• mai leoncito

Nothing is permanent but change

When you started as a photographer, did you ever wonder about or consider the different kinds of photos that you would end up specializing with? Let me tell you a story.

My very first paid logo

When I first discovered my passion for photography, I quickly fell in love with my environment. I found my inclination to snap candid moments of people around me, the uncanny and fascinating features of my surroundings, and the emotions evoked by these images. I believe my degree in Mass Communication created that bias towards my choice of subjects to shoot. I decided that I wanted to become a photojournalist who sought to capture those windows in time of people in their natural element to tell their stories through my photographs.

This is the type of photos I was drawn to when I was just starting to use my camera
Mom & son

Things didn’t exactly go the way I wanted. No sooner had I begun to learn how to use my DSLR, did my work permit to work in Canada as a food attendant in A&W arrived in 2012. But I definitely wasn’t about to leave home without my camera!

As I set about exploring Alberta with Simon, I was astonished by the vast amounts of land this province has to offer. So many mountains, lakes, waterfalls and an abundance of wildlife to see.

This is my first wildlife shot when I was still in Vulcan.
Vulcan County, Alberta

This inspired me to shift gears, and I turned my interest toward nature as well as wildlife photography. I tried to learn more about exposure, composition and speed, which you definitely need in order to create interesting images. Quickly, I realized that it would require full commitment because you will need to shoot at a particular time of day. You cannot always just go out on a random whim, but rather must carefully consider and plan out a session in advance. Something else to keep in mind is the amount of driving involved in reaching some of these places. It came to my understanding that this would never work for me.

I am so grateful to this beautiful soul for modeling for me when I was just starting.
My very first photo as a business

Even so, I always remembered to bring my camera whenever we travelled or met with family and friends back when gatherings were still allowed! The only purpose was to take photos for fun and as keepsakes and nothing else. Until Simon’s sister suggested I could start my own photography business to at least try and earn some money from the equipment that I already owned. And if I ever wanted to expand my gear, it would be a business expense. Following that conversation, I went on to start Maila Leoncito Photography.

Since I love babies, I told myself I wanted to try being a maternity and newborn photographer. Luckily, I have a friend at work who was pregnant at that time, so I asked her if she might be willing to model for a maternity as well as a follow-up newborn shoot after she delivers the baby. Boy, I was so happy when she said yes!

My very first newborn session

After that, I sent out model calls for babies and started watching video courses about baby and maternity shoots from Ana Brandt, Kelly Brown, Sandra Moffatt and Julia Kelleher. I started collecting props, costumes and other accessories I needed in order for me to run this business. I mostly got what I could second hand through buy and sell pages and Marketplace on Facebook.

However, I eventually noticed that maternity and newborn photography are not a big priority in my market, nor are those styles (disciplines?) sustainable alone, because there are not that many pregnant women and newborn babies to be found in our town and area regularly enough. That meant once again learning to immediately adapt. Hence, Image by Maila was born.

My first family session

I offered a family photoshoot ranging from $80 CAD to $100 to build my portfolio and honestly, to learn. I covered an event for roughly 12 hours — and put in plenty more during post editing — for $800. I even did some corporate photos for a very reasonable price, all of which not only gave me an opportunity to practise, but also get myself out there.

The rest is history unfolding as I write these words.

My takeaway on this is: don’t limit yourself to what you can do, especially when you are just starting. Many educators in the industry would recommend that you select a specific genre to concentrate on and to focus on it right away, because if you have too much on your plate, you won’t be able to establish your name and brand since you have no specialization.

My first event coverage

Now of course I would suggest having a specific, long-term goal that you want to achieve. But when you are just beginning, do whatever you need to bring clients to your door. Anything that will get your name out there that you are a photographer. If you notice that you are not getting enough business towards the type of photography that you want to be then do it for free. For instance, say you want to specialize in shooting corporate headshots, but you are mostly getting family sessions. Try sending out a model call for three to five individuals who would like to have their headshots taken in exchange for permission for you to use the pictures and promote your services. Once your portfolio grows and becomes a bit more established, people will know you can do it, and at the same time, you’ll get an opportunity to practise your craft.

Me and my current logo

It is cliché to say that nothing is permanent in this world except for change. And that is true, so we have to be resilient and adaptable.

If not, we run the risk of being left behind, potentially to face the end of our careers as photographers.

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