My Photography Journey & Shootin' My Shot

Updated: Jan 25, 2021

Hello, happy day! Welcome to today.


I thought this blog post would definitely be a podcast, but I can't seem to track down the microphone- it must be hidden in a storage unit.


As I progress and get deeper into this photography business, I have found myself reflecting on all of the amazing moments, memories, challenges, and triumphs that got me here. Let's get into it!


When I was little little, my mom always seemed to have a camera in hand. I remember countless trips to grocery stores and Walgreens to get film developed. It was always my favorite to sit in the car with her while she went through glossy photograph after glossy photograph. I still remember her transition from her Canon film camera to her first digital camera: a Kodak. It still sits in the top shelf of her desk drawer.


Prior to the digital Kodak camera, we took a family trip to Iowa when I was about four or five. My mom had made a secret trip to JCPenney and picked up a couple of film cameras with extra film for my sister and I. She turned around in the car and told us she wanted all of the exposures to be used up by the time we got home to Phoenix. I was always one to save and not use or spend, so I think she knew this would be a challenge for me.


Upon arriving in Iowa, we retrieved a butterfly net and ran around a field chasing after butterflies, trying to capture them in this mesh pocket. We caught a few, took photos, and let them go free. Little by little, all of the exposures were used up and I couldn't wait until it was my turn to pick up my own photos from the grocery store or Walgreens.


When I got a little older, I remember always asking to borrow the digital camera and take photos of the puppies, my sister, or anything and anyone willing to sit down with me.


Right before I turned nine in third grade (I have a summer birthday, so I always associated my birthday with a school year), I was shopping with my parents in a Sam's Club. Kind of like a Costco. Their electronics sections was near the entrance and my mom caught me looking at the cameras. On the drive home, my mom asked if I would like my own for my birthday. I don't think I could've said yes fast enough.


On my 9th birthday, I received my first camera and I was in love. I never wanted to put it down. I remember taking photos of the clouds with the sun casting rays of light out from behind them. Countless photos of my sister, family, friends, and puppies soon followed. It was endless.


Several years later, I found myself in middle school. I was at least 13 at this point. I found a new digital camera- a Samsung (who am I??)- that was probably considered to be an elite digital camera of the time and I wanted it. It had a feature for the user to tap twice on the front area of the camera near to the lens and a front screen would turn on to help create the "best" selfies. Practical, right? Happy 13th birthday to me, thanks mom & dad!


In middle school, I remember always having a camera with me for school events, extracurriculars, sports, and sleepovers with friends. I recently found the hard drive containing all of those images. What a throwback! Now being 25, I cannot believe how interested I was in photography. Sometimes, life has a funny way of leading to exactly where you need to be.


Another year passed and high school Kayla was ready to upgrade yet again, but I wanted something a little different this time. I wanted a Canon camera of some kind. I remember thinking I wanted something that didn't have a removable lens because I wasn't very professional and that seemed like too much. I wanted a Canon PowerShot Digital Camera w/ 50x Optical Zoom. This way, I was getting my Canon, but didn't feel overwhelmed with multiple lenses.


The Canon PowerShot Digital Camera w/ 50x Optical Zoom allowed me to experiment with true color, sepia tones, and black & white for the first time. My sister had started modeling a few years prior and I remember using the sepia tones to shoot her post-modeling makeup in our backyard. I started to really enjoy this photography thing.


Being in high school, one of the electives you can take is Photography. I was definitely interested, but after talking with some of the upperclassmen, they all made it seem like a joke of a class, so I didn't take the class, replaced my elective with Student Government, and kept shooting on my own.


When I turned 17, my parents surprised me with a brand new Canon DSLR. A simple Canon T3i and I was freaking JAZZED. I recently found the below photo of myself from my 17th birthday. I loved that camera more than life and it stayed with me through many of life's adventures- including the lowest of lows.

When I graduated from high school, I made the decision to attend Northern Arizona University. It is based in Flagstaff and I thought it was the right place for me to be. However, things happen and life changes. I learned very quickly I didn't want to be at NAU. One semester and enough tears to fill a small boat later, I left NAU and came back home. I had left my camera at home throughout my adventure at NAU and I knew I missed it, but I wasn't sure what I'd want to photograph. Myself upset in a place I didn't want to be? Absolutely not.


After my first and only semester at NAU, I came home and began attending Paradise Valley Community College. I met some amazing people and started working at a restaurant full of even more amazing people. I finally felt like I fit in somewhere in this world. My creativity began to return and little by little, my camera ended up in my hand again.


After PVCC, I transferred to ASU where I took my first official photography class in Photojournalism. I was obsessed. My professor worked for a local newspaper and covered huge events. He was an incredible professor and a skilled photographer who taught every single one of his students to shoot in manual in less than one semester. One of our final assignments was to find someone to follow around for three(ish) months and create a story with photographs. A friend of mine from the restaurant I worked at was dating a local EDM artist and I asked if he could connect us.


