I Live So I Can Work, Not Work So I Can Live

  • Published on:
    February 25, 2020
  • Reading time by:
    9 minutes

Dana Arnold, a 27-year-old entrepreneur, Navy wife, and adventurer. Arnold grew up living a lifestyle that impacted her to this day and if anything, was the foundation in who she is and her business. At a young age, Arnold started a paper route with her mom so she can save up for a car. At 16, Arnold was a part-time waitress at a local Greek restaurant, and at 18, she got a job while being a full-time student in college to save up for college tuition. All Arnold ever did was work hard for the money that she wanted to have while still juggle a lifestyle of school, friends, and sports. 

Dana Arnold wanted to be a teacher first, but that switched to Psychology where she would work towards by RBT. Arnold graduated and got a job right away and her qualification after graduation. However, a light was flipped on when she picked up a camera in 2016 while living in Hawaii, and that switch never turned off. In 2017 Arnold quit the job she worked immensely hard for and became a full-time wedding photographer. It was a risk and there was no turning back, but it changed Dana Arnold’s life for the better and now.

Who or what got you into wedding photography?

One of the mottos I live by is “I live so I can work, not work so I can live” and it speaks to me on so many levels. I hated not being in charge of my own hours, and I really didn’t like that I would work during the time when my friends would be out, or when my favorite football game was on. With my husband in the Navy, our work hours were the opposite. I would work when he was home and when he was away working, I would have the day off. Time is precious if you are married to someone in the military because they are always gone, so when he was home and he did have off, I wanted to be with him. I think that is one main reason why I got into wedding photography. I could make it a full-time business, say yes and no to when I wanted to work and create “work hours” when he was also working. This way, I would be home and actually be present when he was home as well. Aside from this, I got into wedding photography because I love a good love story. I love being able to capture someone’s big day, getting to meet people, help plan the wedding timeline, and use my creative side to capture wedding details and portraits with the light. It was honestly a win-win in any case! 

How has Wedding Ideas helped and supported your business?

Wedding Ideas is such a great online resource! The wedding industry is always changing; what with coming up with new trends, colors of the year, and what you can expect to be “in” for the year to come. It helps me prepare for the future in the wedding industry, gather ideas about light, posing, and even styling ideas for other parts of the wedding photography field. I always look to this website and magazine to encourage, inspire, and teach myself and I love sharing the content with others! 

Within the wedding industry, who else captivates and interests you?

The wedding photography industry is such a creative community, and some of my closest and dearest friends whom I still keep in contact with, are wedding professionals. A few that I love following, supporting, and grabbing lunches with are Vannessa Hicks, Chip Dizard, and some local photographers in my area like Renee Pack and Sarah Eleanor. Each has its own editing style, the experience you can learn from, and each of these photographers holds a place in my heart. I move, a lot, and it’s so great that I can still keep in contact with them, and of course, if they have a course to teach, it’s just a few websites clicks away. Of course, technology helps us all stay connected, share our work, and support each other! 

The days of editing and manipulating photos in a darkroom are pretty much over, but that doesn’t mean the photographs we take today with our digital SLR cameras don’t need post-prod work. From the minute the pictures are in your computer after a shoot and the moment they are in the client’s hands – what happens? What does your workflow look like? What tools/software/apps do you use? Do you spend more time with the camera or in front of the computer?

For myself, as a wedding photographer, the second we get home from a wedding, we immediately upload the images onto our hard-drives and the cloud, no matter what time we get home. I have a habit of uploading them on the hard-drive I have, my computer its-self, and, I do not delete the images off of the SD card until the gallery is delivered. This is because we strictly rely on technology and if our hard-drives were to crash, or the SD card got damaged (which happens to the best of us), we have to make sure we save the images the best we can. 

During the week, you can expect me to be in front of the computer about 6-8 hours a day, 4 to 5 days a week. I save a lot of time because of the resources we have as photographers. I use PhotoMechanic to cull (pick out) the images I want to edit, Adobe Lightroom to actually do the editing, blog stomp to help create beautiful galleries for the blogs I post, and CloudSpot so I can create a beautiful, custom galleries to hold and deliver the images to the clients. My website is based on Show-It (such a great platform) and it displays my business based on my style. 

You’re a busy woman, Do you practice self-care at all?

Take care of yourself. That is one thing that I cannot and will not get out of my head, and it’s thanks to my one friend, Vanessa. She is a photographer and she talks about mental health as a business owner (and as a person) and it’s always true to heart. We forget about us when we are working, and we do not even realize it. Especially during the busy season for wedding photographers (Sept and Oct), because those are the months most of us are booked up in full. I am talking 8-10 weddings in a matter of 6 or so weeks. However, we have to stop working so much and start focusing on ourselves. 

