{PERSONAL} A Career in Review

Every year around December or January, so many of the photographers I follow post about the changes, challenges, and progress that have come in their businesses in the past year. Well, M Clark Photography is not yet a year old, but I feel that stepping back and looking at my own challenges and progress is not only a good step for me but also a good way to start off my first calendar year in business. So, instead of "A Year in Review" I'm doing "A Career in Review," wherein I can look back through my work in the two years I have actually been doing photography--whether in a business or hobby capacity--and see just where I stand. The following images are not necessarily the best images from various periods in my photo career, but I feel like they are the best representations of milestones in my learning and what I considered personal achievements at those times. And even though I have two years' worth of stuff, I promise not to post a bazillion pictures here, because I would really love for you to read this whole post and not get bored. If you want to leave some feedback in the comments, I'd certainly love that, too!

(FYI, there are only 15 images. Check 'em all out. You can do it!)

So here goes...



In November 2009, just a few weeks after I got my camera, I did an engagement session with two of my good friends. I loved this shot because I had achieved the kiss-with-gorgeous/iconic-building-in-the-background shot! This happens to be Memorial Hall at the University of Kentucky (so I guess it's iconic in Kentucky). By now I would have a few things to say to my 2009 self about this image--mostly regarding the post-processing--but I'm still proud of the fact that I got something like this on my first real photoshoot.

I took this at my in-laws' house during Christmas 2009. A friend and photography mentor of mine had lent me her 50/1.8 lens to work with, so that I wasn't confined to my kit lens and I could work with this wider aperture. Every picture I took that Christmas was shot at f/1.8. I remember being particularly proud of this shot because of the lighting. This village piece was in a corner that didn't have much window light falling on it, and I wanted some more light on the carolers, so I had Eric grab a mini flashlight and hold it at high camera right (a term I didn't know at the time), and TA DA! More light! That was the first time I'd ever introduced my own lighting into my shots. I felt like a total pro.

This photo was taken at the salon on my sister's wedding day in February 2010. That's my sis getting her makeup done--isn't she gorgeous? More fun with the 50/1.8. I still maintain that this is one of the best photos I've ever taken. It is a perfect moment on a bride's wedding day, and the stylist's "Imagine" wrist tattoo just made it for me. It throws a contemporary feel into a timeless image, and I love the juxtaposition of the idea of imagination with this dream-come-true moment.

This is from a ski trip I took with Eric and his family in February 2010. I was reading Brian Peterson's Understanding Exposure and working with shutter speed to create motion blur. While I was walking through the psychedelic tunnel at the Detroit airport, I turned around to grab this shot, forgetting that I had left my shutter speed at 1.5 sec. Ordinarily, that would probably be disastrous, but this shot turned out super awesome! All the colors on the walls blurred, and the motion blur did capture the fast pace of people moving around in the airport. So I learned a little bit about being artistic with motion blur... and that I should regularly check my settings before shooting. This remains another of my favorites.

This is from a photoshoot I did in March 2010 (don't worry, I don't have nearly as much work from 2011). My friend Rene volunteered to model for me, and my mentor photographer, Frank Becker, had a clear schedule that day and was able to come shoot with us and teach me about lighting and posing. This pic was all about the S-curve. And Rene was rockin' it!

I took this photo of Eric on a photowalk we did together in April 2010. This shot turned me on to creative use of architecture in my images and taught me how to think about my posing a little differently/more contemporary.

May 8, 2010, one of my friends from work got married, and I was blessed with the opportunity to photograph her wedding. It was the first wedding I ever shot on my own. I rented two lenses and did the whole thing by myself. It was, hands-down, the scariest experience I've ever had as a photographer... and one of the most exciting! I stepped waaaaaayyyy out of my comfort zone for this wedding, and I really loved everything about it. I loved the pictures I got, I had fun editing them, and my friend and her family loved them and were super excited to have them. This wedding gave me the whole shebang of the client experience I hadn't had until that point, and though I'm still overly critical of myself, the experience really gave me some confidence in myself as a photographer--and it still does every time I look at these photos.

This image from May 2010 was a milestone in my Photoshop learning experience! I had matted the original three images in one frame and entered it into a print competition for the local camera club. When the judges were doing their critiques and got to the "Motion" category where I had entered the originals, before they even started talking about the winners they made some very nice comments about my entry but said they ultimately had to disqualify it because they were "under the impression that each entry had to be a single image." I had actually perused the club's by-laws prior to the competition to see if multiple-image entries were explicitly prohibited, and I didn't find anything definitive, but I decided not to nitpick. Instead, I went home and decided to see if I could composite the set into a single image. And I did it. In less than 15 minutes.

June 2010, I did a newlywed session for the same friends I did my first engagement session for. I really used this set as a measure of my progress in the eight months I'd been shooting by then, and I was incredibly happy and amazed at seeing that I really had improved my creative eye and was starting to maintain a style.

