In college, I double majored in International Studies with a Certificate in Religious Studies. I thought I wanted to be a missionary of some sort, so these degrees seemed the most fitting at the time. My advisor told me to specialize in Global Security so that I understood the different policies of different countries + how they interact with one another, since another plan was to live overseas. Crazy how things change, isn’t it?
When I was a junior in college, I studied abroad in Madrid, Spain. I LOVED it. It is such an amazing country with one of the most beautiful cultures I have ever experienced (I need to get Caleb there some day)!! : ) I went with one of my best friends + during our time abroad, we traveled throughout Europe since we had the opportunity to do so. In addition to traveling Spain, we were able to visit Ireland, France, + then my sister joined us for a trip to Italy + Greece. All of these countries are SO beautiful in their own unique ways + of course I wanted to remember the experiences I was having, so I took lots of pictures! I would upload them to Facebook whenever I had time as a way to share with family + friends back home … and that was that.
Back in the States, it was the fall semester of my senior year when my best friend’s older sister asked me if I had ever considered taking engagement photos. She loved all of the photos I posted on Facebook from my time abroad + thought I had a natural talent for photography. She also had friends that had recently been engaged + were looking for a photographer.
[I must make it very clear here that I had no interest in doing this, + photography was not even a hobby of mine whatsoever].
Well, as you can probably guess, she talked me into doing this session for her friends + as they say, the rest is history. I’m going to dive into that history a little bit, however, in a new short series about the Story of Our Business. After receiving several emails from photographers just starting out + wanting to know our story + how we grew to where we are now, I figured the easiest + most beneficial thing to do would be to blog about it so that others can also learn from our experience!
The Short Series – The “First Year” (More Like a Semester)
At that first engagement session the fall of my senior year, I discovered a passion for something I had NO clue existed. Working with a newly engaged couple to create images that were both beautiful + authentically reflected their love for one another was, plain + simple, SO much fun. I LOVED getting to know the couple + their story, I loved making them feel like rockstars in front of the camera, + I loved creating images that I was excited to give them + have them show to their family + friends. Lucky for me, that first couple I photographed had a great experience, too, + began sharing their photos with everyone they knew!!
After that first session, I started getting inquires for other sessions. Some engagement, but also family sessions, newborn sessions, + senior pictures. I couldn’t believe it, but I was SO excited!! I graduated from UW-Madison a semester early, so during what would have been the spring semester of my senior year, I was waitressing at the Melting Pot + taking photos for people on the side. At first, I think I did a lot of the sessions for free, or for some kind of trade-off. Maybe they would take me to dinner, or send me a gift card or something. However, when I started getting inquires from people I had never previously met, + who insisted on paying me, I knew I had to make sure I was taking care of them. This meant improving my photography skills AND my client experience.
Another factor I had going for me was that I had a good guy friend (who also happened to be really cute) who knew a LOT about cameras + photography since these things had been a previous hobby of his (P.S. This friend is now my husband) ; ) He taught me everything I knew about how the camera works + I practiced using it until I knew that little piece of equipment like the back of my hand. Although this wasn’t formal training, I educated myself + practiced so that I knew I was providing my clients with the best of my abilities technically at the time they were working with me. To this day, this is STILL (+ always will be) a very important part of our business. Never thinking that we know the camera so well, or how to get the images we want so well, that we stop learning + growing + bettering ourselves as photographers!!
In addition to educating myself, I also wanted to make sure that my clients were getting the experience with me that I believed they deserved. In my opinion, you don’t have to be an expert of any sort to be able serve people well, treat them better than they expect to be treated, + act in a respectful + professional manner. Although I was new to the photography world, I was determined to gain my client’s trust + “wow” them with a level of professionalism that was also approachable, relatable, + fun. I asked them questions during their sessions + really got to know who they were (people want to be heard, they want to tell you about themselves), + listening well will win people over a thousand times more than talking about yourself ever will! I was committed to answering emails within a very timely manner (+ still am), + to a quick turn around for my photos. Even though I was editing in iPhoto (yes, that’s right!!) when I first started, I did my BEST with each photo + asked myself, “If this was a picture of me, is this how I would want it to look?”
I also made a Facebook Business Page + started posting on it (my first ever name was “Blue Window Photography” – not sure why)! I invited my friends + acquaintances to like my page, shared photos from sessions with little story-captions about the photos, + always posted things that were positive or encouraging. In a few shorts months, I was getting so many inquiries for sessions that I was honestly kind of shocked! They were ALL coming from referrals. And again, to this day, we still run our business on this same system, referrals.
During the previous fall semester, I had committed to spending a year overseas in Turkey with an organization called Cru, so when summer rolled around, I was having to turn people away as I prepared to leave (+ obviously couldn’t do sessions while I was gone)! Little did I know, my time overseas in Turkey would CHANGE the course of my life forever + truly set me on this journey of our lifetime. More to come!!
The Remaining Posts in this Series Will Be:
Stay tuned in the upcoming weeks!!