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How I Got To Where I Am Today

I feel like this post is past due.

So often I will get questions like, “How did you become a photographer?” or “Did you go to school to become a photographer?” or something similar. And then I go into a quick one sentence story of how I became one and that’s that. But I figured I should share my story (it’s not a super entertaining one so don’t get too excited :)) on my blog, too. So, here we go!

Most people have a career that they’ve thought of since they were kids. Mine began as a princess in the parades (why can’t that be a real job?!), then went to being the check-out girl at Rainbow (I loved going to Rainbow with my parents, what can I say?!), then went to being an astronaut (which would have been amazing), and then finally went to being a journalist. The yearning to become a journalist or editor of some sort began in late middle school and went strong throughout high school and into college. In high school and college I absolutely loved my English classes, especially creative writing. I felt that I was doing something I was really good at and that I truly enjoyed. I attended community college during high school and then got accepted into the college I’d been dreaming about since my dad first introduced us to Gopher Hockey: the U of M.

I was still pursuing a career in journalism, but with so many majors out there I began to second guess it. Eventually because of personal/financial reasons, I left the U and went back to community college to get my generals (thank goodness I did that otherwise my student loans would be even more dreadful now). Then I began to date Paul (best time of my life, obviously :)).

Since it didn’t take long to figure out I’d marry the kid (less than 2 weeks after our first date to be exact), he naturally became my best friend, supporter, counselor, etc. Many times we talked about my future and what exactly I wanted to do. I’d always wanted to write, but I was beginning to realize I didn’t really want to major in journalism – journalistic writing was not my forte.  And I didn’t think I needed an English major in order to write – sure, I really enjoyed the classes but I felt it would be a waste for me (nothing against English majors at all – it just wasn’t right for me). Then one random night Paul said to me, “Why don’t you become a teacher? You’re great with kids.” Omigoodness. I’m not kidding, it felt like a light bulb just went off in my head. Of course! Teaching! Why the heck hadn’t I thought about that before?? Not long after, I packed my stuff, officially moved out of my parents’ house (such a sad day!), and headed up to St. Cloud to become a teacher through St. Cloud State (one of the best schools in MN for teaching).

loved my classes. Loved, loved, loved. However, for some reason I didn’t feel ready to teach. I think I was insecure – a lot of people in my classes had come from teaching families and already knew so much. I felt stupid, insecure, and just not ready. It’s strange how things work out; I ended up switching my major again, this time to Public Relations with a minor in Journalism. I know, what the heck was I thinking?! Not too far into the program, I changed my mind again. This time for good. I missed being with kids, missed my classes, and really wanted a career that I felt was worthwhile to me. Yes, I changed my major back to Elementary Education. :) And absolutely loved it. No regrets. I loved the people I met and became wonderful friends with (and shot one of their weddings :)), I loved my professors (most of them…:)), I loved my classes, loved my student teaching experience (my cooperating teacher is now one of my closest friends (that’s her in the photo below :)) – again, it’s amazing how things work out), and I was just so happy with my decision.

Right after our wedding and with only a year left to go with school, Paul and I began to talk about our future, specifically mine. I wanted to be a teacher. Badly. But, I wanted to be a mom more. I wanted to be a stay-at-home Mom just like my mom. We had planned on starting our family right away, but obviously that didn’t happen – again, it’s funny how things work out. We thought of things I could do to help with the income but still remain at home, thus began the talk about becoming a photographer. Once we bought my first DSLR camera, I was hooked. A light bulb went off in my head when Paul mentioned teaching, but ten billion went off when I started photography. I wanted to know everything I could as fast as I could. Countless nights were spent researching on the Internet, well into the middle of the night. I practiced and practiced and practiced. When I did shoot, I was only shooting my family and some close friends that let me experiment on them. I wasn’t getting paid but I didn’t care. I loved coming home from shoots and spending hours upon hours editing and looking up new techniques. I remember spending literally hundreds of hours working on my website – I couldn’t stop working. And I actually loved doing everything. I had started my Facebook page, had my website working, and was just posting photos of nature-ish things, my nephew (the photo below is one of my first photos when I took my nephew out), and the couple of sessions I had done for free. And then I got my first email from an actual wedding client. Omigoodness, I was ecstatic. One of my good friends had referred her friend to me – I was so incredibly honored. The next email had come from one of my previous teachers who had heard from my mom that I was dabbling in photography and told me her son was getting married. I just couldn’t believe it. I was actually going to be getting paid to do what I loved! When I met with these people, I had barely anything to show them – some photos of my nephew, my mom’s crab apple tree in the backyard, my parents, and my friend’s kids. I am so grateful they gave me a shot because after their engagement photos were posted it was a snowball effect; I had so many people emailing me – people I had known but had never talked to before, people I didn’t know, people that knew people tagged in my photos, etc. It was wonderful. Within a few months I had booked 15 weddings!

I still had school, however, so during breaks from classes my friends would see me editing engagement photos, emailing clients back, or working on my website. I led a double life for quite a few months and thankfully I still graduated with honors, but unlike my friends I was not applying to teaching jobs – I already had a full time job in less than a year from starting my own business. I still couldn’t believe how blessed I was (and I still can’t, to be honest). After graduation my first wedding season started and it was wonderful. I was able to work from home, keep my business growing, work side-by-side with Paul, and make a somewhat decent income. Sometimes I miss teaching, but I just know I could never give this up. I’ve learned so much since buying my first camera and I know I have so much growth ahead of me, which I love. I’m so beyond thankful to my amazing clients, friends and family of clients that support me, my own family and friends for showing unbelievable support, fans that I have never met that show their support, and of course, my wonderful Paul for being my biggest fan. :)

I’m so sorry this turned out to be so long – I hope you didn’t fall asleep halfway through! I tend to talk/write a lot…I guess it’s that English major inside of me. :) Anyways, I’m glad I shared my story and if you’re someone who has dreams, keep pushing. It truly is amazing how things work out – you just have to trust, and be patient. As for us starting a family (another question we get all the time :)), we just say when it happens it happens. We know because we’re so blessed right now that we need to just have faith in whatever will happen to us in the future, near or far. :)

Happy Memorial Weekend, friends and thank you to all who even read this post and others. You’re just wonderful. :)

  • KassandraMay 28, 2014 - 10:56 am

    Loved reading this, my story is similar to yours and its pretty funny. I Hope to be able to turn mine into a full time job also once I finish school.ReplyCancel

    • NikkiMay 28, 2014 - 11:30 am

      That’s awesome, Kassandra! Just keep pushing towards it – can’t wait to see it all come true for you! :)ReplyCancel

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