Wednesday, February 12, 2014

How I Became Am a Photographer

I've hit a bit of a creative block this week and it's not because I don't want to write. It's because there is only one thing I want to write about and it isn't directly related to Eco-Babyz. It's directly related to my life right now though, to my babies. Since I've discovered I don't particularly enjoy writing about things that do not pertain to my life - I've decided to do less of that this year, more of writing about things that are truly my passion. After all, it's my blog, my little writing corner, and I can take it in any direction I want. 

I firmly believe people need to take risks to pursue their passions. Without fear of failure. 

I wanted to write about how I became a photographer. As I thought about the title I realized it's not something you become, it's someone you are. You are either born a photographer (or rather a person that thinks in images) or you are born with different strengths. Yes, anyone can pick up a camera and learn about photography. But does capturing images consume them? Have they always thought of life in images and memories captured? Does composition come naturally to them? 

I was about eight years old when point-and-shoot cameras became available in the country where I was born, Russia. My mother is also a very visual person. She was so excited when she got that first camera. I think it was a Pentax, 35mm film of course. Film and developing was pretty expensive, so every image she took was thoughtful. For the most part, I was her subject. 

Fast forward to immigrating to the United States, we went through many cheap cameras. I would borrow it and take pictures of my cat, my friends, and nature. Then we upgraded to an SLR. I still remember the dozens of images I took with that camera as a teenager, they are flashing through my head. That one of the goose at Lake Tahoe stands out in my mind - but it was film! I have no idea where to find those photos now.

Then came high school and my first experience with the technical aspects of photography. I had a photography elective, we were provided with old 35mm cameras and had to learn all the manual settings. I had a wonderful, talented teacher. I loved learning to develop the film and make prints in the dark room. In my junior year of high school I had to decide between a photography degree at NESOP or Bachelor of Science in Interior Design at Endicott College. Interior architecture was something else I've always enjoyed. It was decided when the president of Endicott stopped by my dad's shoe repair shop to fix his shoes! My dad told him all about his wonderful daughter and Dr. Wylie was sold. I really enjoyed my four years there, made some great friends, and had the luxury of still living home with my parents just a short drive away and having home cooked meals - something I wasn't ready to give up! Moreover, the photography courses I took at Endicott plunged me further into exploring this medium and being an aspiring amateur.

I was where I needed to be at that time, I have no regrets. After college I spent several years working at an architectural firm north of Boston, which was a great experience. It fulfilled my craving for constant visual work, a balance of creative and technical. But I never particularly enjoyed being an employee (despite having a great boss!), I just always dreamed of being out on my own.

Then I became a mom in January of 2009. The same year the financial crisis happened. My small firm no longer had work for me, everyone was downsizing. It was a little sad, but nothing for me to get depressed about since my husband still had a job and I was home taking care of our newborn. I started Eco-Babyz to let out some creative steam. I found some paying online gigs for small start ups to help make ends meet.

Becoming a mom changed me. It brought me back to that passion of capturing images. Suddenly time started flying so fast after becoming a parent, those images became so much more important. I took many photos with my cheap point and shoot to preserve the memories, but at that point the equipment definitely was not on par with my passion for photography.

As Eco-Babyz grew and I connected with many brands, I launched AnaB Social when Baby T was just 6 months old. I enjoy managing the social media accounts for brands. I didn't know if it's something that would last, but here I am, still at it. It pays bills and I'm my own boss, it's perfectly flexible for the unpredictability of motherhood. But I never gave up on my dream of pursuing photography. 

We thought of getting a DSLR for a few years. It just never quite fit in the budget until we paid off our car and my social media business picked up by a hair. We took the plunge and invested in a Nikon D7000. I loved it. I finally had a camera that could actually capture what I envisioned, unlike a point and shoot. My husband and I both jumped right on top of learning the ins and outs of a DSLR, watching countless videos, attending webinars, tons of reading, and just learning all we could get our hands on online. 

