There are so many amazing wedding photographers out there, especially in New Hampshire, so what makes me different? What makes me unique, and sets me a part from the others?
The answer is: my story.
Each of us has one, and each of our stories differs from anyone else's. Our stories elaborate on our experiences that brought us to where we are today, and help paint the picture of how we've been shaped into the humans we are presently. It's why I freaking LOVE taking the time to get to know the couples I work with! I want to know what you do for work, how you and your partner met, how the proposal happened - I want soak up as much of your story as I can before your wedding day, because it helps me, as your wedding photographer, document the start of your next, and greatest, chapter together.
Knowing your wedding photographer's story is equally as important! It can help you find common ground with them, and develop a new layer of respect, which, in turn, helps build and strengthen your relationship with that person. When you're hiring a photographer, a videographer, a florist, etc for your wedding day, it's incredibly important that you and your partner genuinely like and appreciate their work, AND to appreciate them as an individual as well. For photographers in-particular, this is SO vital, as you will be spending the majority of your wedding day with them, so it would be wise for you to actually enjoy their company, not just their photos.
All this to say, I've decided to be a bit vulnerable and tell you my story, something I've never done in depth before. To be honest, it kind of feels scary to open up like this! I don't know what people will say or think, but what I do know is that it's important for me to share my story, especially since I ask the couples I work with to be vulnerable with me in front of the camera. So today, I'm practicing what I preach, taking a safe risk, and taking you on a journey, the journey of how I became a wedding photographer in New Hampshire.
My love for photography began at an early age. My dad had this polaroid camera - like, the real, old kind - which, at the time, was how most people documented moments in their everyday lives. The film then, as it is now, was expensive, so my dad only brought out his Polaroid at special occasions, like Christmas or our birthdays when my brothers and I blew out our birthday candles.
I knew, even when I was very young, that this camera was special, and that the moments my dad brought it out for where special, too. It was a strange sensation, knowing in the present moment that you were experiencing something that you'd want to remember forever. The Polaroid camera helped capture those moments, and froze the fleeting feelings in time, turning them into memories.
My grammy also enjoyed taking photos. She loved going on drives down back roads throughout the country, and she always carried a disposable camera, a simple 35mm point-and-shoot camera, in the car with her, which was good, because she consistently saw deer, rare flowers, and the most beautiful sunsets on her adventures. She had stacks on stacks of boxes, filled to the brim with printed photos, all documenting the everyday wonders she experienced in life and saw beauty in. For her this consisted of the clowder of outdoor cats greeting her on her front porch when she'd feed them, and also my brother and I dancing in the living room together when we were young, and even her flower garden on a day she thought it looked nice.
Our family didn't have a lot of money growing up, so for Christmas, my Grammy + Grampy used to give us a roll of Tootsie Rolls, the kind where the container could be repurposed as a piggy bank afterwards, and, if we were lucky, they would sometimes sneak a dollar bill inside, snuggled amongst the Tootsie Rolls. My brothers and I would also get a disposable camera each, encouraging us to document our lives as they occurred, too, even at young ages.
Honestly, that disposable camera used to be one of my favorite gifts I got each year. I loved that it gave me the responsibility of documenting the big moments in my life, but also to search for the beauty in each day, to remember to seek solace in the seemingly mundane moments, too, for it's the times in-between that make the big occasions in life seem that much more special.
Fast forward a few years to when I was 9-years-old, a 4th grader with big dreams and a small amount of self-confidence. This is when I first declared that I wanted to be a photographer when I grew up. My previous profession of choice was a veterinarian, so, clearly, this was a very big change in my life. I think I must have only just discovered that taking photographs could be your job when you got older, and with my adoration for photography already, I figured it was the perfect fit.
I was, however, met with quite the opposition from my friends and teachers right away.
"That's a hard business to get into."
"You won't make much money doing that!"
"Being a photographer isn't a real job - anyone can press a button and take photos."
