Year in Review: Challenges, Triumphs, and Lessons

Twenty-thirteen began with a knot in my stomach. I didn’t know it at the time, but that knot was simply the internal expression of change to come. Change, positive or negative, enhances your life in ways that are unexpected. This year has has been nothing but constant flux (both personal and professional). I have made a lot of friends, learned from new creatives, and most of all progressed more towards the consistent feeling of being in the right place, at the right time, doing something I love.


Joey gettin’ a little choked up.

The year prior (2012) ended with the theft of most of my gear. My creative outlet was suddenly gone and I had to rebuild from scratch. Some disaster planning beforehand allowed me to recover fairly quickly and replace most of the gear but it was really hard getting back into the swing of things. Like getting back behind the wheel of a car after a bad accident.

I was surrounded by a lot of people who encouraged me (and a few who did the opposite) to keep working.  So I did.

Over the course of the year I was privileged enough to work with more than a handful of other talented photographers, hair stylists, makeup artists, and designers. Of note, Michael Dragon (Dragon Studio) and Teressa Rerras (Teressa Rerras Photography) took me under their wings and gave me a lot of opportunities to grow. In a lot of ways it was overwhelming, but rewarding.

This was my biggest year for weddings so far. It was stressful and crazy – at first.

All of the challenges started to make my vision much clearer. It was a little easier to see where I was and where I wanted to be.


Curtis looking dapper

The first few months of 2013 allowed me to really focus my personal and professional lives. My wife and I bought a house, transitioned some things in my day-job ( yes, I still have one!), re-branded my business, and started really itemizing and applying all of the lessons I learned the previous year. The balance that I had lost in 2012 started to come back to me. All of the late nights and disappearing weekends were being minimized. My workflow improved drastically, my technical expertise grew, and what it took for me to deliver an end-result that made me smile had been optimized. I cut down on the things that I abhor and increased the things that I love.

By this point I have tried so many types of photography – all kinds of subjects and genres. I have a pretty good handle on the artistic and creative endeavors that energize me and I now know to gravitate towards them.  That isn’t something I could have honestly said a year ago. Having focus keeps me doing things that I not only want to do, but things that I LOVE to do. The pool of emotional and creative satisfaction that I have to pull from is beautiful. I would never be at this point without the encouragement of not just those closest to me but also of those who only know my work from the web and social media.

The main thing that made all of this possible is the confidence that my family along with other photographers and creatives helped me to develop. Not arrogance – just the ability to feel like I kind of know what I’m doing most of the time (and being OK admitting when I don’t!).

I’m an introvert by nature. I have no idea how to interact with non-4-legged ‘people’ or those whom I don’t share genes with. I’m that person who gravitates towards the dog/cat when I go to a party. Being content with that would make being a wedding and fashion photographer really difficult. For some reason I’m able to disregard how I would act in a normal situation as long as my motivation is getting an awesome image. I don’t know what it is, but I can make a fool out of myself as long as a camera is in my grip. The spillover has started to positively impact my introverted-ness and started me on the slider towards being a little more social.

The reflex of knowing what to expect from a wedding day went from stressful to normal. The problem solving, in-control confidence set in and enabled me to really own the wedding day, connect with my couples and their guests, and feel really solid about not just my work but my role.

I’ve also had the pleasure of bringing along other talented photographers to assist me on my own weddings. It’s so great to learn about what makes other creatives tick – but to also learn the kinds of people that help to bring out the best in me. That is honestly something, as a typical loner, I didn’t expect.



Some things are simple. Some are not. The major lessons learned this year can’t be adequately summarized in a list – but I’m going to try – because the Internet loves them and they’re easier to read.

  1. Do what you love. Figure out all of the things that drag you down and work to minimize and eradicate them.
  2. Make something that lasts.
  3. Ego is overrated. Collaboration trumps competition.
  4. Connect with your clients, subjects, models, and colleagues. Kill that awkwardness in front of the lens with a 15 minute cup of joe, some champagne, or a casual conversation. You want to see their soul – not their stare.
  5. Get out of the way of yourself. Your own internal hangups prevent you from being all that you can be. Chances are that you’re way more solid than you think you are.
  6. Make it a point to get into your zone. Best foot forward.
  7. Figure out where you are, where you want to be, and what it’s going to take to cross that bridge.


I know what to expect from myself. I know what I love to do. I know where I want to go. 2013 Has established a launch pad for me. All of my awesome clients, friends, colleagues, and fellow creatives are owed a great debt for helping me get to this point.

As Thanksgiving approaches I wholeheartedly admit that without others I would be nothing. Year in review, this has been the best one yet. Thank you for sharing it with me.

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