I wasn’t even thinking about online photography courses or creative self care when I first stumbled across Click Love Grow via a friend’s Facebook page a few years back. In fact, having just given birth to my sixth child, any kind of study or learning was definitely the LAST thing on my mind! Just getting through witching hour each day was an achievement!
But at the same time, I was also frustrated with the photos I was taking – and I felt like I was missing so many important milestones and memories because the images I managed to capture with my camera didn’t match up with the vision in my head. I was desperate to document this whirlwind stage in our lives, and I KNEW I was capable of better, I just didn’t know where to start.
More importantly, I was also desperate for creative fulfillment – the feeling of doing something just for ME amongst the crazy humdrum of everyday mum life.
I was about to discover that an online photography course was the very thing I didn’t know I needed!
I had studied photography at high school (back in the days of film!), so photography had always filled a creative void for me, but shooting fast-moving little humans is quite different to the flowers and architecture I shot for my school assessments! So when I began taking photos of my children and discovered they were blurry, flat and uninspiring, frustration soon set in and drowned out all of the creative satisfaction I’d found in photography in my pre-baby days.
When my fifth child was a baby, and I was busy getting my head around the DSLR I’d bought while I was pregnant with her, I briefly considered signing up for a TAFE course, but the demands of family life, including a chronically ill child who, at that stage, was spending a lot of time in hospital, made it impossible to commit to anything that required in-person attendance or tightly-set schedule.
I also knew I needed to set aside some time for self-care, but most often, by the time I’d organised someone to look after the kids, prepped meals, cleaned the baby puke off my shirt and found my shoes, I was so exhausted all wanted to do with my ‘me time’ was nap!
So instead, I bumbled along trying to figure it out on my own, occasionally coming up with an image I loved, but more often than not, getting 20 rubbish images for every good one. At the same time, caught up in the mundane of our everyday and exhausted by sleepless nights with a baby who thought sleep was for the weak, I craved something just for me, something I could simultaneously lose myself and find myself in all at once.
When I spotted the Click Love Grow free photography workshop on Facebook, baby number six was coming up to his first birthday, and my older three were all in high school and playing representative sport, so time was more sparse than ever. Weeknights were spent ferrying them to varying training sessions, then weekends were a revolving door of games and carnivals from one side of the city to the other. And still, the baby didn’t sleep.
But despite how time-poor I was, I was desperate to take more control of my camera, so I signed up. I had never studied anything online before, so figured it would be a good way to test out how online learning would work for me without too much commitment, and hopefully it would force me to claw back a little time for myself too.
Well, by the end of the workshop, I was hooked! It wasn’t just the series of ‘Aha!’ moments I had during the video as some of the fundamental photography concepts I’d struggled with suddenly began to make sense, it was also the space it gave me to flex my creative muscles. And once I discovered that appetite for learning, it was insatiable! I needed MORE!
So I jumped straight from there into the Click Love Grow Advanced Photography Course. There were a few (okay, many!) moments of anxiety in the lead up to the course starting as I worried about whether I’d be able to find the time, whether I should really be spending so much money on something that I only ever intended to pursue as a hobby, and whether I was ‘good’ enough to keep up.
I needn’t have worried. When the first lesson dropped, I put the little guy down for his nap and dived in, and I soon realised that it wasn’t about finding time, it was about making time. I watched the lessons during the day while he napped, then planned out my practice shoots around the activities we had scheduled for that week. Sometimes it meant taking the camera to footy training and taking shots of my younger two while the big girls trained, other times, it meant escaping to the local botanic gardens for a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon while hubby held the fort.
And when I started to feel the guilt creeping in, when I worried about whether it was selfish to spend this time on my own pursuing my own interests when there was laundry that needed folding and school lunches that needed making, I clung tight to the reassurance that by filling my own cup, I was clearing the mental space I needed to be more present with my kids in the day-to-day.
Interestingly, while I initially set out on this journey to learn how to take better photos of my children and document our daily lives, as time has gone on, I’ve found myself pulled in a new creative direction, towards experimentation with light and colour and movement and blur. I still love capturing my children, but the process of mastering my camera has opened up a whole new creative world and I’m enjoying just leaning into the process.
And to think, this all began when I signed up to a free online photography workshop! That one little decision really has changed my life! So today, I challenge you to ask yourself – what does creative self care look like for YOU, and how are you making time for it in YOUR life?
Emma Davis is a CLG Instructor, Advanced Grad, and an ex-pat Kiwi living in Sydney. She has a background in journalism and photography, and is mum to six gorgeous muses who indulge her love of hunting and capturing light.