Every day, new photographers join our industry. They come into the photography industry admiring those that are established professionals. They come in with the hope that one day, they will be able to create images like those they look up to. Meanwhile, those that are more established as professional photographers tend to forget the past. We forget just how bad we were when we first started, and we forget how to empathize with those just joining our industry.

So, I asked each of my peers to show some of their earliest work promising I would do the same. These are literally our first attempts at creating a “professional” image. I applaud each and every one of them. It’s a humbling thing to go back and see your beginnings. On top of that, it’s 10 times more humbling publishing and showing these images to the world. Images that we often wish we could simply forget.

Those entering the industry, know that we all started in the exact same place. Those established in the industry, educate and lend a hand knowing that these so called “newbies” are the future of our industry. Enjoy the images along with their tips and wisdom.

Megan Allen – Website | Instagram

“Where to begin, and how to unpack all the things I wish I would have known when I first started this journey 3.5 years ago! Above all, I would say, “Stay curious, stay hungry.” Staying curious keeps things fresh. There is such a wonderfully vibrant array of people in this industry, and examining work that speaks to you, working to deconstruct it, and find out why it speaks to you will lead to you better understanding yourself and how you create. Being curious and willing to fail in the pursuit of growth will free yourself to grow without as much fear. We all begin at the starting line, and we all run our race in a unique way. Run yours proudly, and never be afraid to take risks!

Stay hungry, and chase the opportunities and education that inspires you. Don’t be afraid to ask for opportunities, and align yourself with those that inspire you. Give 110%, be willing to grow and take instruction, and be ready when opportunity strikes. Above all…have fun. Remember why you got into this, and what truly sets you on fire. There will be tough days, but remembering your “why” will sustain you through it. Stay weird, friends!”

Jared Gant – Website | Instagram | Wedding Maps Profile

“Patience is key. You can’t expect 10 years of results from days of work. Hard work and moving fast is important, but one needs to understand that vision takes time. Don’t dwell on your shortcomings; move past them and keep your eye on the target.”

Amii & Andy Kauth – Website | Instagram

“We always encourage photographers to, from the very start of their adventure in photography, take significant time getting to know their clients. Moreover, when applicable/possible, spend some time talking with their family and friends as well (find out what they love most about your clients, for example). The result of that time is that you will photograph what is most important to them. Subsequently, they will have a connection with their photographs. And not only will you have clients for life, but you’ll also have clients who truly value the photographs that you have taken for them.”


Sean LeBlanc – Website | Instagram

“Practice, practice, practice! Take your camera out with you every day and work on a new technique. Attend local photography events and get out and shoot with others that share a similar passion for photography. I have always been drawn to beautifully lit dramatic photographs so I spent a lot of time when I was first starting out, learning how to properly use natural and manufactured light. I watched countless tutorials on flash and would often bring along my off-camera flash kit on family vacations, outings, walks and family get-togethers to work on lighting techniques. Invest in education and get out and practice!”

Brian Mullins – Website | Instagram

“When you’re just starting out, don’t get stuck on what you’re “supposed” to do. Learn as much as you can about EVERY type of photography you can! While jack-of-all-trades in the photography business generally isn’t advised, the more you can learn about different disciplines of photography WILL pay off dividends later. For example – learning subtractive lighting techniques for product photography will make your wedding ring photos that much better. Shooting film will slow you down and force you to pay attention to the little details. Learning architectural photography will make your “big” shots so much more impactful.

Oh ya, and strive to get it right in camera. Be obsessive about it.”

Rob Woodcox – Website | Instagram

“Never fall out of love with what you do. Throughout the journey, everyone hits a turn where you can choose the thing that makes you truly happy or the thing that will give you temporary satisfaction. Always do the thing that resonates to the core. If that means creating powerful, meaningful art, go for it. Even if you struggle at the beginning, the most promising thing in the eyes of others is commitment. People will recognize your passion and ultimately that will take you farther than settling for something you did just for the money, notoriety, etc. You have to live with your choices in life- make them the best choices possible.”

Vanessa Joy – Website | Instagram

“I’ve always been told to never compare yourself to anyone but yourself. Looking back at these pictures (albeit painful) shows me how far I’ve come and I can’t wait to see how I’ll look back at what I’m doing now in five years!”

David J. Crewe – Website | Instagram

“My advice has always been pretty consistent… .ALWAYS KEEP TRYING/TESTING. things, especially when you’re starting out, will never look the way you are expecting….light, posing, angles, etc etc…there’s so many variables so the most important thing is to keep trying and testing. I was that annoying guy (still am) that asked friends to sit for me while I tested out my gear on every setting and every angle to learn what it did and how each setting changed the look and feel of a shot.”

