...it's easy to see how one can lose track of time, you know?
Anyhoo, I've finished that editing and I'm ready to answer your questions! When I first wrote that post, I was super nervous no one would ask me anything and then I'd be a big ol' internet fool that had to delete the whole post and pretend it never existed to avoid the embarrassment. But you guys are awesome and asked some great questions! Some fun, some silly, and some that made me put my thinkin' cap on. (Did anyone else's grandma use that phrase?) I've removed the names of the people asking since some of them were emailed privately but here are your questions, answered. Thank you SO MUCH for participating and, if there's anything else you'd like to know, just ask. :)
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How did you start making photography your business? When did it go from hobby to bringing in some bacon?
Photography has been a hobby for me since I was 14 (yeah, that's almost 17 years ago...). I was late for enrollment for my freshman year and needed to fill my electives requirements. Photography was one of the only classes with spots still open at my high school of nearly 3,000 students so, I signed up. (Side note - this is also the reason I ended up taking French and being in ROTC. Yay for late enrollment!) I ended up loving the class and continuing with the hobby all through adulthood and although I toyed with the idea of starting a photography business out of college, I decided against it because of the costs of film, lab fees, studio rental, etc.
Fast forward to post-law school where I was working at a firm in Sacramento. The Fiance was living in SF and we were doing the long-distance thing for nearly two years. The SF job search was going well for me in the sense that I was getting interviews and call backs but I was not excited about any of the possibilities. One day, while we were driving to the airport on our way to visit my family in Texas, the Fiance asked me, "If you could do anything, even something not law-related, what would you do?" Without hesitating I said, "I'd start a photography business." That conversation got the ball rolling and eight months later, I gave my two weeks' notice and left the firm to pursue photography as my full-time career.
What is the top destination on your travel bucket list? I'd love to know about places you've seen and where you hope to go someday! (I'm a travel addict. Just can't get enough. Need more money, more vacation time... and more camera lenses!)
I need more of those things too!! For me, traveling makes my soul happy. I love discovering new places and revisiting old familiar spots. It restores my energy and excitement for life. In fact, I've started to notice that if we go too long without traveling, or without at least the prospect of a trip on the horizon, it tends to make me a little blue.
That being said, the top destination on my travel bucket list has been Paris for a long, long time but it somehow it just hasn't worked out yet. I didn't travel much growing up (my mom is afraid of flying...) so I didn't even leave the country until I was 26 years old! I've been to Italy, Mexico, and Madrid but that's it for international travel. I'd love to visit Argentina, India, Tanzania, South Africa, Scotland, Thailand, Peru, Brazil, Greece, Germany, Portugal, Chile, Belgium, Ireland, Morocco, China, Japan, New Zealand ... basically everywhere!
I've traveled around the US a bit more but there are still plenty of domestic spots I'd love to see someday, too. Savannah, New Orleans, Seattle, Portland, Boston, Maine, Alaska, Glacier National Park, Yellowstone, Jackson Hole... my travel wish list is never-ending!
Have you been to any of those places? I'd love to hear about your experiences there!
I'd like to know what editing software you use. Do you make your own actions?
I use Lightroom 4 for the majority of my editing but occasionally I bring the photos into Photoshop for retouching once I've finished the main editing work. I've made a lot of my own presets for Lightroom and I have some from VSCO that I've tweaked and played with to get the look I want. I don't really use actions in Photoshop, though. Nothing wrong with them at all (I used to use them), I just don't really have a need for them.
If you could only drink one drink for the rest of your life, what would it be (excluding water from the options)?
Your "Awkward & Awesome" posts is what kept me coming back in the very beginning. Will you continue doing those in the future?
Absolutely! I love writing the Awkward & Awesome posts and finding humor in uncomfortable or embarrassing situations. The posts have dropped off since I started working from home, though, because I'm just not interacting with people nearly as much as I used to. One perk of my former office was that it provided plenty of opportunities for awkward interactions. Like my boss who had no sense of humor, or the office mate with the fart heard 'round the world. But those posts will definitely be returning with more frequency. In fact, I'm working on a Wedding Photog Edition of Awkward & Awesome for you. Because I do the dumbest things at weddings, like spill a bottle of champagne on my own camera bag in the middle of portraits and fall off chairs while photographing the wild dance party. Yeah, definitely awkward.
Which is your favourite kind of chocolate? (...I'm eating some right now, that's what prompted me to ask ;) )
First of all, I'm jealous that you're eating chocolate right now and really wish you'd share. Chocolate is my drug of choice. I love dark chocolate (just about any kind, as long as it's real chocolate) but my latest and greatest discovery is Trader Joe's dark chocolate bars filled with speculoos. It's like crack in a chocolate bar. It's so good, people are buying 'em up and selling them on Amazon. Imagine a smooth, rich, dark chocolate bar that's not too bitter and not too sweet, filled with a creamy filling that tastes just like cookie dough. Now, imagine heaven. The two are one and the same.
I'm sure they are all a ton of fun to shoot, but is there one category (based on the galleries on your photography website, which are all gorgeous by the way!) you like to photograph over all the others? :)
I would have to say, engagement sessions are my favorite category of photography, at least for work. (Travel and street photography might win for personal work, though.)
I love, love, love photographing that time in a couple's life. There's so much anticipation, excitement, happiness, and joy that influences how the couples interact with each other. In the grand scheme of life, the time spent as an 'engaged' couple is hardly any time at all. To be able to capture that little moment in time and preserve it is a really awesome thing, I think. Plus, engagement sessions are usually much more relaxed than the wedding day. I get to spend two full hours exploring new locations & experimenting with different angles, compositions, lighting, and ways of directing & posing, and just chatting with my clients and getting to know them. I always get nervous beforehand, mainly because I really want to make sure my couples have a good time during our session, but once we get started, it never feels like work. The good sessions feel like I'm making new friends and the great sessions feel like I'm reuniting with old ones.
