"Jump and the net will appear" was not exactly the avenue I took when trying to make dreams a reality. I'm brave, but not that brave. I've been hemming and hawing about starting a career in photography for years. A string of 9 to 5 jobs left me frustrated and unfulfilled. I'd come home from work so irritated, I'd spout off about all my ideas, compare myself to others "if they can do it, I can do it!", but at the end of the day I didn't have the confidence to act.
So what changed? It was about a 2 year process, first I decided I needed to learn and practice taking photos WAY more, which oddly enough turned into me taking very few pictures and getting IN FRONT of the camera.... a lot.
I joined a Meetup group called the Click Monkeys here is Sacramento, CA. I met photographer and educator Tim Engle. I actually hated going to the Meetups at first (sorry, Tim), I would only sign up for ones with large groups and a lot of space (like at the Old Sugar Mill or Ikea). As far as I was concerned it was just a bunch of old guys spitting out stats and settings. That stuff didn't interest me, and I was terrified of looking stupid, but I kept plugging away... quietly...in the corner.
Tim is a great teacher, and at one point had offered to photograph me, he explained to me that I had an opportunity to learn things about photography not many photographers would ever experience. "Being in front of the camera will change the way you see when you are behind it" he said to me. Now it makes total sense, but at the time, I'm pretty sure it went in one ear and out the other.
Fast forward another 2 months or so and I find myself looking to move to Tennessee (queue the needle scratching across the record). My husband was going to take a job transfer for a temporary project. This prompted the desire for some new couple portraits since we would be apart for a few months and I wanted cute pictures for "we've moved" cards. We hired Tim and it was really the first time I got to talk to him one on one. He talked about some other things he was involved in including the haunted house at the Preston Castle, which I will come back to.
Another 2-3 months passed, Tim posted on Facebook a last minute opening he had for a shoot at his studio. He has a fine art series in the works involving mud. For whatever reason I was intrigued by this idea and contacted him about getting involved. Two days later, there I was, in his studio, getting covered in mud by my now wonderful friend, Stacey Barton. I wish I could share some pics, but the series isn't finished yet. But that pretty much was the start of a crazy year of modeling.
I'm going to go off topic here, but stay with me, it will come full circle. I watched a class given by Ramit Sethi of "I Will Teach You To Be Rich" fame. There was a lot of knowledge in that course, but there is one thing that really stuck with me. I'm going to paraphrase: "How do you, someone with no industry experience and nothing to offer someone who is currently successful in the industry you are seeking, get help from said professional? You have to find a way to bring value to their life in some other way, don't think about what you want them to do for you, everyone wants something from them, think about what you can do to become valuable" I say again. BRING VALUE! This idea is so often overlooked. If you change your thinking and instead of what you can get from others, you think about how you can bring value to other people lives, doors start to open. So how does this relate? I bring you back to the Preston Castle.
The haunted house was coming up and Tim, along with the Preston Castle Foundation was gathering their volunteers for the 2 weekend fundraiser. I'm not a huge fan of Halloween, I'm such a wuss and I hate being scared, but I reached deep down to that place where I can convince myself to do things that I'm not sure about, and I volunteered. I went to Good Will and found a costume I though was appropriate to the history of the Castle (I think I have a picture I can include), and I went. After the first night, I was done, I did not want to go back the second night. I tried to back out, but Tim basically told me no. So I went for the second night. I did a good job, I scared the snot out of some people. It was a really good exercise for me to get out of my comfort zone. I went back for a second year, and I will be out there again. I can even say I'm the Castle's favorite ghost, well except for the real ones of course.
The only thing I had to offer was my time, that was the value I provided. And it was appreciated, it helped me start to earn the trust of a professional who otherwise had no need for me. I was given the opportunity to assist and to model much more often. I kept proving myself, I worked hard and it has paid off. When paying jobs came up, I was the first one to get a phone call. When big jobs came up, Tim knew he could trust me.
I feel like I could go on about his topic for a while, but I will spare you. I guess my point is this, when the time came to make the big change, there was already a net I had spent 2 years making, it may have had some holes, but I felt safer. The holes it had are mostly about my own photography and my own brand, but I can happily say they are filling in quickly!