Holding On and Letting Go

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There are some days that I just feel full. Full of happiness, or sadness, life, or love. And there are some days that I just feel full of words. Writing has always been a secret outlet that I fail to use efficiently; I write in spurts and bursts and in an inconsistent attempt to empty my brain like a maxed-out memory card. Some days writing is easy, and some days writing is hard. Incase you haven’t noticed, writing has been the latter for me lately. But as it usually does, the bug came back to bite in the wee hours of the morning on an insignificant Tuesday evening.

A lot has happened in the past 6 months. For most, you’ve only gotten snippets from Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. For some, you’ve been with me the whole damn ride (screaming to let you off, I’m sure). So thank you to those who already know all of this, and a warm welcome to those who don’t.

In July of 2014 I opened a photo studio. Remove the Pinterest-esque image of a photography studio out of your mind; we’re talking an office-sized, square room. Weathered hard wood floors, antique century doorhandles and two walls of windows had me dreaming of simple setups and breathtaking naturally-lit photo sessions. Babies, children, couples, pets; I was completely overwhelmed with what an empty room could mean for my on-the-side photography business. It was a mild summer morning in May, and I said yes. I said yes to leaving a job I was no longer interested in, that took me far from home and drained the life out of me, to the absolutely heart-wrenchingly scary world of “let’s try to pay bills with photography!”. I left a Toronto high-rise in early June, camped at my dining room table on my laptop for a month, and painted that little room with enough optimism I could have exploded if someone tapped me on the shoulder.

I had shoots coming through. I had a few in studio, a lot on location, and the most weddings I’ve had in my career scheduled for the summer ahead. I paid a month’s worth of expenses solely through my new “career”. It was a very weird, exciting feeling. It was also becoming clear that I wasn’t steady enough to be fully depending on this income, so I picked up a part time job as a receptionist at a day spa. I lived my little daydream out loud, spending every waking moment immersed in my passion. This is what dreams are made of, right? Right.

Then an opportunity came along at the end of August. An in-my-face, loud, “you cannot turn this down” opportunity. Not photography related, not one bit. It was a position with a company, full time (contract to start), doing what I had been doing in Toronto, only very close to home with very enticing hours and security that could not be ignored. I went in head first, never having more than the expectation that it’s worth a try. After an interview on a Tuesday (what is it with Tuesdays? So innocent, yet so not at all) I was at my new desk not 24 hours later. It was surreal. What happened to the exciting, scary, entrepreneurial adventure I was only just beginning? Why did I have that sinking feeling that I was somehow selling out?

If you should know anything about me, it’s that I have many different aspects of fulfilment in my little heart. Think of this like one of those children’s puzzles where you have to fit the star-shaped toy into the star-shaped opening. I have a square, a triangle, a circle, a star, and a slue of other shapes waiting to be paid attention to. Photography takes up one of these spaces. And for that little part of the summer, it grew big enough to take up most of the spaces. But you can’t fit the star into the circle, you say! Well, you’re right. You can’t. While I can probably try to jam that sucker in there, it just don’t fit. And it took months of figuring out how to stop feeling like a sellout to realize I can’t ignore the different shapes of my heart. So I now have a photography spot, a day-job spot (which fills an academic appetite that is a very big part of me. The nerd glasses are real!), a fiancé spot (we’ll touch on that later) and a few other unlabelled spots waiting to be sorted out.

It’s tricky to put a finger on how I feel about this from a business perspective. While I would absolutely love to pursue photography full time, I can’t ignore real-life necessities and real-life financial stress that bubbles up in my system until I’m balled up yelling at the money-shaped bus that ran me over. If this position hadn’t come along, I would have continued to work part time in order to alleviate that stress, ramping into a potential full-time photography adventure when the time came. What’s nice is, I can still have that option. I can continue to be a “weekend warrior” (it’s a real term, I’m told) and live comfortably while doing so, saving for a wedding (yes we’ll get there, I told you) and subduing that money stress, at least a little bit. One day I will wake up and walk to my home office to work. One day I will be holding a wriggling two year old while I attempt to get some photo editing done, simultaneously maintaining an effortless appearance while doing so (that’s the dream, no?). For now, I wake up and go to an office ten minutes away, put in a day’s work, and come home to the second day’s work. It’s a bit of a balancing act, but when isn’t life a balancing act really?

Now, backstepping to that little perfect room we’re calling a studio. I had the grand opening back in October, celebrating the beginnings of success with friends and family (there you are! Dropping all your names in that generic blanket!) and opening my door (and my heart) to the next chapter of Hilary Spencer Creative Photography. I’d like to think that I am the business, and that the grand opening was an opening of my love for photography and working with such beautiful families and faces, fiddling with engagement rings and fluffing dresses, playing with toy cars and shouting dirty words to make cheeks turn red and smiles explode. I am not the space that I reside in; my work is a product of this little magical thing inside me that dares to speak out and let everyone know: I am in love with making people smile.

