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!!
I’m just going to come out here and say it. I am a huge nerd and an avid reader. I was about to type always have been, always will be. But this is actually not the case! I was added to the GT program after testing in at the end of second grade. And as a go-getter from an early age, I was SUPER ecstatic!! All the GT program kids were allowed to do more complex projects on super interesting topics and given more time to really work on these rather than following the slower, in my eyes, more mundane curriculum in the main classroom. They got to learn in the trailers OUTSIDE. And to a second grader, that’s like the golden ticket. A sense of FREEDOM from the confines of school while being able to work as much as you want! Again, like I said, I am a huge nerd. Have been since second grade and always will be.
However, the GT focus for third grade was reading. And boy oh boy, did I HATE reading. So much so that I got behind on the benchmark for reading a book a month in the GT program and got my first ever (and last) N in school on my report card! I was kicked out of GT and spent the rest of elementary school wistfully wishing I was in the program. I wish I could say I’m kidding but I’m not! That summer, my cousins literally forced me to sit on their forest green couch and put Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone in my lap and said that I wasn’t allowed to get up until I had finished one chapter. Every afternoon, they would force me to read another chapter. Until somewhere along the way, I was magically hooked into the story line.
And from there, I became a book FIEND. I would sit for hours, get so immersed in books, that I would look up and it would be five hours later. I realize years later that the same thing happens when I get entrenched in things that I love doing. I completely immerse myself in them and lose track of time. It’s actually happening right now with this blog post and that’s how I end up with posts that are over 1,000 words long occasionally. How I still have blog post readers is really a miracle to me!!
But anyways, one of my goals for this year was to get back to reading and to read 2 books a month! I’ve stayed pretty much on target with this with the exception of April and May with really crazy traveling schedules. Here’s four books that I’ve absolutely loved devouring recently for business and life!
Essentialism by Greg McKeown
This was a game changer of a book for me!! It completely changed how I viewed everything in my life and how I was running things in my business. There’s an image that stuck with me the most that I’ve added in below which is really the basis of the book.
It essentially details how far you get when your energy is spent doing a million little things versus when your energy is directed in a clear and compelling way towards ONE focus! I think this analogy can also be used to demonstrate how effective we are when we’re cramming in little tasks here and there versus dedicating a certain work time to GET. THINGS. DONE.
Essentialism forced me to sit down and really rethink how I was running my business and how I was spending energy in other parts of my life. It focused me to define an end goal and figure out what the most crucial steps to getting there would be. Once you give yourself the permission to stop trying to do everything all at once, you can really give your highest energy and yourself to the things that are going to be your highest contributions to your business and life.
It reminded me that in everything, we always HAVE a choice. Even when it feels like we don’t. We really do. If you lose control of being able to choose for yourself, that is one of the biggest dangers there is. At the beginning of the book almost a whole page is taken up by the quote “If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will,” and it really resonated with me! I wish that I had picked up this one in college or even high school and that I could have used it as a framework for me during that time!
This book also totally rewired how I thought about time and fitting everything into a 24 hour day. When I was working at Accenture and running my business on the side, I constantly felt like there wasn’t enough ime in the day. Laura Vanderkam explains how every week has 168 hours and so even if you’re working a full 40 hours and sleeping a full 8 hours a day, you still have 72 waking hours to make use of!! For me this looked a little more like 62 hours with a commute but STILL!!! I didn’t FEEL like I had 62 hours just lying around any week, that’s TWO AND A HALF DAYS!!!!
That realization changed how I viewed where my time was going each week and also forced me to utilize different pockets of time to be something that I LOVED. I became more diligent about tracking my time to see how much I was really spending on the business, where I was wasting time doing tasks inefficiently due to distractions and helped me figure out what my hourly rate and pricing should be for photography from an analytical perspective rather than what I FELT I should charge for sessions. This is SO key in making sure you’re not undercharging and burning out due to it!!!
This book forced me to see that time, was not really the issue, but how I was prioritizing tasks was. It opened up my eyes to block scheduling my time which saved a LOT of mental fatigue and organized my business to-do list into something that wasn’t overwhelming me and hitting me like a pile of bricks come every Monday! I also absolutely loved her other book called Off the Clock as well!!
