How I Became a Professional Photographer

Happy Monday everyone! If you saw my post from last Monday about the, “10 Thigs Most People Don’t Know About Me,” then you know that I actually wanted to be a teacher when I began college. I obviously ended up taking a different path. So, today I thought I’d share the story of how I became a professional photographer!

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The very beginning

I guess you could say that photography has always been an interest of mine. When I was a kid I remember sneakily grabbing a chair to climb on, so I could reach my mom’s film camera from the kitchen cabinet. I would then proceed to use up all her film taking photos of our cat, dog, family and friends! Fast forward to high school. Unfortunately for me, my high school didn’t offer any photography classes until after I had graduated and moved onto college. Instead, I learned a bit on my own when I got my first digital “point-and-shoot” camera. I used it to take selfies (before selfies were even a thing!), pictures of my friends and nature. I loved being able to capture all of my favorite moments.

The college years

When I started college (I attended community college first) I wanted to be an elementary school teacher, so I signed up for a handful of required classes. I also registered for a few children’s literature classes, which would count as credits towards my degree. My mom gave me some great advice, and told me to make sure to select at least one “fun class.” I selected Black & White Film Photography.

During my first semester of college I went through a rough breakup and found myself ditching all of my required classes. I just couldn’t focus and didn’t want to think. Instead, I wanted to enjoy myself and get lost in art. I would spend all day either out taking pictures or in the dark room developing them. I mean, I had to be out of the house for the day, so my parents wouldn’t know I was ditching class!

As much as I loved spending all day getting lost in the world of photography, I eventually had to come clean to my parents and tell them I was failing all my classes. At that time, I really didn’t know what to do. I even thought about dropping out of college completely and managing the tanning salon I was working at as a full-time job.

Again, my mom gives the best advice, and after a really long talk with her I came to realize that photography was my passion. I believed in it, loved it, and it made me happy. My mom convinced me to go talk to all my professors and work on raising my grades. So, I did, and went from failing to getting A’s and B’s by the end of the semester.

With my grades back in order, my mom took me to the Illinois Institute of Art for a tour, and I fell head over heels in love with the idea of Art School and becoming a professional photographer. With a new plan in place, I finished up my year at Elgin Community College to get some gen-eds under my belt before transferring to The AI to get my bachelors of fine arts degree with an emphasis on digital photography.

Post grad Life

At the Art Institute my studies were mostly focused on the studio aspect of photography like products and lighting. After graduating, I did product photography for large companies for about three years. During that time, I realized I enjoyed portraits and weddings far more than product photography. Mostly because I loved the interaction with people. I eventually made the leap into starting my own business, so I could focus on the photography I really love! It hasn’t always been easy. After a lot of hard work, I can now proudly say that I’ve found my place as a full-time professional photographer. I love the the portrait and wedding industry, and I wouldn’t change it for the world!

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