The Inspiration & Motivation Behind My Photography Business
I had a dream. A big dream since I can't remember when...forever it feels like. Jamming to Carrie Underwood's new single "Cry Pretty" reminded me of my long lost dream of my childhood. I wanted to be a country singer in the worst way possible. The Judds were and still are my ultimate favorite artists amongst many others. What I love most about country music is how comforting the twangy storytelling feels; how happy all the artists are living their passion and the immeasurable amount of positive influence the songs have on people when they need it the most.
I wanted all these things and as a bonus with all the money I would make I wanted to help my parents pay their bills. I still want that!
Today, I'm happier than ever and clearly I'm not that famous country artist. Instead I'm a wedding and portrait photographer in Green Bay, WI. There's been many twists in the road, but I know I'm doing what I was meant to do: making a positive difference in the lives of others.
I want to share with you my story and how I discovered photography and why I continue to seek out all your special memories to capture. Read on my friend :)
An Alternate Dream
Bottom line, I didn't have the special voice needed to become that famous singer I dreamed about being. Once I hit college, I knew I needed to get real and choose something else that I really wanted to do that would make a great career. I enjoyed sports and news and thought that a career in public relations for a sports team or as a sports anchor would be fun and exciting. In May of 2004, I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay with a degree in Communications with an emphasis in electronic media. Fall semester my junior year, I sent a letter to all four news stations in Green Bay asking to be an intern in the sports department. I went in to Channel 11 and Channel 5 for interviews and thought that the news director for Channel 5 had hired me on. When I called him back about ten times without a response, I decided it wasn't meant to be...at least that year. Determined, I tried again senior year and this time Larry McCarren took me on as the sports intern. YES! I had finally made it!
Well, hold on...my experience there was extremely eye opening and for anyone who thinks the world of television news is glamorous or fun you are mistaken. Are there good times? Yes, of course. Mix together strange hours, literally last second deadlines and changes on the fly live on air, really bad weather, uninteresting stories or simply very gruesome, sad stories and you have a recipe for a job that can take away all your joy and enthusiasm for wanting to work in news to begin with. And for the most part, it's low pay and you often move across the country far away from family and friends. Those that are successful reporters and news anchors simply HAVE IT.
I had some great times as the sports intern and later working cameras for the 5, 6 & 10pm newscasts. At the same time, I also briefly worked at Lambeau Field and served the players their meals. I still love my Packers, but after that I came to realize that a career as a sports anchor wasn't what I wanted. Perhaps being a news reporter would be better.
A New Vision
I look pretty legit sitting at that news desk don't I?! Haha!!! When I say to people that I used to work at Channel 5, they say "Oh yeah I remember watching you!" Must be that cute hair I had back then :)
Ultimately, my day as a news anchor or reporter never came. But working at WFRV changed my life in ways I never imagined and as I write this, it is still the best decision I ever made. I LOVED working there. For the first time I felt like I truly belonged somewhere because we all had fun, quirky personalities. You kinda need that if you ever work a day in TV news! I enjoyed going to work there and it brought me joy after my tough mornings at the coffee shop.
So all of this said, if I finally figured out I didn't have what it took to be on air, why did I stay at Channel 5?! Well, as an intern I discovered what I loved about TV was the visual aspect...the capturing of video. Later, when I worked in the news department, we would feature stories told by the videographers strictly with sound and video. That fascinated me. One day one of the guys captured a story about a young autistic girl that was preparing to play at a piano recital at the Performing Arts Center in Appleton, WI. He told the story through sound and video so well it took my breath away and I cried. Shortly after, I discovered he also took amazing still landscape photos that were equally as breathtaking. Once I saw some of those images, I immediately knew what I had to do in life.
I was also struck by the feel good stories told especially well by Erin Davisson and Tammy Elliott. Tammy's interview with Arnie Wolff's partner was critical in my knowing I could positively influence people by telling their stories in images. Arnie was a Green Bay firefighter who died in the line of duty in a house fire. The real question everyone wanted to know was how did he die and could his death have been prevented? Tammy's calm, compassionate demeanor in interviewing Jo inspired me because Jo wanted to keep Arnie's memory alive in the community and be an advocate for new safety equipment for the department to prevent any future deaths.
My heart was so touched by this story that I knew I could do the same as a photographer. Right then I knew it was okay to let go of my alternate dream of being a news reporter because I had found another way to positively tell stories.
In my mind, I'm still getting there 14 years after that day declaring photography was what I had to do. Intuitively, I knew taking photos of people was the avenue I needed for making photography a business. In order to be a great photographer, I needed some education so I enrolled in the certificate program at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College. I took one class a semester, which was enough between the coffee shop and the TV station. I learned a ton of great information, but it wasn't until I met another photographer that I really nailed down a style and my technical skills.
Through him and other friends, I slowly built up my clientele and took a large range of images from newborns, to families, weddings, high school seniors and charity events. But when you stop to really think about it, how can one person be AWESOME at photographing everything?! After a lot of reading, reflecting and some burn out, the past couple years I've really had to give some hard thought to what it is I'm truly passionate about photographing.
I've left behind the days of terrible editing filters, trendy compositions and three bad websites, thank goodness! Those days have been traded in for better knowing the types of clients I want to work with and the types of sessions I can't get enough of. I've also had a complete makeover in all my equipment after a lot of education and an increase in income. These things alone make me so proud of myself and how far I've come.
In Between Moments
I am newly in love and will tell anyone about Luke all day long :) He is currently at the tail end of my journey now in life, which I know still has a long, bendy way to go. While I'm happy now, what I can't write in this brief story of my path to becoming a photographer are all the painful, heartbreaking emotions I felt through it all. Many nights and weekends were spent literally sobbing on the kitchen floor while all my friends were snuggled in with their spouses and kids in their comfy homes prepping to go to work the next day to jobs they loved. I was merely paying the bills and scraping by while no one was there to love me.
Thankfully, God found me the most amazing friends anyone could ask for and for the most part they all gladly welcomed me as the third wheel. As life would go on, they helped me realize that the grass isn't always greener on the other side and life is short so it's worthwhile doing something you love to do. I've come close to quitting my business twice, but during downtimes, I usually find the inspiration to go on.
The personal connections I make with my clients is my biggest reason why I love what I do. We often become friends and not only that, I'm forever a part of their most intimate memories. Creating these lasting moments is how I make a difference in this world.
Weddings are what I love to do in addition to lifestyle sessions with families, kids and high school seniors. Photographing charity events is how I give back to the community particularly for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Wisconsin, the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the Golden House.
For me, it all started with that one person who sparked the vision. Without him, my journey would look completely different. My hope is to positively impact my husband and child and you, my beautiful friend :)