My fiancée is a fashion blogger and she needed a photographer to help capture her outfits so she could share it with the world. At first I didn’t enjoy it much — I had to rush home from my 9-5 job in Silicon Valley to beat the sunset just so we could take photos while there was still light out; however, through all the craziness, it was always worth it when I saw how much my fiancée enjoyed and appreciated it. Her happiness brought me happiness. 

I started wanting to progress further and provide better pictures for her blog and social outlets. I purchased better gear, took several private lessons from photographers that I admired, and studied composition techniques from several books. I read as many fashion magazines as I could get my hands on so I could better understand posing and how to drape or style clothes for amazing photos. After some time, now my passion for fashion and photography helps fuel my portrait work. 

My favorite memory is when I was shooting a campaign for Coach with my fiancée. It was the first time that I had the mental confirmation that I could actually make photography a career and that companies genuinely enjoy my work. It was definitely a rewarding feeling. My mother always liked Coach while I was growing up, so it was a special privilege to tell her that I got to contribute to a campaign with them. 

Throughout this great chapter in my life, I’ve learned that you just have to take a shot. There have been many unique photos I framed in my mind that I regret not taking. You can’t get those opportunities back, so it’s important that you follow your intuition when you feel it, because the one thing you can’t get back is time.

I plan to continue being a student of visual storytelling and support my fiancée’s efforts in fashion. My personal goal is to develop a more refined style in the future. I’ll be reading more photo books and going to more gallery showings in order to absorb others’ approaches to their craft and eventually curate a unique style for myself. 

Some friendly advice for anyone who is equally as passionate about photography would be to identify as a photographer to your core. For example, when someone asks what you like doing in your free time, don’t say “I like taking pictures of landscapes” — go 100% and say “I’m a photographer that likes landscapes”. Yes, there is a difference. 

It’s important to self-identify because there are certain responsibilities with calling yourself a “photographer”. You’re more involved in the craft in a meaningful way that is tied to who you are, rather than just something you do. I encourage all to fully emerge yourself in your passion because in the end, nothing is more gratifying than getting to do what you love.

Check out more of Leo’s work at shotbyleo.com and follow him on Instagram @shotbyleo

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