My Photography Journey by Liz Behm
My journey begins like many other moms. In 2008, I was a new mom and I was so frustrated at always “missing the shot”. I had thousands of blurry, boring snapshots of my son and no real understanding of what it took to get the shots I was drooling over.
Meet my oldest son, poor guy, being assaulted by the pop up flash on my point and shoot. I remember seeing him standing there, gnawing on the crib (we affectionately called him a baby beaver back then) and I knew I wanted to remember the moment. Instead, I got this icky shot and something in me snapped. The end result looked nothing like the shot I had in my mind, and gosh darn it, I was going to finally do something about it.
I had a group of friends from an internet message board, we had all “met” while planning weddings, and then many of us had our first kids at the same time. As part of the message board, there was a photography forum and I attempted to soak up as much knowledge as I could from those ladies while I was waiting to have the funds to purchase my first DSLR. I realized that many of my problems were because I had a point and shoot that just couldn’t do what I wanted it to do, like shoot in manual or change lenses. I knew it was time for an upgrade and finally, in May 2009 just before my daughter was born, I got a Canon Rebel XSi. My husband made me promise to not just use it on auto, and I gleefully promised to learn the camera inside and out.
Now I had the fancy camera, and needed to figure out why it still took blurry, terribly exposed pictures. I absolutely underestimated the time and practice it was going to take to improve my images, turning the dial to M on the fancy camera wasn’t going to be the answer to all my problems. Unfortunately, with a newborn and wild two year old, I didn’t have a ton of time to devote to learning how to shoot in manual. So most of her first few months were captured in Auto.
My husband was set to deploy when our daughter was 4 months old, and I wanted a way to keep him updated on all our adventures while he was gone. So I decided I’d blog our everyday adventures, and I knew I wanted to improve my photos that I was posting, so I finally got serious about shooting. I stuck my camera in M and shot any and everything I could get my hands on. I read every blog tutorial I came across, kept Amazon in business delivering every how-to photography book that caught my eye. Things really started to click after I read Bryan Peterson’s “Understanding Exposure” and purchased my first prime lens, a 50mm. I spent every free moment after the kids were in bed, reading and while they were awake; I was pretty much the paparazzi and never without my camera in their faces, practicing all the exercises. Composition was still a bit of an afterthought, but I was beginning to grasp the basics of aperture, shutter speed and editing. I found Clickin Moms shortly before Christmas 2009 and immediately thought, “Merry Christmas to me!” I was a quiet lurker for many, many months but I threw myself into reading every tutorial and creativity exercise I could find.
I started my first Project 365 on January 1, 2010 and haven’t put my camera down since. I’ll finish my 5th year of shooting daily on December 31, 2014. I’ve learned so much from shooting every single day, I’ve learned to shoot in so many different lighting situations. I’ve learned to look for the light in the places I least expect it and to always be ready for the perfect shot by knowing my camera inside and out, what each button does and means. I’ve since upgraded twice and currently shoot with a Canon 5d Mark III, but I’m glad that through years of shooting, my camera is like an extension of my arm and using it is as natural as breathing at this point.
Here’s a few images from my first year shooting daily, and a few from my fourth year.
I did take a brief detour from happy, “mom with a camera”; after about 6 months shooting in manual, I took a step, that looking back I was not really ready for – I started portfolio building for a business. I knew my images were looking better and better, and even better than some of the people I already knew in business and I thought the next logical step was finding a way to afford my expensive passion. I’m at least thankful that I got all my legal ducks in a row before I started charging anyone, and I did have a general idea of what I was doing when I first hung out my shingle – but I shudder at the crazy confidence I had back then! I was happy and busy for almost 2 years, but after adding baby #3 and moving half-way across the country and then getting pregnant with our fourth baby and deciding to homeschool our oldest, I realized I no longer had the time or energy, and honestly, the passion for business anymore.
So, I happily transitioned back into “just” a hobbyist and I’ve never been happier. Now, I shoot purely for myself and I’m not missing out on the everyday moments I was always missing when I had shoots and editing for clients. I applied for CMPro in September 2011, mostly to fulfill a personal goal to myself to prove that it was okay to not be in business, that a “mom with a camera” could still be considered a professional, and was thrilled to receive my acceptance letter. Recently I found a way to begin giving back and helping others master their own photography journeys when I became a CM Mentor in July of this year. While my journey definitely isn’t over – there’s always a new skill to learn, new things to shoot, new perspectives that I haven’t discovered yet – I’m feeling more confident in my style and voice these days, even without the validation of a successful business.