How To Be A Successful Failure

fail・ure (n): lack of success

It's a funny word, failure. I think it's usually associated with negative situations, but I don't see it that way.

My photography career (on paper) was a huge success last year. I made more money than I have ever made, in any job. I hit 11,000 (and then some) "Likes" on Facebook (because we know how important that is), I was selling stock images every day, I was published in half a dozen magazines, and had my first two speaking/teaching opportunities that allowed me to meet some of my photography favorites in real life.

Sounds like the perfect (work) year, right? Then why did I feel like a failure?

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Looking back now, I was doing it all for the wrong reasons. I stopped documenting my kids the way that I wanted to. I stopped photographing my clients the way that I envisioned them. I was shooting for everyone else..and I hated it.

But what was I supposed to do?? I'm Jessica Byrum THE photographer. It's what I did, it's WHO I WAS. I was a photographer, who was also a mother and a wife, and tried to be the best friend that she could be to everyone.

I was trapped in an image that I didn't like anymore. I had to be too many things to too many people.

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We found out that we were pregnant on July 4th, 2017. Within a week, we had lost that pregnancy, and I was devastated. As we moved on from that, I became pretty depressed, even though I had come to terms with the loss, and the fact that we probably weren't going to have any more babies (although we know now that I was wrong about that, hello 21 weeks pregnant).

With that depression came this longing to find something that I was good at again, because Lord knows I didn't feel like I was good at photography anymore.

I bought every hobby kit that I could find, I was wood burning and cross-stitching, and cooking Paleo and baking our own bread (and how I didn't go as far as buying a cow to milk to churn our own butter, I do not know).

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And truth be told, I was decent at all of it. But nothing fulfilled me. I was struggling, our bank account was struggling, and I was just lost.

I started researching things that I could do to help with my depression (outside of the medication I had then been put on) and essential oils kept coming up. I had ordered a Young Living starter kit when Ellie kept getting sick earlier in the year, but hadn't done a whole lot with it.

But the more that I read, the more I was being drawn to it. I had a few oils that they said would help, so I whipped out my fancy-dancy diffuser and ordered some supplies to make roller blends.

For the first time, in a long time, I had something in front of me that I truly enjoyed doing. Mixing oils and finding new recipes and learning about all of the things that these little bottles of deliciousness could do. I even picked up my camera for personal reasons again, to document what I was doing.

A few weeks into it, I was hooked. I had to share these EOs with everyone! I was feeling better, my kids were happier and healthier, and even my husband was even into it after I "fixed" his knee pain with my "voodoo". I started going to school to become a certified aromatherapist (because if you know me, you know I go all in when I'm passionate about something).

We opened an Etsy shop, selling roller blends, inhalers, and essential oil shelves made from reclaimed wood that we harvest from our homestead. I was in love with something again and wanted to share it with everyone! I was sending samples out and rubbing anyone down with oils that would let me!

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In September, after spending way too much money on all of the things that I was trying to fill my void with, I decided to start the business side of Young Living. I had never done any sort of MLM and I had no idea what I was getting into, but I knew that getting back to a "normal" version of myself included bringing in income for our family.

I sold 4 kits that month. It wasn't huge, but it felt good. I felt GOOD!

I'm in my 7th month of being a Young Living distributor now. I've got a good downline going, I'm getting monthly commission checks, and I'm doing it with products that I truly believe in! Our house runs on YL products. We've replaced THOUSANDS of chemicals in our home, I'm not on depression medication anymore, and we have survived this entire winter WITHOUT illness (and I'm telling you that everyone around us has been dropping like flies)!

It evens feels good to pick up my camera again, because I don't do it everyday. I don't feel forced to make a good image to share on social media for attention and Likes. My mind isn't revolving around photographing every single thing, and I'm more IN the moments now than I have EVER been with my children. 

And that's the biggest success I've had from all of this. I'm spending more time, more QUALITY time with my children!

I may have failed at being the photographer on social media that everyone wanted me to be, but I am succeeding at being a better wife and mother. I am no longer a slave to social media algorithms or posting times. 

I got my life back by NOT focusing on photography so much. I am no longer a photographer, who happens to be a wife and mother too. I am a wife and a mother, and ONE of my jobs is being a badass photographer!

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8 (or 9) simple things you can do to be a good friend to a photographer.

How to be a good friend to a photographer:

1. Hire us. That doesn’t mean invite us to your son’s birthday and ask if we’re bringing our camera, or asking for “just a few pictures” while we’re having a playdate at the park. (We’ll probably be taking pictures anyway.)

2. Give us credit. Just one tag on social media can bring in 4 to 5 inquiries. And once you do have your gallery and share images from that, giving proper credit to the photographer is always appreciated.

