ONE YEAR AGO
I started doing porch portraits in my town to hopefully spread the word about my photography business that never really took off. 600+ sessions, hundreds of thousands of photos, and hours and hours of spending time photographing people, leads me to where I am today.
Prior to my porch portrait start, I knew I had a big interest in photography and I wanted to try and start a business doing what I loved, but not much happened. Growing up as a kid, I always had a camera in my hand and loved to photograph the oddest things (my dogs, fruit on the counter, video games, etc.). In my younger teen years, I begged my mom for a starter DSLR camera for Christmas, which I thankfully got. I used that camera often to take photos of my friends and had so much fun doing so, but I knew I wanted to take photos of others as well.
Trying to get my start, I posted in community groups on Facebook to see if anyone would be interested in an affordable session - and of course, nobody was interested haha. That was until Kelly Edelstein from Lawrenceville Main Street reached out and asked if I would volunteer to photograph the upcoming events happening in the Summer of 2019, in which were taking place, and of course, I said yes! Even as a volunteer, this was huge and I was so excited and happy to get more experience and try to get my name across to people. I photographed the Music in the Park events, Spring Arts Festival, and the Fall Fest and I had a little photo booth with a backdrop hanging up, and a few props.
My first ever paid session was for a wedding, and I was so excited at the time.
I had really no experience except for photographing my friends and a few events for Lawrenceville Main Street, but I accepted the offer and gave them a small fee because I was still starting out. Shortly after the wedding, I had a few other sessions - a headshot session, my first family session, another family session, and another wedding.
I was happy that people were hiring me for little gigs at the time, but I was so unsure why I wasn’t getting more bookings and was unsure of what to do to promote myself - I kind of gave up a bit and wasn’t consistent with posting or promoting myself and figured maybe I’ll hold off on this for a bit.
When the pandemic first hit, it was an odd experience for everyone and it felt like everyone was unsure of what to do and what will happen next - kids were out of school, adults and parents were working from home, and so many people lost their job.
As a junior in high school at the time when the pandemic first took place, school wasn’t normal and nobody was sure of what was happening. I took almost all of my free time and devoted it to photographing people outside of their home’s to document this odd time of everyone’s life. Nobody was use to the stay at home order and it was a fun excuse for families to dress up and feel normal for a change, after being cooped up inside their home for a little bit. It was also a great way for me to spend my spare time after being stuck inside as well.
I started to promote myself a little bit and was offering free porch portrait sessions to get some more experience, and to bring the community together for a change. Things were going great, and I eventually charged $20 per session. I was getting so many emails and private messages for people asking me to photograph them at their home, or people asking if I would drive to their town.
There were times where I overworked myself and wish I didn’t book so many people in one day (I was traveling to 8-16 people’s houses to take porch portraits at some points!) but I kept promoting myself and my business because it was something that I loved to do.
Eventually, I started shifting away from porch portraits and wanted to come up with more creative ideas. I thought of painting mini sessions, which are still one of my favorite sessions to this day to do. These sessions cost a lot of money to get the props, pay for the paint, brand new clean boards for kids to paint on, but I still wanted to keep my costs a bit more affordable. I booked only a few painting sessions, but I wish I booked a few more. That same month, I decided to create a lemonade stand for children, which also wasn’t a huge hit (but some people did like!).
Within the past year of officially starting my photography career, I have learned a ton more than I would have ever imagined and have grown and improved my photography skills so much. Of course, there is always room for improvement and more learning, and I cannot wait to see how much more I will grow, learn and improve in my business.
I often get asked “why have you raised your prices so much since April”, and to that I respond: I’ve gained so much experience and realized my worth. When you’re investing in a photographer, you’re investing in their time to plan the session, take your photos, time for them to cull (narrow) the photos down, edit them (which often takes hours), and to send them off. Of course, so much more is factored into the cost such as education, equipment, experience, travel, etc. I try to keep my pricing still affordable as I am not looking to make this a “full-time” business to earn a huge living wage, and I like to offer affordable fundraiser sessions to support the community as well.
To all of the people who have ever booked a session with me, to Kelly Edelstein who allowed me to photograph events for Lawrenceville Main Streets, and to even the people who engage and follow my photography journey, thank you!
I only hope I can grow so much more and meet so many more amazing people.
As a senior in high school now, I am so grateful I had the opportunity to start a business and that I had people who followed, invested and believed in me help me with my photography journey. While I do not plan on doing this as a full time career, I do plan to further my education at college to major in Special Education and Early Childhood education soon. I hope to keep photography as a small business on the side, but for now, I’m all open and almost all booked up from now until June!