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  • Writer's pictureShekeidra Booker

How I Became a Photographer | Atlanta Branding Photographer

Updated: Jan 20, 2022

I was thinking the other day about story telling. I mean if you’ve ever met me, chatted for a moment or exchanged any interaction you know how much I love to talk and I’d like to think that when I do I share some good stuff. Which got me to intentionally thinking about ,”my story.”

I’ve read so much about the power of sharing your story and I am a huge fan girl of many people who sincerely and selfishly share their journey. It’s not all glitz and glam and sometimes I’ve come out wiping tears from the movement of the story but overall it’s inspirational because despite what they went thru, they keep going and it resulted in victory.

So here’s how and why I became a photographer………

Let’s be clear, I didn’t dream of becoming a photographer.

Maybe it’s my natural thing as a Leo to be front and center of attention however growing up I preferred being behind the camera. My aunt bought my first camera for my 9th birthday. A sleek , black Vivtar with two extra rolls of film. I remember the camera being light weight, requiring two AAA batteries and you’d have to wind it up to get to the next black piece of film to shoot. I took pictures of random things because it was just cool as heck to freeze a moment.

Fast forward to my senior year in high school, I had a snippet of an idea of “ what I wanted to be when I grew up!” but not really. I’d always loved to write and ran at any opportunity to expand my knowledge on literature and social studies. So it was no wonder I imagined myself being a journalist who’d travel to third world impoverished countries documenting the life and survival of the people. I didn’t grow up understanding passion and going for what you like or “what feels right” only a mentality of getting a stable job. My dad worked 7 day/ 12 hour days and my mom was terrified of the idea that I could end up God knows where in an unpredictable situation, so to college I went with a medical career as a nurse as my major. I didn’t enjoy college mainly because I was anxious and intimidated most of the time by the nursing instructors and the other half I was in constant question of “ do I really want to this?” However I stuck it out and graduated. I landed a job straight out of school, was trained and developed a routine and actually got pretty good at the nurse thing but honestly that was all. I made a decent living but personally I didn’t feel fulfilled.

My family and I relocated to Atlanta the summer of 2011, two months shy of my oldest starting Kindergarten. Quite naturally it was easy for me to land a job. I’d traveled to Atlanta to interview before we even had an apartment and had a start date before our furniture arrived. I had a traditional mindset that things had to be certain way by a certain time, that was my story and I was determined to stick to it. I needed to have my kid in school , a job before I relocated and my pictures hung all before noon.

Looking back I cringe at what I used to think was LAW.

What no one told me was that with relocating comes a crap load of change. My husband had a thriving barbershop business before we relocated and literally had always been his own boss so with being said he had to start alllllll the way over. New state, new town, new clientele, new momentum. Not to mention new kid in school, a wife who worked night shift because we had a 4 month old ( who cried to no end some nights) with no day sitter. So with those disorganized responsibilities meant that I had to really go in for the family and honestly I wasn’t prepared for it. I think I had some postpartum stuff going on because I was emotional most of the time and I was frustrated because some of my husband and myself roles had changed and it just wasn’t picture perfect as like should be ( RIGHT!) It wasn’t an easy time in our household or our marital life during that time. I continued to nurse, my husband found his swag and we keep moving forward with no directions.

I know by now you are wondering…. so is this about “how she became a photographer” or her life story. It’s BOTH.. lol.. no seriously you can’t have one without the other.

The camera was always a permanent fixture in my life. I fell crazy in love with it after my daughter was born by simply capturing all of her milestones, random bubble blowing moments or during her multiple outfit changes during the day( I mean it’s LAW like then and NOW to capture moments, even if it’s from your Iphone). I did’’t leave home without it so it was no surprise that one day when my husband and I were talking about our family and personal goals, the conversation arose about starting a business. My initial thought was , “ this man is mad crazy, I can’t do a business, heck I don’t even own a real camera!” At the time we’d made a few family structural changes that allowed for both of us to be home during the nights with flexible schedules for the little people so I found myself able to shoot what felt like all the time. I loved the flexibility of being with my family and the feeling I got from when I picked up my camera and what I captured, it was an immeasurable feeling. Sort of like the feeling I felt about being a journalist and traveling to document about God knows what. The only difference was this time I wouldn’t be moved by what someone else felt, it would solely about “ my feeling”. Ironically while I had nursing, small little people and marital life going on I still longed for something just for me. I sincerely NEEDED something to do.