3. Don’t filter us. Believe it or not, we spend hours editing your images so they look their best, and an IG filter will not do a better job than a PROFESSIONAL, I promise. If you must have a certain "look" for your feed, find a photographer that will give you that look.

4. Share images directly from our page, rather than saving them and posting them yourselves. Not only does that hurt the quality, which social media does well enough all on it’s own, but it takes away the direct link to our page, which can make us lose out on inquiries.

5. Interact on our page. When you Like or Comment on a photo on our page, it shows that you’re interested and in turn, Facebook will show our work to you more often. It will also show it to your friends, which can lead to inquiries. (If you haven’t noticed, inquiries are a big deal to us.)

6. Pay us. Unless we offer to work for free, please don’t expect it. Most of us give pretty good deals to our friends/family as it is, but we have bills to pay too. Legitimate photographers have quite a few monthly bills/fees that we pay, on top of continuing our education to better your images, keeping our equipment current and in running order to better your images, and things like liability insurance to protect you, in case something happens while we are working for you.

7. Don’t judge us, please. Many of us, especially documentary/lifestyle photographers share lots of images of our kids. Being told that you “would never put your kids out there like that” is hurtful and rude. And yes, you have every right to feel that way, but this is our art and our passion, and I promise you, we question ourselves enough everyday already.

8. Love us. We're busy. A lot of us work around everybody else's schedule. We sacrifice sleep (and sometimes family time) to do our work. We don't take days off, or get paid vacation. We don't get maternity leave or lunch breaks. We thrive on coffee and hugs.

BONUS: Use our images as your profile image (it makes us do happy dances)!

How many aha moments does it take to be a good photographer?

I've had a few (a lot) of aha moments in my life, most of them have been since I became self-employed as a photographer a few years ago. I would see a photographer that I admired throw out some motivational words that made my brain run in a million different directions, or someone would release a set of new Photoshop actions that I just knew was exactly what I needed to take me to that next level in my career.

Until the next week, of course..when someone else would say something else, or I'd see ANOTHER set of Photoshop actions that (once again) I was convinced I needed.

Fast-forward to a few days ago, when I made this (crappy) home video on my cellphone (that I love more than words, by the way).

This video reminded me WHY I am a photographer. It's not about the fancy gear, the followers, or the places I've traveled for work that make me a GOOD photographer. 

I am a good photographer, because I am honest. I document the things that need to be remembered, as they should be remembered. The real..the messy..the moments in between the big stuff.

I don't know much about the rules of photography, and sometimes I still make a picture that I have no clue how it happened. I'm not great at explaining the how, but ask me about the why, and my heart will pour.

So here's me, promising myself (and anyone that may still be reading) that I'm getting back to what matters (again). Be prepared for too many pictures of my kids, too many random posts (like this one, that really kind of just ramble on), and a whole lot of not caring what other people think of MY work.

Dear Body | 38 Weeks Pregnant

 

Dear Body,

Thank you for getting me this far in life, even though I've never treated you the way you deserve to be treated. Thank you for giving me 2 amazing babies, and for continuing to keep this one strong and healthy inside of me.

I'm sorry that nothing is where it should be, and that it'll probably never go back to "normal". I'm sorry that I didn't give you time to rest and heal when you needed it the most. I'm sorry that I used to be ashamed of you.

I love you for rocking this baby growing thing in all of your saggy, stretch-marked glory. I love you because every bump and scar is the story of my life. I love you for reminding me every day that I am alive.

Thank you for being MY body, I'm sorry that I didn't appreciate you sooner, and I love you for being beautiful.

Kendra | Missing 4 Pieces of Her Heart

Kendra, Wife & Mother, Age 37

"When I had three perfect pregnancies, I didn't think it would happen to me. I really didn't know about miscarriage and what it was all about. May sound dumb to some, but I didn't. I even threw away the miscarriage pamphlet they handed out. Because I didn't even think about it.

I really enjoy being pregnant; the good, the bad and the ugly. If I could, I would have six kids and be a surrogate.

When we found out we were pregnant with our fourth baby, we were so excited! I went on Pinterest and made little fabric pieces and put them on a spool and stamped on them and tied it off with twine to announce it. Little did I know at 10.5, almost 11 weeks, I would lose that baby..and the first piece of my heart.

That was the most heartbreaking, horrific thing I've ever gone through. The things I saw and the amount of blood, was so very sad, and honestly scary. I was scared. I remember that day so vividly.

I wish I could forget it.

My baby died. It was gone.

You think, did I do something? Maybe lifted something that was too heavy, or didn't eat correctly. Did I drink enough water? So many things come to your mind that maybe it was your fault. I believe in God, and feel that baby wasn't perfect and He needed that baby more than us. I didn't like it, but I still had faith that He knew what He was doing.

