In this series of blog posts we are introducing people who are speaking at and attending Inspire 2013. We are delighted to introduce Meg Belanger, owner of Margaret Belanger Photography in Winchester, MA. Meg will be on a panel discussing  Passion Projects and what it's meant to her personally and professsionally.

Clients often ask me, “Which do you like better, photographing families or weddings?” I know they’re just looking for me to dish some dirt about tantrum-throwing toddlers or crazed bridezillas, or for me to admit that I like photographing their family better than a wedding, but I opt for diplomacy. And the truth is, when I say I like them both the same, I’m not lying. For me, one would not exist without the other. The thing is, and I hope you can relate, weddings are hard work. Photographing families is hard work. I need to do both of them because they balance each other out. Editing a family session while I’m knee-deep in a wedding is a nice break. Photographing happy adults is a nice break from crying babies (or even better, yelling parents).  They work off of each other to help keep my photography fresh. My end goal, in addition to good photography, is always sanity. Even though I am already in a creative industry, I still need creative outlets.

In the end, it’s all about balance. I know – easier said than done, especially when you run your own business. There’s no moment at the end of the day when you clock out. It is really easy to just go go go and then maybe, just maybe, get frustrated, resentful, and/or cranky. The trick is to find something else that lights your fire and inspires you. Let that passion get you excited about your business again. It’s a wonderful cycle to surrender to. I never want to be in a position where I don’t love photography, so I’m doing everything in my power to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Sometimes that creative outlet is work you’re just doing for yourself and the return on investment isn’t going to be monetary. That doesn’t mean that it’s not worth your time and effort. I believe that it will still change your business and your photography. Not to mention, it could take you places you never expected! My first big personal photography project is actually what led me to a career in photography. I went to grad school in L.A. and I love all things Hollywood, especially “old” Hollywood. I started researching historical locations and going out and photographing them. Sometimes there would be a decrepit old building, sometimes a parking lot or a strip mall, but I always photographed it. My classmates recognized that I  always carried a camera and I ended up being hired as the set photographer on a USC grad school thesis film. Which then led me to look for a photography job back in Boston. The rest is history. But you better believe that every time I return to Los Angeles, I am armed with index cards and a camera. Working on my Hollywood project is like exhaling after being underwater.

Find something you love to photograph that takes you down that Frost-ian road less traveled. Find something to photograph that gives you a break from your “job.” Find something to photograph that reminds you why you decided to make a career out of photography, that reignites the flame, that gets you excited.

At Inspire, I’ll be speaking on a panel with Krista Guenin and Kristin Chalmers about the importance of passion projects. They’ll be the altruistic do –gooders, and I’ll be the one talking about food photography. In the meantime, here are some photos from some of my personal/outside-of-weddings-and-families work (and maybe a couple of wedding photos).