I'm Ali - a photographer who built her business from the ground up and wants to help others do the same.

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From Classroom to Camera: How I Became a Photographer, Part II

May 7, 2020

Believe it or not, I signed the letter of intent stating that I was planning on returning for a second year of teaching. After all, I had my Masters degree that I would be letting go to waste if I chose to do otherwise. Plus, those student loan payments had started rolling in. We had just bought a new car. I convinced myself I could make it through the next two years to get my official teaching license. And I truly did enjoy certain parts of my job. After teaching seniors all year, graduation brought an emotional end to a long, stressful year as I watched each of them cross the stage. I taught at a small school, so approximately 140 of the 200 or so graduating seniors had walked through the doors of my classroom. Each name was called and I could tell you something about each one of those kids’ lives, and it felt…scary, empty, and a little unfulfilling. Yea, probably not what you expected me to say…

The summer began, and I finally picked up my camera that Caleb had bought for me for Christmas—a Canon Rebel T6. It was a starter camera, but I was ready to break it in on all of our summer adventures. We traveled to Asheville for an anniversary getaway, and that was the first time I really shot with it. I learned how to shoot manually and played with settings amidst our hikes and trips to botanical gardens and obviously with all of the delicious food we ate…because if you don’t take pictures of your food, did you really eat it? Throughout the rest of the summer, I took a couple other classes on shooting manually, editing, and running your own business (lifelong learner over here…see, all my prior students, I do practice what I preach!).

I expected to be rejuvenated by the end of the summer…just ready to take on the next school year. August rolled around, and I still had a pit in my stomach every time I went to a cross country practice, thought about teacher work days, thought about students coming back into my room, and or thought about all the lesson plans I should already be preparing for the upcoming year.

So I sat down and started a pro-con list, in true Type A fashion. Surprisingly enough, there were fewer cons than pros. But the cons still outweighed the pros for me. Amongst those cons was “Stacy will be mad at me.” Stacy is my best friend who showed me alllll the ropes my first year of teaching. We coached together, taught the same subject, and, to be honest, she helped me through that first deployment while Caleb was away. I was so scared she was going to hate me! But when I saw “less quality time with Caleb” on the con side…well, that outweighed everything else. So while he was gone for some sort of training (they all start to blend together after a while…am I right, military spouses?), my mom came down and I drafted my letter of resignation.

I hadn’t even sent it yet. And I already felt a wave of relief wash over me. Now I just had to tell the administration (and Stacy, who I was actually most nervous about telling). There’s a happy ending though—Caleb supported me in my decision and was thankful I had left a job that made me so unhappy even if I didn’t have a solid plan after leaving. Stacy was probably more excited for me than I was for myself. The administration offered to let me choose the classes I teach and choose my planning period (which is huge in teacher world, haha), but I was proud of myself for sticking to my guns and standing up for what was best for me and my family.

So…here I was. With no job, a Canon Rebel, and a dream of a photography business, but no real knowledge of how to start, much less sustain, a business.

Check out some of the first images I ever shot below (most are from Asheville, some from other adventures during summer 2017)!

Head to the third and final part here

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