When I used to flip through photos from my first few weddings ever (that I did in 2004), I cringed. I wanted to burn the photos, hoping they’d never see the light of day.
But now they make proud. I can see how far I’ve come in twelve years.
I never sought out to be a full time photographer. I was headed down the track for a job in communications. Photography had always been something that I enjoyed, but not something I saw as a feasible career.
It started innocently enough- a woman where I interned told a friend I had a nice camera and might be interested in shooting her small wedding. I mean, sure, right?
I had no backup equipment.
I had two (kit) lenses.
I had a flash, but didn’t know how to use it.
I had no actual editing software.
A horrible idea? YES. But I did it. Then I did a few more. Then I started second shooting for a local DC photographer. He showed me some tips and tricks. And then I started photographing my coworkers children. And their friends. And then their friends, too.
I slowly started to learn more about my gear, about business, about how to take care of clients.
In May of 2006, I was fresh out of college. I started a full time government job, but was also shooting on the side. I used all my money from photography to buy more gear and to take a few classes. The quality of my images began to increase rapidly as I dug deeper into the capabilities of my gear and into learning about light, shadow, and posing. Two short years later, I was doing photography full time.
And nearly twelve years later, I still see my style and voice evolving. As I discover new gear and technology, my photography also changes. But technology isn’t everything. Beyond the gear, what has helped me grow the most is just plain old experience.
The experience to know and feel when a sweet moment is just about to happen at a wedding.
The experience to know how to get a fickle baby to smile and giggle.
The experience to put clients not comfortable in front of a camera at ease.
And while there are dozens (hundreds, actually) of classes to learn about camera gear, business and new trends, you can’t pay your way to experience. It truly doesn’t matter if you buy the best camera currently available, dozens of pieces of lighting equipment, and have the most up to date editing software- it means nothing if you don’t know how and when to use it.
You have to log those long hours behind your camera and your computer.
You have to screw up.
You have to walk into a situation where you aren’t sure what to do and figure it all out.
It’s the only way you’ll get better.
When I look back twelve years from now and see my current work, I hope I see even more improvement and growth. I hope I continue to change and adapt as new technology becomes available, so I can serve my clients proudly.
And one last thing- my deepest gratitude to my first clients, some who I still photograph. They believed in me and took a chance. And I’m so grateful.