How Emergency Medicine Prepared Me for a Career in Photography

If you’ve read the “About Me” section here on the website, or if you know me in real life, then you know I was a veterinarian before I became a professional photographer. Actually, at the time of this blog post, I have been a doctor for over seven years, and I’ve spent the last three years in emergency medicine. People are amazed when I tell them I went to four and a half years of college, followed by four years of veterinary school, and then two years of internships, only to “throw it all away” to become a photographer. It was, after all, my dream to be a veterinarian since I was in third grade. Well, I don’t think I threw away that career at all, I still work as an emergency veterinarian, and I think it actually helped prepare me to transition fairly easily into being a photographer.

So I decided to create this blog post to help explain the similarities between the two professions, and hopefully you’ll see how I’m not crazy to do both! 🙂

Long hours on your feet

As an emergency vet, I am used to working 10, 12, even 17 hour shifts at a time. There’s no such thing as lunch breaks when you’re dealing with emergencies. This is very similar to working a full wedding day where you’re literally on your feet all day. Long hours on your feet are the norm for me.

Eating on the fly, no bathroom breaks

While I’m working those crazy long days in the ER with emergencies everywhere, I’ve learned to grab food here and there, or even work on an empty stomach. This is pretty normal for me, and pretty normal on a wedding day as well.

Working under pressure

I do my best work under pressure. The crazier things seem, the calmer I look. This translates well to wedding days where you can experience scheduling delays, rain, inebriated guests, and various other issues that can make the day run less than smoothly. This goes well with the next bullet point, which is…

Problem solving, thinking on your feet

When you’re a wedding photographer, you have to be a jack of all trades. Weddings don’t always run smoothly, and you need to be able to find solutions to problems quickly as they arise. I have to do the same thing in emergency medicine.

Life or death

Emergency medicine deals with a lot of life and death situations. Maybe weddings aren’t technically life or death, but they’re pretty close to it! Weddings are a once in a lifetime event! You are capturing moments that you will never be able to capture again. That’s a lot of pressure, and I’m used to it. 🙂

Professional persona / confidence / bedside manner

I am a quiet, introvert in my private life. I enjoy hanging out with my friends, but I am not a social butterfly or super outgoing person by nature. As a doctor, I learned to adopt a whole new professional persona of confidence, trustworthiness, and compassion. I carry this persona over to photography as well, where I additionally work to be as outgoing as I can. It’s not to say that I don’t have those characteristics naturally, but I’ve learned to essentially exaggerate this persona over the years. Many people refer to this as bedside manner. I find it interesting that I recently finished a posing course by Amy & Jordan, and they mentioned “bedside manner” over and over again when talking about how to speak with clients. So even though I’m more reserved in real life, I am able to use the bedside manner I’ve developed over the years to take charge during weddings.

Customer service

Veterinary medicine involves a lot of medicine, but even more of it is communicating with owners and providing excellent customer service. This is such an important part of owning a photography business as well. I’ve seen how things can go south very quickly if a client doesn’t feel like they are being taken care of, so I use this knowledge with my photography clients. I always strive to answer emails quickly and be available and open to my brides and fellow photographers. You can have the most gorgeous photos in the world, but fail as a photographer if you don’t go the extra mile to provide excellent customer service to your couples.

You can do anything if you put your mind to it 

On the path to becoming a veterinarian, failure wasn’t an option. I was determined to get into vet school, which is a harder feat than being accepted into med school. So I researched what I had to do to become the best candidate I could be. I volunteered at animal shelters, worked at pet stores and animal hospitals, and helped run biology labs. If I got a less than stellar grade in one class, I made sure to make up for it by getting straight A’s the following semester. I never let the idea of failure enter my mind, I just continued to work as hard as I could. By having this mind set, I achieved everything I set out to achieve and became a veterinarian. I have taken this idea with me while pursuing photography. Did you know that 98% of photography businesses fail? I think it’s because people don’t know what to do to succeed, and therefore give up. Well, to me, failure is not an option. I have taught myself everything that I can involving photography, posing, social media, and small business. I truly believe the only way I will not accomplish my goals is if I quit. I’ve been rewarded with my hard work before, and I intend for that to happen again.

No stranger to hard work

Building a photography business is scary, you guys, and it requires a lot of hustling. When I decided to rebrand and relaunch my photography business here in Colorado, I had a lot to do! I had to create a website, develop a social media presence on Instagram and Facebook, plan styled shoots, network with vendors, upgrade all my equipment and computers, fly and drive all over the country for workshops, second shoot with other photographers, etc. etc. I did all this while still working full time as an emergency veterinarian. But I’ve always worked hard, and I’ve always worked more than 40 hours a week. Most veterinarians are no strangers to hard work.

So there you have it, all the reasons why being a vet has actually helped my photography business. Hopefully this blog post will help shed some light on how I’m able to work in both professions. 🙂

All images are from a styled shoot at Urban Space Unlimited, where my puppy Milo made a guest appearance. Check out the full blog post with all the images here.

Venue: Urban Space Unlimited
Hair and Makeup: Lisa of Megan Cary Artistry
Dress and headpiece: Emma and Grace
Flowers: Banister’s Flowers
Rentals: Colorado Party Rentals
Silks: Adorn Company

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