My Photography Journey by Beth Ann Fricker
From an early age I had an interest in photography. I grew up in Rochester, NY – home of Eastman Kodak – at a time when everyone knew someone that worked at the company. In my case it was my Dad.
The first photograph I remember is a black and white print of me in a wooden tunnel that my Dad took in a photography class. When I was in middle school I took an interest in my Dad’s camera and was able to take a photography class at Kodak. I don’t remember anything from that class except that I was the youngest by years.
I played around with this film camera until it broke and didn’t really pick up an interest in photography for another 15 years. Before going on my honeymoon I enrolled in a photography class at the Art League in Alexandria, VA. DSLRs were just becoming popular but at the time all I had was a point-n-shoot, as did half the class. Before leaving on our trip we upgraded to a Canon Rebel Xsi and through the years purchased two zoom lenses for travel. I had some idea about photography and the travel photos are okay but something terrible happened when I took photographs of people and started editing.
Reflecting on this journey was very humbling and four things really stood out to me over the last few years that helped me grow.
I have a wonderful group of supportive family and friends.
What struck me most was how no one told me how bad I was or that I should reconsider this new path. In the beginning I made so many common mistakes, particularly over-editing. When I first started thinking about being a professional photographer I started asking people if I could practice on them. My sister and her family were my primary victims. My work was inconsistent – somehow I managed to take the photos below on the same day. The photo on the right was a victim of my inadequate posing skills and Lightroom presets.
After my son was born I started taking photographs of him, which were plagued by being out-of-focus and underexposed. The majority of photographs during this time were in the vertical orientation and way too close.
When I took the photograph below, I thought I could take photographs of other people’s children. Never mind that the focus is on the overalls, his hand is cut off and the coloring is weird. But with my mommy goggles on it was perfect.
Despite all of this I convinced my husband to let me upgrade my camera and with some borrowed money from my Mom I bought a new lens. Now armed with new gear, I reached out to friends to see if I could photograph them and their kids for practice. Looking back I’m so grateful that they took a chance on me and gave me part of their day.
One of the few things I did correctly at the beginning was to establish myself as a business before I started accepting money. Even then it wasn’t much. I remember emailing people and I was completely up front that I was portfolio building and the fee covered my taxes, babysitter and gas. I’m so grateful for their belief in me and I learned a lot about communicating with clients, running a session and even early on I could see my style developing.
About 18 months after I started really focusing on photography I applied for CMPro. It was one of my goals for 2013 and before going on vacation I quickly put together my favorite images and hit the submit button. I tried not to overthink the group of images because otherwise I never would have sent it in. It was during the December break that I received the acceptance email and I was thrilled. It gave me more confidence in what I was doing and to push on and continue learning.
Workshops really helped me improve.
For me as an artist, I think my real growth in photography started during the second half of 2014. I wanted education to be a focus so I took the Horizons Within workshop with Anne Kerr and Leah Robinson. It was an incredible class that helped me to see photography differently and more than just people looking at the camera. This is the first time I really started to visualize photos before taking them.
After the busy fall season I started to feel stagnant. I really wanted to be pushed so on a whim I enrolled as a study along participant in Mastering Natural Light Indoors. I was really impressed with the material and the feedback the full participants were receiving so I signed up for Fine Art and Visual Expression. It sounds odd but I’ve never really considered myself a creative person and both of these classes were extremely helpful to me in forcing me to think about what I was doing. FAVE in particular gave me the language to describe my thoughts about photographs and pushed me to examine elements that were missing in my own photography. Since I had no formal training in photography these two classes began to fill in the gaps.
In the early winter of 2015 I enrolled in Timeless Photography and Emotive Expression and this continued to push my photography. Most of my favorite photographs were taken through these workshops.
Personal projects allowed me to take risks and find the beauty in my day-to-day.
Beyond workshops, the next best thing I’ve done has been starting a 365 project. I’ve tried multiple times to start taking a photo a day and have always given up; however, in October 2014 I realized I had taken photos of my kids seven days in a row and thought what if I could get to 30 days. I joined a CM blog circle to keep it going and as of writing this I have 50 days left. The 365 along with a previous project “Letters to my Son/Children” reminded me to take photos of my own children and not get so wrapped up in client work.
I need to trust myself more.
I want clients to have the same images that I have or would want for my family – photographs that focus on connections and emotions. Part of that includes shifting my newborn work to a lifestyle approach. I was hesitant making the change for a long time because I thought I had to take certain types of photos to be hired but it has been the right move for me.