It was a cold January morning when my wife woke me up at 3am telling me that our first child was about to enter this world. I freaked out… I mean, really freaked out. Although we anticipated for this day for eight months (yes, all of our kids were born in eight months), it was still pretty surreal that it was really happening. We hurried to the hospital and seven hours later, I held my first born… My precious daughter; a gift from heaven. After a couple of days, the doctor told us to take her home, and I freaked out again. I mean, what do we know of taking care of an infant? We were nervous wrecks. I don’t care how many people you talk to and how many books you read, NOTHING can prepare you for the moment where your life will change forever. The moment where you’re now responsible for another human being!
Well, we came home and our friends and family came together and helped us like we never expected. Meals were coming to our door every evening and we were just overwhelmed by the love that we were receiving. It was a time in my life where I saw God differently. As I held my daughter, I realized how much God really loved me. If I could love like this, how much more does my Father in Heaven love me unconditionally? It was one of those turning points in my life.
Something else changed… I didn’t want to miss any moment, so we purchased our first Canon point and shoot camera. With that, I took the first photo of my daughter, our first family photo, and then our next and next and next… Everyday, I was taking pictures of every new move my daughter was making. I recorded every sound, every look… We just couldn’t get enough of her! One day, my wife wanted to get “professional” pictures done of us for our daughter’s “100 days of life” celebration. You see, in the Korean culture, that’s a huge deal. Then it hit me… I need to get a DSLR. I’m taking so many photos of her and the family that it just made sense to make that investment. Plus, I wanted to do it myself! So, we did! I bought a Nikon D90 and the nifty 50. (I know… I’m totally Canon now. That’s a story to share for another blog. Haha). During this time of my life, I was in my eighth year of working as a videographer for my church, Victory World Church. Although videography and photography are quite different, at the time, I was confident in at least framing correctly somewhat, so I gave it a shot. All I knew was that I didn’t want to miss any part of my kid’s life and wanted to capture all of it.
Below are some of the first family portraits all taken in our two bedroom apartment. Yes, we upgraded from one to two bedrooms when we got pregnant. We thumb tacked a black bed sheet on our girl’s bedroom wall and took some “fancy” black and white portraits. LOL Honestly, those became black and white because I just couldn’t get the lighting right on our faces. LOL
Then! (We were in the year 2008 by the way…) So, if you guys remember, that’s about when the word about facebook was going around and we just couldn’t resist the temptation. So, my wife first made her account and got hooked… FAST! She started to stay up late at nights. OH my! But while she was doing this, something began and we didn’t even know it. She posted almost all of our pictures. Like ALL of them! Her friends started making comments like, “Wow! Who took your pictures? They’re great!”, “Where did you get your pictures done?”, “You guys always have the best pics!”. Then it changed to these: “What? Craig took these? Wow! Can he take ours?”, “I have an event coming up, would you guys be available to take pics? I’ll give you free food!”, “My sister is getting married next month and doesn’t have a photographer. Would you be willing to take pics there? Um, for free?” So… we did. For free. 😉 And then, we were like, “Wait, we are spending way too much time!” As some ‘friends’ began taking advantage of us, we realized what was happening and started charging. We charged $50 for our first family portrait session and our first wedding for $400. We were BLOWN away that we made money! Like seriously couldn’t believe that people were willing to pay us! So yeah, you can pretty much say that our girl and Facebook were how it all began.
We did no research. We knew NOTHING about how to run a business. I mean, when I say, nothing… we really mean absolutely nothing. We were crazy! But, the inquiries continued to come, so we had to learn. FAST! We had no intention to start a business or ever dreamed of running one. This is why when people ask us how our business came about, we begin by saying that it “just happened to us.” It just evolved… We never sat down and made a decision to begin a business. I was still working my full time job at our church, and by this time, our second daughter was born. So, as you can imagine, it was busy. My wife began to notice me getting stressed and just not being able to handle it all. She stepped in by helping me with bookkeeping just out of pity, then started delivering stuff for me, coming to shoots with me and writing emails and blogs. By this time, my wife quit her job at our church to stay home full time with our children. We were thankful that I had this ‘side’ job as a means to replace her income. But, we got busier and busier and within three years (2008-2011), we were at a six figure income. We were blessed, but it was working us to death.
