Well my friends it happened! For about a year now - since going full time with my photography in the middle of COVID szn - my biggest worry is that I would catch the bug at the worst possible time. Like, oh, I don't know, a wedding day. I lucked out and dodged it during a weekend in Las Vegas, a roadtrip to San Diego and all other peaks in the statistics. I was starting to think I was immune, I'm not going to lie! I always wear a mask for the safety and comfort of myself and my clients. But on the day of my girlfriend, Kenzi's, wedding at the end of December I woke up at 2am tossing and turning with an insane headache, night sweats, body aches and fever. After a couple hours of being frustrated I couldn't sleep I had an aha moment: this is COVID. Our friends who had caught it before us had mentioned the headache and body aches being their first symptoms and boy did I have those.
It was 3am when I started panic-texting other local Flagstaff and Sedona photographers on the slim slim chance someone, anyone, was available and willing to cover for me. The good new was that Kenzi's wedding was casual and wouldn't require an entire day - just a few hours in the afternoon. No dress code, no long long hours, just simple and beautiful. I knew I wouldn't get a reply so I did my best to get sleep. When I woke up around 6am I had a response from a literal angel of a human being. None other than my friend Gabby with Odd Fox Photography.
"I'm pretty sure I can help you! So don't stress it too much. Neither of you need to stress it. I'll be there!"
WHAT A MIRACLE. And to my relief Kenzi was cool as a cucumber. She'd tell me later that it was before she even woke up that I'd recognized the problem and solved it - basically never giving her a chance to stress in the first place! Additionally she'd share that a member of her family had an autoimmune issue and their entire family was grateful I made the decision to find a replacement rather than bring my sick self to the wedding.
In a wave of gratitude I gave the entire payment for the project to Gabby.. then I realized, "oops I should've kept a little bit of that because I'll still be doing the culling and editing... oh well! This was so beyond kind and helpful of her. She deserves it." And I stand by that, but it was a funny conversation with self and learning moment.
Later that day I got updates from both Kenzi and Gabby about how smoothly the day went, how the weather was perfect. I was so happy... and so tired and achey. Actually that day I ended up taking a COVID test at home that Tony brought me. It was negative but I still felt HORRIBLE. Over the week to come the only symptom I ended up experiencing was congestion and a lingering headache, fortunately. But after taking a second COVID test toward the end of my congestion the results came back positive. I'm still not completely sure how reliable those test are, I've heard really mixed reviews. Did I have a false positive? False negative? Who knows. Next time I'll be testing at a more legitimate test site.
The next morning Gabby dropped off the SD card for the wedding in my mailbox and I got to editing. What a huge huge learning experience! I've never edited someone else's photos before and I didn't think it would be so difficult! The way I've explained it is that Gabby and I are both great photographers, but we are different and unique photographers. Her editing style is a bit poppier than mine and mine has become more neutral with splashes of color. And our camera settings support our individual style when it comes to editing. Long story short - none of the presets I've designed for my photo style worked on her photo files. CRAP. And I kept finding myself in the dilemma of, "do I edit these the way Gabby would or do I edit them for the Nettik brand?". Editing the way Gabby edits would've been the easy route because it was already set up to be edited in that way. But editing for my brand - the brand originally hired - is a big part of what my clients pay for. I think I found a happy medium but the editing process overall took much more attention to detail and reviewing than it normally takes.
Again, it was a really really good learning moment for me and really made me appreciate the individuality in different photographers I know! We're all successful because of how we do it but the smallest differences are what make us unique. That's a big part of why it's so important to put yourself out there in any niche -- your work will always speak to someone's soul language differently than another's.
I also learned a lot about posing and detail shots that Gabby and I do differently where I would think, "Dang! I'm so glad she got that shot I never do that pose!" or "I'm not sure I would've done it that way but it's an important perspective and I love how her brain worked to get it!". It's all these amazing things that I realize make us so special at what we do. It helped me learn about how I stand out as a photographer to my clients and how she stands out to hers. I just loved the whole experience.
But my biggest takeaway from this experience is that, even though I'm a sole proprietor / entrepreneur / business owner / photographer..... I'm not alone. Taking steps to connect and support other photographers in my community has been my saving grace that cushioned me when I really thought I was screwed. It's easy to get caught up in the "not-enought-to-go-around" scarcity and competition, but at the end of the day there is always enough and it's so much better to have one another than not. I'm so grateful and definitely owe Gabby one after this. At the end of the day, everything happens for a reason.
Congratulations to Kenzi + Cody - from Jess with Nettik + Gabby with Odd Fox.