With school and work and friends and family and all-around life in general, it can seem impossible to pursue what you really love. Well, guess what? Everything truly worth pursuing takes sacrifice…said some famous literary figure, I’m sure.
The point is, it’s possible. You just miss out on a few movies and drinks, maybe work a few late nights – but if you’re chasing your passion, is it really considered work? I think it falls more along the lines of prioritizing. It’s your life, after all.
But, I get it. You’re a starving college kid, and I know how discouraging it can be at times. Money is always an issue. Time, it seems, is a bigger issue. Everyone’s in a hurry to get ahead. But I’m not here to lecture – I’m here to encourage.
Take it from these two lovely photographers that put the social standards to rest and, despite all the struggles of adulting, are making money doing what they love.
Kayla Matykunas, 22
Early Childhood Education Major
Kayla Matykunas Photography
“Some days I just need a bowl of ice cream and a bubble bath but remind myself how far I’ve come.”
Q: What do you like about photography?
I think that there are certain moments in life that just cannot be described in words- these moments deserve only to be captured in photos. I love being able to document moments and special times in the lives of others. I love seeing the look on a mother’s face as she fights back happy tears looking her daughter’s senior photos for the first time, or being able to deliver photos to a newly engaged couple to remind them of such a beautiful and exciting time in their life!
Q: How have you promoted yourself?
I first started with a simple Facebook page. I grabbed a friend every once in a while and asked them to model for me so I could build my portfolio. After a couple of years, I began to build a clientele through social media and word of mouth. Once I gained confidence, I built a website, designed business cards, and am now in full swing! I am excited to have a website to reach out to strangers, not just friends or friends of friends, but to be open to all new clientele.
Q: How stressful is it, juggling school and photography?
It is incredibly stressful. When you have a full-time job, are a full-time college student, and have so many ideas you want to see come to fruition, it most definitely does get stressful.
I stick to a tight turn-around time in photography and some days I just need a bowl of ice cream and a bubble bath to remind myself how far I’ve come, and then spend a couple more hours behind the computer to finish a session. But I wouldn’t trade a crazy schedule for anything. Photography is a huge passion of mine. I used to have very little self-confidence in my work, but I have spent a lot of time and effort in building my portfolio, practicing, learning, growing, and building that confidence. I am so proud of how far I have come!
Alissa Harmon, 20
Ali Harmon Photography
“When someone hires you to photograph their wedding, they want to see your portfolio of weddings you’ve done previously, not your degree.”
Q: How long have you been doing photography?
For as long as I can remember, I have always had an “itch” to do something creative, or artistic. I spent many frustrating years trying to create the images I saw in my head using so many paints, crayons, pastel etc, but found that my hands and eyes had a disconnection. At a very young age I had many cameras, mostly throw away, or “fixed” lens cameras. Nothing fancy. I would take photos of anything or anyone I liked. That’s what photography is, right?
I spent my teen years doing photo shoots for my friends – they made the perfect models. By this point in time, I have completely self-taught myself everything I know about photography.
Q: Not going for a college degree? I’m totally envious. What made you come to that decision?
I consider myself an entrepreneur. I’m someone who believes I can achieve greatness in my profession without a piece of paper to prove it. All done by self-educating, experience, and a whole lot of confidence. I have a couple of the top photographers in the world as mentors. They’ve told me many times that going to school would simply be a waste of time. When someone hires you to photograph their wedding, they want to see your portfolio of weddings you’ve done previously, not your degree. It’s all about how you associate with your client, and present yourself professionally.
Q: What inspired you to pursue photography as a career?
When I was nineteen, I volunteered to photograph a local Film Festival, with students from Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL. However, a week before the festival all of the students decided they didn’t have the time to do it. The festival brought in a professional photographer to do it all, and I would be assisting. He saw the passion and dedication in me and, afterward, started bringing me along to his own shoots – weddings, corporate events, family portraits, travels – and hired models just so I could practice photographing them. My mentor has taught me so much more about photography and the business side of it that I didn’t even know existed.
Today, I’m a full-time school photographer, working for a company who specializes in photographing children for schools, sports activities and high school seniors. I work with a team of talented photographers traveling across Florida and Georgia capturing thousands of smiles weekly.
I’m still doing shoots with my mentor, photographing events and people I would’ve only dreamed of photographing. We collaborate with business, helping each other with jobs and share ideas for the next big move – owning my own business one day.