Remember, I was only nine-years-old. I was merely dreaming, and my head was already being pulled from the clouds. I continued to receive similar comments as I aged, even seventeen years later when I finally launched my wedding photography business, The Francis Frames, yet my love for photography never ceased. I saved up my money and invested in a digital camera, and then when that one broke, I saved up my money again and invested in a new one. I continued this cycle until I was 16-years-old, when I worked my first real job, and spent the majority of my summer paycheck on buying my first DSLR camera. I was so fricken pumped, and so fricken proud of myself.
It was around this time when I started receiving pleasant comments about my photography for a change; my friends were no longer shy around the camera as they were in middle school, or quite as doubtful of my talents, but, rather, they quite enjoyed having their photos taken in high school and getting to share them on Facebook with their friends. I documented EVERYTHING - every hang out, every sporting event I wasn't playing in, every trip, and even got in trouble for taking photos when I felt inspired in the middle of First Year English class. My consistency paid off though, and by senior year of high school, some of my friends had asked me to take their senior portraits, which made me feel like I had finally made it. What an honor! I was actually getting paid (very little I might add) to take photos of my friends, something I genuinely enjoyed doing, and that made me so fricken happy. It felt like a dream come true. I wish it had been.
Unfortunately, I had held on to the narrative I was told at a young age, that photography wasn't sustainable, wasn't predictable, and wouldn't be able to make me any money in the long run. So, whilst I still had a passion for photography, I decided to pursue my other passions after high school instead.
I ended up studying Outdoor Education, now recognized as Outdoor Leadership and Management, at the University of New Hampshire, and I completely loved my educational experience there. I gained confidence in myself as a human, as a woman, and also as an outdoor professional. I made lifelong friends and experienced trips and moments I never thought I would have the pleasure of experiencing. I am so thankful for my education. My love for the outdoors, encouraging others to explore it, and teaching others via alternative methods of education, will always be engrained in me and everything I do. It's even incorporated into my wedding photography business + approach in some ways!
In fact, even on my Outdoor Education trips and assignments, I always brought my camera with me. I took photos and videos of our trips and experiences, and would share them with my class each time. I felt so whole learning in that environment, leading others, and documenting the whole experience. It just felt right.
During my studies, I ended up developing a strong desire to incorporate Outdoor Education methods into traditional educational settings, such as the public school I had grown up attending. I began working with local schools in college to develop Outdoor Education after-school programs, and eventually dived into alternative educational settings, such as Waldorf Schools and Forest Schools. When I met my husband, Tre, and, eventually, moved to London to be with him after my studies, I worked at one of the finest Forest Schools in London and fricken LOVED it! It was challenging and very demanding of my mind, body, and health, but oh man, it was a lot of fun.
Unfortunately, the pay wasn't very much, especially when living in London, especially when I still had to pay my hefty American student loans each month - even with the slight pay rises I received, the pay just wasn't sustainable for me. An opportunity arose for me to swerve in my career, and I jumped on it, which landed me in the world of travel.
Going into my Outdoor Education studies, my end-goal was to work at a specific international travel company as a leader, so, although it wasn't that particular company, I was very pleased to be taking baby steps in the direction of adventure travel. My daily tasks were nowhere near my dream job, but it paid more, had great perks, and gave me the work-life balance I needed, especially since Tre and I were living together in London with our little dog, Dill. The people I worked with were great, and they could tell almost instantly that working in the customer service department at a travel company was not my dream job. In fact, during my first week of working at this travel company, a friend came up to me and asked, "so, what is your dream job?" I shyly told him that I had always wanted to be a photographer, and then proceeded to tell him all the limiting thoughts I had in my head surrounding it, guarding it, making it 'impossible' to achieve.
My friend responded by saying, "Okay, but photography, right? That's your dream?" When I told him that, yeah, it will always be my dream to be a photographer, he said, "well, what have you done to work towards that dream?"
And honestly, I had no response for him. It had been years since I had made any moves whatsoever towards exploring photography being a serious source of income for me. His question flipped a switch in my mind, and made me realize that I actually had some control over whether or not my dream could come true. I don't think I ever expected to wake up some day and just randomly be a photographer without doing any work to get there...but I have no idea what I did expect to happen if I continued doing nothing to make my dream a reality.
