Imagine yourself trying to juggle being a busy college student and running your own business—sound crazy? Freshman Carlee Davidson manages the two parts of her life with big smiles and success, as she’s not only a busy college student with a business major and an art minor but also runs a photography business on the side.
Davidson started her business as a sophomore in high school when she bought her first professional camera. Before the business, she enjoyed photographing friends, family and athletes at her school. She garnered likes as she began uploading the photos to her Facebook page.
Soon after, Davidson had another idea to put her name out in the photography world. She gathered a team of eight models for photoshoots, then posted their photos on social media. The models also posted on their personal accounts, leading to more people learning about Davidson and her talent.
Her business has taken off since last year and is only growing. Being from Sioux City, Davidson still has numerous clients there and travels back every weekend for a shoot. This year, she has a senior shoot every weekend through December.
“You get to learn so much about that one person, and I love learning about people,” Davidson said. “You get to basically learn everything they did throughout high school, you go to their gym, their auditorium, you meet their family. I love it.”
She specializes in weddings and engagements, seniors, families, dogs and their owners and friends. Davidson mainly focuses on seniors and weddings, since those are her favorite.
“Weddings are very stressful for sure, but so fun. You get to know people so fast. You meet everyone—all their family, their bridesmaids and groomsmen. They trust you with everything,” she said.
Davidson shoots weddings solo or sometimes as the second shooter, helping the main photographer. Her most memorable experience took her to the Black Hills to shoot a three-day Indian wedding ceremony. Soon, she will be flying to Florida to shoot a wedding.
Davidson loves being a photographer for the people aspect—her favorite part is getting to know people and making them comfortable during the shoot.
“Half the job is making sure they’re comfortable. If the client is uncomfortable, you’re not going to get your pictures,” she said.
Personally, her challenge as a photographer is comparison. With social media, it is easy to see how other photographers are shooting, editing and marketing themselves.
“It’s such a hard mindset to get out of because I think ‘I’m not doing as good as this person or people didn’t like my stuff as much as that photographer.’ I have to set boundaries for myself,” Davidson said.
As a completely self-taught photographer and business owner, Davidson has spent a lot of time finding her own unique style for her photography and business.
“Trying to find my own style has been my biggest challenge. Just five months ago, I finally mastered my style and the way I want to edit and shoot. Once you find it, it just makes everything so much easier,” she said.
In the future, Davidson wants to open her own photography studio but focus on shooting outside to use natural lighting and continue editing the way she has. She is not a fan of retouching and making people look different than their everyday selves.
In the next few months, Carlee will be releasing a magazine titled “RETRO.” The magazine is shot using film and digital photography, and showcases the fashion and aesthetic of the 1950s through the 1990s. So far, Davidson has used 30 models for the magazine who she dresses in thrift store clothes from their decade and has taken over 10,000 pictures. She hopes to have the magazine completed by March.
You can check out Davidson’s photography, or contact her for more information through her website www.cdphotos.org.
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