Violet Photography & Design | Altoona, WI Lifestyle Photographer » Life. Captured.

The Best of 2013 | Violet Photography & Design Year in Review Part 1

Violet Photography & Design Year in Review

Believe it or not, this is the first time I have done a post like this. Long overdue, in my opinion. These posts are essentially to say thank you (yes, this means I will get mushy), to brag about the most popular posts throughout the year (good-bye to modesty & any sense of humbleness), and to share with you my goals and thoughts for the New Year (even better than 2013 and bringing this little baby to the next level.)

So, as I was thinking about this post today there was one thing that really stood out to me. I photograph to give you memories. I also photograph because I am passionate about this career and it is my “fit” in life. I never knew where I fit in when I graduated high school. I didn’t further my education until I was 28 (and VPD was already in it’s 3rd year of business.) Until I was about 25, I didn’t take my passion for photography seriously. I always thought it was just something I enjoyed doing. It was a hobby.

The Birth of My Passion

I remember as a young child being obsessed with cameras. I think I asked for a camera on Christmas lists numerous times throughout the years. I would inevitably break the ones that were purchased for me, and then came the theft of my mom’s camera. I would photograph every little thing. Silly stuff sometimes and when my mom would catch me, she would threaten that she was NOT going to develop those. Eventually she would. It might take a while, but taking those rolls of film to the lab were always exciting because you would have forgotten about half the moments that were on there. And somehow, even the silly stuff brought back memories. Something that digital took away from us, is the almost romantic and magical moments that film would give you. There were also the funny moments of images that didn’t turn out quite right. So, always, for me there was this pulling toward photography and an artistic life. I remember also dabbling  with the idea of being an interior designer at a young age. There are days I still consider it and enjoy designing spaces fpr myself & others.
The Sony Cyber Shot Point & Shoot

In 2001, I met my boyfriend and at that point, had no idea he enjoyed photography. I didn’t even know he owned a film camera. We were in that age of non-stop interaction with friends and didn’t really take anything seriously. Flash forward 2 years and I was beginning to learn that not only did Travis have an insane passion for photography, but he was really supporting me and pushing me to follow my dream. Being unsure of exactly how serious I was, he bought me a Sony Cyber Shot. I remember being overly excited about that little camera and being enamored with the “Carl Zeiss” lens. hahaha…it seriously makes me laugh. However, that camera really taught me to be creative because the options were limited. The zoom was awful. Focus was extremely questionable. Even so, I found myself going back to childhood habits and photographing mailboxes, and trains (with Travis), and my friends/family. I took my little brother and sister, then very small, to Carson Park and took some photographs of them that remain my favorites today. This camera brought back the shooting bug that had lain dormant for so long, but in full force.

Canon Digital Rebel XT

As you might expect, I grew out of my little Sony relatively quickly and began dropping hints that I needed a more advanced camera because I was really exhausted with not getting crisp & clean images. Travis once again, surprised me for Christmas with what would become the most important gift I have ever received in my life, thus far. I was unbelievably excited about that camera. Travis explained to me, that learning manual mode was pretty difficult and that he totally understood if I used Program mode. Being stubborn and the perfectionist that I am, this was never possible for me. With Travis’s gentle guidance, I put on my Manual mode training wheels and started photographing everything. Seriously. Everything. I started gaining more confidence, and looking at photos with such excitement that I could not believe I had taken this photograph. It was an unbelievably exciting time for me.

Wisconsin field in spring green
graduated chrome from muscle car metal

glensheen mansion in fall duluth, mn

red wisconsin barn in winter with blue sky

The Final Push

That same year, I was at a job that wasn’t fulfilling me and would come home everyday feeling awful about myself. I didn’t fit in, and I knew it…but I desperately wanted to make it work because I liked the idea of the job. I was doing design & lighting work and enjoyed the actual job itself tremendously, but it just wasn’t working. When the building went up for sale, I knew it was only a matter of time with this job and decided to stick it out while I found something else. That wasn’t to be. When budget cuts came, it was my job that was cut. I’m sure just as much as I knew I didn’t fit it, they knew it too. Unbeknownst to me at the time, this would be the final push I needed to go forward with a career as a photographer. In between searching for a job during the worst portion of job loss in recent U.S. history, I continued shooting. People started saying how great I was getting and how I should consider a career in photography but I saw the flaws in my work and didn’t take it seriously. Even so, I started logo protecting my images with “Baker Photography,” and I think even then I was quietly headed toward starting my own business.

My First Shoot

Finally, a day came when I wanted to try a structured photo session. One of my friends  and I wandered to Banbury Place and downtown Eau Claire to take some photos. Things went so well and she loved the photos so much that it was such a great push for me. I did a few more shoots, reached out to a local boutique to see if she would let me take some photos. At this point, I still didn’t have much confidence in my work but I was getting so many compliments that I thought there must be something there that I wasn’t seeing. I started a Flickr account and started posting my photos to groups for critique. And was slaughtered. Literally. Some of the “critiques” were downright rude and hurtful. I cried. I glared at the computer. I complained to Travis. And I went back to my photo and applied the critique info. I resubmitted it to the same groups and got better feedback. My ego was stroked a little, enough to get me back to the camera. My first photo that hit Explore on Flickr, I was like a bouncing ball. I was jumping up and down and so giddy and excited I could barely tolerate it, or anyone else around me at the time, I’m sure. My photos being submitted for critique were getting better review. More people were making it to my Flickr account through organic routes, rather than me posting incessantly to groups and begging for comments and for people to “check out my work!” I had done several more shoots for family and friends and was really finding my grip on this little world of mine. I was finding a place where I fit, but not only that…a place where I burned with passion and felt alive. I started hearing from people how happy I looked and how I came alive behind the camera, that they saw and felt my passion. The feedback I received continued to bolster my confidence, and I thirsted for knowledge. I started buying books and reading everything I could find online. I joined forums and I finally decided to give myself a real business name.

