“How do I even begin this?” I’ve asked myself that question a thousand times over. “My story isn’t that glamorous.” An excuse I’ve made to keep myself from writing this. “Will anyone even read it?” A question that has plagued my mind and fed my procrastination. All of these statements, these questions, they’ve all been a notch in the thousand reasons why I haven’t told y’all my full story yet.
You know, it’s easy to hide behind cute instagram photos and witty captions. It’s easy to tell the fun stuff and the easy stuff, but really digging in a recollecting to tell where you come from is hard. It’s risky. And I’ve had a hard time putting it down on paper. But, the Lord won’t let me off without telling of his faithfulness and his plan for my life. I just can’t get away from it. So, here we go. This is installment number one of how Rachael became a photographer and how God taught her to trust in him along the way. Let’s dive in then, shall we!
It all started on a night at a youth convention in Nashville, TN the summer of 2014. We were gathered around in a prayer circle after one of the main services. Up until this point, I had never heard God audibly speak. But while I was praying over someone else, he spoke and said “ministry”. And to me, that meant giving up all I thought I was going to be and do. After the prayer for the other person was over, I sat in the chair, balled my eyes out and said “God just ruined my future”. A bit dramatic, yes. But that was honestly what I felt.
Let me backup a bit more. For my entire life, well at least as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a teacher. And I had everything figured out. I was going to to teach early childhood, get married, have kids, homeschool those kids and live happily ever after. Sounds like a great plan, right? I thought so!
So the night God said, “ministry” I knew he was calling me to let all of that go. To walk the path he had made instead of the one I thought I had done a good job making.
There’s something you should know about me that will connect the dots as to why this freaked me out. I’m a gal that likes control. I like knowing what’s coming next, I like a plan, or at least at that point, I really liked a plan. I like being able to have a hold on something that’s going on in my life. Change and the unknown are two of my biggest fears. So when God hit me with that massive change in about a 10 second span of time, let’s just say I wasn’t really okay with it.
With my life plan “wrecked” and a whole lot of unknown staring me in the face, I went on. Nothing really changed all that much, I started my junior year of high school, took a first period art class and began college classes online. I still didn’t know how all of this was going to work out. That was, until November when my dad came home with a new camera he had ordered for my mom.
My mom has always been the photographer of the family. Most of our home videos and pictures are from her point of view. So, my dad decided it was time to upgrade her camera to a full frame that had a few more features. Well, when I saw it and picked it up, my brain was immediately trying to figure it all out. I wanted to know how everything worked. So, I logged onto Pinterest and searched all the things to do with photography and manual mode. And . . . not long after that, I was hooked. I took pictures of literally everything and forced my cousin to model for me every day. From mason jars in the dining room to rocks and flowers in the front yard, just about everything was captured on that camera with the two lenses I had.
In the spring I took an online photography college course, another first period art class and practiced away for the next few months. I researched, spent hours on Pinterest, played with editing software and practiced a whole lot more.
During all of this, my sister Sarah was engaged and on the hunt for her wedding photographer. When she decided to reach out to Cyrissa of Immerse Photography, so naturally I began stalking Cyrissa’s social media and website to learn all I could. In my “research” I discovered she had an intern. I got so excited! I knew that this was my next step. If I could be one of her interns, I knew I’d learn everything I needed to have my own business. I started praying she would someday soon open up more applications so I could be an intern, too.
God answered my prayer in a small way first by opening the door for me to “model” for one of Cyrissa’s photography workshops. Then to hop on a FaceTime call with her a few months later. And at the end of that Facetime call, Cyrissa asked me the question I had been waiting to hear for months. . . “Do you want to be an Immerse Intern?”
Being an Immerse Intern really boosted my confidence. Not many people know that I used to be shy. Like REALLY shy. But when you’re working alongside Cyrissa, you can’t be shy. Her bubbliness and extroverted personality really push you out of your comfort zone no matter how outgoing you are. She helped me to bravely pursue this dream of mine by being my constant cheerleader and allowing me to come on weddings and sessions as a bag carrier, reflector holder, water getter, dress fluffer . . . you name it, I probably did it! She taught me what it looks like to serve your clients well and to encourage and love them even when stress enters the equation. We had so many adventures together and I’m extremely thankful not only for the business and photography knowledge I learned from her, but the friendship I gained.
That internship led to becoming a second photographer, editor and bag carrier on wedding days! I can still remember leaving the first wedding I photographed with Cyrissa and coming home talking a mile-a-minute and just knowing that I could do this with my life. Weddings made me so excited! Between the challenge of balancing timelines, lots of different types of photography and light, plus being able to think quick on my feet, there was also the joy of documenting a monumental moment! Weddings are about so much more than the decor, the guests and all the fanfare. It is a day when two people stand before each other to declare that they will choose one another for the rest of their lives. It’s beautiful!
And as a 18 year old girl who watched a photographer serving and loving on the bride and groom throughout the day. A photographer who became the calm in the storm. The one to hit pause on moments so they could be remembered forever. I knew in those moments as I observed, that one day, I would be that photographer who not only documented weddings. But who loved her couples so well that their wedding photos looked more like an extension of them and their wedding rather than just a photographer showing up and taking pretty pictures.
Now, here we are!
A few pictures from the youth convention in Nashville! Man! We were all such babies! ha ha! My “mirror selfie” and a screenshot from Cyrissa’s instagram post about the workshop I modeled for! I can remember being so excited about these sparkler pictures! We all thought it was so cool and “pinterest worthy”! This was my first official session! I can still remember my art teacher calling me from the front of the room and saying, “want to build your portfolio?”
My first engagement session and another practice session with my cousin! Playing bridesmaid and intern at my sister’s wedding! I’ve definitely gotten better at veil fluffing since then!