I was angry, scared, and sad. What if I didn't throw away that pamphlet?

I just want to say, I am so very thankful for our other babies, that's not a question at all. People who know me can see that. But it doesn't make it any easier when a miscarriage happens.

I have now had four..I can't believe that. My most recent was last week, at almost 9 weeks pregnant.

I can think of some things that I am thankful for, because in this I need to see some good. I am thankful I wasn't farther along, that I am alive, and that I got to see the heartbeat at 5 weeks and 6 days. Even though I've had many, I still question it and wonder if people are thinking, "Why can't she keep a baby?" Or other thoughts that people probably aren't even thinking.

I am sad, very sad. I enjoy being pregnant. I feel like I could write a book about what we've gone through. One day, I would like to sit and write it all out and keep it for me.

I do want to say, I have an amazing family. My husband also lost all of those babies, and I am thankful that he helps me get through this. I am thankful for the 4 sweet children I do have (including one rainbow baby), and I am thankful for numerous family and friends. I'm not the only one who goes through this, it affects us all.

I hope by talking about my story, that it'll help another woman speak about her story. It does help to talk about it. My story isn't better or worse than anyone else's, but it is my story.

I wouldn't wish this on anyone, it's one of the hardest things I've ever had to go through."

Why Seeing the Beauty Sucks Sometimes

I am a photographer.

I see the beauty in everything. And I mean..in..everything. Most people would say that's a great thing, and it is..most of the time. 

This morning I was up at 3:00 AM (it's now 5:00 AM). Not because of my 8 week old baby, not because of my 13 month old fighting a double ear infection..but because I couldn't stop thinking about what I was going to photograph today. (Ridiculous, right?)

I don't know what does it. I don't know if it's residual thoughts from a dream or a message sent to my brain from some source in outer space, but when it happens, I know that I am up for the day (even though I went to bed at midnight).

So now I'm up, drinking my coffee, waiting for sunrise to see if the day will bring me the light I desire to take pictures of the randomness that is my life. (Hopefully Harper will do something cute..oh, and Fisher is 2 months old today, so there's that.)

And don't get me started on holidays or birthday parties. 

I just want to enjoy them. I want to be invited to something and leave my camera at home so that I can just be part of the celebration. But then why do I have this big fancy thing?? Yes, it's for "work". But, I love documenting every day too. Okay, so I'll bring it, take a few shots and then put it away.

Right. Even if I were able to just "put it away", I still can't enjoy the party because my brain is going 100 miles an hour thinking, "oh, that would be a great photo!" and, "oh my gosh, do you see the light coming in that window?".

Well, maybe I'll just grab my cellphone and take a few pictures with that. 

Next thing I know, I'm standing on the table trying to get the right angle of the birthday boy blowing out his candles.

Then there's the plague of everyone knowing you did something today, and waiting to see the pictures. Yes, I went to the zoo with my kids..am I allowed to just have fun? Sure. But then why do I feel guilty that I don't have a dozen (usually more) photos documenting our little trip to share with everyone? (Don't worry, there will always be photos.)

The worst is when someone is suffering, like when my son was in the hospital last week. I don't know if it's my way of coping (or maybe just a distraction for a little while), but I have to document it. The raw emotion of when people are at their weakest..I'm drawn to it. (How sick is that, right?)

So, is it all in my head? Probably. Do I mind? Not really. 

Life is beautiful. Every little, random, ridiculous, amazing moment..and I want to photograph it all. (Even if I am usually sleep deprived.)


This Is What 34 Months Looks Like

This is what 34 months looks like.

From the moment we found out we were expecting our first child, to being weeks away from welcome our third. 34 months worth of stretch marks, 34 months of having no clothes that fit, 34 months of being completely bat shit hormonal.

But I've also had 34 months of the hardest love I've ever loved, 34 months of nurturing our future, and 34 months of knowing exactly why I was put on this earth. It's not always pretty, but it is always beautiful.

10 Minutes With My T3i (and a $150 lens)

We all want what we don't have..it's human nature.

I get asked (often) what I shoot with. Most people are surprised to hear that in my bag is a 60d and a Rebel T3i. I don't have any super fancy lenses, I don't know the next thing about the speed of my memory cards (who knew that was a thing?), and to be honest, I use my kit lens (18-55) a lot.

Yesterday, I grabbed my T3i, my 24mm 2.8 lens ($150 on Amazon) and my newborn (he'll be a month on Friday already..what??) and took some pictures. Why? Because I hadn't used that camera since July, the light in my bedroom was super yummy, and I had the idea for this blog post.

As a Canon user, I long for a Mark III..who doesn't? But, it's not in our budget. We are a one-income household with 2 babies in diapers. I'm lucky to get a Starbucks on the rare occasion that I get out of the house to go grocery shopping (did you know that kids and husbands have to eat every day?).

