First and foremost, don’t let the blog title fool you.
This isn’t going to be some review about Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan… even though I can appreciate that “you, and you, and nothing but you” are taking time out of your day to read this. And I can honestly say that for not being a huge fan of musicals, that movie was ALL FEELS.
What you’re about to read won’t reflect that particular love story, but it’ll be a story regarding MY last five years as a photographer… and a little bit more. Okay, a LOT more. This is gonna be long, guys, so buckle up.
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How ironic and wonderful it is, to find myself in a new month, in a new year, and also remembering that this marks five overwhelming, crazy, beautiful, confusing, rewarding years being a photographer. That being the case, I’ve decided to not only be real about my journey, but include F I V E goals in my overall life that I hope to keep as New Year resolutions. Fitting, don’t you agree?
So what IS a photographer? Silly, you think? I particularly don’t, considering “everyone with a camera is a photographer nowadays”, or so I’ve been told. I decided to do what any wise individual would do, and that was hop on over to google for a more concrete definition.
“a person who takes photographs, especially as a job”
That seems easy enough. So I guess you could technically say that anyone WITH a camera truly IS a photographer. And I’m sure a lot of big-name, high-end togs who had heard my name mentioned or saw my sample work thought the same exact thing about me. The beautiful thing? That’s ok.
I lived a completely different life when I first started photography. In fact, looking back, it’s almost hard to believe that it was MY life. Maybe because in many ways, I’ve tried to let it go. James Bay knows all about that. MMMM. Anyways.
I had been gifted my first canon rebel (and let me tell you, I was a rebel without a photography cause with that bad boy… or so I thought at the time) when I graduated college in 2011, because it had truly been what I had wanted for awhile. I was always taking pictures, always. Before my DSLR, I had different point-and-shoots for years that never left my side. People who hung out with me referred to me as “the girl with the camera”, but I guess that beats being “the girl with the dragon tattoo”. I’ve honestly not seen that movie. Moving on…
I built up enough portfolio work to apply for a photographer position at LifeTouch studios, where I lasted maybe a whopping three months. I had no clue what I was doing. I was using a camera, settings in place, lighting in place, but I was pressing a button. The creativity was there, the posing was there, but the camera knowledge… not so much. I ended up leaving because it became a conflict of interest. I knew I wanted my own business, I knew I wanted my own clients. I knew that I couldn’t stay, and with wanting to photograph on my own, I knew that they eventually wouldn’t let me.
Back to the original plan! I was doing so much free, unpaid work, as anyone just starting out would do. I was taking my camera everywhere… parties, people’s houses, events, you name it. I wanted to gain as much practice as I could. Everyone raved about the photos, they encouraged me. Little did I know how little I knew, and how bad I really was.
When I realized I could start charging money (Hah! Oh, Ang), I did sessions for dirt cheap. I’m talking $20 sessions for hours worth of shooting and hours worth of editing. My first wedding in 2013 was $300 which at the time, I thought was amazing. But that was just the beginning.
As much as you’re NOT supposed to compare your work to others’, that’s exactly what I did. Constantly. And I wondered how they had what I didn’t. I wondered how they’d shoot like I couldn’t. I wondered how their lighting, their style, their clarity… was nothing at all like mine. So I started my research.
M A N U A L _ M O D E
I hated it. I hated the idea of it. I tried using tutorials and watching videos and reading and it WOULD NOT AND COULD NOT sink in. I was frustrated. I was beginning to feel hopeless. Until one day, I noticed Tiffany Jackson with Jackson Signature Photography was holding a mentoring session. I knew I needed it. I knew I had to bite the bullet and sign up. So that’s what I did.
I remember walking up the stairs to her studio location and being awestruck. Natural light beaming through her windows exposed beautiful light and airy wall canvases of bride and groom shots. I remember walking by them as though time itself was passing slowly, observing them like some sort of exhibition. I knew right then and there, that’s what I wanted. That’s who I wanted to be.
We worked for an hour or two, and she left me with the advice to “keep practicing”. Scheduled sessions I had following our time together, I began shooting full manual and struggling. Setting my camera for the correct exposure in the nice spring sun, having the lighting completely change when the sun moved behind the clouds and having to readjust EVERYTHING, only to keep running into the same problem fifty-million more times. I would nervously thank my clients for their patience, explaining that I was “trying a new technique” or “trying something new” for their specific session.
I never once went back to auto. I made a promise to myself.
After that is when I met Holly Ferencuha with Holly Ferencuha Photography, at a photography shoot-out. A bunch of us togs got together and practiced photographing each other. It wasn’t enough for me. I wasn’t learning anything. No one was saying what their settings were. No one was telling me why their ISO was at this number, or why they had their aperture set to that number. I needed more.
I saw the way Holly used her camera. She was the only one who brought an entire bag of gear, lighting included. I knew that she knew something. I knew that she had something. I saw her mind race as she set up her subject, then in turn her lighting. I watched her use colored gels and describe the effect they’d produce in her images. Once again, something in me knew that this was who I needed.
