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  • My life story- as far as photography!

    Tuesday, October 19 | Comments

    We got the best email today from a guy who clearly loves the crap out of his girlfriend. It’s definitely inspired this blog post. He said..

    “Soooo…I have an interesting request for the two of you.  My girlfriend is in love with your blog.  She gets excited about every single picture that you take from your weddings and daily lives.  It is hard for me to get her to stop talking about the two of you and how wonderful your blog is.  She is 22 years old and has just graduated form college with a degree in business.  But she has always loved photography and anything related to weddings.  I know that her dream job would be to do what the two of you do.  The combination of being in love with someone, traveling, taking pictures, and being at weddings is her idea of the perfect life.She knows what she loves but she does not have the technical ability and training to do what the two of you do.  So she is settling and trying to get a corporate job anywhere.  This is very tough on her because I know she feels like she is going to get stuck doing something that she does not enjoy and not be fulfilled in life.  I really do want her to pursue her dreams and try her hardest to do something that she loves.  She really needs encouragement right now being that she is unemployed with a college degree.  I am trying the best that I can but it is difficult for us because she is five hours away at home and I am in college finishing my last year.  The times where I see her happy recently is when she is looking at the pictures on your blog and reading the funny stories you write.

    I was wondering if there is a chance that you would do me a huge favor and write a blog about how the two of you started out and possibly encourage ‘anyone’ to pursue their dreams and how that is possible.  I know that it took the two of you a whole lot of time and effort to get to the point where you are today.  I think it would be great for her to be able to read about your experiences from the beginning of your careers.”

    We would love to do that! This girl {coughAlyssacough} is so lucky to have someone who truly cares about her dreams and happiness.  So if you have a few minutes and want to hear about how we started.. here it is.

    First let me start off with this, I have never, ever been ok with being mediocre, or just getting by. I feel like that’s what gave me most of my ambition and drive to do what we do and put in all the hours and hours of time we need to put into this job. I {Heather} started out like most people, in high school with an awesome teacher who always pulled me to the side and said “you have the eye”, only he’d always say it in spanish, haha. I took photos of my swim team, made my sisters sit still against a sheet I’d set up and take portraits, friends, pretty much what ever. Since I was 12 when people asked me what I wanted to do I had 2 answers “be a whale trainer at Sea World, or run my own business”. I’ve never really been ok with working for someone else.   I started off college in Santa Ana and quickly realized there was no reason for me to be at this school, they had no photo classes and everyone was rude. It was 13th grade with cigarettes!{I got made fun of a lot, I never cared about what people thought and wore literally what ever I wanted, I never cared about matching}

    Switched colleges and took photos classes while getting my AA {trying to make this part fast because it’s boring}. I took a photo class and passed out on the first day during our tour of the dark room- haha, I had pneumonia…  My original major {and Grayson’s too} was marine biology. I legitly wanted to be a shark biologist, swim with them, photograph them, all of that.. so bad! {Shark week in Discovery was the best!!}  Then I realized I sucked at math {majorly}. I was driving to school one day and looked at the clouds, it was an overcast day and there was so much contrast. Dark clouds against white clouds. That was kind of my “a-ha” moment, I knew I wanted to be a photographer- so I went in that day and changed my major to photography. Got my AA in art {took a ton of art classes} and went on to OCC…

    Glorious OCC, this is where it really all came together. I did the photo program for 3 years, only photo classes. It was amazing!!! I completely submerged myself in this program, I spent about 14 hours a day in the lab, having awesome dance parties in the film developing rooms by myself {what else am I going to do for an hour in pitch darkness??} and was offered a job taking care of the photo lab.

    {This is my actual “faculty photo” that was up on the wall with all the professors… that’s right… awesome}

    Anyway I worked with new students a lot, showing them darkroom techniques, setting up the chemicals, all that kind of stuff, it was great {the perks were even greater}. So I worked there for 2 years and took every class I could.  My first focus was fashion photography which I quickly realized was stupid of me.

    1. I really don’t care about fashion

    2. I don’t want to spend my life taking photos that don’t mean anything to anyone, that 14 year old girls flip through in waiting rooms

    3. I wasn’t cut-throat enough to be that catty and cut other people down to get to the top, which to be in the specific area of fashion I wanted to do, was very necessary.

