From Photo Hobby to Career

        In the beginning, there was the Canon Rebel XT.  Well, technically there was the 35mm Canon Rebel I got for my high school graduation that got some occasional use in college.  Digital photography came on the scene a few years later and I got a Canon Powershot digital camera (pretty sure it had maybe 4 megapixels).  I took lots of photos of flowers.  Then I got married, and a few years later we decided to grow our family.  My family growing up was VERY into photography, with a Cinematographer brother in California, a camera production guru in Atlanta, and my father who fell in love with film in the dark room at age 8.  I was the rebel not going into photography.  But when I was pregnant with my first born in 2007, my parents gifted me my first DSLR camera.  It was a Canon Rebel XT.  I'm thinking most new parents get a DSLR camera to take photos of their growing family, hoping that auto controls would "blur the background" like those photos you see online.  I didn't know anything about those controls.  I took lots of photos on automatic settings and ended up really loving the ones I took by windows because of the lighting.  Above to the right is one of my first "photo shoots" of my son, Ethan, when he had broken his femur and was in a body cast (YIKES).  I knew I liked plain backgrounds, so I put him on a dark blanket for our shoot and set up next to his window.  I fell in love with the shot because it honestly captured him in the cast without a lot of distractions.  Now I am so so glad I took these photos because it was such a significant season in our lives.

So I started shooting everything and everyone.  I asked to shoot portrait sessions of my friends, and to the left are a few gems from those sessions.  The top black and white photo was actually one of my favorites, and I can still see why.  It turns out my love for simplicity and black and white photography was there even in the beginning. I remember taking the bottom photo (my friend and her husband and son) while holding a sheet of paper that had notes taken from when my dad explained exposure to me.  I would look down at the paper, change the manual settings of my camera, and take the shot (then editing the heck out of it in Photoshop Elements!)  I remember being SO overwhelmed by photo editing.  I got a bunch of Photoshop Actions and spent a lot of time editing.   A year later Lightroom changed my editing world and I gave up Photoshop for awhile. Now I use Photoshop for more serious editing but stick to Lightroom for basic work flow.

I watermarked everything with my constantly changing logo.  I got to shoot my first wedding in the fall of 2010 and was so thankful Jae and Jerry trusted me to do it.  I soon upgraded to the Canon 50D camera body and 50mm 1.4 lens.  I stalked photography blogs (Pioneer Woman was my hero!) and read everything I could about the subject, my favorite being Scott Kelby's book series on photography basics.  I wanted to learn more about studio lighting and bought a light and set up a make-shift studio in our basement.  Below is a photo I took with my newly found love for strobes. Note: yet another logo on the bottom of the photo.

Before I knew it I had shot my 50th wedding and had upgraded to the Canon 5d mk ii camera body with prime lenses (20mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, 135mm).  My husband was confident I had found something that would actually be profitable and not just an expensive hobby.  I quit teaching high school history and continued photography like a mad woman, shooting 33 weddings in 2011 while pregnant with my second baby.  It was a crazy season of business but taught me so so much.  I ended up scaling back over the next few years to around 15 weddings per year so I could be more present at home and to prevent burn out.  I should mention that camera gear is SUPER expensive (at least to me:) and buying used gear turned out to be such a great way to go.  Check out for used camera equipment, and don't be afraid of Ebay as an option, too.

Fast forward six years later from my first shoot to my 150th wedding and so much has changed, and yet stayed the same.  As I look back on my portfolio of work, I see my love for simplicity and black and white from the very beginning.  I'm drawn to emotionally charged imagery, and that is more and more true.  One more random observation is that I've always loved to shoot horizontally instead of vertically.

My camera gear has changed for sure, and I suspect it will go through some dramatic changes over the next few years with new technology. One company I've recently become interested in is Light, a company in Silicon Valley that developed technology that bridges the gap between the image quality of our big DSLR cameras and our palm-size phone cameras that we use everyday. The camera they've built (called Light L16) has multiple small cameras inside of it that shoot at different focal lengths and then combine that information for one super high quality image. I am waiting until they release more in 2017 to get my hands on one!!

Who knows how long I will shoot weddings or where photography will take me, but I can honestly say I am even more curious and passionate about photography then when I first started.  I found something that helps me take in the world around me, and something I lose track of time doing. I had no idea when I was in school that this is where I would be, and I can thank most of that to the people around me who supported my curious adventures whether they were profitable or not.  Here's to many more curious adventures and the worlds that open up because of them.