“How did you become a professional child photographer?” It’s a question I hear quite a bit for one reason or another – from a mom who’s just learned to master her DSLR or a dad toying with the idea of going out on his own in business. It takes a lot of courage and commitment to start a business, so I think people are just curious about how it happens. So, seeing as we’re hanging out here each week on the blog, this seems like a good place to answer the question of how I became a professional family photographer

*Photography Credit: Heather Snell

My Introduction to Professional Family Photography

When we learned my husband’s employer was relocating us to Atlanta, we began house shopping, and I fell in love with a home in Roswell. Part of its appeal was the way the owner had decorated it with gorgeous images of her family. The way they were displayed made everything seem so homey, and I’d just never seen family portraits like hers. I’m from a small town, where when someone talks about professional photography, they’re talking about a local studio or the one inside JCPenney! So I was just blown away by the pictures, and when I learned the owner, Karen Kessinger, was the photographer, I just had to know more about her and her business, Muddy Faces Photography. Our first son, Sebastian, was just 4 months old when we moved to Atlanta, and I was already longing for these types of images of my baby. 

Several months later (after purchasing that very house) I asked Karen to do a photo session with Sebastian, who was then 9 months old. The images did not disappoint. I was thrilled with them – but more than that, I was thrilled by the idea that I could learn to take photos like these. Photography had always been an interest of mine, and becoming a mom to Sebastian gave me the perfect opportunity to explore that interest – which quickly evolved into a passion.

I ran out and bought a Nikon D7000 and started taking pictures with the kit lens every chance I could (having an adorable subject around in the form of my son made this part pretty easy). I shared some of my work with Karen, who not only offered me encouragement, but invited me to learn from her and help out on some of her shoots. I remember one day, she was shooting and I was being goofy with the kids, trying to get them to relax and laugh a little, and she said to me, “You know, you just might be crazy enough to be good at this!”

I sure hoped she was right, because I was falling in love with family and child photography

Ready For a Change

Now, I had gone back to work after Sebastian was born, but once Harrison came along, I knew I had to make a change. My employer had been very flexible with me – allowing me to work at home, reduce my hours, etc. – but I still felt stretched at home and stretched at work. I just didn’t feel like I was doing enough to be really successful in either place. When you factor in the idea that had just begun to bloom inside of me about my own professional photography business, and well, my resignation felt inevitable. I wasn’t sure exactly what my next steps would be, but I knew the path was set. 

I began shooting friends’ kids and their families for free, just to get experience. By this point, I had purchased the Nikkor 85mm, 1.8 (not a bad lens at all for the price point, about $500) and felt confident in my work behind the camera, but I was still teaching myself about editing with Lightroom and Photoshop. Lightroom is very user friendly and excellent for organization, but Photoshop on the other hand, isn’t all that intuitive. Eventually, I figured them both out and began to use both programs in my daily workflow. 

My Own Professional Photography Business

When I felt ready, I formed Freckled Flower Photography. I was still getting used to the idea – charging minimal amounts for sessions, when a friend of mine encouraged me to approach her daycare about doing their school portraits. She hadn’t been impressed by her children’s school pictures and she saw an opportunity for me. I approached the director, set up a meeting, and before I knew it, I had 250+ subjects ready and waiting. 

Fortunately, I had a photographer friend who did school pictures, and she helped me figure out details like order forms, package options, and finding a lab. Photographing 250+ kids in a few days is no small task, but I was determined for every parent to have a beautiful photo of their child. I think it was sheer determination and excitement that got me through that first school experience! What an incredible opportunity it was though, and many of my now long-time clients were first exposed to my work through their child’s school pictures. 

Always an Artist

Professional photographer was not the career I set out to have, but when I look back at my life, I think in some ways, I was on this path from the beginning. My mom was an artist – an oil painter – and her love for nature and the desire to capture its beauty definitely lives on in me. She also taught me by example that it’s important to pursue the things that interest you – to devote time to your craft. That’s not to say I don’t experience some mommy guilt over the time I spend on my work (a topic to be explored in a future post!), but I’m encouraged when I think of my own mom, claiming time to focus on something she loved to do, for no reason other than she enjoyed doing it. How many women regularly do that? How much richer would their lives be if they did?

My mom certainly influenced me to be the photographer I am today, but she was not the only one. My mentor, my husband, our children, my dad (an entrepreneur himself) and of course, my clients – they all impact my work and inspire me every day. With every picture I take, I become a little bit better, a little bit smarter about my work. And I know I will continue to grow. 

I hope you’ll stick with me for the journey!

About the Professional Child Photographer

Jennifer McCarren of Freckled Flower Photography specializes in newborn, child photography and family photography in North Atlanta, Georgia locations such as AlpharettaMiltonRoswell, Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, Marietta and Canton.

Freckled Flower Photography is a proud member of  Professional Photographers of America.

Freckled Flower Photography has been featured more than once on Beyond the WanderlustMozi MagazineInspire- Digital or Not Fine Art Photography MagazinePhoto ArtistryPretty Forum and many others. I’ve also been published in CHIC Critique Magazine: The Vintage Issue, Young Kids Fashion Magazine and Petite Magnifique Magazine.

Contact me here to request more information about an Atlanta photography session, or you can follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Pinterest, where I announce special offers and share my favorite images from recent photo sessions. I’d love to send you my newsletter as well – scroll up to enter your email address on the left.

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