I asked Holly if I could meet with her individually to really learn my camera.
She worked with me, diligently. We started hanging out. We started working together. We built a friendship, a team. She’s now one of my closest friends, and even closer business partner. She’s my first-choice to second shoot with me, and I hers. We talk about photography constantly. We critique everything we see, everywhere we go. Trying to figure out the setup, the lighting, the settings, the gear used. We’ll comment on different landscapes we see in passing, visualizing our own sessions there. We’ll watch movies and comment on the bokeh or the lens flare, the use of natural vs. artificial light. We have a mutual adoration for what we do, and mutual seasons of defeat, self-hate, and pessimism associated with working in an area where photographers are not rare.
So where am I now? How far have I come? I suppose it depends on who you ask.
There have been moments where I’ve not understood why I’m not this person, or that photographer, or this business. But I’m not, and I never will be. Keeping consistent in this business and growing as a photographer and as a person, I’ve become content in that. It’s not about comparing. It’s not about who has 150,000 Facebook page likes. It’s not about how many “double taps” you receive on an Instagram post. It’s not about who follows you on Twitter. And I think ANYONE can benefit from hearing that. It took me a long time to convince myself of that, and believe it.
Focus on yourself. Grow from yourself. Fall in love with yourself. Be proud of yourself. Conquer fears for yourself. Chase dreams for yourself. Be. Your. Self.
Keeping all of that in mind, I evaluated what I REALLY wanted for myself in 2017:
1. _ G O D .
Putting my complete faith/hope/trust in Him in every way, in every moment. I joined a couple small groups through church last year which have been a huge help with that. Surrounding myself with His word and His truth. Being content and thankful in all things. I’m not saying it’s easy, it never has been completely easy for me, by any means. But this year, I’m making a complete effort to try.
2. _ R E L A T I O N S H I P S .
I’ve never ever in my life met anyone close to Rob. Never ever. And he knows it. I try to remind him of that constantly. I’ve never been loved by anyone like him, and it’s something so new and so different to me. It’s something I don’t ever want to be without. I thank God every single day for him, and I’ve prayed for him for over the last five months. He’s absolutely wonderful to me, no exceptions. Being (mostly) single over the last four years (stop. I know.) has been the most challenging time of my life, and meeting him randomly and forming a relationship with him randomly has been one of the most amazing things I’ve ever experienced. We have a long way to go. We have a lot of learning to do, a lot of growing. No matter what happens, I’ll always know that I was blessed to have him in my life. I’ll always feel that way.
Not only in my relationship with Rob, but in all relationships, I hope to be more loving… more patient… more understanding. A better friend. A better daughter, sister. A better stranger. Just… better.
3. / H E A L T H .
Honestly, being healthy is going to be tough for me, considering I can crush a medium pizza and pint of gelato in one sitting. Due to food intolerances, due to chronic, constant, physical and emotional pain, I KNOW getting healthy has to happen. I’ll be 28 this year… what’s gonna happen to me when I’m 50?
b a b y _ s t e p s .
I’m still a fan of “treat yo self” once in awhile, but my daily eating habits were literally killing me. And frankly, I was getting sick of it. (Literally).
4. / P H O T O G R A P H Y .
Heeeeeyyyyy! There it is! Shocked to see it at #4? I’m not. My business is something I’ll ALWAYS take pride in, and I’ll always be proud of, but it will never be a top priority in my life. Heck, I’m part-time. I don’t want to burn out. I don’t want to throw in the towel. I don’t want to WANT to give it up.
Do I want to be better? Every day. Do I want new gear? You bet I do. Do I have a ton more to learn? More than I probably realize even STILL. And I’m working on getting there. I’m gonna work on it with every engagement, every newborn, every wedding. I believe that practice doesn’t make perfect, but it can make something pretty amazing. Perfect isn’t my goal, anyways. Contentment is. Happiness is. MAKING OTHERS happy is. I can do that with photography. I’ve DONE that with photography. That’s enough for me.
Oh, and paying my mortgage. Because $860 a month for the next 28 years is a buzz kill.
5. / M E / M Y S E L F / & / I
I love to swim with manatees. I love to paint. I love singing in the car on the way to concerts (off-key, mostly, on my end) with friends. I love shopping and grabbing coffee. Lots of coffee. I love antique shopping and garbage picking.
I never want to be too busy making a living that I forget to make a life. Yes, let the cliche posts keep on flowing, but it’s TRUE. To enjoy life is to enjoy your time, to enjoy making memories, laughing… all of it. Living. Life is such a gift, and with so much heartache and evil in the world, it’s so important to stay true to yourself, what you love, and what you love to do.
So there it is, the last five years. If you haven’t yet fallen asleep at your computer or exited when you read this wasn’t going to be about a LaGravenese flick, then I thank you sincerely from the bottom of my heart.
I encourage you to really think about what you want for YOU this year, and this lifetime… and have the courage to take the steps to make it happen.
a n d a l l t h e p e o p l e s a i d , A m e n .