May 3rd, 2020.
Approximately one month and some days into the pandemic.
Taking Zoom college courses in my parents' home to finish out my senior year, complete with my lace-curtains flowing in the spring breeze while I was trying to memorize monologues and do random vocal exercises that to this day make no sense to me whatsoever.
Writing in my journal that I was excited to have found a Facebook Marketplace listing for a photographer selling their Canon Rebel T6, 'used, but in good condition,' complete with a Nifty Fifty lens and an SD card. I was going to meet up with him in Philly at 2 o'clock to swap the goods and then come home to take photos of my dogs.
Last minute, I somehow convinced my brother to quit playing video games and drive with me to make sure I didn't get murdered (#womanlife). We drove into the ghost town of Rittenhouse Square, and I met Austin (who, if you're reading this, which I highly doubt...thanks for starting my business for me 😂), and the whole interaction was done within 15 minutes.
And then, I came home and took photos of my dogs.
I read this back and I laugh at how naive (in a good way) I was in terms of what was to come. I think if I had known, I wouldn't have done it at all because it continues to scare the crap out of me. But these first photos would pave the way for what was to come in the year after.
That night, I already knew I wanted to use people as my subjects. Lucky for me, my sister and her boyfriend were available and braved the tick-infested high grass for me to practice. Lord, I look at these photos now and cringe, but I still have them to remind myself of how far I've come.
God bless you, Lindsey and Danny. God bless you.
I then started doing what I knew how to do, and that was utilize my connections and the power of social media. Don't get me wrong, I have a very 'love-hate' relationship with Instagram and Facebook, but I'd be lying if I said it didn't essentially create my business from the ground up. I did a few free photoshoots, and then charged $50 for the rest which, at the time, was an absurd amount to me for what I thought were crappy photos. But trust is a real thing, and something that I have ingrained in this business from the start. And I realized very quickly that, without even knowing it, I had already grown a clientele over the years who trusted me in whatever I do in life.
Come June, I think I already had an inkling that this wasn't just going to be a hobby, but perhaps a part-time gig. After all, it was fulfilling a creative need that had been stripped once the pandemic hit and the entire theatre industry had been shut down. I also knew that a lot of families were unexpectedly home together for the first time in, possibly, awhile. So, I started advertising to folks who needed new material for their living room walls, just as a way to give back in such a tumultuous time.
As much as my friends loved being able to get a few updated pictures, I soon found a massive passion that stretched far beyond the picture taking. Much like theatre, I realized that photography was a mutually beneficial experience. Through my enthusiasm and love for the craft, I was able to create a confidence in people that they either didn't know they had, or hadn't been able to tap into for awhile. It also quickly became a way to reconnect with classmates that I hadn't been able to say goodbye to in April, as well as help launch pandemic-born businesses for friends.
In July, I got an unexpected opportunity to photograph for a local magazine via Best Version Media for Upper Providence and Limerick Living Magazines. In two months, I had gone from never holding a camera to now doing print work. Talk about anxietyyyyy! I was so excited for this new opportunity, but I also knew that my current camera wasn't going to cut it. So, using most of my savings and the money I had earned up until that point, I purchased my Canon 5D Mark IV, which is the camera I still use to this day and is now what I consider my child. I mean, it's LITERALLY as heavy as a newborn with the lens on it, so I will continue to refer to it as such. And boy, am I glad I made that call. It catapulted my content, and gave me the confidence to finally say "yeah, I know what I'm doing." And now I feel like a walking advertisement for that dang thing and I wouldn't have it any other way.
The magazine continues to be one of the biggest blessings in this career. Thank you, Julie and Jen, for taking a chance on little-old-me. Through you, I've been able to meet members of this amazing community and get to hear their stories. I am endlessly grateful for you both❤️
So now, we're in late July. I figure "alright this is pretty cool, but I think this is as big as it'll get." And the universe said, SIKE BABY NOW YOU'RE GOING TO DO WEDDINGS LOLLLLLLL.
Yeah...weddings. And I said hold up, come again? But that's literally what happened. A friend of mine from college let me do her engagement pictures for free so I could get some practice, and it was a blast. Jess and Ben were so patient with me, and I ended up being able to let my guard down and just have fun with all of the amazing things that you can do with two people rather than one. I also had Marquise and Lily who were my first "strangers" to contact me for their engagement photos, and would eventually become the first people to officially book me for their wedding, followed shortly after by Jess and Ben. You don't even want to know what I originally quoted them both for their wedding photos 😅 Let's just say, find people who know your worth, even if you don't believe in it yet.
So, the fall time was here. And I really thought it would slow down with kids going back to school, but boy was I wrong. I started a part-time nannying gig which allowed me to edit while the baby was sleeping (the baby-turned-toddler has also managed to become one of my favorite models, so that helps). And I learned about the power of mini sessions (oh dear lord...the love for minis is unmatched in suburban Pennsylvania!). I went from two weddings to three and then four, and realized more each day how much I'd fallen in love with this job.
With the winter time quickly approaching and the start of a New Year, I was beginning to imagine what life would be like if I went full-time with this thing. I mean, after all, every time I thought it was going to slow down, it just kept right on picking up again. The winter did bring some slowness, but I was amazed at how many people still wanted to brave the cold for some awesome shots, most notably one of my most popular shoots in an abandoned school with the most amazing theater I have ever seen. Sarah and I both nearly got hypothermia in our hands from how cold it was, but I wouldn't have had it any other way!
And then, the spring time came. And with it a whole year of this crazy thing that was born out of a pandemic, graduating college from my living room couch, and a non-existent performing arts industry.
I often think of the original plan I had for myself and how this clearly wasn't it. But then I look at the small signs that this was my path all along. For instance, always being the friend in the group who took the photos because there was "just something about them" that always made everyone look good. Going to London and taking photos of whatever I saw just to be able to look back on them one day (not thinking they would be the catalyst for a small business launch). Being a theatre major in college and literally building a group of preexisting clients as I went, while also learning how to effectively communicate with others, network myself, and learn about the importance of social media marketing in this day and age. Speaking of social media, I realized that I have an absolute love for it that I've been able to explore in creating this business. And again, that came from a position I held in college that I thought was just for fun at the time.
I guess what I'm clearly saying is that life has a way of working itself out. I had no idea that this is where I would be a year ago, and definitely didn't think I'd be owning my own studio starting in June 2021 (oh yeah...surprise!). I also had no idea that I would have done over 300 photoshoots, be booked now for 15+ weddings, and basically have knocked off every single one of my photography "bucket list items," including surprise proposals, cake smashes, water shoots, and editorial-style studio sessions--just to name a few ;)
I am so excited to see where year number 2 takes me, and the incredible people I get to meet along the way. So, for now, here are the top five things I learned in my first year:
- Kindness will get you farther than anything else in life. Seriously.
- If you're going to do something, do it big and with no regrets.
- Learn how to file your own taxes early...trust me on this one.
- Your path may not be what you expected, but that doesn't mean that you weren't being prepared for it the entire time.
- People are pretty awesome. In a world where there's so much hate, find the great people and keep them close. They are instrumental in whatever you do in life.
Cheers to year two!