May 5, 2020
Today it’s just me, Evie, flyin’ solo! It’s my turn to take over your headphones and share a deep dive into my story!
One of the biggest questions I get is “how did you get into photography?!”
I’ve shared an overview a lot of places before, including episode 01 of this podcast and other guest podcast interviews. But I’ve never taken you BEHIND THE SCENES of everythingggg.
Contrary to most photographers’ stories, I wasn’t the girl who carried around a camera from a young age! In fact, I had no interest in photography at all until I was 16. Let me give you a little background of my childhood.
I was homeschooled my whole life. Both of my parents are entrepreneurs. This trickled down to my siblings and myself although it took me a bit to catch on to that.
I was incredibly creative growing up. I was in theater starting at 6 years old and I loved it! My personality has always loved the spotlight! The world was my stage and the more stage time and lines I got, the happier I was.
I’ve had the craziest creative streak since I was a baby. I’d dance, paint, sing, write, dress up, and lead imaginary games with all the neighbor kids. This all cultivated my desire and hunger for storytelling, creativity, and imagination.
My homeschooling played a huge role in my growth and learning. I was raised with a worldview and lifestyle of teaching myself. My mom would hand me a textbook and I would learn. If I had issues, I would go to my mom, but otherwise I taught myself.
Although I didn’t realize it for a long team, I had a big lean towards business. I made lemonade stands, sold cookies to neighbors, host garage sales, got a paper route with my brother, started a landscaping business with him too, and worked for my dad’s business. I loved business, but I wasn’t conscious of that for years.
Fast forward to when I was 15, I attended a political leadership camp called TeenPact Leadership Schools. It rocked my world. It sparked a passion for public speaking, leadership, and public service. I became heavily involved in the ministry over the next 3-4 years.
I attended 2-3 of their different camps per year, became a staff member, and then began to travel the country with them on staff. It taught me to be a leader at a very young age. It was one of the most stretching, growing, and amazing experiences. I’m so grateful for that ministry and the things it taught me. I learned critical thinking, servant leadership, public speaking, how to interact with high level people, professionalism, and so much more.
Because I was spending months immersed in state governments around the country, I fell in love with the political world. By the time I was 16, I knew I wanted to go into politics.
At the exact same time I was getting into politics, I also fell in love with photography.
I was attending one of my good friend’s, Catherine, 16th birthday party. Catherine’s older brother, Ben, had just graduated from college in film and photography. For her birthday, we went to a public garden and frolicked around and Ben took our photos. It was so much fun!
I was intrigued at this point. Seeing the final photos is what tipped me over the edge. When Ben sent out the final gallery I was blown away and it sparked something in me.
I went and grabbed my parents’ point and shoot camera (which was literally SO BAD) and practiced. I found that photography was challenging for me. I was a creative and incredibly visual person, but I was struggling with photography. It didn’t naturally click. I was determined to master it so I poured hours and hours into learning and practicing.
After a few months, I spent my hard earned cash on a Canon 60D. Ben was able to help me figure out how to work my camera on manual.
From there, I practiced daily. The minute my school work was done, I was outside or in my bedroom practicing. Most of this time was spent on self portraits. I learned by trial and error.
I took my camera as I traveled the country to take photos of the beautiful places we went and at the camps we were leading.
Around this same time, my friends started to graduate and I began to take all of their senior photos.
Around when I turned 16, after over a year into shooting daily I wanted to try wedding photography.
I had fallen in love with Sara Long Photography and wanted to assist her and learn from her more than anything.
I attended a friend’s wedding and GUESS WHO WAS SHOOTING THAT WEDDING?? Sara! I walked up to her, introduced myself, and explained my desire to second shoot with her. She was so kind but did tell me no (she shot alone). She did take my number to let me know down the road if she had anything. A couple of weeks later, she texted me. She was pregnant and needed an assistant to carry all of her stuff at a wedding. I JUMPED at the opportunity. This was the first wedding I attended as a “photographer”.
She told me I could shoot behind her if I wasn’t carrying things. So I took my dinky camera and shot as much as I could. I learned so much that first wedding.
Then, I got my first official second shooting gif for my friend, Rachel Papp, in Sept 2015. It was amazing! My mind was being blown with each wedding I was assisting at.
At this point, I was sure. I knew I wanted to go into wedding photography and made the plunge to create my Facebook page, business name, everything.
In the winter of 2015, one of my best friend’s sister got married and my whole family attended the wedding. It was beautiful and when I saw the gallery on Facebook a few months later I was SHOCKED. I messaged the photographer, Laura, and raved about the photos. We started chatting and she actually asked me to second shoot with her. I shot over 20 weddings a year with her for the next two years.
In the middle of that (spring 2016), two theatre friends got engaged and asked me to take their engagement photos and shoot their wedding. It was my first wedding on my own and I think I charged them $200. I learned a lot and messed up a lot.
