In the early days of my photography journey, I was a sponge, eager to absorb every bit of knowledge that came my way. I dove into classes, workshops, and online sessions, craving insights. I was on the hunt for that elusive “aha!” moment that would propel my career. I hoped someone would hand me a list of all the gear and tricks needed to make my work shine as brilliantly as the pros’. My focus was set. At least I thought it was.
I pursued classes that aligned with my envisioned path. It felt like there was a vast world of information out there, and I was determined to narrow it down to the perfect specialty. I wanted to channel all my energy into that direction.
Most classes I attended didn’t unfold as I expected. I’d walk in with a goal in mind and walk out with entirely different knowledge. But even those experiences turned out to be valuable. They pushed me closer to discovering what resonated with me. Turns out, knowing what you don’t want can be just as enlightening as knowing what you do.
As my path started to become clear, my class preferences shifted. I was drawn to education that related to my areas of expertise—commercial headshots and family photography. Reaching a level of proficiency made me more selective about what I wanted to learn next.
There’s no universal playbook in photography. Our strengths, our personalities, and our creative visions are the threads that weave the unique fabric of our businesses.
Then came an unexpected twist. A dear friend and fellow PPA Board member, Diana Robles, hosted a seminar for Florida Professional Photographers. Diana’s specialty is maternity boudoir lighting and posing—a far cry from my usual subjects. I attended to support her. While I anticipated being wowed by her work, I never expected to bring so much back to my world of photography. Diana’s class sparked an unexpected wildfire of inspiration.
My photography process had evolved into being formulaic and efficient. But that hadn’t always been the case. Watching Diana work her magic with poses, angles, and light made me nostalgic for the days when my creativity knew no bounds. Her unconventional lighting techniques inspired me to take more risks, to rekindle the playfulness I had once embraced. Her methods of drawing out natural expressions from clients and boosting their confidence motivated me to forge deeper connections with people to capture authentic moments. Even her styling tips, designed for maternity shoots, had me rethinking how I could infuse cost-effective enhancements into my studio work.
Back home, I put the techniques I learned into practice. I set up my camera, experimented, and took some frames of my daughter, Lucy. Those moments captured a pure connection that I can’t wait to immortalize on my wall. The beauty of it all is that these techniques weren’t just applicable to maternity shoots; they seamlessly slipped into my family and commercial work. They were a treasure trove of ideas to enrich my own photography. It was like being that sponge again, absorbing knowledge then squeezing out drops of wisdom that fit my journey.
There’s no universal playbook in photography. Our strengths, our personalities, and our creative visions are the threads that weave the unique fabric of our businesses. But there’s a universal truth: No matter our niche, we can learn from each other. I challenge you to venture beyond the comfortable realms of your specialty. Embrace classes that take you out of your element, and see how those experiences can breathe new life into your work. You might just be surprised at the incredible results.
Kira Derryberry is a studio owner and portrait and headshot photographer in Tallahassee, Florida.