In case you’ve ever wondered what the heck it is I do.

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The past year has been a different season for me. After a year-long maternity leave with Koa, I started taking on work last March. The work built up slowly over the following months, but in this new phase of life – with Adlai in preschool three days a week (and starting school in September! *sniff*) and Koa much happier and more independent coming up to his second birthday – I have a renewed focus and passion for my work.

I spend so much of my time on it – my business – in fact, that I’ve been thinking for a long time that I want to start writing about it more, to share what I’ve learned over the past few years. In case you’re not sure what I do (you’re not the only one), here’s a run-down:

  • I blog here. I don’t get paid directly for doing that, but I’m planning changes to this site that you’ll be seeing over the next few weeks that will include me selling workshops and resources for dreamers and entrepreneurs and people who want to start something.
  • I’m a wedding + lifestyle photographer. I love this work. Love, love, love it. I’m based in England, but have shot weddings in Scotland and France as well. I have dreams of shooting in America too, since I’m from North Carolina and like to visit there about once a year, and I’ll be writing more about that in the future.
  • I still do a little bit of copywriting and editing. I’m a writer for sure, but mostly a storyteller. So the writing I do here on my blog is my first love. People ask me all the time what copywriting is – they tend to get it confused with a “copyright”, which is a completely different thing. Here’s an example of some copywriting: You know how, if you support a charity, for instance, you might get a magazine through the post that says: “Thanks so much for your continued support! Thanks to you, we’ve been able to continue our work with the vulnerable children of Kenya…” and then goes on to tell lots of stories about everything you’ve helped make happen? I write those. Basically, I take boring or technical information and make it interesting for normal people. In the past, this has been my main source of income, but photography has slowly overtaken it and now I only take on a couple of these projects every year.

While I’ve been growing (and continue to grow) my business, I’ve been incredibly blessed by other creatives and entrepreneurs who share their time and knowledge generously. It’s inspired and convicted me so much that I’m desperate to give away what I’ve learned to others, too. I already have posts in the works about work/life “balance” (ha), being a working mom, overcoming fear, and some resources that I’ve found helpful. If there’s something you’d love me to blog on, please tell me in the comments. I’d really love to answer your questions.

*headshots by my gorgeous friend Cat Lane, one of those generous souls I was talking about.

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Filed under Business Lady, workin' it

My Goals for 2015

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I don’t really do New Year’s Resolutions. If I say, “I’m going to run every day!” I will most certainly fail.

But a goal? I can do a goal. It’s a nuance I’ve learned in the past few years, the difference between a resolution and a goal. A resolution is a grand statement about how things are going to be better from now on; a goal is a concrete thing that I can pursue and, when I’m done, check off my list. I like lists. And I like being done with things.

Last year, I didn’t really have any goals. Koa was a baby and I wasn’t sleeping and mostly my goal was just to make it through 2014 without having a nervous breakdown. (I did it! Yay!)

But things are a bit more calm and steady now, and I’ve got a list of goals for 2015. They’re a mix of business and personal, and I like it that way.

Here they are:

  • buy a new camera and lens
  • buy a house (That’s right, guys. We’re looking for our first ever house. To own. Like grownups. I can’t.)
  • book six weddings
  • launch an ebook (You heard me.)
  • redesign my blog
  • run a 5k
  • join the gym or take a weekly Pilates class
  • take a photography workshop
  • take a family camping trip
  • start a blog newsletter
  • build a capsule wardrobe (more on this later)
  • take a photo of each of the boys once a week
  • have a monthly date night
  • host a webinar
  • book six Storm Sessions

In the past – like, before I had kids – I haven’t been great at follow-through. But setting goals for myself has really helped in recent years, and there’s nothing like the feeling of crossing something off a list. It rivals only taking a box of unwanted stuff to the charity shop on the scale of euphoria.

I’ll be writing about all these things in the coming year, and hopefully it’ll be mostly good news. Want to help me meet some of my goals? Book a Storm Session. Or send your engaged friends to faithdwightphotography.com.

What are your goals for 2015? Hit me in the comments.

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Filed under Do Your Dream, workin' it

My Favourite Photographs from 2014

When Koa was born in 2013, I took a break from all paid writing and photography work for what I expected to be a few months, but turned into a year. I wouldn’t change it now. It was what our family needed. But early in 2014, when it was time for me to start working again, I felt like I was starting from scratch.

The first person I photographed this year was my boys’ 16-year-old babysitter, Jess. She was a perfect choice, because she didn’t mind if I hmmed and hawed over my camera, over the light, over where and how to make her sit while I tried to get comfortable again.

I went on to shoot four weddings and fourteen (or maybe it was sixteen? I keep losing count.) portrait sessions in 2014. Through every one of those weddings and sessions, I’ve learned an exponential amount, and I’m incredibly excited to start 2015, and to see where it takes me. As I prepare and plan and pray for what’s ahead, I’ve been looking through my work, and seeing how it’s changing, how I’m growing and finding out who I am as an artist, and I thought I’d share some photos with you that I’ve taken over the last year. Thanks so much for coming on this journey with me.

If you want to see more of my work (or even hire me!), you can visit my website.

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My Christmas Manifesto

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This Christmas, I’m trading in stress for rest.

I’m boycotting emotional eating, and taking up joyful toasting.

I’m going to stop worrying if my tree/cards/kids look like anyone else’s in the world, and just let them be what they are: beautiful.

I’m going to hang up any dreams of Pinterest-worthy gingerbread houses and let my boys smear their fingers in the icing and eat all the gumdrops. I’m going to let them wear mis-matched jammies to open their presents, and draw Spiderman on their Christmas cookies instead of snowmen, if that’s what they want to do.

I’m going to stop freaking out that I haven’t read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, or worse, the King James Version of The Nativity Story, and rest in the knowledge that I have told my boys a thousand times that Jesus loves them (and I will tell them a thousand more), and they are going to figure it out.

I’m going to take so many photos – not for posting on Instagram, for saying, “Look how idyllic it all is”, but for framing and hanging on the walls of our home, so we can remember what joy we found in each other, in celebrating.

When my mind starts drifting away from everything in front of me to what we haven’t got, I’m going to reel it back in. Because I am rich, rich, rich beyond my wildest dreams. Because there is so much sadness in the world. So much heartbreak. But there is so much good, too. So much joy. And I hold it in my hands, in my heart. When my children hug me, when they sing the wrong lyrics to Joy to the World in the backseat of the car. When my husband rests his hand on my hip as we fall asleep.

And I am rich, rich, rich – no matter what lies I have been told about subway tiles and Eames chairs and Winter’s Latest Trends.

Just stop. Step away from the internet (but not quite yet). First, raise your glass with me:

Here’s to a Christmas of peace and joy and rest. Here’s to a Christmas of really celebrating, maybe for the first time since we were small and oblivious to all the reasons not to; maybe for the first time ever.

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Filed under family, holidays, simplicity

Heartbreak makes you crazy.

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She sat on a chair in my kitchen while I made brownies, and told me the story of him. Of how they’d fallen in love six years ago, of how he’d walked out on her the week before.

“I was a mess,” she said. “Crying on the floor, begging him not to go.”

“Don’t you think twice about it,” I said. “Heartbreak makes you crazy.”

And I told her about 12 years ago, when my first serious boyfriend told me it was over and I lost my mind. I cried and begged. I screamed and slammed down the phone. I called his mother and drove to his apartment and showed up at his college classes, waiting for him outside. I drove him further and further away and by the end it was all ruined and I was humiliated and exhausted from all the crazy.

And then, two years later, when I’d moved on and recovered my mind, I lost it all over again. I left England with a broken heart. I cried for eight hours on an airplane, and I told the flight attendant I was having a panic attack. And when I got back to North Carolina, I swung like a pendulum, back and forth on the spectrum of sanity. From moments of complete clarity and declarations of Moving On and Waiting for Him to Come Around to midnight phone calls and crazy emails and jogging around the park while sobbing like a maniac. I must’ve had a reputation in my neighbourhood.

“Watch out for that crying girl. She’s a bit of a loose cannon.”

In the midst of it, you scream and cry. You lose the ability to make decisions. You act like a fool, and you know the whole time that the way you’re behaving is the opposite of what will work, of what will make him stay, but there’s nothing you can do about it. When your heart gets broken, your brain does too. Heartbreak makes you crazy.

But there’s hope. (There always is.) After all the cry-driving and night-sobbing and crazy-calling, you come back. You get your head back together and – eventually – your heart back together. And maybe it’s more delicate than it was before. Maybe you feel like you’re walking on a thin layer of glass. But you’re back. And you can do it again, maybe even do it better than you did before.

And eventually, there will be someone who sees your crazy and doesn’t turn away. Someone who sees you tottering near the deep end and walks in your direction, who resists the urge to run and steps in close to you instead.

Then, ten years later, when you’re standing in your kitchen with a girl with a broken heart, and she’s sad and desperate and humiliated, you can see right through her. And you can tell her with complete assurance:

“Don’t you think twice about it…heartbreak makes you crazy, but in the end it makes you sane.”

