How I Became A Photographer

In the photography industry right now, there are a lot of heated debates about how individuals referred to as momtogs or fauxtographers are hurting the market. These individuals buy a nice camera (sometimes not even that) and decide they want to take up photography as a side business or hobby. They offer their services at rock bottom prices, hurting photographers who are trying to run a legitimate business and in turn skewing public expectations of what they should invest in quality, professional services. I'm not here to talk about those people or even the argument itself. However, since it is something that comes up a lot when discussing photographers and how they run their business, I thought I would use it as an opportunity to tell my story.

I did not become a professional photographer to make money. I did not become a professional photographer to have a job or something to keep me busy. My business certainly does all of those things, but that isn't why I started my business.

I still remember my first camera. It was a hot pink 110 camera. You know those long, rectangular cameras? I took it everywhere. I took pictures of everything. My next camera was a basic 35mm Powershot type camera. It had a zoom, a flash, and it automatically loaded the film itself. I thought I was pretty hot stuff. That camera carried me through my high school years and into college, when digital cameras became the next big thing.

Growing up, in middle school, I couldn't just have a sleepover - no, we had to do our hair and makeup, put on clothes we'd never wear out in public and take pictures of each other. In high school, I was a scrapbooker. I didn't party in my teen years - I was very much a homebody (I still am) and a night of fun was all about scrapbooking in my room with music or the TV on. When I was in high school, I was asked to photograph a bride and groom shortly after their LDS Temple ceremony. They didn't hire a photographer, but they wanted nice photos of their family altogether outside the venue. Their parents knew I liked photography and taking pictures, asked me, and I was happy to do it. I think I even got to miss school for it! I was paid $40 for my services, which at the time was unexpected and awesome. $40 was a lot of money as a teenager! When I went off to college and eventually got married, I was still always carrying my camera with me everywhere. It wasn't long before I was years behind in my scrapbooks, because I couldn't keep up with the number of images I was taking. Once I got my first digital camera, forget about it.

When Facebook was created, pictures were now more accessible than ever on the internet. It wasn't just my private blog anymore or through email. I started to see more digital images than ever before, and it wasn't long before I wanted to upgrade my camera.

Admittedly, I did very little research when I bought my first SLR. I had friends that were in the beginnings of a photography business. I liked what their pictures looked like, so that's the camera I bought. I had no concept of full-frame or cropped sensor. I just knew to buy a Nikon D80 and a 50mm 1.8 lens.
My very first pictures taken with that camera were of my makeup. Playing with depth of field, or making really cool blurry backgrounds. Oh, the blurry backgrounds... I was in love. There was only so much I could do with my self-timer, taking pictures of myself, and my husband wasn't exactly a willing model. So, I began to take pictures of my friends. Anyone who was willing so I would have photos to edit and play with. In that time I did many fake engagement sessions with married couples or family photos with my friends from high school who still lived in the area. I learned so much in those first few years. It was then that I broke free from Auto and learned what manual could do, and all the many, many, many features of an SLR.

It wasn't until 7 years ago that one of my very best friends called me and asked me if I would be willing to photograph her wedding, and if so, what would I charge.

Um... what?

You want to PAY me?

I remember very vividly yelling for my husband and gasping at him, explaining the proposition that had just been made. I remember being a bit panicked. Wedding pictures? That was a big deal! That's a huge responsibility! I still feel that way today, 7 years later. But my husband, who is still my biggest cheerleader and nothing but proud of my talents, told me to go for it. And I did.

My first portrait session - Engagements with Morgan and Stacy
I made $500 for that very first wedding. Engagements, bridals, and wedding coverage. To this day, I am still incredibly proud of that very first engagement session. The images are still timeless and classic - my style evolved from that first session. I didn't have a clue about posing - there weren't guides on the internet, there was no Pinterest and not nearly as many photography websites available for me to emulate. I learned so much from Morgan and Stacy's coverage and I am eternally grateful to my friend for having enough faith in me to break me out of my comfort zone.

After we moved back East and I had my little girl, I finally created a real website. I decided that this is something I wanted to do. I loved photography. I loved coming from from a session and editing the images. To this day, that's still my favorite part. I still love seeing what develops from a session and then manipulating and going over each image.

I've always focused on the artistic, editing side of photography, but I have learned a lot about camera equipment over the years, studied photography tricks that involve manipulating my camera instead of relying on my extensive knowledge of Photoshop. I now know the difference between a full-frame and a cropped sensor (I now shoot full frame) and my lens collection is quite a bit more expansive than a 50 mm. I've been forced to become a business woman, an accountant, a human resources department, a shipping manager, an administrative assistant... all this on top of being a stay at home mom. I love every minute of it. I've always found my way into leadership positions at any job I've worked at because I love to do well, be organized and make customers happy. Being my own brand and my own boss is just another extension of that; doing something I love.

Do I think I would have ended up doing photography professionally if I hadn't been asked to shoot that wedding? Well, there's really no way to tell. One thing I know for certain is that I would still most definitely be taking pictures. Long after my business closes or I find a new passion, I will always, always have a camera in my hand.

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