I had an amazing year last year, so far as the beautiful clients and weddings I was honoured to capture! Here are some of my most favourite images from the beautiful wedding season I had, as well as some fun family, and special maternity images! THANK YOU to all of my new and returning clients for giving me fabulous year in photographs. I look forward to serving more of you this year!
My Friday wine night posts are meant to be a way to open up about me personally. Something that I in all honesty have not been very good at. The typical girly thoughts of judgement, over sharing, fallout, and general “what will people think of me” fears have halted ALOT of what Ive wanted to say! In fact I’ve pulled posts down! However for this new year, I want to finally take my journey in a new direction. I am old enough FINALLY to understand who I am and what I want. I am the first to admit there is always going to be room for growth, but at least I am owning who I am.
Who am I? Well, thats a long complicated story, and something that for most people usually starts with a name. My mum died when I was very young, and we (my sister and I) lived with her when she passed. She had divorced my father. She was actually engaged to someone else. Getting ready to have a new name herself. I was born with a very simple and plain, in MY opinion, name. My name was Debbie Smith. A Basic name if ever there was a name! I apologize to ALL of the Debbie Smith’s that are in the world! Im sure you are all lovely and beautiful and unique, but for me, the plain-ness of my name went further. I wasn’t the cutest child. I didn’t have the typical happy home. My dad actually changed his own name for personal reasons, and ours along with it. So I didn’t get to really connect with Smith, or the “new” name. When I married my ex husband, I naturally took his name. Again, it wasn’t really MY name but I WAS married. When that marriage ended after 13 years, I though diligently about what to do. I had daughters, and one day they too would marry and their name would be different. The name my dad changed it to legally wasn’t mine (found this out doing background checks for a US visa!) so who was I going to be? On my birth certificate the Debbie and the Smith were completed with my middle name, and my mother’s maiden name. I looked at her name. I could be connected to her still. Laughlan. I liked it. So, I officially and with all of the paperwork with one small adjustment. I changed the spelling to Laughlin. With an “I”. For ME. It was MINE. I started my new single mother life, and indeed my business, under my new name. When I married my new husband, and this sweet man learned all about me, he completely understood why I wanted to hold on to this new me. Why I hyphenated my name, in order to show respect for my marriage. To make life a lot simpler for the dreams I want to do, I am keeping the Debbie Laughlin business, and on social media, dropping the hyphen. Its long, its hard to look up, and I want to be accessible. if the unimaginable happens and I get to write my book (my dream!), that too will be under Debbie Laughlin. My wedding ring, my certificate of marriage, all of our personal bills and household ALL contain my married name (and I LOVE LOVE love my husband and being his wife!), but going forth, all social media and search engines will say just the Laughlin. Im opening up about this because I lost myself before, in relationships. Now that Ive found me again, and more importantly, now that I am APPRECIATED just for being ME, I want to revel in that name too. This photo below is me, with my Dad, who is also a photographer. He is a writer, a poet, and very creative. I certainly get my love of these things from him. Just, now, only our names are different.
It’s Hogmanay, New Year’s Eve, the last day of the current year, and I sit here with a list of resolutions, swayed not by the common pitchfork attitude of how awful the “new year, new me” community is, and instead I vow to myself to keep trying. To try HARDER. These resolutions are not ways to revamp my whole life, or completely change. They are meant to be encouraging, thankful that we are given fresh starts. We get the blessing to wake up at least one more time, so why NOT serve to do better?
2015 started for me with a sense of finding my new growth. To move forward and to be the new best Debbie I could possibly be. I still stick with that resolution. I wont feel badly that I didn’t complete my master task of self promises for this year, and instead I will look at what I DID accomplish, and not what I didn’t check off.
