For the past few weeks I’ve been trying to figure out ways to interact with an online audience better then by just posting photos. Although I am a wedding photographer, I feel like I need more content on my blog to kind of entice people, let them get to know me, gather information, and have a good read. With that being said, I had no idea where to start, so why not get things going with a little more in depth post about me. It’s truth time. The following paragraphs are my life in brief, get ready (I promise it’s an easy read), plus you’ll see some of my old weddings and editing style along the way, just to see how much I’ve grown.
I grew up in a small town located 30minutes east of Ottawa with my parents and two older siblings. Blonde hair, green eyes and a monstrous smile, I had your typical rural upbringing. Pestered by my older siblings, bullied in school but an always happy go lucky kid, my life looked like any others in my hometown. From an early age I loved art, a passion for drawing, painting but most of all singing. It wasn’t until I got into highschool that I realized how much I really wanted to study in the arts. After auditioning for a specialized visual arts program at De La Salle in Ottawa and making it in, my life changed. I spent every day in the big bad city (Ottawa was a big city when you came from a small town), taking in the different cultures and art scenes that I had never previously been exposed to. This is where I got my very first camera.
After much back and forth in senior year, I had decided I wanted to take graphic design in my post-secondary education. But back in the day, you needed a proper portfolio to enter that sort of art program. So, I opted to take the photography program at La Cité Collégial to build said portfolio, and I never looked back. During my two years in the program I learned many valuable things but the one thing that stood out to me was when one of my teachers told us: ‘’You will hate weddings and never want to do them. The only time you will do them is when you’re desperate for money.’’ I so wanted to prove them wrong, I wanted to love to do weddings and to show them I could make a career out of it.
After graduation, I was able to start working for another photographer in Ottawa as his second shooter and editor. I worked with him for two summers as well as a very well-known high end studio. But after two years I had realized that I wanted to have control over my own photos, my own brand. I wanted to meet and bond with the clients, not just meet them day of for a few hours and then leave as though it never happened. And with that I created SD photography, did my first wedding show, booked 18 weddings for the following year and my Journey began.
That first year was the most difficult on me physically. I was working full time between the hours of 10-8, shooting engagement sessions when I wasn’t working and between May-October I was shooting weddings almost every week-end sometimes even twice a week-end. During that first year I only offered one package which was 12 hours. Needless to say, those made for long exhausting days. Any other minute of the day I had free was used for editing these weddings. My typical day was work from 10-6 or 12-8 then home to edit until 2 or 3am and back at it again the next day. It had gotten to a point where my family was worried about me burning out, which is what happened by the time December rolled around. I was so tired, I could barely function. After making a structure change to my packages and reducing my work hours, I thought I had finally figured out how to make everything work.
Over the next 6 years I struggled. Not necessarily with photography but with everything on the back end. I didn’t realize going into this that there was so much to have to deal with. I wanted to do nothing but take photos and edit. But I then had to build a website, provide marketing materials, keep up with the trends, keep constant communication with current clients and potential clients keep up social media, have a family life, etc etc etc… It was piling on and It was a lot to deal with. I felt like I was failing. I wasn’t where I wanted to be in terms of booking, I was still living with my parents, I was single, working random full-time jobs. I just wasn’t where I wanted to be, period. So I went back to college. I decided to take Graphic Design after all. I figured why not do photography and offer graphic design work on the side to supplement me. Well that ended being a bust because after one semester I left the program. Not because I couldn’t do it but because I felt like everything I was learning was so redundant to what photography had already taught me. I felt as though I was paying for an education I already had, so I left. And I am so happy I did. My heart was never in it, my heart has and will always be in wedding photography.
And here I was, back to working full-time in those random jobs (I’ve been a server, a supervisor at a camera store, an editor, a school photographer, an insurance broker, a bridal salon consultant) and working a side hustle with my business. I never thought I was going to make it. Side note, did I mention social media can be a total vibe killer for a creative person? It can be an inspiration but it can also be detrimental to ones outlook on their own work. I was following all these photographers and telling myself that they are so much better than me, that I’ll never be as good as them, that my work doesn’t even compare. I was literally tearing myself down.
Things didn’t really start to change until I went to Jamaica to shoot a friend’s wedding. Early on in the week I met her brother and the rest of her family and spent loads of time to getting to know them better. Little did I know that they would become my family. Her brother Mark and I began a long-distance relationship almost as soon as we got back. He was in Petawawa while I was still in Rockland. Over the next two years we saw each other on week-ends and whenever we had extra time off. It sounds so cliché but he was very supportive and made me see things differently. I slowly started to stop comparing myself (I still catch myself doing it sometimes), and believing in my work more.
Fast forward to spring 2018. I had changed my business name to Samantha Danis photography, built a brand new website, updated my style to something more reflective of me and yet I was still going into wedding season stressed out of my mind. I was working 4-5days a week at a job that was once fulfilling but was now exhausting and stressful. I was right back to where I was two years ago, where the hell was I going with this? Maybe I was in the wrong career after all? Maybe I’m not meant for this? What am I doing? Career wise I had no idea, life wise things were actually about to change.
As Mark and I were walking into the movie theatre one day he received an email. He showed it to me and I started to tear up… I couldn’t believe what I was reading, wait am I reading this right? I couldn’t see the screen anymore when I asked him if it meant what I thought? And It did. He was officially moving to Ottawa for work in the summer! We were finally going to be able to live together, and I was finally going to move out of Rockland. We found an apartment in a short amount of time and were ready to move in June.
At the end of May, about 1 week before I left for Mexico for a friend’s wedding and two weeks before the big move, I had a total meltdown. I couldn’t deal with the stress of working full-time at a job that made me so sad and anxious, plus a move, plus wedding season coming. I called Mark in a panic and hysterically crying. He told me not to worry, everything would be alright. I didn’t understand, how could it all be alright? That night we talked and we decided it was time. I would quit my job and work solely on the business. I officially gave my work place my notice and my last day would be at the very end of June.
I started July off completely anew. I had been living in the apartment on my own for a month as Mark was only coming in full-time the second week of July and I had already started my wedding season. I didn’t have a plan. I tried to have a plan but I seriously did not know where to start so I decided to focus on my current clients and this wedding season. I also started second shooting again on week-ends I didn’t have weddings for the lovely Charlotte Northrope, whom I am so grateful to have met. She is a wonderful photographer, friend and mentor.
It is now the end of September. My wedding season is not over but I am fully caught up with my editing. Like done my editing guys, that never happens! I’ve been posting on social media so much more, I’ve purchased books that will hopefully help me in my marketing and self-love, I’ve watched videos about anything and everything wedding photography and I will only continue to grow.
The plan is to work, work, work (Insert Rihanna’s ‘’Work’’ lyrics here) . I want to reach out to clients that cherish quality work but that also want to build something together. I pride myself on my art and on my personality and I want to show couple’s out there that they can have fun with their photographer. I want to show them an amazing time and provide them photos that will last for the next 80+ years. I’m not 100% sure how to do it all but the goal is to make it happen. I also plan on working on myself more. Emotionally this has been a crazy roller coaster for me and I want to make sure I’m always at 100% for my clients and for myself. I am not entirely stress free, but who is? As a wedding photographer you never know what you’ll have booked for the next season. You could have booked 20 weddings one year and only book 10 the following which is where my stress is now coming from. But that’s okay, it comes with the territory. I’m no longer stressed about other people’s business but my own. Thank god.
I’ve obviously cut out many things from this story so it wouldn’t end up being a whole biography but I gave you the important things that brought me to where I am today. I just wanted you to get to know a little bit about my journey and how much more I have to give. Thanks for reading and I hope that if you’re an entrepreneur, you might see a little bit of yourself in this journey and I hope that it put a smile on your face knowing that you can do it too.
This Year, 2018:
Evolution of Veil Shots: