The start of my business began on a whim. I was always the person at the party taking pictures of people with my little digital camera, always the collector of photos as my most prized possessions. For some reason, the thought came into my head one random day that I should start learning about photography. I have no idea where this thought came from but I do know that the very same day I stumbled across a friend selling their Nikon D200 DSLR for very cheap. I considered that a sign. Without thinking I contacted her immediately telling her I wanted to buy it. Keep in mind, I had no idea if this was a good camera or how to even use it...I just knew it was a "fancy" camera. I went and picked up the camera, brought it home, and just stared at it as it sat like a paperweight on my desk. There was something in me that felt compelled to learn how to use it. This was in January of 2012.
From there, I became a sponge for any learning materials I could get my hands on. I watched video tutorials and web seminars, read books, went to workshops. I carried my camera with me everywhere I went at first and practiced on anything and anyone I could. I knew I loved taking photos but I didn't know yet what I wanted to do with this passion. One day, my friend Matt told me about his friend Christine Chang who was hosting a Destination Wedding Photography workshop. I went to the workshop and something in me completely lit up like a light bulb and my life changed forever. This life and career Christine had accomplished was so inspiring to me that I decided right then and there that this was what I wanted to do. To be a Wedding Photographer was my dream and I set my intentions immediately to make it become a reality. I officially started my photography business in March of 2013.
I started out by offering to take photos of my friends and their kids for free. Those friends started posting my photos on their Facebook page. Their friends saw the photos and asked me to shoot for them, too. I started charging $75. This continued on for about a year. All the while, I was working 50-60 hours a week as a Casting Director at my other job.
I started building relationships in the Wedding photography industry. I 2nd shot for people I had met at workshops and began building my portfolio. I started to get inquires from friends asking me to shoot their wedding and my portfolio continued to grow.
I suddenly found myself with multiple bookings every weekend and came to the realization that I may be able to leave my job. I wasn't anywhere near where I wanted to be to feel totally comfortable financially but I knew that if I put everything into this I could do it. In July of 2014 I left my full time job to follow my dream. I've said this many times, but I feel truly astounded by the way the Universe has taken care of me since following my passion. Of course, success is largely dependent on how hard you work and your business sense, but learning to take risks for something you love has proven to be so worth it for me.
Ultimately, the ability to leave my old career to be a full time photographer has been a series of very small, but important baby steps. It sometimes feels like this all happened very quickly, but then I remember I have chosen to eat, sleep, and breathe photography for the last 3 1/2 years. I still have so much learning and growing to do but I'm so grateful to be able to call this my "job" today.
If you could only own one lens what would it be and why?
I would have to say, without a doubt, my favorite and most used lens is my 50mm 1.2L lens. This lens is really great for my style of shooting in that it is fast to focus and versatile in most lighting situations so I can capture candid moments quickly. It is a "prime lens" which means it does not zoom in or out. This is great for learning as it forces you to actually move your body closer or farther from your subject. This helps with helping you to think about your composition and the way you interact with your subject. I also love how wide open this lens can shoot so I can achieve beautiful "bokeh" and crisp light in my images. This lens can be a bit pricey, so if you're on a budget or just starting out, I'd recommend picking up a 50mm 1.8 lens. They're very affordable and a great starter lens for those just picking up photography.
Which photographers influenced you and/or inspired you along your career path?
This is such an amazing question because artists are always inspired by other artists. I recently listened to a great TedRadioHour called "What is Original?" which discussed the idea of whether any forms of art are truly original. You can listen to the show here. We are all inspired and influenced by artists we admire. In my opinion, my art is the culmination of all the other artists who have inspired me along the way. This is what makes my perspective art. No one can see the world as I have just as I cannot see the world as you have. That is so beautiful.
One of my favorite photographers and inspirations is Elizabeth Messina. Looking at her work makes me feel overcome with love for photography. I'm so attracted to the way she uses light to capture the feminine. She also shoots exclusively on film which gives her images a timeless and romantic feel. Her book, "The Luminous Portrait," should be owned by all photographers. It's one of my favorites and a beautiful book I can turn to whenever I'm in need of inspiration.
Annie Leibovitz, of course, is another one of my inspirations. There is an AMAZING documentary about her called "Life Through a Lens" that I highly recommend. It tells the story of her beginnings as a photo journalist and her amazing journey into fashion. I've always been totally captivated by, not only the light in her images, but also the story she's able to pull from her subjects. A photograph should tell a story and no one does it better than her.
I would have to say my work has also been largely inspired by my mother. Growing up, my mom loved to take pictures of us. We had a room in our house that was covered in her portraits and landscapes from ceiling to floor. She was so passionate about taking pictures and I loved watching her work. I remember one morning before I went to school, she sat me down by a window and took my portrait using white poster board as a reflector. As kids, my brother and I didn't understand why we had to sit in front of her camera all the time. Looking back at the pictures now, I'm grateful she was so good at capturing our childhood memories. My mom and I are very similar so it's only natural that we would have a similar eye for photography. She also shot on a 35mm film camera which makes her even more bad ass. Thanks mommy!