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Highlights from a First-year Photographer

Updated: Dec 6, 2022

One year ago I was on Christmas break. Just like I am now. And I was spending my break in a way that may not sound very "break-like" to a lot of people. I was researching like CRAZY! I was Googling things like "How to shoot in manual mode." Eventually I was watching YouTube videos about how ISO, shutter speed, and aperture relate to each other. I was finding photographers to stalk on Instagram. I was reading articles that compared different Canon cameras. I wanted to find the best camera for the best price, and that took a lot of research! Because it was Christmas break, I had more time for this kind of thing, and you know what? I loved it. I was obsessed with it! I wanted to learn, so I set out to do just that. But this wasn't the first time I had been introduced to a nice camera. I'll have to go back 10 years ago for that.

Christmas 10 years ago

Bop Bop (my dad's dad) gifted my parents with a Canon camera on Christmas of 2008. He wanted my family to be able to document our memories - kids' sports, family vacations, birthday parties, and the like. What a thoughtful gift! Since we now had a "real camera," we had some "real photoshoots." You know... the kind that consisted of you and your sisters getting dressed up and posing in the backyard? Let's share some from those nice backyard shoots! These are some of my first photos ever taken on a DSLR. Pretty funny stuff.

I must've really thought that piece of chalk was cool. Also loving the DirectTV dish behind Abby up there at the top...


College, Camp, and Career

I took photos here and there throughout the years, but it was just a fun thing to do every now and then, nothing serious. Fast forward to sophomore year of college. I was majoring in English Education, and I decided that was just a little too much English for me...and education. Not that I don't enjoy those two things. I do. But I felt like the education major was just a bit too structured for me. My personality wanted more options and freedom. I mean, we're talking 0 room for electives as an education major. And if I stayed English Education, I was going to be an English teacher. That was pretty much my only option. And I wasn't convinced that was what I wanted, so I looked through lots of majors (almost chose International Studies) and went out on a limb.

Journalism & Mass Communication was a major I had been interested in since high school, but it was always a dream of sorts - not something I'd actually ever do. Well that all changed halfway through my sophomore year. I switched majors, and I found myself in new classes with new teachers, surrounded by new classmates and DEFINITELY new content to learn. I started recording radio commercials for grades. I wrote press releases and news articles for in-class assignments. I began working on the campus television program, and I learned how to put a video together. I used expensive video cameras; I edited feature stories, and I made some wonderful memories at 2 in the morning, while trying to meet deadlines.

And after my last year of college, I went back to work at The Wilds Christian Camp, just like I had done for the past four years. But this time, I was the pianist for junior camp...and the photographer/videographer. They gave me a Canon 60D to use for the summer. I didn't know anything about the level of camera I had been given, but it really was pretty nice for a beginner. I enjoyed sharing photos of kids going down the water slide or tubing in the creek, talking with their counselor, or playing games on the ball field.

At the end of that summer, I married my best friend, and after a wonderful and super fun honeymoon, we packed up and moved to Raleigh, North Carolina. I took on a new job as the Communications Coordinator of a Christian school and became an English teacher as well (It's funny how God works). With this new job, I was responsible for creating social media and website content, so they gave me a camera to use. This time it was a Canon T5. Can you tell why I love Canon? It's what I've been given to use, and now I love it. Loyal fan right here.

Taking the Leap

So that brings us to Christmas break 2017. Honestly as I look back on all these opportunities, I'm wondering why it took so long to really get into photography. Well 2018 was the year. I researched and learned over Christmas break. Then in January, my husband and I decided on a camera to purchase, and we patiently waited for eBay to have one of those cool deals they do. And then my camera came in the mail. It was beautiful. I texted a good friend, and we made plans to do a fun little shoot in Downtown Garner. Then a month or two later, another friend asked me to shoot a small wedding that was going to take place at my church. It was the kind of wedding that probably wouldn't have had a photographer otherwise. The next month I took some senior photos of my sister. Then a little while after that, the same friend from earlier asked me to take some pregnancy announcement photos for her family. Moral of the story? Have friends and family, and put them in front of your camera.

During this time, I met a sweet friend at church who does branding, web design, and photography, and when she heard about my interests, she took an interest in me! She asked if I'd do her maternity photos, and I was SO excited! Several months later, she messaged me with a business proposition, and that's how my stunning website and logos were created. Very thankful for her business, and VERY thankful for her friendship.

And now here I am. In 2018, I gained 30+ clients, allowing me to shoot newborns, seniors, families, couples, and weddings. I visited places in Raleigh I never would've visited had it not been for this - parks, gardens, urban streets. I've gotten to be a tourist in my own city. I've been able to buy a camera, two lenses, and my very first Mac. And my photos have even been featured on The Knot's How They Asked page! What!?

That's a lot of exciting things if you ask me! But what you don't see is the hustle - and it's there. It's always there for someone starting something like this. You don't see the hours spent editing by my husband while we watch football on the weekends. You don't see the planning and preparation for upcoming shoots. You don't see my stressing over the Raleigh traffic while trying to get to a session location during rush hour (It's a real thing...Am I the only one who hates traffic!?). You don't see the times I still Google topics and learn more about this field. The things I Google may have changed a bit. Now I'm not just working IN my business; I'm working ON it. I'm growing in posing and prompting. I'm looking for ways to make a better client experience. So many things go into running a business, and sometimes it feels as if I'm just scratching the surface. But having a work you LOVE? That's not something that's promised to us. It's not something that's necessary to life in the least bit. So I just count myself blessed. It's been God from the beginning, way back to that Christmas 10 years ago, and it'll be Him in 2019 too...whatever 2019 may bring! (My guess is that it'll bring lots more Googling, so I feel Google deserves a shoutout!)

Thanks for following along with me this year. One of my favorite things in the world to do is to tell stories from behind the camera - stories of love and family, stories to cherish, stories that will outlast you and me. And I wouldn't be able to do that without people, so thank you to my clients and faithful followers! As always, I'd love to hear from you! Let me know if there's anything you'd like to see around here! Maybe it's a specific shoot you think I should try. Maybe there's a blog topic you'd like me to cover. Let me know!

I wanted to close out this post with just a very small amount of favorite photos from this past year!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, friends!

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