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How a Janitor Became a Wedding Photographer

I didn’t really know I wanted to be a photographer.ย  I wasn’t one of those people who took pictures all her life and just knew I had to make this a career. I wasn’t thinking about it, dreaming it or even saying to myselfย  “one day when I’m a world famous wedding photographer”…… although now in my dreams I do that! ๐Ÿ™‚ย  I did take pictures of my kids a lot but just because I love them and have none of me as a child. I owned a cleaning company and was making a good living off of one client and doing pretty good. It paid our mortgage and although I hated working every night I was thankful for it. I did that for about 4 years. In June of 2010 the client informed me that they needed to find someone else because they were having financial problems and they could only pay about half of what I was charging. I was devastated. It was the beginning of the hardest year of my life. We almost lost our home.ย  As soon as I lost the business I asked God “What am I suppose to do now? I knew I wasn’t going to get a job and put my kids in daycare that was for sure. As I was praying and thinking about it I just thought maybe I could be a photographer.ย  I have no idea why that popped into my head but I do know that it had to have come from God. It had to because I had never thought of it before then. I had a little Nikon d40 and shot on auto for crying out loud and now I want to be photographer and to top it off I wanted to be a wedding photographer!ย  I mean I felt this deeply in my soul!ย  In July of 2010 I started researching cameras and after choosing a few wrong ones I decided to go all out and buy a 5d markii.ย  The first photographer I found on Facebook was the lovely and talented Damaris Mia. Besides asking her countless questions and basically stalking her, I asked her how I should go about finding someone to 2nd shoot for.ย  Diana Marie Photography saw my post. She let me shoot a wedding with her 5 days after I got my camera. I shot the whole wedding in manual! That is how I know this is what God wants me to be doing. Since July of 2010ย I have begged, stalked, and bothered more photographers than I care to admit and I want to thank them for taking the time to help me along this journey. ย  I have shot at least 27 weddings and countless engagements, seniors, and some families.ย ย ย  Most of the time I take pictures that come out so good I know that God is with me because no one can get that lucky! I know with all my soul that this is what I am suppose to be doing. It took me 42 years to know.

Being a photographer has been one of the biggest blessing of my life.ย  I have met some of the most amazing people and made more friends than I could ever hope for.ย  I pray that I continue on the path that God has for me and that 2012 is a successful year for all us!ย  Thank you so much for stopping by!

~Toni

Since my son is getting married soon here is a picture of him and Kendra!

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  • Adan Serna - Toni, this is such an amazing post! I love to hear other photographer’s stories about how they used to struggle so I don’t feel so alone! You are such an inspiration to SO many people.ReplyCancel

    • Toni Lynn - Thank you Adan!! I am so glad we have become friends though photography!ReplyCancel

  • Dana Chrysler - Toni, this is what I needed to read exactly at this moment. Just this week, I felt God leading me, too, to photography. Yikes!

    I changed careers two years ago and got my teaching certificate in . . .(ahem!) mid-life. I was blessed to get a teaching job right out of the starting gate, but with the economy being what it is, I was laid off at the end of my first year of teaching. I have done graphic design on the side for many years and a Nikon camera was put in my hands during a previous job so I could take pictures of groundbreaking ceremonies, graduations, etc.

    When I was laid off from that job, I couldn’t go back to my crummy camera, so I saved up and bought a Nikon D5000. I have now been unemployed for 6 months, applied for over 60 jobs, and had only two interviews.

    That’s when the thought came to me that I might want to start freelancing and I decided on multimedia slideshows. I only came to that decision through a series of unusual circumstances over the last few months pointing me to it.

    I never–in a million years–would have wanted or even though of becoming a photographer and yet, THIS WEEK, I made the decision to go for it. I was putting my business cards together and thought, “What do I do?” I looked within my heart and heard “Photography,” so I wrote it on my card along with slideshows.

    What kind of advice you can give me just starting out? Should I try calling local photographers and ask if I can be a second shooter at a wedding? I’m not sure where to begin other than putting the word out to friends and possibly offering to do some pro-bono shoots. Any advice you can offer will be appreciated.

    I loved reading your story and realizing that you, too, have been led by God to this profession!ReplyCancel

    • Toni Lynn - Dana that is awesome!! My advice would be to email every local photographer that you love and ask to carry their bags or coffee or anything to be helpful. Go out everyday and practice practice practice. I am lucky to have had the best models in the world to practice on. Also I found seniors and offered to do their senior pictures for free just to get my name out there. Good luck and if I can help in any way don’t hesitate to ask!ReplyCancel

  • Ritesh Keskar - Beautiful life story and considering the fact that you started in July 2010 you have definitely come a long way and the images you produce are gorgeous. You have a good eye and great style of presenting the images. Best wishes to you and hope you don’t mind that lately I’ve been stalking your work :).ReplyCancel

    • Toni Lynn - No problem I love stalkers!! ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you Ritesh!ReplyCancel

