My journey to Click Pro | Mobile, AL family photographer

Earlier this week I received a photographer's dream email that I had been accepted into Click Pro! This is a huge honor that I'm still pinching myself about! Becoming a member requires submitting a portfolio of 150 images which are then scored by 3 panelists from their review board. The portfolio must receive a minimum average score based on rankings in the following 7 categories:

Exposure Triangle
Color and White Balance
Use of Light
Composition and Posing
Processing Cohesion and Polish
Technical Basics
Creativity, Expression and Intention

(*Note, the images in this post are all taken from my Click Pro application portfolio, except the one from "Day 1" and the one of Finley.)

 boy on tire swing in sunlight | Huntsville photographer

That acceptance email was the culmination of months of putting together images for the portfolio, tweaking, re-tweaking, second guessing, shooting intentionally for those categories, wondering, questioning, and then finally just going for it. If you don't make it, you have to wait at least 90 days before reapplying. I figured if I didn't make it this time, I could use my scores to help me know which areas to focus on for the next 3 months and try again.

So you can imagine my excitement to open the email after a long 10-day wait and discover I'd met the minimum score and was accepted! 

 two boys in the library | Huntsville child photographer

But this is sort of starting at the wrong end. It's always super sweet when people say things like, "You're so talented!" or "You have such a gift with photography!" I do appreciate the kind words, but they feel sort of funny to me because I'm not sure I've ever worked harder at anything than I have at learning photography. And I still have SO much more room to grow!

It's similar to when people ask, "Oh, those pictures are great--what kind of camera do you have?" I guess it's like asking my hairdresser what kind of scissors she uses or the chef at your favorite restaurant what kind of cookware they have. While a nice camera is just that . . . nice, it's only a tool. (And a) if you are only using your tool at the bare minimum of what it can do like shooting in Auto mode, your results won't ever be spectacular and b) lenses actually make a bigger difference than the camera, but we'll save that for another post.) ;) 

 little boy and his shadow | Huntsville family photographer

What has REALLY made the difference for me is lots of hard work, classes, practice, time, learning, failing, and more practice.

So if you're interested in how I got here, here's the story:

In 2010, I decided I wanted a "nicer" camera. I received a Nikon D3000 for my birthday and was so excited! I'd surely be immediately achieving results like I saw with the pros! (See also: paragraph about hairdresser's scissors. Ugh.)

Here is the very first picture I took with that camera. 

I mean, cute, right? But I remember being pretty disappointed. It honestly didn't look all that different from the ones I'd been taking with my Canon Powershot just a couple days before. What was up with that?

I spent the next couple years reading some stuff about photography, but I reached a point where I was pretty sure there was a lot my camera could do that I wasn't taking advantage of. I wanted to just take ONE class (insert husband's chuckle here) to learn how to better use my camera.

We had no idea what was ahead.

 little boy with a stick | Huntsville family photographer

In the spring of 2014, I signed up for Mastering Manual Exposure through Click Photo School. To say this class changed everything for me is a serious understatement. I FINALLY understood the exposure triangle, set my camera to Manual exposure, and never looked back.

 little boy in shopping cart | Huntsville family photographer

That does NOT mean that my photos were instantly awesome. What it DID mean is that I was beginning to learn how much I needed to learn. Once I learned my camera backwards and forwards and knew its limitations, THEN I sold it and upgraded to a full-frame "professional" camera. I also began making a plan for more classes. I took one on using natural light, one on composition, and one on editing.

 boy sitting on wall with shadow | Huntsville child photographer 

It took me about a year to get through those first few classes, and around the spring of 2015 I started tossing around the idea of starting a photography business. I took a class on that, too, which helped me get everything in good shape with a business license, taxes, products, contracts, website, etc. It was all way more involved than I ever dreamed, and I was so grateful to have some help along the way.

 little boy holding Mickey Mouse | Huntsville family photographer

An instructor of one of my classes talked about her own journey to her business and mentioned that she felt that she should be working toward Click Pro acceptance at the start of her business. Besides the benefits the program itself provides, this honor brings some validation of a skill set being achieved. That stuck with me, although it still felt like I was light years from having that strong of a portfolio.

 two boys throwing rocks into creek | Huntsville family photographer

I continued taking classes, one on capturing connections among your subjects and another composition class. I also took shorter "breakout" sessions on photographing newborns in their homes, in-home family sessions, photographing toddlers, editing, and more.

 little boy on staircase at sunset | Huntsville family photographer

I did end up launching my business in the summer of 2015, and around the start of 2016, I began to more seriously contemplate putting a set together for a Click Pro application. I knew I needed to work on images in lower light, so I took a class on that. I still felt like I was months (maybe a year) from actually applying. But I would begin to hold images in a folder that were possibilities. And I would keep shooting. A lot.

 silhouette of boy and soccer ball | Huntsville family photographer

I was also always re-reading the criteria for those categories I mentioned above. I knew that to make the minimum score required, I needed to be able to use light in lots of different ways, to be creative in composition, to be cohesive. I chose my courses strategically to improve in specific areas.

 boy looking through soccer net | Huntsville photographer

Once I had pulled together close to 150 possible images, I joined a Facebook prep group of other photographers also considering applying within the following year or so. They provided invaluable feedback on my photos, and I am so grateful for their help.

Over the summer, I knew I was getting closer to at least having a preliminary set of 150. I would remove an image and replace it with something I felt was stronger. But I finally reached the point where I felt a little "stuck." On July 31, I decided to just take the plunge. I uploaded the images, paid the application fee, and clicked "submit." I had no idea what would happen.

 little boy on swing in the sky | Huntsville photographer

I knew that I had come SO FAR in 2 short years. But I really was not sure if it was enough. And I really would have been ok with that. Lots of people need a 2nd or 3rd try, even private mentoring to get there. I just needed a "status report."

 little boy standing at window holding stuffed animal | Huntsville child photographer

So the day the email came, there may or may not have been jumping and shouting for joy. A certain family may or may not have been frightened from said jumping and screaming that the house was burning down or something else terrible was happening. But there WAS a huge round of hugs and high fives and congratulations after I told them I'd made it!

 Lightning McQueen car in shadows | Huntsville family photographer

Ironically, I was on my way out the door to a client session when I happened to pass by the email on my computer. I got to photograph this sweet baby girl that night, who was very close in age to my B above on day 1 of receiving my not-so-magical camera 6 years before.

I adore this photo of sweet Finley. Besides the fact that she's a beautiful child, it will always remind me of the day I received confirmation of how far I'd come, a goal achieved that seemed pretty impossible just 2 years before.

 one-year-old baby girl | Huntsville child photographer

It also reminds me of all the people along this journey who have spoken an encouraging word about my photography. There are lots of client images in my set, people who trusted me with capturing them on camera, even coming into their homes to photograph their families. I do not take this lightly. It truly means the world to me.

So, now I get to have this badge on my site and to participate in all the opportunities offered by Click Pro to their members. 

A huge goal has been accomplished. In some ways though, I feel like I'm just beginning something else really great. Maybe I should come back in two more years for another "journey" post! Sometimes you have to look back a little to see how far you've come!

It might just make you jump for joy!

 little boy jumping in red circle | Huntsville family photographer

CONTACT ME to book your session!