2015 Year In Review | Emily McGonigle Photography


With everyone else posting their "Year In Reviews" and their "Best of 2015" blog posts, I figured I should probably write one of my own.

Overall, 2015 has been pretty awesome. Back in 2014, I said that I wanted 2015 to be the year things happened. And it was. Did ALL the things happen, EXACTLY the way I wanted? No… but things DID happen, and that’s great.

So lets start back at the beginning of the year:



The first part of the year was slow, as all winters are for me and a large percentage of creatives. I was nervous that I wouldn’t pick up any work and that 2015 would be the complete opposite of what I was hoping for. So I did what anyone else would do, and I gave myself projects to work on to keep myself occupied.

I had been wanting to make a dress for a session for a very long time, and I finally tackled that in January. I asked the lovely Elizabeth Addison if she would model for me, and I hand-made a tulle dress specifically for her shoot. For a first attempt, I think it went pretty well.


Later in the year, I was itching to make something again, so I bought a dress mannequin and made my second dress for the beautiful Ges Lorraine’s session.


Those are the only two dresses I’ve made so far, but I have ideas for more that I can’t wait to tackle when the right time arises.



Also in January, I got the opportunity to work with the most amazing little girl ever, Desi Robinson. It was the greatest experience that I had ever encountered during a portrait session. This little girl, who had confidence issues, and had never been in front of the camera, KILLED IT. I mean this girl absolutely killed her shoot.


But not only did I get amazing images out of her session, I learned more about Desi’s story following our session and how impacted she was by it. The turn-around in her confidence and demeanor was so astonishing to me that I spoke to her mother and got permission to share Desi’s story. I posted it on Reddit to share with the photography community there, and it went viral and was featured on PetaPixel.

For some people, Desi became an inspiration. And through her story, many more people were able to understand why portraits are so important. Even better than that, I had made a little friend, and I couldn’t wait to work with her again!

I got that opportunity in the fall of 2015, and her images are in the works as I type this. I hope to have those published next month. They are long overdue to be shared with the world… but the reason for that is in the paragraph below.



In October, I dropped back down to Part-Time from Full-Time at my day job. That was a big deal for me. I had been struggling for a long time about whether or not my husband and I could afford for me to do that. But as work picked up and available time became less and less, something had to give… and that something were the hours I was spending at my day job. As the slow season approaches the idea of having less hours is a little daunting, but I know it was the right thing to do. Even after gaining back half of the hours I was spending in the land of technology retail, it has been really difficult keeping up with my photography work-load, which is why those images of Desi I’m so desperate to get to are still in the queue. (Not for much longer though…)



Spring time rolled around and I finally started getting inquiries again for senior portraits. What was different about the first few inquiries that I got, however, were that they were for MALE seniors. I hadn’t ever done a portrait session for a male senior before. And prior to my first one, I was convinced that I wanted to strictly be a female-centric portrait photographer.

Boy, was I wrong (no pun intended). Some of my favorite sessions this year have been with the guys! While I still have a very firm grasp of what I want my brand to be, and the type of work I want to do, I have now realized that I can and do have fun working with guys, and I never again want to limit myself to only working with women.

If I had said no to those guys, I would have missed out on some awesome sessions, and THAT would have been depressing.

But of course, I still worked with the ladies, and some pretty amazing ladies at that!



Not only did I continue to photograph clients of my own, but this year the frequency in which I worked with Matthew Simmons on *his* projects grew, as his business also gained momentum. And through all those sessions I learned a lot. I learned a decent bit about helping run a commercial photography business (that’s a never-ending point of learning… mostly through trial and error… and through reading a few things here and there, haha), I learned about lighting and working with the people you’re photographing. I learned more about workflow and processing. I learned a lot on my own sessions and working with my own clients, but there’s A LOT to be gained through working with someone else, and helping each other grow.



This year I also really started to push the fact that I wanted to second shoot weddings with other photographers. I pursued that and ended up getting to work with regularly with B and B Portraits as a second shooter on a number of weddings, as well as a few other individuals. I also started offering editing and retouching services for photographers who don’t enjoy doing that themselves. (If you're one of them, shoot me an email. We should talk. ;) )




Earlier in the year my friends decided that they wanted to take a group beach vacation and I got to go with them. Eight of us went in together on a beach house in St. Pete, Florida, and it was the best thing ever for two reasons: 1. I haven't had a REAL vacation since Keith and I took our honeymoon 6 years ago. 2. I haven't been to the beach since... I actually literally can't remember the last time I was at the beach. I must have still been in elementary school. MIDDLE school at the latest.


