My Journey as a Photographer (part 3) – Why I Became a Portrait Photographer




This is a continuation of my two prior posts My Journey as a Photographer (part 1) and (part 2). The two prior blog posts describe how I got into photography and the time before my formal photography training at the Hallmark Institute of Photography.


After graduating high school I moved to Greenfield, Massachusetts to study at the Hallmark Institute of Photography. This is one of the best choices of my life. Hallmark’s intense ten-month program gave me the knowledge needed to become successful in this industry. I came into Hallmark with an open mind and left being changed forever.


We studied a variety of different styles of photography at Hallmark including commercial, editorial, and fashion; but it was portraiture that stuck. It was also here that I decided to pursue portrait photography. I loved meeting the fellow Hallmark students who came from all different parts of the country and even different parts of the world. I also enjoyed meeting the models, artisans, church members, musicians, professionals, and distant relatives I got to meet while in New England.


I became a portrait photographer because I love creating images for people that they will cherish for years.

There are other subjects besides portraits I enjoy shooting like nature, architecture, and pretty much anything is a potential subject in my current personal series #iPhoneography, but none of these are as fulfilling as creating images of people and their loved ones which will retain sentimental value for years to come.


I graduated from the Hallmark Institute of Photography in June 2013 with the Highest Academic Honor and am now living in Clare, Michigan where I run my own portrait photography business and do freelance retouching.


My Journey as a Photographer (part 2) – The Early Years

This is a continuation of last week’s post My Journey as a Photographer (part 1). Last week’s post explained how I initially found my love of photography and this week it explains the next step in my journey to becoming a professional portrait photographer.

My sophomore year of high school is when my love of art and photography really started to grow. I started taking more art classes. I read any photography magazines I could find locally and bought a handful of books about photography from big names in the industry.

In late February of 2010 I photographed the above image for my church. It was originally for a slideshow for their Easter program featuring images that represented life, joy, and revival. This image also ended up being my first magazine cover when it was picked a year later to be the cover of Shutterbug Magazine’s February 2011 cover.

At this point nature and wildlife photography still continued to be the main focus of my work mostly do to my location. I grew up ten miles outside of the small town of Clare, Mi. I didn’t have a vehicle or drivers license at the time so most of my time was spend reading about photography or taking photographs of nature. The birds and wildlife that would meander into my front yard would usually end up my being the subjects early on in my career.

This image of a nuthatch at my mom’s bird feeder was another defining image for me. I shot this in early August 2010. This image would eventually get published in Audubon Magazine January/February 2011 issue, Nature’s Best Photography Magazine Spring/Summer 2011 issue, the World of Photography – Volume One – Bookazine, and Photographer’s Forum Best of Photography 2012. This image wasn’t flipped; this bird feeds upside-down.

Four months later during my junior year of high school, church got canceled due to the intense winter storm the night before. I decided to take advantage of the winter storm and photograph the beautiful snow covered trees across the road from my house. This image would later be published in Digital Photo Magazine’s March/April 2011 issue.

Between my junior and senior years of high school my nature photography had already been published in a handful of magazines like Shutterbug, Digital Photo, Audubon, Nature’s Best Photography, and World of Photography Bookazine. My parents and I made a trip to the Canadian Rockies that was awe-inspiring. This was the peak of my interest in nature photography. This image photographed in Field, British Columbia would later be published in Outdoor Photographer Magazine’s March 2012 issue and is my favorite image from prior to my formal training a year later.

About a month later I’d be hired to photograph my friend Jerry’s senior portraits. An image from this session would later be published in PDNedu Magazine Spring 2012 issue a few months later.

At this point I was still open minded to what my future in photography would be. I had already been accepted to the Hallmark Institute of Photography and had yet to decide what style of photography I would pursue. Check back next week for Part 3 for Why I Became a Portrait Photographer.

My Journey as a Photographer (part 1) – How I Got Started in Photography

A question that comes up during almost every portrait session is, “How did I get started in photography?”. This blog post explains just that.

My love of photography started when I was fairly young between the ages of thirteen and fourteen. I was a bit of a computer nerd at the time, and a friend of mine had recommended I check out a website called which featured Photoshop, photography, and other art competitions. I saved up money from mowing lawns, bought Photoshop CS2, and started making some pretty horrendous composites that I entered into contests on After a few months of entering Photoshopped images into contests, I still wasn’t very good, so I decided to try entering one of the website’s photography competitions instead. I grabbed my mom’s Kodak Easyshare and took a photo of my parent’s blue pole barn. This photo ended up scoring far better than any of my composites so I decided I try out photography instead of just Photoshop.


By the end of my freshman year of high school in 2009 I had saved up enough money to buy my own Nikon D40. I brought this with me everywhere and shot with it religiously. My parents and fellow church members saw my growing interest and encouraged me to pursue it further.



The exact moment I decided I wanted to be a photographer was in-between my freshman and sophomore years of high school. My parents and I were on a small vacation to Grand Rapids, Mi. We were at the Fred Meijer Gardens; I had my Nikon D40, metal Velbon tripod that my dad had bought back in the early 80s, and a refurbished 70-300mm lens. I was walking around trying to get some decent images of flowers when another visitor to the gardens noticed my camera and pointed towards some brush on the side of the trail. I walked over in just enough time for a baby raccoon to pop his head up. I snapped an image of him just before he hid back in the bushes and scurried away. This was the first photo I had gotten that I was really happy with. After seeing this photo was when I decided I wanted to become a photographer.


At this point in the conversation I usually get asked, “Why do I shoot portraits?”. It wasn’t till much later I decided I wanted to be a portrait photographer and the explanation takes a bit longer to. Check back next week for part 2 of My Journey as a Photographer.