“It became a relational thing, how can I get the most genuine smiles, what can I say or do to help this person feel so incredibly comfortable in front of the camera in order to get those great candid photography shots.“
WHAT SPARKED THE INSPIRATION TO START A PHOTOGRAPHY BUSINESS?
Unlike some photographers who always knew they loved taking pictures, I actually didn’t find my passion for photography until a little later in life. I mean, don’t get me wrong, as a teenager I loved a good selfy! But my true passion for capturing candids behind a lens didn’t begin until my oldest son(Grayson) was about a year old.
As my husband and him were playing at the park by our house, going up and down the slide, and as I watched the pure joy on my sons face. I just felt inspired! I wanted to remember every giggle, every smile, and I wanted to remember what I felt in those exact moments of his life. So I did what any good mom would and I whipped out my old iPhone 5, cracked screen and all, and took some photos.
Now, those first shots are not exactly what I would call “portfolio worthy.” But every time I look at them I am so happy to have that moment to remember forever. I’ll never forget that day. Not only was it a great memory as a mom. But it was the day I truly fell in love with capturing candid, real life moments. I just knew this was a gift I wanted to be able to give back to others in a big way. And it was just the beginning!
MY FIRST CAMERA WAS BORROWED
So fast forward a little ways… After taking pictures of anything and everything using only the camera built into my iPhone 5, I decided it was time to step up my gear game a notch. I called the only couple I knew who had a digital camera and asked if I could borrow it for a few hours. Now, this couple being my amazing in laws, they of course told me to keep it as long as I needed. I believe they also told me if I ever needed people to photograph they were first on the list!
This was so exciting for me! A real camera!
I could actually see if I was any good at this whole photography thing on a device other than a cell phone. A device that was MADE for photography! So off I went learning all there was to know about my new toy!
THE PHOTOGRAPHY LEARNING PROCESS BEGAN!
Now I couldn’t tell you the EXACT model number… But I do believe it was a Canon Rebel that I first held in my hands. I took that thing everywhere! I would ask my friends if we could go for a walk and then I would whip out my half way along the road and ask them to start posing for my portfolio! They had no choice in the matter.
Of course the best models of all were always my children! They loved going for “photo walks” where I would literally just take pictures of them running, jumping and playing. It was such a fun time and the practice was great for me!
I became a little obsessed with photography as a whole. Not only had I gone straight for the “Manual mode” setting on my camera to have the most control with my creativity. But I also spent COUNTLESS hours a day on YouTube watching tutorials about how to pose your clients, and finding the best lighting, etc…
I decided I wanted to test my skills a little bit so I called up a girlfriend of mine and we planned a girls night out solely for the purpose of taking pictures! We had so much fun and so many laughs! Photography became more to me than just simply point and shoot, and how can you get the best lighting, or the best shot. It became a relational thing, how can I get the most genuine smiles, what can I say or do to help this person feel so incredibly comfortable in front of the camera in order to get those great candid photography shots.
I was even more in love with this! I had to keep learning more!
GETTING MY VERY OWN CAMERA
I was shooting as much as my free time would let me, and before I fell asleep at night, I was watching hours and hours of YouTube experts sharing all of their knowledge on photography! I read countless blogs(similar to this one actually) about “How to grow your photography business,” and “Best camera settings for portrait photography,” or “How to find your editing style.” You name it, I was researching it!
I knew my next purchase was going to have to be a camera of my own. But how? I didn’t have $700 kicking around for a reasonable entry level digital camera.
Well, one year on my birthday, my amazing family all pitched together to to buy me my first Nikon D5300 DSLR camera! I was in awe!
Now, also being pregnant with my second child at the time(Beau) I of course burst into tears. I was so grateful and couldn’t wait to get started. It was truly the most amazing gift I could have ever received.
FINDING MY PHOTOGRAPHY NICHE
While I was pregnant with my second son, I was still shooting anyone who would let me take photos of them! Family, friends, everyone! Pregnancy announcements, engagements, families and more! After shooting so many different styles of photography, I soon realized how much I loved photographing couples, and families.
I also knew I wanted to do Wedding and Engagement photography, but I figured that was going to be a hard one to break into. I truly do have such a passion for capturing families!
The look on a little boys face when he’s running so fast he thinks he can fly! There is something so special about being able to watch little ones grow through the years. It makes me feel like a part of the fam!
FALLING IN LOVE WITH PHOTOGRAPHING WEDDINGS
Shortly after I had my second son, one of my good friends was getting married! I asked if she minded if I captured a few shots of her and her husband on their wedding day and of course she was more than okay with that!
Being able to work with her other photographers and find out a little bit more about the wedding photography industry. Once again I fell in LOVE with capturing LOVE! Being able to capture such a special moment for her was incredible to be a part of. I remember telling her photographer that I wanted to get into wedding photography but I didn’t think I had enough weddings to be able to build my portfolio with. He told me that all I really needed was about 2-3 weddings to build a portfolio. The biggest part was going to be growing my technical skills and leaning from a pro(or second/third shooting if you will). He told me I would never feel ready and that I just needed to take a leap of faith and see what happens.
This was SO encouraging! I made the decision that day that I was going to pursue photography full time!
MY FIRST YEAR IN THE PHOTOGRAPHY BUSINESS
When I came home from that wedding day and told my husband I was going to pursue photography full time, I’m not entirely sure he knew what that meant… We had a busy 4 year old at home as well as a brand new 5 month old nursing baby! My life was very demanding as it was. I was in full mommy mode, with 7 months left on maternity leave. But I wanted to see if I could turn this obsession into something.
With the cost of daycare being outrageous I needed to find a way to make money from home as there was no way we could afford to put both kids back in daycare full time. So I thought to myself, “Okay Jess, you’ve got 7 months to turn this into a full time career.”
I immediately got to work, created a website, and started promoting actual paid sessions! Boy was that nerve racking. Along came my first family of strangers who paid me a big whopping $50 for their photos! I felt SO LEGIT! They loved their photos, told their friends and after that, things really took off quicker than I ever thought or expected. Let me remind you in case you don’t know… This was all happening in January 2020…
HELLO, GLOBAL PANDEMIC!
After 2 great months in full time business, the entire world SHUT DOWN! I felt a little discouraged… Was this God’s way of telling me He was closing the door on this dream of mine? I really didn’t know what to do.
About 3 days after the world shut down, I got an email from a beautiful soul wanting to book me as her wedding photographer! Now at this point I had only been focusing on photographing families. I had no pricing guide, no experience with weddings, NO IDEA WHERE TO START! But I took this as God telling me to keep pushing forward so I got to work again!
I was very upfront and honest about where I was at in my photography journey. But this bride met with me and loved me and wanted to have me there. So 2 months in business I booked my first ever wedding!
MY PHOTOGRAPHY BUSINESS TOOK OFF!
After that day, things really took off for me! Fast forward 3 years later, I have an almost fully booked wedding season for 2023. I have friendships with families that I get to photograph every single year and watch their babies grow! But mot importantly I have found something I truly truly loved!
I never imagined I would be able to pursue my passion for photography as a career but it is possible! So where ever your at, if there is something you love and you have an idea of where you want to take it, just go for it! It’s not going to be easy and I can’t tell you how many countless hours and sleepless nights I’ve poured into it. But every time I pick up my camera I am reminded of that first day in the park, watching my husband and my son and I am inspired all over again!
“Darlin’ don’t quit your DAYDREAM!”
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