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The world doesn’t need more Faith Dwights.

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If I’m feeling dried out, there’s no shortage of inspiration. I can spend all day on Pinterest finding design ideas, or read a thousand other blogs or books, or stalk seventeen different photographers who take pictures I like, and love every one of them even though they’re all different, and then get confused about which one I want to be.

But you know what the world doesn’t need? The world doesn’t need my failed attempts at being Jessi Connolly or Natalie Norton or Hannah Brencher. The world needs me.

And then it needs you.

It needs us to shut down all the voices competing for our attention, to stop trying to build a business like hers or write a blog like his. It needs us just to sit quietly and ask the big questions. The ones we haven’t asked yet because we’re afraid that if we take a break from all the studying of everyone else we think we might want to be, the fragile houses we’ve been building will crumble.

And they will.

But underneath the rubble, I think we’ll be surprised at what we find. Beneath all the try-hards and almost-as-goods, we find our voice. And it is not less-than. It is strong and significant, and the world needs it. The world needs us. 

Imitation is an exhausting game. It doesn’t do anyone any favours, and all that stuff about the highest form of flattery? I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be flattered. I want to see who you are, to watch you unfold. And then I want to high-five you as you cross the finish-line of your dreams.

So let’s do the world a favour and throw off the chains of mimicry. Let’s ask the hard questions, and not be afraid of the answers (spoiler alert: they’re always good news).

Let’s find out who we are. And then let’s give ourselves a way.

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Filed under Do Your Dream, Uncategorized, What My 20s Taught Me, writing

Needs Must

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The British have a saying (at least I think it’s British – I never heard it before I moved here): “Needs must.”

You use it the same way you’d use, “Gotta do what you gotta do.”

Like, “I’d really like to buy a new dress for that party, but my kid needs new school shoes. Needs must.”

Or, “I’d love to go see Beyoncé next weekend, but I promised my in-laws I’d come round for dinner. Needs must.”

I was the daughter of a small-town Baptist preacher and a stay-at-home mom. I don’t remember ever going hungry, but I wore the discount store version of every trend that surfaced from 1992-1999.

Adidas Sambas? K-Mart special.

Abercrombie jeans? Faded Glory.

Keds? “Treds”.

In every one of my elementary school pictures, I’m wearing a homemade dress. And I don’t begrudge my mom one thread of it, because she took what she had and made the best of it. I got your “Make it work” right here, Tim Gunn.

Needs must, but wants rarely did.

When Simon and I first got married, I used to trawl the grocery store for deals. 60 pence for day-after-its-use-by-date lettuce? SCORE! Slightly green steaks for £2? I’ll take ‘em!

When I’d bring home my sad bag of groceries, Simon would frown as he unloaded them into the fridge. “Faith,” he’d say. “We’re on two incomes. It’s good to save money, but we can find a better way to do it.”

Over the years, I’ve gotten a bit better at spending money when it’s okay to, and saving where we can. But over and over, I keep coming back to that part of me that panics about buying anything that’s not a necessity. Yes, we only have two tiny saucepans, and none big enough to cook enough pasta for our whole family in, but do we really need a big saucepan? Do we need pasta? No we do not. We can eat rice. It’s tiny.

Sure, a cat weed on our welcome mat and I had to throw it away, and now we track dirt and leaves through our front door five times a day, but do we need a welcome mat? No, we do not. I will just Hoover more often. It’s not like I have anything else to do.

Let me tell you something about being a parent: you will do anything to make sure your kids have everything they need. You will hand-sew them dresses for school pictures. You will eat carrot sticks for lunch so they can have the leftover spaghetti because they need the protein. And sometimes, if they are desperate for a Woody doll, you will use baking soda for deodorant and shampoo and kitchen cleaner for a month just so you can see their squishy little face light up when they see Woody’s hat poking out of their Christmas stocking. Because it makes you happy to see them happy.

And that is what I can’t quite get my head around when it comes to my Father. Needs must. Daily bread. I get it. But wants? Adidas Sambas? Four-litre saucepans?

Good dads provide for their children. They meet their needs. And sometimes, they show up with a shiny new football or a chocolate bar, or an ugly-as-sin 1988 Mazda 323 with no radio or side mirror, but gosh dangit if it is not the best thing your 16-year-old self has ever seen.

So I guess that’s where I am right now. Knowing what it looks like to be a parent, and trying to wrap my head around a Father who cares about the needs of all His children, and still has time to pick out a welcome mat.

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