Yes, my 60d is my every day camera..but I do use my T3i for a backup. Both are crop sensor cameras, with limited ISO capabilities, and like 18 megapixels or something. The "fanciest" lens I own, is a 35mm 2.0 (which I love).

We live in an old trailer house, with lots of crooked walls and confined spaces. I can't get too far back for most photos, so when I saw that Canon was coming out with a 24mm 2.8 pancake lens for $150, I was ecstatic! It was a splurge for us, and I hate spending money on myself (I actually ordered and cancelled the order 2-3 times before I finally convinced myself I deserved this lens).

When it first got here (at 8:00 PM, so I had to wait until the next day to play with it..thank you UPS), I gave my daughter a bowl of cookies, put her in a spot of light in our kitchen, and took 300 pictures. I wasn't expecting super sharp images, or nice bokeh, or anything spectacular really. I was just happy to have a wide angle lens, because I'm a huge fan of getting the background into photos..I think it tells so much more of a story. 

I was surprised at how well this lens performed. 

The more photos I shared, the more comments I got. I get messages every day from people asking my settings for a photo, or how I edit. This tells me that I'm doing something right, which took me a long time to accept (sometimes I still don't). 

I have been a photographer (I hate calling myself that) for a few years now. When I started, I didn't know what I was doing..at all. I just had a fancy camera (my first was actually a point & shoot). When I finally figured out any real photographer has a DSLR, I saved up for my T3i (actually I think taxes paid for most of it). I thought I was now amazing. Turns out, Auto Mode is amazing. 

Then 2 years ago, my husband told me I could get a new camera for my birthday. I was so excited, but had no idea what I was doing. I didn't know there was such a thing as a crop sensor or a full frame. Had I known, I would have went with the 6d..not the 60d. Never the less, I was in love with my new "baby". But..I was still using Auto Mode.

I took some time off from photography while I was pregnant (2 years in a row). I took a few photos here and there, but didn't have the time or energy. 

In August of last year, we moved into our new home..our first home as a family (said 1970 trailer house). It isn't much, but it's ours..and luckily it has A TON of windows. 

I started seeing the light..literally. I saw the light coming into our home in a whole new way, and I forced myself to learn Manual Mode, because the photos I was getting in camera, were not what I saw in real life. So I Googled and YouTubed everything I needed to know about ISO, shutter speeds, aperture, and white balance. Finally! My photos started to look like what I saw in real life. 

My camera didn't get better..my lenses didn't get better. I got better. 

Would I trade all of the gear I have now for a Mark III? Absolutely (duh). But that's not going to happen, so I will keep mastering what I have (that's the key point here, so I'll say it again..MASTER WHAT YOU HAVE).

I learn something new every time I pick up my camera. I embrace the grain I get from my low ISO capabilities, I contour my body into freakish postures (this doubles as my daily yoga) to get interesting angles and make my small spaces work for me, and I put my whole heart into my photos. 

If you do that, you can't fail at photography. A camera can (and probably will) let you down. But if you know WHY your photos aren't looking like you want them to look, you can fix them. And that knowledge, is priceless.

My Body Is (Still) Not Ruined

(October 6, 2014)

 This is my body. It's going through a lot right now. 

I had a beautiful baby girl 8 months ago and I am 26 weeks pregnant with a little boy that has already stolen my heart. I also have a pretty bad chest cold that I'm trying to keep said 8 month old from getting.

I have stretch marks, a tattoo on my arm that I hate, my fingernail polish is chipping, and I probably should have thrown these panties away 2 sizes ago. My boobs don't hang the way they used to, I have what most people refer to as "back fat", and what is this thigh gap I keep hearing about?

I can't sleep at night. It takes me 20 minutes just to get my (five) pillows the way I like them. Then I have to pee. Then another 20 minutes to get settled again, just in time for the baby to need me. Then I doze off, and oh it's beautiful..until I roll to my right side in my sleep and wake up in a coughing fit. Dang.

I have heartburn. All the time. 

My feet are disappearing..again. I feel like I didn't enjoy them as much as I could have when I could see/reach them in the short amount of time I had with them between healing from a c-section and this baby bump growing (much faster than the first one, I might add..but I hear that's normal).

It's hard to breathe. Between this cold and my already smushed lungs. I sat in the middle of my living room floor at 3:00 AM last night, crying hysterically because I just wanted to be able to catch my breath..which didn't help the not being able to breathe thing, because I'm not a good crier.

I honestly can't remember the last time I shaved my legs. A week ago..maybe? My eye brows could use a wax, my swollen fingers keep me from wearing my wedding rings (I hate that), and everything is getting bigger..except my butt. I'm totally in-proportionate. 

This is my body..and I love it.