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Lee explains how she transitioned to a photography careerIf you’d asked me 30 years ago what do you want to be when you grow up?, artist was certainly not an answer I would’ve provided—and definitely not photographer. 

Nope, I was too busy trying to follow a linear path that I thought was what you were supposed to do. The idea of a photography career never occured to me.

Like most of my middle-class Generation X peer group, I graduated from high school, then went straight to college to pursue a degree that was directly tied to a respectable job and a long career path. I chose the health sciences. And to be clear, I was interested in health… but I never entertained any other ideas.  

I’ve always loved to create—I’ve been writing, cooking, crafting, and decorating since I was a young adult. But what I didn’t realize was that while I was busy making a living in my chosen profession, there was an artist inside me trying to be seen and heard. But, because I didn’t trust that voice or have the reference points to name it, it just stayed quiet. 

Shortly after my first child was born, I realized I really liked to take photographs. I remember the day when my baby boy was crawling on the floor and the catch lights in his eyes took my breath away. So I laid him out on a blanket, moved him over by the window, and started composing. 

Getting into photography has been an interesting journey. Like every new endeavor in life, it’s one that has been filled with highs and lows.

After my kids came along and my inner artist came alive, I knew I wanted to learn more about photography as a career path. I looked into photography degrees and schools, but couldn’t fathom how to fit that into my life with a full time career, mothering my three young kids and paying bills. 

Inspiration from photography bloggers and YouTube gave me hope that I could learn photography on my own, at my own pace, without a ton of risk through practice, practice, practice. 

However, over time, I realized that to get better, I was going to need more accountability and more help. 

After 20 years in my profession of public health and wellness, I realized it was time for me to try something new. So I quit my job and dove into figuring out how to start doing paid photography. I met with a successful photographer I admired, and he advised me to consider taking a job at a studio to gain experience. 

You can actually have a photography career -- making money doing what you love

As it turns out, that was excellent advice. I took a part-time job at a hospital portraiture company specializing in creative and artistic images of newborn babies in the first 24-48 hours of life. 

There, I met amazing people—skilled photographers who’d been at it for some time and others like me, who were green and enthusiastic. The guaranteed photo shoots propelled my technical skills and gave me the confidence to begin marketing myself as a semi-pro for families and individuals.

You can actually have a photography career -- making money doing what you love

Though I’m still on a path of learning in this vast landscape of photography, I’ve learned a lot along the way. I’m honored to be part of a panel of others like me to share some of these lessons in Baltimore. Here’s a sneak peek of what I’ll share:  

  1. Work for someone else first—either by assisting or getting a job with a seasoned photographer.
  2. There’s sunshine for all of us. Don’t be scared off by a saturated photography market. Your photography is uniquely you.
  3. Learn from Great Escape’s community of experts. There are so many exciting success stories, mentors, and resources.

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