And so it started…

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Fabián, owner of FRJ Photography, and this blog’s wonderful host!

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Hi, everyone!

I have been an amateur photographer since my 10th birthday. Let’s all hop in my rackety time machine which will take us all the way back to the beginning of my photography journey, hopefully in one piece, to May of 1989 – and yes, I’m aware that I just dated myself. Everyone with me? Awesome… moving on. For said birthday, my parents gifted me my very first camera, partly because I probably drove them crazy flipping through magazines, pointing out to them each and every single picture I loved. The other part of that equation was possibly my dad’s fear that I would drop and break his really nice, very expensive camera every time I insisted on using it to take pictures. I can’t remember exactly what brand of camera they got me. I was ten years old – my main concerns with it were “does it work?” and “how many pictures I can take with it?” I do remember that it was a 35 mm point-and-shoot camera that used film. Actual film in a roll! A roll which had to be either taken to a store or be shipped off to a photo lab somewhere in the Kingdom of Oz to be developed! (Again, dating myself) I never learned how to develop said film as photography classes were not widely available back in the day where I lived. Popping in a fresh role of film that I would fill with all kinds of pictures and then sending that film off to be developed was a thrilling experience for me. And when I got the pictures back, it felt like opening a gift on Christmas day – I never really knew what I would get, but I was nonetheless ecstatic! I used that thrill and excitement as a kid to fuel my desire to grab my camera and take pictures of everything. And I mean, everything! Buildings, landscapes, plants, animals. Trashcans. Street signs. Spoons. The TV screen. Growing up, I was “that friend” who always carried his camera with him everywhere, annoying his friends taking candid pictures of them, and always looking for that unique or interesting photo op. Yes, that even included taking tons and tons of pictures of myself that 20 years later would be known as “selfies”.

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So. Many. Horrible. Selfies…

Fast forward to the present(ish)! More like July of 2014, really. By this point in my time traveling adventure, I had gone through countless rolls of film and about 4 more point-and-shoot cameras, the last two of which were digital cameras. I had also finished both high school and college, gotten a college degree in a field that I had no interest whatsoever in going into, and gone through a string of unfulfilling jobs. I was living in Louisiana with my then-partner of almost 3 years (now husband!) when he accepted a new position with his company, which required an out-of-state relocation. We uprooted our lives in Louisiana and moved to the wonderful state of North Carolina!

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And I fit just right in…

What follows is a Cliff Notes version of events. Life in a new state was exciting yet challenging. While I had a great time exploring my new surroundings and discovering what our new home had to offer, I could only do so sparingly due to unemployment. I blindly left a very stable yet personally unfulfilling job as an employee for the State of Louisiana for 8 years, all for a chance to start a new life. One night, insomnia did what it does best and my brain woke me up from a wonderful 2-hour nap at around 2 am to start recounting all the resumes I did not send, all the job applications I had filled out incorrectly, and all the e-mails that I had gotten telling me that an unknown so-and-so was a better fit for the 213th position to which I had applied. I almost went into a full blown panic attack when suddenly one thought flashed across my brain: what if I make photography my profession?

So… yeah. What if? I’m sure many many others have thought that at one point or another. I never thought of myself as a “professional” photographer. I was merely someone who always enjoyed photography in his spare time and whose friends thought he had a good eye for a good picture. I was an amateur photographer at best, and not even a really good one at that, if I may allow myself a moment of self-doubt. I didn’t even own a DSLR, let alone know how to even use one or how to start figuring it out. All I knew was that I had a passion within myself that was sitting there, unused, waiting for me to tap into it and explore what I could do with it. I also knew that there were many, many times in my past when I wanted to tap into that passion, but instead allowed myself to be discouraged from doing so by many people. I’d heard it all: it’s just a very expensive hobby that doesn’t pay for most people, it’s not really a career, it’s a very competitive field, everyone thinks they can be a photographer these days, and on and on. I’ll be honest and say that I let those voices spark fear of failure within me (which was really fear of even trying to begin with) for a split second. That is until I heard another voice, one that was stronger than my fear, telling me “what the heck do you have to lose at this point in your life?”

And so, that last voice came through much louder and clearer than my fear. I invested in my first DSLR camera along with a few lenses and gear. I took it upon myself to learn how to use everything I got, however I could learn it, and making use of every resource I could get my hands on. I signed up for free online photography courses offered through my local library. I subscribed to various YouTube channels that offered tutorial videos on various aspects of photography. I read user manuals for all the gear I had bought. I stumbled across the phenomenal work of several amazing photographers and followed them on all the various social media outlets – and some of them have even mentored me and taught me so much of what I know today.

Am I a professional photographer today, as a result? Some of my clients would argue that I am. I remember shooting pictures for my very first event as a photographer last spring – it was a fashion show put together by a local salon to benefit a women and children’s homeless shelter. Unpaid gig, because charity and stuff. Nonetheless, it was my first genuine gig as an event photographer. I remember being very ecstatic about it. I also remember sweating out every last detail of it in preparation to the event, having no clue how to even begin preparing for it. The event came and went, I did my job to the best of my ability, and the end result was delivered.

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Rishi Salon & Spa’s “Walking On A Dream” Fashion Show, May 2016

Could I have taken better pictures? Of course. It was my very first event as a photographer, and I made mistakes left and right. But for me being an event photographer newbie, I was very proud of seeing my work. The coordinator of the event was very pleased with the end result as well. Her own words: “These are a lot better than I expected!” Followed by a hug. Because hugs make everything better. But considering I was expecting my pictures to be a disaster, I was very pleased to hear her tell me those words.

Truth be told, my journey into becoming the professional photographer that I see myself being in the future is far from being over, and I have yet so much to learn. But I do give myself a pat on the back for not letting fear of the unknown stop me, for overcoming such fear, and for constantly working and evolving in order to become who I finally know I should be – who I have always been.

This blog is my latest step in achieving this goal in life. I will be sharing highlights of selected photoshoot sessions, photography mini-tutorials, and personal stories related to my journey toward becoming a professional photographer. I will also occasionally feature some of the amazing photographers that have inspired me in my personal journey. If I can help at least one more person overcome his/her fear and hesitation of following the same path that I have chosen, or fear regarding anything else in life really, then I have done more than I set myself out to do initially with this blog.

-Fabián

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