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


  • Stacie Jensen

    Oh wow, Stacia … I don’t think you realize how similar our stories really are. You described more than I had originally put in this story in fear because I haven’t spoke out of fear to admit it. I am with you on it girl. If you ever want to chat I am hear to listen. I agree that without our babies we could have been lost. They have given us the world.

  • Stacie Jensen

    awww Sherry, I have chills reading your story. What a journey you have been on and if we can find some good from it, I like to think there is, it’s that you are strong enough to handle all the things that could make someone buckle. This, in business, really does help me. I know that to make a buck I have to give it everything I have got. Probably why I work too many hours. But it’s all I know to do because we didn’t have anything growing up. If you ever need someone to chat with please email me. I am hear to listen.

  • Stacie Jensen

    Thank you so much Debbie :) xoxo

  • Sherry

    Wow! This is all I can muster up to say between the sobbing I am currently doing! I can to believe I just read all of that and it wasn’t about me. It is eery how similar our pasts are. I am a product of a teen pregnancy, my mother was 14 when she got pregnant with me and 15 when she had me. My grandmother too, was a teen mother. And, I am sure you can assume, I too, was a teen mother. I got pregnant with my son at the age of 14 and had him at 15. He is my entire world I have given up my life to make his everything mine was not. Still I feel as though I have fallen short. I too, grew up in a broken home. I was tossed around from family member to family member, never even had my own bedroom. I slept in makeshift bedrooms out of closets with whichever family member had me next. I then went to marry my son’s father at the age of 16 and he abused me in every sense of the word from 14 until I was old enough to be on my own. I couldn’t go back to my family, nor could I get into public housing, I was stuck! And all of that was not even the worst of it. I always had a great passion for photography and it was always my dream. However, I ended up working in the medical field and was doing ok for a while. My son never went without. However, myself I wore the same clothes and shoes for 6 years to make sure that he did not. Then I fell in love, I was actually living my fairytale engaged to be married July, 19th of 2013. I still have the dress. Everything was arranged and almost completely paid for. Yet I still never did buy myself a camera that I always wanted and swore one day I would buy for myself. Anyway, long story kind of short, I never did get married. Instead just a week before christmas my fiancé, the kindest person I had ever known, was picked up at our home (the projects in which I lived for 13 years) by the SWAT team for a double homicide back in 2008. Yes this just happened to me at the end of 2013. I was kicked out of my residence because they put my name in the newspaper and all over the news (even though I knew nothing of it and was in complete shock). My physical as well as mental health went down the drain. I am now waiting for disability (which could take years to appeal) for a multitude of medical problems, from Fibromyalgia, to Chronic Fatigue, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, and every mental issue you can think of. I can barely get out of bed most day’s, let alone out of the house. But, when I do my camera comes along with me, Oh yes, I finally got my camera. I signed up for RMCAD for Graphic Design and was blessed with a camera and macbook pro through my financial aid. So now, I am trying to learn everything there is to learn about photography on my own, much like you. I live my life on Lynda.com and studying everything I possibly can. I am trying to get my business off the ground, then my car died completely, no money saved up and a 10 day eviction notice. I feel defeated more than I can even fake positivity. I try so hard to be positive. I try so hard to be happy. But, I feel as though there is this dark cloud that resign-ates over me and I can not figure out what in my life I have done so bad to deserve all of this misery from birth. I have been so close to giving up. With my photography business, and well, life itself. I felt so defeated! I didn’t know what to do. This was yesterday. Today I am back to trying to learn some more about photography and pray that no more storms come my way. Then I found your story. You have given me so much hope! I thank you for that! All of those things you’ve gone through, all of those feelings you felt, jealousy every single bit of it. I felt as if you were writing about me. So you give me hope that I too can have a success story. I just hope it comes before it is too late. One person can only take so much. I am trying so hard to be strong, push forward, and finally get the happiness and success that I deserve. You have a new fan for life! Thank you so much for the inspiration today. Because, today, of all days, I surely needed it! I never imagined I would come across someone so talented in the same exact thing I am so passionate about and they have the same story and such great success. I will pray I am lucky enough to gain the same success and fate. God brought me to your post. I know he did! This is the encouragement I needed! Thank you so very much.

  • Stacia

    I LOVE your story! It just speaks right to my heart. My life wasn’t exactly like yours but in so many ways it was. I grew up with parents heavily addicted to drugs. We lived in hell. We didn’t always have food and when we did it wasn’t a lot. I would try to be anywhere else but home cause I hated it there. I loved school and I always did really well. I was going to be the 1st to graduate in my family! A week before my 17th birthday I found out I was pregnant. From that moment on I was determined to give my little girl a better life. I refused to let her grow up the way I did! My oldest is now 11 years old and absolutely amazing! I also have a 10 year old and 3 year old (who are both girls and amazing as well). Even though I was really young when I had my first two, I’m so thankful I did. If it weren’t for them I don’t know how my life would have turned out. They gave me the determination I needed to change my life for the better! I love your work Stacie! You are amazing and I hope to one day be half as amazing as you! Thanks for all you do and the effort you put into everything and for posting your story. You are definitely my favorite and I always tell people if they want to learn from the best then to follow you!

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