Ive learned its okay if I don’t mark off everything on my daily to-do lists. Life will go on anyway. Its okay that I don’t have a 6 pack of beautiful abs, I am healthy, and worked out, and tried. I adjust the safe zones of where my adorable husband can hug me, and I still (as does he) think Im okay looking the way I do. Its okay that I didn’t win glorious awards and photographic accolades, because my clients smiled when they received their images, and referred me to their friends and family members, which is what I do this for anyway. Its okay that I struggled in motherhood. Each year brings fresh challenges with no guidebook and I have to wing things, and fight my way through them, often without achieving what I wanted to do, sometimes with tears, and (more than I wanted to), with some yelling and fights. However my girls were loved, taken care of, fed, clothed and encouraged. Ive also sadly lost some friendships that I cared deeply about, and that has to be okay too, even though its painful, for I really have to accept the seasons of the relationships that enter my life. God has placed new people in my life who not only come with a friendship, but have opened my eyes to new dreams, new paths, and showed me you are never too old to start something new. Ive learned that I can’t go forward while looking back. I want to grow. I want my personal life, my home base AND my business all to evolve. Ive taken the steps to do that: partnered with one amazing team, to encourage other female boss ladies as part of the Modern Femme Conference; enrolled in the Master’s AKademy with my ever motivating mentor, Abbey Kyhl and I cannot wait for this multi week long learning and advancement process, unlike ANY other mentoring experience Ive attended. I have writing classes now, to long fulfill my ultimate dream of writing a book! I am beyond excited to have actually sat down and created a writing plan and time to actually do this, and explore my creative outlets, and one way to help was actually having OFFICE SPACE!!! This alone is a huge dream! Along those lines, I also started a small homemade gift business, creating mugs and stamping jewelry. Not to be a million dollar business but without doubt a craft I want to grow! I have served more this year than any other year of my life, and this is something I want to invest more of my time into. I believe we can make a better world by being better people. I want to be kept humble because I know it could be worse, and I want to be thankful, because Ive known worse. One way I can do this, is with being accepted as a Magic Hour Photographer and my signing up for next years Dressember and Feed Supper, both supporting causes I am wanting to help more.
I know there will be many changes in my life this year. There always are changes. I have a lot to look forward too, and a lot that probably wont get done, and thats okay too. First to change will be this blog. No longer wanting to be boxed into ONLY a photographer, I want to use this great tool as an online journal of sorts, to map out and plan and replay the adventures that happen to me in parenting teens and college kids, my writing journey, the conference with MFM, my photography and also my personal journey as a woman in her 40’s finally accepting that beautifully broken is her own sweet kind of perfect! HAPPY NEW YEAR 2016!!!
I love autumn! Im a November baby, thats one of the reasons, but come on! Its beautiful! The leaves change, the weather is perfect and everyone seems happier just looking forward to the Christmas and Thanksgiving seasons. Weddings filled my calendar! October was my busiest wedding month for the second year in a row, and I see why. My own wedding was celebrated in that month too. Late september and my 40th birthday on November 1st were also wedding dates for me! More DIY prettiness; two more ladies celebrating; beautiful drives to a winery, to Richmond and Charlottesville; a nor-easter storm to contend with and the prettiest backyard wedding Ive been to complete with a sweet “first look”! I also got to attend a beautiful styled shoot & workshop hosted by my favorite photographer (read about that here) which has really impacted the way Im looking at my business now! 2015 will be better than I could have dreamed! Its thanks to mentors like that, and clients like YOU, as well as beautiful weddings like these!
I have one last pretty wedding this year, coming in December, but for now, here are some of the images I just love from autumn!
In this very blessed second year of my business, I was beyond thrilled and excited to be the photographer telling the stories to the following spring and summer brides! I was fortunate enough to see two beautiful elopements in the outer banks, attend a tea party mad hatter style, shoot in downtown Richmond at an old railway, plant a tree in a storm on arbor day, capture seriously romantic DIY country weddings, travel to Ohio for an old friend, capture beautiful brides saying I do, go out on a cruise of July 4th, ride on some awesome golf carts to get the perfect shot, literally see a “shotgun” wedding and watch a sailor come home from deployment and finally get his girl! To each and every one of my spring/summer brides, I dedicate this blog to you!
I knew that I wanted to take my little business in a new direction. Something romantic, timeless, vibrant and me. Well, YOU my amazing clients, but MY interpretation of you. My split second capture of a moment you share. An image I couldn’t wait to get home and edit and see in front of me and get to relive!
I knew to do this, I needed to connect with the type of clients that wanted ME to capture these cherished moments. To have me tell their stories. Clients who trusted me to do a great job and show their laughs, smiles, tears, hugs & kisses in ways they themselves didn’t get to see.
I knew to attract these clients, I needed to stand out. I needed to start with my brand.
Before selecting my amazing designer, I started to shoot what I wanted. What drove me to work harder and what excited me: Weddings, Families, Maternity Sessions. A sort of circle of life. I shot using editing techniques I loved, at times I preferred where the light would be pretty, and in places that represented the natural rustic feel that I felt was my style.
It worked!! My amazing families and couples rocked every session, and we were blessed with amazing light! I was steadying up my style and it was showing fluidity. I was going to workshops and taking classes, to gain the skills to propel me forward. Now I was finally ready to have the look that told the world about me!
Sami Proctor Photography & Design was who I needed. Who I wanted. And after our first email, when she asked who I was and what I loved, she sent me the inspiration board to what would become my new branding look, and I was IN LOVE.
