Back in 2003/2004 I started providing services for photographers to outsource photo editing. I have served THOUSANDS of photographers around the world and watched some amazing transformations -both in business and personal life for my clients.

Two things that I’ve found striking:

  1. The number of clients who are hard working moms with kids at home.
  2. How common the struggle is among them.

Recently I asked a few of our clients to write guest blog posts that share their story. The request was VERY open-ended and I specifically asked it not become an infomercial about Essential Edit post production services.

I wanted real stories, real experiences. It could be in business, as a parent, whatever angle inspired them.

Since becoming a client, Holly Gardner has been one of our best cheerleaders, someone whose enthusiasm is electric and she’s proud to help her friends discover our help.

Below is a guest post I’m excited to share, because it’s packed with tons of heart that I think will resonate with most professional photographers.




holly gardner photography

Holly Gardner

This post almost didn’t get written.

It’s not because I’m lazy, don’t care, or it’s not important to me — quite the contrary.

It’s because I allowed myself to get to a place where I just had too much going on. Unfortunately, this tends to be a habit of mine: approaching exciting new projects with enthusiasm and good intentions and running out of time to execute them.

outsource photo editing

As far as this article is concerned, I have written it in my head several times. The first draft was downright inspired! Not only was it witty and entertaining, but it also made me sound like I totally had my act together.

And that day I did.

But the honest truth is, as a general rule I don’t. By the time I sat down to put words to paper, they had completely disappeared. I knew they were hiding somewhere in the recesses of my mind, but all I could think about was how it was two days before the first day of school and my daughter didn’t have a single outfit that fit.

Or how I needed to call the doctor to discuss my son’s latest test results.

Or how my husband and I hadn’t had a date in approximately forever. (Unless, of course, you consider a date to be falling asleep watching Bones and discussing why on earth our toddler has decided to completely give up sleep. We do that a lot.)

But, I digress… This post.

outsource photo editing

By the time I sat down to write it I felt like a complete fraud. How could I be expected to write about balancing motherhood, business, and life if I felt completely out of balance myself? (Hint: I can’t.)

The typical response would be to suck it up and just get the work done, but for me, writing is a creative outlet that I can only do if I’m in the appropriate mental space- just as it is with my photography.

outsource photo editing

My road to photography is long, twisty and filled with lots of lessons learned the hard way, but I shall save that story for another day.

When the journey truly began was after I found myself as a twenty-something widowed mother that had moved back home to piece my life back together. I ended up re-marrying an amazing man (Hi, Chris!) who encouraged me to pursue my passion and make my dream job a reality.

And so that’s what I did – I chased my dream with the fierceness of a tiger and micro-managed every little detail. I thought I was living the dream and running my business, until I realized my business was running me.

Fast-forward a few years.

After swearing we didn’t want another child, one of our closest friends had a baby. The look in Chris’ eyes as he held the newborn baby told me he’d changed his mind. I agreed, on the terms that:

  1. we wouldn’t start trying until I knew I there was no chance I’d go into labor during a wedding that following spring and
  2. our future child would go into preschool by the time he was one and a half so that my business wouldn’t suffer.

It was a good plan. It could have worked. But what I’ve learned about plans is that you can make the most amazing plan in the world, but God (or Allah, or whoever you believe in) often laughs at them.

As it turns out, I planned poorly.

outsource photo editing

I ended up shooting a wedding six days before I went into labor while wearing a walking cast because I’d worked so much throughout my pregnancy I ended up with two stress fractures. After our son was born I was able to work during his nap time, but with a kindergartner on the loose those moments were few and far between.

Around that time, my son was diagnosed with life-threatening food allergies and I knew in my heart that I was not comfortable sending him to day care. I had to let go, re-evaluate, and make drastic changes in my life and business.

One of those changes was to force myself to take time for myself;

I learned transcendental meditation, bought a treadmill, reduced my caffeine intake and forced myself to rest.

Next, I added a sliding door to my office, organized and decorated it with inspiring wall art, set office hours, and found a loving babysitter to help out. I connected with other others with shared experiences, resigned from activities that took my attention away from my family and business, and had raw conversations about my struggles and goals.

The hardest, but most beneficial, change was learning to give up control, which for this Type-A control freak was not an easy task. I know how I like things and thought that my business would only be successful if I kept my hands in everything, but it quickly became apparent that there is no way to maintain that level of oversight while preserving my sanity and marriage.

I started by making a list of what only I could do, and what could be outsourced. I sought out professionals with far more experience than I, interviewed them, and took them for a bit of a test run.

outsource photo editing

Within a few months, I found a bookkeeper, virtual assistant and an editor that I trusted. Honestly, it was difficult letting those things go; I was afraid that I would lose my skills and that if anyone found out they would think less of me – like I wasn’t actually doing the work.

Instead, I found that when I outsource what I dread the most (color-correction), not only am I able to shoot more, but I enjoy the photographic process more; I have the time to acquire new skills and my artistic edits (dodging, burning, etc.) have stepped up a notch.

Most importantly, I have more time to give my children what they need – a mother.

I still do my own color-correction sometimes, but typically reserve that for “sneak peeks,” commercial or editorial photography, and personal work. Instead of feeling out of the loop, I feel like I have a partner that cheers me on, understands my creative vision, and wants to help me be the best I can be.

outsource photo editing

Clearly, I still don’t have it all together. I tend to over-commit and struggle with finding balance. But I’ve learned to recognize the early warning signs and know what steps have to be taken to get life back on track. I’ve learned when to say “No,” when to ask for help, and when it’s time to take a step back and re-assess my priorities (which I’ve done over the past month).

I’ve learned to trust experts and when/how to turn my brain off so I can be completely present for my family. I am a better photographer, business-person and wife.

I’m a better me.

Tools Holly uses to keep things balanced:

  • ShootQ – I love it. Have tried switching but I just don’t like anything else as much. Most of my weddings are for couples from other places, so it makes communicating and booking easy!
  • Daylite –  I use Daylite to track my schedule (ShootQ imports into it) and link all client correspondence to an event on my calendar. It’s the only way I keep track of what long message threads!
  • RedTree Albums – I love them because their work is top-notch and they are a really friendly company with amazing customer service. They’re quick to respond with any questions and I can always trust that what I order will be perfect!
  • Meditation: I learned meditation from Prudence Farrow – the one the Beatles wrote the song about. She’s my go-to resource for meditation questions. I use an app called “Meditation Timer” to help me keep track of time when I meditate as well. 
  • I’ve found that the app “Darkness” works best for sunrise/sunset times in my area. I couldn’t live without it!