Looking back on 2016

I'm happy to say that 2016 got progressively better from a rough start.

One big thing that happened is that I shifted more into the portrait field.  A year ago, I wouldn't believe that would be my main thing, but I love it.  

I was lucky that my friend Tracy asked me to do her Miss Clemson University portraits in March.  I wanted some more experience with portraits before advertising myself as a portrait photographer, and I knew she would be easy to pose.   She had competed to represent South Carolina in the Miss America pageant the year before.  I somehow turned to my least favorite lens during that session, and it became my favorite lens for portraits after that.  I surprised myself with how much I liked the end result, and it gave me more confidence in my portrait work. 

One thing that worried me before starting to do portraits for people I don't know was whether I would ever encounter an unfriendly client. That would make for an awkward session, and I would feel more pressured to make them happy from the beginning of the session to editing the last image.  I can honestly say that every single portrait client I’ve had so far has been amazing.  I’m so thankful to have met all of you and helped record your favorite parts of your Clemson experience before you go off to wherever you’re going next.  I’ve loved hearing all your stories, walking around campus with you, and meeting your animal friends.  I can’t wait to see the awesome things you do with your degree from the best school ever. 

Although I’ve gotten better at editing (shout-out to Connor for helping me upgrade my editing software when my hard drive gave out and took my editing software with it), I’ve also gotten better at avoiding things that I want to fix later so that I don’t have to spend as much time editing.  Editing can drive me crazy, so I try not to make myself need to do more than just basic edits, like cropping a little closer and slightly turning down some really bright highlights.  At the end of the post, I'll show my first and last portrait sessions of the year, because I don't know how to add them in the middle. 

Here are my first and last portrait sessions of the year, before and after editing.  Tracy (top) was in March and Victoria (bottom) was in December.   They’re both headshots taken at similar times of day and probably 30 feet from each other.  I’m still not content with how I edited Tracy’s because the shadow over her eye was difficult to remove, and as a result, I spent a lot of time on that photo and my eyes got worn out, so I wasn’t as in tune to how bad the color looked.  I also don't really like this background with the pole and the brick wall going right through her.  Victoria’s was pretty easy to edit, partly because I was more cautious about the things that bothered me about Tracy’s photo.  The only thing I would have  done differently with composing Victoria's is to maybe turn her a little more and adjust her gown so it wouldn't look as puffy as it does here.  

I’ve done my best to make each portrait session better than the last.   I’ve spent a lot more time watching webinars and reading other photographers' experiences.   While it’s cold outside, I’ve been working on things like making my website look cleaner and learning how to improve the overall client experience.  I’m on so many email lists right now, but that doesn’t bother me like it used to. I look forward to seeing what each person is offering me and how it could help me become a better photographer.  I take advantage of as many free educational opportunities as I can, but I just paid for a one-month Sue Bryce subscription on Thursday and I’m already so excited for my next portrait session!  Some of my other favorite portrait photographers to learn from are Amy and Jordan and Katelyn James, who do free webinars every once in a while.  I get so excited to come home from work, heat up some soup, and listen to them talk about doing what they love and making their clients happy.

2016 involved two adventures to Florida, one to Arizona, a gymnastics meet, and a bunch of portrait sessions.  I did one portrait session with wildfire smoke in the background and one with a python at the last minute.  I got to do five portrait sessions in the stadium, which I had never done before.  What’s in store for 2017?  Well, I’m going on a honeymoon to British Columbia and I'll get to shoot a part of the world I’ve never seen.  There will be a solar eclipse practically in my backyard, so that'll be a new photography experience.  I’m planning a dance photo session; shooting dance is one of my favorite things, but I don’t often have the opportunity to do it.  Hopefully I’ll get to be there for the Clemson club gymnastics team again, maybe more than once this year.  Of course, I’ll be doing more portraits, hopefully more than just graduation portraits, walking around and taking more pictures of random things, and taking pictures of more random things in my apartment.  I also have a new wide-angle lens that’s supposed to arrive any second now.  I rented one for Arizona and used it for a portrait session, and I’ve felt like I’m missing out ever since I returned it.  I'm pretty excited for the next year.

Shout-out to all you awesome people for making my day that much brighter! I wanted to say thank you to everyone who supported me this year, whether you just liked a photo on my Instagram or asked me to do your portraits.  I can't tell you how much it means to me.  Happy New Year!