Hi there, I'm Manali! A wedding & portrait photographer serving DC, VA & Worldwide. Click through for all my favorites from recent sessions, adventures and travels, as well as tips & tricks for clients! Grab a cup of coffee, relax, and feel free to connect with me elsewhere as well! Cheers to you!
Manali Photography is a wedding & couples' photography business based out of Washington D.C. and Charlottesville, VA. When she's not making couples laugh or editing for the fastest turnaround time you ever did see, you might find her with family & friends at a vineyard with cheese & rosé to share! Cheers!!
Warning before I even start, this is going to be a LONG one!
So, if you’re reading even this first line, you’re awesome and I super appreciate you! In high school I used to inhale other wedding photographers’ blog posts and I’m pretty sure that’s how I initially came across the Creative at Heart conference. I saw educators and other photographers mention it throughout the years and always saw it as a “pipe dream” that was something I was somehow not good enough for yet, professional enough for, dedicated enough for, or worthy of. I’m saying this out loud right now and I realize how unreasonable that sounds but when I was first starting out, it seemed like something for the “chosen few” who had already kind of MADE IT with their business! Versus me, I was just a fledgling starting out, photography was something that I did for fun in high school and then it was something that I started to do a little bit again in college, and then SOMEHOW I made it into photographing weddings alongside some pretty cool photographers. But still, going to an actual workshop or conference to learn in person from the photographers whose blog posts I’ve read hundreds of times over, it still seemed out of reach.
That obviously changed this year. I think when I finally started the business it was more than just getting the ducks in a row. For me, I think it really provided a mindset shift. Photography was no longer something that was a passing thing that I did, just a mere hobby, or something I did on and off. I think starting the business for me really legitimized that this was something that I had worked really hard at over the years, it’s something that I take seriously and it’s something that I want to continue to grow in. That first step was a big one towards not just believing in my photography but as cliche as it sounds, believing in myself and not letting my own thoughts and my own fear hold me back from everything that I knew I could turn the business into.
So when I saw the tickets go up at the beginning of this year, I knew that I was making a change and I was CHOOSING to be one of the few that would be attending this year. It didn’t matter how much PTO I would have to take, what opportunities I would have to turn down, or how many hours it would take me to get there, I was making the change and choosing growth for myself, my business and ultimately my heart. I got the ticket back in the spring and then as it kept coming up, there was so much going on! But I made it to the WinMock in Bermuda Run, NC after a crazy few weeks of work, meetings with 2019 brides and shoots. The Winmock itself was the perfect home for Creative at Heart. It’s such a gorgeous venue with tons of rooms that hosted breakout sessions that were so incredibly useful, there was the main loft where all of our keynote speakers spoke, the tented outside area where I had lunch with my panel group and our fantastic leaders, a little enclave with the perfect shop setup and a space for everything the conference had to over! But the thing that stood out most was just how helfpul and kind the staff there was! There someone at the door every single morning early at 8 AM greeting us and opening the doors for us with a smile. When it was pouring out, members were escorting people back to their cars with an umbrella so they wouldn’t get drenched. Anything you needed, them and the Creative at Heart volunteers were there to help you out!!
The actual knowledge that was packed into this 3-day conference was so incredibly helpful! I learned something (or MANY things) from each and every keynote speaker as well as breakout session. But in particular, this conference really struck a chord with me because the theme of the conference was not just about all the business knowledge. Underlying every speaker’s talk was the understanding of what it’s like to run a business on your own, to feel the pressure there is to keep everything running and growing. And out of that understanding these speakers spoke to our hearts about remembering WHY it was that we started this business in the first place. Also, Group 3’s panel leaders were THE BEST!! A huge thank you to Christa Rene, Ashely Herrinton, and Krista Jones, you three were so inspiring but also I loved that you were able to relate with each girl’s struggles and help us work through everything we learned!
For me, I started this business for the freedom and flexibility to design a life that I LOVE. But if I’m being very honest, over the course of working a full time job and growing the business, I was not really LIVING much of a life. I was working constantly, I was stressed, I was “busy” all too often and I saw it directly affect my health, my mental outlook, my relationships, and basically every aspect of my life. I would have people acknowledge how great my business was doing and all I could think of was if they realized how my life really looked behind the scenes they would run away. This sounds extreme but basically I was NOT in the greatest place overall in terms of my happiness and contentment despite seeing the business grow to a place that my high school self would DREAM about. And so this conference was the BEST thing among such a busy season to stop me in my tracks, make me check where my heart was at, and encourage me to set boundaries between my business and personal life to get me out of the state of working from a place of overwork and exhaustion to a place of running the business from a sense of gratitude, contentment, and creativity. I’m not saying that this happened overnight at the conference, it’s very much so still a work in progress and probably will always be.
For anyone that is debating investing in this conference, I can not recommend it more! I can see myself going back each year to learn from new educators for such valuable things to implement into my business, but also for the sense of community and understanding that is there during those 3 days that you’re surrounded by like-minded creative entrepreneurs. I can’t wait to see my conference buddies in a year or two and celebrate how far we have all come from this year! So with that, here’s some fun pictures from the whole thing 🙂 If you find a more “on brand” conference, let me know! A HUGE thank you to Kat Schmoyer, the Creative at Heart team, volunteers, and sponsors that made this entire conference possible!