I’ve given my last month’s notice to the wonderful owner of the building I was camped out in for those few months. You see, it took taking a huge leap, that one jump out into the world, to push me past all the “what if”s and “what now”s to really find out that I love what I do. I’m so happy that I have spent the time investing in myself, in the business, because it propelled me into the future, which is where I’m now focussed. My future will now hold a photo studio in my home, in a freshly painted finished basement that was sitting empty without any laughter or joy. Believe it or not, I’ll have more room than I did in those four optimistic walls, and I can’t wait to transform my space into everything I had dreamed of for a small-but-mighty studio space. And the bonus? Rent free. Money that can be thrown to new equipment, props, lighting, or hey… that wedding.

This little (not so little, I’m a dirty liar) novella is to air out a bit of what I’ve been holding inside, holding on to, and now letting go. I’m so focussed on each step in front of me, I can’t be bothered to look back for anything else but epic memories. My 2015 season is so busy, we couldn’t plan to fit in our own wedding. I’m burning the midnight (and sometimes 3am) oil almost every night, but I’m exhilarated to the point where I couldn’t sleep if I tried. To my new work folks, you know why the bags under my eyes could be checked at the airport (with extra fees for oversized luggage). And to my photography clients, here, there, and in the future, you are truly what wakes me up every morning (or afternoon, after I’ve strategically power-napped), allowing me to live out my dreams and passions through that lens. Every time I feel exhausted, a little girl will chase me around a room with fists full of crackers shouting Taylor Swift rifts. A newborn baby will grasp my finger, making those heart-melting sleepy noises while I tuck fingers back under blankets. A freshly engaged couple nervously laughs and embraces under a sunset; my own personal movie that I’m directing in the moment. I am truly blessed to be trusted with your memories, and I will continue to strive for perfection in the craft that has called me home. My square is fitting snugly in it’s place, whether that’s in a box, in a room, or in my heart; I’m happy, and you know it.



(And to those waiting for the fiancé update: He said “So?” and I said “Yes.” I bawled and we laughed and I can’t stop looking at my left hand. The story is perfectly “us”, and you’ll hear it soon enough.)


Take Five



A beautiful feature is up over on Kristine Carr’s Life and Bridal blog, with photography by yours truly and an awesome interview with one of Durham Region’s most talented florists. It was an incredible day of learning the ins and outs of the floral industry, and why it is very important to ensure your florist be knowledgable as well as creative.



Tomorrow (or today, as most are reading this in the glow of morning light versus the dark of night) I am on my way to BLOGPODIUM (yes, caps are necessary. I am shouting.) This is an absolute first for me, and as a blogger-in-reform, I’m so overwhelmingly excited to be inspired and kicked in the pants by so many new and potentially familiar bloggers and creatives. Knowing that I’ll be in the company of the many lives I’ve lived vicariously through, from local folks to international wonders, is going to take my breath away. In a good way! You know I’ll have my camera in hand, so stay tuned for a Blog Podium 2014 roundup in a few days (it’s protocol!).


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I have been so incredibly blessed this summer with so many inspiring and creative photo sessions and weddings. My brides have been beyond fantastic, making me feel so sure about myself as a photographer and a creative. I just feel so content knowing I have so many more opportunities in my future, that this path is just the beginning of this photog’s journey. So cliche, but that’s the truth, folks.


Speaking of creative, I have some exciting news! A refresh to my current branding and a STUNNING new website and blog are going to be unveiled very very soon. How vague can I get? Well, it’s going to happen on a day in the near future that will end in the word “-day”. It will also be happening between the hours of awake and not-so-awake. So. Pinpoint that timeline.

But in all truth, I can’t wait to show off the gorgeousness that is my brand, and in turn my personality and soul in graphic form. Heavy stuff, but it feels so right!


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Lastly but not leastly (it’s a word) I am having another fairly momentous milestone in a few short weeks: my very first bridal show! I will be at the Welcome Wagon Bridal Showcase in Oshawa on October 5th. For the past few weeks I’ve been scheming and dreaming, sketching and scribbling my way through my dream booth layout, and all the little details I want to make sure I have on point. I might be getting carried away, but I’d rather dream big than wish I had put more thought into it! Come out and take a peek at the other local talents that will be hanging out alongside me, and geek out on all things bridal!


Phew, update complete. See you on the other side of Blog Podium!

The Low Down On The Light And Lean – My Elimination Diet In Detail

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Woah woah woah.

You are on a diet? Diets are bad. Haven’t you heard?

  • Everything in moderation.
  • You are lovely just the way you are, don’t change to fit a standard!
  • You look fine!!!

