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Becoming a Photographer… and staying yourself.

Becoming a photographer is a scary and difficult thing. Really. If you really have it in your heart to want to do it, you won’t find people beating down the door to help you, hold your hand, or walk you through the steps to become successful.

There are two main reasons for this; one good and one not so good.

Let’s start with the good news. You can’t walk in someone else’s shoes, do it the way they did it, and follow their exact recipe for success. You just CAN’T. It just doesn’t work that way. As much as we admire and look up to other photographers and want to be ‘just like them’ we are never going to be…in a good way! Your journey has to be your own; you have to make your own mistakes, you have to make your own discoveries to gain experience, confidence, and clout in this business. When you finally go through some of that journey and realize that fact, THEN you can appreciate that you are NEVER going to be ‘just like them’ (…again, in a good way!).

So don’t think for a minute that anyone has ever tried to hold my hand, check in to make sure I’m ok with where I am professionally, or offer me loads of assistance. It’s not because people are mean but because it’s unrealistic. Once I gained that perspective, I became a little more relaxed about my journey.

The other reason you don’t find what you wish and dream for in a photo pal is because, unfortunately, there ARE people out there with poor attitudes. They don’t remember or care what it was like to start out. They are not only unwilling to be helpful but may go out of their way to discourage you. Not only that… but this business, for whatever reason, can be cut throat. I am not going as far to say let’s all be superduper BFF’s and dance in a circle around a rainbow but there can be real support out there.

You’ll find that support if you choose to ignore the negativity and seek for genuine photographers who want to learn and want to share what they’ve learned – and THAT’S Where the STL ShotParty comes in….

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The STL ShotParty is a dream turned reality Kelly Manno. It’s a collaboration of talented photographers sharing and teaching.

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The Official Shot Party Team: Michelle Ross, Tonya Nickel, Kelly Park, Jasmine Star, Kelly Manno, Clary Pfeiffer, Steve Seebeck
Photo by Von Devore



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If you’ve seen the post with my maternity photos, you basically know my ‘story’ of how photography found me and how I’ve gotten to a semi-comfortable place in my craft because of a willing friend, Kelly Manno.

If you follow my blog, you see my admiration for Kelly on a regular basis. She’s a rock star. She pulled off her dream of the workshop in just a few short months.
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Photo courtesy of Von DeVore


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Photo courtesy of Von DeVore

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At the workshop Kelly managed to have many photography resources available. I learned about some great new products to offer my wedding clients. I can’t wait for you to see the albums and other printed products I plan to offer in the future.

Along with vendors, there were also door prizes and I won something AWESOME!

It’s called a Glee Bag and you don’t have to be a pro-photographer to appreciate it. This cute camera bag can hold your camera and a lens or two. It’s the perfect bag to take if you know you’re headed out with the kids and would be sick not to bring your camera. AND thejoybag.com is offering a special of 10% off your ENTIRE order to anyone who uses the code DONNA (all caps).


But not only that, Kelly managed to get one of the hottest photographers around to be featured for the day… Jasmine Star.

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Now, I know there isn’t a single soul that would EVER admit this but when I spoke with Kelly a few months ago and she told me she managed to acquire Jasmine Star, I was like ‘Who’s That?’ That’s how much of a nobody photographer I am! Hee Hee! So here’s the low-down on Jasmine. She’s not only a sought after, superb international wedding photographer but also someone that is an encouragement to other photographers.

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She motivates by sharing her stirring story of her photography journey. Her story begins as a successful (but miserable) student with a full ride to UCLA Law School to the transition of a woman who chooses to pursue her passion of photography and is now considered one of the “Top 10 Wedding Photographers in the World”.

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Jasmine rubbed my baby belly! Maybe that’s good karma for Milo as a future photographer.:)

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Me and JD – Jasmine’s super hubby!

…AND she’s a lucky gal because her husband is by her side every step of the way. He attends all speaking engagements and her weddings…he’s a photographer too!

It was great to meet a ‘celebrity photographer’ but one of the most valuable parts of the day was connecting with new photographer friends. I look forward to cultivating these friendships and working with other expert photographers!

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Ashley and Alicia from LeLe Photography are two very talented sisters that are more to me than just photo friends. We share some similar experiences that I feel will keep us bonded for life. Also, years ago, I happened to be one of their first professional maternity photo sessions. They do a pretty good job shooting pregnant women, don’t you think?:)

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I have to say my favorite part of the day was the Q&A Panel of select photographers: Michelle Ross, Kelly Park, and Clary Pfeiffer.

