In 2 days, 5 years will have passed since I first picked up a camera as a photographer. I may have shared my "story" a long time ago, but I'm not sure that I have recently. Well, here it is in the July of 2009.
I had a close friend in elementary school who had a sister a few years older than we were. A few years later (I was 13), her sister, Amanda, was going to school for photography (or had just graduated maybe?), and she asked my mom if she could do a photoshoot for the 3 of us. Mom whole-heartedly agreed, and we were so excited. We planned our outfits, went shopping for a few new pieces, and got ready for our photo session. The shoot arrived, and I loved every second of it. I absolutely loved being in front of the camera, and I loved the whole experience. I loved how it made me feel. I had enjoyed having our pictures taken so much, but something was slightly intriguing about what it would be like to be behind the camera. I specifically remember thinking it seemed magical and maybe even mysterious. Only you got to see what the shots looked like, both in person and in camera, and there was a just a little part of my gut that thought that might be kind of neat. But I ignored it.....
For a couple of weeks. We got back our proofs, and we just loved our pictures. (I'm fairly certain I've used the word "loved" 86,000 times. Also, I didn't realize my "story" was going to turn into a novel...Whoops.) Completely enthralled with the whole photoshoot idea, I decided I wanted to see what it would be like to be the photographer. So I called on my aunt and uncle and cousins. Angie, my aunt, has always loved pictures, and she was on board. I loaded up all kinds of props I bought just for the shoot (a flower windmil and lots of other "necessities"..) I was going to shoot these pictures with my mom's camera which was most definitely not a DSLR. It was a top end point and shoot, but it was most definitely only a point and shoot. I knew absolutely *nothing* about lighting or composition. I only knew posing from what poses Amanda had used with us. But regardless of the things I didn't know, I shot that session, and I was on top of the world. I came home and did the only logical thing to do next. I made a Facebook page. I decided that I didn't want to be called "Briana Owen Photography". I just didn't like it. (insert giggles) I'm fairly certain Angie came up with "Pictures by Bri"- a nickname I was called occasionally, but it was kind of catchy. I deleted the bad pictures, and uploaded the good. I got so many compliments on my pictures, and I was on cloud 9. I was in love with every shot, and I had found what made my heart happy.
I began taking pictures of everything. My house, the trees, flowers, any random object of interest. I did that for a while but began to lose interest. Around October, a family friend, Andi, sent me a message about wanting me to take some family pictures for her. I was so excited to get to shoot a real photoshoot again. (There's more details to this already heavily detailed story like how our camera was left in a public restroom on the beach a couple of weeks before the shoot. Devastated, both because I had lost my camera for photography and I had lost all the beach pictures I had taken, we bought another camera. Soon after we bought it, we got a call that our camera bag had been found and it was being shipped home by a sweet older man. Well, 2 cameras isn't the worst thing to have..) I was nervous before our shoot, but I was really excited. I felt like I had shot pretty solid pictures, and I got home and began to edit. (I had discovered the free editing website Picnik at this point.) I worked so hard, and I edited every picture with care. I was learning how to adjust the saturation, and I diligently attempted to find the exact saturation needed. Looking back, I had *neon* pictures, but I was happy with my work.
Rolling around towards Christmas, my mom asked what I wanted, and I couldn't really think of anything. She suggested a "big" camera. I weighed the options, because I didn't feel like it was a necessity. I was cranking out pretty stellar images (insert small snicker here), so who needs a big, fancy camera, right? Plus it was expensive. I couldn't think of anything else I actually wanted though, so I decided that that might be a good idea for my photography. Christmas came, and I got my Nikon D3000. If you ask why I chose Nikon vs Canon, I'll simply tell you it's because it was on sale at Walmart..
I feel like that was my true birth as a photographer. From that point, I began learning everything I could about my camera, and I knew from all of the research I had done, I wanted to learn manual. That seemed to be the absolute rule. I read books, I read open forums, I googled everything. I began following photographers' pages to be inspired and to learn from what they posted. I remember a few of my own break through moments. I had attempted a 365 project (a photo every day. Yeah, I never got past day 8. Any time I ever did it.) There were ideas for themes and one was the color purple. I had a cute pair of purple shoes. I was photographing them, and the images were fine, but they just didn't have anything special about them. All of the sudden something clicked, and I thought to take the picture from an angle, with the top of one shoe as the focal point. I know that that's not really an important story, but it was such a break through. From then on, I could see that the angle and composition creates interest.
During this period in the beginning, I noticed a Facebook friend's pictures. We went to school together, but we hadn't ever talked. Carly posted beautiful pictures of holly berries in focus and the background out of focus. I sent her a message to ask her how she was able to do that. She was so sweet and helpful, and she told me we should get together so she could teach me and we could shoot. We went and shot together, and I was finally understanding so many camera concepts. After that we talked pretty often about pictures, shooting, camera gear, and so many other things. Now she's one of my best friends, and we shoot weddings together. Able to understand each other's photographer's woes, we've always gotten along so well, and I'm so glad I decided to message her about the pictures of the holly berries.
A name change (my photography. Not me. ;) ), an online workshop, an in-person workshop, and several online learning opportunities later (as well as relentless googling and asking other photographers I was forming acquaintances with), here I am. I'm still constantly googling and asking other photographers stuff. Actually the reason I started this post was not even to write all this. I was planning on venting about the current bump I'm at in my journey and my current project. Clearly this post is WAY too long to begin with, so I'll save that for part 2 of this. I still am so far from where I want to be as a photographer, but I have come thousands of miles from where I began. I cannot imagine where I would be without photography.
I've required a creative outlet my entire life. The "Crayola aisle" has been my favorite aisle of Walmart since birth. Drawing, scrapbooking, a little sewing, baking (that one was huge. I was going to own my own bakery.), painting. All of these hobbies came and went. (Granted, I still love painting when I get a chance.) Nothing ever lasted 5 years. Nothing ever so completely satiated the constant creative thirst like photography. It's who I am. I am a photographer. Not many people are so blessed as to truly find themselves and find something they love so completely. Especially at 13. While I don't currently plan to be a full time photographer (I'm going to school to be a Spanish teacher. Yeah, I know. In all reality if you think I can ramble for days about photography, you should get me started on my passion to teach..), I do plan on having it be a part of my life for as long as taking photographs makes my heart skip a beat. I will always be thankful for Amanda Burns (Amanda Burns Photography) for unintentionally helping me uncover one of my biggest passions. I can't really imagine how I would have found it otherwise, so I will always be indebted to her! I feel like I should leave this post with a) a thank you if you got through this Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix length blog post and b) encourage you to find what makes your heart happy. If it's photography, or even if it's not, I hope that maybe I can encourage one person that with hard work (Not just a little hard work. 5 years of hard work.) you truly can make your dreams come true. Reach for the stars.