book 5 more weddings… When I get that lens… When I host a workshop… When I finish editing this wedding… When… When… WHEN…”

And let me tell you…. life is so much better when you have those thoughts. Because you don’t feel down in the dumps and sorry for yourself. Instead you feel excited, and ready to move forward and to put in the work to make the whens a reality. And it feels good.


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Christy & James are Chicago based but happily travel anywhere in the world that beautiful love stories take them!