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I LOVED having the chance to ask all the burning questions I normally would have wondered as I carefully examined their images online. These are photographers whose work I’ve studied, looked at, and wondered “How’d she get that shot?” but never dared contacting. I thought, I can’t just be one of those emails that’s bothering them like everyone else! But at the shot party we’re all face to face…and it’s just not so intimidating.:)

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Photo courtesy of Von DeVore

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Photo courtesy of Von DeVore

After that, we got a chance to actually shoot with one of these three phenoms. My shoot group leader was Clary. She was incredibly fun and I learned a totally new shooting style with her.

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Clary (located far right), directing our models and also filling us in on her favorite shooting tips.

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Of course, I’ll do anything to help get a shot, even 3 days before I had Milo!
Photo taken by LeLe Photography

Here are some of my favorite shots I took that day:

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For Jasmine Star, she got to her level of success by being true herself and being open about it. She motivated us to show others who we are and where we are coming from. Becoming a photographer found her like it finds many of us… when another photographer creates an extraordinary experience for their client …for her it was her wedding day.

…For me it was when my son Roman was born.

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Photo by Kelly Manno



I know for others it could be a great family session that becomes a lifetime memory. Having had that phenomenal experience made me want to do it for others. What an incredible gift photography can be for someone. Not only the end result of the amazing photographs, but the experience that happens during the process of capturing those memories. This is where I put my focus when I am photographing.

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So, to close this post in the same fashion I began, becoming and being a photographer is hard work. But just like a photo can make you feel a certain way, being a photographer and creating those images make me feel that way. Photography is emotional, artistic, a little daring and fun, scary, painful, rewarding… all at once. Behind the lens or standing right in front of it, I want that for all involved.

I loved reflecting on that after this splendid day at the workshop.

I loved the new level of awareness that the workshop brought me to.

I loved, loved, loved, making new friends.

And I love you guys…. all my faithful readers for investing your time in learning a little more about what drives me. I hope that this post inspires you toward your passion like I’ve been inspired.

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  • CathyAugust 26, 2010 - 7:32 pm

    What a great experience! You all will, no doubt, begin to change the face of photography here in St. Louis for the better!ReplyCancel

  • Michelle Lunn PhotographyAugust 27, 2010 - 12:20 am

    GREAT POST DONNNA, everything you said is so true and so real!!! I love it!!! You are seroiusly amazing…both personaly and photographerly (I just made that word up)ReplyCancel

  • Shefali LindseyAugust 27, 2010 - 12:24 am

    This is such a well-written post and I loved reading it!ReplyCancel

  • Kacie I.August 27, 2010 - 2:48 am

    Great post! I am in tears right now. I think it is a combination of the passion you have for photography and your heart that showed through in your writing that made me feel so touched. Thanks for sharing.ReplyCancel

  • Alicea HermeyerAugust 27, 2010 - 6:30 am

    Great post Donna!!! Beautiful! Loved the shot you got of her hand on his chest with their heads cut off. Thanks for including me and Ash on your blog! I want you to know I will help you with ANYTHING ANYTIME and you TOTALLY have 'it' and I have no doubt you will be at the top in NO time! :) xoxoReplyCancel

  • Lisa SchererAugust 29, 2010 - 4:08 am

    So well put Donna. And I agreee 100% with Cathy…we will start the change in St. Louis Photography…the good with trump the bad :) ReplyCancel

  • Jenny HodgesAugust 30, 2010 - 11:31 pm

    Love the post, Donna!! You were one of the first photographers I met that afternoon & were so sweet & thoughtful. I'm glad the Shot Party brought a lot of the STL photographers together that day. Many new friendships were formed & a lot was learned. It was great meeting you & congrats on adorable Milo!!ReplyCancel

  • Donna HarrisAugust 31, 2010 - 10:33 am

    Thanks everyone! I know all of us who went to the shot party were motivated to share what they learned that day. I've loved reading everyone's take on the day on their blogs. Thanks for reading mine.ReplyCancel

  • [...] The previous year, Jasmine Star, encouraged us to blog our little hearts out. So you can imagine what every photographers blog looked like the week after meeting with her. This time, it was a little different. [...]ReplyCancel

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