My Story – How I Started Brooke Michelle Photo

My Story - How I Started My Photo Business - Brooke Michelle Photography

Business, For Photogs, Personal

March 1, 2021

I get asked all the time how I started my business. For me, it just seems like a bunch of happy coincidences that have led me to here. But, I guess in life sometimes that is how the best things tend to happen.


Let’s start this out by saying, I was always the girl at JoBro concerts that couldn’t put down her phone. I know, I know. That’s like all of us. Wanting to capture photos and footage and remember it all for later.

But, for me it truly was trying to get the light right or take some artsy photo I was convinced the Jonas Brothers would repost on their Instagram and lead to my moment of fame.


Once I got my first camera around the age 15 (a Kodak actually, thats important info later) I would beg my friends to drive to some random overgrown field in a dress and run around taking aesthetically pleasing images of ourselves. Not knowing that ten years later that is exactly what I would be actually doing for my income.


However, as a 16 year old gal, when I was asked “what do you want to do for a career” and I responded with “be a photographer,” I was always faced with “are you going to be able to make enough doing that?” *insert major eye roll*

This immediately intimidated me and I started saying “I want to do XYZ (insert some career I wasn’t passionate about) and do photography on the side” to anyone who seemed to ask.


As senior year approached the need to figure out what the heck I was doing came in strong as all my friends were applying and committing to colleges with a 5 year plan, and I was just cruising by hoping no one would ask any too in depth questions. I applied to about four colleges knowing I couldn’t afford them, but praying for a scholarship or miracle and ended up settling on community college for business until I “figured things out.” Little did I know I had already figured everything out, I had just been to intimidated to actually stand tall and say this is what I am doing and I will succeed at it.


I snagged an internship with a local photographer for the rest of my senior year and learned what I could, when I could about running a small business. I think this was the initial inspiration I needed to see another woman in the same town I lived in, doing exactly what I wanted to do full time.


The summer after senior year I was accepted into a program called SOCAPA in New York City for the summer. I remember I saved for six months, and used all my graduation money to commit and pay for this program.


I spent two weeks with kids my age from all over the world learning photography and being surrounded by others with a dream just as big (if not bigger than mine). We all stayed in the NYU dorms and went to photo class each day, followed by group activities at night. Living for two weeks on my own for the first time and truly living out exactly what I wanted to do as a career. It was magical really. I still wear my SOCAPA sweatpants to edit in, and it’s just a sweet reminder of the summer that really kick started my confidence and independence I would need to fully launch my business forward.


(some photos I took during the program)

My Story - How I Started My Photo Business - Brooke Michelle Photography My Story - How I Started My Photo Business - Brooke Michelle Photography My Story - How I Started My Photo Business - Brooke Michelle Photography


After this dream of a summer I came home and started attending community college. Although I went in with a major in business it was really just a year filled with general education classes and photographing portrait sessions for $100 on the evenings I was free.


After about a year, I told myself I needed break and took a year off of college completely. I worked full time at a local sushi restaurant and again, just photographed who I could whenever I could.


Later that year I was asked back to SOCAPA, but this time as a photo intern to the younger kids! I remember going back and feeling inspired all over again. Like, I know I can actually do this. I had 10 weddings booked for the upcoming calendar year, and had committed to start going to a different community college as soon as fall rolled around.


I decided I wasn’t going to return to the sushi restaurant and instead go full time with photography and pray I didn’t fall on my face. I calculated that the weddings would be enough to cover my bare minimum expenses and that was enough for me.


That was in 2013.


At this time I had a Nikon I got for Christmas one year (bless my mom) and had just signed myself up to intern with a local fashion photographer. I assisted shoots for Girls Life Magazine (who later hired my business for an event in 2018, big fan girl moment) and help set up and break down lighting equipment. It was amazing to learn studio light and see another successful photographer in the area I live in.


During this time I had noticed him and all of the other photogs “at his level” were shooting with Canon. Since my new made goal and passion was to work in fashion, I up and switched all my gear to Canon full frames thinking it would somehow make me better.


As the years have gone on I have tried and failed at many things. And found my true passion for photographing couples and high school seniors (the age I was when I launched this business). I have created my own unique preset and stand out editing style, had six figure years, and traveled all over the world documenting clients and falling into opportunities.


Have any questions? Leave them in the comment section below!



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