Last night I looked at the first portfolio I ever made and It brought back a thousand memories and a world of embarrassment. In 2009 I decided I could no longer deny my passion for photography and bought a Nikon D40 kit. I cringe at the thought that I actually started a “business” with “equipment” like that, but sometimes you have to just take a leap and do what your heart tells you to do.
It didn’t start on a whim, I did at least have a background of many years as a second shooter and assistant. During my time as an assistant, I began to experiment with prime lenses and slide film, and started to see a style in my photos that I fell in love with. After a life-changing separation and eventually divorce I found myself furniture-less, penniless, and worst of all camera-less. I would spend three years away from the camera- getting back on my feet, going back to school and pursuing a career in the medical field. But there was always something missing, I would find myself creating images in my mind. I would walk into a room where an elderly patient sat in bed, window light cascading across the white hospital blankets bouncing up to the defined and wrinkled face. I would barely be able to hold a conversation with the patient because all the while, I am thinking to myself: wow! this image would look amazing in black and white. As these thoughts became more and more pressing, and my financial and life situation began to slightly improve, I was able to afford a small allowance for a camera. The only way I could justify spending the money was if I could make it back and so my “business” was born.
I promptly came up with a cheesy name, had some vista print cards made, with my Webs website, and MySpace page I was über professional and began taking victims….err… clients. . I edited everything in freeware and added lots of digital glow because it looked so awesome. The cover of my first portfolio was a self-portrait of me looking through a peacock feather, my super-cool branding inspiration. I even had the gall to include the subtext ” Fine Art Photography” under my business name….what was I thinking??
I made every rookie mistake possible: digital glow, bad lighting, selective color and cheesy poses. The only problem is that I didn’t know I was making them. As time went by the money was just not coming so I placed an ad on….dun dun dun…..Craigslist. Yup, I sure did, And guess what? It changed my life. I got an anonymous, and devastating message from someone saying how horrible my work was. Of course, I cried, and told no one except Koy. I began reading and learning. beginning with my camera’s manual. I literally slept with my manual, and camera. For hours each night I would read, make adjustments, take photos of my feet and see the differences that shutter speed, aperture, ISO and white Balance made. I leaned that I love selective focus, and that If i shot in shallow depth of field, I got that beautiful soft background without the need for that super-awesome digital glow. I Began to get better and better and finally made a little money, with this I was able to slightly upgrade my equipment. With the new camera, I felt confident enough to be a second, yet separately contracted photographer at a wedding and my life changed yet again, I Knew I had found my niche.
Always wanting to be a photojournalist, but never having the education, Wedding photography allowed me to practice that photojournalistic style that I love so much. I was so un-prepared that when my battery died before the first dance, I had to send Koy out to buy another one! At least ten guests had not only better cameras, but flashes of which I did not. One thing I did have? Some newly acquired knowledge from all of the tedious hours of practice and reading. I walked away both humbled, by my unpreparedness and proud that I did a good job in spite of not being prepared. I made it my life’s mission to become a real professional photographer.
It’s now been two years, since my first wedding, and I can see how much I have grown by making education and growth the center of my business keeping a clear vision or what I want my brand to be. Though I’m not their yet- getting closer and closer to that vision every day. There is still a long way to go, but I am now a licenced, insured professional photographer with backup equipment and a real website. Next year, I’m sure I’ll look back on my work and again say, ” what was I thinking??” But for today, I will look back on my old self, and be proud of what I have become.