Creating and sticking to a budgeting plan is key to financial success. You’re able to set measurable goals, put a little extra money away after bills, and then factor in the right amount of “play” after financial obligations are handled. There’s no arguing that being fiscally conservative has its perks, mainly serving as a solid foundation for long-term financial stability, but sometimes, we’ve got to loosen the purse strings a bit. Conversely, loosening the strings too much results in impulse shopping and frivolous spending. Instead, strike a healthy balance of splurging and saving. In the midst of focusing on financial goals such as family planning, vacations, and education, remember the importance of living in the now, splurging on items and unique experiences that truly enhance your life.
Years ago, Richmond native Nicole Hicks splurged on an item that not only enhanced her life, but completely changed her career path. In 2011, when faced with the reality that it’d cost thousands to book photographers and videographers to help launch her music career, she took matters into her own hands. Despite having no prior experience in professional photography, she took the leap, dropped the cash, and splurged on a digital camera of her own. Though quite the investment, honing her photography skills has not only saved Hicks tens of thousands of dollars over the years, but she’s also been able to capture beautiful moments and create priceless experiences for herself and others.
“Getting into photography was an accident—or maybe it was fate,” explains Hicks. “When doing research, I learned that the average press kit cost about $1,000 on average. I thought, ‘Should I spend over $5,000 paying other photographers to produce my content, or should I just invest $3,000 now and learn how to do it myself?‘”
Hicks decided that teaching herself how to be as great a photographer as the ones she wanted to hire would outweigh any upfront costs of camera equipment. She purchased a camera that could produce both quality photo and video content, and immediately began practicing, first with mock video shoots and then with capturing photos from the very videos she shot.
“I found myself looking back at footage and wondering what a photo captured from the video would look like,” she says. “I fell in love with the ability to freeze time and see genuine emotions in the moment. It gave me the opportunity to relive them, and provided even more motivation to create more moments like the ones I was seeing right there on my camera.”
Soon, mock video shoots turned into real life photoshoots. Before she knew it, her skills as a photographer were developing as clearly and as boldly as the images she produced. What was once a $3,000 splurge was turning into an investment in herself and a new career, a career she never saw coming.
“I wanted to become the photographer that nobody else wanted to be,” Hicks says. “I wanted to be the one who takes the time to get to know their subject before taking their picture, the one who loves to see a moment captured before it’s interrupted by someone else yelling, ‘SMILE!’. I love hearing a client say, ‘Wow, I didn’t even know you were there during this moment,’ or ‘Wow, I wasn’t expecting the [candid] photo to look this great.’”
Though she’s pleased with how far she’s come in the past six years, Hicks is constantly challenging herself to grow her skill set and expand her portfolio. She’s recently shifted her focus to street photography and environmental portraits, welcoming the challenge to think fast and execute quality images while getting to know her subject in a short amount of time. Her most recent challenge, one that was rather career defining, was a birth session.
“There isn’t a moment in a birth session where you can say, ‘Wait, put that baby back in there so I can get this shot,’” Hicks jokes. “The emotions and moments are literally gone within a split second. One moment, the mom is screaming, and the next, the entire room is quiet while everyone gazes tearfully at the new life boasting his or her healthy lungs.”
Taking on such a challenge as environmental portraits helps keep her creative eye sharp and quick. With each new shoot, she tests the bounds of her abilities and amazes herself with how far she’s come. At the very least, she thought her camera would be a nice tool to bring along for vacations, should all else fail. Instead, it turned out to be a real investment that not only benefits her, but also her subjects who choose to invest in a photographer to capture their most memorable moments.
This is exactly why Hicks encourages others to splurge when possible in support of a local photographer. The results are incredible, and they’re able to produce images that supersede the images you capture with a camera phone and untrained eye.
“With camera phones, people are naturally more comfortable; there’s less pressure, and people are able to be themselves,” says Hicks. “The downside, though, is that people place more focus on getting the right angle and the right lighting, and they end up missing the moment completely. It all becomes a hassle, which then turns into an epic photo fail. That’s where the professional comes in.”
Not only have photographers splurged on equipment, but they’ve made investments of time and money into perfecting their craft. They’ve attended expensive seminars; they’ve learned how to properly edit photos after the shoots. Ultimately, they’ve put their all into creating a one-of-a-kind experience for each client. Offering your support not only benefits the photographer, but also you, the subject.
Award-winning photographer Chase Jarvis once said, “The best camera is the one you have with you.” Whether it’s a standard camera phone or a $5,000 camera, nothing beats the ability to freeze moments in time, especially the moments you want to remember forever. Where splurging on actual cameras may not be an option, Richmond offers countless studios that give classes on how to make the most of the camera right there on your cell phone. You’ll learn proper angles, what type of lighting works best for the subject you’re shooting, and various camera settings and features you never knew existed. Best of all, they’re affordable, and make the financial sacrifice much more worthwhile than anything you buy from the impulse rack.
Whether buying a professional camera, booking a photographer for special life events, or signing up for classes at your local photography studio, make that investment. Splurge on yourself and loosen the purse strings so that you may capture moments that last forever.
“If you ever doubt the value of photography, or think investing in your skills or a professional is too expensive, think about the things you splurge on now and how long they actually last,” Hicks says. “If you’re buying a $6 latte every day, you end up spending over $2,000 in one year. That cup only lasts a few minutes. A picture? A picture lasts a lifetime.”