Then I dropped the camera. Thankfully we had insurance and we were totally reimbursed. It was a blessing in disguise because now we thought "why buy the same camera that will be outdated soon, if we can upgrade to a full frame professional camera and really take the plunge". So we invested in the Nikon D800. After swallowing that lump in the throat looking at the price. Paired it with a 50mm f1.8 Nikkor lens until we could afford a zoom lens. Then tightening our belts a little more to get the 24-70mm f2.8 Nikkor lens. Gulp. Certainly we didn't buy these as toys, we considered it a small business investment. Photography is certainly a very expensive business to start. 

(Now don't ask why I prefer Nikon over Canon, I've never tried Canon, my first 35mm SLR was Nikon, I don't really have a preference at this point and think both are great. For now I'm sticking with what I know I like.)

I'm always learning more about photography, it's not something any photographer ever stops doing. But there was a point where I was finally so comfortable shooting in manual mode that I no longer had to constantly think about it. Aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and other settings blending seamlessly. Practice makes perfect. I have a long way to go, but the best thing is I truly enjoy it. There is nothing I would rather do more. 

Everything around me is an inspiration. My children. Other people's children. Love. Nature and the outdoors. Other incredible, much more talented photographers. Many that once were where I am today, at the beginning of a road. 

I love the creative aspects of being a photographer, it's just a part of me. But I'm still learning the business side. I'm learning that in order to make any profit after we pay taxes, insurance, photo hosting, website hosting, advertising, editing software, and crazy equipment expenses, we have to price our work accordingly. Not easy to do when you live in a place swarmed by photographers, real ones and 'pretend' ones. Those that truly have talent, or just those that want to make some cash on the side. Okay, I won't go further down this road even though I have a lot more to say. 

Two of my passions in this field are wedding photography and newborn photography. I know why. I just love capturing events that are life changing. I love people and their emotions, how people express love for those close to them. I find weddings the most challenging because you have to be good at everything - not just portraits, just macro, or just landscapes. You have to be able to work with a variety of lighting all on the same day. You have to be good with people. You have to deal well with stress and adapt easily. You need to be physically fit. You have to be very quick and capture everything the clients expect and be creative while you're at it. I have a lot of respect for professional wedding photographers because now I know what goes into shooting a wedding. It's very, very hard work, we just make it look easy.

Newborns. Is there anything more precious that those first days of a new human being on earth? The way the new (or seasoned) parents look at their bundle of joy. I just love seeing those moments and preserving them for the family to remember in the years to come.

So for all of you that asked, this this the story of how I became am a photographer. 

I don't think any of this would have been possible without the support of my husband. He has encouraged me, tested my patience, and supported me in all aspects. As a result he has grown fond of photography as well and he really enjoys shooting too. 

I would love to hear your photography stories, whether you just love looking at other people's photographs, you're an aspiring amateur, or a professional. Share stories and ask me anything! 

The photos are all ones I took in 2013 and 2014 for V & A Photography at various photo sessions. Those babies aren't mine! Unfortunately I had a low quality camera when both my babies were born.

Contains affiliate links to where we usually shop, your purchase supports Eco-Babyz at no extra cost to you and helps offset some of the cost associated with pouring our time and energy into this site. Thank you!


  1. You are really born to be one, you have the talent plus the passion. You will become successful in it for sure. :)

    1. Thank you for your comment and encouragement Felicia, it means a lot to me! :)

  2. Да... очень интересно ты всё рассказала ...
    Так что желаю удачи в этом нелегком пути за мечтой!!!!

  3. Your pictures are amazing! The "professional" photographers available here are not nearly as talented as you are.

    1. Thank you Michelle! I'm in Boston, we have many very talented photographers here, they are an inspiration to me - even though they are "competition" lol :)

  4. Thanks for sharing your story! I enjoyed reading it. We have a Canon DSLR but I just shoot in auto mode. I'd love to learn more but its so overwhelming. So cool that you started taking pictures at such a young age.

    1. Thank you for the comment Heidi! Yes, manual mode can be sooo overwhelming at first. But if it is something you are truly interested in, it's great to just dive in. I found it helpful to first study how the camera works and then do it hands on. Here is a good basic summary: http://ht.ly/tFO65 :)


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