What I'm doing Today, to help me prepare for Tomorrow

Here’s a little peek in to my life

Before 2018 ended, I decided that I was going to make 2019 a year of personal growth. A lot of amazing things happened in 2018 like: purchasing new equipment, getting my first studio, quitting my cooperate job to do photography full time & stay at home with my daughter, getting engaged, and having an assistant for my business. The old me would’ve checked these things off a list and search for the next big win. Today, the new me, is soaking in these already existing wins - and enjoying the accomplishments.

I decided in my personal growth journey that I wanted to read more. My fiancé is a HUGE nerd - but in the best way possible. Instead of reading fiction books - my guy is absorbing literature based on successful people. But with him already introducing me to the environment of reading about important things rather than fairytales - I was already on the hunt to learn about successful people and how they became successful. I tired to read the books Jordan already had, but they were bland, their text was boring and I couldn’t relate. Facebook must’ve been doing it’s creepy thing and tapped in to my brain because the very next AD I saw was Rachel Hollis’s book - Girl, Wash Your Face. I remember seeing posts about my friends already talking about this book and how good it was, so I hopped on the bandwagon and bought a copy.

Y’all, after reading this book, I not only wanted to just read more as my personal development but I wanted to do ALL THE THINGS! I not only wanted to take 2019 and celebrate all the accomplishments from 2018, but now I wanted to celebrate ME. I started thinking - when was the last time I actually congratulated myself.

I began by doing yoga in my home. Typically during Addie’s naps, but sometimes at night before bed. Just started playing beginner yoga videos through YouTube and after the couple days I really enjoyed it. I understood why people would force their bodies in those awkward positions because believe it or not, it really does help meditate you. Your mind does this switch where when you once were thinking about every little thing on your to-list, you are now thinking about the yoga position and your breath. If you’re wanting to try this too, I highly recommend doing the videos from Boho Beautiful.

When I edit photos, I do it with something on TV… typically a show or movie that I didn’t really have an interest in watching, its just background noise. But then I started thinking that I could benefit listening to Rachel Holli’s podcast’s instead of having the TV on. Best. Decision. Ever. I began consuming more Rachel knowledge in the extra time I didn’t think I had. Rachel and her Husband also have a “Morning Show” that they play LIVE on Facebook and Instagram every 9am EST during the weekdays. So while Addie and I are eating breakfast, I’ve got that playing in the background too. Boom, more personal growth knowledge consumed.

Guys, I’m a Super Fan of Rachel’s. If you’re my Facebook friend on my personal page - you know. I am always quoting her stuff, sharing, preaching.… she’s a big deal to me, she’s opened my eyes and helped me achieve personal growth that I didn’t even know was there. Like another instance… I am traveling to Dallas, Texas in July to listen to her speak at a woman’s conference. This is HUGE for me because I am nervous to leave my family for the first time, I am nervous because the furthest I’ve been west is West Virginia, I am nervous because this is only my second time on a plane and the first time was only an hour flight. However, after reading Rachel’s words and listening to her speak on her Podcasts - I have turned this nervous feeling to EXCITEMENT. I am so excited to be doing something for me and stepping out of my shell because I am such a homebody.

Another thing I’ve done out of my comfort zone is being in front of the camera. I am apart of a couple photography related Facebook groups and they have been so encouraging on getting together for meet ups. Well one day, the model didn’t show. I was the only one there who wasn’t dressed in workout clothes so I become the model. I only posed myself how I would pose my high school senior clients. But then the group of photographers started directing me and encouraging other poses like running my hands through my hair, flipping my hair like a rockstar, and serious faces instead of smiling all the time. Then I began to relax, let loose, and have fun with it. I was so impressed at all the different pictures I got back from the photographers. I was eager to do modeling after that! One of the Facebook groups came up with a name for people like me: Modelographer - a photographer and model lol.

So friends, if you’ve made it this far… I encourage you to do something for YOU. Work on your personal self development and growth. You deserve it - no matter how little or big an accomplishment, celebrate it but also celebrate you! I am now a book reader, a yogi, and a podcast listener… things I loathed before because I was lazy. But now these things give me FIRE, motivation!

Thank you for reading!