I remember sitting down outside of the getting ready location calling Laura and panicking. “Remind me what I need to do again?? You really think I can do this?!?!” She was the sweetest, most comforting, and encouraging person.
One other fun fact about that wedding. I called an inn near the wedding location to find a beautiful getting ready location for my bride and groom. The inn had a beautiful garden and I asked if we could do the getting ready photos as well as the first look there. I offered to send them all the photos as well as promote them on my blog and social media. I STARTED OUT seeking any and every opportunity to go ABOVE AND BEYOND for my couples. I think that made all the difference in my growth and work.
I built my first website right after this wedding. It was real bad! I wish I still had it to show you!
At this point in my story I am 17 years old, still in high school, traveling the country for WEEKS at a time with the political organization leading camps all over, shooting 20+ weddings a year as a second shooter, and shooting my own portrait or couple shoots. My plate was FULL and I was still fully set on going into politics.
I knew I wanted to have a FIRM foundation before entering into the political world, so I went to Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry in Northern California in the summer of 2016 through the spring of 2017.
I still had a serious hobby photography business going on on the side, but I thought I’d turn it into a business when I got married, had kids, and wanted the flexibility of working from home and having my own business.
While I was in Northern CA I booked 3 weddings back home the following year without even marketing it. I also did tons of shoots in beautiful NorCal and fell in love!
As I prepared to move back home to Ohio, I knew I needed to uplevel my photography just a bit. I scrapped my old website and spent about two full weeks doing nothing but designing a new one. It wasn’t glorious by any means but it was a major upgrade from the last one.
Through school (especially as I left and moved back to Ohio) I was sharing tons of my personal life and encouragement on Instagram. I was showing up regularly with fun, deep, relatable content. That set the stage for the next season of life.
Once I got home, God CLEARLY and SUDDENLY closed the door to politics. I was stunned because it had been my plan for YEARS. I had worked so hard towards it and had everything lined up from my degree and internship to my job. But, it was a clear no.
I didn’t know what to do. I got a job at a really nice Italian restaurant, started second shooting with Laura again, and tried to figure out what the heck I wanted to do with my life now. The restaurant was 45 min away from my house so I spent a ton of time in the car learning, listening to podcasts, and spending time with the Lord.
Everything that I felt gave me earthly joy in life had been completely stripped away. I had just broken up with Landon, my entire career path was closed in my face, and I was transitioning from living on my own in California to moving back in with my parents. It was hard. I grew, learned, and developed so much on my drives to and from work.
I knew in the midst of everything that I needed and wanted to be faithful to what was in front of me. The only two things I had were my restaurant job and photography.
I shot my first wedding of the year in June and something clicked! I loved it and saw myself doing photography right then. I began to pursue photography as more than a hobby business. I pursued it as my business.
I chose to continue to live with my parents to save on rent while I saved up to travel, shoot, and build my business. It was hard but so worth it.
I missed traveling with my political organization, and I missed shooting in California so I began to market myself as a destination wedding photographer. I hustled. This was the point where I began to pour everything into my marketing. I I traveled to see my sister and brother in law in North Carolina. I posted to Instagram and offered cheap shoots at the beach. I hosted a giveaway for a destination shoot and drove 8 hours in one day to shoot the winning couple in Virginia. I booked a senior shoot with a past TeenPact student in Massachusetts in October 2017 and I was stoked out of my mind. It was the first full price, full travel fees shoot I had done. I traveled back to NorCal to visit friends and did Instagram calls for 2-3 shoots while there.
I offered so many discounts, promoted any and all travel I was doing, and I talked about destination photography like I was already in the thick of it. I hustled to break into the destination space.
I engaged super heavily with as many accounts on Instagram as possible. I reached out to large destination wedding and elopement accounts and asked to do takeovers.
I branded myself entirely as an adventurous destination wedding and elopement photographer. I hadn’t even shot an elopement when I started to brand and market it.
I was shooting a ton between my own weddings, second shooting, and discounted shoots. Most of what I was shooting wasn’t stuff I wanted to continue to shoot. I only shared what I wanted to grow towards. If you go back to my Instagram feed to summer 2017, you’ll see the same shoots several times. That was very intentional.
I knew I needed more adventurous destination content and that I wanted to have an adventurous elopement in my portfolio if I was gonna keep heavily marketing that. Around the fall of 2017 I set up a styled shoot in Joshua Tree national park. I planned, coordinated, and executed the entire thing.
By that point, I was beginning to step into education. I had a few photographers pay to shoot alongside me to grow their portfolio as well and this helped me cover some of my costs. From that styled shoot, inquiries began to EXPLODE for destination work.
I was still working FULL TIME at the Italian restaurant but I was beginning to get more and more of my ideal destination inquiries. In fall 2017 I was working overtime at the restaurant, late hours on photography, getting inquiries as destination work, and was totally maxed out and unable to handle all the growth in my business.
I took my first trip out to Hawaii to visit Lindsey and set up three free shoots there. I shot there and my brain exploded with joy. It lit something in me in that season that I can’t even explain.
While there, I talked with Lindsey and finally made the decision to quit my restaurant job. It was beyond time and I honestly should have quit months before. I went home, put in my two weeks notice, and quit in Feb 2018. This meant I had so much time on my hands!
I began to go hard on my photography with all my free time. I shot everything that came my way, which at this point was becoming more and more ideal clients. I traveled as much as I possibly could, blogged, and posted regularly on Instagram. I spent the time upleveling everything on the back end of my business.
When I quit my job, I had five weddings and three couples booked for the entire 2018 year. I knew I could book way more than that, but wasn’t able to because of my time capacity with the restaurant.
By the end of April, two months later, I had booked 40 weddings (several destination) and 25 couples sessions (tons of those destination shoots). The biggest thing that allowed me to grow in this season is the fact that I was able to give my full time and attention to photography. I had already poured 3-4 years of work into my photography itself. The minute I was able to give my full time and energy to photography, it took off!
By the end of 2018, I had shot 40 weddings, 60 couples sessions, and taught 30 mentor sessions. In the fall of 2018, I finally attended my first workshop/course as well! (I’d hosted two workshops at this point too)
2018 was a year of massive growth.
2019 got even crazier! I shot a ton of destination weddings, elopements, and couples sessions around the globe. I traveled about 10 out of 12 months for both of 2018 and 2019. I shot over 300 couples. I’m slowing wayyyy down this year in 2020 (intentionally) as I pivot into a new company I’m starting, and giving most of my intention to my education company as well.
I spent 2-3 years working my BUTT off on my photography before I ever started pursuing it as a “business.” That’s a huge part of how I was able to grow so fast. I spent hours upon hours, day after day, perfecting my skills with photography. I poured blood, sweat, and tears into my craft.
I made sacrifices, too. Financially, I paid for most of my travel expenses all of 2017 and invested in education. Emotionally, I moved back in with my parents. I also sacrificed my time by working 80 hours a week for nine months.
Growth oftentimes happens behind closed doors. It is what you are focusing on. It’s what you are speaking into yourself. It’s your time and hard work that you are pouring into something that people may ever see.
You need to give it time. Give it everything you’ve got. Give it your full energy and attention. Pour yourself into whatever you are trying to build and it will absolutely work out in the end. It will turn around. You can’t look at other people’s stories. The comparison game will kill you. Don’t look at someone else’s story and assume that just because you are seeing one tiny chapter of it that it is chapter one in their story, because most likely it is probably not.
2. Your community can make or break you.
A big part of the reason I was able to grow so fast is because the people around me supported and challenged me so well. Pursue the people who are a few, or many, steps ahead of you.
Surround yourself with people who understand you, your vision, your goals, and are going to challenge and encourage you along the way.
If people aren’t respecting you or are trying to hold you back, kindly step away from that relationship for a bit. Challenging you is good, attacking you is not.
3. You are more than your work. Show up as a human!
From day one, I was infused into my work. I showed up daily on my stories and showed the behind the scenes of my life travels, work, and projects.
People connected with me, not just my work! (Which was still growing!!!)
Yes, showing up means getting out of your comfort zone. The reality is, you don’t grow in your comfort zone. It’s about time to break out of that box.
4. Get scrappy and think outside the box.
I rented gear for over a year for my weddings. I pursued my own styled elopement rather than waiting for my dream inquiry to book me with no elopement portfolio! I also booked as many shoots as I possibly could whenever I traveled. I worked my butt off at the restaurant in order to have the money to travel.
5. Serve and offer value from day one.
From day one, I was serving the HECK out of my clients. I helped brand new photographers figure out what camera to get and explained the top things I’d learned so far in my journey. I shared my heart, lessons I was learning, life tools, and business advice from day one.
We live in a world of TAKE TAKE TAKE. We live in a world where it is all about “me”. When you show up and serve, you stand out. You’re helping people from day one. It stops being about YOU. You get out of your own gosh dang head and start looking OUT at your people. You learn how to meet their needs and solve their problems when your head isn’t buried in your own little world! Above any and every other thing I did, I truly believe this is the #1 thing I did to grow so fast. I served in any way I possibly could, and people came and stuck around for that.
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WASSUP FRIENDS. We’re Evie + Lindsey, co-founders of this wild partayyy called The Heart University. Our goal is to empower entrepreneurs to kick freaking BUTT in their businesses, dive down into the heart of their why and how, and serve you with all possible tools you’ll need to up-level your business game and CRUSH those goals of yours.
Whether you’re coming to an in-person workshop, joining our online course, or soaking up all the strategies via this blog or our podcast, we’re STOKED you’re here + can’t wait to see you out there kicking butt.
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