My Photography Journey, How My Business Started- Carlee Secor Photography

My first ever camera was my Nikon D3100, back in eighth grade I saved up $600 to buy it. I couldn’t believe I was actually biting the bullet and buying it because if you know me personally, I’m extremely frugal & have been *probably* since the day I was handed my first dollar. I never had an issue spending money on things I really wanted though, thankfully It led me to get my first camera. I remember my mom went and bought it with my savings on her lunch hour because she worked right across the street from Camera Corner. She called me instantly to tell me that she might have to keep it for herself as she tested it out in her cubicle.

I was super passionate about photography, I took photos of everything, I’d carry my camera around everywhere we went and my friends and I would all print our images at CVS and hang them on our walls. I actually filled two walls in my room with printed photos and ripped all the paint off with the duct tape we used. At the time, I don’t remember growing up thinking I’d be a photographer – but I always had my camera and would still take it to all my special events. I remember going to high school and not caring so much about my camera anymore. Phones advanced at this point and we all had iPhones, we no longer needed to carry a point and shoot or my DSLR around if we had our phones. It’s a blessing and a curse that we live in such a digital world.

carlee secor photography

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Some of my oldest “work.” I was so proud of these, shot in JPEG and probably edited in Picnic. 

After my boyfriend and I moved out to Montana for the summer of 2015, when we came back to Wisconsin in the fall I needed to find a major for college. I was so stressed and believe it or not I was enrolled at Fox Valley to major in Forensic Science and I started in two months… again if you know me I hated science and math in High School. So, it was crunch time and I had 2 weeks to decide if I was going to major in this. They require you to take the Accu-placer test and I did terribly in the science and math department (surprise? no). Embarrassingly enough, I cried and knew I couldn’t start moving towards a major that mainly focuses on math and science. Again, referring back to me being extremely frugal- if I was spending money on school it had to be worth every penny.

Soon enough I decided that I wasn’t going to attend college for the fall semester, I held a lot of guilt towards this mainly because all my friends were going to college and I hated the thought of letting myself or family down. I just kept reminding myself that taking a gap year (or gap semester in my case) is not the worst thing. Didn’t Obama’s daughter do it?! 😉 and I will go back to college. The next month or two was spent browsing the “major’s manual” is what I’ll call it, that NWTC offers. Because school has never been for me, I was leaning towards the easier route. Photography was a 1-year degree, it sounded fun, and I also was going for business for a plan B.

Basically to be a student in this class you needed a camera, and I was ready to take this class seriously. With my savings, I went to camera corner the next day to buy a camera that would help me with my photography degree. I purchased a Nikon D7100 with the kit lens (my first mistake – don’t buy the kit lens) and I was fully prepared to start class. I come to find out maybe 2 people in the class were actually interested in photography and I’m not exactly sure why the rest of them were there. We probably went outside 2 times to actually use our cameras, and other times we were lectured on a topic that is extremely hands on (I promise a book won’t teach you photography). From week two I discovered that youtube and facebook will teach me way more than school ever would. I decided I wasn’t going to major in photography anymore, but what I did gain from that class was the drive to do better & the fact I purchased a new and better camera (that wasn’t 7 years old).

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Some of my first ever senior portraits October of 2015, don’t worry I’m cringing too. Thank you, Griffin… you’re such a good model 😉 The logo may be the worst part.

I was currently working at Hinterland at the time and left Hinterland in May to go to a new waitressing job, I was excited about the change. Day 4 of being on my own (after training) I was fired because I was “too slow.” While it may not seem like a big deal (lame waitressing job, just get a new one) I was terrified, I had a car payment, rent to pay, and I had just left my loyal job of two years to try something new and it failed on me. Personally, I truly consider myself to be a hard working employee- so I was shocked and completely taken by surprise. I got over it and needed to make money. I applied for every waitressing job you could think of but it was the start of summer and with all the college kids home for summer break, nowhere needed the help.

So I got the guts and made a photography business page, this was totally unlike me but I was really hoping to make something of my photography. Then…. I got this message from a successful photographer local to me. I’m being real with you right now this stung a bit and I really wasn’t sure if It was worth it. Yeah, I wasn’t good but you definitely do not grow overnight. If you can’t tell this message was extremely sarcastic. It makes me sad that this was the FIRST message I get minutes after starting my business page… but what can you do!? I just kept trying (thankfully). If someones trying to dull your fire they are probably just insecure.

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Moving on, I asked two juniors in high school to model for me June/July of 2016. I needed to start a portfolio somehow some way, so I offered to take their portraits just for fun. It’s now the end of July, and I was getting so many inquiries for August. In July I became an LLC and I was so worried, at 19 years old. I don’t know how I did it, looking back it was all a blur but starting August 1st I booked 33 seniors up until the end of October. I thankfully never needed another job, and getting fired was the greatest thing to happen to me. So learn from me guys – working extremely hard (a lot of tears went into those 33 sessions) will ultimately get you where you want to be.

I spent the whole winter (November-May) marketing for the upcoming year, upgrading my gear, and working towards a better brand. In turn, I booked 5 weddings for 2017 (one in South Carolina!), started a senior model program, traveled to Oregon for a workshop, styled my first wedding shoot, met so many incredible vendors and people, and am happily living my dream life. Looking back on it, I can’t believe this is where I ended up. Time truly FLEW by and I am so excited to keep growing, learning and expanding my business every day.

Thank you to all my past, present and future clients for supporting me because I owe it all to you guys. I am so excited for this adventure.

Now.. here’s some of my most recent work 🙂 Full galleries on my blog.

Senior pictures green bay wisconsin photographer carlee secor photography

Givens farm hortonville green bay photographer carlee secor wedding photography boho

3 Comments

  1. Teri Krueger

    Good for you sweetie !!! Your pictures are awesome !

    Reply
  2. Kaela Gedda

    Carlee, you are such a gift. I am so glad that you followed your heart and passion. I know you are an inspiration and model of success to many.

    Reply

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Hello! I am Carlee Secor, a photographer based in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Take a peek around!

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