This photographer’s reflection on 2020 | Melbourne Family Photography

Are you tempting fate? Will you buy a 2021 diary?

At the end of 2019 I invested in a “goal-driven” diary. I had big plans for my Melbourne Lifestyle Family Photography Business in 2020 and I wrote down all that I wanted to achieve in my Business.


Well needless to say I didn’t quite smash the goals I had set! But even so, by defining those dreams in the first place it certainly helped keep my business mindset on track, even during the hard months of second lockdown in Melbourne when we had an 8pm curfew, a travel restriction bubble of 5km and photography and other non-essential small businesses were forced to put things on hold.


While I'm looking forward to 2021 and I have tempted fate again with a new goal-setting diary, at this time of year I prefer to look back and take stock of the good of the past year. Because, although it has been a difficult one, there were many moments that I'm thankful for and some I will treasure forever!


Personal Branding and Product Photography in Melbourne

I think there will be quite a few defining words to describe 2020 with one of the most important being “PIVOT” (side note: if you’re hearing Ross Gellar screaming “PIVOT” in your head while reading this, you get me!).

This year I had to pivot my lifestyle family photography business towards what was really needed (and permitted) and as a result I got involved in product photography and personal branding.

As a small business owner and the literal face of my brand, I’ve done a fair amount of research into Personal Branding. I can’t say I always get it right but after chatting to a fellow Melbourne Mama and Small business owner it became clear to me that it’s something I am very passionate about and ties in beautifully with photography - especially for those ladies that feel they don’t know what to post and don’t know how to take good lifestyle photos to do justice to their products and brand.


I was inspired to create a sperate Instagram account for my Melbourne-based personal branding photography and while it’s been slow to get going because three weeks later it got banned (a story for another day) I plan to be much more active on the account when I officially launch my personal branding and business portfolio.


But best of all, through this work I have discovered the Aussie Small Business Industry. Women, empowering themselves, their families, and other women in business. And I’m creating friendships with like-minded women in business which is helping keep me grounded with my small business mindset too!


I learnt something old, again

Since I couldn’t get out and capture families and newborns in Melbourne, I focused on what I could learn with what I had. I know there was a big trend to learn something new while in lockdown and many people excelled in this, however, this wasn’t the pressure I wanted to put on myself just because the bandwagon was rolling by.


Instead, I knuckled down with old courses that I had purchased over the years. Some I hadn’t completed, others I hadn’t even started, some I redid (and some I still didn’t get to). These included lifestyle family and newborn courses, videography (creating films) and business marketing for social media.


I really feel that going back to these courses and information allowed me to visualise what I wanted to create for my family and newborn clients - in terms of their overall experience with working with me, the look of their final gallery and the beautiful print products I planned to offer. I updated my website and refreshed my brand, implemented some simple systems to streamline things and found some bespoke products I plan to start offering as an add-on to my services.


I even created/updated two free downloadable products for my followers (you!). Each pic links to the download link if you're interested!

When the second lockdown in Melbourne finally ended I was able to hit the ground running with maternity, newborn, family and preschool photography sessions and when I compare to how things were going this time last year I felt so much more confident, calm and on top of things and yet I was the busiest I’ve ever been!


I embraced the privilege of being “just a Mum”

I decided to start my photography business when we moved from South Africa to Melbourne in 2017. While moving halfway across the world is an ideal time to reinvent one’s self, my main motivation for becoming self-employed was the flexibility it offered in terms of being a Mum.


As soon as my daughter was born I started thinking about what career I could pursue that would allow me to work from home so that I could be near to her and photography was the natural answer.


However, I was naïve. I had no idea how much I would need to learn that wasn’t about how to use the actual camera. I’ve had to embrace meteorology, Lightroom, Photoshop, videography, marketing, accounting, directing, sales, graphic design, working animatedly with children, web design, social media marketing, content strategy, oh, and how to use a camera too! And I love a challenge and it’s been wonderful to step up to this opportunity but honestly, I didn’t realise how all-consuming it had been.


When lockdown hit and my daughter had to be home full time, I put my business on hold (because photography wasn’t an essential service). It was during this time that I didn’t have to think about the business that I really focused on my daughter. We jumped on the crafting bandwagon went on adventures together and just really enjoyed our time together – there were no other pressing needs.

It only hit me then that this business I was setting up to give me more freedom with my daughter was actually taking away from the quality time I had put aside for her and I. Normally, on the days she was at home my mind was always thinking about work. I was fobbing her off and even getting annoyed with her neediness because I was behind with where I wanted to be in my business.


It was a glass shattering moment and since getting back into the swing of things, I have made a conscious and determined effort to find a better balance. I’m structuring my work days much more effectively and on the days my daughter is at home I’m giving her priority. In ten year’s time I won’t be able to go back and spend these precious moments with my child. And, admittedly, I’m still struggling with this balance but I’m so grateful that lockdown opened my eyes to this.


2021 is the last year my daughter has home with me before school starts full time for her and I plan on making the most of the days we have together.


Family photography is a precious gift and I am honoured to be able to offer it

And finally, it's really struck me this year at just how important the job I have is, as a Melbourne Family and Newborn Photographer.


I’ve had a couple enquiries this year saying they want to gift a session to a loved one as they can’t think of anything else they could get them (as they aren’t for wanting anything). And that really struck me – that when someone has everything they could need or want, photography is able to offer them even more, a tangible way for them to preserve their beautiful family – their connection and love.


And I just thought to myself, what I have to offer is a very special type of gift that truly will last a lifetime, is irreplaceable and with time will become timeless - which you can't put a price on.

While 2020 will have it’s repercussions and there are definitely going to be knock-on economic and social effects, there is still a need for documenting the things today, that will look different in years to come!


Thank you for being here!


I want to say a big THANK YOU! if you’re here reading this. Whether you’re a client, a friend or my family – your support (no matter how big or small) means the world to this Melbourne Photographer Mama! While I don’t dare to ask too much for 2021, I do hope you and your loved ones are blessed!


xoxo

© 2021 GILL COOK PHOTOGRAPHY