I didn't grow up with a camera - a real story of a photographers growth


Ugggghhhh opening up is probably one of my biggest challenges.  

My greatest defense is keeping people at arms length.  It’s just who I am and how I’m built.  

But I realize that by doing this I’m not connecting.

A friend said to me the other day “The cute blonde in the picture next to your name is not the real you”.  And what she meant was true.  I have a shell, it’s how I hide and protect myself.  

My exterior doesn’t tell my story and it’s that way on purpose.  I learned very young from all my struggles that if no one knows, then no one can use it against you.


Stacie Jensen


You see, my story doesn’t start with Jimmy Choo’s.  

Hell, it doesn’t start from much more than government cheese.  

I came from a broken home, a single mother, lower class neighborhood and clothes that were worn by people I never even knew.  

I didn’t have big dreams or expectations back then.  Everyone I was near was in the same situation as we were.  

I do recall having some jealousy of a friend who’s parents were still married and lived in a nice home but for the most part all I knew was this life.  

No one around me was striving for bigger or better and it would just be part of my path too.

I didn’t grow up with a camera, so how the hell did I get here?  

There wasn’t even a Barbie Dream House.  I made that out of cardboard boxes.  

To be honest, the camera wasn’t necessary, but the past was.  All of those struggles, they are what made me successful.  

I didn’t get to where I am today because I was born with this amazing talent that shined through.  I didn’t have to be a photographer, it wasn’t about the career.  

It was because of the strength built from nothing that I chose to succeed in everything.

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I didn't grow up with a camera - a photographers story


It was positive.

So here I am a high school student, decent grades and a boyfriend.  Distancing myself from real life was easy.  

My time spent away from my dysfunctional home created a false existence.  But reality was right around the door and it was the loudest knock I had ever heard.  

I was pregnant at 16.

Of course, statically this would make perfect sense.  My mother herself was a teenage mom.  

But immediately I knew I had to be different.  

I loved my son from the moment I knew about him.  I took all my struggles, let downs and broken promises and I turned them into determination.  

I knew he couldn’t grow up the way I did.  I knew I had to get out.  I knew I had to work and work hard to make it happen.


But how do you succeed when you've never seen someone do it?

I learned that if I wanted something, whether it be material or change, that I had to be the one to make it happen.  

I married Doug at just 19 years old.  

We had our daughter Tatum a few years later.  We bought a house.  We had a dog.  Life was exactly what my childhood wasn’t.  

But we worked damn hard to get there.

17 years later I was facing a divorce, a bankruptcy, the loss of some very close friends and devastation.  

Not because I didn’t choose to be there.  I was the one that had filed.  But none the less I had failed at what I tried to get in life. (Ok, that was hard to write!)

When I didn’t think it could get any worse, I was laid off from my job.  

I spent the next year praying that my unemployment wouldn’t run out because that is what supported me and my children.


and a blessing came along.

In the midst of all of this chaos I became engaged to my best friend, Kurt.  

This man was my rock through all the struggles.

But another setback was right around the corner.

My unemployment had just ran out.

Remind you, this is when the economy was busted.  There weren’t jobs out there for someone who didn’t earn a degree.  I couldn’t find anything!  

What was I suppose to do now?


My past jobs and skill sets would come into play.

It was do or die.  

I had to come up with an idea that would allow me to make money when no one would hire me.  

I had a past in graphic design and product photography, so naturally I thought this might be an idea.  

How could I pull off becoming a professional photographer and earning an income when I didn’t even have a camera?  Talk about serious doubt.

I feared everything.  

Taking the next step was extremely overwhelming, but I knew I had to get myself in gear.  

I pooled all my resources and bought a fairly decent camera (Nikon D90) and started photographing everything in my path.  

I was begging friends to let me photograph them.  

My skills weren’t growing, I wasn’t booking clients and I couldn’t understand why.  

With some much needed self evaluation I realized that a kit lens and photographing in auto wasn’t going to get me to professional status.  

So I dove into what I do best, which is learning.  I read everything I could about how to shoot in manual mode and researched what lens I should buy.

I felt like I was turned away at every door in the industry.  No one was willing to give up the golden ticket information and it didn’t seem like the learning tools were plentiful back then.  

We didn’t have Pinterest so finding blogs meant you had to ask questions to peers and that opened a drama filled forum.


I was ready to quit.

With all the cattiness this industry can throw at you I wasn’t sure if my thick skin could even handle it.  

