My Story

CPP, For Photographers

Mar 12, 2019

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Doing something new today and sharing my story and how I got to where I am today! It’s hard not to be in awe as I look back through just the past 4 years and the ways the Lord has moved mountains in my life. I hope this serves as encouragement to any new photographers starting their business from the ground up, or anyone who sees where they want to be and can only focus on how impossible it seems.

As a kid, I remember always being drawn to “old school” film images – prints in our albums at home (some of my most treasured photos), and the beautiful morning light that came through a big window in my childhood bedroom. I’ve always been very observant and sentimental, wanting to hold onto sweet moments and seasons of life.

In high school, I took two photography classes that were offered and played around a lot with my camera mostly at the barn or at horse shows, and I loved combining the two things I loved most. I won a Scholastic Art Award for photography my junior year and my parents gave me a Canon Rebel T1i for graduation (I was thrilled to say the least!) The original plan was to go SCAD for photography (really glad that didn’t work out now!), but I ended up going to USC, which was kind of the plan all along.

In college I majored in Public Relations with a minor in Photography, so I did take several classes, but never really felt like I learned anything applicable. I worked for The Daily Gamecock as a staff photographer and photo editor, and photographed events and sports – mostly equestrian, football and baseball. The school almost sent me to Omaha to document our National Championship win, but ended up not having the funds. I did get to photograph the big celebration when the team came back, though! I also photographed Dave Coulier and Nick Offerman when they came to speak – Full House or Parks & Rec fans, anyone? Ha!

Besides working for the newspaper, I did a lot of “play” sessions for friends, headshots and family photos. I also studied abroad in Florence, Italy for 6 weeks before my senior year and took a couple of photography courses there as well – truly such an incredible opportunity! (Take me back!)

My senior year in 2014, I met Jessi Nichols when she took my graduation photos and we became friends almost instantly. I left that session with an invitation to shadow her at a wedding the next week, and although I had never once thought about doing wedding photography, I was so excited to see what it was all about and how photography was being redefined in a modern way. I shadowed the wedding with her, left feeling so inspired, but still moved forward with my plan to move to Atlanta after graduation.

Jessi Nichols Photography

I moved to Atlanta in August and got a job working for a title insurance company, calling on attorneys across Georgia. Although I loved the people I was working with and was so excited about this new opportunity, it was quickly clear this was not a good fit for me. I felt devastated after what I perceived to be a huge failure. I went through a season of depression, I didn’t really have any close friends in the area, and I just honestly didn’t feel like it was where I was supposed to be. I did end up meeting the owner of a public relations company through a mutual friend and started working remotely for her, which was the biggest blessing and allowed me to finally gain that real-world PR experience!

In January 2015, I remember having a conversation with my aunt and she asked me, “what DO you want to do?” And I told her, “this!” and showed her some of my favorite wedding photography inspiration, and she said, “Then do it! Whatever you have to do, make it happen.” It was just the simple encouragement I needed. Not long after that, Jessi announced that she was hiring an intern. I applied, drove to Greenville early one morning to meet Jessi for coffee – and long story short, she ended up asking me to be her second shooter that year! I couldn’t say yes fast enough.

After that, it was time to set things in motion. I moved back home (only lasted about 6 months in Atlanta, whoops) and started looking for a job in Greenville. I read Make it Happen by Lara Casey, and it gave me that push I needed to finally start my business in April 2015. I bought a Canon 6D to have a full frame camera literally the week before I second shot my first wedding (which was with Casey Edwards – big shout out to Case for taking on this newbie!). I started a Facebook page (because that’s what you did when you started a business in 2015!) and created an LLC. I was so ready to learn and soak up as much as possible. I started out doing a lot of senior sessions, wedding showers, families, anything I could!

In May 2015, I accepted a new position to work for Upstate I Do as a wedding planner & coordinator. This is just another example of God at work – my best friend McKenzie told me she thought I would be good at wedding planning, told me about her friend Katie, whom I messaged on Linkedin, never expecting a response. Katie did respond, and we ended up meeting over coffee! She was working as a wedding coordinator for I Do at the time and answered all of my questions about what her job entailed. A week later, they posted they were hiring and Katie sent me a screenshot of it. She ended up becoming a sweet friend – AND one of my very first brides just a year later! Like what?

You can read more about my wedding planning experience here!

I moved to Greenville and shot my first wedding with Jessi all in the same weekend. The wedding Jessi shot that day ended up being published in Southern Weddings (!), and was just a total dream of a day at a field-surrounded venue. She’s amazing, y’all. I was absolutely overflowing as we left that night.

This whole year was spent second shooting for Jessi & Casey and working during the week as well as coordinating weddings on weekends. I can’t say enough about these two women and the ways they invested in me. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them, and they are both incredible Godly women, wives and business owners. I knew from the very beginning that I wanted my business to be built on the same values – glorifying God and serving my clients wholeheartedly.

I basically absorbed everything there is to know about weddings, both on the photography side and the planning side, which was a tremendous blessing that I’m continually reminded of to this day, how it equipped me for everything that followed. I shot my first engagement & bridal sessions, rehearsal dinners, headshots, and everything in between that year. I was also still working remotely for the PR company in Atlanta. So basically I had no social life (ha), but I was okay with that because I knew it was just for a season. Case in point, my living my best life at Lowndes Grove!

It seemed clear that it was time for a transition in 2016, and I accepted a new job at Full Circle PR in March! Another God wink – my friend Katy called me out of the blue to go to dinner with her life group, and I ended up sitting next to my future co-worker, Carolyn, and chatting all about the unknown world of mom bloggers. I found out they were hiring, and joined an incredible team that taught me so much about public relations. Leaving college, I knew I didn’t want to go into the corporate world, and I couldn’t believe I had been given this role that fit me so well.

I also knew that I wanted to second shoot for at least a full year before shooting any of my own, so I did just that and I booked my first solo wedding for that April! I shot a handful of weddings that year and continued second shooting for Jessi & Casey and working full time. Between 2015 and 2017, I shot 40 weddings as a second shooter, plus around 20 as a wedding coordinator. Whew!

The busyness never really stopped. 2017 was the year of two full time jobs. I shot 17 of my own weddings, worked my full time job, continued second shooting, and was flown to photograph a wedding for the first time in Baltimore (still not over that!)

In 2018, I photographed 26 weddings, some of which were associate weddings for Jessi Nichols! I am forever grateful that she saw potential in me, for the ways she poured into me, and became the most encouraging friend in the process. I became an “official” full time photographer in March and hired my first intern, sweet Mary Catherine (the biggest blessing)! Jessi also hired two interns and it turned into the sweetest group of photog friends.

Fast forward to now. Let me tell you, I have to pinch myself I’ve shot over 50 weddings of my own and am about to celebrate four years in business. There really aren’t words. I still have so much growth ahead of me, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds!

I think if there’s anything that accurately represents my journey, it is this:

“Little by little progress matters. Little by little, a little becomes a lot. It’s okay to grow slow. Good things grow over time.” -Lara Casey

Friends, in a world where we all expect immediate results and we think success has to be overnight or it won’t be reached – remember that it IS okay to grow slow and to be intentional and prepared for what we want to accomplish. Lean into what’s scaring you and lean on the Lord to provide everything you need. Your dreams can be years in the making too. Cheering you on!