Hey friends! I wanted to share a little bit of my photography journey, and how I got to where I am today. There’s no cookie cutter way to become a wedding photographer, but my goal is that you read this blog (or watch this video) and leave feeling encouraged to take a leap into photography.
I never touched a camera until I was 18.
Yep, you read that right! I had absolutely no clue about photography until after high school. It all started when I went to a small one year college in Upstate New York after high school (2016). The college required everyone to have a ‘job’ during the year to keep tuition low, and most people worked in the kitchen as their job. Well… I didn’t love the idea of working in the kitchen, so I interviewed for a few alternative job positions (one being photography!). I showed the interview panel a few photos I had taken on my phone, and for whatever crazy reason, I was chosen as one of four students to be on the photography team!
While I was on the photography team, they provided us with a Canon 60d and a Canon 50m f/1.8 (nothing fancy, but got the job done). Our job was to capture the events that went on throughout the year – which included speaker photos, concerts, sporting events, summer camp, etc.
I’m not going to lie to you right now – I knew absolutely nothing about shooting in manual (or using a camera) for the first four months of shooting. My photos usually turned out like garbage, I was never taught about ISO, aperture, shutter, white balance, or anything! And to be honest, it was a huge struggle for me because I can be a perfectionist & I hate when I’m not good at something.
After four months of wrestling with my camera settings, watching infinite YouTube videos, and taking my friends on shoots everyday, I finally started to understand what it took to compose a photo, to calculate your camera settings, and to edit a photo to look the way I wanted it to. I went from zero knowledge of photography to feeling more confident in my skills, and wanting to grow anyway that I could.
Once the first year of college was over, I was offered a position with the college to teach and lead the student photography team (the team I had just finished being a part of). Although I felt like I didn’t know enough to teach others, I took the position anyways and decided I would ‘fake it til I made it’ (this was now 2017).
I ended up growing a TON in my photography knowledge & skills, and everyday – I would meet with my four photography students and teach them everything they needed to know to succeed.
After a few months of working this job, one of my friends asked me if I would shoot the wedding of her friend (a friend-of-a-friend situation). I had been shooting events for about 2 years, and did portrait work on the side, so I figured…why not? It can’t be that hard! So I took the offer and shot my first wedding in December 2017.
My first wedding was tough, not gonna lie. I knew I was decent at event photography, but I didn’t realize how much prep work & artistic planning went into wedding photography (that was NOT prepared for). If I’m being honest, my photos weren’t great from my first wedding but I learned so much and wanted to keep growing in wedding photography.
After my first wedding, I posted a few photos from the wedding to my Instagram along with photos from another ‘styled’ wedding I set up (literally, it was one of my friends & her husband in their wedding attire and I took photos of them). Someone that followed me saw my photos from those two shoots, and asked me to shoot their wedding in May 2018. I had about 6 months to practice and get better, and after I shot my second wedding in 2018…I knew wedding photography was what I wanted to do!
From there, I started booking more wedding here & there – I had about 5 weddings in 2018, then 12 in 2019, to almost 30 in 2020!
I continued working for the college as their lead photographer, training students every year and photographing all of the events on campus (I even got to travel to Paraguay in 2018 during my time in this position!). I trained three teams of photographers (12 total students) over the span of three years, and grew so much in my knowledge of being a good teacher, leader, and photographer.
One of the nice things about working as the lead photographer for this college was not having to purchase my own gear. I was provided two Canon 5d mark iii’s, a canon 35mm f/1.4, a canon 85mm f/1.4, a 70-200mm, an iMac, and much more equipment (that I never had to purchase myself). I was able to use all of this equipment personally too, so it wasn’t until a year ago that I invested in a Sony A7iii, and now a Sony A9 (read about my full gear list here).
Although I loved my job working at the college, I was growing my side business as a wedding photographer & felt pulled to pursue wedding photography full time, which I am SO glad I did! So after three years of juggling part-time college photography and part-time wedding photography, I finally made the jump to full-time wedding photography in September of 2020!!
And now, I’m working for my own business & learning so much about being a business owner! That brings us to where I am today.
So what I have learned from my photography experience so far?
Photography is a process.
You don’t instantly become a good photographer just because you have a camera. It takes LOTS of practice, lots of mistakes, and lots of patience. I can tell you from experience that photography was really discouraging for me at first, but I’m truly glad that I stuck with it.
You don’t need expensive gear to take good photos.
When I first started photography, I was shooting on a Canon 60d and a 50mm. That’s it!! And I still took some pretty rad photos with that set up. Even when I upgraded to better gear, those expensive lenses and camera bodies didn’t change my composition style or my ability to change my settings. Only practice was able to shape those things.
Growth begins with teachability.
After teaching many teams of photographers, I’ve learned that those who succeed are the ones who are willing to be taught. If you think you have no areas to improve or you’re the best at what you do – there will be no room for growth in you. Instead, it takes realizing that there is always room to improve and always someone who will be better than you (and that’s ok!!). A teachable photographer is one who will grow to become better.