Hilary Elizabeth Photography - Ottawa Photographer Origin Story
In an instant — everything changed.
It was in the bathroom at Strathmere at my friends wedding, when I cornered their photographer to ask her a question. Yes... I cornered a photographer in a bathroom to ask them a question. Instead of asking them a question while they have a spare moment on the dance floor, while they're eating dinner, or something a little more normal. But I still look back at that moment with happiness, because I wouldn't be here today if I hadn't!
I have always had a camera in my hand growing up. I remember walking the family dog at sunset (so glowy!) and thinking "this would make a great photo!". I always had "the creative eye", as my mom would say. I loved creating, and capturing moments with friends and family. It wasn't always good per-say, but I was still there clicking away.
When I entered the graphic design program there was a photography class, and it was suggested we pick up a DSLR camera, as it's "always better to use your own photos in your designs". So I bought my first Canon Rebel, learned manual, and grew from there. By the time I got to 2016, I had a few new lenses in my arsenal, and was taking a ton of landscape photos, slowly adding people into them.
My boyfriend at the time (now husband) knew how much I LOVED weddings, and my photography, and suggested that I start looking into becoming a wedding photographer. I did my research, but was still stumped on how to actually infiltrate the market and start booking weddings. And actually do a good job!
So here's the good part... when I was at my friends wedding, I was watching the photographers almost more than I was watching the ceremony (sorry Kate!). It was so neat to see them move around the ceremony and reception space, hardly noticeable at all, and capturing the day. When it came time to sit and eat, they joined in with eating at the same time as the guests (always feed your on-site vendors! <3). I was in the bathroom and noticed the photographer was also in there, so awkward timing and everything, as she's coming to wash her hands, I say "hey, what lens are you using to photograph this wedding?". She just kind of looked at me startled for half a second, and then proceeded to tell me about the lens. I explained that I'm trying to get started in wedding photography, so I was curious!
She talked with me a minute or two more, explaining that she's apart of the Ottawa chapter of the Rising Tide Society - called Tuesday's Together. It's a group of entrepreneurs (a large part of the group is in the creative industry), who meet monthly on Tuesdays to discuss specific business building topics. She then said that she had to get back out there (fair enough, she was working), but she gave me her business card and told me to email her and we'd meet to chat! We did, she told me more about the group, about how she started into the business, and how she now works with her husband (the other photographer on the day). There was a group meeting that next week, and gave me the details. Brittany, you're a trooper for putting up with me.
Now, as I'm sure a lot of you know, I'm super shy and hate going to things by myself! But, I worked up the courage and went to that first meeting. Thankfully the meeting was at the Barley Mow in Westboro, and alcohol was available to calm the nerves haha. I sat down with a group of ladies who all seemed to know each other and introduced myself. The topic of the night was marketing yourself and your brand, and the group task was to inspect each other's Instagram accounts, and determine each other's brand and what they did. WELL, that night I met Cait from Bourbon and Bloom... this lady, is an amazing wedding planner, mom and a pretty great friend. But, she is also honest af ahah. She looked at my measly Instagram account that was posting everything from flowers, to baseball, to waterfalls, and she was like "what is this? I have no idea what you do! You need to showcase what you do, to book the weddings you want." And while, a complete stranger being so honest and blunt with me would have normally sent me running, I took her advice, went home, and deleted so many photos from my account! We're still friends today, so I'd say it all worked out too.
This community of entrepreneurs helped me to grow myself so fast in the last 4-5 years. They're so supportive, kind, and your biggest cheerleaders. Between bringing me on as a BTS photographer on a styled shoot, helping me with my marketing and background business things (accounting... ugh), bringing me on as a second shooter when I haven't shot a wedding before, and being my second shooter on my first wedding - I grew and I learned with every step and with every helping hand.
I honestly wouldn't be where I am today without this group! I still attend most monthly meetings, and smile when I see the friendly faces I know, and love meeting the new people each week. I recommend to anyone out there starting out in business, definitely check out the group!
With each new wedding I book, or second shoot on, I learn and grow more. At the end of 2019, I would say I was in my prime. I was really bummed out when Covid hit, as I knew I could lose some momentum, but I've had so much support from family, friends, old and even new clients! I am so excited for the rest of the year, and all of the beautiful weddings I will be photographing next year.
Thank you to everyone who met me 4 years ago, and supported me and helped me to grow to now. Thank you to my friends and family who also helped me get to where I am. Y'all are great, and I love this job.