Justin Haugen – Website | Instagram | Awards Profile

“This was the first wedding I’ve ever attended 14 years ago. I had never photographed a wedding before and I was that annoying guest trying to snap a few photos while the hired pros did their job and so graciously said I could take photos if I wasn’t in the way.

I took this photo with the rim light coming from one of the other photographer’s on-camera flash. I was so excited by the timing of it and that my camera had captured the exact moment they kissed during their first dance and that flash went off. I had no idea how I could possibly recreate it, though now it is a routine technique for me.

I have a lot of images I’ve taken after this that I could say make me feel a little embarrassed to share, but this image doesn’t make me feel that way. It marks the beginning of my journey, representing what I lacked in knowledge and skill while still being a cherished photo for my friends.

I didn’t realize any major growth in my photography until it was something I did daily. You have to force yourself into uncomfortable situations that challenge your inefficiencies. All of my growth came through adversity and correcting mistakes in my workflow. Pull your head out of the sand every now and then and look around at photographers who do work that inspires you.”

Paul Von Rieter – Website | Instagram

“Short tip; Shooting after eating a mango will usually result in a sticky camera… so don’t do it.

Better tip; Always seek beautiful, single temperature, single direction, single source, even light. The Difference between a good photographer nd an okay one is how they utilize the light in any given scene. Take the time and find the best use of what is available.”

Me Ra Koh – Website | Instagram

“This is one of my early photos of my daughter Pascaline from over 15 years ago. I couldn’t wait to take this roll of film to the 24-hour lab and see what I got. It came out completely blurry, but I was still mesmerized by her. She loved dressing up, and she was always dancing. I didn’t care about it being blurry – that was my girl. I hung it on our wall, and it made me smile all the time. Was there room to grow? Absolutely! When I’m struggling with being my worst critic, I remember how much I loved these early images. Over the years, I’ve found that our clients judge our work based on content (who is in the photo, what is their emotion, how does it make them feel). But as professional photographers, we judge our work on composition b/c we’ve come to learn so much about lighting, composition, storytelling, etc. We can get the two mixed up and think that they are looking for the same things. When the truth is that even a blurry photo of a little girl dancing fills my heart because it’s my girl.

The photo on the right was taken of her last year. She still likes to dress up. We’d been on the road in Europe filming and shooting for weeks. That morning, our train arrived in Paris. This was Pascaline’s dream city to visit. My husband Brian, my son Blaze and I were all worn out and looking pretty ragged. But within 10 minutes of checking into our Airbnb, Pascaline came out of the bathroom dressed to the hilt and said “Mom, I’m ready for my photo shoot! We’re in PARIS!” How could I say no? I love that the years of practice, almost two decades now, have not just been with Family Portrait clients but on her and her brother. The blurry shots and the focused ones…I treasure them all.”

Pye Jirsa – Website | Instagram

“Social media can be an incredible tool in reaching audiences and networking. It can also completely derail us from our goals when we fall into the trap of comparisons. It’s too easy to fall into the nasty habit of comparing our work to others. It’s a process that saps our creative drive and confidence, and it’s made all to easy with social media. Keep your head down, understand that everyone starts in the exact same place. Social media tells you nothing of a person’s success in their career or the hard work they’ve put into achieving it. Educate yourself through books, online courses, and other educational experiences. Then keep your head down and grind as you practice each of the techniques you learn.”

Christian Cardona – WebsiteInstagram

“Perseverance”, educate yourself, practice, being very stubborn about what you want to achieve, listen to your clients. In photography, there are no shortcuts, just hard work.

Christian Cardona My first wedding
Christian Cardona My Recent Work

Jason Vinson – Website | Instagram

“The fastest way to grow as a photographer is to find photos you love and recreate them. Don’t be afraid to copy. Learn how it’s done and then start to mix elements from different images and different photographers into one. From here, you’ll start to develop your own voice based on a foundation inspired by your peers. In the words of Isaac Newton “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.””

Jason Vinson My First Wedding
Jason Vinson My Recent Work

Timothy Eyrich – Website | Instagram

“Keep shooting, studying blogs, educational courses, reach out to photogs you admire and ask to shadow them. Study the photos you like and try and reverse engineer the lighting. Keep shooting and when you think you have created what you want. Scrap it and keep shooting some more.”

