The beginning of a new year often times feels like a chance to start fresh. I will be doing that with my business brand, website, and product line very soon. In conjunction with that, I thought it would be neet to share a little bit about my history and journey leading up to the present day Beth Carter Photography. So here you go (it got kinda long, so make sure you have a little bit of time before proceeding – sorry!)…
I was born on an Army base in Okinawa Japan. My dad was in the Navy, and my mom was and still is a school teacher. My sister (2 1/2 years younger) was also born in Japan. We moved to Florida when I was 4 and a few years later my dad retired from the Navy after 20 years. So according to my memories, I’ve always lived in Florida. I actually grew up in Pensacola, a Navy town up in the far west panhandle. I was raised in a Christian home and grew up very active in my church and youth group. I started taking piano lessons in 3rd grade, and stuck with it for 10 years. I had a "natural" talent, but hated playing in front of people. I also love to sing. I sang alto in my church choir growing up and was in the advanced chorus in high school. I even had the opportunity to sing in Carnegie Hall with my high school group – twice!
When I got to high school, I started thinking about what I wanted to do with my life when I "grew up". I knew that I loved music and was fairly good at it. So I started talking with my various instructors. They all started sharing with me what went into getting a music degree, as well as what you could do with a music degree – all of which involved solos and performing in front of people. I quickly realized this was not the route for me.
My Junior year of high school I took an accounting class. I was probably one of a handful of students that really "got" accounting and all the debits and credits that go with it. And I realized I really liked it! (Crazy I know, but making a spreadsheet balance is almost as exciting to me as nailing a great picture!!!) So I decided I would be an accounting major in college. I had a few desk jobs in high school and college and totally thrived in the behind-the-scenes, sit at your desk all day environments. My clients may not see this side of me, but I am by nature an introvert. I have a fly-on-the-wall personality. Be seen and not heard, and sometimes not even seen. I have grown out of this to some extent thank goodness, but I was always a shy child and still hate speaking in front of groups of people. I remember telling a friend once that I couldn’t wait until one day I had my own desk in a cubicle, where I could just work all day without having to deal with the public or with customers. How’s that for ambition!
So off I went to college. I ended up picking Florida Southern College here in Lakeland, FL. My first semester there was my husband’s last semester. Luckily we met and became friends before he graduated. We started dating at the beginning of my sophomore year. I graduated after 3 years with an accounting degree and immediately started working in the corporate world. I worked for 2 different companies over the course of 7 years and became a full time cube dweller. (Anybody ever read Dilbert?).
My husband and I got married in 2000, a year after I graduated. We had a super sweet and talented wedding photographer. I started talking to her about what it was like working full time doing something as fun as photography. I became obsessed with searching the internet for anything I could find about photography and photography classes. I bought my first film SLR camera and eventually enrolled in the New York Institute for Photography – which was a home correspondence school. I started learning little by little, but photography has a pretty big learning curve, especially in the days of film. So I started praying for a mentor. Ideally I wanted a female, Christian, professional photographer to talk to and have available to ask questions. A friend recommended I call Joni Finkbeiner, an incredibly talented photographer in town who is also a very strong Christian. So one day I wrote out what I wanted to say to her, practiced it in the mirror while getting ready for work, and called her on my first break. She agreed to let me come by her studio to show her my "portfolio". I had never been so nervous!! She was very kind to me – especially looking back at those not so great images – and immediately told me to go digital. So I went out and bought my Canon 10D and a zoom lens. She hired me to be a third shooter at her weddings and I started spending my lunch breaks at her studio watching her assistant retouch on Photoshop. I would not be where I am today if it were not for the generosity and openness of Joni.
Early on I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with photography. I remember telling my husband that because I’m not a people person, maybe I could do landscape photography. But I quickly realized that was a hard market to break into and really make money at. Around that time we were part of a young church that was full of families with small children. So one day I asked a friend if I could take pictures of her kids that Saturday morning. She agreed, so we went to Hollis Gardens and had my first children’s photo session, which to my surprise, I loved! From there I did many more family and children sessions at local parks. I did a maternity session using only window light and a white bed sheet. I bought a black backdrop and started shooting maternity and newborns with a friend holding my flash off to the side of my camera. I was tired of not having control of my lighting, so I invested in my studio lights and a few more backdrops. And most recently I’ve invested in a new camera and new lenses that have greatly enhanced my outdoor and indoor natural lighting techniques.
For years I worked photography as a part time passion while keeping my full time accounting job during the week. But when I had my daughter in March 2006, we decided I would become a full time mom. So technically my photography is still a part time endeavor. I do as much as I can when I can, but my first job is as a mom to Sydney. That is a sacrifice I’m willing to make at this stage of my life. I look forward to being able to schedule shoots whenever I’d like during the week, but right now, Sydney is the priority. I am so thankful to have clients who are mostly other moms that can totally relate and are very supportive and understanding of my limited hours.
So that is the story behind this business of mine. I hope you enjoyed getting some insight into me as much as I enjoyed sharing it. Thank you all for being so supportive over the years. Without each of my clients, and those in my life like Joni and my husband that have been so encouraging, I would not be where I am today.
Until next time…