I’ve tried to build my business slowly. Like, glacier pace slowly. And in reality, my goal wasn’t to open a business doing photography at all. What I wanted to do was just to learn how to take better photos. But one thing lead to another, and well, here’s my story.
Around the time I was about 8 years old, my mom went to a garage sale and got me a Kodak camera. It was blue with black rubber edges (which was good, because I dropped it alot). It took 110 film, but the reality was that it only had actual film in it about 10% of the time. I would happily point it all over the place, winding it and clicking the button – knowing full well that I was never actually going to see a print of what I saw in my viewfinder. And I didn’t care. There was something about looking through that camera lens that was intriguing to me. It’s like I could see things differently.
When I was in sixth grade, I made my first “thought book”. It had photos, magazine clippings, and other odds and ends that I had collected. It was in that book of random thoughts that I first put my creativity and memories in. My husband likes to laugh and compare himself to the page entitled, “What I Want in a Future Husband”. I had life goals written in there (before the term “bucket list” was ever around) and notes from friends. It was a place for me to put my thoughts, things that I liked, and my hopes for the future.
As time went on, the photos began to become the focal point of the pages. I would cut pictures out with fancy-edged scissors, and paste it into my books with journaling around it describing who was in the photos and what we were doing. Around this time, my Christmas and Birthday wish lists all consisted of things I wanted to include in my book – special papers, decorative punches, and stickers. Lots and lots of stickers.
Around eighth grade, I finally saved up enough money from birthdays and odd jobs to buy myself a digital camera. It was a Sony Mavica. It took floppy disks, had 6x zoom, an LCD screen in the back, and it had 1.3 megapixels. I thought I had arrived! I was the only one of my friends that had a digital camera and I was SO proud of it. I thought it was so cool that I could take photos, eject the disk, and then have them right there on my parents’ computer.
From there on out, every trip I went on, my camera did too. Several years and several point and shoot cameras later, it remained the same. My favorite things to take photos of were close-up shots of flowers, landscapes and architecture. My camera allowed me to see the beauty of the things around me. However, my photos were hit or miss. Sometimes I would get them to come out how I wanted them to, and sometimes I couldn’t. At that point, I decided I wanted to learn more about the technical side of taking photographs.
I was wrapping up my last semester of grad school, and I thought what better way to end my schooling than by taking more classes! I started out with taking a class at the Houston Center for Photography on how to shoot in manual mode. I had to borrow my dad’s DSLR to even have something to take to the class. The class was amazing! Every week we would learn a new technique, and then practice it outside of class for homework. The next week, we’d come back and show the group our photos. We learned things like rule of thirds, panning the shutter, and aperature. We discussed how effectively (or not effectively) we were using the techniques we had learned and we would have a best in class each week. Not to brag or anything, but I won. Once. I remember being in class thinking, “How will I ever remember all of this? It’s a good thing I don’t plan on charging people for this.”
After the class, I was ravenous. I just couldn’t get enough. I wanted to be taking pictures all of the time! I took pictures at friends’ weddings. I took pictures at birthday parties. I took pictures anywhere I could, just to get more practice with the new skills I had acquired. I took the money I got from friends and family for my college graduation and bought myself a Canon T1i.
In June 2011, I was a bridesmaid in a friend’s wedding and my husband struck up a conversation with the photographer. She told him how her second shooter had backed out at the last minute and how she really needed someone more reliable to go with her to weddings. My husband then told her about how I had been taking classes for photography and that I hadn’t really thought about it before, but it might be something I’d be interested in doing. It was fate. Two weeks later, I did my first wedding with Jenna at My Happy Lens.
I was terrible. I was so nervous! The wedding started late, so the ceremony and reception were all in the dark. At that point, I had never used a flash before and here I was having to rely on it. I don’t even want to show you the photos I got. But for some reason, she wanted my help again. And again.
Over time, my confidence and my skills quickly improved. I began taking photos of friends and family. And then their friends and family. Until before I knew it, I was designing a logo and setting up a DBA. I started working with Motley Melange, My Story Keeper, R & J Studios, and James Pharaon Creative on weddings. Even crazier, I started booking my own weddings!
As I sit here and write out this progression of where my photos have been to where I am now, I am left wondering, “What took me so long?” Looking back, it was so obvious that this is something I wanted to pursue, I just never took the time and thought about it.
I tell you my story so that hopefully if you are struggling to learn something new, I can encourage you to keep going! I am no where near where I want to be in my craft, but I am learning more and more every day and soaking up whatever info and techniques I can get. Don’t worry that you don’t have the best equipment. After all, the best camera in the world can produce a terrible photo in the hands of someone who doesn’t know how to use it. Work with what you’ve got and perfect it.
Find whatever it is that fuels you and do it! You are only as good as you want to be.