Timothy Eyrich My First Wedding
Timothy Eyrich My Recent Work

Tree Marie WoodSmith – Website | Instagram

“Being brave and getting in there! Learning over time that capturing photos so that the viewer will feel like they were there is more powerful. Remind yourself you are photographing for their kids and grandkids. Really for the people not even born yet who will someday look at their ancestors. Remembering to layer, to tell the whole story and compose and wait!!!!”

Tree Marie WoodSmith My First Wedding
Tree Marie WoodSmith My Recent Work

Tanya Goodall Smith – Website | Instagram

“Developing the confidence to direct people and “create” an image rather than just showing up and shooting the first thing you see has made a huge difference in the quality of my images. Being able to say with authority, “Let’s add a light in here, let’s move some stuff out of the background, I’m going to climb up on this step stool I brought or lay on the ground in the dirt because I want to try this from a different angle, could you change into a different shirt? Try posing like this instead…” I’m not just a photographer, I’m a producer and director, too. And that just comes from experience. You have to get out there and shoot a million images to get better.””

Tanya Goodall Smith Early Work
Tanya Goodall Smith Recent Work

Marlies Hartmann – Website | Instagram

“Surround yourself with a strong, honest, community of working professionals. Never stop learning. Put down that camera and let yourself experience things. Shooting doesn’t always equal “seeing”. Listen to music, read a poem, go out in nature, watch a classic film, visit a museum. Making yourself curious makes you a better creative and artist and lends itself to the purest form of inspiration.”

Marlies Hartmann Then
Marlies Hartmann Now

Nicole Chan Loeb – Website | Instagram

“I admire so many talented creatives, but there’s one photographer that stands out to me creatively I hired him and asked him to treat my family and I like any other normal client.

I wanted to put myself in my client’s shoes. I tried hard not to think about lenses, settings, or lighting. I loved the creative out-of-the-box portraits that he captured. Those photos went on to win awards and be featured. However, the ones that were really meaningful to me were ways that he made photos out of simple moments. He was observant of the little things – the interactions that make my family special. I always try to remember this when I get stuck in a creative rut!”

Nicole Chan Loeb Then
Nicole Chan Loeb Now

Jorge Romero – Website | Instagram

‘The main thing that has worked for me and I recommend it is to practice, practice, and more practice. Practice and you will develop your creativity. You do not even need your camera, you can try to look for the light or a nice composition everywhere you go, so put your cellphone away and go practice.”

Jorge Romero Then
Jorge Romero Now

Tanya Parada – Website | Instagram

“I had just started dabbling in off-camera-flash photography and thought, “What better way to test out this new photography tool than at my friend’s wedding?” It was my first paid wedding job and it was the biggest eye-opener. I did not know how to properly use the tools I had at my disposal. Fast forward to many weddings later…years of workshops, mentorships, trial, and error…I’ve learned to be familiar and intentional with the tools I use, thinking about what I’m trying to achieve, and then choosing which tool will help me get the best final product.”

Tanya Parada THEN
Tanya Parada NOW

Kara Miller of Kara Miller Photography

Follow Kara on her website, Facebook, and Instagram.

Kara’s Tip: Learn first how to look for beautiful light, and then how to capture it. Seek out every opportunity to learn – read books and blogs, go to workshops, take classes, ask questions, and study the work of photographers you admire. In every moment of your spare time, PRACTICE!




Phillip Van Nostrand

Follow Phillip on his website, Facebook, and Instagram.

Phillip’s Tip: Stay away from trendy things like textures, vignetting, color spotting, “vintage” looks, and try to get your photos as clean and properly exposed as possible, EVERY TIME, in camera. — Look at real magazines and see what is being produced there.





Reece Miller of Reece and Katrina Photographers

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Reece’s Tip: Create and show images that you love, and the right clients will find you. Never stop learning and practicing. Compete only against yourself to make every shoot better than the last.




reeceandkatrina_afterCass Bradley of BlueSky by Cass Bradley

Follow Cass on her website, blogPinterest, and Facebook.

Cass’s Tip: Learn early and often how to create a connection with your clients to achieve more authentic images. –Assist seasoned pros, photograph friends, and family,  and master the art of ‘subtle directing.’   –Even ‘posed’ images should reflect emotion and connection vs. 2 people connecting with a camera.  (and never, never pose the bride in the groom’s crotch;-)





Robin Reece of The R2 Studio

Follow Robin and R2 Studio on their website, Facebook, and Instagram.

