Tips on becoming the real photographer you want to be

At the beginning of my career I struggled with who I was going to be as an artist.  

I put more weight on the number of clients than the memories or days that I captured.  I wasn’t thinking of my relationship with the camera or the photographs.  I was focused on how many sessions a month I had.  It wasn’t until recently that I have had a new understanding of what I do.  And I can promise that once this lightbulb went off all the stress of “clients” went away.

I’ve found that my best photography comes from documenting life rather than posing. Watch this moment unfold during my family vacation where my husband teaches his teenage daughter a thing or two about surviving in the woods.

One of the best moments on our trip was watching this unfold.  She was so interested in bonding with him that bugs, splinters and the yucky boy things didn’t matter.  Watch how they spent the first night at the cottage on Lake Cumberland.



It can come from being one with your camera.  Taking it everywhere you go.  Unposed.  Photographic.  Documenting.  Learning your relationship to light, movement, people and technique.



One of the most amazing things that will come out of just documenting will be learning light.  


Because when things are not posed they will not always be in the best conditions and you as the artist will have to come up with ways to rectify that.  

It wasn’t until I started being a documentary photographer that I truly felt comfortable in every lighting situation.  Currently I feel like I could come up with a shot even in the dark because where there is a will, there is always light.



Let’s be honest and say that posed photos do not naturally tell a story. This is simply because the person you are photographing isn’t being real within the moment.  

They are portraying a feeling you’ve requested.  

Whether it’s a smile, laugh, cuddle or other cute idea you had.  

But documenting an event, such as this one below, is the true reaction of a girl learning from her father.  She will look back on these photos in 20 years and be flooded with an emotion of how it felt that day.  

She will remember how her father taught her skills that no one else could, at a time in her life when it mattered most.



Documenting a day like this creates a photo album.  Think about it, looking back at your childhood photos … which images grab your attention and make you “feel” something?  

The one you toothlessly posed for at a local department store or the one of you playing with your neighborhood friends in the sprinkler?  

Then ask yourself, which photographer you would want to be?  The photographer that created the photo easily passed over, or the one that makes them stop in their tracks & provides a memory?



If somewhere inside you says “why am I shooting this session?” then you aren’t being the real photographer within you.

I found this out quickly when I was taking group family photos.  

I hated it.  I wasn’t good at it.  

I was not a professional photographer doing something that was natural for me!  I wasn’t making myself look good by doing a job that didn’t make me a superstar.  I was a damn good photographer showing less potential and less skill because I was fighting my own self.  

This was not my type of session.  

But why was I continuing to book them? Because I thought that’s what I had to be.  You see … I picked a niche.  I picked every niche.  

Hey … I thought that was the way to more money.  More doors.  More clients. Hell no!  That was simply me giving 20% to each type of session then become a master at what was my calling.

If you aren’t being inspired, if you don’t feel like it’s your best work, or if you simply aren’t excelling then it’s not for you.  But how do you find out what is?  Simple.  Take out all the rules. Stop putting yourself in a box.  Stop doing what your competition is doing (which is probably what is leading you down the wrong path to begin with).  We stand out only when we aren’t wearing the same spots as everyone else.

Strip yourself down. Take away all the props.  Take away all the lights.  Take away all the clients (just for a second).  Think about what that absolutely favorite photo you have taken is and ask yourself why it makes you tick. What was it about that day, that session, that moment? What inspired you to do it?  

Photos by Stacie Jensen


  • Meghan

    I love this. As a country girl, and a daughter of a mechanic I appreciate a father willing to teach his girls about “the boy things.” Growing up we never differentiated boy vs girl things and as an adult I can appreciate that I don’t “need a man” for any particular job. The lessons of independence and personal confidence are ones that she will treasure forever…

  • Stacie Jensen

    I totally agree with you. By “boy” stuff I was referring to what our boys are always wanting dad to do but this time it was our girls :) normally they do not like to get their hands dirty :)

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