Oh, hello my dear friends. Maybe you have been here a minute, or maybe you've been here all along. But, in the midst of learning Style Me Pretty is *potentially* closing its doors on April 30th, 2018 - I realized a few key things about myself and my journey to where I am today.
REALIZATION #1: I HAVEN'T TOLD YOU MY STORY
First off, I realized that I haven't been honest with you. The whole 'fake it until you make it' thing was my mantra from day one back in 2012. Did I want you to know I was waitressing to achieve my dreams after getting fired from Style Me Pretty? No, that storyline did not seem instagram-worthy to me. Who would want to hire that girl for their wedding day? But I was passionate and motivated annnnd wait - let me start at the beginning.
I graduated from Syracuse University from the Newhouse School of Communications with a degree in Creative Advertising. I thought I was going to make badass commercials and print ads. I always loved glossy magazines as well. Fast forward to a paid internship at InStyle Magazine, I was so proud saying I worked in their photo department. From running down the streets of meatpacking district searching for five different pairs of nude underwear for Scarlett Johansson's cover shoot, to searching through millions of paparazzi photos looking for that purple bag Rihanna used that one time. For a 22 year old, it was my own version of Devil Wears Prada. Then... one morning... I was sitting at my desk and watched as my whole floor of various departments and magazines got an email all at once. An email that they had all lost their jobs. It was crazy to witness. It was 2009, does anyone else remember the insanity of graduating in 2009? They all just got up, packed up their stuff, and left in silence. I knew right then and there that corporations could really be the worst. As much as you loved what you did, you had little job security.
From there, I took a job at Classic Kids Photography on the Upper East Side in Manhattan. It was heaven. I witnessed the ups and downs of owning a small business and I learned an INSANE amount in the two years I was there. From how to get a little kid on your team in one minute to the art of framing and how beautiful grainy film can be. I learned how to make clients happy and how to stay true to film photography.
I got very close to my three coworkers. One in particular, Erin, changed my course. I was engaged and she happened to do a few weddings on the side while working at CK. One day, she pulled up Style Me Pretty and I was completely enamored. What was this!! Where have I been?!! This was not what I thought wedding photography was. I pictured something not creative, a person who just worked at the venue and had you stand super still and hated what they did. But this?! Couples laughing, being relaxed, THE DETAILS!! It helped me plan my wedding, and head down a new path.
November of the same year, it was clear it was time to move on from CK, a place I really do hold so dear. And what do you know? a temporary job opening at Style Me Pretty was being advertised. I applied. I got the job! I was dancing down the street, I just landed my dream job (working in yoga pants from home is my kind of dream job). It was a part time/temp spot, but I was confident that it would lead to a full time thing, if I work hard enough.
I spent a good chunk of December 2012 through January 2013 creating the blog posts, which it was so much fun. I learned what they were looking for, what the bride was interested in seeing, and how to write a killer opening caption. Maybe I wasn't the best at it, I am not a writer by any means - but I LOVED it. Looking back, this time was essential to see things through an editor's eye and it has helped my exponentially as a photographer. See my first post here: (dang, it's not the same format as it used to be.. but look at this history!)
Did you notice that it says Jessica? Yep, that is me! Jessa is short for Jessica. I never felt like a Jessica, and I've tried every nickname in the book. My YiaYia (grandmother in Greek) called me Jessa as a special thing and so I finally decided to make the switch in the next phase of my life... starting my own business. I posted how proud I was of this first SMP blog post over on my personal facebook page. See in the comments? Erin, the girl who introduced me to this world and Ellen. Ellen was my neighbor growing up and she was eager to make a connection for me. I was SO happy she did. This led to my first time THIRD shooting with the incredibly open, talented and sweet Amy Rizzuto. I cried during the first look, I was hooked.
Sometime in maybe January I got an email from Abby of Style Me Pretty that they were letting me go. Maybe I wasn't as great as the other editors, maybe they only needed me to take on some work as they were switching their team around, I don't know. But I cried in my hands at my desk like a huge baby, I was so hurt and I really had never failed like this before. I was embarrassed. I thought I had it all figured out. My fate again in someone else's hands. As I finally stopped ugly crying, I came to my senses. SMP was taking up all of my time and I needed to focus on starting my own business. I was being pushed though a door I was scared to go though but I knew it was right.