As the business grew, my wife’s role became more important. I couldn’t do it without her. We continued this lifestyle for five years. FIVE! Many times, we were at a breaking point. Just totally burnt out! My wife was having break downs here and there, and I just didn’t know what to do. By then, we had our third child and although our business grew significantly every single year, so did our level of stress and fear. Fear of losing it, fear of losing our identity, fear of money, fear of all the ‘what if’s’. Close friends and family encouraged us to quit my other job, but I just couldn’t do it. What if this photography thing wasn’t enough for me to provide for my family? What if it all falls apart? What if I’m just not good enough? What if after I quit my other job, the inquiries stop? WHAT IF??? My wife was afraid of the numbers just not working out. We lived in absolute fear… the TOTAL opposite of what God calls us to do which is to live in faith! We knew this, but we were too weak to get out of it. We weren’t as close to the Lord as we used to be and it was showing. Showing as fear! In our minds, we knew this too, but again, our excuse was the lack of time and didn’t pray like the way we should. It felt like a trap.
My wife told me that if we have a certain amount of money in our savings, she will feel ‘safe’ for me to quit. But, as soon as we saved that money, something would happen to our home or medical bills would come in the mail… The car would break down, or this and that… I’m sure you guys can relate in that life will bring unexpected things. So every time something ‘big’ would happen to us, it took all the savings away. One evening when we were working together (while our savings were almost at empty) and we got a huge commercial gig inquiry, my wife just closed her laptop. She held my hand, and said, “This is the first time that I am NOT happy to receive an inquiry.” I was so surprised. I was like, “Why not? This can be the thing that can really allow me to quit!” Then she said, “no… nothing will ever save us. Only God can. God just told me that these things are happening and He will allow it to continue to happen because He wants us to learn to have faith in HIM, not our bank account. Our clients do not provide for us. Only God can. Our abilities and talents do not provide for us. God does. He is our provider and that’s the final answer.” We were floored and just broke down together right there and then. We were humbled by His faithfulness for us to draw nearer to Him even when we were straying away and thinking that all these ‘things’ and ‘stuff’ of life would fulfill our dreams and allow us to succeed so that we can provide for our family; for our children. It was a great slap in the face for both of us. How many of you guys know what that feels like? Slaps in the face are what we just need sometimes. 😉
Well, we didn’t doubt any of this and I gave a month notice at my church. It was very bitter-sweet for me and my wife. Everything for us as husband and wife happened at our church. We met there! We got married there… We grew our family there… All of our friends were there… Everything we knew revolved around our church. Although I knew it was the right thing to do and we were doing it, it was not easy for us to say goodbye. So many memories! 14 years… that’s a long time to work at one place. I’ve been so blessed there and to this day and for all the days to come, I will never forget what Victory World Church and its family did for me and my family. We were nervous, but knew God was with us and moved onto the next season of our lives. And remember the “number” that my wife wanted us to have in our savings before we left? Well, by the last work day at our church, He supplied that number and more. It was as if He said, “You’re now ready… Here you go. Be blessed!”
Well, here we are now two years after we focused just on photography as our job! Two years of just working on our business and raising our kiddos. It’s been excellent! An incredible journey and we are continuing to learn EVERY.SINGLE.DAY! It gave us more flexibility, and it has been freeing! As soon as I quit my “day job”, our business grew even more which has been mind blowing! I’ve learned that life will never be easy and challenges will continue to come no matter what, but when you live in true freedom, you don’t just survive, you thrive!
During this time of transition, God gifted us with a great, new community. I have been following Zach and Jody Photography for a few years, and one day, I ran into their promo video for a retreat that they began a couple years back. It was a marriage retreat for photographers who are husband and wife team! Now, can you get anymore specific than that? I watched the video and just knew that my wife and I had to be there. We were crying at the end of the video! We had no doubt that this was for us. After a few months, we found ourselves there with all these couples who were all married, most of them with children running a photography business together. Do you think we had much to talk about? Oh, you better believe it! We bonded very quickly because of the commonalities that we had, but most importantly, because we were all serving the same God who we believed in and wanted to be closer to. It was incredible. Life changing indeed! We have attended two years now, and especially in this past year, it just did something to us. My wife and I both learned how to understand the personalities that God gave each one of us and how she can help me and I can help her in allowing each other to thrive in the gifting we each have. We are DAILY learning and changing and tweaking and updating, and revamping ourselves and our business. We are making necessary changes and investing our time and money better and wiser to allow our business to continue to grow while feeding the needs of our personal talents that God has given us and living the life that He intended us to live personally and professionally. We continue to dream and it’s cool because now that we have taken that big risk, when other risks come about, it’s easier to take it and dreams seem more achievable. It’s still not easy, but we KNOW that it can happen and God will never fail us and will give what’s best for us. If He doesn’t want it in our lives, He will clearly make it known and redirect our paths. We no longer live in fear. We are not afraid to fail. And this is what we can now say to you… “If we can do it, you can too.”
So, do you have a dream? A dream of starting a business? A photography business? Whatever it may be, it’s in you and you can! Go for it! Embrace every step… the good and the bad, the joy and the challenges, the difficult and the impossible. You have the ability to conquer it all…
Thank you for reading our story! We can’t wait to hear how you write yours…