Rolling With the Punches

When I shot my first wedding in 1998, I never thought I’d be sitting here, fourteen years later, blogging about my life as a wedding photographer. In fact, a few years ago I noticed blogs popping up everywhere from photographers, and Mark nudged me in that direction. “No way,” I said. “No one wants to hear what I have to say.” Honestly, I thought blogging about myself would be arrogant. Now, however, after all the interesting, quirky, fun, intriguing, emotional experiences I’ve had throughout my career, I now have plenty to say. So yes, I resisted jumping on the Blog Bandwagon, being a stubborn, old-school photographer. But times… they are changing, and I have to roll with the punches.

Summerfield 1998
John and Carrie Summerfield - July, 1998

When people find out I’m a wedding photographer, they usually want to know how I got started.  “Kicking and screaming,” I always say.  Don’t get me wrong.  I loved photography.  But I never ever ever wanted to shoot weddings.  Anxiety overtook me just thinking about it.  It’s not like doing portraits.  There are no retakes. 

In 1998, I had been in Modesto for about two years, I was working in an office as a receptionist, and I had given up on the idea of being a professional photographer.  I’d gone to college for photography, had learned how to photograph, develop my own film, print my own enlargements.  But I didn’t have confidence in myself, and after I devoured all the photography classes and taken some of them multiple times, I dropped out.  Why did I need a degree?  No one was ever going to pay me to take their photo.  I would stick to taking photos of my favorite things – humans – and hand-printing them and hanging them in my house.

Then everything changed.  One of my best friends, Rachel, asked me to shoot her brother-in-law’s wedding.


“Carrie is in LOVE with your work.  She really really wants YOU.”






There is one thing you should know about Rachel.  She is tenacious.  So tenacious, in fact, that she told Carrie she would get me to photograph her wedding and not to worry about it.  After about a month of asking, I agreed.  I charged $300 for the entire day, with a warning that if the photos didn’t come out, it was on them.

Carrie and John’s wedding was beautiful, and their black and white portraits were stunning.  Everyone who saw them said they looked like they belonged in a magazine.  That was my forte, after all – photographing people in black and white.  But the truly magical thing about that day is this: as resistant as I was to photographing weddings, once the day started and I looked through that cheap Minolta SLR camera my grandmother had bought me for my high school graduation, everything fell into place.  It felt so natural, so right, that my brain, my eye, my finger, my camera and my soul were all connected, and it felt like it’s what I should’ve been doing my entire life.  The fear and anxiety fell away.  I was shooting film, as I still do, but I had no fear that the images wouldn’t come out.  I knew they would.  When I looked through the lens, I could feel the finished image, and when I picked up the film from the lab, and reviewed them all, I realized that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing.  I was telling a story that only took place over one day, but would last for many generations to come.

Then the calls started to come.  People who had seen Carrie and John’s photos called me to photograph their weddings.  After I shot their weddings, friends of theirs called.  And so on.  I charged $500 for the entire day, and I loved every minute of it. 

Of course, things change, and I rolled with the punches.  After I got married and was able to make the leap of faith, I built my business from scratch, with nothing but a box of business cards and my own shear will.  I beat the pavement and gave out cards.  I set up displays of photos and cards in bridal shops and put my business in the yellow pages.  Mark insisted I needed a web site, so he created that for me.  Within three months, I had a full-fledged wedding photography business.  All I needed was some confidence. 

Now, when I look at how things have changed in our country, in our state, and in my business due to the economy and the invention of the affordable SLR digital camera, I’m ready to build my business again.  I’ve hung in there all these years, but over the past three years, the economy has punched me in the face, as it has for many professional wedding photographers.  But here is where you separate the men from the boys, folks, because I refuse to let my business do anything but thrive.  Now it’s time to get out there and find new clients and remind people of who I am and what I do.  I have arrived, and I’m not going anywhere.

For some reason, Don’t Stop Believing by Journey keeps playing in my head…

Share: Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus


barb maciel.
June 2, 2012

Hi Dawn and Mark our favorite Wedding photo friends~ I haven't seen the pics even yet but know they r gonna make mom cry~ what time will they be up or maybe they are already are n I can't see on my mobile device. Its 6:09 am and I'm dying to see the pics. Call me if able. Later lol. Have a couple of questions if u r not booked today with another fairytale wedding lol. Barb. Ps are the teasers down can't find them

Comments are closed.