I grew up in North Little Rock, AR (not Little Rock, yes there is a difference). My senior year of high school, while working as a lifeguard, this cute jock/nerd asked me out... I married him four years later. We just celebrated 7 years of marriage. We did the long distance thing in college. He went to Fayetteville and I went 5 hours away from him to Memphis. I earned a BFA in painting (originally planned on illustration) from Memphis College of Art and an art history minor. After we FINALLY got married he moved me to Fort Smith, AR... not exactly an artists ideal place to be landed.
I stayed in our little duplex and finished my children's book. Took me 6 months. Got it published. Then struggled to sell paintings and gain entry into reputable shows. From there I had some teaching jobs, along with other odd jobs just to get out of the house. When we began having children I stepped back into the stay at home role and COMPLETELY lost myself.
At 27, with two babies, I was hardly practicing art at all. One of my closest college friends is a photographer in Murfreesboro, TN. She began to influence me to take up photography. She is the owner of Button Bug Photography FYI. My only experience with DSLR photography was to take reference photos for my paintings with a borrowed camera. I knew nothing. Early 2014 I began researching photography. Cameras, local photographers, how to's... blah blah blah. Finally in spring I decided I wanted to go for it.
I sat down with my husband and pitched my grand plan. My husband manages yield at a Fort Smith company and is all about the numbers. I laid out the initial investment. Camera. Lens. Website. Business cards. My husband was in full support... maybe because I was crying... or maybe because he knew I needed to be something outside of a wife and mother. Regardless, he was supportive of my dipping into our savings and going for it.
I had no clue on which camera to purchase. I mean SERIOUSLY do you know how many different types of cameras are out there?!?!?! First off, Canon or Nikon? My beloved college friend walked me through all the pro's and con's of a bazillion different ones and helped me land on the Nikon d7000. After receiving the camera and 50mm lens in the mail I started playing. I read tutorials on how to shoot manual. I hadn't a clue on ISO, aperture, shutter... Every time my kids went down for naps I practiced. Until I learned the camera I wasn't wanting to invest in a new computer or editing software. This meant I could only shoot JPEG because the current computer we had didn't have enough power for me to download a RAW file. When I did download I had to delete most of the unwanted images on the camera first or the computer would crash. I also did a free download of Gimp2 to edit my images.
Marvel at my Gimp2 edited JPEGs of my babies lol.
I began soliciting friends to practice on. Being a photographer is so much more than knowing your camera. Working with people, instructing them, is an art all its own and takes confidence. Confidence I didn't have. Two friends just had babies, so newborns were my first two sessions. I use the term "session" loosely as I did them for free. As I said, my confidence and skill were not prepared for paying customers.
So anyways, I was learning. What was the most important thing I learned? Be confident. I was so frightened. Petrified is a better word. I was petrified of failure. After each shoot I called my friend for critique. Critique was invaluable in college. It helps you grow as an artist. She brought my attention to shadows on the babies face. I shot the outdoor images around noon. BIG NO NO. I hadn't even considered how harsh the light would be. She also walked me through how to deal with a newborn. Warm room being number one. Also, I needed to be prepared for a lengthy session. I was rushing. For some reason I felt I needed to be done in an hour or less so the family wasn't inconvenienced. This brought me to read up more on newborn photography. In the end it was a perfect learning experience.
My confidence was still dwindling. I did many more free sessions for friends. Following each session I was overwhelmed with panic on the drive home. I was still learning to use my shutter and adjust my aperture quickly. I was also faced with frustration because there was little I could do to fix my images if they weren't sound straight out of the camera. I was still shooting JPEG and had only free download software to edit. This turned out to be a huge blessing though. I had to learn how to get the image right and couldn't rely on saving it with editing.
During the summer I was shocked when I received my first phone call to book a session. The couple loved (yes they said "loved") the images on my website and booked with me. My husband was in the room when I took the call. When I hung up and excitedly told him I had just booked my first paid session he laughed and said, "I could tell! You were pacing and you're dripping sweat!"
So looming on my first paid session I had a new panic... I didn't want to shoot JPEG. My husband surprised me. He bought me a new iMac.
I am still, other than minor brightness adjustments, only delivering SOOC images. But Thats ok. I was gaining confidence. This little boy was the most wonderful first session I could of asked for! Why? Because he actually liked me! I know that sounds silly, but I have encountered a lot of kids that hated the lady with the camera this year. I've learned how to deal with that (candy bribes) but the ease of this session did wonders for me. More sessions began to follow. I was slowly beginning to pay back the initial investment.
Before each shoot I would look at some of my favorite photographers for inspiration. As I became more and more confident the research became less and less. I started to find myself and learn where I wanted to go as a photographer. After my sessions I always made contact with my clients. Their positive reviews of my work really penetrated my heart. My friend at Button Bug Photography had kept telling me "Fake it till you make it!" And I felt like my fake confidence had manifested into truly believing I could do this!
From here my husband encouraged me to purchase Lightroom. He told me how exciting it was to see me grow from learning what to do, into distinguishing myself as an individual. I was becoming comfortable guiding people during sessions. I was learning the camera. I was becoming confident.
This opened up a whole new world. I am originally trained as a painter. I love manipulating the real.
I have set goals for myself over the next year. Learn as much as I can. Maintain my confidence. Challenge myself. Continue to volunteer through my art and give back to the community. Incorporate my painting. To ring in the new year I have decided to offer a giveaway through my Facebook. Free session and free painting.
This has been such an amazing year for me. I love to learn. I love to feel challenged. My only regret is that I didn't believe in myself. This is such a damaging trait. If I could give advice to anyone starting out, believe in yourself! Expect errors when you take on something new. A mistake is often the best way to learn. Celebrate your small victories. Be proud of yourself.
Thank you so much to all of my family, friends, and clients for the amazing support. Looking forward to what next year brings.