The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy
This book is all about the power of doing smaller tasks, even if they seeminsignificant, over and over again until the effect of doing that small action repeatedly ripples out and becomes a wave! Seems like a pretty general idea and it really is but as I was reading this, I saw how much it has applied to my business over time and how I needed to incorporate those small ripples into my daily life with some habits as well. This essentially boiled down to consistency which I think is a HUGE determining factor of success.
Consistency to me means doing things repeatedly in a routine that take a bit of effort that you might be tempted NOT to do, week in and week out. You never really see immediate payoff from these things which can make it discouraging to keep repeating them. However, when you do them over time consistently say for like 6 months, 12 months or even 18 months, you reap the benefits of them THEN. Small choices + consistency + time = MASSIVE results.
How have I seen this work in business?
Blogging: I used to HATE blogging. Shocking, from reading this thousand word post? Yes. But when I first started I felt like no one was reading the blog. And spoiler alert, no one actually was reading the blog. I could tell from Google Analytics!! All the hard work and hours I was putting in were of no use. If I got 2 readers for a post, I KNEW it was my brother and my mom hahahaha. But despite that, I stuck with it and it became increasingly easier to blog. And as I posted on Facebook or Instagram about the blog posts, I started to get ACTUAL readers that weren’t immediately related to me!! The blog now actually drives THOUSANDS of people to my website and it literally started with two. That is CRAZY to m!!
Posting on Social Media: Again the same narrative with hating posting but forcing myself to do little by little, three times a week consistently for over a year. I would hear other photographers say the majority of their referrals of new clients were from Instagram and I would wonder what I was doing wrong because a referral from Instagram was like a unicorn when it showed up in my business!!! It just didn’t happen. Until it did! I’ve started to see this channel become one of my number 1 referral sources over just the last couple of months, about 18 months after I started committing to consistently posting wedding work on the platform!
This post is getting long enough as it is so I’ll throw in some other ideas for people who are looking to incorporate this general idea into their businesses as well: vendor relations/networking, posting to social media, the quality of your images, your client experience, how you pose and make people feel comfortable in front of the camera, gifting, tracking analytics/inquiries, bookkeeping (!!), building systems in your business, updating your website, the list could go on!
Deep Work by Cal Newport
Not going to wax poetic about this one but I really liked how it committed to getting the real work, the kind that takes TIME, done and ideas to really focus in on what’s important. It really opened up my eyes to how distracted I can get throughout the day when I’m working and also when I’m “trying” to relax! I flit from thing to thing, when was the last time I read an article top to bottom without getting distracted? If you’ve felt like that, I highly recommend this book! I have definitely adopted blocking work into chunks throughout the week and trying to take meditative breaks (still working on this).
Throwing this in here even though I realize none of it is really directed towards being a book for business. This is more like a life manual. I work from home now out of the same space that I sleep in so keeping things in my room simplified is of utter importance because the state of my environment very much so affects my work. The book’s tagline is tactical tools for intentional living which has been the overarching main theme and vision that I have for myself this year. After having gone full time with my photography business, I’ve been committed to getting off the “hustle” or “busy and overwhelmed” train and into more of a weekly routine for myself that brings a bit of organization, peace, calm, and content to what can very easily turn back into an overwhelmed life during busy wedding seasons!
This book is directed more towards moms in some chapters but I found so many chapters that applied directly to me. Here’s some areas of my life that I have simplified after reading this book and I can attest to the fact that it DOES in fact make a world of a difference in how I not only FEEL but how productive I am week in and week out:
my physical space
my wardrobe & beauty routine
weekly routines & self-care
I have read this book from cover to cover twice and definitely recommend it if you need a bit more simplicity in your life to make room for what matters most! I think it also cultivates a mindset of not letting yourself make things too complicated which I try to apply to the business!
Here’s a couple of books that are on my list to read throughout this year!
Boundaries by Henry Cloud & Townsend
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
The Starbucks Experience by Joseph Mitchell
Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller
Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport
Art of Work by Jeff Goins
If you enjoyed this post, you might consider following along on Instagram & binge reading these as well!