This is a little more raw and real than I normally get on here.
I’ve had a blog since I started GSquared, which is going to have it’s 6 year anniversary in July 2017, but I’ve never done a post on how I got into photography. We have one on why we shoot weddings, but nothing quite like this. My blog has always focused on my clients and not on other photographers – I actually used to mentor other photographers under my prior business, but not anymore. After a few very negative experiences, it burnt me out. I’ve helped a few creatives here and there since then but not on any real scale… and then today I got a message in my inbox.
It was from a local photographer-hopeful, and she asked me how I started and what inspires me. I sat on the message for a few hours, because while I knew it was a quick question for her, my reply wouldn’t be. I needed to make sure that I could represent all of it – the depth, the joy, the shadows and the light all at once, and to try and do the experience of it justice. I put it all down in writing, and thought it *might* be something worth sharing with not only her, but even my clients. Sometimes knowing the beginning helps understand the now.
I started in 1997 and worked for a portrait studio in Portland doing school and sports portraits. Back then, everything was film. I also grew up with a dark room in my childhood home – and while I liked photography, I never considered it a passion or something that was a huge part of who I was. However, when you ask some family members now, they’re not surprised at all, as I apparently always wanted to use the camera and take photos (my memory on this is vague, it’s been a lot of life since then!).
After I left the portrait studio I spent the next decade doing Business Management and Marketing, mostly in creative or retail settings. The recession hit in 2007 and I lost my job as a training director for the company I was with, and ended up working for a high-volume senior portrait studio in Bellevue. From there, I went to a high end studio and worked there under a year before they moved to the other side of the mountains … which is when I started GSquared.
Josh wanted to shoot weddings from the get-go, I wanted to avoid them like the bubonic plague. We shot everything – family, kids, maternity, boudoir … all of it. I wasn’t in love with any one thing, but knew I for sure hated newborns. Nothing really inspired me – seniors and boudoir were my favorites, but I was still meh.
I actually went back to work for a short bit, as a Marketing VP for Josh’s company. It was getting too hard to manage the business and the kids and then Wynter’s epilepsy progressed into life threatening and we knew I had to come home in order to make things work for all of us. We then decided we had to take things more seriously. A friend flew into town since she was going to shoot a former Miss Rodeo Oregon/Miss Rodeo America’s wedding. She didn’t hire a second shooter and insisted I come with. I was resistant, but went. I should have taken it as a sign, because here we were, needing to get serious and suddenly I am out shooting a wedding, right?
About 5 minutes into the wedding, I knew this was my calling. And you’d think I’d have known that already – my mom dabbled as a florist when I was growing up, my ex-husband was a wedding DJ, I went to school for wedding and event planning, and I worked in a bridal shop for awhile… but no, it took actually shooting a wedding to fall in love with it. There is this odd calm that I get when I shoot, and even at that very first wedding when I was a nervous wreck until it was go-time, this feeling washed over me and the calm in the chaos was perfect… (and I guess I did ok, because I just photographed her sister’s wedding this past summer!)
I came home on fire for weddings and Josh was thrilled. We had a mini-business meeting (read: I made a whole bunch of executive decisions and he just agreed) changed over our entire website and branding and social media and jumped in feet first. We did 3 weddings the first year, 9 the second, and then we’ve steadily averaged 45 weddings ever since – and I fill in our empty booking days with second shooting for other photographers. We’ve shot well over 200 weddings by the end of this season total with all of my second shooter gigs and primary experience… and our brand has been through a few changes in that time too.
I have to be honest … it has been the hardest, most emotional, exhausting thing I’ve ever done. I doubt myself more than I care to admit, and I am still in shock when people hire us. We would have failed by now if I didn’t have the business and marketing experience. I would have walked away because there is a really long time in which you don’t make any money especially with as much as you’re working. That saying about “entrepreneurs work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 for someone else” is no lie. I work constantly, even now.
They aren’t kidding when they talk about the emotional roller-coaster that being a creative is. I do also believe that without the darkness, the light wouldn’t exist, and we wouldn’t appreciate all that comes with both ends of that emotional spectrum. It lets us as artists see the world the way others can’t and produce art from our own perspective.
That’s the one thing that we’ve done that I think has helped us actually start to make a name – we strive to take shots that others don’t see. We watch for moments, and make sure that our clients know we’re about the experience and not the poses. We want to document the unfolding and not orchestrate it. This helps the right kind of couples find us, and it helps us to maintain our absolute love and addiction to what we do. I don’t even want to imagine the day I can no longer photograph a wedding.
What inspires me is the light, the emotions, the connection. I love when a couple is comfortable. They know who they are, they’re secure in their love and themselves. They don’t need a theme, their theme is who they are together, their journey, the life they’ve built. Where their friends are so close that they are family. When they want friendors and not just vendors. That inspires me. To know that even in this world where we all put up the social media masks, we are still able to find the authenticity in others.
Nature inspires me too. I feel at home in the woods, where there is nothing but the sound of our heartbeat and our breath… and I believe that the deepest connections come when we can enjoy these things with others too – where comfort happens in the quiet. That’s why we do most of our work in the woods. There is a richness in the colors, the tones, the smell and the texture that the art itself is already present, like the setting in a book, and we are just adding in the characters.