  • Kate - Toni, wonderful post. I love, love, love how God has blessed you, how you give Him the credit, and how He is using you to bless other people. You know you’ve been in my prayers this year and seeing how God has answered all the prayers offered up on your behalf has only strengthened my own faith. I pray that God continues to bless you richly in the coming year. I’m so thankful to call you my friend.ReplyCancel

    • Toni Lynn - Thank you Kate, I am blessed to have you as a friend too!!ReplyCancel

  • Jana Long - awww, Toni, I absolutely loved this post! You are such an amazing photographer, and I truly look up to you! You are such an encouragement! xoxoReplyCancel

    • Toni Lynn - Thank you Jana, I appreciate that!ReplyCancel

  • Shannon K. - Toni! I swear it…I could have written this post. With a few exceptions. One, I never owned a cleaning company (my husband did). And two, I have not come nearly as far as you in such a short time. I have really been trying to tackle this thing since February last year. I struggled for a while with finding local photographers who would let me help! It wasn’t until just in the last several months that I have found a couple who do. Grateful for them beyond belief.

    As for stalking others…HA! You are one I stalk religiously. I suppose that’s when you really know you’ve made it. When the stalker becomes the stalkee ๐Ÿ™‚ReplyCancel

    • Toni Lynn - Thank you Shannon, seriously you are a blessing!ReplyCancel

  • Stephanie Miller - Beautiful story!ReplyCancel

  • Christina Ramirez - I love this story. So inspirational. ๐Ÿ™‚ReplyCancel

  • Chrystal Rae Heckman - Love this! It is crazy to see how similar our stories sometimes are…I love your work and more importantly love how you and the other girls on P31 are so encouraging and supportive! xoxoReplyCancel

  • Micaela Batterberry - Love it! So inspiring! Funny how God works huh? ๐Ÿ™‚ReplyCancel

  • Lynnea Pettit - Amazing blog, Toni! I luv how things for you fell in place but you work your butt off to keep them going. ๐Ÿ˜‰ReplyCancel

  • Nene Treyes-Cramutola - Very touching story. You are definitely blessed with great and natural talent. God has heard your prayers.ReplyCancel

  • Melisa Draper - Love this Toni! I was one of those photographers you emailed and look at you go…… passing me up! You go girl! Keep it up! You are amazing!ReplyCancel

  • Stacy Hart - And now we are the ones that beg, stalk, and bother you for advice ๐Ÿ™‚ We love you!ReplyCancel

  • Gina - What an inspiring post. thank you for sharing these experiences. What a neat thing you went to the 5D and basically forced to shoot in manual from day one! Wow!

    I have been at it for 2 years now and don’t have enough time to dedicate to move to the next level. Some day I will accomplish the dream of photography as my main occupation…ReplyCancel

  • Ethelyn - Toni! I swear it…I could have written this post. With a few exceptions. One, I never owned a cleaning company (my husband did). And two, I have not come nearly as far as you in such a short time. I have really been trying to tackle this thing since February last year. I struggled for a while with finding local photographers who would let me help! It wasn’t until just in the last several months that I have found a couple who do. Grateful for them beyond belief.
    +1ReplyCancel

  • Martha Reyes - You are in inspiration to me! I hope that one day I can take such amazing photo’s as you do…I love seeing your images pop up on my phone. Thank you for the advice you have given me when I ask. You have blessed with such an awesome gift! I hope 2012 is a great year for you!!ReplyCancel

  • Damaris Andreica - Oh my.. just saw this! Oh, Toni.. I remember those days ๐Ÿ™‚ Love you TONS! <3ReplyCancel

  • Amber Rose Powell - Haha! That is how I feel about asking you all of my beginner questions. Thanks for sharing this was a great read! Eeekk! ๐Ÿ™‚ God works in the strangest ways sometimes. If you hadn’t gone through that hard time, you would have never started this amazing thing that you are doing now, and you’re great at it! Thanks for sending this to me. ๐Ÿ™‚ReplyCancel

  • Brittany Anderson - So is this our invitation to stalk and badger you with questions? lolReplyCancel

  • Toni Palmer Gundlach - Thank you so much Lynnea!ReplyCancel

  • Toni Palmer Gundlach - Thank you Chrystal, I love you girls too!ReplyCancel

  • Toni Palmer Gundlach - He does work in wonderful ways that’s for sure! ๐Ÿ™‚ReplyCancel

  • Toni Palmer Gundlach - thank you so much!ReplyCancel

  • Toni Palmer Gundlach - Thank you Stephanie!ReplyCancel

  • Toni Palmer Gundlach - Thank you so much Melisa and for answering so many of my messages too!ReplyCancel

  • Toni Palmer Gundlach - Thank you!!ReplyCancel

  • Toni Palmer Gundlach - And I love you! I also love the fact that we will always have that one special thing: me the starker and you the stalkee! ๐Ÿ˜‰ReplyCancel

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