At a consultation the other day, a couple asked me, “Why did you become a photographer?” For fear of elaborating too much on the topic and losing their interest, I made my answer short and sweet. After they left I thought more about the question. Maybe they really wanted the whole story? Or maybe it was just one of those list questions to ask your photographer?
It was in high school when I first found out that I wasn’t bad at taking photos. Algebra 2? That’s another story. My high school put on an Art show and my teacher, Mr. Adams, wanted me to submit some of my photos that I took around Tahoe. I loved taking nature photos. I ended up getting best of show for one my photos and it made me feel really good. Next thought: I should more of this!
It was time for senior photos and I didn’t want to go to the studio like everyone else. That was boring and blah in my eyes. I wanted my photos to be fun and a little more creative. That’s when I met the photographer who took my photos, Rose. We had a blast during the shoot and I loved the experience. My new goal was to become a national geographic photographer because I loved taking photos in the great outdoors and who doesn’t like to travel with their camera and get paid?
As high school came to an end, real world set in and I needed to make money and go to college so if this didn’t work out I could get a real job. That’s right…a real job. So I got a job at a local italian restaurant as a server and I’m not giving them a shout out because I was fired on Christmas Eve after 6.5 years and am still a little bitter. Anyway, I took some photography classes in college and I really enjoyed it and I didn’t want to stop. My next thought was, how the hell can I make money from this? I thought the best way to learn was from another photographer. Rose, who took my senior photos, lived 3 houses down from me so I knocked on her door, asked her if she could take a look at my photos and if I could job shadow her on shoots. Her business was based around weddings and portraits and that was waaaaay different than what my dreams at the time were. But I was eager to learn and would take any experience. Thankfully she said yes!
After working with her and shooting over 100 weddings, I had a strong base of how to shoot and run a wedding and portrait business. In May of 2011 I started Ryan Greenleaf Photography while still supplementing my income by working as a server. I’ve grown my business by educating myself more, practicing my craft, specializing in only weddings, and giving excellent customer service.
So…why did I become a photographer? Simply put, I love it. I love being my own boss. I love the flexibility it gives me. I love the couples I get to work with. But it’s how you get there when you can really answer why you became one. At least for me anyway. I didn’t become one overnight. Heeeeck no. It took hard work, dedication, love, and education. And all of that hard work, dedication, love and education needs to continue in order to remain one. The supportive people in my life have helped tremendously too. In this moment, if someone asks what I do for a living, I tell them proudly that I’m a wedding photographer.