Photos by Christina Hyatt Photography
Eva Rieb was always the person in her group of girlfriends standing behind the camera, capturing memories at bachelorette parties, bridal showers, baby showers, birthdays and more. She even dreamed of becoming a wedding photographer when she was a bride but returned to working in sales after the big day.
Then, when she was pregnant with her first child, her husband gifted her a “fancy” camera – her first DSLR. The following Christmas, he added to her lens collection and soon Eva found herself starting to explore her passion for photography more seriously.
Today, Eva lives in Seattle with her husband, Trevor, an “adorable little monster-love-boy” named Noah, age 4 ½, and a sweet baby girl named Charlie, age 1 ½. When she isn’t busy being a wife and mother, she now works as a professional photographer who captures engagements stories, weddings, baby bumps and family milestones for her clients.
During our conversation, Eva shared how she steadily built her photography business on the side – and why she decided to stop playing it safe and quit her day job so she could spend her working hours doing something she really loved.
Why did you decide to become a mom? Was it a hard or easy decision?
I have always wanted to have children but I knew the moment I met my husband that I wanted to be a mother. (I think there’s a difference between “having kids” and “being a mother.” Am I right?) I wanted to have a life and children with THAT MAN. He made me laugh, he had great values – and still does. Aside from saying yes to marrying him, deciding to have children with him was one of the easiest decisions I (we?) ever made. I wanted to know and do life with Trevor as a parent.
At what point after you became a mom did you decide to pursue photography?
I've always been the one in my group of girlfriends to take photos – at bachelorette parties, baby showers, bridal showers, birthdays, etc. I had dreamed of becoming a wedding photographer during the wedding planning process. We developed a great relationship with our wedding photographer. She ended up documenting my pregnancy with Noah and also his newborn, six month and one year photos as well.
My background is in advertising. I worked for MOViN 92.5 KQMV (radio) as an account executive in sales. I loved the job and the thrill of making a sale, but my true passion was developing relationships with my clients.
Fast forward to my pregnancy with Noah when my husband gifted me a "fancy" camera: my first DSLR. The following Christmas he added to my lens collection. I found myself diving deeper into my passion for photography and started taking maternity photos and newborn photos for my friends. I really loved what I was doing and decided to launch my small business.
After I had Noah, I realized my job at the radio station wasn't lending itself to the life I wanted for my family. Business hours at the station were 8:30am to 5:30pm but my commute was an hour-plus each way and my clients would email at all hours of the night. Being 100 percent commission sales, I felt like I was ALWAYS on the clock. I then left radio and worked in the front office at a periodontal surgery office. The job was 10 minutes from home and once I was done with work for the day, I could focus 100 percent of my energy on being a mom and wife.
Photography really started off as a nights and weekends project. I would shoot a session on the weekend and edit throughout the week. Wash, rinse, repeat. I grew my business by offering "portfolio building" sessions to one friend in each of my social groups, which lead to referrals and now I am taking photos of people I don't know!
A couple years ago a friend of a friend approached me and asked if I would be comfortable shooting her wedding. I was honest and explained that it wasn't my specialty but was something I often dreamed of. We worked out a deal and I did their engagement session in January and the three of us totally clicked. I loved meeting this young couple and developing a relationship with them. I shot their wedding the following August.
One wedding turned into four weddings the following season, then a few more the season after that. This year is the year that I have left my full time job to focus on my family, which is what I always wanted to do, and also take on more wedding clients. I have 12 weddings booked this year with a few still pending. I am self-taught and take TONS of classes.
Photography is my passion project and I am happy that I am now making an income from it. I still take family portraits, and I especially love clients that return year after year – seeing those families grow is the best. But my big love right now is meeting new couples and, throughout the wedding planning process, truly making new friends as part of the deal. I shoot their engagement photos, boudoir photos (if the bride wants to gift her hubby-to-be a "little black book" with tasteful boudoir pics), wedding photos and then down the road maternity, newborn and family portraits as well.
I'm at this place in life where I am finally doing what my heart wants to do, and it really feels great. I am the mom I always wanted to be – we go to the gym and the zoo and explore local parks. I make PB&Js and clean up messes. (How many times do I have to sweep the floor in one day?! It's nuts!) And I love it. Outside the home, my passion for developing and fostering relationships and making art is satisfied through my photography. Life is good! It's wild.
Why did you decide to make the leap and what drives you to continue giving to your business and photography career?
