Sharing Stories - Interview with Sandra of Twelfth Element

One of the most valuable things that I have gained from my time as a photographer has been the friendships and connections I've made with others who love being behind the camera. It is a comfort to hear their stories and share together the struggles and triumphs of this industry. I hope to bring many of these types of stories to this blog. Alicia's story was inspiring and I loved revealing her brand new logo here on my site. 

Today I am so pleased to introduce you to Sandra Bludau. This is her story. This is her beginning.

My journey as a photographer began four months after I had my first son.  As common as that sounds, it was more of a revived journey.  I have always been intrigued by photography since I was young and as a teen, but I could never afford a camera.  Me and my sister used to buy disposable film cameras and we staged photoshoots with them.  It was so exciting to pick up the prints after the roll was developed!  A year after I got married, my husband put an end to my disposable camera obsession and bought me a Canon point and shoot.  I wore that thing out too, but it didn’t have the capabilities that I needed to capture what I was envisioning.

Still at my first career out of college, I took charge of taking photographs of our staff at events for our yearly kick off meetings.  I did all of it with my little point and shoot until I purchased a Canon 7D.  I decided to learn everything I could about manual exposure, composition, and just practiced until no end.  Most of the time, I thought I sucked.  Things were so much easier with the point and shoot.  The extra capabilities just presented more options and possibilities!  But I realized that my resistance for change was what was holding me back from growing as an amateur photographer.  So, I said “eff it”.  I began intentionally trying to get my desired result of capturing beauty as I saw it.  To me this was glowy, sun-induced light and happiness.  Then, I signed up for my first workshop hosted by Jinky Art Photography.  I was way out of my league and straight up embarrassed myself there!  Everyone was such a pro already and I was merely a wannabe photographer.  Or at least I felt that way.  I showed up with my Canon 7D and my one (24m-70m L series) lens.  I totally saved up for the red rimmed quality lens.  I did learn a lot about storytelling and branding.  I also learned the value of how workshops can introduce you to new great friends.  Making friends and building relationships in the industry has been one of the biggest blessings on this journey.  We all sometimes feel like quitting when things get blurry or rough, but having each other’s back is pure gold.

As much as I love children, I quickly knew that I only wanted to photograph my own children.  I decided to use my experience working with teens and my photography skills to focus on building my high-school senior business. I attended my second workshop hosted by industry leading high school senior photographer, Meg Borders.  It wasn’t until then, that I felt like I was really beginning to know that I was supposed to be a photographer.  We shared a similar desire to seek out the inner beauty in teen girls.  The milestone of mentally and physically entering the real world is a big deal.  And even though senior photography is a luxury, I remember the feeling of needing the affirmation that I was becoming a free adult as well as the confidence to embark on my journey.  The next time a girl may have professional photos will be her wedding day!

As liberating and fulfilling photography may be, I struggled with the business side of things after launching my business in 2011.  I knew the market was heavily saturated when I entered it and I knew that photography was expensive.  Making it in business was a must or else it would just end up an expensive hobby.  One of the biggest lessons I learned early on was to not overspend on unnecessary things.  With tons of equipment, software, workshops, templates, business classes just to name a few, there is so much you as a photographer can splurge on to make your business better.  It is an ongoing temptation to buy any and every new product out there.  Deciding what you really need and making clear decisions on what you will purchase for your business is crucial.  I decided to invest money on my branding and logo before making any new equipment purchases.  Having a custom brand and logo of my own is like wearing my own super-hero suit.   I can confidently represent myself and what my business promises to the world.  I actually did this twice, because I rushed into the process my first time.  The second time around three years into my business, I had a clearer idea of who my client was and what my brand needed to look like.  That’s when Twelfth Element was born!

If you are a new photographer, I would recommend doing the soul searching needed for your business and find the right designer to help you create your logo and brand.  One of the best business decisions I had ever made was investing in the Hey Sweet Pea, My Own Irresistible Brand school, where I got to do tons of soul searching, refined my brand and met the amazingly talented Shaina of Your Ampersand Studio.  It will not only help you shift your business in the right direction, but also your life!

Thank you so much, Sandra, for sharing your story today. I just know that your story will inspire, encourage and motivate many other photographers. 

Want to connect with Sandra? Follow her on Twitter and Instagram. Tell her how much you appreciated her story. There is so much beauty in sharing. 

Is there another favorite photographer of yours you'd like to see featured on this "Sharing Stories" blog series? Send me a tweet or leave a comment and let me know. I can't wait to hear from you.