I don’t ever remember a definitive moment where I just knew I was going to be a photographer one day. I just remember telling my mom (around age 5) that I really wanted to be a Country Music Star and that I also wanted to be a photographer. (I seriously can’t carry a tune…. so luckily at least one of my dreams came true). This photography journey has been just THAT….a true journey. Looking back, with each image that I took and each new technique learned….I fell in love with photography over and over again. And like any love… it’s been a roller coaster ride…but a pretty damn fun one 🙂
It wasn’t until I was working full time as a Registered Nurse and pregnant with my second baby that I decided to put my dreams in motion. I worked extra shifts, saved up $800 bucks and bought an entry level Nikon D5100 with a kit lens. I dove head first into learning, online googling and reading everything I could get my hands on (and then I stumbled upon Clickin Moms and it rocked my world). It all happened around 2011 Christmas, so I told everybody that I didn’t want anything unless it was camera related 🙂 My husband bought me a membership to Clickin Moms and it was a true blessing because that was exactly what I needed (an open and honest community that was willing to answer any questions at any time). My very first shoots are below. I was just a girl with a camera and a dream and SOOOO very thankful for anybody who’d let me photograph them. If I got any good shots during this point, it was pure luck 🙂
I took a lot of online photography classes during the year 2012. My very first class was a 4 week in depth class on storytelling with Brooke Snow. Looking back, I took this class WAY too early and I was WAY in over my head but then I didn’t have a clue. But Brooke, oh my gosh, She was so sweet and kind and supportive. She embraced the positives that she saw in my work (and never once said “well that sucks…or the focus is WAYYY off”). I even emailed her a couple of months ago to tell her how thankful I was for her kindness because she truly impacted my photography journey in such a positive way. Then after that, I took a Manual class with Rock the Shot and it really helped things start to click. BUT it wasn’t until I was sitting at the beach in the camper watching youtube videos of Phil Steele that I had my very first “Ah Ha” moments (toggling focal points…omg those things move?!) 🙂
But one of the most thankful moments I’ve ever had in my photography journey was when I reached out to a local photographer for guidance. I told her my dreams of being a photographer and how I really really wanted this. She could have never replied back. She could been rude. But instead, she opened her arms and her heart to me and took me in under her photography goddess wing. She would never officially call herself a mentor…but that’s exactly what she was and is. She blessed me beyond measure and I will be forever grateful for her and I’m so proud to call her one of my best friends. She is Melissa Stallings Photography.
Late into 2012, I took a Clickin Moms course called “Mastering Natural Light Indoors”. This was a pivotal moment in my journey. I began to understand light and the importance of it in your images. It can make or break an image. I learned how to use light, how to read it and how to understand it. That was THE BEST $150 bucks I’ve ever spent thus far. I use what I learned in that class every.single.time I pick up my camera.
My editing style was all over place and I still wasn’t quite nailing the focus…. but I was loving every minute of learning and shooting.
2013 was SUCH a big year. I really realized that this is exactly what I want to do and what I’m supposed to do. I really kicked my goals and dreams into high gear. I started Portfolio Building, shooting anybody and everybody that would get in front of my camera and really tried to figure out who I was as an artist. I was slowly starting to find my style and nail down what I loved in certain images 🙂
I attended a Senior Shootout in Charleston, SC put on by Leslie Kerrigan, the creator of Seniorolgie. Not only did I met some lifelong friends on that trip but I left knowing that Senior Photography was the genre that truly made my heart happy. I love it.
And at the end of 2013, a few of my sessions were featured on some national photography websites. I remember calling my mom, jumping up and down and crying because it was outside validation (not just the people who love me) saying that my images were pretty good 🙂 I truly felt like everything I was working SOOOOOO very hard for was finally paying off.
I opened up for business in 2014, got a brand spankin new website and brand, stopped work as a full time RN, had my third baby and poured EVERYTHING I had into running a successful photography business. I made a ton of mistakes and learned a lot of hard lessons during my first year of business but it has made me stronger and better prepared for this year. I had my very first magazine publication in Denim and Grace and was featured on some more bangin’ photography websites like Seniorologie (I cried over that one because it was literally a dream/goal to be featured there) and Lemonade and Lenses just to name a few.
Over the summer of 2014, I won a 1 hour mentor session with Jamie Larson, founder of, The Snap Society (an online resource for new and professional photographers) and she helped give me a good kick in the pants on things I had been wanting to do but hadn’t and also offered me a job with The Snap Society. That was seriously a dream come true….Now I was able to pay it forward and help other photographers on their journey too. Coolest thing ever.
AND I got to dip my toe into the wedding photography world by second shooting weddings for my photog bestie, Christina Forbes Photography. Weddings are not my cup of tea BUT I learned a ton (like using off camera flash and how to prepare and recover your body after shooting for LONG hours) but I also got to spend time with my bestie and photograph some beautiful weddings.
Fast forward to now… and I’m dreaming even bigger and reaching for goals I may or may not get…but I’m going after them 🙂
Being awarded with the Seniorologie’s Peoples Choice Award for the Senior/Hobby Category and being named One of America’s 50 Most Inspiring Photographers by my peer’s are two goals that even a big dreamer like me couldn’t dream up… but I’m so thankful, honored and humbled by those two accomplishments.
I’m continuing to build and mold my business (I’m tearing up just writing this because I’m so thankful to be able to do what I love and call it a business) and focus on high school seniors and lifestyle family sessions. AND will continue to pay it forward to beginner photographers by Co-Hosting Shootouts, Retreats and Classes for photographers (called Make it Click:Photography Shootout and Workshops) with one of my photog friends, Kelly Parnell of Photos by Kelly.
Even with all the progress made…. There is still a TON left to learn and A LOT that I want to accomplish….I cannot wait to see where this year leads. There will be a TON of traveling this year….. In June to NYC (Senior Style Guide Shootout), In July Indiana (PUSH conference/senior photography) and to Texas in October (Clickin Moms Click Away). I cannot wait to soak up all the knowledge of my photography idols during this year 🙂 It’s going to be amazing!
When I worked those extra shifts to buy that Nikon D5100…..I just wanted to take pretty pictures. I wanted to know how to work my camera and capture my children. I never dreamed that it would turn into the HUGE blessing that it is. The people I’ve photographed and the photographers that I’ve met all because of photography has brought SO.MUCH.JOY to my life.
If you made it this far… and read all my rambling and looked at all my pictures….Thank you 🙂
I hope that if you have a dream… or a goal… that you GO AFTER IT. It won’t happen over night…. but you can make it happen 🙂
This quote below from Ira Glass has BEEN a CONSTANT source of encouragement through out my journey…hope it helps you too!