I don’t know how many times I’ve been asked how long I’ve been a photographer. What I can tell you is I’be been asked far more times than I can count. Typically when asked, I throw out the elevator pitch of “I’ve been taking pictures since I was a kid… but I’ve only been a professional for about 18 years”. This short explanation is so much faster than telling the whole story. I do however know a lot of you are curious. So, for those of you who would like to learn more, keep on reading, the full story is below.
The Beginning – Montana Girl
In elementary school, I went on a cross country trip with my grandparents to Massachusetts and New Hampshire to visit family. At the time it was a huge deal. First of all… I had convinced my grandma somehow with cute smiles and batting eyes that she should take me with her. You know…because I was the cutest grandchild ever! Or so I thought. To my surprise she bought me a ticket! The next thing I know this little Montana farm girl, who was only about 10 at the time, was riding on a plane for the first time and seeing her first big city… Boston.
My mom decided to send me off with a camera in hand. It was a cheap 110 camera. In fact, I actually still have it. My Aunt Carol drove my grandparents and I around Massachusetts and New Hampshire visiting all kinds of historic sites. I took pictures at all the places we stopped. I’ll be honest, the photos were HORRIBLE. I mean horrible! As in I can’t believe my mom paid for the film and processing! Most of the images were a big blurry mess of objects. I didn’t hold the camera steady and I often was to far away from the subject matter. More often than not, you couldn’t even tell what I was trying to photograph.
Although my parents and I held a stack of blurry photos in our hands, my my mother noticed something. Even though the majority of my photos were HORRIBLE, she felt I had an eye for subject matter and most of all I enjoyed taking photos. (I started taking photos around the ranch when we got back)
The following fall I enrolled to take photography as a 4-H project. Let me stop here for a moment. For those of you who think 4-H is all about raising animals and baking cakes; you’re wrong!
My Learning Years
I completed the first year of the photography project and continued onto level 2. Around this same time my mother started entering my photos into various fair competitions. I usually did “OK”, I won a ribbon here and there. At some point a local photo enthusiast (I don’t remember who) saw my images in the fair and told my mother she should push me a little harder. This person felt I had talent and told my parents they should consider buying me an SLR to learn the in’s and outs’ of photography. My Dad had an old Yashica 35mm rangefinder camera in the closet. Leftover from his days in the Navy. He took it out one day and started showing me how to focus the camera and load the film. The 4-H books taught me the rest. Shutter speeds, f-stops, film speeds, composition, on camera flash and so much more. I guess you can say I was hooked. It all made sense to me. It just clicked!
By the time I was in high school I had taken multiple levels of photography in 4-H, was entering photos in competitions and was the a photographer for the school yearbook. In addition I was working a variety of “odd job” photography gigs within the community. If I remember correctly my first semi professional photo gig was to take photos of all the grand prize large animal winners at the county fair for the local extension office. Within the next few years the local newspaper hired me to cover the entire week of the fair as well. I took photos of most of the 4-H grand prize winners plus sewing, cooking, quilting, swine, rabbit, chicken, steers… whatever they asked me to photograph. All those photos were featured in the local news paper and my name was listed as “photographer”. At the time, I was thrilled. My involvement with the local paper grew. If my school and extra corricular activity allowed, I also photographed sporting events for them.
Right around my junior year of high school is when I began photographing portrait sessions of friends. Prior to this… my sister was my favorite model and primary test subject. Although I was mostly shooting senior sessions of friends… I was getting paid for my talent.
I’m not sure off hand if I was in middle school or high school… but at some point I set my mind to being a professional photographer. In the beginning my dream was to be a portrait photographer. I never considered other possibilities/niches within the profession until going to college.
In college, I was drawn to documentary work and upon graduation, I had an idea in my head that I wanted to work on large, in-depth photo essays. Maybe something such as National Geographic.
A Professional Career Is Born
Straight out of college, with a B.A in hand, I was trying out a variety of jobs within my field of study. I could be found working a number of part-time jobs and any given time. I was a freelance photographer for local newspapers and magazines, worked in 3 different photo labs that I can remember, sold cameras, and even worked for various local portrait photographers. In the end, my bills needed to be paid and I realized I wanted something a little more stable than freelance work & part-time gigs. It was during this time that I remembered how much I enjoyed photographing people. Slowly I let the freelance work drop off and I began to only focus on portrait work.
Since this progression back into portrait photography, I’ve worked for other photographers in addition to starting my own portrait studio. Time spent with other business owners has taught me both what to do and what not to do with my own business.
Leap Photography was officially established in 2004, not long after my move to Boise. Up until about four years ago, I ran the business out of my home.
My husband and I own a 1917 craftsmen home in Boise’s West Downtown neighborhood. The house is perfect for just the two of us… but not large enough to have a separation of business and home. My poor husband was getting kicked out of the house more often than not because of my client appointments. So….with much hemming and hawing… I finally moved the business out of the house. My husband now has a home to always come back to, where he knows he won’t be walking in on my business appointments and I can now relax at home and keep work at the office…. well, for the most part.
Nowadays I photograph weddings, event, and portraits of all kinds. My studio is located in downtown Boise but I’m frequently found throughout the treasure valley on photo shoots.
I’ve recently picked up some personal photography projects that lie within the “fine art” realm of the craft. You can check out some of my non-portrait work by either jumping on over to my Etsy Shop or dropping by one of my “First Thursday” open houses.
So that’s my long story in a nutshell. I hope I didn’t bore you too much, but 30+ years of photography experience is a lot to cover! — Brenda