Take a chance they say, what do you have to lose. well you can lose a lot when you pack up your camera and travel over 2,000 miles away from home. Or you can fly!
In 2022, I decided to book a photography shootout in Utah with a few child couture dress designers. I had been renting and purchasing dresses from these three amazing ladies for years. My main focus as a photographer is child couture so I knew I needed to do this.
Off to Utah!
I was nervous. I have never been to Utah and being a Florida girl, this all intimated me. I would be capturing images with some of the top gowns, models and photographers in my industry.
The workshop included three locations all of which were places I had never been or shot. So I packed up my three best trusty lenses and camera and headed out west. The day of travel with all my gear was not easy but I also felt this sense of pride. Here I am a small business owner packing all that I hold dear to my business and taking a leap of faith to show the world what I’ve got!
Once we landed in Utah, I instantly fell in love! My fears started to turn into complete creativity and my mind went wild. I was thinking of all the amazing shots I was going to capture in this magical place called Salt Lake City.
Our first night our three amazing designers — Your Fairy Godmother Couture, Little Dreamers Tutus and Stella Maris Tutu Atelier — packed up a plethora of the most amazing dresses. When I tell you these ladies went above and beyond for the Salt Flats, they knew they wanted to blow us out of the water. Our theme was a “Mad Max” meets circus and it was truly a show!
The beautiful outfits included feather, crystals, lavish fabrics and long trains. I knew stepping onto this empty tundra of salt and seeing all this hard work these women put into this I was HOME.
Capturing a dream-like feel
I started off by using my 135mm lens to get that beautiful soft bokeh feel for the background. I wanted these photos to feel like a dream since the Salt Flats don’t even look like something out of this world. We went in stations with each dress containing a new prop, setup or pose.
At first, I watched the other photographers and I loved their poses, but I wanted these to be mine and stand out. I started posing the models a little differently, asking them to sit down and look left or right. I quickly realized other photographers were loving what I was doing. I turned around thinking I was alone, and 6-7 other women were behind me saying this girl is amazing at posing and angles! Were they really talking about me? The photographer who has been doing this for five years and never been to a shootout in her life?
I quickly started to make friends and the rest of the night I took the lead with my little group. The models were amazing and quickly all became my little buddies. Being a mom myself and with all of these models were children, I guess I do have a way of making kids feel welcome during my photos. That is truly a passion of mine when working with kids. It is always about them first and making them feel excited and happy to be in my photos. As the sun set on the salt flats and we drove away I felt so full of life ready for the next day!
On-location in the gardens
Our next day featured two locations in Utah. Our early morning session was a beautiful garden/park right behind the capital building in downtown. This beautiful setting had fresh lilac and running brooks. Again being from Florida I was so ready for this! The dresses for this location were more whimsical and soft. This is more of what I photograph at home so I felt in my comfort zone. But I was ready to get out of that… I was in Utah after all.
Exploring Cottonwood Canyon
Location three did just that. It was time for our last location and let me tell you it did not disappoint. The Utah snowy capped mountains! We climbed, hiked and explored for the most amazing spots on Cottonwood Canyon. It was springtime down below and a winter wonderland on top of the mountain. It was a scene right out of the “Sound of Music,” a true movie set. I didn’t even believe it could be real. We only see this stuff at theme parks in Florida.
I began by taking photos of a girl in a plum colored dress by Little Tutu Dreamers. As we were about to leave the location, I walked down the stairs to hike back down the mountain. I stopped and looked up. I saw the most amazing shot! I quickly asked the model and her mom if we could do ONE more photo. This was the one. The ONE photo I was dreaming about. The one photo I would bring home to my clients, family and friends and they would be flabbergasted! I took the photo and looked at the back of my camera. This was the moment I was looking for. That moment of I did it and this was worth it.
Finding my passion
When we got home back to Florida I was so excited to edit. Every photo just got more and more magical as I pulled them to edit. I posted my work for my Florida clients and they were so blown away, proud and even more confident that their family photographer is doing what she loves.
I took a chance and went out of my comfort zone which was huge for me. I formed some amazing friendships and learned some new editing skills, but most importantly I found me. This is who I am meant to be because I found my passion again.
So, if you take anything from this article from a 35-year-old, small business owner and fairly new photographer, it is to dream big. But also make sure you fulfill your purpose in life. Don’t let the little voices tell you not to do something in your photography career because you don’t think you are good enough. You are good enough and you are magical! As Roy T. Bennett once said, “Don’t be pushed around by your fears in your mind. Be led by the dreams in your heart.”
Editor’s note: We welcome this guest post by Jacqueline Elliott, an award winning fine art children’s photographer. She specializes in couture stylizing and fashion for her sessions. Jacqueline is a Select photographer for KidFash magazine for the South East region. Her work has been published in Women’s World magazine, Disney Cruise line, as well as promotional material for high end gowns and designers.