On August 12, 2012, I created the Facebook page Jeanize Cilliers Photography. For the pure reason of creating an avenue for strangers to contact me because the constant requests I was getting from strangers to add me as a friend was getting ridiculous. Back then you had to be a friend to message them directly. So I had been taking photos before that exact date, but that is when Jeanize Cilliers Photography became officially an entity. Today marks my 10 year anniversary for my photography!
If you would have told me 10 years ago that I would be living my best life doing this photography thing full time, I am not sure I would have believed you. I was studying at Fort Hays State University to be a graphic designer. Even though I was thinking about also getting a degree in photography, I just didn’t think a degree in photography was going to do me any good. The funny part is that the only class I ever dropped out of was a film photography class. Ironic.
The funny thing is that I never thought this would be a full time gig for me, at least not in the beginning. It was a fun hobby that I liked to do with friends. I thought I would have a much more successful career with graphic design. It probably wasn’t until after 2015 that I started thinking that this could be more than a hobby.
I still remember my first session, it was an engagement session for a friend I went to high school with. My style was so completely different back then. I was actually so much more of a dark and moody photographer than I am now. At first, it was just to have fun with editing photos, then I learned about light, skin tones, and how to work a camera properly. It did not all happen overnight. Check out the photo below from my first-ever paid session. I have come a long way.
I graduated with my Bachelors in Arts with an emphasis in Graphic Design in 2013 and spent the summer looking for a graphic design job. If I could go back to that summer, I would have hustled my photography so that I didn’t end up taking a graphic design job. I can just imagine where I would be if I had trusted myself and really worked hard on my photography. But I instead got a job in Wichita and built my photography on the side.
I photographed my first wedding in Wichita in 2015. After 2 years of saying I am not doing weddings, I finally caved and started booking them. I, luckily, was figuring out the style I would keep to this day. Vibrant, filled with sunlight and bright.
In 2014, Brent and I met and started dating. He was so nice to let me have access to his property. 5 acres of fields and woods gave me my start in mini sessions. My first mini was a fall mini session in 2016, and that was the start of my minis! After that it was just my own imagination keeping me from doing them every single day.
In 2018, I got it into my head that I needed an indoor space of my own. I was doing a lot more celebration sessions for little one year olds and newborns. Boudoir sessions was also on my thoughts as I started planning my little studio. By the end of the year, literally the last week of the year (because of taxes) I purchased my own little she-shed. When that building was placed in it’s spot, I cried. Check out the video below of how we built it!
In late spring of 2019, it was finally completed. You can see the changing of seasons in that video. It took us about 4 months to get all done.
After I had the studio, and was able to keep busy during the winter months with boudoir, celebration sessions and other fun things in the studio without freezing outside I knew it was only a matter of time.
My plan was April of 2020. I was going to give my two weeks notice and finally make the leap. But the universe had other ideas. Covid hit and my business was deemed a non-essential. And so was my plans. I held on to my corporate job for one more year because anything that looked stabled and normal was in high on my priority list for 2020. I was able to spend most of my 2020 summer working at home in the studio. Which was so, so nice. I just loved it. So when summer of 2021 starting creeping around the corner, I couldn’t stand being stuck in a cubicle.
I woke up one Monday morning and just gave my 2 weeks notice. That was it.
Since working full time on my photography, I have had a lot of epiphany’s about life and what makes a person happy. I am truly living my best life. If you are looking for a sign to follow your dreams and make that leap, this is it. You will never regret following your dreams, because if you don’t, you will always wander what if. I wondered “what if” for six years and then finally leapt. Six years is too long.