I will never forget walking through the halls of my high school to one of my classes with my sophomore boyfriend. “Did you hear Mrs. Grogg has a photography class in the afternoon? That would be cool to do!” He then says..

You know you have to buy a nice camera, right? That class gets really full fast, so don’t expect to get in this year. Most of the class is full of seniors anyways”

I was a little sad and about didn’t even try. But I applied for the class and chosen to get in my junior year. I then had to tell my parents they had to buy me a camera. We went to Walmart and they got me a Canon EOS Rebel X Film Camera. I still have that camera today in my office on display.

There were only 20 kids in the class. We learned everything on film and how to develop our own prints in the dark room. I was really starting to enjoy it, but what we photographed for each lesson was something like, motion, depth to field and exposure, things that required no human to pose. I was learning how to use the camera in all ways possible.

When we finally became seniors, EVERYONE in my senior class always used one photographer, Kendall Mathes. It’s actually funny because all our senior photos all looked the exact same. He used the same props and backgrounds for everyone!! They all looked great though so I begged and pleaded with mom to use that guy.I have great parents so they called and we booked an appointment.

He had an awesome studio, a huge waiting room with seniors photos all over the walls, then another room with his computer, then this huge warehouse with all these different areas to jump around to for different looks. I LOVED IT! He used a fog machine, cool lights. I felt like a star! After my session, he gave us just a paper copy of proofs. We then had to order the pictures from him.  His prices were high JUST for a few wallets for me to give my friends. I was disappointed I couldn’t get any, but the experience changed my life.

So the final weeks of school are approaching and my friend Eric starts talking about how he wished he got senior pictures made. He is chatting with my friend Hannah and I, we both were taking photography class. He asked Hannah to take some photos of him but she wasn’t wanting to get into people photography, she loved scenery and pets. Hannah then says “Sarah, you should do it” I was like “yeah! ok!”

We then picked a day after school to go. He brought so many outfits.  We were gone for 3-4 hours, going EVERYWHERE. We had both had so much fun!

I wish I could have found all the photos from the day, but I only have these….

So remember this is 2003 and we are in high school. We then take my film to Walmart for 1-hour printing. I even had fancy black and white film!

He paid for the film I used and the printing cost. We got double copies and had stacks of photos! We didn’t have a clue what we were going to see. When you learn on film, you don’t get the luxury of seeing what you got! You had to hope you got it right. I didn’t know if he blinked if it was too dark. The mystery was killing us!

The next day, he took them to school and they are getting passed around. I remember, TONS of people commenting on them to me. I got asked by lots of people to take their photos.

My photography teacher even saw them and gave me extra credit on my photos. After, I started taking some friend’s photos. I wanted to be as successful as that Kendall who took my photos.

I still give my mom a hard time because NOW she’s my biggest fan, but when I told my mom I wanted to be a photographer, she snarled up her nose and said all loud.


I am so happy, I didn’t let the negativity get me down. If you do what you love, you never work a day in your life. Thanks Eric for being my first model.

Here are a few more photos from classmates that let me do their senior portraits.

I wish I could find all my “first” photos. The biggest part of becoming a photographer is trial and error. Too many new and upcoming photographers focus on posing or the business side of photography. Learn your camera first, the rest will fall into place.

Thanks for reading!