My #1 Fan

I think it’s extremely important to let everyone know that I do not run this business alone. I may be the face behind the camera - but there is one super awesome guy that has my back no matter what.

My fiancé Jordan is my backbone. He spent all of 2016 and half of 2017 working 2 jobs to make my dreams come to reality. One day I brought up the idea to him of owning a studio, and you know what he said? “So, do it.” We saved so much money and sacrificed going out with friends or getting the finer things in life just to make it so. I luckily had the idea of studio spaces for rent - it was just going out and meeting with leasing offices. So I didn’t have to do too much research. We went out to New Manchester Flats - we were shown 3 spaces, and I absolutely fell in love with where I call MileStone Photography now.

It’s funny because before I signed the lease to my studio, we had a meeting to see another space at Art Works. Art Works leasing office was closed for lunch, we killed time and got some lunch for ourselves and they were still closed when we got back. I also looked around and the only thing they had available was street parking. I quickly knew it wasn’t going to work there because I cannot parallel park to save my life! So we headed back to New Manchester Flats and the leasing agent was just about to show someone else MY space! It was fate. I quickly signed that paper, put down my security deposit and told the other guy, “Sorry.”

Right when we signed the lease I had surgery for my Gallbladder removal - so the studio wasn’t up and running right away. I was also out of work to rest, so my business was slow. Thank heavens for saving up money!!

In June I told Jordan - I wanted to quit my job at Capital One. Y’all - I had just received an amazing raise on top of accepting a promotion, but I still wasn’t happy. I was making really good money but photography was my passion. And you know what he said to that too? “Go for it!”. So I did. As scary as it seemed to not have a steady pay check coming our way - quitting my corporate job has been the best decision made for this family. My business has flourished because of it.

I’d like to say my family was a good support system during this time. I knew they all mean’t well - but they doubted my business. They were scared for me. They didn’t want to see me fail. It didn’t fit the status quo. But their responses at first were “No, No, No.” While Jordan has been “Yes, Yes, YES!” But now, since then - my family has been awesome. Cheering me on, helping me with props and ideas, and getting me leads.

While there are people out there who do it all alone, I NEED my tribe. It’s super important to keep people in your circle who motivate you and empower you. Jordan and I have lost a lot of friends from growing this business and growing our family, but to think on it now - were they really “friends” in the first place.

“My best advice to entrepreneurs is this: forget about making mistakes, just do it.” – Ajaero Tony Martins

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Consistency is Key

Something to consider when booking your photographer

There are a million different things to consider when you’re searching for a photographer for any occasion. But one thing that should be on the top of your list is consistency. Why is it important? I know all to well that there any many elements that make up a photo, but you can’t have a photographer with mix styles. Here is a real world example: Fine Art vs. Abstract Art.

I’d like to consider myself a bright and airy photographer with a mixture of can-did and natural posing. Bright and Airy? What in the heck are you talking about Kiersten. Well, I don’t consider my photos having a bold and moody feel to them - do you? When I photograph, I tend to make sure my photos are already a little over exposed (minimal shadows). When I edit, I bring out more whites & blues while also decreasing the blacks and reds.

But, in my last blog post - I mentioned that I was exploring my own unique style. I know “bright and airy” will always stick. It matches my personality. Not at all saying that the bold and moody styles means moody photographers - but I can’t seem to just flip a switch and transition to the dark side - lol. But what I mean’t about exploring is, I am still working on being consistent throughout different seasons and different natural light situations (high noon, vs. dusk. cloudy or foggy vs. all sun.).

My goal in 2019 is to schedule my sessions smarter. Last year was all about taking in as many clients as possible because this was my only income to bring to our family household. But, in some sessions I feel like I failed myself as an artist. I am most happy with my work that is taken outdoors during 8am - 11am and then 3pm - 5:30pm (winter hours) or 4:30pm - 7pm (summer hours). The Studio is different, I can easily control that light with my professional lighting equipment, but this only applies to limited sessions.

Here is a neat visual:

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This cool tool took my photos from 2017 (left picture) and detected the colors primarily used. The bigger the color, the more its found in your photos.

The right picture is from my photos posted in 2018. Looking at these pictures in terms of consistency is amazing. You can see that I have eliminated a lot of random colors, while focused on using more of the same colors (making some colored circles bigger than they were last year.)