I was measuring myself against those who were professionals, which really killed my self esteem.  

I felt like I was stalking these amazing photographers just to hurt my own feelings.  It was pure jealousy.  Especially with local photographers.

What took forever for me to understand is that my competition needed to be with myself.  

I should have been putting all my energy into making my next photo better.  

I should have been focused on trying to understand what I did wrong or how I could change my style to achieve the end goal.

You see, when I was a child with nothing I didn’t sit around and cry about what everyone else had.  

I took my situation, what I didn’t like about it, and I did all the things necessary to make sure as an adult I would succeed.  

I knew this is what I had to do in my business as well.


and one day I woke up.

So it was like a light bulb honestly.  

Something just clicked.  

I realized that the only growth I would see is by dropping the fears, stopping the envy, forgetting what others were doing or where they were shooting, and strip away all my expectations.  

I took months of figuring out how to see this from a business aspect.  

I knew that to be successful I had to get organized and plan out my goals.  

I literally chose to not give any energy into negative thoughts.  

This was a struggle.  

But fear was what was also prohibiting me from taking the leaps necessary.

After learning everything I needed and having confidence in myself, clients started actually coming to ME!  

What?!  Yes, me.  

I couldn't believe it.  It happened naturally.  

Clearly my change of focus was the exact thing that I needed to become a professional photographer.


and so I was born.

So with all the struggles I faced, all the negative people I encountered during my “self teaching stage”, I realized that I wanted to create a community where I could help others who are just like me.  

This place I wanted to create needed to be safe for those who had real questions but were too afraid to ask them in fear of rejection or being laughed at.

I started dedicating my time to creating editing tutorials, free online classes and really just an open forum for someone just starting out to be able to find a friend that had been through the same journey.

My past may have come with hiccups and bumpy roads but my ending came with strength, dedication and success.  I am thankful for every closed door that I have encountered because I know it has brought me here.

There is nothing wrong with being a beginner.  Everyone, and I mean everyone, is at some point.  You just have to keep learning and having faith in yourself.


See the progression of my growth

In the beginning I didn't know how important just the details were.  The things that people don't pay attention to.  Now I find the beauty in getting up close and personal with my subjects ... even if they are just a flower.

On the left was before -- on the right was years later

 Photography by Stacie Jensen, Colorvale



More of my current work

Photography by Stacie Jensen, Colorvale

Photography by Stacie Jensen, Colorvale

Photography by Stacie Jensen, Colorvale

Photography by Stacie Jensen, Colorvale

Photography by Stacie Jensen, Colorvale

Photography by Stacie Jensen, Colorvale


  • Danielle

    Thank you for this post! Self doubt and comparison is something I struggle with when it comes to my photography journey. It’s nice to know I am not alone!

  • Stacie Jensen

    You will get back into photography my love. This is because we are drawn to what moves us and we have a need to create so that we can express ourselves. These things will not define you. They will prepare you. They will give you the journey. They will make you – the real you. I pray these things I say are true because they are the same for me. If you ever want to talk shoot me a line.

  • Stacie Jensen

    Thank you so much Melissa :)

  • Melissa

    Great post. Thanks for being REAL! Thanks also for all you do to share with others. You give of your time to help others and it’s appreciated.

  • Whitney

    Oh em gee Stacie! I knew there has always been a reason I’ve been drawn to your work and you as a person. You are such an inspiration to me and I can relate so much. Reading your story I could see myself, not really letting anyone in, not really opening up about anything. My mom was a single mother raising a child with a disability and busted her butt to give me things I thought were worth a ton but others laughed at because it really wasn’t much in their eyes. In high school I took on the task of raising my nieces so it was like I was a teenage mother. I promise those little girls changed my life. Everything I do is to make sure they never have to want for anything. When I decided to make my love for photography into a business, I stumbled upon your site. It made it even more enjoyable :) I then decided to Start blogging about my epilepsy a few months later in order to not let that defeat me. But this past summer I ended up having to take a break from everything to get my health in order, had to sell my camera because disbIlity was denied with work and clientele was down due to location change, shut down my photography business and moved home to help my mom with my dad battling cancer. That was the biggest sacrifice I ever had to make! Moving from Dallas back to New Orleans was huge. But it didn’t break me. Back in Dallas now I’m slowly getting back to normal and hopefully one day soon I will get back into photography and get flooded with new colorvale actions and find myself doing everything I love once again! Thanks for sharing your story! Never know who your are inspiring! I learned that really fast. Much love!

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