It was then that I made the conscious decision to seriously look into becoming a photographer...like, a real one...one who would get paid. I had just started the job at the travel company, but spent the remainder of the year toying with this idea of wanting something more for myself, wanting to at least try to make my dream come true. So, in December of 2019, when I was crafting up my New Year's Resolutions, I made a promise to myself that I would start taking baby steps towards my dream in the new year.
And I did. At the beginning of the year, I was feeling so inspired, and felt like that was going to be THE year! I started by making a website, and making a separate Instagram for my photography, both of which felt so silly to me at that time, and honestly made me cringe a bit, but I knew that I had to take serious steps if I was going to see any serious changes.
Finally, three months into the year, in March of 2020, I launched my website and my Instagram, and had declared myself a wedding photographer, having only shot one elopement before. I did it! It was real! It was out there for me + my friends to cringe at, but hey, it was real!
And then, Covid19 also became very real.
Suddenly my travel job was extremely busy, and then, just as suddenly, not busy at all. I ended up being put on furlough, which eventually kept getting extended for longer and longer, and, ultimately, lasted 6 months. During the first few months of furlough, I felt like I was living my best life: it was an abnormally hot Spring season and I wasn't working, yet I was still getting paid 80% of my wage, so I spent a lot of time sunbathing, relaxing, and enjoying this break from work! I also spent a great deal of time learning new skills, and soaking up as much information as I possibly could about being a wedding photographer. I saw this time as an opportunity to learn and grow, and to set myself up for success whenever Covid calmed down and I was able to book clients.
As we all know by now, Covid lasted a hell of a lot longer than any of us ever anticipated. So for the second half of my time spent on furlough, I was lathered in dread rather than sunscreen. I could sense that my company would not be able to sustain having their staff on furlough for much longer, and I had a feeling that redundancies were inevitable. The company I worked for, however, continued to put out positive messaging and, honestly, a false sense of security towards the staff, but that's another story. 😅
It was very confusing, it was very scary, and I quickly fell into a dark place mentally. I was constantly anxious, I couldn't get out of bed because I was so depressed, I was crying all the time and being really argumentative with Tre, unfairly. I gained quite a bit of weight and began to hide myself from the world, from reality really. Doing the little necessary chores around the house felt impossible, but then the mess would make me feel even more anxious. It was not an enjoyable time by any means.
My photography business acted as a welcomed distraction during that dark period. I dedicated all of my focus to the courses I was taking, and learned new aspects of the photography and wedding worlds, really just engulfing myself in that work because it was nicer than thinking about my reality. I had just spent all of my savings re-upping my visa to stay in London for another 2.5 years, and then, shortly after, had finally received news that I was at risk for redundancy within my team, and it was pretty obvious that I would be without a job very soon. Our lease on our apartment was also ending in December of 2020, and we quickly found ourselves in a position to figure out a plan, and to figure it out fast. I began applying to new jobs in June of 2020 in anticipation of the possibility of being made redundant, hoping I would be in a decent position when that time came at least. It proved, however, to be very difficult in the climate we were in to find a new job due to Covid, and I, therefore, had no luck being accepted to any of the positions I applied for from June-November of 2020.
Long story short, I ended up being made redundant, which forced Tre and I to make the very difficult decision to move back to New Hampshire a few years earlier than we ever expected to do so. We spent the rest of our money on plane tickets for us and Dill to move to America, and our lives were turned upside down, all in the matter of a few weeks.
When we arrived in New Hampshire, quarantined, and then got settled a bit, I immediately started applying to places to work, assuming it wouldn't be as difficult in the states for me. I soon realized, however, that my luck was pretty thin over here, too. I began to really worry about how I'd pay my bills, and could feel the darkness creeping in again.