She kept the red that is my favorite, and brought in my love of the gothic era, and a lll things old fashioned. I mean, my girls got me a quill for mothers day this year, and that is me to a T!
Over the next few weeks, we communicated openly and drafts were sent back and forth until ultimately, I had in front of me a group of images that those who I sneaked a peek to truly thought looked like me! We had met my goal! I was ready to launch, and on my 40th birthday, on November 1st, the new Debbie Laughlin Photography site was ready to go! Click on my name, and Sami’s, to check out her amazing work for yourself. She was courteous, she listened, she answered and she produced! I couldn’t be more thankful! I hope you love it as much as I do, and hopefully you can picture yourself up on my new site, in your very own set of stories that I get to capture for you!
I am starting this getting to know me section so that friends, family and clients can read about my journey so far, to understand who I am, why I love what I do, why Im excited to do more, and how it feels to walk a little through the roller coaster of a life Ive led up until now. Im going to be blunt. Open. Honest. Real.
On November 1st I will be turning 40. An incredible milestone by my standard, after holding a fear for a long time that I will pass on early, like my mum sadly did.
Looking forward to what my new “era” will hold, I will be blogging new experiences Im going to try, setting little life goals and business goals, chasing a dream of book writing, and hoping to grow older more gracefully than fearfully.
Part of who I am came after my divorce, 8 years ago, when I finally finally found myself, or found MOST of myself! Realizing who I was, where I was going and what I wanted were GIANT steps to gaining the confidence to plow full steam ahead as a single mum, running a home based business. A giant part of that, was dating. I had one beautifully broken long term relationship after my marriage ended, and quite honestly, it was my first heartbreak. It took a long time to get past that, and when I did, I did what I never in my dreams imagined I would ever do.
I WENT ON 23 FIRST DATES
With different people. Most from online dating websites. I know I know… there are a lot of crazies out there. Trust me, Ive met many crazies in person too, however I wanted to be happy. I wanted to be in love. I wanted a romantic movie in my real life, and once I decided to begin, I was ready.
The hardest thing about dating was creating my profile.
Selfies were not big back then, and recent images of myself were not flattering, because when you are in a relationship, you tend to get comfortable and just forget the rest. I pulled a variety of semi decent shots from my not so smart phone, and even some from myspace, see? I told you it was BACK WHEN… None really looked like I did now, some looked like how I wished I still looked, and some looked like the me I wanted to forget.
Deciding on a few images, I then wrote what I wanted. This part was easy. I knew what I didn’t want, and wrote that. I literally wrote I didn’t want one night stands, casual flings, young boys, non-christians and people who didn’t like children. I also stated I was open to them having children. After all, most single men my age were probably in the same stage of life I was. Right? I also said I was starting the journey to find a real relationship. On the dating website I wrote that! Why waste time? Time was precious. I didn’t want to date people interested in not being a consideration for a relationship. I was determined to say the least.
Boy did I get some responses. Both in favour of my honesty and bluntness. Some out and out calling me a bitch. Some sending lewd suggestions imagining they could sway me into one of the aforementioned casual nights. I wont go into all of the details, and I wont mention any names, since in my head, to keep a straight head on myself, I gave them names of my own.
Date 1. The “cold” date.
I love tattoos, I have 9 now, all little, but 9 none the less. SO I was thrilled when a seemingly nice young (old enough to date me!) man chatted using proper grammar and asked me to happy hour for a cocktail and a bit of a chat. I agreed. I dressed up, then thinking it was too much, dressed down. Then realizing my pi’s were not a good first impression, dressed back up a little, to a church friendly non provocative jeans and casual top ensemble that left no signs of cleavage and a pile of discarded clothing in my trail.
We met a a busy bar in a well lit area, can of spray mace in bag beside me. I was ready.
He was outside waiting, dressed in not so great a first impression “Even your mom thinks Im hot” tee-shirt. Maybe he was being funny? I let it slide. He shakes my hand then one arm awkward hugs me. The smell of fries and other food stuff tempting me to eat, when I had on purpose not eaten in an attempt to squeeze into the last years skinny jeans. Mistake on my part.
We walked in, ordered a drink. Wine, kept it simple, bought my own too. Another precaution of mine.
We actually talked about the weather, and he admitted his mother got the shirt. I laughed. I would do that to a son probably too. Well, ok, maybe not THAT tee shirt.
Then he said he had ran late because he got a new tattoo, and asked if I would like to see it. So of course, he had big arms and who wouldn’t want to see nice arms. At least, I assumed it would be his arms.
Date 1 pre-ceeded to not so casually pull out his male member and put said member on stool, and asked what I thought.
“Are you cold?”, I asked.
