One of the greatest assets of traveling through cyberspace is the people you meet. Steffi Smith is a wedding photographer from Georgia who I first "met" in the Facebook Wedding Photographers forum. In regards to an email she sent me, I called her directly and had an amazing conversation about her background as a photographer.
One thing led to another and in the process, I invited her to do a guest post on how she made the transition from an accomplished artist to professional photographer. Keep in mind in this case "accomplished" means some of her paintings went for as high as $20,000.
Steffi's attitude about being an artist has carried through to her present day wedding work and this past year she won first place in the album design category at Southeastern PPA. Her philosophy reflects so much of her passion for the craft. Skip Cohen
"If you love something enough you can do anything you want, just do your best.
Remember, you have to start somewhere or you will never live your dream"
Imagine these paintings by Steffi Smith full size at 40 x 50!
If you would have told me I would become a wedding photographer 15 years ago I would have laughed and told you no way. Having lived in the Florida Keys for many years and being an avid diver and artist I had become known for my colorful underwater paintings which were represented successfully by 5 galleries and a corporate agent in the South East.
So how did I become a wedding photographer? The answer is simple, I was burned out from painting the same thing over and over again. The galleries did not want me to paint anything but what I was known for. One day I just
had enough and my husband, also an artist and always understanding said, "Why don't you take some time off and decide what you want to do?"
So I did...I gave myself 2 years to decide what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. In that time I spent every day from morning till night teaching myself Photoshop and some of my early work was actually published in Photoshop Magazine. I would travel to Europe and take photos of details for my pieces that I created in Photoshop sometimes in as much as 20+ layers, so photography was a big part of those two years, but I never even considered taking photos of people.
One day I got a call from the owner of Chota Falls, one of Georgia's most beautiful wedding venues. She asked me if I would consider photographing the wedding of one of their couples, they could not find a photographer on short notice. I turned them down. The next day she called me again and I decided okay, but only this one time.
The wedding came and I went with my two Sony Cameras and photographed the wedding and even created a book for the couple. They were as happy as can be, but when I look at the book today (I made a copy for myself) I shiver. But, the seed had been planted and to make a long story short, I loved being part of that wedding and capturing the couple's special moments. I could not believe how much I enjoyed the entire process.
The following week I was asked by a local couple who somehow found out I shot a wedding if I would photograph theirs. This time I said very willingly, "Yes!" Boy, was I nervous when the day of their wedding arrived, but everything went well and again the couple was more then happy with the photos. Being an artist I knew that the photos were not perfect, but I did capture some lovely moments.
First thing I did after that wedding was to order three high end DSLR cameras, a Fuji, a Nikon and a Canon and of course a couple flashes. For the next wedding that came along I was prepared ........at least I had great cameras and enough knowledge to shoot the next wedding or so I thought. Were the photos great, of course not, but the couple once again was really happy.
I knew I needed to get help if I wanted to do this more often, so I bought lots of books and read everything I could get my hands on about photography and especially wedding photography. Maybe my artistic eye was a great help, but as I started to get better I also knew I needed to get more help if I wanted to do this professionally.
We did not have any photographers in the area who were willing to mentor me so I did the next best thing, I signed up for a 3 day seminar with David Ziser. I admired his work and knew that I could learn a lot from him. I actually went back again for another 3 day seminar the following year.
That was the start of it all. Over the years I have taken more workshops and also learned lots from my friendships I formed through my new venture. I never went back to painting even though some of the galleries tried hard to get me to paint again. Why would I when I had found the love of my life, Wedding Photography?
My life is all about my work and with each wedding I grow. I believe when you allow yourself to grow you will. I will never be stuck on the same thing again as I did in painting. My hope is that I will get better with each wedding. I get my inspiration from other photographers, but just like with my paintings I do my own thing.
My albums are especially unique. I don't believe in copying anybody, the photos have to be an extension of my feelings and not the feelings and visions of another person. I have photographed weddings for 13 years now and the butterflies I used get before each wedding have been replaced by excitement and anticipation for all the shots I hope to get for each couple on their wedding day.
With my knowledge of Photoshop I do all of my own editing and I also design each and every album without the use of templates. I want each album to be a piece of artwork, different for each couple.
Many things have changed in my life. While some people have a midlife crises, I decided to make a major career change in mid life and have never looked back.
All images copyright Steffi Smith. All rights reserved.