    Through out this time I had a million different jobs, my first job was a lifeguard/swim lessons teacher for 3 years, kids afters school program, pee wee soccer coach, I was a photographer for Skratch Magazine meaning I went to shows with smaller bands and shot the shows, did a LOT of band photography from ages 19-20, Starbucks, server at Macoronni Grill {got fired “you are the worst server here” they said, I cried and walked out.. haha}, Denny’s {pure desperation and so embaressed about that one}, quit because I worked graveyard and because I was surrounded by drunk 17 year olds who would puke in the booth and leave me a hand full of nickles as a tip- no thank you, Carrow’s Restaurant, got fired because they couldn’t work with my school schedule, back to Starbucks for 4 years {my most favorite job, still really miss it!}

    what else…? Oh I worked at a club in LA {Club Moscow} with my friennds Rony and Mike, Rony set up a photo booth and drunk people would come and take a million photos of themselves for $5 a print.

    My favorites parts of this job were drunk guys coming up to the desk, seeing this sample photos and saying “that girl looks just like you!!! that’s crazy”………….? Told him I quit because  he told me I was there to get boys to buy photos.. silly me, I thought I was there to learn something! Last job was a hair salon {if you know me, you know that’s the last place I’d fit in}. A friend offered me the job and I took it, quit my beloved Starbucks then the salon fired me!!! {This will pick up later in the story}

    So back to the story… I switched to documentary photography and spent months at a time doing crazy projects because I wanted to do things that would really challenge me and make me push far out of my comfort zone. I was very much about medium format film, {film only for me} not manipulating photos, not making people smile in photos and keeping it as “pure” as possible. I spent a few months hanging out with homeless people and taking their portraits on a 4×5 camera, hearing their life story, then another few months photographing people who lose their children in sudden accidents.

    I got an awesome scholarship for my portfolio, won Best in Show in a 1,000 person competition  {and $800 babyyyy!!} for a documentary I did on houses and the people who live in them. Most of my professors {everyone knew each other, it was a relatively small program} wanted to to focus on editorial people photography. I still hold on to a lot of things my professors told me. Like no matter how much you’re getting paid, you ALWAYS try to make it your best shoot and give it 100%.

    Shortly after this I decided I wanted to be a wedding photographer. I made that decision because I wanted to take photos that REALLY meant something to someone. I’m a very sentimental person and couldn’t stand the thought of taking photos for products or clothes. I wanted to shoot people, I loved shooting people.. I was embaressed to tell all my photo friends that’s what I wanted to do, it was sorta looked at as “you didn’t make it” if you went into weddings, I have no idea why, it just wasn’t “cool”, but I wanted to do it, so I did!
    I spent a year assisting 2 wedding photographers, shooting as much as I could then decided I was confident enough to try going out on my own, so I did it! Shot some free weddings, one for $75, did everything people would let me do for free just building my portfolio for a long time.  I did this for a couple years on my own, built it up enough to have a hand full of weddings on my own.

    Then I met Grayson :] We met rock climbing {something we both did with all of our free time, we looveeddd it!} With in 10 days we were dating, after 8 months we were engaged and after a year and 3 months we were married! We did NOT mess around with time, haha. One of the first things he said to me when we were dating was “I have no artistic ability what so ever”, thinking I wouldn’t want to date him if I knew… “…ok…..?”. While we were dating Gray worked for his family’s business “Glasby Maintenence” and didn’t really have a desire to continue it, so he asked if he could shoot with me. DUH! Of course!! So I spent 6 months or so teaching him everything I knew, bringing a camera everywhere and giving him projects “take photos of things that are red, of things that have leading lines, of your surroundings, etc” and he got better and better. One day I was shooting a wedding and had my friend Roya 2nd shooting and she got sick! So I called Gray and said “you need to come shoot this wedding”. He came, got totally thrown into it and… did it!

    I should say too that Grayson went to Biola University and got a business degree, he worked with his family for 10 years but never really felt like he was living out his “dreams”. Over time he got better and better. Once I had him as my permanent shooter it gave me the confidence to totally change  everything about how I shot for clients. Shortly before I had him there, I wasn’t happy with my work, clients were happy, but I wasn’t. I wanted to make it better, different, awesome! So we got our friends who weren’t happy with their real wedding photos and did a free shoot for them. Here is that shoot if you want to see it.