2018 Year end reflection

2018 - things really fell in to place for me. I completely understood that photography was a passion and I was going to do whatever it took to make it a career. Y’all I work HARD. Late nights, early mornings, social events missed, knowledge gained, and awards earned. I think its important to reflect on your past year and congratulate yourself on your accomplishments.

Here are the wins for MileStone Photography - 2018:

By far the best year yet!
  • In June I left corporate America and made this side hustle in to a full time commitment.

  • I opened my first studio in April

  • I was awarded second runner up in The Richmond Time’s Dispatch - Best Local Photographer

  • Realized I needed help and hired my first assistant - Ilaria!

  • Just about at 2,000 page likes on Facebook!

  • Organized the studio to rent it out to other local photographers - like Carly, Sara, and Kristin!

2019 Goals:

Set your goals high, and don't stop until you get there!
  • I am only one person, and a busy one at that. I would love to hire an associate photographer to take on some of the commercial photography that I do for local businesses.

  • I have invested so much in knowledge to help my business grow - I would love to be able to start a mentorship program to jump start yours!

  • Those who have been to my studio know that it’s great for what it is. But I want more. I have so much envisioned for my photography business that 375 sq ft just isn’t going to cut it. Fingers crossed for a second studio location, or a much larger space!

  • As your MileStone Photographer, and as a business owner - it is my responsibility to continually retain knowledge and become better each year. My goal is to go to at least 4 different photography related workshops throughout the year. With this, I also want to connect with more local photographers. I feel like you can concentrate more when you have a connection with people who have the same passion as you do.

Nobody is perfect:

There is always room for improvement...
  • I want to be more involved on my Instagram and Facebook stories. Some how I believe that if you guys know what I eat, where I go, what I do, etc. then you’ll feel more comfortable with me being your photographer for any occasion - lets test my theory out!

  • I feel like God and the whole entire universe has blessed me with so much, that I’ve taken it for granted. I am determined to give back to the community more - whether it be by my time, photographs, etc. If I am able - I am willing!

  • Photographers are artists, and we are own worse critiques. There is always room for improvement in my work. I am currently exploring my own style, but I hope to have a “certain look” nailed by 2019!

  • More blog posts! This goes with the insta and Facebook stories. But I know there are a lot of people who enjoy reading… yup - talking to you… reading this… right now… So if I can connect to more people on a written level rather than a image - then WOW! I am truly going somewhere!

Thanks for reading! I hope you guys continue to follow my journey with MileStone Photography. There is so much room for growth and I will strive for it every day.

Enjoy some of my favorite photos from 2018!

Meet me in the middle

I bought my first DSLR camera Black Friday 2015. The EOS Rebel T6 Double Zoom Lens Kit was my first baby! This was actually also my first big purchase on my own and after having my first job - which was working at Southern States! I only bought Canon because at the time it was the only one on sale - and since then I have been #teamcanon since!

I didn’t know anything about my camera, so it was kept in portrait mode for most of the time. It wasn’t until I was approached by two awesome people when I decided I wanted to take my hobby in to something more.

One day while working at Southern States I had just finished helping Marc with his questions on grass seed and then began to ring him and his wife Kathy up at the register. Kathy begins to compliment my smile and skin, explaining I have the natural look to model. She then hands me their business card and to give them a call if I ever wanted to be in front of the camera. Well, I knew I had no business being in front of the camera, but I was eager to know everything about being behind it!

After they left the building I immediately took their card and ran to my desk. I started this e-mail letting them know I wasn’t interested in being a model, but if they would have me - I would love to intern as an assistant photographer. And there started my professional journey with photography. I give all the thanks to RVA Photography with everything they have taught me. Marc is a master with camera lighting and Kathy is great with getting business and talking to clients! It made it easy to learn from them because they also photographed with Canon products so there wasn’t any confusion with instructions.

I stayed with RVA Photography for about a year and then started my own business. I sold my, what I call a starter camera, to something with better quality. I now have a EOS 5D Mark II and my primary lens is the EF 50mm f/1.2L USM.

My First Pictures with a DSLR

How It All Began

This is my first blog post, and I am not entirely sure how these are suppose to go… but I am going to give it a try and see where this takes me!