Denim is a girls best friend

From Baker Photography to Violet Photography & Design

I knew I didn’t want to keep Baker Photography…it didn’t feel like me. And I wanted a name that I loved. I searched my name and believe it or not, there was already a Bobbie Sue Photography out there. I ended up talking to the owner of that small business and the eerily similar details continued to mount. Her husband’s name was also Travis. I couldn’t give my business my name either, again it just didn’t seem right. So, I started writing names down. I was interested in Design and wanted to incorporate that into my business but I think I also got caught up with everyone else naming their businesses “blah-blah Photography & Design,” and got sucked in. This one small detail would make me very wary to any photography related fads in the future and teach me to be myself and to stand out. Don’t do what everyone else is doing. None of that stuff truly matters. I came up with Violet because my great grandma’s middle name was Violet. She had repeatedly reminded me to go back to school, she was always interested in what was going on in my life and she was supportive. When she passed away, I knew I would carry a torch for this woman for the rest of my life. When I considered names for my business, this was the only one that felt right to me. I considered playing with it and using Ultra-Violet and several other variations but again decided to keep it simple. Little did I know at the time, that this choice would be misleading so many people into thinking my name was Violet. It’s okay, I’m at peace with it and when it does happen it just reminds me of my beloved great grandma. When I slack, or when I find myself failing my business or myself in the venture of my business, it is honestly the reminder that I began this business and named this business as a tribute to her that gets me back on track. I want her to be proud and I hope she is.

A Facebook Page

After the name was chosen, I started a Facebook page and asked all my friends to join. I started marketing and sharing my business with everyone I knew. I had some incredibly generous friends who really pushed my business for me too, and through word of mouth my little business started taking off. When I started seeing names and faces appearing that I knew I didn’t know, and they were coming from some outside source or referral, that little flame grew a little brighter. There truly was no extinguishing it now. This portion of my history was wrought with bad business decisions, millions of mistakes, and lots and lots of learning experiences. If I had it all to do over again, the first thing I would have done is start a website, take care of all the legal aspects and paperwork, and always make sure that I was clear about all aspects of my business. Even with all of these things, you still have moments that everything falls apart. You forget a contract, you aren’t clear enough, you don’t meet a deadline. But, I pushed through all this and learned from it. Each year, I used the mistakes I made as ways to improve for the following year. I was becoming a real business person, and not just the appearance of one.

straight out of camera image, boxer on newspaper

Recognition for my Efforts from Renowned Photographer, Damien Lovegrove

In 2011, I joined a Facebook photography page called [F]ramed Show, and began submitting my work to their weekly contests. Each week, the contest was headed by a different photographer, who would choose the finalists and winner. One of the weeks I entered, Damien Lovegrove, a portrait & wedding photographer from the United Kingdom, was the judge. He spent several minutes discussing each entry and saying what he liked and disliked about the image. My image of Qulab, won the honors as a finalist and I was over the moon. I still am. It was, and still is a phenomenal honor that I am incredibly proud of. The photo remains one of my favorites to this day. (Forward to 28:46 to hear Damien discuss my photo.)

Framed Show Damien Lovegrove


A Successful Business

Flash forward to 2013, and so much has changed and continues to change for this little peach of mine. 2013 was most definitely my most successful and busiest year yet. I was astonished by how busy my year was. All the work, and the goals I have met over the years have turned this business into something that even I am amazed by. The support I have gotten is phenomenal. In 2014, I have so many business goals I plan to meet and to exceed. Every successful business should have goals they expect to meet in the coming year and I can at least be proud to say that while I may have done many things wrong during the ownership of this business, I have always had goals every year and I have always met them. In 2013, my goals were to get branding done. Andra Delores Design is working on that as we speak.I planned to purchase my Canon 6D and in September of this year, I reached that goal. I also set a goal to have a business plan and to stick with it. I stuck with it. The one goal I made for myself that I did not reach, was my Project 365. I made it to about August before I missed a day. 8 months. I’m still proud. There are many that begin this goal and only make it 2 months in, or not even. Doing my Project 365 also inspired other photographers to push the envelope and do their own Project 365’s or 52 Week Projects. Just by inspiring others, I am proud of that Project.


Golden Sunlit dog portrait, toy breed dog

2014 Goals

In 2014, my goals are to complete a 52 Week Project. I realize now, that I may have bitten off a little more than I could chew and been a little overly ambitious with my project. I am simply too busy to commit to a photo a day and to be bluntly honest, I want to use that time for more important things. I also have a lens on my 2014 Goal list and a few business related projects to complete as well. This next goal is not quite a business goal, but it certainly will affect my business, so I am going to share it. I plan to purchase a new vehicle this year. I’ve driven a 1999 Grand Prix for the last 6 years, and a couple months ago my odometer rolled over 200,000 miles.

Car Rolls over 200,000 miles

I think she knows she’s leaving me because each week, something else goes wrong. I’ve never been overly concerned with a vehicle, knowing that there are far more important things in life than having a nice car. However, being a realist, I know that it is also important not to be stranded on the side of the road in said car, and owning a business, sometimes that car is the first thing people see before they see me. I told Travis, there were times recently when I strongly considered renting a vehicle for client meetings or shoots. No joke. Of course he laughed at me. Who wouldn’t? You should too. But that’s become a real source of worry for me…so prepare car dealerships of Eau Claire. I’m coming.

(stay tuned for Part 2.)