He didn’t find that nearly as funny as I did.
Imagine my favorite photographer/business owning/mother, whom Ive followed for a long time, who inspires me, and writes blogs to encourage, shoots incredible images, teaches other photographers the fine art of balance…are you imagining? Then, imagine her here. In my present home town, after MY husband picked her up at the airport, and finally imagine MY excitement, at getting to spend two overwhelmingly amazing days in her company, and her assistant Jacki, as well as in the company of some equally eager-to-learn photographers, and you have imagined my experience at the AK Crew workshop, Virginia, hosted and run by Abbey Kyhl.
Last month I spent the days counting down until I was sitting in my chair, incredulously looking at how NORMAL she looked! LOL. She was real. She was here. And she brought to me the hands down best experience in workshop form that i have EVER been to, without a doubt the best investment I have made for my business growth, and I will even say that quite honestly I grew personally.
As she talked about how I can take back control of my time, return to a life of planned FREE TIME, of being a better wife and mother and friend, I became emotional. I was hearing someone tell me, and encourage me, to be the woman I am FIRST, to make myLIFE my passion, and not my business, and that I would STILL be able to provide amazing client experience to the business I love so so very much! She made it okay that business should not be your passion, if it was, you would put it before absolutely everything that you already had going on within your life, and forget about some important things, some special family time, or some other memory because you felt somehow that your business would fail if it didn’t get 100% of the best part of you. I was making it 100% priority, and taking on so much, that I was neglecting even more.
Now, I LOVE LOVE what I do. Being there for the most important events in people’s lives is an honor, an honor. I get excited by new shoots, seeing the final images, looking at the canvases and prints chosen by my clients. However, Abbey was right, my life should be, and IS, my passion!
I do NOT have enough space to cover exactly how inspired I was, and all that we covered from business systems to social media, to even un-friending people on Facebook, and the freedom you would have to enjoy life again, and still maintain a successful small business. I am so ready to begin implementing all of the things I learned, and I have already begun. Re-branding is underway, forming stronger client interaction has begun, and deciding what my specialties shall be is next. I am so ready to bring you the next chapter of Debbie Laughlin Photography, so ready to bring my family and best friends a whole new refreshed Debbie.
If you are a photographer, I strongly encourage you to join the AK Crew and look into these workshops! I am not exaggerating when I say it WILL change you!
Abbey – THANK YOU so very very much, for bringing your knowledge to us, for making sense, for supporting us even now after the workshop. I cannot wait for the next one…
Enjoy the following images from the styled shoot portion of the workshop, styled by some amazing vendors!!!
Planning, Design + Styling Michelle Amarillo Event Planning | Florals + Styling Studio Posy | Dress Maya Couture | Stationary The Girl Tyler | Makeup Beauty + Baubles | Hair High Voltage Hair by Crystal Casey
May 9th is today. And had God had a different plan in mind for my life, today I would be celebrating the birthday of my mum, Elizabeth. Instead, I mourn her, as I always do, as she passed long ago when I was a little girl. Nothing ever makes up for the time I will never know, the hugs I will never feel, the fights I will never get to have, the moments she has missed or the tears that still flow when I need a real mum to talk to, in a way only mothers can be there for.
On Facebook, in remembrance, people change their profile pictures into one of their loved ones who passed. I can’t do that. I have exactly two images of my mother: a black and white one of her on a bench, and a passport image of her and my dad before they broke up. I wish I had one of her and I. In fact, I wish I had more, of her in general. Or of her with my children or of her with my new husband. Or again, just of her. I don’t. I realize more and more with each client I meet in my business the absolute importance of having photographs to pull memories from. To cherish and to remember. I don’t. **Id usually insert a sad face here and a gratuitous tear, but I won’t. The memories i DO have of her were great. Fun. Childish, but happy. Short, but very, very sweet.
As much as I, like many people, cringe at the thought of being in FRONT of the camera, I am determined to leave behind better memories for my own daughter. And memories that include photographs.
Every year on her birthday I do something; play a song she liked, or read from her bible, or go shopping with her memories to buy a little thing that would remind me of her. This year ~ something different.
I am offering a mother and daughter mini session event, at a very low price of $75. The precedes going to a charity, Adopt America Network, so that we can help create homes for children with no families, here domestically.
The date of these sessions will be May 25th, starting at 4 and going till 7, in slots of 15 minutes each. These won’t last long! Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me on Facebook or via my website to reserve your spot and get a digital album of images with you and your mother!
I really hope she is up there looking down on me smiling (Im hiding my cherries mum…) and knows that each and every day, I wish she were here.
Happy Birthday, Mum xoxox