I was listening to a podcast tonight featuring one of my favorite photographers, Zack Arias.  It was an amazing interview about balancing life and work, especially running your own business with a young family.  I definitely recommend any and all photographers out there to listen!  At any rate, listening to Zack's interview led me to his blog which led me to an inspiring post.  He had posted an older picture he took of a famous musician.  It wasn't his best picture photographically speaking, but he considers it his favorite because it was a career-changing photo shoot.  He went on to encourage other photographers to benchmark their photography careers...to go back and find images that marked a turn or new level reached.  So that's what I'm doing here. PLEASE NOTE! The following images are definitely not my best work.  After you see these, be sure to check out our website to see some of our recent work!  I think (and hope) you'll notice a stark improvement since we first began doing this six years ago!  But, these images are important to me because they all mean something important.  It was fun digging through some old files and I think I just might have to dig deeper and see what I can find!  I hope you enjoy this at least half as much as I am!

This first image is from the very first wedding I ever shot in 2004!  I made $200 for that wedding and spent over half of that money renting a Nikon D70.  I had no idea what I was doing, and none of those images will ever appear in my portfolio again, but Adam and Charla's wedding forever changed my life because it was that day that I realized how much I really loved photography!  They were happy with their wedding pictures, too, which gave me a little confidence boost.

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Soon after my first wedding, I landed another one with some friends who heard I was shooting that first wedding.  While I was shooting that 2nd wedding, my friend Greg came up to me and said, "You shoot weddings?"  And I said, "Well, yeah!  Of course!"  I still love the two following images from Greg and Julie's engagement shoot at Kenneth Hahn Park in Los Angeles.  I had done some engagement portraits for some friends in college, but this is what I consider to be my first real engagement portrait shoot.

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11I love this next picture because it proves a point.  You don't need a big fancy camera to take decent pictures and capture special moments!  We were attending our good friend Donna's wedding in Simi Valley, CA and I had our 4 megapixel Canon point and shoot camera with me sitting beside the aisle.  I love the expression on her dad's face!  I used this one in my portfolio for a while until I had a few more weddings under my belt.

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Tim, please don't kill me for posting this one!  I like this one because it's the first headshot I ever did.  Our friend Tim needed headshots for his budding acting career and I needed some portrait practice.  We set up some shots in our small L.A. apartment and again, I used this in my portfolio for quite some time!

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I couldn't find a larger version of this next one, but I had to include it.  This is from my first portrait session that I ever charged money to do.  Some friends of ours wanted some ritzy Santa Monica studio to do portraits, but thought it was too expensive.  I looked at the plain white backgrounds they were using and gawked at their price list.  I thought I could do it easily and again, we set up a studio in our apartment with a white sheet and some work lights mounted to softboxes.  I spent so much time editing these and obsessing over them that I still get a nervous twitch when I see them.  :)

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I don't really like looking at this next image very much, it's rather drab.  However, it was a huge opportunity that I will never forget for many reasons!  My friend Ben landed me a gig shooting the Sony Global Division's annual conference with all the big wigs within Sony Electronics including the C.E.O. Howard Stringer (third from the right).  My friend Kara (a stay-at-home mom photographer) and me (a teacher and wannabe photographer) put on our power suits, walked into a suite a few days before the conference and negotiated a sum of money larger than I had ever dreamed of earning in two days.  We showed up in way over our heads having never used studio lighting, improvised and learned as we went, and almost burned the place down when a piece of equipment caught fire (the fire was due to a wiring short - not our doing and it died out quickly on its own, but it was incredibly scary for a minute)!  Somehow in the end, we managed to get all the shots we were hired to get and everyone loved the product!  This job also taught me how incredibly boring corporate photography really is and confirmed that it's not the route I want to take our business!

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I love this next shot because this was my first time doing a second portrait session of the same family.  We had done portraits of Ryan and Kristin's family when they were pregnant with their third child.  I was extremely flattered when they asked us to come to their house and take some more portraits of their family shortly after their baby was born.  This was also our last portrait session in Los Angeles before we moved to North Carolina.

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We packed up and moved to Charlotte, NC and I quickly posted a bunch of ads on Craigslist just trying to get our name out there to see what would happen.  I was so excited when Kristen and Mike called soon after we moved.  After just one phone conversation, we had booked our first wedding for someone we didn't know!  This was also the first time Sarah came with me to shoot a wedding.  She had helped me with many portrait shoots, but I had flown solo on weddings until that night.  It was a huge change in the way we worked because I gave her the camera at the reception while I took a break and she got some great candid shots!  I knew we were onto something and we worked it out for her to come with me from then on and eventually got some equipment for her so that she is now my second shooter, not just my assistant!

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Recognize the dad in this next photo?  Yep, one of his other daughters got married back in Los Angeles and they flew us back to shoot the wedding.  This was the first time we traveled anywhere for photography.  It was also a great getaway because Sarah's parents kept the kids for the weekend!  It was also the first time we ever shot a wedding in a HUGE cathedral and it was amazing.  In fact, David and Noel's wedding is still our featured wedding on our website because it was such a great location.

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This next image is from Molly and Omar's most beautiful wedding in October 2008.  This wedding forever altered the look of our portfolio.  It was an amazing clear and perfect fall day.  Molly's wedding was also the first time we used online proofing for ordering prints.  We haven't looked back since!  We've since moved to an amazing new proofing service that our clients love (and so do we!).

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Molly and Omar's wedding was the first time we ever set up the photo booth at a reception!  We had wanted to try it for a while and they were up for it.  It was a lot of fun, but more than anything it was a huge learning experience!  We learned, most importantly, that a large roll of paper on a stand in the wind turns into a huge sail!  We found a place out of the wind to set it up and managed to capture some fun moments including this one which I love!

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There are so many other images I would love to include, but it's getting very late and I need some sleep!  This has been a fun trip down memory lane for me and I hope you enjoyed it as well.  It's always fun to look back and see how we grow and improve.  That's one of the reasons I love this blog!  It gives me the change to log my progress over the years.  I hope to always continue to improve.  So, now that you've seen where we've come from over the past six years, be sure to check out where we are now over at our portfolio site if you haven't checked it out in a while!  Thanks for strolling with me!

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