My Journey to find the Photographer in me…
I have never met a photographer (whether professional or a hobbyist) who is not completely passionate about this form of art. This passion I have for photography has been the driving force behind my tremendous growth over the past couple of years.
I started out, as most professional photographers do, pursuing photography as a hobby about 6 years ago. My amazing husband bought me a Canon Rebel T2i for Christmas and I remember thinking it was the most awesome thing in the world. I began taking pictures of EVERYTHING! Shooting only in automatic (because those other little symbols on the dial looked scary) and loving every time I would discover magic in a moment captured in time. I was hooked! My new found hobby was something I only expected to share with my family, but I quickly found myself taking pictures for all my friends’ Christmas cards, engagements, etc. I had very little confidence at every shoot, but when it’s free the pressure and the expectations usually aren’t too high. After years of this I found myself taking pictures of “friends” of friends and finding it so hard to take money from people. I wasn’t a professional photographer... how could I take someone's money?!
The idea of getting paid for something I absolutely loved doing seemed too good to be true. I knew I had an "eye" for photography but also knew in order to be competitive in this market, where it seems like everyone is a photographer, I needed to really strengthen my skills and upgrade my equipment. I also needed to find my specific style and grow in confidence. This is where I found myself a little less than a year ago. After lots of encouragement from friends and family, I chose to pursue this love of mine professionally. Even if that meant failing miserably (as I have in other former passions or hobbies).
After this, I hit the ground running. I invested in a better camera and lens and actually learned how to use them. I began reading and learning as much as I could about photography. I finally learned to use Lightroom and developed a workflow that was producing edited images I was actually proud of! I joined this amazing Facebook group called Pretty Presets (you may have heard of them) which was so instrumental in developing my skills and challenging me in every way imaginable as a photographer.
As my confidence and skills grew, so did my business. I remember being completely blown away when my work began to receive recognition! Not too long ago I was the girl who edited all her pictures on her phone or iPad. What a difference a year can make! If you were to tell me a year ago that I'd be shooting in Manual Mode, using words like back button focusing and RAW, I'd say you were crazy! But if you were to also tell me a year ago I'd be writing a blog post for a photography community that had been an inspiration to me... I'd say you were even more crazy!
I am no expert in any way shape or form, but I'd love to share what little wisdom I have from my trial and error over the last year. I would also like to offer encouragement to any of you photographers (aspiring or established) who might find yourself in a similar place I was in a year ago… wanting to take your photography to the next level but don’t know where to start. Below I have shared the 7 things that have been personally vital for me in my own growth as a photographer, and they would be my personal recommendations to anyone who is wanting to grow themselves. I hope it encourages you in your own journey!
7 TIPS TO ENCOURAGE YOU IN YOUR JOURNEY:
Join a community of photographers to inspire you, challenge you, stretch you, give you constructive criticism, and even give you a second eye for things. I highly recommend the Pretty Presets Facebook group! This group has been the most incredible resource in my journey. They have not only made me a better photographer, but have also given me the confidence I needed to pursue this passion professionally. If you were to do only 1 of these 7 things this would be the one I would stress the most!
Slowly invest in professional level equipment, starting with a good lens. You will be amazed at what this will do for the quality of your images! However, I wouldn't recommend doing this until you know the photography bug is here to stay and you know it is truly a passion of yours. When my husband and I made the decision the invest in my new camera and lens last year we were not certain that photography would be a lucrative business for me, but we did know that it would always be a passion of mine. And that passion was worth investing in!
DO NOT BE AFRAID of constructive criticism! I don’t know of a better way to improve in anything in life than this. Don't be that tone deaf person singing a Whitney Houston song on American Idol! Get feedback from people you respect professionally and learn from their expertise. I think we are typically afraid of any kind of criticism because our photography is our art, it's deeply personal to us. If someone were to say something critical of our work it's as if they were saying it about us personally. Give yourself permission to say that your worth and identity are not in your work. Whether your picture receives 1 like or 1000 likes it is NOT a reflection of your value as a person or an artist. Now go bravely ask for constructive criticism!
Learn from your mistakes but don’t let those mistakes define you. You are going to miss shots, have the wrong settings sometimes (Pretty Presets have saved several of these disasters for me), have really hard sessions where you leave with your heart racing wondering if you even got a single good shot. But when those things happen (and they will happen) you have the choice to either learn and grow from those mistakes and challenges or to allow them to quench your passion. Don’t choose the latter!
Make sure photography remains fun! If it is no longer fun something is wrong! It could mean you've overbooked yourself and need to start saying "No" to things. It could mean you are not spending enough time with your family or making time for yourself. Never neglect those important areas for the pursuit of professional success. Your people (you included) must always come before your photography business.
Try not to compare your work to others (I know this is easier said than done) but rather use good work to inspire you. Everyone has to start somewhere. The photographer you may find yourself being so envious of, was once a beginner too. Focus on how far you have come rather than how amazing someone else's work is! This is much more beneficial to your growth. Also try remembering the rule of C's... if you find yourself Coveting, Comparing or being too Competitive with a particular person the solution is always to Celebrate them. Instead of letting jealousy take over your heart, fight it by celebrating that person and letting them know how amazing you think their work is! Wouldn't the world be a better place if we all did this?
Finally, NEVER give up! If you love this beautiful thing called photography, like I do, use that love and passion to keep working at it. Read everything you can about it, practice practice practice (pretty sure this never ends), shadow other photographers, watch videos and webinars, whatever you can do to grow. This will pay off big time and before you know it you will discover the talented photographer in you!
This was my very first senior session from 2 years ago. I’m embarrassed to say that I used an app on my iPad to edit this entire session instead of Lightroom. The horizon bugs me now in this image and it looks way over processed. In addition, you can’t really see her beautiful face.
This was from a portrait session I did for a couple’s first anniversary back in 2013 as well. Everything about this picture bothers me today (except for the cute couple of course). Once again it was edited with an app on my iPad so it looks over processed, and their wedding cake topper is so washed out you can’t even see it.
Edited with Clean and Creative Advanced Workflow: A Quick Clean, Center Light, Contrast, Exp Really Darken. Also, added Radial Filters with Dodge (lighten) over mom and daughter as well as the sun. (image below)
*With all of my images I usually tweak the Pretty Presets a tad to my liking. In my usual workflow
I also increase the luminance and will typically bump up the vibrance if the image is in color.