Let me dispel some confusion here, folks.

Yep, I’m on a “diet”. Because my regimen isn’t going to be forever, I hesitate to call it a lifestyle, but really, it has become a lifestyle and I didn’t even realize.

Let’s get a few things straight:

Q: What is an “elimination diet”? What are you eliminating?

A: An elimination diet is basically kickstarting your system back to basics. You’re taking out processed foods, and any and all major potential allergens in order to reboot your system and get all the gunk out. You’re starting from square one, and reintroducing those potential allergens to have a very clear indicator of how they affect your body and mind. This process can take a long time or a little time, depending on the symptoms you’re looking to find causes for. I have digestive issues, and skin troubles. Because skin takes such a long time to regenerate, it’s taking me a lot longer than most would need in order to properly see what is flaring up my rosacea.

Continue reading

As of Late

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Hello friends. Checking in from my couch, for the last time, as I have finally gotten the locks on my studio’s doors (yes, two doors to one small room, the quirks of old century homes never cease to amaze) and I will be working from the studio from this point onward. Good times are here again!

Just a few things that you may not have grasped from my garbled Instagram:

  • I am on week 5 of my elimination diet. What? Why? How? You cray? An elimination diet is simply taking out the bad to restart your system, and then adding in potential food sensitivities and allergens to see what bugs the belly. I am aiming for a full 6 weeks to see the benefits in my skin, which always takes the longest to rejuvenate. If you’re interested in my specific regimen, I got all my information and instruction from my Naturopath who is probably the best thing that could have happened to me. That, and the B12 shots she so graciously gives me. Current diagnosis is some sort of stomach bug mixed with a B12 deficiency and a potential food sensitivity throwing a wrench in the works. I’ll be posting my experience with Naturopathy another day, or by all means, get in touch and pick my brain if you’re having a hard time and not getting answers from your GP.
  • I am on my way to see Gavin DeGraw, Matt Nathanson, and Mary Lambert tomorrow night at The Sound Academy. My inner high-school self is already passed out from excitement. I was on team One Tree Hill, so if think hard and remember correctly, “I don’t wanna be…”
  • My website and blog are being overhauled! I finally sat down with someone whom actually knows what the business end of HTML 5 looks like, and I couldn’t be more excited to see the results. I’ve bugged the potatoes out of her with inspiration photos, ideas, and specifics but I am beyond overjoyed to see the first mockup. As much as I can piddle with graphic design and make very cool things with very cool fonts, my coding skills peaked in grade 7 whilst listening to Christina Aguilera and pounding the keyboard over at Geocities and Myspace.
  • The studio is officially open for business; having done my first shoot and loving it, I’m so jazzed. I will be doing a full studio lowdown once the final tweaks are done styling-wise, and my display images are up. There are so many little projects that take some time (and moneys) to complete, but it’s definitely on its way to being my oasis away from home, and I can’t wait to share it with everyone. Hello? Dreams? Are you coming true? Perfect.
  • Watch. Listen. Do this now. I might be behind on this but oh it’s so great. Oh, and then watch this, because naturally.

Where I’ve Been Writing Lately!


Friends! I was going to title this blog post with “Where I’ve Been!” but that’s another story (fade to black, cue credits). I just want to let you know where I’ve been parking my proverbial pen lately: over at A Quarter Young, an awesome lifestyle and young-somethings blog with a gaggle of ridiculously talented contributors writing about relevant, beyond-interesting topics. I hold my own with some quirky, mildly inspiring pieces about life, career stuff, and generally being happy.

Go take a peek at my latest soul explosion and browse the other articles; it’s a good place to be!

Michelle and Michael are Married | Hamilton Wedding Photographer

A long, long time ago, in a pair of ratty jeans and skater shoes, I made a friend that made me laugh so hard I’d snort. Somehow, we both ended up liking the same boys, which made things a little tricky, but otherwise I was pretty sure this friend was gonna stick around. And she did; regardless of boys, shoes, and through years of staying in touch from afar. I’m so grateful to have Michelle in my life, and I couldn’t be happier to have shared in her magical day of bliss as she exchanged vows with the one boy I didn’t like – in that way! Michelle and Mike are a phenomenal fit, and I wish them a lifetime of happiness and true love.

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Some Soul Stuff – Why You’re The Best Thing That Ever Happened To You


This “Soul Stuff” is catching on… and guess what? I’m liking it. Also, my dog is gorgeous and this photo has nothing to do with anything. Hurray!

I’ve had another one of those brain itches that just won’t go away until I proverbially scratch at it. I’ve resisted bringing up this topic because it’s still a tender one for me, and while I’m totally a work in progress, I’m at a place now that I can understand myself enough to talk about it. I hope it will help at least one person out there struggling with the same invisible monster.  Continue reading