TGIF, amirite? Today on our #FollowFriday series we talk to Becki Smith, one half of the Houston-based wedding photography duo, Smith House Photography.
Becki and Ryan are all about giving back. In 2014, they donated all their business profits, a total of $12,000, to Living Water International. They also traveled to Nicaragua to build a water-well with their own hands, and sponsored another well that was built in the summer of 2015. They continue to support Living Water International and also donate portions of their proceeds to She Has Hope, an international organization that supports human trafficking victims and survivors.
Ok, the idea of a wife and husband photography power-duo is adorable. How did you guys decide to start your own business?
We love being a husband and wife team! But in full disclosure, we didn’t launch our business as such! Before we got engaged I was working a job that I loved, but that was also insanely consuming. We knew that 1am phone calls and getting called in on my only day off of the week was not how we wanted to start a marriage, and especially not how we wanted to raise a family. Our priorities were building a life together, traveling, and serving others; but our (total lack of) work-life balance was not reflecting that.
I had always loved photography; not just for the art, but also for the relationships with our clients and other vendors. Owning my own business also meant I got to set the hours and the workload, which truly just meant I could get on a plane to go to Colorado with my husband without getting a phone call that an employee hadn’t shown up and freaking out about whether or not we should still go. So I took a much more time-manageable position working 9-5 in an office and launched my photography business. Luckily, I didn’t have to work that 9-5 for very long before going “full-time photography”.
Ryan started tagging along to engagement sessions to lug gear and coming to wedding days to assist me with lighting and the gear. It didn’t take long for me to realize I would much rather have him alongside me on a wedding day than anyone else. And he was fully on board with working together long-term. So he slowly started shooting. He has grown a ton from “stand here and push this button” to shooting alongside me, creating great images, and his most recent venture: learning to shoot with a prism.
We officially made the transition to “husband and wife team” last fall and we wouldn’t change it for the world!
What are the best perks and biggest challenges to working with your spouse?
There is nothing better than working with your best friend. We love being able to build a business together, but even more we are able to build a life together that we wouldn’t be able to do if we were working with anyone else. But truly, the best part of working together is getting to know all of our couples, to encourage them as they start their marriages, and to tell them that it is absolutely okay, normal, and expected that marriage is hard! And another major perk is getting to look up from my camera across the ceremony as our brides and grooms are saying their vows and fall in love with my husband all over again. We add to the vows we took at our own wedding just about every weekend!
The biggest challenge is separating life and business. We have couples that truly become our friends, so over dinner we start conversing with them as friends and then somehow end up talking about their gallery and what canvas to order. It also is hard sometimes to tell Ryan why I didn’t pick some of the images he took to be in the final gallery. Apparently “I just didn’t like it” doesn’t always fly!
What inspired you to be a charitable vendor?
Serving others and giving our best is a theme that is wrapped fully into our lives, not just into our business. Our church is heavily involved with local and international missions and participates every year in Advent Conspiracy. During the 2013 Advent, I was spurred by the question of whether or not we were doing enough, whether our way of giving was truly impacting us and the way we lived our lives. So after a few brief conversations, and absolutely zero planning, Ryan and I decided to give everything from our business the following year to Living Water International.
I had just photographed my first weddings (right before Ryan and I got married ourselves) and made nearly zero dollars. So while this definitely seemed like a radical move, we didn’t realize just how radical it was going to be. I was still working my full-time office job, but our photography business really took off and I ended up leaving the office halfway through the year. It was a huge leap of faith, but it truly was the best thing we ever did! Ever since then, we’ve made it a point to give back as much as we can.
That’s amazing! So, can you tell us a bit more about what you do to give back?
Our biggest commitment each year is to Living Water International. In 2014, we traveled to Nicaragua and were able to help in the hands-on drilling of a well! In 2015, we sponsored another well in Nicaragua. It is incredibly humbling to see your name on a life-giving source of water! Our goal for 2016 is to sponsor yet another well and travel to Central America to drill it ourselves!
Another organization we are also connected with is She Has Hope, an anti-human trafficking initiative in Nepal, Uganda, and the Philippines. We are on the advisory board for the organization and have hosted Happy Hours to benefit their Nepali rehabilitation home. She Has Hope was also the primary beneficiary of this year’s edition of The 24 Hour Project, which Ryan and I participated in.
What’s the secret to taking the perfect wedding photo?
I don’t know that there is a single secret, but we have always found that our brides and grooms love images so much more when they are genuinely smiling, laughing, or reliving a moment! And in turn, we love these the most as well!
Our goal with our couples is always to get them comfortable in front of the camera and get them interacting with each other rather than feeling posed. We spend time to get to know them before their wedding day (engagement sessions are awesome for this!) so that we know what makes them laugh and know memories that they are passionate about. This allows us to interact with them naturally on their wedding day and create beautiful photos that they will love and that will show their grandchildren and great-grandchildren what they were really like.
You can learn more about Smith House Photography here. Know any wedding vendors that are doing great things to give back? Let us know in the comments and we might feature them next time!