Business + Marketing

On Being a Destination Wedding Photographer and a Mother

November 22, 2019

By Anna Ambrosi

© Bianco Photography

Me with my son, Teo, when I came back from my first destination wedding this year. He’s getting more used to me coming and going, but he stayed like this for quite some time.

Today, I left home to go shoot a four-day dream wedding in Venice. I’ll have a team of pros with me, and we’ll attend a private concert at Teatro La Fenice, one of Italy’s most renowned opera houses. My Instagram Story will probably look incredible, and it wouldn’t be a lie. What will be missing is my 2-year-old son, crying and begging me not to leave while he stays at home with my husband, who had to come home early from work (again) to stay with him after getting sent home from the nursery with a high fever. 

There I was, leaving my sick little one and my tired husband to be away (and probably barely reachable) for five days instead of home to hug and support both of them. As I write this on my phone’s notepad app while I travel to the airport, I’m thinking that there are very few people that I can talk to about this who would understand.

How does it feel to be split between two deep commitments? What does it mean knowing that you don’t really get to call in sick when you need to? (It’s incredible what a consistent amount of paracetamol can do.) I know what it feels like when you don’t really know the people that your boy starts to talk about or the group of parents who organize all of the weekend parties because you have to miss most of them.

It’s painful to be doing the best for everyone in your life (your family and your clients) and still feel like you can’t do it all as properly as you want. I read an article a few months ago that really spoke to me, pointing to this familiar African proverb: “It takes a village to raise a child.” But we don’t have a village anymore. 

In the nearly three years I’ve been a mother and a destination wedding photographer, though, I’ve learned that those few people who do get me are fellow wedding photographers who are starting to think about having a family of their own. I am convinced that we need to find new ways to create a nourishing and supportive community around us and our work, seeing each other as colleagues rather than competitors and sharing our true and honest experiences. That’s why I would like to share a what I have learned along the way.

My Profoto B1 packed with nappies as I was traveling with Teo.
Me on the plane with Teo.
Caught in a heatwave between gigs in France. We went to the beach to get some air when the AC stopped working at our hotel, during which I lost my milk and had to stop breastfeeding.
My epic husband and Teo at the Liverpool Street Station in London.
My son, learning to be quite independent already.

Start Outsourcing Now

Being a parent and an entrepreneur means that you’d better start getting organized as soon as the positive indicator appears on your pregnancy test. Personally, I decided to outsource post-production work (to ProImage Editors), and this decision saved my life the first year after Teo was born. The best piece of advice I can give you is to start the process of outsourcing some of your activities from day one. Setting up outsourcing requires some fine-tuning; it could take months to get to a point where things run smoothly.

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Don’t Shoot Alone

Whether you’re a man or a woman, pregnancy has its unpredictable ups and downs, and you never know when you have to run. If you’re used to working on your own, this is the time to consider having someone at your side or building an associate team in case something happens.

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Change Your Expectations

However you imagine the story of your delivery going, especially if it’s your first child, it’s best to expect that almost everything will turn out quite different. You will tell yourself things like, “After the baby comes, I will slow down, rest and work less,” but you might find yourself working just as much, if not more, because you didn’t realize how much you really loved what you do until you started thinking about letting a bit of it go. At least, that is what happened to me every time I thought about “slowing down.” And don’t get me wrong: It’s not that I don’t love my family. But the amount of work and passion that I put into my work to get my business to where it is today just made the whole prospect really difficult to imagine.

Try to keep yourself open to any arrangement that works for you within the new equilibrium of your family. Everyone will tell you all sort of things about how you should pace yourself, but you will know in your heart what’s best for you and your family. Personally, I think the best gift that you can give to your kid is a happy and fulfilled parent, so make sure to find a way to provide exactly that, no matter what people say or how you envisioned your life going before getting there.

That might very well mean letting go some of your business; it might not. I found myself working up to the very last minute—I even developed my add-on family formals service while very, very, very pregnant. I kept working through Teo’s first year. And every time I second-guessed myself about being away, I thought him seeing that women can have a fulfilling career, thrive and still be mothers and partners. I miss him when I’m away, and I would love to travel less while he is little, but it doesn’t mean I have to quit; it means that I have to evolve.

Adapt Your Business to Fit Your Life

It’s always worth remembering the huge advantage of working on your own: You get to shape your work to fit your life as you please. I’m incredibly serious about this—if you can dream it, you can do it. You don’t have to shape your business on anyone else’s model. Design the business that better suits your new family life. It took me a couple of years to find my limits with this.

Don’t be scared of looking outside your comfort zone: Maybe you want to start a printing company or develop a useful software or service to travel a little less. I started an e-commerce company a couple years ago, and this year I went back to school to study interior design. Those are both sources of extra income that don’t involve traveling. I also rearranged my offerings to shoot big events, which give me a bit more marginal income on a single trip and the ability to accept fewer weddings. It’s a process, and it’s something everyone needs to plan at their own pace.

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Divide Parenting Tasks

Plan for equality and discuss a fair division of tasks and expectations. After giving birth, you might need some healing. My husband shared my parental leave, and it was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. If your partner works in a 9-to-5 kind of job, be extremely clear about how much time you need to keep your business going. Spoiler alert: You might heavily underestimate this!

If I were to have another child, I would definitely consider having an au pair at home to make sure I have time to work a few hours a day and to support my husband when I’m traveling for work. On demand childcare can be a nightmare, and you might very well end up spending much more than consistent help at home.

Appreciate What’s in Front of You

Treasure your experience as a parent both personally and professionally. Take your time and remember that you are, in fact, “good enough.” Appreciate that if parenting slows you down, it also gives you a new mind and heart to understand what’s happening in front of your lens. Your kid’s eyes can be your teacher. Be grateful every time you’re there to pick him or her up from school, because you can. Understand that the way you work will be a foundation for your kids to learn growing up and will shape their relationship with their own creative spirit.

If I were to recommend just one book about parenting, it would be Everyday Blessings: Mindfulness for Parents by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn. It really helped me learn to enjoy every single moment so far!

Find and Give Support in Fellow Parents

There will be moments, like for me today, when you’ll second-guess yourself about your choices, or feel little to no energy in managing your own business. You might need someone who gets you, who can tell you that you’re doing your best and that every parent has a bad day every now and then, regardless of what job they have.

Remember that you can be that person for a fellow parent, and that it does take a village to raise a child. We’re building one.

Anna Ambrosi is the destination wedding photographer behind Bianco Photography, a studio based in London that offers luxury work all over the world.