I didn’t always know that I wanted to be a photographer, even though looking back, I wonder how I missed it.
I had a camera in my hand from a very young age. I was always obsessed with capturing photos of my friends, family, and random things around the house. I would pour over all the old pictures of my mom and dad and hoard any photography I could get my hands on, collecting our memories.
But it wasn’t until taking a photography class in high school that I really felt the connection as something more significant. It’s funny looking back, though, because the truth is that I was awful. I got horrible grades in my class, and even though I knew that this was it for me, I still couldn’t see my future as a photographer.
Over the years, I kept my cameras with me, collecting gear and playing with photography as a way to make a few bucks here and there, but it never seemed like a career path. At 20 years old, I had a newborn baby and no real professional experience as a photographer, so my options seemed really non-existent. The social media landscape wasn’t what it is today, so the idea of building a business just never occurred to me. For me, it was either art or journalism and nothing in between, and both goals felt wildly out of reach.
Photojournalism was already dying a slow death as the digital landscape began to emerge and art… well, it was art. I knew I didn’t have the skills or talent to be a thriving artist, and at the time, that notion didn’t even exist the way it does today.
So I put my cameras away.
It wasn’t until about 3 years later that I reconnected with a family member who was building a photography business. He was shooting weddings and fashion, and knowing that I had some skills, he invited me to second shoot for him. I was still so bad, though. I think he even had to refund an entire wedding because I shot everything in black and white, and the bride was furious.
I mean, I had learned how to take pictures on black and white 35mm film! I had no idea how to shoot color correctly, and in my mind, black and white just looked better. Poor lady. I feel terrible for her now.
Fast forward even further to 2013. By this time, I had been using what little photo skills I had to make money on the side. I learned that building a business would be my best bet at turning my hobby into a career. The problem was that I was still totally unsure of myself and STILL a crappy photographer. I had been taking pictures for over ten years by this time and still had no idea what the hell I was doing.
Then came a little online platform known as CreativeLive. This was the turning point for me. I devoured every course I could get my hands on. Business courses, photography courses, lighting, posing, editing… you name it, and I studied it. I may have learned the basics of photography in school, but I learned the business of photography online. I was finally ready to create a career out of my passion, and so I did.
Now it’s about 2020 and I have been in business as a professional photographer for 5 years. I’ve been full-time in business for 3, and though I still feel like a crappy photographer, I know that the girl who picked up her camera that one time all those years ago knew something was right.
I still feel that connection, and even more today than at any other time in my life, I know I am doing exactly what I was born to do.
I became a photographer in the same way some people find their faith, slowly, sometimes painfully, and with wild abandon. But here I am, and I don’t see any other future than this.