Here's my Story: 10 Years and Counting
Fasten your seat belts, this is going to be a long one. April marks 10 years of me pursuing a dream of being a photographer, and it's definitely been a journey! I get asked a lot about my background in photography, how I ended up being a wedding photographer, and why? So I'm here to answer those questions, share my successes and failures and my story of how I got to where I am today.
To start I want to give a little background about me. I come from two amazing people who I call my parents. My mom has no artistic skills whatsoever (I still love her, she can make an amazing trifle) and my dad builds scale models of military vehicles. So there isn't a ton of creativeness coming from my parents, which is where my cousin comes in. Every summer I would go to my aunt's house for half of the week and help out on the farmer's markets. My cousin was always doing something and including me; from cooking, DIYs, painting pumpkins, and making collages. In June of 2007 I worked my butt off to be able to go to Europe with People To People, and it was such an amazing experience (see gorgeous photo of Monaco!) After going to Europe, my cousin suggested I pursue photography because I really had the eye for it (she also might have been a little drunk, but at the age of 15 I thought it was a good idea).
On April 23rd, 2008 I took the first pictures that are on my Flickr. They are of a girl I went to high school with, and they are not good by any means. But there was something so fun about setting up shots and having a camera in my hand. I took some other pictures of friends and some nature shots but it wasn't until 2009 that I really got into photography - mainly that "Pour Some Sugar on Me" shot from my Junior prom. I also started going to local shows and photographing live bands, which will play a bigger part in where I am now later in this. In the fall of 2009 I took a photography class, and that made up my mind for me. I didn't know what I wanted to do with photography, but it was my passion and it's what I wanted to do.
I'm going to be real with you, I didn't start on a film camera. My mom bought me for my 15th birthday a 5MP digital point and shoot camera to take with me to Europe. I wasn't happy about it either, for some reason (I think it was the fact she also got me a pack of assorted Jelly Belly beans) but I do remember telling her I didn't want it. I didn't start with film until the high school photography class I took. We had to pay $50 for film and the darkroom chemicals, and I feel in love. Just for fun, here's a picture of my first camera.
Summer of 2009 brought a new camera, and my love for Nikon. This camera was still a point and shoot, but had manual options and was 12MP - which was a huge upgrade! The photography class I was in really made me love Photoshop and all its capabilities. I loved being creative and creating things out of my imagination and just having fun. After that class I really wanted to learn more and explore photography, with what else but a 365 project for 2010.
2010 is really the year to pay attention to. This is the year of my 365 day project, turning 18, graduating high school and starting college for photography. It was the best and the start of some really hard years with my family. Before I decided I wanted to be a photographer, I had my heart set on being and epidemiologist - my parents even bought me a book of diseases for Christmas one year. So for them, all of this wasn't easy. I went from wanting a high dollar job with a lot of schooling to something my parents compared to being a hair dresser. In college I would come home on weekends and be constantly asked what my plan B was, how I was going to pay bills and keep a roof over my head. But, I kept going. I knew that photography was my passion and what I wanted to do, despite the negativity.
During this year, I started dating a guitar player who really shaped my creativity and encouraged my dreams. Granted, we didn't work out (it ended up being an on and off almost three year relationship) but I am still to this day thankful for him for not giving up on me. My 365 day project is filled with a lot of self portraits - which some of them did get published in a book about creating self portraits. I'm not going to lie, some are pretty cringy to me now but it's part of my story, I had no idea what I was doing. I learned, and even bought a new camera of my own. 2010 was progress in the right direction, and by the end I was starting to photograph people and create portraits.
In 2011 I started getting more into booking portrait sessions, as well as photographing bands. I went to a ton of local shows, from Grand Rapids, Muskegon and Grand Haven; I even took pictures at concerts I attended (The remaining members of The Doors was my favorite). I still took plenty of creative self portraits, which lead to booking creative band portraits from an out of state band. They traveled to where I was living and we took pictures at night. I also met a few model/photographer friends that would help me with learning light and practicing.
2012 was the turning point to wanting to photograph weddings. The lead singer of one of the bands I photographed frequently was getting married and they asked me to photograph it. It was a learning experience, and I'm so glad they asked me to (I'm still friends with them, they have a wonderful family!) 2012 also came the decision to quit college and explore what I could do myself. I got engaged, became single and met someone at Home Depot where I was working and started dating again. This year really showed me that your relationship/love life can really effect your personality and your dreams. From this came some of my favorite portraits still to this day.
I bought a new camera in 2013, I went from a Nikon D5000 to a Nikon D7000. I even had my dad chase after the UPS guy because I was at work when the shipment came. 2013 was a big year for me personally, I turned 21 and moved out on my own with the boyfriend I had at the time. We ended up breaking up so I had to find a roommate to be able to afford the apartment I was in. Despite all that, I really got into weddings and senior portrait photography. I also met another photographer who was just getting into weddings so we started working together.
2014 looks like it's starting out promising. I could nail indoor portraits or self portraits like a boss. But when it came to weird lighting (especially with weddings) I fell flat. By the end of 2014 I had a studio as well as started to understand how flash worked and started incorporating it into weddings. I suffered my first loss of a bride due to death, which was very hard on me because she was a friend of mine. This year also brought a lot of travel for weddings! I photographed two Ohio weddings and traveled to Niagara Falls to photograph an elopement. This is also the year I started my annual birthday self portrait series.
2015 brought an end to the studio I had as well as the partnership I had with the photographer I was working with. I wanted more out of photography than what they did, and it was clear to me that they were holding me back.
I worked with a ton of different photographers this year, learning from them and really getting this business thing in order. Many of these photographers are still my close friends, and to this day we still work with each other.
2016 hands down was the biggest and craziest year of my life to date. In February I started dating a guy off Tinder that I knew from a previous job, we got engaged in April and bought and moved into a house in August. In the middle of all that, I quit my full time manager job to go full time with photography and we adopted three amazing rescue cats. This year more than ever I had to hustle and really work on my business, and it really started to pay off. I had my first destination engagement session in Nashville, and photographed my first proposal!
2017 I became a Mrs and really invested in myself as a photographer as well as a business owner. I went to three workshops/conferences all about photography and business, and really put to use what I learned. I wanted out of the lower price market of weddings and into the mid to upper range where couples value photography more - not that my past couples haven't valued me, I just wanted to grow more and attract clients who really want what I have to offer. This year was very hard on me, my tendinitis became worse and I now have to wear compression gloves every time I take pictures and wedding planning my whole wedding on my own was very taxing. We dealt with my grandma being in hospice care most of the year until my parents put her in a home three days before my wedding.
Today. 2018 is already gearing up to be my biggest year yet! With over 20 weddings, I can't wait to see what this year and 2019 brings! I've already invested in two photography workshops and a conference this winter and have another workshop in the fall I'm attending. I've been working on getting to know more vendors in other areas of the wedding industry and creating a community with local photographers I also call my friends. I live every day by the Abrham Lincoln quote on my office desk: "Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustled."