Why Photography?

One of the questions I get asked fairly often is "What made you choose to be a photographer?" So, I thought it might make a good blog post. :o)

I would love to say that I was one of those people who was “born with a camera in my hand”, but that wouldn’t be true. I remember around age 6 or so, having a turquoise film camera that required you to adjust the aperture and focus the lens. I don’t remember any of the photos I took with it, but I remember carrying it around with me a fair amount.

I didn’t really LOVE photography until I was in high school. When I was 16, I got a camera from Service Merchandise. (Who remembers those?! Yeah… old school.) I cannot even begin to count the number of photos taken with that thing. I used it ALL.THE.TIME. I have the stacks of boxes of prints and negatives in my closet to prove it. So many photos… I also enjoyed scrap booking during that time and putting together the “story” of each event was half the fun to me.

When I started college at Troy University I majored in print journalism and public relations. Along with those classes, I took as many photography classes as my college offered at the time. I started in black and white photography with an SLR, film and a dark room.

My professor was brutal, but I credit him with making me learn the technical aspects of photography. At the end of each semester we had to present a portfolio of 30ish images that had been approved by him. Yowsers, he was TOUGH. When you walked in with a potential portfolio piece you had to defend it to the death. He made you answer for every nuance in the photo- your subject, your composition, choice of aperture, shutter speed, development techniques, and on and on. There were no easy approvals. Again, I give him a lot of credit for teaching me that photography isn’t just “playing” and having fun. As the photographer, you are constantly making choices that affect the outcome of the photo. If you aren’t intentional about them, you will never know what the outcome will be. Remember, it was film, so we couldn’t just look at the back of the camera to see if it “looked right”. We had to KNOW it was right when we took it.

While working to complete my degree I did an incredible amount of writing, as you could imagine, being a journalism major and all. Through the process of writing all different types of stories, I discovered that my favorite type of writing was in the arena of soft news, particularly human-interest and feature stories.

Two assignments specifically fueled my interest and desire in this type of story-telling. One, a story focusing on the deaf community in my college town, and the second, written during my time as an intern in the Office of University Relations, was a story for the alumni magazine on Dr. William Novick, MD.

The story focused primarily on Novick’s involvement with a documentary titled “Chernobyl Heart”. Part of the documentary focused on his work in Belarus with the International Children’s Heart Foundation, operating on a condition known as Chernobyl Heart. It was a previously unknown condition that resulted from the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in 1986. The film won an Academy Award in 2004.

During my time researching for the article and learning more about the people behind the film, I was able to speak with the director, Maryann De Leo, as well as Dr. Novick. Aside from being a little bit starstruck by speaking with these “famous” people, I realized that telling people’s stories was something I was incredibly passionate about. Especially when those stories can make a difference in the World.

I consider writing that story to be a turning point in my life. One of the major things that led to my love for photography, and more specifically, my love of photographing people.

After college I continued to take photos all the time, though at this point I had started working at a non-profit doing public relations. I learned very quickly that non-profit PR is a thankless job. Long hours, very little pay, and just emotionally exhausting. After nine months I decided I would find a photographer who would hire me and teach me what I didn’t know, or go to photography school in California. Thankfully, before I took out the $100,000+ in student loans to finance photography school, I came across Pam and Robert at FlipFlopFoto.com.

They would be turning point number two in my journey to the now.

They hired me and put up with all of my inexperience and lack of knowledge and taught me so many things. (I could digress here about how they became family, and that I learned about photography, but also about life from them. I’ll save that for another time though.) I thought I knew a lot about photography until I started working there. It was a lot of fun, but a lot of work! Robert was an incredible teacher and is an amazing photographer. He taught me all the sides to it and continues to be an incredible source of knowledge and inspiration for me.

Fast forward ten years to the present. My husband and I relocated to New England from Alabama, which led to the creation of AliCaliPhoto. After seven years of being a professional photographer, there was no looking back. This was my only choice for a job. I was sure nothing else would be nearly as fulfilling.

I love meeting new people and I love photographing people. I believe everyone has a story to tell and I love hearing people’s stories.

There are so many photographers out there working hard to tell the stories of people all over the world. People in the midst of war, terror, natural disaster, sickness and death. Those stories need to be told. The World needs to know these people and their stories so we can do something about it. I’m incredibly grateful for those photographers. They do amazing and heart-wrenching work.

The stories I tell these days focus primarily on weddings. I am incredibly fortunate that the stories I get to tell on a regular basis are LOVE stories. I get to document an incredibly important event in the history of two lives. I may not win any Pulitzer’s for my photographs, but at the end of the day, these are stories that need to be told, too. We need to see the love that exists in the World.

That’s one reason I approach my business the way I do. I don’t have the unrealistic expectation that every client is going to become my best friend, but I do have the expectation that I will get to know them throughout the process. I want to hear their story. I want to know what is important to them. These are the things that allow me to truly capture what makes THEM.

Hopefully that gives you some insight into why I became a photographer. It's not just clicking a button to me. It's telling a story, and for a lot of people, I get to be a small part of telling their life story, and for that, I’m grateful.

P.S. If you are interested in reading the story about Dr. William Novick, you can find it below. It was first published in Troy Magazine in 2004, and is posted with permission from Troy University.

Photographers are living the dream... and other myths.

There are a lot of people out there who think those of us working as professional photographers are living the dream. Not really working, just walking around taking photos and "playing" all day every day. There are an equal number of us photographers who WISH this was the truth! Unfortunately, the life of a photographer isn't always as glamorous as it may seem. There is a TON of behind the scenes work that goes into it that most people aren't aware of.

As any small business owner will tell you, everyone does everything, (this includes cleaning the toilets, just FYI), and if you are the only full-time employee, then YOU do everything.

I consider this pie chart to be one of the most accurate graphics I've seen depicting the breakdown of what I do. (The International Society of Professional Wedding Photographers originally posted it in 2009, and not much has changed. You can see the full article here.)

For the full article and original post on www  .ispwp.com/ click   here  .

For the full article and original post on www.ispwp.com/ click here.

While taking photographs and working with clients is one of the most exciting and fun parts of the job, it ends up being one of the smallest parts. There are bridal expos to be worked, there is equipment to clean and repair. There's marketing to be done, and oh so many decisions to make about what products to offer to clients.

Like many of my photographer friends, I strive to find the best possible product for the price for my clients. I want you to walk away with an heirloom. Something that you can look at and be proud of for years to come. This doesn't just happen. There are hours spent researching different products and evaluating cost versus quality until I finally find the right balance.

There are computers, multiple back-up drives and a web site to maintain. Facebook and blog posts to write, and let's not forget about all that editing... for every hour shooting, you can count on at least that many hours editing (but probably more).

One photographers interviewed for the article linked above estimated that his company put around 90 hours of work into each client/wedding they booked each year, and if you consider that we only spend around 10 hours actually shooting photos of the client, that leaves 80 hours of behind-the-scenes work, which includes responding to emails, timeline planning, readying equipment, editing photos, posting them online, ordering prints and designing and ordering albums...

Oh, and, let's not forget about those toilets...

Shavawn & Chris - Married!

We rang in the New Year with Shavawn & Chris and their friends and family who had come from all over the world to share in their wedding day.

Shavawn did an AMAZING job planning her wedding. She had an incredible vision for her wedding and it was so exciting to see it all come together so perfectly. I actually couldn't believe how smoothly everything went! I rarely see things happen according to schedule at a wedding, but these guys were on time or early for every single part of the day. It gave us so much time to play with photos and locations. Not to mention the hour we had with the Bentley to take photos! (If you are looking for a Bentley for your wedding, contact Grace Limousine. It is BEAUTIFUL.)

There were so many beautiful details at the wedding, and the cake... OH. MY. THE. CAKE. It was the Times Square ball dropping over the New York City Skyline. I have NO idea how Jacques pulled it off, but it was spectacular!

My other favorite part of the wedding was at the end of the night. They had the Times Square countdown live-streamed into the reception and as a surprise for their guests, had a huge confetti drop when it hit midnight. It was beautiful and so much fun!

(Click here to see the rest of the wedding.)

As always, without the rest of the vendors, I wouldn't have nearly as many beautiful things to photograph, so if you like what you see in the photos, here's the info on the rest of Shavawn & Chris's wedding day team.