I was that friend. You know, the one who always has her camera, insisting that the group get a pic of the moment. Ski trips, whitewater rafting adventures, beach weekends, I documented it all.
This was my way of stilling the moments.
The down-side? I wasn’t good at it. I could sweet talk the group into the picture, but I knew nothing about proper lighting, posing, and forget about shooting manual. I just figured that having something was better than nothing at all.
My passion was people. This is why I was majoring in communications. My favorite course was Interpersonal Communications. The professor made the subject come alive. We studied voice, tone, non-verbal cues, mannerisms, and conflict. I remember trying to think of a way I could possibly turn that into a career. It seemed impossible.
Priscilla was a gorgeous fellow communications student. She had model esque features and rich caramel skin. Priscilla was always honing her photographic art. I would wander into her office (we both worked for the school) and would study her photographs. Pictures of farmer’s market produce, still life images that she somehow captured more vividly than life.
It was always the technical side of photography that held me back. My eyes glazed over anytime I picked up a photography handbook from a bookshelf. I wanted the results, but couldn’t see myself having the motivation and discipline to get there.
After graduation, I longed for a year of adventure. A time to learn another culture and invest in others as well. This took me to a town just south of Shanghai, called Pinghu, teaching English. It was here that my first digital camera would push me to experiment. I grasped at each attempt of capturing all of the culture surrounding me. My images always fell so short. But, that was okay, because it was the people of China who really inspired me. My students invited me into their homes and their family welcomed me into their lives.
Fast-forward five years.
I was living in Ontario with Ben, my 14-month-old son, Carter, and holding my brand new baby girl, Larissa Claire. She arrived 7 days early. I still had a large, national, conference call where I had to do some speaking. I did my very last work obligation while holding my newborn girl in my arms (she was about 12-hours old).
That was my final day with a traditional paycheck. It felt so strange not having outside work obligations.
This was the plan, it had been from the beginning. The reason we never grew accustomed to my income, instead we saved and invested it.
How could my heart be so in love with my two little ones, yet still feel unfulfilled?
Oh, the guilt.
My mother stayed home with us when I was growing up – no, let me clarify that - she homeschooled us, K-12. That’s right. I felt like I was not measuring up.
That was a difficult summer. But, it was also a summer of growth. I pushed myself to learn more about photography. I needed something different to challenge myself, a mental shift in my day.
I learned to shoot in manual on my Canon Rebel. Thanks to the gifted teaching of Kristen Duke (who is now primarily a blogger). We’ve never met, but through her photography blog, I learned the basics of operating my camera. She made it easy, removing the scary parts.
As my images improved, friends noticed. I was asked to shoot a senior portrait session here, a family portrait there. All of this was very relaxed and informal. Honestly? I was too scared to charge any money or to call myself any kind of a professional.
One September day, in 2010, a sweet woman from my church insisted on actually hiring me for her family portrait session. That is the moment that I knew I this could be the answer to my prayers. I still remember feeling the weight of that $50 payment. As if I was handling a million dollar deal.
Here’s another thing about me, I’m an all-or-nothing kind of person. Growing up, we were never allowed to do anything half-heartedly. So, if I was going to shoot even one family portrait for an actual paid session, well, I was going to be legit.
I used the money from that first session to purchase my business license. Using the Blogger platform, I customized it every way I possibly could. Still using my current domain name. I studied template design, editing, business, and marketing, everything I could get my hands on. I was hungry to learn and to be everything I possibly could be for my growing client list.
Ben, every step of the way, was crazy supportive. He cheered me on and helped me draft financial goals. His belief saw me through many lingering doubts.
There was still a learning curve ahead of me over the next six months. I was still discovering my artistic voice.
But, that’s a story for another time.
The best part of this story is that I did get that “dream job”.
Wedding photography is all about interpersonal communications. It combines emotion, fashion, personality, and monumental life events. My job is, in a very small part, to click a button and manipulate light. Most of my work is spent engaging with my couples, their mothers, their fathers, the bridal party, the guests, and my colleagues.
Every single day I am thankful for this beautiful gift of a job and for the unexpected journey that brought me here.