A Matter of Time

I have been very blessed to be so busy lately. When you choose to invest in a small business (and in this case, a mother of three) somebody out there is keeping their lights on, saving for a down-payment on a house, buying groceries, etc. Supporting growing entrepreneurs and supporting art is SO amazing, and most importantly you're keeping this art alive, and encouraging other hopeful folks out there to pick up their cameras. Thank you for that! I know that what I do is a luxury expense, my work is not life-or-death, no one needs a photographer, and there are plenty out there that you could choose from, which is fine because when I take on a wedding client, that means I’ve chosen you, too. And that’s what I want to talk about today.

I guess I feel like I need to address my listed hours of operation, which say I'm available between the hours of Noon and 5pm, Monday through Thursdays. If we're being totally honest here? Having a baby at home that doesn't understand the concept of a schedule translates to "whenever the heck I can" on those days. Listing a general time you’ll have the best luck getting a hold of me is easier than saying, "How much time I spend working each day depends on how long Natalie's two afternoon naps last and how early Nic gets home from work that day.” Because unfortunately, I don’t just edit all day. There’s five-persons-worth of laundry to do, a four-bedroom house to look after, a dog to walk, and shockingly I like to eat, shower, and occasionally I have to leave the house to go buy groceries. And when you have to squeeze the bulk of these things in during naptimes, you have to pick your battles. Sometimes it’s a win for editing, but what you don’t see is that I’m still in yesterday’s yoga pants at 8pm, my house is a disaster, but I’m just happy that everyone got fed and the crawling baby didn’t put something in her mouth that she shouldn’t have while I was buried in my computer. I take what I can get, ya know?

What I can confirm is that my business hours do not list Friday through Sunday because I am definitely not checking emails or answering phone calls on those days, at all. (What do people think I’m doing on those weekends? I could give them a hint: It’s probably the same thing they have also hired me to do for them.) If someone contacts me on a Thursday after I've stepped away from my desk, there is a very big chance I'm not touching my phone or computer anymore, and I am not going to see that message until Monday around noon. If it's a wedding weekend, (which it usually is) then that couple is getting my full attention during that time. If it's not a wedding weekend, my children are getting that attention because I rarely have weekend days free. Outside of those makeshift 'Office Hours' my business phone goes into silent and I slip it into the drawer of my desk. I take it with me to sessions, consultations, and weddings for the purposes of keeping in touch with those individuals I’m working with that day. But otherwise? It stays at that desk. And I like it that way. I will never be the person who’s answering emails or saying “I’ve gotta take this, it’s a client,” during time spent at dinner or family.

In March, I went on a Spring Break getaway with the kids to the most adorable cabin in the woods, and I chose to go unplugged. I took my personal phone for emergencies, use of the GPS, and road-trip music courtesy of Spotify, but service was spotty, so I stayed off of it for the most part. I left my business phone tucked in my desk drawer back at home and put an auto-reply on my email. Yet when I returned home, I had a few calls on the business line, emails, and text messages that were concerning… basically I got called out by an individual for not responding to them in what they felt was an appropriate time frame. I really had to maintain some composure in my responses, and ultimately, we ended up parting ways and I gave them their retainer back, because that whole situation left a bad taste in my mouth and I can’t really do my job well when I don’t feel good about my relationship with a client anymore.

Here’s the truth bomb: I would never permit any person to make demands of my time outside of those contracted obligations or determine for me how soon and with what frequency I should be available to them. I promise to show up, capture great photos with style and quality, and deliver them to you within your contracted turnaround time. I’m sure you might have to shoot me a question or two throughout the process, and I’m happy to answer those at my earliest convenience. You might wait 2-3 days, or even a week while I get my shit together and have a reply on-hand for you. But as I'm pretty sure I'm not answering life or death emails, I promise you that unless your wedding is this weekend, there is nothing that cannot wait a few days for a response.

I’ve learned the hard way that it’s important as an entrepreneur to be selective about who you are giving your time to and working with. That’s why I meet at least one half of each couple before signing the contract, to make sure we click, and give them the scoop on this chaotic but wonderful life of mine, because laying out expectations is important. This post isn’t for them, because I can confidently say that when I look over my roster of weddings booked between now and 2020, I have an amazing group of people who ‘get it’. I think I’m finally finding my bride tribe. But I have no qualms about admitting that I refund retainers if I start seeing red-flags. This is a ‘chill vibes only’ business, and if not being at your beck-and-call means I’m not the photographer for you, that is totally okay because you are not the client for me either. There are hundreds of photographers in this over-saturated market who will be that person for the sake of keeping the booking.

I won’t delve too deeply into this topic either, but I also think it’s important to clarify that I only post straight-out-of-camera ‘sneak peeks’ to my Instagram story. Otherwise, I don’t share the edited versions until I’ve started working exclusively on that session/wedding and am coming up on having it done in the next few days. I feel like it builds some excitement right before I deliver the gallery. I know amazing photographers who will venture home after a ten hour wedding day and stay up even later to turn out some sneak peeks on their laptop that very night. But I’m definitely the “I’m hitting a drive thru on the way home, dropping my camera bag in the entry way, taking off my bra, and passing out in a french-fry coma,” kind of girl. You could say I've made my peace with that.

You guys get the point. Anyways, Natalie’s been asleep for about half an hour as I’ve written this. I’m hitting publish, and then I’m getting into the shower. If she’s still asleep when I’m done, I’m going to look over my inbox and answer anything immediately pressing, and then I’m going outside to play with my older two kids, who leave for North Carolina next Monday for six whole weeks. I’m going to miss them terribly. I’m spending this evening at a brand new wedding venue capturing some glorious promo shots in collaboration with some other talented vendors, but until then (and for most of this week) I am all theirs.

Catch you later!

Gabby Lute

Life Since You, 460 2nd Street Northwest, New Philadelphia, OH, 44663