Kara McCurdy Photography

The Secret to Freelancing

I won’t pretend like I’m some freelancing wizard who knows all the tricks and trades and is making millions each year off of my photography business. I’m not. But! I am incredibly happy in my freelancing business and I feel like I’ve found a sort of golden ticket to the whole thing. And I’m going to tell you! Because I’m full of myself and want everybody to share my ideals! Kidding…. it’s because I really think this made my freelancing life so much easier and more enjoyable. 

Which is why I’m pairing this post with the full set of images from my absolute favorite shoot this year- an elopement I was fortunate enough to shoot in the beautiful snowy mountains outside of Salt Lake City. It’s all going to tie in together beautifully, I promise you that! 

It’s not a scam, I promise! It’s a real tip that when applied, can make YOU the world’s happiest freelancer, too. It might not bring in more clients (although it’s possible!), and it might not make you rich (I guess it could…), but I guarantee it’ll make you feel better about the work that you’re doing. And the funny thing about it, is that it seems fairly simple. It’s something we can tell ourselves to do over and over, until we’re blue in the face. But it’s when we actually put it into action that our lives can change.

Okay, I’ve held out on you folks for long enough. The real secret to being a happy freelancer is….

Only take the work you enjoy doing. It sounds radical, right? Sorry- you mean… you want me to enjoy my work? YES! I want you to LOVE what you do! And if you don’t love it, stop doing it. We are all so young and so old and have only as much time as we’re promised. Why would you waste that time doing something that doesn’t bring you joy?

Even better- applying this tip to your freelancing business will not just make you happier, but it will improve business. Think about your favorite artists. Do they love what they do? Do they seem happy about it? Are they excited to get out of bed each day and create? I know that’s something that drives me to take my freelance photography full-time: every other freelance photographer I see seems to love the hell out of it. And I want to love the hell out of my life too! I want to do something that excites me every single day! 

It’s a lot of work. It’s coming home from a full-time job exhausted, ready to turn on some Netflix and pour myself a glass of wine until I pass out on the couch… and instead, turning on my computer and launching Photoshop. It’s giving up Saturday morning to go chase that warm sunrise light. It’s sacrificing evenings with friends to stay in and edit. It’s too much work to dedicate to something I don’t enjoy. Which is easy to say, but what does it look like in practice?

For me, it’s an easy answer. It means- turning down clients. When I was studying photography in college, my university made it something I hated. I dreaded picking up my camera, to the point that I never wanted to touch it again after graduation. It was because I was being forced to practice all kinds of photography, not just the photography that I love. So now, if a client approaches me and says “hey! Can you photograph me on Christmas Day?!” I get to happily say NOPE and not feel bad. This is my career. Do I lose money when I turn down clients I don’t want? I guess you could look at it that way… or look at it like this: instead, I get to make money from clients that I do want to work with. And the good news is that I’m attracting clients who want to work with me too.

So next time you’re dragging your feet to a shoot that you reluctantly agreed to, ask yourself if this is really the life you want. It’s okay if it isn’t! It’s taken me 25 years to figure out what life I want, and I’ll probably change my mind again next year. But for now, I’m going to do what makes me happy while I’ve still got the time.

A Studio Elopement

One time I went in for an interview with a women’s shelter and they asked me what I was most passionate about in life. What an interview question, yeeeeesh. I thought about it for a bit, and responded, “I’ve always sought to help people. And I guess the people I’m most passionate about are women.”

I mean, I’m passionate about a lot of people. Find me out on the streets every weekend protesting injustices to minorities. But what keeps me awake at night tends to be issues related to women. So when I was asked to come on with Build + Bloom as the sisterxsister Director, I was like FAM YES.

SISTERXSISTER is a free monthly networking group for young women interested in creative media. We meet in-person in more than a dozen cities nationwide, connecting girls who are makers- whether that’s blogging, photography, modeling, graphic design- there’s room for everybody at the table. 

And sometimes, in these monthly networking meetups, we plan big photo shoots. So everything you see here is brought to you by sisterxsister. Photographer Krys Patton and I coordinated and produced the entire elopement, and all of the vendors will be linked below, too! 

Thanks to everybody who made this shoot possible! Thanks to Krys Patton for organizing and to Sky Mejias for renting her studio space out to us. If you’re interested in finding the sisterxsister event nearest you, click here. If you’d like to bring sisterxsister to your town, send me an email via my contact form

Bride: Isabella Porto
Groom: John Dinh
Makeup: Daisy Porto
Gown: Gypsy Bride
Jewelry: Hillary Davenport
Floral Arch: Femmenique
Flower crown: Slate Floral

PS I never did get that job at the women’s shelter, in case you were wondering ;)

Anna + Justin - Down by the River Engagement Session

If absence makes the heart grow fonder, these two are more fond of each other than anyone else I’ve ever met. The majority of their relationship has been long-distance. 

Those of us who have done long-distance know that the actual distance doesn’t matter; it’s not about how far you are from each other. It’s the time that goes by and the life events that occur while your other half is missing. But when you see them again, it’s nothing but love and cuddling up and fingers intertwined and smelling their skin and tracing the wrinkles on their face from smiling so hard and just being surrounded by their warmth. It’s like Christmas every day.

These two couldn’t help but hang all over each other the entire session. They were so giggly and giddy to be with each other! I never had to tell them to look at each other or smile or fake a laugh- they were overflowing with happiness!

Their love was pretty cute… but they were also super down for whatever I wanted to do. Like me texting them an hour before their session, “hey I found an even better location 10 minutes from the original location… want to switch?” Or when I said, “so there’s a river…. want to get in?” Justin just rolled up his pants and went straight in!

A little bit of dancing, a whole lot of kissing, and a few “WHOA WATCH YOUR STEP!”s later, and we were drying off and heading back up to the cars.

This is why I absolutely love travel sessions. How weird and fateful that I would be traveling to another state, just a few hours away from Anna at the exact same time that Justin would be flying in to visit Anna? I feel so lucky to have been able to be at the right place at the right time and to watch their love bloom :’)

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