My Photography Journey – Maddi Waldo Photo

March 2, 2023

Hello hello!!

My name is Maddi and I am totally new at this whole blog thing so be gentle with me lol. With my first blog, I thought that I would dive into my photography story a little bit and how I got started.

I have been in the wedding industry now for two and a half years. I started my photography journey at a very young age, with my parents giving me disposable cameras when I was a kid and having a grandma who wanted you in front of the lens at all times. My first “real” cameras were point and shoots when I was around the age of 10. My parents had realized my passion and love for photography once the iPhone came out and I was constantly taking photos and editing them, and gifted me my first DSLR camera for Christmas when I was thirteen. This camera was a Nikon D3100 which was Nikon’s novice DSLR at the time, and I was very lucky to have both my grandma and father having experience with professional cameras to help me out with it (although I think sometimes I helped them more with their cameras).

Me with my beloved Nikon D3100 which I still have.

I learned how to shoot in manual mode on my camera from a local photographer in my hometown when I was sixteen. At the time, I was just experimenting with different types of photography, with landscapes and wildlife being something I enjoyed most. Once I started my junior year of high school, I started taking senior photos for friends. That was my first time ever taking photos of people that weren’t my family, and my first ever paid shoots. During my senior year of high school, I took a photography class for credit through the college and let me tell you IT WAS SO HARD. Every photographer will say the same thing, they did poorly in their college photography class since it focuses more on traditional photo taking and learning Photoshop rather than creativity. I eventually upgraded my camera with money I made working as a waitress the summer after I graduated high school, and I upgraded to Nikon’s intermediate camera, a Nikon D7200. I still remember feeling super proud of being able to purchase myself a new camera.

Time passed, I went to college, and my camera sat in it’s bag. I took it out every once in awhile to take photos of the northern lights when they were out in my college town (Grand Forks, it’s an hour from the Canadien border if that tells you how far north it is) or photos of the random wildlife whenever I would go home to Minnesota. Fast forward to my third year of college (2019), I was living with some roommates and we were sitting around, bored one spring evening. I thought of the idea to just go take some fun pictures of each other out on some dirt road because what else was there to do in our small town. After taking and editing the photos, I posted on Facebook marketplace with the title of “Cheap Photography” and believe it or not, I booked a couple of sessions. I had no idea what to price myself, and stuck with what my senior photo rate was, $60 for an hour long session.

I restarted my Instagram page I used to post my photography to post these sessions. I had no clue how to run a business or how to market myself at this point, the only idea I had was I really loved taking photos of people and wanted to keep doing it more and posting to my Instagram. To get even more content, I would post Instagram stories to my photography page and personal page stating that I would do free shoots for friends of mine. My photo Instagram at the time had about maybe 200 followers (shoutout to those that have been there since the beginning).

A photographer from my hometown had noticed my growth reached out to me, asking me to second shoot at a wedding with her. I had been to only a few weddings ever, and honestly those weddings were when I was super young. I told her yes, just wanting to capture as much as possible and experience all different types of photography. The wedding was in the fall of 2020, and it was one of the most gorgeous Minnesota fall days. The leaves were incredibly colorful and the temperature was a nice 60 degrees (yes this is warm in Minnesota during the fall).

After the wedding, I was able to edit and use the photos to post. From this one singular wedding, learning how to market myself, and posting as much as possible, I photographed 17 weddings my first wedding season, 13 of which I was the lead photographer. During this time, I was in graduate school and had a full time internship, so I didn’t have a ton of availability to dedicate to photography. I made it work since it had been a dream of mine from a very young age to be a photographer, and this was the opportunity I was looking for. I mean come on mom, I never said I wanted to be a pyschologist when I was ten.

My first solo wedding was a very small, intimate wedding in Duluth with the most amazing and sweetest couple ever. It was a catholic ceremony in a cathedral which I was unfamiliar with growing up Lutheran, although after the ceremony we ran around Duluth’s many beaches and parks taking all of the photos that we could. I kept posting, learning, consuming and as much about business as I could. The money I had made from taking photos allowed me to upgrade my camera again, this time to a Nikon D780, which was a DSLR a step down from Nikon’s flagship. Everything I earned just went right back into the business.

A photo back from when I still used Nikon, Spring 2022

My first time traveling for photography was when I attended a photography workshop in Grand Teton National Park. It was absolutely incredible. I learned so much from other photographers and got to create content in such a beautiful place. If there is one valuable piece of information you can take from this long winded blog, it is that learning from others in your industry is the best thing you can do. In the words of Jai Long “Never be the smartest person in the room” and it is something I always keep in mind, you can never stop learning and growing.

After that workshop, I learned that mirrorless cameras were something of the future, and purchased a Nikon z7ii, because Nikon or die right?

My second wedding season happened to be right when I was finishing up graduate school and it was a whirlwind for sure, I never imagined my business growing as large as it did and as fast as it had all while finishing up my thesis. Going into 2022, I had 30 weddings and 2 elopements on my books which was absolutely crazy and more than I could have ever imagined. I was traveling all over, gone every weekend, with some weekends having three weddings (there’s really only 2 days in a weekend though, right?). Mid wedding season, I decided I needed a change as I was unhappy with a lot of things, and rented a Sony. After renting the Sony a for a week, I never picked up a Nikon again, and did something I do not recommend and switched my entire systems (mid wedding season!!).

Me at a wedding Fall of 2022

Eventually at the end of 2022 my partner and I moved away from our college town to Minneapolis so he could be closer to work. I have renewed my love for photography living in a large city, shooting more 35mm film and planning photoshoots for myself again where I can try new poses and new editing techniques. As I go into my third wedding season, I am incredibly blessed to be doing this full time now and working with such amazing couples. If you had told 13 year old me with a brand new Nikon one day that I was working as a full time photographer, I would have laughed at you.

Thanks so much for reading and being here.

Me today, thanks so much for being here!

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