Over the past few weeks, I've received a number of emails / Facebook messages / texts with various questions regarding my little business. How I got started. What's my best advice for someone who wants to get started. What is my process like. You name it! After answering multiples of these emails, I've decided to do a little blog series to see if I can get all of these answered, and to have a little resource for any future photographers.
I definitely do not know all of the answers! I'm still a new business owner myself, so I am just sharing my experiences in hopes that I can help anyone looking for answers! If Lauren Miller Photography hadn't mentored me, and been very transparent with me, I wouldn't be where I am today. I owe a lot of what I have learned to her, and various other photographers! (L, you're the best!)
So here we go, how I got started!
When I was little, I took photos of my stuffed animals and my dogs with disposable cameras. Yes, I really did this :) I still don't know why my mom actually got them developed. We still have some of the packets with those photos in them. Bless my little heart. From there, I moved up to digital point-and-shoot cameras in high school. I was always the friend with the camera, and always edited them and was the first to put them on Facebook. At the time, I loved using Picasa. All through high school, all of my memories were documented.
When I entered into college, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I started at USC as a Pre-Business major, and after about two months of being at USC I realized that it wasn't the right fit for me. After Freshman year, I transferred to Clemson. I can hear all the USC fans screaming "traitor!," sorry friends :) I transferred to Clemson and decided to pursue Marketing. I knew that I loved advertising, I loved graphics, I loved photography, so I felt that Marketing tied all of those interests together. I was planning on going on the FCA mission trip the spring of my sophomore year, and I really wanted to document the trip beautifully. My mom and I went to Best Buy (after much debate), and got my first DSLR -- a Canon Rebel XS.
That little Canon Rebel went everywhere with me. It documented my DC trip with FCA, another trip with FCA to Haiti, and all of my college memories. I started taking pictures of everything I possibly could. Landscapes, my family, flowers, animals, you name it. I wasn't very good, I'll be honest, but you have to start somewhere. I started photographing people for fun during my Junior year of college. I always did shoots for free, and jumped at any opportunity. Here enters Jason.
My dear friend Jason worked with me at Bodyshop Athletics, and had been my friend for many years. I like to call Jason "Mister Entrepreneur," because he always had his hand in some new business adventure. I think he saw my potential early on, and really encouraged me to pursue photography. He asked me to do photos for Bodyshop's camps, products, his own clothing line, etc. After he got engaged, he asked me to do his and his fiancé Kristin's engagement photos. I. Was. Terrified. but also so excited at the same time! I took their engagement photos with my little Canon Rebel, and squealed with excitement. From there, I did Kristin's bridal portraits, and ultimately their wedding. Their wedding was November of my Junior year, I had no idea what I was doing and was so nervous. My sweet friend Annabeth was my second shooter for their wedding weekend, and we made it happen, somehow :)
After shooting my first wedding in November of 2011, my desire to learn more grew and grew. I still photographed anyone and anything at any given opportunity. Still did lots of fun shoots for free. Just ask my friend Tay, we did TOO MANY photo shoots! But, that is how I learned the ins and outs of my Canon Rebel. I did a few senior sessions my Senior year at Clemson for my roommates. Other than that, Braden and I decided that I needed to start full-time with a job in the corporate world. That was okay by me, because I really wanted to use my degree that I had worked so hard for (and built up student loans for). I took a job with Nationwide Insurance in April of my Senior year, and worked with them for a short period of time. When I say short, I mean super short :)
Entering into the corporate world right after graduation really overwhelmed me. I honestly had no idea why I was doing what I was doing, and it did not fulfill my soul. At this point in time, Jason and Kristin had their first baby. I headed to their house after my first week at Nationwide, and unloaded my emotions and how I just didn't feel like I was in the right place. That day, Jason gave me a challenge, a challenge that truly was a game changer for me. He challenged me to go ahead and quit my job (a decision I had already made), to read the book "Start," and to book a small number of sessions within the next few weeks. If I succeeded to do all of those things, him and Kristin would pay mine and Braden's first months rent. Jason held true to his word, and after I had booked those sessions, I received a check for our first months rent.
I love sharing this story, because not only does it show how integral Jason and Kristin were to my photography journey, but it also shows how much they invest in the next generation. These two are such a force for the Kingdom! They saw something in me, a desire for something more, and helped to guide me to find my passion. I owe so much of my starting success to those two, and will never be able to truly show the aptitude of my thankfulness. Jason and Kristin, I love y'all, and you will always be so dear to me!
From there, the rest is history. Braden and I got married that August, and Jessi Nichols Photography became JNP officially on September 1, 2013. I was still using my Canon Rebel at this time, but now used it with a Canon 50mm 1.4 lens I received as a graduation gift. Still doing sessions for free, or little to no money, and loved it! Braden and I set a goal to book 10 weddings for 2014. After numerous months of building my portfolio and really investing in my business, we ended up booking a total of 22 weddings my first year. Only the Lord can do something that huge, y'all. We aimed low, and He did immeasurably more.
Part 2 will cover the important lessons I've learned in my 22 months as Jessi Nichols Photography. For any questions pertaining to my journey into photography, please leave any comments or questions on this blog. I am happy to answer anything!
Stay tuned for Part 2!