This is from my first photoshoot with real clients! It was October 2010, and I'd initially been asked to do a senior portrait session for the young lady on the left, but eventually her mom decided to hire me for a family shoot so that we could get a bunch of photos with all of her daughters. This family was a lot of fun! It was an interesting experience for me, because I went to this session never having met the girls nor having seen their house where we photographed, so I had to do everything on the fly--find locations, pose a group of people (that was new to me, too), make sure the lighting was right. And for this shot I had to make sure I could actually get in a high enough position to take the shot, because that 50mm lens on my crop-frame camera was a bit long in the entryway! Luckily they had a stepladder I was able to use. There are several other shots from this session that I like better than this one, but this is the one their mom chose to order in a 16x20 print to send to her mother-in-law in London. When I delivered this print to her, she loved it so much that she was moved to tears. It was the first time my photography had ever had that effect on anyone, and I was absolutely beside myself knowing that I gave her that moment and that image of her daughters. For the first time, I really felt that client connection for which I'd envied other photographers. Confidence boost out the wazoo.

This is from another October 2010 senior portrait client, and the entire shoot could not have gone any better! I had scouted the location and picked out some spots, and I met Seth right when he came for the session, so I was getting to know him while we were working together, and I had a lot of what I consider to be really neat ideas on the fly, especially with his antique tennis racquets. Everything about this session was a major confidence boost. Plus, I mastered the sunburst effect ON A PHOTOSHOOT! I vaguely remember trying hard not to jump up and down and scream with excitement in front of my clients when I saw how well this shot worked.

October 2011 (told ya 2011 was thin!). This shot is from my first photo session after I moved to Massachusetts and officially started my business. It was exciting for me to have a client in my first couple of months after moving to a completely new area (we moved from Kentucky, so New England is totally new), but this session also put my skills and creativity into perspective. 2011 was a crazy year for Eric and me: Eric finished grad school, I quit my job at UK, we took the summer off to road trip the US, and we moved to Massachusetts where he started working full-time and I started a business working from home, which was a pretty jarring change from the previous status quo. I didn't pick up my camera much for the better part of the year; I just felt so drained from the intensity of everything we went through that I never really had any creative juices left at the end of the day. [Insert lecture here about working through creative blocks.] This photo session turned out really nice, but it also showed me that I hadn't really grown the way I wanted to in my skills or my creativity since the end of 2010. So this session kinda kicked me back to the reality that if I want to continue to be better at this, I have to keep practicing.

At the end of October 2011, I met a friend and fellow photographer in NYC for a conference (my first conference!!). It was awesome. :) We got there a day early and hung out in Greenwich Village for the evening, and we had a lot of fun photographing each other for a couple of hours! Being around and working with another photographer always gives me a different kind of confidence and a creativity boost that I'm not sure how to tap on my own. I had a ton of fun with this set, and I really like the photos that came out of it! It got a rhythm going in me again, and I felt like I'd started really honing my style--huge huge steps for me. I also got to know the joys of a professional grade lens, which my friend let me borrow. I had the same feeling when I switched to Apple computers--my own gear just wasn't the same after that. Fortunately, I did buy the pro lens a couple of months later.

From November 2011, a senior session I did with my cousin. I was finally getting back into my groove of working with clients, seeing things I like, and working with different ideas as they came (and I finally had more ideas coming on the job again!). I have other favorites from this session, but I like this one because I captured her in the middle of laughter with a great smile in a nice pose--a totally natural and unprompted moment--something I've always had a difficult time with. This session also marks the time when I started to be a little bolder with my ideas, gently encouraging people to step out of their own comfort zones a little for shots that I wanted. In this session I was able to work with my cousin to get some images that were a bit more moody than your run-of-the-mill senior portraits. So much fun!


This is far and away one of my favorite shots of my career so far... which means I'm making progress, since I've improved upon my previous work, in my own eyes. I did this photoshoot with Eric's cousin and her best friend over Christmas break. When I was talking about locations with family, several people mentioned this wall, which has a mirror mosaic in the shape of the state of Kentucky, and from that moment I had a vision for this image. I. love. it. She was rockin' exactly the mood I wanted. I shot this with my 24-70/2.8 -- my new pro lens! And you can see that the pro glass is SOOOOO much more crisp than my old lens! Plus, this image is totally in line with what I have been looking for in my style. It has really rejuvenated my motivation to keep reaching higher with my photography. This shot shows me how far I've come since I started and how far I can go if I keep pushing!

Well, there you have it! A 2+ -year photography career in review! And this post is even a little shorter than some other photographers' one year in review. To be fair, I don't have nearly the volume that they do, but I'm hopeful that 2012 will bring some serious awesomeness! ... Better yet, I want to bring some serious awesomeness to 2012!

Happy New Year!!