Wedding photographer Karen Salinas got her start thanks to the mentorship of others. And now, she’s paying it forward.
“My dad gave me my first camera on my 18th birthday. He was always supportive of my hobbies – even though a lot of them didn’t stick! – so when I told him I wanted to get into photography, he found a way to help me.
It was never in my plans to go to college because as immigrants, my parents were limited financially. But it’s ok, I never felt resentment about that. My parents gave me a platform for a better life. I knew I had to hustle to make something of it.
So I searched for as much “free education” as I could get. I read articles on photography, watched online tutorials. I also looked up other professional photographers and asked if I could go on shoots with them. That’s what helped me the most. I got to learn from people who were actually doing the work.
Reaching out to other photographers was actually really scary for me. I used to be a super shy person. I have a twin sister – she was always the social butterfly who got conversations started, so I never had to. But as a photographer, you have to be social and interact with others. I found that when I put myself out there, people were happy to help. All you have to do is be brave. And ask.
Eventually, I gained enough photography experience and felt comfortable going out on my own. Business was slow at first. My mom and siblings supported me a lot but my dad was a little worried. I remember him telling me about his friend (a manager at a restaurant) who could get me a job. And I remember crying, “Dad no, I’m not destined to do this. I can make it, just trust me.”
I understand though. My dad just wanted me to a better life than we had in our country. I’m a first generation immigrant, from Mexico. I’m a “Dreamer.” I’m a woman, a business owner, a new mom. These are things some people consider barriers, but I never let them get in my way. I continued to hustle – I didn’t have a choice! I started applying sales and customer service skills from my previous corporate job to book more clients. And of course, Thumbtack was a huge help in boosting my business, too.
2018 was my biggest year yet. I worked really hard and booked up the whole year. And now, I’m in a position to support other photographers like the ones who gave me a chance. A lot of people come to me for mentoring and help getting started. I help whoever wants to take the time to learn and work hard. I’m one of those people who’s all about community over competition. I’m not worried about losing business. Why not teach people what I do? There will always be more clients than photographers. There’s enough work for everybody.”
Karen Salinas is a wedding and events photographer based in Winston-Salem, NC.