For the next three months, I followed a local EDM artist around Phoenix attempting to capture her in her element whether it be preparing for a show, performing at a show, at her internship, or finishing up her thesis at school. We became the best of friends and for that I was thankful.


While following around this local artist, I was able to rent lenses from my college and I quickly learned what I wanted. I wanted to upgrade ALL of my gear, but that was expensive, so I started small. I first bought a Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM Lens. This lens was perfect for where I was at in my photo life. I went on a four-day road trip with my best friend, Wesley, and shot everything I could with this little pancake lens. (See photo of Wesley below.) When I got home, I put new, professional gear in my cart on Amazon, called my best friend for moral support, and pulled the trigger. About $5000 later, I was the most excited and happiest I had been in a long while.

My local artist friend's career began to really take off at this time, too. She was booked almost every weekend at local outdoor pool parties and other indoor shows in downtown. I learned how to get an LLC to be an official business (and to have access to a Certificate of Insurance or COI) and I was off. My friend asked me to shoot for her on multiple occasions and I was loving it. I'd work my restaurant job on Saturdays from 7am-12pm, hop in my car, slam some water, change into cooler clothing, grab my camera gear, and head to the casino by 1pm where the pool parties would take place. My friend's career kept progressing and I was so excited for her, but as life would have it, we dramatically drifted.


I was incredibly heartbroken. Like, worse than a breakup with a significant other. And it's okay. We learn to move on and grow from such experiences.


I could tell I wasn't feeling as creative as I once did, but I decided to reach out to the Dusk Music Festival media team to see if I could possibly shoot free of charge to gain experience. I knew it was a long shot, but they said yes! To this day, I can say this festival singlehandedly changed my entire life. You can find photos from this festival below.

In my mind, I view this festival as a huge success for myself. I was able to shoot concert photography without an artist helping me gain a media pass and I wanted to see what else I could do with this newly located confidence. Plus, I had just graduated from college!


About two weeks after I shot Dusk, I once again found myself drafting an email to the heads of the media team for Relentless Beats- a huge music festival company in Arizona. I don't really know how I did it, but I ended up landing a spot on their media team basically as an intern. All was moving in the right direction. My boyfriend is actually a boy I met while on that media team just under two years ago and you bet he's my forever man. Some things happen to work out exactly as the universe intends them to. Below, you will see a photo of the two of us from last year's Decadence which is the festival we met at one year prior.

After shooting Decadence 2018, my efforts all went to my new job. It was my first big girl job after college and I really did love it. I was able to shoot food content and fly to Dallas to help with a shoot for a brand new restaurant location. But overall, the job made me forget who I was as a person. I forgot I was genuinely passionate with my camera in hand. I forgot what it was like to go home and have a life outside of work. And that started to really get to me.


In February of 2019, just before Covid, I knew I was ready to leave. I even found a new job, but decided to stay because of "job security." Two months later, I found myself unemployed and grappling with the fact that I felt like I was spiraling. I felt as though I didn't know who I was anymore. I needed to take some deep breaths and slow down.


I was unemployed for six weeks. In that time, I learned to figure out who I was and what I wanted. I found a new job filled with genuine people who understand what it means to have a work-life balance. It's perfect.


While unemployed, I pulled out the camera, booked some senior photos, couples photos, and headshot sessions. I stayed busy. I learned the ins and outs of my camera like I never had before. I even developed my own style with the help of my amazingly talented and patient boyfriend. Things were & are still turning around. And I want more photography.

Toward the end of 2020, many things happened. I reconnected with my EDM artist friend which has been so much fun. Additionally, I took on family photography and I truly LOVE it. There is something so special about capturing the love shared between family members, but especially the bond between parents and their children. And lastly, the busy season. I haven't really experienced a "busy season" as a photographer until September-December of 2020, but WOW. It brings tears to my eyes thinking about how thankful I am so many wonderful families, couples, and individuals trusted me to take their holiday or annual photos.


If you made it this far, thank you for listening to me ramble. My photography journey started as a small hobby and progressively took over my life, heart, soul, & mind little by little. Now I feel engulfed in inspiration and creativity. I could not be more thankful for my family and friends who have been by my side since day one through the good and the bad. It's been a long time coming and I have a long time to go until I get to where I want to be, but it's all about the journey and I'm ready to make the climb.


If you or someone you know is in need of a photographer, I am actively booking sessions. Take a peek at my website. Like what you see? Let's chat and set something up!


If you have any questions about my journey or what I'm up to now in this phase of life, please send me a note!


Until next time,


Kayla

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