    Back to the salon, I was fired and it was a blessing in disguise. After I cried all the way home, Grayson took me to Olive Garden {so cute} and I had nothing but time. I decided to focus on photography alone, not to look for a job or go back to Starbucks. One of my favorite professors told me to always treat becoming better like a job, spend 8 hours a day on it- so I did! 8 hours, every day. And it paid off!

    After that shoot was published on some blogs we kind of blew up, booking left and right. It was nuts! And the rest is history!

    Moral of that oh so long story, everything I wanted but never thought I’d actually get happened, I always said I’d love to get paid to travel and shoot- I do. I always secretly wanted to do the husband and wife wedding team even though that was slightly dorky- we are. So many times Gray and I stop and say “can you believe we get paid to do this???”.  God has totally blessed us with things we don’t deserve, like the amount of praise we get and the amazing couples we get to shoot. So my word of advice.. stick with it, give it everything you have, and be passionate about whatever it is that you want to do. You HAVE to love it with everything you are to really make it. Don’t let people tell you it’s stupid or not cool enough, or good enough. And most important- never settle for mediocrity.

    We are still striving to be better and better and feel like there is so much room to grow. I get antsy when I feel like I’m at a plateau and want to find more and more ways to make our photos more awesome. It’s important to never say “I’m the best I’m ever going to be”, that’s crap. We can always improve, and that’s something we work for at every shoot..

    So…. there it is.

    Comments

    1. shanel says:

      very well done , i like ur blog site and dose picture of your lol

    2. Kim says:

      Heather, you’re too awesome for words.

    3. HEY! I went to OCC with you! :D I love your ability to never be mediocre. Super freaky that I read this just now..after literally just texting my boyfriend and telling him “I am going to make you a good photographer, lets go on photo adventures!” I am doing wedding photography now, working for a company. Bella Photography. I understand how you say people think you fail if you do weddings..but I’m glad to hear it is truely your passion! I shot a wedding this weekend and will do another next..I need a much better website..and feel I am in need of majoy 8 hour practice on myself to improve. I can relate with so many parts of your story and you wrote the whole thing so perfectly. When you said clients are happy but you are not..I really feel the need to push myself more and more..thank you for the awesome encouragement and I agree we can all improve exponentially! I know I’m going to loose myself for hours and hours in your blog now, as I have before looking at photos and going…Awwwwwww forever! Congratulations. I am kinda of curious what program you use to edit..if you are willing to share?

    4. Tracy says:

      Wow to both Alyssa’s sweet boyfriend and to Heather’s amazing story. This career thing has been a big struggle for me lately, so it’s always nice to know that there are others going through these changes, and even better that there are some who really make it! We’re so excited to have you and Grayson be part of our big day next year.

    5. Hot Model from your Desert Photo Shoot says:

      I can’t decide which I love more, Heather’s portraits in this post or the text. We are so honored to be “your couple.” Honestly, you are living the dream. You guys rock our world.

    6. Alex says:

      You guys make me so happy. Thanks so much for sharing. Your need to always stay out of the comfort zone is super inspiring – above all, to always push yourself farther. Happiness comes with always striving to be a better you, not with being comfortable, and you realize that more than anyone I know. Great post, I really enjoyed it! I’d love to hear more in-depth versions of your past, there seems to be some funny stories in there, haha!

    7. Audra says:

      You guys are AMAZING! and this post put a big smile on my face! :)

    8. Catie says:

      …and this why we all love you and your work so so so so much! SEEEE! I told you that you guys were like celebrities!

      hugs,
      Catie

    9. Jessie says:

      LOVE your story. You guys absolutely undoubtedly deserve to be where you are today! You share not only your gift of photography, but your passion and love for people and their happiness, AMAZING. <3

    10. Alyssa says:

      Thanks so much for accepting my boyfriends crazy, but very sweet request! I am very encouraged by the journey that got you and Grayson to where you are today. You’re both wonderful and I’m thankful to be able to see your work! Thanks again :)

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