Aside from wanting to be a provider for my family and having purpose outside the home, one of my “big whys” is to show my children to pursue their dreams. Cheesy, I know, but listen. One big takeaway from life so far is I am always going to encourage my littles to do what their heart desires. My passion hasn't always been photography. I was very involved in choir in high school. If I had done what I really wanted, I would have gone to school to study music and maybe have been a choir teacher. I love, love, love singing and expose my kiddos to music every day. Living room dance parties are a big thing around here. But, instead of going after my heart, I made the "safe choice" and went to business school at University of Washington and developed a huge passion for marketing and advertising. In fact, I didn't even vocalize what my heart really wanted to anyone. I didn't say it out loud.
So, if my kids are passionate about art or sports or whatever, I am going to nurture that passion. I am going to tell them to go after it. Not only will they be happy in what they are doing, but if you do what you love you'll likely be great at it and also be able to make a living doing whatever it is you love.
What challenges did you face – real or self-imposed – when you decided you wanted to be a mom AND a woman making a difference in the world?
Aside from financial challenges – going from two full-time incomes to one full-time income and a freelancer income – my big fear is also my biggest motivator. It’s my health. Three years ago, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. (You can read Eva's story here.)
This diagnosis has really been like what getting prescription glasses for the first time must be like or at least it was for me. I realize that life is short. I might not always be able to see. I might not always have full use of my extremities. I might not always be able to walk. But I can right now. I see things so much more clear. So, I am going to go after what my heart desires. I want to be present for my family and I also want to do work outside the home that really satisfies me.
While my MS is a huge motivator for me and something that I share very publicly with friends and family, my MS is also a big challenge for me. I am often scared that my clients might find out that I have MS and think I might not be able to do my job. (I can and I will.) I am fearful that my MS will deter people from wanting to work with me but so far it hasn’t.
What strategies do you use or what habits do you practice to make space and time to define yourself outside of motherhood?
Schedule, schedule, schedule. I don’t live and die by my schedule but patterns are important for children AND adults. I work out on the same days and if we don’t go to the gym, we go to the zoo or to a park where there’s lots of walking. We have lunch at the same time, I keep a fairly strict nap schedule and the kids go down for bed at the same time every night. Keeping a schedule for my family also allows me to keep a healthy, balanced schedule for my business. I am able to make calls and handle emails, editing, social media and website stuff during naptimes.
What advice do you have for moms who want to start prioritizing their needs or pursuing their purpose beyond motherhood but don’t know where to start?
Find something you love and go for it! But also remember: time is valuable. Our children are only little for so long. So spend your time outside the home doing something you truly love.
Let’s talk about balance. Is it possible? And if so, how have you created balance in your life?
Balance. I spent the last four years working on achieving balance in my life. This year is the first year that I have felt like things are finally balanced. I have made some major career changes in order to create balance in my life. I left my (more than) full-time radio advertising job, then I cut back hours at my office job, then I left my office job all together. Now I create balance by carefully selecting clients to work with for wedding and portrait photography. I strategically schedule weddings and portrait sessions so that I am not feeling over worked AND so that my family still gets the attention they need and deserve. I’ve learned to say no, which was extremely hard for me because I have always been a YES person.
How do you define self-care? What does it look like in your day-to-day life and why is it important for you?
I define self-care as taking time to focus on myself – my physical, mental and emotional health. I try and eat healthy (but also allow myself some grace), I workout at least three times a week at the gym and two times a week outside, I shower daily and I have intentional conversations with my husband, children and friends about feelings, dreams and life. I try and keep my mind active by reading and learning.
If you could change one thing about the way our culture approaches motherhood, what would that be?
Simplify things. Mom life is crazy – picking up, dropping off, trying to be the best of the best, competition, organic vs. non-organic, Pinterest parties, Pinterest everything, schedules so packed kids don’t have a second to simply play outside in the yard, maybe pick a flower or play with worms.
Motherhood to me is all about being a nurturer. A kisser of boo-boos. A book reader. Someone who gives bedtime snuggles. A teacher. A woman attempting to raise little people to make wise choices and just be good humans.
I wish American moms would simplify their lives. I am working on this for myself and my family. It’s so hard – but the more I have simplified, the more I have been able to sit back and enjoy motherhood like by sitting on the patio in the sunshine with a glass of wine watching my littles play outside. That equals perfection.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers or any requests you have of them?
One thing that I have struggled with as a mom is always being the one taking the photos but rarely taking photos with my children. This is even more of a challenge since I am a photographer.
Take photos with your babies. When you are old, or long from now when you are gone, they will have memories, mementos and photos to remember you by. Your children won’t see your stretch marks, your saggy belly, your C-section scar. They won’t see the ten pounds you were struggling to loose. They will see their mother. Nobody will see the things you don’t want to see – they will see your smile, your love and the beautiful life you’ve created.
So, take photos with your children. Print your photos. Get them off your hard drive. Fill the frames around your home with photos of you and your loved ones.
Thank you so much Eva for sharing your story. If women in this community want to connect with you more, where can they find you online?