Robin’s Tip: Starting out, I had limited resources. I was editing all of my photos on iPhoto – hence the blurred out edges and major vignetting and had a camera that I basically bought from Target. I was also shooting at really sad venues with very little potential for great backdrops. But none of those things stopped me. Don’t let your lack of equipment, lack of knowledge of editing programs, or lack of amazing venues stop you from being creative. I go into every wedding, even the ones at the venues that have the
seemingly least potential, telling myself to “shoot like this is going on the cover of a magazine!”





Jenn Bischof of Jenn Bischof Photographer

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Jenn’s Tip: My advice would be to find where your passion lies (even if you have to burn through every genre and end up creating your own), and pursue it with wild abandon. Let the bustle of what others are doing fall by the wayside, and focus on your own path.





Melissa Kilner of Melissa Kilner Photography

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Melissa’s Tip: Don’t be afraid to say no! Once you discover what you’re passionate about and inspired by, don’t be afraid to turn down other genres of work. Focus on what you’re crazy about and your work will show your passion. It’s better to be GREAT at one thing, and then just good at many.





Stephen Vosloo of Stephen Vosloo Photography

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Stephen’s Tip: Be relentless, lean into the craft as hard as you can, never stop learning or pushing yourself, every step that you take on this journey is important, even when you fail, or fall short of where you want to be. It’s how you learn. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or to look foolish, you’ll save yourself a lot of heartache. Most important, remember, “the journey’s in the journey” savor every moment. 





Trevor Dayley of Trevor Dayley Photography

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Trevor’s Tip: Learning how to nail a great exposure and proper white balance are two areas in my career that helped me immensely. Learn your camera inside and out. Stop trying to make bad photos good by overlaying textures on top of them. If you are still using Photoshop to edit wedding photos, it’s time to drop it for good and make the move to Lightroom.




Kara Wahlgren of Kiwi Photography

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Kara’s Tip: There will always be someone who tells you how awesome you are (hi, mom!). But listen to the critics too — including your inner critic. You can’t grow without getting a few bruises to your ego, so ask people you respect for honest feedback, and always look for areas where you can improve.





Jeremy Ellsworth of Jeremy Ellsworth Photography

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Jeremy’s Tip: Stop worrying about what everyone else is doing, shooting, and selling. Take the time to truly figure out what it is you love and do it your way. Not the way that (Insert Rock Star Photographer Name Here) is doing it. Find your voice and make it heard.




Ning Wong of Ning Wong Studios

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Ning’s Tip: Being a full time photographer is not only about creating beautiful images, but it’s about learning the business.  You can be the greatest photographer in the world, but if you don’t know how to manage your business or market yourself, you won’t last long.  Take time to learn the business and marketing aspect of wedding photography and you’ll be surprised how much further it will take you.  And taking beautiful pictures help too! :)





Michael James of Michael James Photography

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Michael’s Tip: The best piece of advice I can give is to try new things and be willing to fail – a lot.  One of the best ways I’ve come to define my style is to come up with new ideas, try them, and hate them.  That stops me from going down that path any further and starts me in an entirely new direction.




Laura Reynolds of LuRey Photography

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Laura’s Tip: When you are first starting out, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the idea of posing and pretty scenery.  You see all of these gorgeous images from photographers that you admire and all you know is that you want your images to look like that!  But until you understand light, there will always be something missing.  It is so important to focus on beautiful light first.  Find the right light and the rest will follow.



lurey-todayJamie Ivins of Jamie Ivins Photography

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Jamie’s Tip: It’s easy to look at those you admire and feel as though you’re not good enough.  But you have to be patient.  You have to keep pushing.  If the greats gave up when they felt like they weren’t good enough, there would be no great photographers.  Take those feelings, internalize them, and go create.  When you make it to the other side you’ll be able to look back and say “look how far I’ve come.





Megan Kuethen of Megan Kuethen Photography

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Megan’s Tip: There is no substitute for practice. Practice every day, practice on your friends and family and cat and strangers on the street. Education is good, but experiencing failure and success for yourself, in the back of your own camera, is what instigates growth.


Megan Kuethen-yesterday


Megan Kuethen-today

Shannon Cronin of Shannon Cronin Photography

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Shannon’s Tip: Sunlight can be a beautiful thing, or it can be, well… ghastly. Practice on trees, pets, whatever you have nearby until you learn how and where the sun should be in your frame or out of your frame to get you that beautiful glowy light that looks oh-so-good. Sun can ruin an image- cast strange tones on skin and the flare/highlight can be so bright that it’s the first thing your eyes go to… or it can enhance a gorgeous image where your clients are the center of attention.


Shannon Cronin Photography- before and after -2


Shannon Cronin Photography- before and after -1