Posted by & filed under The Right Way to Travel, Travel Photography.

It took me a while to learn what kind of photographer I am and stop feeling like an imposter when I told people I was a professional.

When I was first smitten by photography, I shot everything. It seemed every week there was something new that piqued my interest. Landscapes, pets, kids and family, street and urban scenes, travel, fine art, closeups and macro, I loved it all! 

At one of my first GEP workshops, I learned about stock photography and thought, “This is it! This is what I want to do.” Then, at a San Diego workshop, a woman showed me the work she’s done with dogs. Oh, I love dogs…maybe that is my calling. A couple of years later in Phoenix, I was in a breakout session about portrait photography; the photographer was actually making a lot of money with her family shoots. I thought, “I can do that.” I’m not the only one who has experienced this, right? 

Melania Wood
Melania Wood

The GEP workshops and expeditions exposed me to talented professionals who shared their skills and experiences and encouraged me to just go out and shoot. I refined my techniques and grew in skill with each event I attended. At my first workshop in Portland, I seriously did not know an F stop from a bus stop. I’d never taken the camera out of program mode.

Fast forward 10 years and I’m in the Bisti Badlands of New Mexico with a photographer and travel writer friend shooting the famous cracked eggs. We were talking about the beautiful light, aperture, shutter speed, best approach to the subject, etc. when a man came over and said we sounded just like his friends when they all go on a shoot back home in Kentucky. I don’t know about my friend, but that was one of my proudest moments as a photographer. This stranger, an accomplished photographer judging by his gear, thought we were camera geeks. 

I continued to shoot in several genres, making a bit of money here and there, until last year when I discovered this little book about building a boutique business that would thrill my customers and let me charge what I was worth. It wasn’t specifically about photography, but the author was a photographer with a background in marketing.

I decided my niche would be large portraits of pets and their persons as well as generational portraiture. I don’t think I have a single photo of myself with my grandparents. These are legacy portraits that will be treasured by the family for years. Like this:

© Melanie Wood

I have several friends whose pets are their fur babies, and they were eager to have large portraits of them. Here are samples from two clients:

woman and dog in a niche photograph
© Melanie Wood
niche photography
© Melanie Wood

The photography skills I learned from GEP and the sales and branding knowledge I learned from the marketing program allowed me to charge what I’m worth. Now when I tell people I’m a professional photographer I don’t feel like an impostor.