One of the most common questions I get from other people interested in photography is how I got started in this crazy business. For me it wasn’t an overnight decision, and definitely not something I dreamed about being when I grew up. I was going to be a teacher, singer, pediatrician, journalist, counselor, mother…. nothing involving photography. I always had an appreciation for really great pictures, and loved taking pictures of my friends so I invested in a canon rebel back in the days of film! My junior year of high school I worked at a local preschool and would bring my camera in to take pictures of all the kids and when they turned out alright I would send them home with to their parents, which turned into the school wanting me to take pictures of all the classes instead of just mine, which turned into some of the parents asking me to come snap their families christmas card picture! These are a few of the pictures (they’re scanned copy, so pardon the yucky quality!) I took way back in the day of some of the kids in my class! Kathryn, Gabby, John, and Cammie :0) When I got to college, I switched over to the digital form of the rebel and continued shooting all the time. I have more pictures from my freshman year of college than anything else in my life! When all of my older friends started getting married, I would bring my camera to their weddings, which was my first experience with wedding photography! Thats when the dream of all those other careers started fading. Slowly but surely I would develop the pictures I really liked and I started putting together a portfolio I could show people! I started super small and did an all inclusive package.. unlimited time, unlimited images, digital negatives.. basically everything for nothin! I think my first wedding I made about $300. After the first few I created an all inclusive package for $750 and started marketing myself on craigslist.org in my region. I booked my first 7 or so weddings just off of craigslist! I invested in new and better equipment as I made money, so I never went into debt. I also at that point didnt really know what I was missing equipment wise. I hadn’t seen cameras more advanced than mine at the time so I thought my camera was doing a pretty good job! I know some photographers go into debt to buy all the fancy stuff up front, and that may work great for other people, but for me being in college when I started and having this as a fun job on the side, I didn’t need all the fancy equipment up front, so I invested in new stuff as I booked more jobs. Eventually when I had seriously upgraded my equipement, experience, advertising.. everything else, I created different packages and increased my pricing. Now that this is my full time job and I DO have all the fancy gear and back up equipment, I don’t know how I worked for so long without it! :) I definitely worked my way up over the last few years, and am still learning so much and adding new techniques as I go!
If I had to list the top two thing to invest in first it would be 1) the camera. (obviously). My 5D Mark II is aaaamazing, but a 40D is a great camera too that you can do a lot with! 2) A website! I use bludomain.com and I really love my site, it made my work look so much better! How you present your work really does matter- invest in a great site that shows off your style and branding!
My main advice for people just starting out is to shoot, shoot, shoot!!!!! Take pictures of anyone and everyone that is willing to jump in front of your camera! Taking pictures of the kids in my class was great practice, so offer to take pictures for your neighbors, people from church, co-workers, or your friends! There are still some ‘couples’ on my website that I asked to pose for me that weren’t even dating when we took the pictures, but you’d never know from the pictures! (bet ya can’t guess which ones I’m talking about! :0) ) Offer to take some pictures for your friends who are dating, or if you had a friend recently get married ask her to throw her dress back on for a few hours and let you take some pictures! Get to know your camera and in this case practice really does make perfect, you will learn different angles and lighting techniques the more you shoot! Seriously offer to take pictures of your neighbors or the kids in your life! You will probably always see pictures of Lauren and Sam on my site, they’re great models! (I’ve trained them well :P ) I’ve been taking pictures of them since they were born.. check out how much this handsome stud has grown over the last 3 years! Even last night I had some friends over for dinner, and after we were all full of sugar and hyper from ice cream and sweet tea, we were goofing around and I snapped a few of them just for fun ;0)
So go grab your cameras, grab your friends, and start shooting! :0) If you ever have a question feel free to shoot me an email and I’d be happy to help if I can! Or I can at least refer you to one of the awesome photographers I turn to with all my questions ;0)