How I Started my photography business (old photos and all!)

I get asked all the time when I started photography, sometimes I answer “When my brother let me set up a fake studio and let me take some stunning images of him when we were 10″ or ” My brother is a local country music artist/ radio personality/ really loved signing his name on our cereal boxes and my homework, so we did “photoshoots” or ” I did my first paid photo shoot in 2008 and charged the woman $30 and gave her a cd of all the images”

“I felt terrible asking for $30…...”

The real story goes something like this.

I have always been a wanna be artsy kind of girl. Rebel enough to write on my arms with pen and sharpie, dye a little piece of my hair teal, be a butt to my parents, and glue and paint on canvases in art class, but not rebel enough to smoke cigarettes. “I played guitar….” I tell everyone here in Checotah when they gasp that I didn’t play any sports in high school, “NOT even one?!” No, not even one.

On my 11th birthday I asked for a camera. I got 5 film point and shoots. I still have one that my Grandad gave me, which was matte silver and shot wide, and panoramic shots. That’s when I started taking photos of my dogs, my mom sleeping, some birds we had, sunsets, clouds, and my soccer ball. I wanted to shoot a cool “nike like” shot of the soccer ball and the only solid white background we had were the walls in our house. So I had my brother Owen hold the soccer ball by the tips of his fingers so I could get the least amount of him in it as possible. I literally screamed at him ” I CAN STILL SEE YOUR FINGERS DANG IT OWEN” I remember being so mad that he couldn’t get his hand out of the photo while still holding the soccer ball. I almost peed my pants laughing a while back when I stumbled on that image of the soccer ball, and the most awkward stretched arm you’ve ever seen. Haha he tried SO very hard to please me. I gave up my passion for shooting my dogs play toys and the trees in the backyard when I figured I couldn’t really make a career out of it, and felt the drive leave me.

In middle school we could do a “career shadow” I got a list of businesses and people and chose to shadow Shannon Ho, another girl and I were dropped of at a park in Norman to meet with Shannon and her clients, who were a sweet family with a little baby boy. We held her diffusers and helped her make the baby boy giggle. Then she took us to her home studio and explained aperture to us, and showed us her work flow on her computer. Afterwards she took us to classic 50s for burgers and malts. I was so star struck by Shannon, she was so sweet and everything about her was her brand “elegant simplicity” through and though. She gave us card stock folders, and a business card. Both which I kept for years. ( A few years later I contacted Shannon and she has used me as an baby laugh maker and wedding assistant, both are always fun and inspiring. Shannon’s style and sweet calm demeanor always give me a pick me up similar to pinterest ; ) )

Then along came Senior year, and in the school paper a local photographer Shevaun Williams advertised her Senior portraits by using students that went to our school. I saw the pretty people look like magazine models, and the nerdy people look like the pretty people. If she could do that to them, then I wanted to be a part of this. I called the number and my Jo-Jo agreed to pay for the shoot. We were SO excited. We showed up and a lovely british man greeted us in the studio as we heard a tea pot whistle as he offered us tea. We began shooting and I slowly started falling in love. Not with the photographer…. but with photography and the realization that I could have a career capturing people and making them feel beautiful! Here are some images from my senior photos ; ) look at those cheeks

ImageImageI thought I had done a wonderful job on my makeup ( I realized a few years later interning for Shevaun that they spend a very tedious amount of time naturally editing out every imperfection your skin might have, making you look so wonderful and magazine worthy)

I attended my best friend Sarah’s senior photos, she had Shevaun herself as her photographer and I hogged the time asking Shevaun a million questions about how she started her business.

No photography school, no money, just a love for photography and a drive to learn every details any way she could. That was it, I was hooked.

When I sent out my Senior photos, I got money back for graduation. $1,000 to be exact. I had a friend who worked at Best Buy, I handed her $800 and with her discount purchased my first DSLR camera. A silver Canon Rebel with a kit lens. The camera sat in my passenger seat, and I almost wrecked driving home because I stared at it, and finally for the first time in my life felt “cool” felt like I had something to be excited about. I had a new best friend. I opened the box and took my first picture of my Papaw sitting in his recliner, the photo was blown out, orangey and terrible. I sank in my seat a little, put the camera beside my bed and was determined, driven, and so very passionate to make it work.

I worked in Auto Mode for a little while, started reading books, and practicing on anyone and anything.  I had that camera as a statement piece, I felt like I had super powers when is was on my neck. I shot and shot photos of my friends….



After a few years of that, and a paid photo shoot here and there, working 3 jobs not including photography I was ready. Ready to jump face first into a very scary world of owning my own business.

I watched videos like this and this and this , took an amazing class with Fife Photography, studied poses, learned how to edit beautifully, and invested everything, time and money into the business buying equipment and giving up my weekends to shoot, my evenings to edit.  I am very blessed to be married now and have a husband who is invested in my business, letting me only work this job. I have so much soul in this business that when I saw this song in this movie, I literally cried. I even teared up a little previewing it for this post. HOLY COW.

I think it’s very important to have dreams when you own a business. My big giant dream is to own a studio on land. Land pretty enough to have weddings on, and a studio big enough for a reception AND the basketball team ; )

and I’m “almost there”

(not really almost, almost, but one day is kind of like almost…..)

Booking a session, wedding or concept shoot with Lenae Photography is investing in two things, your own family history, and my future.

Thank you for reading. I love comments and questions!

2 thoughts on “How I Started my photography business (old photos and all!)

  1. I remember an almost-graduate thinking about enrolling in culinary school. Luckily, her awesome cousins talked her out of it and encouraged her to pursue her real passion in life.

    We are so proud of you and you are a great example that dreams can come true if you work hard for them! Keep the lovely photos coming!

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