In any case, it was a great week. I got to hang with my closest friends, spent A LOT of time on the beach, got a tan, and my little brother who I hadn't seen in 2 years, stopped by for a day because he lived an hour away from where we were staying. It was a much needed break from life, and probably one of the biggest highlights of my year. :)




And when I say I blogged a lot more, I mean about actual things. Not just behind the scenes posts or finished images (which I still do), but also about topical things that I thought might be helpful or interesting. I blogged about how to be a great second shooter, which gained a good bit of traction. I blogged a before/after post of the first session I ever did with my brother vs. the one I did with him this year during my beach vacation. In that post I addressed how much I had grown since my beginning days. I blogged about some other business-related topics, and I even posted some more personal things about the anxiety I was feeling while dealing with artistic growing pains.



Not only did I start blogging more, but I started to get serious about figuring out how Instagram works. I don’t have this insanely cohesive and curated feed, but I will say that I think I’ve vastly improved the quality of my feed, and have learned (and am still learning) how to make connections with people through that platform.




Okay. Matthew Simmons updated my branding. Haha.

BUT IT WAS MY IDEA. To update my branding, I mean.

See, THIS was my old logo:


Remember that one? It was pretty terrible. I thought it was the greatest thing when I first came up with it, but as I grew and the direction of my business changed, it was just... terrible.

So one day I was talking to Matthew and mentioned how I wanted to change it, but how I was a terrible designer (Source: See above logo), so he ended up designing my new one. And it's pretty great:


Simple... Clean... Doubles as my initials and my nickname...Haha. I dig it. And so do my clients, apparently, as I was told a few weeks ago. :)



Almost. Kind of.

See, here's the thing about me: I don't like doing anything by myself. It makes me uncomfortable and nervous. I don't know why. It goes back to a deep-rooted social anxiety, I think. In any case, I spent a good bit of time going to coffee shops with friends to work.

But sometimes schedules didn't line up and I just really wanted to go to Crema and be productive outside of my house... so... one day I went. By myself. And the first 45 minutes were the most awkward 45 minutes of my life, but then it got better and I got a lot of work done. And then I realized something: It wasn't that bad. So I kept going back. BY MYSELF. LIKE A BIG GIRL. Ha.


I did a couple things like that this year. I went to parties and didn't ONLY follow around the people I knew well, got food and coffee by myself, etc. I still prefer to do those things *with* other people, but that was a big step for me. For real.



More recently, I got to participate in my first Help-Portrait event. This is something I’ve been wanting to do every year since moving to Nashville, but I never had the opportunity to do so until this year. I was so appreciative for the platform that Jeremy Cowart has created for photographers and other creatives to give back to their community in need. It was exhausting, but it was 100% awesome and rewarding. I can’t wait until next year’s event. 

Portrait of Samuel I made at Help-Portrait. He had never had his portrait made prior to this!

Portrait of Samuel I made at Help-Portrait. He had never had his portrait made prior to this!




Also a little notable happening… About two weeks ago, I made the uncharacteristic decision to be extroverted and go to a party by myself. The studio that I rent out of was hosting a CreativeLive event, featuring Jeremy Cowart as the speaker for the evening. I walked in, and there was Kenna Klosterman. I had seen her a dozen times hosting various CreativeLive workshops, but I never had the pleasure of meeting her in person, and that was pretty cool, because she embodied the beginnings of my photography career. Every CreativeLive workshop I ever binge watched, shushing my husband because I couldn’t pause it and I didn't want to miss anything, Kenna was there.




I'm not really one to make new year resolutions. I never keep them. People rarely do. But that doesn't mean I don't have goals for myself for the upcoming year. I think my biggest and most ambitious goal is to quit my day job. I keep telling myself it's going to happen by June, whether or not that's actually true is still yet to be seen, but that's my current goal.

Other than that, I want to spend time fine-tuning my brand, blog more consistently, and work on some more personal projects to continue my growth and learning.



It would be totally unlike me to end a blog post without a few thank yous so here they are:

Thank you to Matthew Simmons, who whether or not he realizes it, continues to push me every day to be a better photographer. I also very much appreciate all of the help he gives me whether it's assisting me on shoots, lending me gear, or getting things started at a shoot for me and having coffee ready the second I walk through the door, after having dealt with my husband's car being vandalized... haha. He's an amazing photographer, and a great friend. :)

Thank you to everyone else who has assisted me this year: Haley Nicole Carter, Annette McNamara, Risha Chesterfield, and Cedrick Jones.

Thank you to the amazing hair and makeup artists who have done an amazing job on my shoots this year: Chelsea Blair, Ashley Stevens, and Katie Vellman.

Thank you to my family and friends who continually support what I do, especially my husband Keith, who has allowed me to do crazy things like, rent a studio space, and drop down to part-time at my day job. Things can get stressful, but in the end he's always there supporting me and my aspirations.

And last, but most CERTAINLY not least... Thank you to ALL OF MY FABULOUS CLIENTS. You all have been simply wonderful and great fun to work with. I quite literally, couldn't do any of this without you.



So that my 2015 in a nutshell! As I wrap this up, I would love to know, what were some of your favorite moments or accomplishments this year? Do you have anything big planned for 2016? Let me know in the comments below! :)

See you in 2016!!