2013 was filled with a move from Hoboken, NJ to Point Pleasant, NJ where we lived with (my fiance) Brian's mom all summer to save for our September 2013 wedding. I didn't have any income. I waitressed on the boardwalk, HUSTLED as a second shooter at probably 20 weddings, and slowly gained my own clients. I cannot stress enough that I had no other choice but to succeed. I was laser focused and I was so happy that I finally found my passion. Love & Light Photographs was born and booking up fast!
When things go full-circle, it's so freaking cool. Resa & Doug trusted me to photograph their camp wedding in May of 2014. I had done two weddings prior to this on my own. Style Me Pretty published this May wedding. See the full post here.
After this, everything changed. Not overnight, but slowly I gained a Little Black Book membership, that lovely little badge, and a ton of SEO. Four years later, I have had thirty-three features (oh my gosh) and I feel so lucky to say that I run a six-figure business, serving the most incredible couples. It has been such a wonderful chapter in my life.
Whew, and there you have it. That's my story... Style Me Pretty alongside me every step of the way.
REALIZATION #2: I PUT TOO MANY EGGS IN ONE VERY PRETTY BASKET
So where am I now? At the fifth year in business, I have a lot of gratitude and also a lot of fun ideas for the future. I am realizing more than ever that the accolades and the things that make you think you "made it" are not the things to focus on.
Real success looks like this:
#1 Happy Clients I have witnesses about one hundred couples get married and have had the honor of photographing the anticipation in the morning, the happy tears, and tons of laughing. I have calmed brides down, put out "wedding fires" and made friends of former clients. This is what it is all about.
#2 Family milestones Seeing my clients become parents or to catch up with them at other events (like their friends' weddings) after their wedding day has been an unexpected joy
#3 Being respected within the "Friendor" community this one was unexpected from when I first set my sights on being a business owner. I have made lifelong friends with other wedding vendors. Other photographers, planners, cinematographers, hair, makeup, florists, you name it. We are like a little mini dream team that gets rearranged and we all get to do our absolute best for clients on Saturdays. We are each other's cheerleaders and confidants. Being an entrepreneur can sometimes feel like you are on an island - and they make it feel like a really fun island you vacation on. I seriously admire all these fearless creatives who are up for anything and dream big.
#4 Being home with my little boy during the week while still doing something I love. yep, that's pretty great.
For the past five years I have put so much stress on this formula of being published that I didn't stop and look around at the incredible local connections I was making in the process. I was slacking on blogging (the voice I can control!) Honestly, it was just so easy to have other blogs do it for me.
So, this is a big wake up call. You can't rely on big blogs or facebook or instagram to be there tomorrow. What if they ALL. SHUT. DOWN......back to basics, people. We've been doing it all along. Referrals, Blogging, Email Lists, and loving on my clients and fellow vendors is where it's at!
REALIZATION #3: NOTHING IS FOREVER, BUT THERE ARE THINGS WORTH FIGHTING FOR
The entire philosophy behind Love & Light Photographs is that "when the flowers wilt, the cake is cut, and the band packs up for the evening, all that remains is the love and light that has been captured in a simple photograph "
We know life is fleeting, and change is the only constant. I am not sure what is in store for Style Me Pretty. As of today, the founder Abby Larsen is trying to save it - you can see her recent instagram post below and sign the petition here.
Whatever its fate, Style Me Pretty changed my life's course. Maybe I would have landed in the same place I am today without it, but SMP felt like a friend holding my hand and guiding me in a direction that felt right - even when they fired me. And today, I feel like the luckiest. And I am not alone in this. Thousands of wedding peers are posting similar stories or feel thankful for all SMP has done for their careers. Hopefully we can return the favor by saving this little home for all things pretty. I would hate to see it go!
Regardless, new chapters are on the horizon. can you feel it? xx - Jessa