So here comes the SLIP!

The conversation continued on about if we invested in a camera maybe just maybe a business in photography would be a good thing. I didn’t trust myself as a “business” but I trusted my husband’s confidence in making it work and after all it would allow me to have something outside of all the mandatory LIFE stuff to do. So on a Thursday morning while having breakfast at Waffle House we found a Nikon D3500 on Craigslist and contacted the seller. His name was Richard and he was actually walking out the door headed down town to sell the camera. He agreed to sell it to us if we could meet in the next 15 minutes. So 15 minutes later I was walking into a Starbucks to buy a camera , my first real camera ( as I’d like to call it). I’d only played around with DSLR cameras in the stores on display but ironically never really operated one until I held my own in my hand. I didn’t even know how to turn the thing on! Richard showed me a few tricks for operating the camera and we agreed to stay in touch because I’d volunteered him to be my mentor, which we actually to this very day keep in touch! He stressed the importance of just “ learning the camera!” It wasn’t about the most expensive piece of equipment vs knowing the bare basics of photography such as composition, lighting, and how to freaking operate what you have until you outgrow it.

I kept “just playing around with the camera” until I landed my first paid job. It was a shoot for a young artist by way of my husband’s cousin. She’d been in the industry a while and her mom was her manager. The shoot took place in their basement turned recording studio/ photography studio. They had all the studio equipment + lighting. I walked into something I had no clue about. I just knew I wanted to shoot. I remember my husband you tubing what camera settings to shoot on and how to use lighting in a dark space. I’m laughing at myself as I type this because it was a nightmare… lol. Crazy thing is her mom loved the photos. She paid me $125 for about 5 hours of work and I handed her the SD card to do all the editing and whatever she wanted with the images.

Soon after I dove into wedding photography because at the time I thought that’s what all photographers did, shoot weddings. Initially I ate, slept and breathed all things weddings. I absolutely loooovvvedd Jasmine Star and Jana Williams work and I spent all kinds of time and money investing into videos and virtual workshops to be just like them. I began working with a wedding planner who ran my entire back end of business from booking the clients to the contracts to the transactions of the money. Whew I owe you a blog post on my first mistakes as a photographer. I later moved on controlling my own business such as booking my own clients, learning about contracts and pricing and getting paid.

I shot weddings for about 3 years alone until I met my good friend Tara in 2014/15 via Facebook. We became friends because I’d screwed up editing an engagement session and she fixed the photo without me even asking. I loved her from the beginning. I began second shooting weddings with Tara and that was the very first time I shot with a partner. We agreed to second shoot for one another and it worked beautifully until I fell out of love with weddings. Here I am again with something that financially was cute but it didn’t fulfill me. I didn’t love when the wedding day rolled around, I would actually get stomach wrenching nervous like a skittish bride. The wedding day was all but beautiful for me as the photographer. It was a non stop photo shoot day. The days were long, hot, freezing or raining. I rarely had time to grab food, family members were mean and the timeline was almost never a true timeline. My need to be creative was rarely accomplished because it was all about keeping up with time or making up for lost time.Not to mention the days and weeks after the weddings is when photographers truly start working. I found that being a wedding photographer I was pretty good at it but I didn’t love it and that was very honest and adult of me to admit.

When I got pregnant in the Spring of 2016 I knew my life would take another angle fortunately this time around it wouldn’t be a surprise adjustment. I intentionally did a come to clarity about what made me truly happy, what made me want o learn more and more about, what would give me more time with my family , what I could share and would help thrust others further into their business and purpose and what would be the most profitable for my time and business. I decided to pivot my niche to business branding, portraits and event photography. This was no easy transition more so because I was so consumed with starting over, gaining a new audience, restructuring pricing and just how I would deliver. UGHHH…. we can be our own worst critics. Once I made the mindset shift of deciding to be, doing the actual work, scared and all, I’m still a work in progress in which brings me back to “how I became a photographer.” I’m actually still becoming as I’m sure I’ll always be becoming. Oh and I’m still a nurse because you can still do both as long as you want to and are able to, don’t let the internet rush you!


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