To my ten-year-old self. My photography journey.

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Dear ten-year-old Breanna,

I know life seems very different from the eyes of a ten-year-old. You are probably busy with being a fourth grader, getting use to wearing jeans instead of those spandex stirrup leggings that you loved,  learning your lines for the school play of The Adventures of Lewis and Clark where you are Sacajawea.  After you get the part, you learn you have to hug a boy in the play…. in front of the whole class.  You are going to be a little embarrassed, but don’t worry. You will survive the beet-red blushing and it will become a small memory of being ten years old.

Life is going to be good. You have a creative streak in you that will become a fond source of happiness and validation.

You will start by picking up a camera in high school. It is going to be your Dad’s Minolta with 35mm film. You will feel like a fish out of water being the only freshman in an upperclassman photography class. Thanks ok. It is going to be fun. There are a few of the really “popular” kids in class. Don’t let them intimidate you or compare yourself to them. You are always comparing yourself, but eventually you will get a little better at being ok with just being you.

After the semester ends and the class is finished, you will ask Ms. Stackhouse if you can come in on your lunch break to use the darkroom for your own projects. Working up the nerve to ask for use of the darkroom after class will take a bit of courage, but she will kindly say yes. Yes, sigh of relief.

In college, you are going to get a new camera. The Minolta has long moved on and is in your parents house, but you will get the new and exciting Canon Rebel XSI. Those fire hydrants and flowers pictures never looked better! You college roommates will get to be your models and together you will host fun and fabulous photo shoots in your apartment kitchen.

You are going to have a string of great friends get engaged in college and you will get to have some fun trying out engagement pictures. It will take you hours editing those pictures in iPhoto on your college 13” MacBook. That practice will help you become so familiar with editing that when you do start to edit thousands of wedding pictures, it will be second nature.

(PS, There will be a brand new program called Adobe Lightroom that will come out. Yes. Buy it! You almost bought the $700 Photoshop, but Lightroom at $100 will make you change your mind.)

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Breanna, I am not going to lie, at this point in the game, you think you are better than what you really are. You are going to fly out to Seattle Washington as a gift from Natania, your roommate and best friend. You will get to shadow Kelly Chandler, (Natania’s wedding photographer) at a beautiful Seattle wedding. You will be blown out of the water.

Kelly is going to hand you a backup Canon camera (which you later will recognize as the 5D) and not even know what the buttons do! This won’t look like your Canon Rebel at all. You will be shooting in auto the whole day and feel a bit embarrassed about it. She will ask you during the reception why you are shooting everything on an angle and kindly tell you it will look more professional to shoot with the camera straight. Don’t worry if you hide in a corner of the reception for ten minutes deleting every slanted picture you took during the first dance.  You are learning. You are doing just fine. The wedding is going to be beautiful and at the end of the day you will feel like the chaos of trying something new was worth it.

Slowly you are going to get better. And this time I mean it. No more over saturated pictures. No more clipping your highlights. You finally understand how aperture and depth of field are related. And that white balance, you have a little ways to go, but it has gotten so much better.  You are making good progress! Enough progress that you think you want to apply for BYU’s photography program. You thought about it and will decide that if you get in, you will abandon your biology degree and dive right into the arts!

During a biology internship in Oregon, you will take picture of fish, sailboats, the ocean, and downtown Portland thinking those images are beautiful enough to get you into the photography program for next fall.  These simple pictures become the majority of your application portfolio. After your first application gets rejected you will shy away from even applying a second time. Rejection hurts. You will learn this again and again in life. But you will start learning how to gain something from it and becoming better.

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The high and lows of college, a church mission trip, and a long distance relationship with a cute tech savvy boy collide.  Despite better images and a much better grip on the ins and outs of shooting, photography takes a back burner. The Canon Rebel sits in the case in your small dorm room closet more and more.

It won’t be until your own wedding (to the tech savvy boy in college) when photography takes a front again.  You book a fabulous wedding photographer. You won’t even realize how good she is until after your wedding. She will become a mentor and friend  and you will study her images for hours. Seriously, you owe her big time! (Camilla, I still cannot thank you enough for gorgeous wedding pictures and helping so much in my photography career).

Something kicks in and your photography plans get serious. However, you are going to face some big limitations. You wont have gear, a client base, a professional website, or experience. There will be the time when you break down in tears to your new husband wanting so desperately to buy a new camera and lens hoping he can find room in the budget to make it work. You will spend hours of frustration in front of the computer trying to setup your website. You will have to learn to handle business finances and get a business license. You are going to learn to put yourself out there.

But Breanna, you have something going for you. You are a dedicated girl! When you set your mind to something, you go after it. And for some reason you have your mind set on becoming a brilliant wedding photographer more than anything else.  You work hard. You work long hours. You are going to dedicate your time, money, and energy to soak up everything photography. You will gain the confidence to shoot a wedding all by yourself. You will gain confidence to charge more. You will build a brand. Establish a website and network with people in the industry. 

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Yes, you will eventually upgrade your Canon Rebel to a Canon 5D mark iii. However, you are a simple shooter. You believe in capturing a beautiful image right in camera and not rely on editing to make an image happen. You will love spending time with couples on their wedding day, but will feel the pressure to handle the day as a professional. This is your job. It is not always a walk in the park and you will be stressed sometimes.

It will all be worthwhile when bride emails you back after getting her pictures, ecstatic with the joy of how they turned out! Your brides will become your friends which will make being a part of their wedding day a genuine pleasure. You will be so happy to share with them beautiful images that they will cherish for a lifetime.

You will crave the golden light in a spring afternoon. You will use its soft glow to showcase how a couple loves each other. You will see pictures of brides and grooms in your head when you walk past a staircase, a garden, or beautiful landscape. This is how you will know that you are becoming the wedding photographer you have dreamt of being.

True. You will have more to learn. You will always be learning new skills and becoming a better business woman. But don’t worry little Bre. You are getting there, and I couldn’t be more thrilled and proud of you.

Sheridan and Brian-075

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