My question is, how did you decide to leave law, after all of the effort and time you put into school and the bar, and decide to become a photographer full time? What was the final push to make you take a leap of faith and follow your dreams?
This kind of goes hand in hand with the first question actually. Leaving law was not an easy decision and it was not one that I made lightly. As you mentioned, a lot of time, effort, and money went into earning that law degree and passing the bar. But practicing law was not at all what I expected it to be. You know how they say when you meet the person you're supposed to marry, you just know? Well, I think the same can be said for careers. When you're doing what you're meant to do, you just know it; and when you're doing what you're not meant to do, you know that, too. I was not meant to practice law. I still enjoy the law and I'm still fascinated by our legal and political system, but I've realized my interest in those areas is purely academic. As a career, it's not what I was meant to do.
There wasn't necessarily one thing in particular that was the "final push" or last straw. It just was not the right fit. I felt like I had to stifle a large part of my personality to fit in at the firm and in the legal world. I left the office each day feeling drained of energy and happiness. I lost sleep many nights due to the stress. And, towards the end, I cried in the evenings at the thought of going back in and doing it all over again the next day. I had no personal or career satisfaction and felt like I was in one of the least happy periods of my life.
Now, that's not to say it was all gloom and doom. I worked with some amazing, smart, kind people and made some awesome friends both in law school and while working at the firm. I learned a lot about myself, about running a business, and about what I want in terms of personal & career satisfaction. Plus, I've literally saved myself thousands of dollars by drafting my own contracts and legal docs for the photography business so that's a definitely a positive! But, overall, it just wasn't for me.
With photography, I feel like I have a purpose to my life. I get to be with couples on the happiest day of their lives. I get to create the first of their many family heirlooms and make the photos they'll show to their children and grandchildren. I get to document their engagement and capture the anticipation of a new and exciting adventure just over the horizon. I get to meet young families and preserve all those special little expressions and moments they have with their children. Seeing people smiling and finding joy in the photos I've made for them makes me feel so warm and fuzzy inside - and that's a huge thing. Huge. I had no idea a career could be so satisfying and enjoyable and I feel so blessed and lucky I was able to discover this when I did. I can't imagine what my life would be like if I'd stayed where I was and spent the next 30 years doing something that made me cry at the end of the day.
I think this is something you said you're planning to talk about more in the future, but any photography tips? or gear that you love?
Yes, lots! I have a few previous posts with photography tips but I'm currently working on a new series of tutorials (breaking down how to shoot in manual, rules of composition, working with different types of lighting, shooting for your blog, etc) and *fingers crossed* I'll have the first posts of the new series up in October! I haven't quite thought of a name for the series yet, though. "Photo 101" is just so blah but I'm the worst when it comes to cute, clever titles. If you have any suggestions for series titles, I'd love to hear them!
How did you decide to own guinea pigs?
This is a totally random and funny story, actually. When I lived in Sacramento, it was my first time ever in my life living on my own. It got kind of lonely in my apartment and I really wanted a little companion but my lease specifically said no "dogs or cats" were allowed in the building. Being the sneaky lawyer that I
I initially went to the pet store intending to get a hamster. When we walked in, all the hamsters were sleeping -they're nocturnal- while all the guinea pigs were out playing, munching on haying, and being cute as can be. I knew nothing about guinea pigs and thought they were just overgrown hamsters but one little grayish brown one with a white tuft of fur on her head stood out to me. As I approached the cage, the other baby guinea pigs ran and hid, but this brave little girl came right up to the front of the cage and checked me out. I laughed at her funny little mohawk then went on my way to check out the sleeping hamsters.
Not too long after, the pet store clerk approached and asked if there was anything she could help with. I told her about how I wanted a little companion, someone who would keep me company and let me pet them and cuddle them, and mentioned I was thinking about a hamster. She asked if I've ever thought about a guinea pig. No. No I had not. Apparently, she owned two herself and absolutely loved them. She told me about their intelligence -on par with cats!- and how they bond with their humans and come to view them as part of the herd. She told me you can teach them tricks and house train them so they can run around and play outside of their cage. And, she told me they were diurnal, meaning they sleep at night and are up and active during the day, just like people. She had me pretty much convinced so I said, "Well, if I'm going to get a guinea pig, I want that cute little gray one with the white mohawk."
After two and a half years as a guinea pig mama, I'm convinced they are the best little pets in the world. Molly and Gia have turned out to be two of the sweetest, most affectionate -and easy to care for- pets I've ever had (and I grew up with pets constantly in our home!). Even when we have a home and a yard and room for pups and kitties, we'll still have guinea pigs in our life.
What's your favorite part of living in San Francisco?
Oh man, this is a tough one! I've wanted to live "where Stephanie Tanner lives" since Full House was a TGIF staple. I love the climate and weather, even though most people hate it. Fall is my favorite season and SF is in a perpetual state of fall all year round. Boots and scarves are just as appropriate in February as they are in August. I love the random eclectic mix of people & things found at any given time on any given street corner. I love all the restaurants and cafes and food trucks throughout the city. I love the iconic views, the museums and culture, the access to nature and the great outdoors, the diversity of city life. I feel alive in the city and anything I want to do is immediately accessible. I love that the city is my office and exploring SF with clients, choosing new locations for photo shoots and rediscovering old familiar spots, allows me to experience San Francisco in a new and different way. I don't know that I can narrow it down to just one favorite part but if you ever come for a visit, I'll take you to all my top contenders.