Sunday, February 26, 2012

My Humbling Journey | N. Virginia Photographer

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” Lao-tzu. Chinese philosopher (604 BC - 531 BC)

My photography journey has just begun.  

I thought it had three years ago.   But today, is the first day of my journey to becoming the photographer I desire to be.   What I believe in must (and will be) the center of every step of my journey.   The day I allow anything else to pull me off the path I have clung to, is the day I must lay down my camera.   I’m happy to say that I will not be laying it down any time soon.   Because I now know the steps I have to take, not only to keep me on the path that I know is right; it is also the path that I truly believe will help the very industry that I have fought to be a part of, become a community worth fighting for. 

In the last three years, I took all the steps needed to learn the technical side of photography.   I attended top workshops, spent countless hours preparing my marketing materials, invested in my business purchasing top equipment, set up a studio, hired an accountant to handle all of the business stuff, bought insurance, and designed a cohesive brand on all social media.   I continue to take online workshops and put into practice all that I am learning. 

Each step has been necessary, yet, they are a tiny part of the real journey.  

The real journey is finding out who I am, who I want to be, how I plan to do that, and how that will effect every person in my life.   It has nothing to do with photography, and everything to do with photography.

You're worth it!

I created this graphic last week for myself as a reminder of the above quote, as well as, the following wise words!


I can guarantee you that my journey has taken me much longer than a thousand steps, and there are millions yet to go.

My journey has not looked as I thought it would.  Nor is it turning out like I planned.  

Ha ha ha!  How many times has my very wise husband said the following quote to me???…Countless!

‘The best laid plans Of Mice and Men often go awry.’ by John Steinbeck

Why do they go awry?  

Because we allow our human hearts and desires to rule our lives, versus trusting in the greater plan for our lives.   That which is beyond anything we can imagine or create ourselves. 

“To humans belong the plans of the heart,
   but from the LORD comes the proper answer of the tongue.

All a person’s ways seem pure to them,
   but motives are weighed by the LORD.

Commit to the LORD whatever you do,
   and he will establish your plans.

The LORD works out everything to its proper end—
   even the wicked for a day of disaster.”
(Proverbs 16:1-4)

“A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)

This next verse is my life verse and it always shows up when I need it most.  Now is obviously one of those times, again!

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5)

“The Lord will guide you continually …” (Isaiah 58:11)

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.” (Psalm 32:8)

Are you still with me?   I hope you are…keep reading the ending is worth it.  Don’t skip ahead! Winking smile


You may be asking, what do all of these bible verses have to do with my journey and photography?

Well, let me just say, they have EVERYTHING to do with it.  

This weekend as I sat listening to one of the top photographers in the country talk about her journey, the above words echoed in my ears.   Louder and louder and louder.   Until I had to literally just stop what I was doing, so I could truly ask myself the very questions I did six months ago when I decided that I wanted to have a go at building my business once again in our new area.  

Who am I?  What does that look like in my photography business?  What is my goal for the business?  What is my wildest dream for the business?

Before my husband would allow me to set everything up legally, I needed to answer all of the above questions.  Depending on my answers is how we began to develop all of my marketing materials, branding, and plans for my business.   Everything depended on my answers.

Guess what? 

I never once talked about money.   Not how much I should make or charge.    It was not and will never be the reason I desire to be in business and doing what I love.

Doing what I love is and will be why I’m going to build my photography business.

I LOVE-LOVE-LOVE capturing extraordinary moments in life.  

Yet, in the last three months I listened to way too many people and convinced myself that I had to build my business around how much money I could make.   Of course I want to make a profit, be paid a fair price for my time and the quality of work I create.   But I never ever want to serve money and allow it to rule me.   I want to be a good steward with all that I have been blessed with and until I freely let go of what the world says equals success, I will never have it in the eyes of the ONE who has already given it to me.  

How much I charge or don’t charge is not equal to my talent, nor does it dictate my success.

That is not going to be a popular statement with many photographers, because too many are trying to find ways to justify their ever increasing price lists, etc.   People are willing to pay outrageous prices to have a big name photographer shoot their wedding.  That will never change.   But that doesn’t mean the rest of the industry has to try to catch up in price and push everyone to keep up with the Joneses.   Nor does it mean that a new photographer should charge what an established photographer is – their years of experience is worth a certain price structure.   Yet, their price does not equal talent or success.   It never will no matter how much they try and convince others it does.


My talent is a gift from God.   It is how I use it that determines my success.

I desire to use it solely for His glory or not at all.

I lost sight of my own vision and dreams, by listening to what is working for others or what they said would work for me.   Their dreams will never be mine.   Nor, will their style or businesses work to meet my goals.   They can inspire me and help teach me valuable lessons about our craft.  But they can never define me.   Only the choices I make will define me.  

thinking about this!!!!

Each photographer needs to do what will best help them meet their personal goals and dreams, while ensuring the industry standard is not degraded along the way.   That means consistently producing beautiful images, which create quality products.   It means not giving everything away and developing a pricing structure that is fair for your experience, market, and the consistency of your images.   Remember charging money without a business license and paying taxes, is illegal. 

Everyone has to start from the beginning.   Just be sure when you begin, you truly know the cost of chasing after your dreams.   Then be sure you set realistic goals to get you there.  Learn everything you can about your camera, lighting, developing your style, creating near perfect SOOC shots consistently, and editing that only enhances your images and style, but doesn’t depend on it or overshadow them.  There is no excuse for not learning the technical side and even the business side of this industry. has enough workshops for you to take right in the comfort of your home, it will take months to truly grasp it all and then put it into practice.   Everything worth having, is worth working for!

truth :-D

Find photography groups or a photographer that you admire (their work, style, etc.) that is willing to give you honest and professional critiques to help you grow creatively and consistently into your own style.  Be the best you, you can be.  No one else will ever be you. 

Oh how I wish I could give this next quote to every person who worries about the success of others, the number of fans they have, likes they get each day, and how many comments they receive on photos they share. 

accept yourself!

My pricing now matches my heart, dreams, and goals for Jill Samter Photography. 

I’m 100% comfortable with the choices I have made and will make to meet the needs of every client that God brings into my life.   They are the reason I want to be in business.   They will always remain the reason I will be in business.   I long to capture all of the extraordinary moments in their lives, so that they can relive them for generations to come.  

I am dreaming big and hope to hold workshops for other photographers who also long to share the gift of capturing extraordinary moments, while touching the lives of every person who sits, stands, or walks before their camera for years to come.   I love to encourage people and share what I have learned along the way.   So be on the look-out for announcements on ‘creating a vision to live out your dreams’!  

If you live in or around the N. Virginia area and are looking for others to share this journey with, please reach out, I would love to invite you to a monthly group I am hosting filled with other photographers who desire to encourage and be encouraged!

I challenge you to walk one step at a time with me, opening your heart to finding ways to help others who just like you fell in love with capturing extraordinary moments in life. 

I would like to share a few more pieces of wisdom with you all before you all go on about your day…

pick your friends wisely!

So true. Keep this in mind

judge not lest you be judged - if it isn't nice don't say it!

where there is love and inspiration you can't go wrong

When you have truly done all of that, leave it at the feet of Jesus…

“Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass … Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.” (Psalm 37:4,7)

I pray this post inspires you to create your own footprints in the sand and a path to realize your dreams. 

Wishing you all a blessed SONday!


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