I want to start off by saying I NEVER thought I would be a "professional photographer". It still feels really weird for me to say that phrase out loud when someone asks me what I do...
Photography isn't something I just jumped into. I took classes on client relations, shooting manual, posing, dark room, and digital. I practiced shooting on friends and family for what felt like FOREVER, until I finally realized I would never actually be able to make photography a career if I didn't book a client or two.
My internal struggle was that I wasn't a "professional" photographer...that sounded too official for an 18 year old using her moms old camera. After talking to a lot of people in the industry, i quickly realized that everyone felt the same way. I WAS SHOCKED.
One of my first mentors I had in the industry told me "You know how to shoot manually, you know a lot of people, you've taken more classes than a lot of professionals (who takes dark room classes anymore??) STOP MAKING EXCUSES." Growing up a child of tough love, that's all I needed. I decided right then and there, that I'd fake my own confidence in the photography industry until I felt like I belonged. Shortly after that conversation, I was booking senior pictures and family photos all over Seattle! I started to feel like a boss.
Then, I ruined all my new found confidence. I decided to move to Los Angeles. I went from feeling like a SUPER STAR, to useless in under a week. All of a sudden I was living in West Hollywood, surrounded by primarily young 20-somethings trying to make it in the entertainment industry. There were no families or seniors and I lost my identity REAL QUICK!
This is when I STRAIGHT UP quit photography. I took a part time job working as a sales associate at a bikini store in Manhattan Beach. Oh, and I had just dropped out of college. Can you say HELLO quarter life crisis! I now believe that the best way to find yourself is to get lost. That's exactly what I did. I put life on pause, and focussed on what made me happy. At the moment, that was hanging out at the beach whenever I could, and one too many margaritas for a Tuesday.
Shortly after this, I decided to reevaluate. I sat down and realized I didn't want to be working in a bikini store when I was 50...I wanted to be a photographer. I re-enrolled to finish my degree. I also compiled a list of all the swimwear designers I had met after 3 years of hustling in the swim industry. Enter: Fake it Until You Make It, the sequel...
I started emailing brands like CRAZY. My goal was to see who would let me borrow their products, for free pictures in return. I did the same with local models. I found girls with great (yet small) instagram followings. I asked if they'd let me shoot them, in return for free bikinis. To my UTTER SHOCK...it worked. Don't get me wrong...I heard "hell no" a lot...on both sides. However, slowly but surely, It started to become a lucrative business. All of a sudden I was getting checks from companies, and receiving inquiries from models with over 10k followers. Whaaat!?
I'm still no where near where I want to be in this industry, and It can be completely defeating sometimes. However, whenever it Is...I think back to the newly 21 year old who moved to LA and quit photography and think WOW...If I quit tomorrow it all would've been worth it. I've accomplished more than I EVER thought I would.
I think the general theme you can take away from this is, don't stand in your own way. If you want something bad enough, you'll make it happen. ALSO: be your own cheerleader. Don't forget the baby milestones that got you to where you are today, and how proud your younger self would be of you!
Okay, I'm done being sappy, I swear. However, I do LOVE hearing your guys' stories!! Feel free to click on my contact sheet and tell me yours!!