One of the questions I get asked the most (by strangers I chat with at the store, by clients, by really any new person I’m introducing myself to!) is: Wow! A wedding photographer? How did you get into that?! And when I get asked that question (even though I should be expecting it by now), the wheels in my head start spinning. How do I condense 10+ years of this story into 3 sentences? If only I could direct them to this blog post 😂So here it is- the long version for all inquiring minds: my journey to being a full-time photographer.
Like many photographers, I start my story with the most cliched sentence EVER: Ever since I can remember, I’ve had a camera in my hands. The English major in me is cringing right now, but it gets better, I promise. Back when I was in middle school, I had to go to my brother’s travel baseball tournaments what felt like every weekend of the baseball season. If you’re a fan of baseball, you know that baseball isn’t the most upbeat sport to watch. Especially when the players are 12 years old. But I digress- I was there and had to pass the time. So what did I do? I took my mom’s point and shoot camera (one of the first digital cameras our family owned) and started taking pictures of all the players. I developed my eye for composition and taught myself the rule of thirds, and also found out that I really enjoyed passing time this way.
In 10th grade, I applied to take yearbook class junior year because I knew in that class, you could use the big, fancy Canon Rebel cameras and I wanted that SO badly! I got in, and junior year I learned more about how to work a DSLR camera. At the end of that year, I scored my high school dream job- working as an office manager/ photo assistant at the local photography studio in town. It was at this job that I first used Lightroom (the program I still use today to edit photos!), was taught the technical side of aperture, f-stops, bokeh, and depth of field. I also got to accompany the photographer/ studio owner to shoots. I learned about lighting and reflecting, and I couldn’t get enough. What was supposed to be a summer apprenticeship (you-work-for-free-and-get-free-senior-photos-in-return sorta gig) turned into a year long paid position.
Did I mention that my senior pictures were directly copying a recent Taylor Swift ad I had seen? 😂
Upon graduating from high school, I attended Loyola University Chicago and double majored in English and Secondary Education. I also minored in studio art to satisfy my need for a creative outlet, but it wasn’t something I ever thought about pursing seriously post-graduation. I graduated college and worked for a non-profit my first year out, and the following year secured a job teaching high school English on the south side of Milwaukee.
There’s so much tension in describing my relationship with teaching. There are parts of it that I absolutely loved (and miss!), the kids, my coworkers, and coaching girls basketball being the top things! But I also experienced situations that showed me that teaching was not my lifelong calling. While I was teaching, I started dreaming of what life outside of being a teacher could look like. I realized I had continued to follow wedding photographers even though my own wedding had come and gone. I loved everything about the wedding industry, and it really inspired me.
When the thought, “What if I was a wedding photographer?” first crossed my mind, I tried to get it out as quickly as it popped in! I was really scared of being in charge of adequately documenting people’s most important day of their lives. What if I didn’t do a good job? What if something happened to the memory card and I lost their images? I don’t know how to pose people!! Thoughts like these kept this desire, or dare I call it my calling– suppressed for months. But after a trip to Creative at Heart, I came back confident and ready to make this dream I saw other people chasing a reality for myself.
Me with my roomies at Creative at Heart’s Round 7 in Raleigh, NC (yes- I am 5 months pregnant here!!)
Ironically (or not- maybe just God’s funny way of timing), I found out I was pregnant right as I had really started to invest in my business- getting a website, purchasing my $2500 camera with money I’d saved from teaching paychecks, signing up for C@H. It was do or die- I was veeeery terrified to step away from a solid, salaried position to the unknown. Domenick was in school and I was supporting our family financially, so basically- this HAD to work!!
Domenick’s graduation for his Masters (still 5 months pregnant here)
I second and shot weddings all throughout my third trimester of pregnancy and got my bearings about me. By the time 2018 rolled around, I felt comfortable enough to start taking on my own weddings; and more or less- here we are! So the short version is that photography has always been something I’ve felt drawn to and been able to creatively express myself through, it just took a little bit of time to figure out that *this* is where I’m meant to be (despite being trained for a completely different career!). I’m so grateful that I can take a true passion of mine and support my family with it- I will literally NEVER get over that and always be eternally grateful to the people who entrust their wedding days to ME. I truly believe I have THE best job in the entire world!!