I have been asked on multiple occasions, “How did you get started?”. Well I need to tell you how I even picked up the camera before I talk about how the business began (saving that for the next blog! I’ll even show you updated pictures of the studio!).

4-H. “To make the best better.” Being involved in 4-H has evolved my leadership skills, public speaking skills, and gave me self importance. There were only a few contests through 4-H that didn’t require me to have to get up and speak in front of people, even though I was great at it - it still gave me anxiety inside. (I always broke out in hives on my chest, SO embarrassing!). My favorite non-verbal contest, the Photography contest!

Now, I am not old by any means. I’m coming up on my 24th birthday. But for me to say I was taking pictures on my flip phone, really makes me feel ancient. I am talking flip phone with the pull out antenna... I thought my photos were so cool in my 4 generic filters - B&W, Sepia, Cool Blue, and that one that inverted the colors all weird. But here I was entering my flip phone photos in my first photography contest.

No shame in my game, but I did start begging for a digital camera. Thanks to my wonderful grandparents for my first legit camera. Kodak EasyShare M893 IS Compact. It was a pretty Burgundy color. I have no idea where that thing is now, but I’ll never forget it. This was around 2009, and no - this camera no where near qualified me as a professional photographer - lol!

My little brother was my muse. He was practically in every photo I entered. At around age 5 you can really make any kid do anything for you if you tell them you won’t be their friend anymore or bribe with candy. He was actually pretty good company. You can sometimes find him assisting with photo shoots when he’s not too busy being a kid! Good to know he doesn’t mind hanging out with me still.

They had different categories to submit to - landscape, events, pets, nature, people, macro, etc. And you couldn’t post edit, everything had to appear straight off your camera. You also weren’t submitting canvas’s or framed prints. Just simple 5x7’s mounted (double sided-taped) to construction paper. The judging panel varied between a few volunteers or public voting at a local event. We were also divided by age - if I can recall (see, that’s me feeling old again!), Seniors (14 - 18yrs), Intermediate ( 12 - 13yrs), Juniors (9 - 11yrs), and Cloverbuds (5 - 8yrs).

No matter how they were judged or where they were hung - it was still so cool to see my pictures on print and other people looking at them!

Prizes were typically a ribbon (Blue 1st, Red 2nd, etc.) and with that came with a mini award (cup, pencil, bag, etc.). 1st place sometimes received scholarships to use at camps, horse shows, contests, etc - which helped ALOT!

I give all the thanks to my parents for signing me up for 4-H at such a very young age and committing their time to take me to meetings, contests, camps, horse shows, etc. While also funding it :) Even while I have been aged out of 4-H for 6 years now - they still dedicate their time when they can to help volunteer!

My 4-H leader is also my hero. Sandra Dowdy, (Pinky) - is a rockstar and anyone who knows her will totally agree. Not only does she run Varina Rising Star’s 4-H, but she also runs and organizes numerous of horse shows, while also being chairmen on a ton of committees! She is one of the most compassionate women I have ever met, but she’ll bap you on the head if you need it. You guys see is so strong, if you only knew how many hours of sleep she doesn’t get because of the hours put in to making everyone happy. I hope I can be just HALF of the hard working woman she is. Thank you Pinky for all you do, and continue to do.

If you’re a parent reading this and looking for something for your child to get in to or if you’re a kid yourself looking for some fun people to hang out with - I HIGHLY recommend 4-H. Want to know more about what 4-H actually is? Visit here! https://4-h.org/about/what-is-4-h/ Just contact your extension agent in your county and they will get you in touch with a local 4-H club near you.

Let’s go down memory lane….

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Landscape

Circa. 2010 Gallmeyers Strawberry Patch!

Still one of my favorite places to visit each season!

Website: http://gallmeyerfarms.com

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People

Probably one of my favorite first photos taken, circa. 2009! Yup, you guessed it - little bro!

I wish I had my cell phone photos… but I cannot remember by MySpace login…

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Events

Looking at old photos really makes you come to realize that you need to connect with old friends.

Probably the most rememberable beach trip back in 2011 with two great friends!

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Macro

Yes, you read the title right… this was my best attempt at a macro shot.

Little did I know then what macro, extreme close up, really was!

Definitely have a special lens for that now, lol.