I always tell my clients that I need days off because if I am stressed, and  I am tired, it will show in my mood at the weddings and it will show in my work as I edit. So, I learned that I deserve days off and self-care moments. For myself, I go to therapy almost weekly. Reading books helps me relax, and of course, I make sure I make time for my husband, which is why I started this business in the first place. It’s so important to force yourself to have a day or two off so you can refresh and get ready for the days to come! I encourage others to do the same, whether it’s going to the gym, getting a manicure, or just going to see a movie by yourself. Get out of your cave (office) and go see the light of day. 

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Give. Yourself. Some. Grace. Seriously. You guys, you are about to start a journey that not many can do and where many end up failing and “closing shop” within a few years. You are going to mess up. You are going to get a bad review, and you will learn things the hard way. That is how you grow and learn. Take it with a grain of salt and move on and make better because of it. There were times where I thought my business was doomed because I have made a serious mistake or two. But, it’s how you handle it after that will either make you say “hell yeah, let’s do this” or “I quit”. Say the first thing and move on, you will thank yourself later. 

Any advice for entrepreneurs on moving beyond a failure?

“Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever.” – Lance Armstrong

Failing is our worse fear, you guys. In this day in age, it’s scary because it could cost us our career and even our business. But, we have to move on from it. 

I have to be honest, I made a huge mistake this year in the business, where a bride did not get her ceremony or getting ready images because of a card failure. I tried my hardest to recover them, and I did everything by the book, but it still happened. I cried for days, had a pit in my stomach, honestly skipped some meals, and prayed to the lord that they would be found by a professional. But they were not there. I kept thinking, where on earth did I go wrong? How did this even happen? For days, I was worried and I legit felt pain. I mean, I could only imagine how the bride was feeling. 

But, I refused to quit. I kept going. You guys, these days and these feelings will happen, but if you quit after this failure, and you doubt your business, then you are only going to think “what if I kept going, what if I didn’t stop?” for the rest of your life. I encourage you to never think that you are not meant for this lifestyle, that you are not a good entrepreneur because something went wrong. Instead, think of yourself as an ever-growing business owner. Write a plan down on what you could do in the future to make this better, to avoid that same failure, and immediately put it into action. Don’t be afraid to speak about it publicly, because that is how you teach and grow and connect with people who are just like you. 

Share some tips on how to save money. 

Money talk is a talk that no business owner wants to have, but it has to be done! If I could give one piece of advice for saving money, it’s that you have to be in control of where your money goes, or you will never know where it went. Dave Ramsey taught me that. So, I would create a business account and have personal savings account for each part of your business! 

For example, as a wedding photographer, I have the following..

  1. Checking
  2. Travel
  3. Gear
  4. Taxes
  5. Photography 
  6. Personal Savings

This way, I know where my money is going, and how much is “mine” versus how much belongs to my “business”. I write down a list every 1st of the month to see what is due that month and organize based on that. Usually, 25% alone goes right to taxes, and another 30% goes towards photography and gear, just in case something breaks. When you get that specific, you will have much more control over where your money goes. 

Who have been your own biggest mentors and what is the best advice they have ever given you? 

When I was a High School student, I was a Varsity Football Manager and Coach Kevin Myers was the type of coach every athlete would want to have. Father figure, a beautiful family, and a good educator. There is one thing he always told the team, and it was our motto and what got us to (10-0) that season. 

“For each other, with each other”

I took this to heart because it serves the photography community well. We as photographers should not fight each other for the business, for the clients. But instead, we should encourage, and support each other. I feel like this would be so much harder if we were not here for each other. I know for a fact that my friends here in the area have my back. I can count on them to help me at a wedding, or take care of a couple for me if I am already booked up. It’s the same vice versa. We are all here for each other and will continue to be here for each other so we all can grow. 

Every woman as an entrepreneur has someone they look up too and learn from. For me, that is Amy and Jordan (AJ) and Vanessa Hicks. I took all three of AJ’s photography courses (shooting and editing, posing, and business), and have been inspired by Vanessa, I even got into her mastermind program that I cannot wait to start in January. It was not an easy process for me, because at the time I started, I did not know anyone. I knew nothing about light, was shooting in the middle of the day (yikes), and edited my images where my horizon line was sideways (double yikes). It was AJ and Vanessa that have helped me get off my feet, and prepare me for the lifestyle as a photographer. I gained confidence because of them and found my brand because of them. I am truly grateful for all that they have done for me, for others, and how they show themselves as photographers and as people. 

What has been a challenge for you so far?

This is an easy one to answer, but owning a business and being a military wife. I envy the photographers who stay in one area all their life because they can grow so much quicker and get stability. For entrepreneurs like me, we move every 24 months or so. Just as we settle down and build our business, guess what… we get military orders to move 3,000 miles on the opposite ends of the coast. So now, we have to start over, again. We have to re-connect, move our website over to the new city, and reestablish trust in a new area and try to book weddings in a place we have never even been before. It’s a lot of work and it has been hard. But, that is actually how we become better and it’s how we learn to grow and expand, to get our name out there. 

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