Lately I’ve been getting the question, “What made you want to be a photographer?”
The simple version of the answer is: I just have a burning desire to capture beauty.
While the simple answer is very true, there’s a bit more to the story.
I’ve always been in love with photography. When I was 7 years old, my mom gave me a toy camera for Christmas. It was a clear pink plastic wind-up camera. She probably gifted me the toy camera because she had gotten tired of getting me the disposable cameras since I had spent that year filling them up and taking them to the drug store to get developed. How I loved that little toy camera. I would stalk my family and friends, waiting for the perfect moment to capture the perfect expression. I was fascinated by capturing people then, and still am now.
Starting in middle school, I became known by my friends and classmates to always have a camera on me. I couldn’t quite describe the burning desire to “freeze time,” as I would say, but it was there, and it was strong, and it never ceased.
I knew I wanted to be a photographer, but I thought the only way was to work for someone else.
In 2013 we were expecting our first child, and that burning desire became even stronger. Naturally, I wanted to record as much of our daughter’s milestones as I possibly could, but I also wanted to finally figure out how to become a photographer. So, I typed into the Google search engine “how to be a photographer.” Expecting to see articles explaining the process of being an intern at some magazine firm or newspaper, I was surprised to see pages and pages of blogs and articles explaining how to start a photography business.
Instantly, that burning desire turned into a full fire, and the rest is history.
There I was, sitting for hours in the dark at our kitchen table, realizing that I could not only make my dream of being a professional photographer come true, but I could start a business that would allow me the flexibility to be the mom I wanted to be. At the time, it sounded simple enough: write a business plan, set some prices, build a portfolio, and open the business. Boom, instant professional photographer.
Needless to say, it wasn’t that simple.
Once our daughter arrived, I could not wait to begin creating beautiful portraits of her and recording all her milestones with all of the amazingly adorable ideas I put into my portfolio plans. When she was 7 days old, I shot her newborn photos— well, I attempted to shoot her newborn photos.
During the “shoot,” I was so excited. I was swooning over the little headbands I bought from Burlington’s, so proud of how I matched them against the swirly fur fabric I found at Joann’s, and so in love with how precious my little one looked.
I imported the images to Lightroom, picked my favorites to edit, and completed my first set of newborn photos. Unfortunately, my excitement didn’t last much longer once I posted the images in a photography group I found on Facebook.
They ripped those pictures of my precious little girl apart (they were pretty bad though lol). I was crushed. I had failed my first newborn shoot. More importantly, I failed to get those beautiful portraits of my first-born that I had desperately wanted.
Although I’ve had moments where I wanted to quit, this wasn’t one of them. Instead, my failure pushed me to get it right. I knew I still had some things to learn before I was ready to be a professional photographer.
I took to Google, looking for any resources on photography basics. Google searches led to free blogs and articles, which led to YouTube gurus, and finally, I began investing in education. I spent every possible minute soaking up anything I could about the business and art of photography. Even in all the researching, studying, and practicing, I still didn’t quite understand why this was all so important to me.
What was it about photography that could drive me to go months without sleep in a quest to “get it right”?
Time went by, and I started working with my first paying clients. After we worked together, I would often hear things like, “Oh, I love these pictures, thank you!” and, that was nice and all, but I still felt like something was missing.
It wasn’t until I tried my hand at boudoir portraits that it finally clicked.
At my first boudoir event, I worked with four ladies. Each lady had all of these things they didn’t like about themselves, but I didn’t really understand what they didn’t like. They were all gorgeous to me, and whenever they would tell me their biggest insecurities about their bodies, I remember thinking, “What? Why don’t you like your [insert body part]?” Which was often followed by me thinking “I would KILL to have [insert body part] like yours!”
The responses I got from those ladies once they received their images literally brought tears to my eyes.
Every one of them told me that they couldn’t believe it was them in their portraits, that they never thought they could look that beautiful. One of the husbands of the ladies even sent an email to thank me because his wife was more confident than he had seen in a long time since she’d received her images.
When I look at a person, I see more than their face, more than their insecurities, I see a story. When I talk to that same person, I can see the story come to life before my eyes. I see beyond their physical features, I feel their energy; then their energy just radiates in front of me and I HAVE to capture it, I HAVE to tell their story so that they can see what I see. So they can see the beauty in their story, even when it may not be the picture perfect fairy tale they hoped for.
It may sound cliché, but everyone has a beauty about them.
Everyone: the mom preparing to bring a life into this world, the new baby gracing the earth with their innocence, the woman who just found out she’s ill, the child that would rather throw a tantrum than give a hug, the family that bickers about everything, the sisters who barely see each other, the young lady who’s about to become a wife, the grandmother who found out she’ll have a great granddaughter soon; the women who think they have 20 pounds to lose, the women who have 20 pounds they want to gain, and the women who just want to be loved for who they are.
We all have a story to be told, and we all have beauty to capture. I believe this with every fiber of my being, and THAT is why I wanted to open TeAirra Mitchell Photography.