Throughout all of this, I was also still working towards my dream of becoming an elopement and wedding photographer. Thankfully, one of my best friends took a chance on me, and hired Tre and me to take couples' photos of her and her boyfriend once we moved back to New Hampshire. It lit a fire in me because I knew that I could prove my abilities, and all I had needed for that to happen was for someone to take a chance on me, and she did. Katie, if you're reading this, I love the sh!t out of you for that 🧡
That session was incredible. We did a Winter sunrise hike up a local mountain in late December of 2020 and the sky was seriously showing off for us. The two of them trusted my vision and had a great time in the process, and it was seriously the BEST feeling in the world to me - it felt like I was living my dream again, and helped me imagine it all playing out long-term.
After their session, I did receive some more inquiries from people in the area that I knew who wanted to support me (and Tre at the time) in this new endeavor, and each inquiry brought tears of joy to my eyes. However, I knew that in order to really live out this dream, and to also be able to sustain this business, it wasn't enough - I needed to book some weddings.
I can't remember if it was New Year's Eve or New Year's Day, but I remember feeling really low again, like the weight of the world was on my shoulders, and I had to choose between being unhappy and doing a job I hated so that I could afford to pay my bills, or to pursue my life-long passion and risk being pretty broke for quite some time. I was feeling confused, and scared, and lonely, and I remember journaling just begging the universe for a sign that we had made the right decision to move back to New Hampshire - a sign to help me figure out what the hell I should do.
10 minutes later, I kid you not, I received a DM from a girl from high school, telling me that her and her boyfriend had gotten engaged, and were hoping that Tre and I could take their engagement photos.
I burst into tears. I ran to the bedroom where Tre was, read him my journal entry begging for a sign from the universe, and then read him the DM I had just received. Tre was stoked for me, but to be honest, he was understandably hesitant about me putting all of my focus into photography at that time because, well, we needed money. I explained to him that we were in this really unique situation where my parents graciously were letting us stay with them for a bit, eliminating some risk from our lives, and I had some people who believed in me, who trusted me to document these incredibly special moments in their lives. I knew more people would do the same - I believed it to be true - they just needed to know that I existed.
After taking that couple's engagement photos, I treated photography like it was my full-time job. I set up even more systems in place to post consistently, and I invested in advertising that felt really scary, and I questioned if that was the right move to make. To my core, I truly believed that the exposure from those advertisements would pay off in the long run, and so I had to trust that this was the right decision to make.
Spoiler: it was.
My goal for 2021 was to book 5 weddings to shoot that year. I surpassed that goal by the end of February 2021. My goal then changed to 10 weddings, and I surpassed it. I ended up documenting 15 weddings in my first true year of business.
Now, when people ask me what I do, I get to tell them that I'm a wedding photographer. It used to feel so unbelievable to say that out loud, and now it feels unbelievable that it doesn't feel foreign to say! What never gets old though, is that I have done it. My path may have been a twisty turn-y one, but dang, 9-year-old me is so fricken proud.
And listen, I completely recognize the privilege I have had due to my parents not only having the space for us to live with them while we got on our feet after the move back to NH, but also to be willing and excited to have us live with them for a while. I realize that this created a very unique opportunity for Tre, Dill, and me, and I do not take that for granted. It's why I ultimately was able to dedicate SO much time and effort into getting my business rolling, and I seriously do not know where Tre, Dill, and I would be if it weren't for that opportunity.
Now that I'm pursuing my dream career (lol, still unreal), I have been so blessed to travel around New Hampshire and New England, documenting love and happiness as a living. I've been able to share photos and stories from the lives of the people who have chosen me and trusted me with freezing their wedding day in time, and I get to share them with the world. It's not easy, ohhhh boy, owning a business and doing pretty much everything myself is hard work!! Yet it's the most fulfilling work I've done to date.
That's my story! My journey to be here has been twisted and messy, but honestly, that's life! Every experience I have encountered, every curve ball life has thrown my way, has led me to be the person I am today, the photographer I am today, and the lover of LOVE and adventure that I am today.
I will never take this job for granted, and I still tear up and do a little happy dance with every inquiry that comes into my inbox. I could not, and would not, be here today without your support, so THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for helping make my dreams come true.
Thanks so much for being here, for reading this, and for everything. It means the world.
Sending love from the past, present, and future version of myself xx
The Francis Frames