Student Success: Student Profile Denise Owens

By Sarah Van Arsdale on February 11 2011

NAME: Denise Owens
CITY: Cincinnati, Ohio

What do you like best about photography

I love taking a larger scene, group, or setting, concentrating on one aspect of it and making it unique and memorable.

© NYI Student Denise Owens

Photography is so powerful. It can freeze a split instant and make a life-long memory out of it. Moving pictures or videos can be strong and burn in our minds, but it is the frozen point in time — the still photo — that can make the most lasting impression. I think of the firefighters raising the flag over the rubble of the World Trade Center. On news footage, that would have lasted a mere few seconds. In still pictures, the image is engraved in our memories. I have had the privilege to help several families create moments together before a loved succumbed into Lou Gehrig's Disease, lost the battle to cancer, or went in for brain tumor surgery. I was able to record a little boy playing duck-duck-goose joyfully at our Vacation Bible School during playtime just a few weeks before he died in a tragic accident. We can remember him as he was; full of life and spunk and laughter. I am honored I was the photographer chosen to reveal these moments.

Why Photography?

© NYI Student Denise Owens

I enjoy creating something where there was nothing. A moment can be more than a memory with photography. The type of photography that is 'my style' and comes easily to me is freezing a precise moment with 'natural' photography; knowing when to press the shutter button to capture the essence of the moment or the personality of the subject. My five-year-old asked me a few months ago, "Mommy, did you always want to be a ... topograf…potogra…person who takes pictures?" I answered that I had no idea this would happen! I've always enjoyed capturing moments through the lens. From the time I was a young child, I loved taking pictures. I would climb up onto the roof of our ranch house in Florida to take pictures of sunsets or cloud formations with my 110 camera. I was always the one taking pictures at family functions. However, being a professional photographer was not on my list of things to accomplish. I often say "It's a God-Thing." One of my favorite things to hear is "You caught the personality of our family!"

How did you get your first paying photography job?

My photography as a business created a life of its own. I would frequently say, "I'm just along for the ride!" About six years ago, we purchased a 35mm SLR film camera. All I knew was point-and-shoot. Aperture, shutter speed, ISO, depth-of-field all were a mystery to me. For over a year, I just shot on automatic setting and played around with the enjoyment of catching a moment on film. Through the year, friends or family would comment on my photos and how I should become a photographer. The thought had never crossed my mind! Then, friends started asking if I'd take their family photos. I began searching Web sites, reading books, and practicing. My first jobs were for some friends. Even though I had minimal equipment, and even more minimal knowledge, I was able to get some great photos of the first two sets of siblings I photographed. This was enough encouragement for me to continue learning and practicing. Shortly thereafter, I did Scout Photos for our son's Cub Scout Pack. This opened the door for many family sessions. And, as they say, practice makes better. I continued to read and research and try to learn from my mistakes, which were plenty. I had no mentor, and was therefore trying to teach myself everything I could about camera settings and photography.

© NYI Student Denise Owens
© NYI Student Denise Owens

Why NYI ?

About the time I started the portrait photography business, I had three children under the age of five. I had taken a photography course at a local location, but it did not provide the information I needed. I was doing all I could to teach myself photography. Then, I stumbled upon NYI. I requested the information and was thrilled that I could participate in a correspondence course that was so thorough and would provide me with the information I needed! NYI was exactly what I needed. A thorough Course, with feedback and goals, that I could do while putting my priorities in the right order; family and then photography.

How was the Course?

Three cameras, lots of studio equipment and photography 'toys', hundreds of families, over a thousand children, and four years later, I'm still in it!! I have just requested my second extension because I'm so busy with the photography business that I haven't had the opportunity to finish the coursework! I hope to take my lessons with me on vacation, and if I can leave my camera alone, finish up the program by summer of this year. So, I guess you could say that the Course was/is good! And helpful!

© NYI Student Denise Owens
© NYI Student Denise Owens

Even though I haven't yet completed it, NYI's Course provided me with the jump start and knowledge I needed to develop a successful and booming photography business! One of the greatest things about the NYI Course, I feel, is that it provides you with information and training on so many different areas of photography. While my business is portrait and family photography, I still enjoy all kinds of photography. Some of my favorite photos are photojournalistic and unplanned; a second grade boy contemplating the Vietnam Wall Memorial, and President Bush thanking a wounded Iraqi War Veteran (at Opening Day for the Cincinnati Reds just after throwing out the first pitch).

© NYI Student Denise Owens

What's your favorite photo?

I like different photos for different reasons. One of my favorites is of two sisters. It is the first portrait I did when starting the business. My son gleefully jumping waves at sunset was the catalyst that brought me courage to begin the photography journey. I love a photo I made of a little pre-school girl on a late summer day. We just let her and her brothers play and be curious. It's a classic photo of Little Girl Meets Nature! She's in a white dress and is looking at her reflection in the water. Another favorite is the unbridled joy of a couple just married.

Awards or Prizes?

I received the Award of Merit for my first Unit with NYI. That was such a thrill! And a great encouragement as well!

What's next for you in photography?

Ironically, now that I'm the busiest I've been, I am slowing down. I have to. Currently, I photograph many local home school groups annually for school photos, do sports photography for local children's teams, have been booming with wedding photography referrals and now corporate photography in addition to high school seniors, families and children. The business has become full-time! (And then some in the fall.) My families have come to me completely by word-of-mouth with no advertising. It has grown to the point where I could open a full-time studio if I wanted to. However, this is not my season for a fancy studio and full-time photography. I have three children at home, and with us home educating them, three students at home. I also lead Cub Scouts and teach Sunday School.

© NYI Student Denise Owens
© NYI Student Denise Owens

It does not take a fancy set-up or professional studio to become successful! I have been amazed that an honest explanation to the families I serve suffices to satisfy them. I have many families that return multiple times a year. It never fazes them to pose in my garage, living room, or partial basement/school room. They know that the final product will be professional and unique.

© NYI Student Denise Owens

Instead, we have decided to specialize. We are offering limited appointments each month on a first-come basis. My photography is now focusing more on what I am the best at — natural images. My new tag-line is; "Less posing, More playing". I am photographing more in a photojournalistic fashion. This is wonderful, because that's what I enjoy the most; capturing the true personality of the person(s) participating in the session. What happens next is entirely up to God. He has been in charge of this all along. I'm just along for the ride! It'll be exciting to see where it goes from here.

More important than the income, have been the people I have met. I love serving the families! Truthfully, the thing that I like the most about all that I've learned in photography is being able to use these skills to help others. Recently, I was able to provide a family session for a family of twelve whose oldest son is a Marine home from Iraq for ten days. It is things like this that are the best treasures to me. Helping people truly record the true essence of the moment or the personality of the family member, that has been the real reward in my little photography business!

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