Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Living the Dream - Part Two of Two

Yesterday I told the first part of this story.  You can read it here.

I wrote in my journal, "I'm praying about launching Jodi Stilp Photography.  It feels good - and scary - to dream.  To say it out loud:  I want to be a photographer.  

What does that look like?   How do I shoot portraits?  Is it feasible?  Do I have the skill set?  Where do I start?  Will it work with our schedule?  Is this from God?  Am I good enough?  

I want to use the talents God has given me to encourage and bless others.  But I want to do it right. For His glory and praise.  

To celebrate the Creator of the Universe.  Of families.  Of beauty in all its forms.  

So I study.  And pray.  Dream.  Plan.  Prepare. 

God if this is from you, please make it known.  Make it clear.  Guide my thoughts.  The process. The edits.  The gear.  The clients, etc.  

I come before you with open hands and a willing heart.  Make me humble.  Holy.  Dependent on you.  Creative.  I love you."

Over the past year I've had consistent positive feedback from friends, family and acquaintances who have seen my work.  Photo cards I made as Christmas gifts were so well received that I had to make extras to sell to friends who placed orders to purchase more.

A neighbor asked to buy an image I posted online to make into a canvas for her wall.

Other friends requested copies of nature images to blow up and display in their homes.

I did mini portrait sessions for a couple of families.

For the first time I skipped paying a professional photographer to take my kids pictures and I photographed them myself.  When I went to pick the images up the store clerk asked me for a copyright release.  I stood a little taller and said, "Actually, I took those myself.  Where do I sign?"

But it wasn't until I read Ally's book that I began to imagine actually DOING something with my pictures.  If Ally could quit her job and live off rice and beans to pursue her dream of becoming a writer, then I could too.

It was time to stop dreaming and starting living it out.
photo courtesy of j. carmon photography
I took the plunge and bought real photo editing software.  Upgraded some of my camera gear.  Made an appointment with my talented friend who designs websites, branding, and logos.  Put a book on hold at the library that covers every facet of digital photography.

Once I set the wheels in motion  I  arranged to trade services with my friend who is in beauty school.  She did our family's hair.  I took her family's portraits.   We're both students of our trade so it seemed like a perfect opportunity.  We were nervous but had so much fun together sharing the talents, passions, and dreams God has given us with each other.
... and that's a wrap.  First session finished AND I've fixed my hair for at least seven days in a row cause I like it so much.  (That might be a record).
I summoned the courage to tell a few of my friends about my desire to pursue photography as a career.  They immediately went to work to help my dream become a reality. (P.S.  I have AMAZING friends.)

Four friends placed orders for photo cards to help contribute toward start up costs.

Two of my professional photographer friends took me under their wing.  They shared their wisdom and then their gear when my camera took an unexpected nose dive off the top of a mountain just days before my first portrait session.  One sent me an encouraging, "You can do it.  Can't wait to see your work" text message right before the session. They gave me a crash course in how to use photo editing software and answered my plethora of "what do you do when..." questions.  One of them even added me to a closed, social media group for professional photographers to share ideas.  These girls believed in my work even though they are years ahead of me in experience and skill.  What a gift!

Another one of my friends is also an incredibly talented photographer.  She dropped everything to come with me to scope out photo shoot locations, lending me valuable insight from her photography perspective.  We used my daughter as our model and without really trying got some beautiful portraits of my girl.  She also snapped this beautiful portrait of Alli and I on our outing.  An unexpected gem from a crazy day.

Portraits are new to me.  I've mostly photographed landscape.  One of my friends listened to my insecurity about if I had the skill to take portraits.  When I was done spouting my nerves she smiled and on the spot hired me to take her children's portraits.  I almost cried.

In the midst of this I got an email from an acquaintance who had no idea I was mustering the courage to launch a business.  Her message?  "Would you be interested in doing family portraits?  I would love to get some of our family with some outdoor fall colors.."  God was baby-stepping me into making this dream a reality.

This weekend I did a soft open of Jodi Stilp Photography.  I still need to design a website and a logo.  Buy insurance and develop a business plan. Read the photography book and finish watching all the photo editing tutorials.  My poor kids are going to be so sick of being used as portrait guinea pigs.  But the plan is set in motion and gaining momentum.

I announced my business with a Facebook page and plan to build my portfolio by offering student pricing on portrait sessions.  Within minutes of opening my business I had two sessions scheduled and a few more inquiries.  Another example of my friends putting their confidence in me when mine is still so small.

My replacement camera arrived today - just in time to shoot a few sessions in the beautiful weather predicted for this weekend.  Thank you Jesus!

Somebody pinch me.  I'm living the dream.

P.S.  What do you dream about doing?  What is stopping you from pursuing your dream?  Go chase it down!

P.P.S.  There is power in the spoken word.  My friends' well timed words of encouragement fanned the flame of my dream becoming reality.  It's so easy to say, "I believe in you.  You can do it."  Who can you encourage today?  You just never know how God will use it to change their life.


  1. Jodi — I LOVE this!! What a gift to be a part of the story you're writing, and the dream you're building. The photos you take really are beautiful. I'm so glad God gifted you with the ability to see beauty through a camera lens, and that you're using that gift to share beauty with the world. I'm so proud to be your friend.

    1. Thanks Ally. I feel the same way about you. I really hope I can see you when you're back in town although a little birdie told me that she has set up quite a few speaking engagements for you and that you'll be quite busy! So proud of you and excited to see how God is going to continue to use your book and your story.

  2. I started to cry when I read these two posts, Jodi. I am SO excited for this new adventure for you. And I can see God's fingerprints all over the details, even helping you to need to upgrade your camera when your other one was no more. I have been a long time admirer of your amazing photographs. They make me long for enough money to come out there to soak in the beauty. Oh, yeah - and to see you of course. Can't wait to see what God is going to continue to do in you and through you! Love you my friend! Gretchen

    1. Ahh Gretchen... Thank you for being so supportive. You are amazing. The story of my camera going off the mountain is another post that I haven't had the courage to write yet. A really, really dark day. I'd love for you to come and visit. Some day...

  3. I am an aspiring photographer as well, and you just echoed my thoughts and fears perfectly. It's so daunting to try to step into this creative field. Thanks for sharing. It's so encouraging to see how God orchestrates our lives and gives us passions and talents that we can use to glorify Him.

    1. That's really meet Shanika. Do you have a webpage that displays your work? I'd love to see some.

    2. I don't have a web page quite yet, but I have several on my FB page (we're actually friends on FB from doing the Helvetia half a few years ago with other ladies from Solid Rock).