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Conversations with Justine Harris

Today we’d like to introduce you to Justine Harris.  

Hi Justine, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
When I was a little girl, I loved looking through all of my grandma’s photo albums. She was always documenting our family’s memories and more importantly she treasured them. In fact, so much so that if any of us wanted to borrow some photos to copy for ourselves she would look through your stack and count them so she knew exactly what was supposed to come back home. I learned more than I realized by watching her. She captured the emotion of those memories, and I learned how valuable they are when you no longer have those loved ones with you. I learned the value of family and how quickly time passes. I feel really grateful that my grandma captured so many memories for me, from my accomplishments to everyday life. 

After high school, I was working two jobs and going to school full time. I was quickly getting burnt out and felt a calling to do something bigger with my life. I joined the Marines in 2005. I worked in the Battalion building so that afforded me a lot of opportunities to volunteer to take pictures for different events. Most of those were during my deployment. My husband and I got out of the Marine Corps in 2009 and we moved to Michigan. We had two boys by that point and I took pictures of them all the time. After telling my husband that I could take nice pictures of our children if I had a better camera than a point and shoot. He gifted me my first DSLR! Up until that point, I had an interest in photography but I was hooked after that. As the years passed, I took newborn photos of our youngest and helped take pictures for all of our kid’s sports teams. I always wanted the kids to have memories to look back on of their moments, and not just my kids but all the kids on the team. I want them to be able to look at an image of themselves and see the culmination of all their months of hard work coming together for that single moment. Whether it’s a victory or loss makes no difference but that they had someone watching and cheering them on. 

In the fall of 2019, I decided I was going to start my photography business. I was excited and nervous to start this venture. I had the support of my family behind me and I had been using the income from my job to purchase the supplies I would need to start out. I had been a stay-at-home mom for a number of years, then a paraprofessional at a local school district. I felt like I was ready to invest in myself, and I was off to a decent start when the shutdown happened. Even though everything came to a halt, I practiced and worked on educating myself during that time. One of the things that I love the most about photography is there are so many genres and techniques to learn. I feel that time studying helped me grow my skills to provide my clients a better experience. As things opened back up, I was able to document so many important memories for several families. I’ve continued to grow my clientele over these last couple years. I strive to make people feel comfortable and at ease. I want them to enjoy the experience because that can be read on their expressions. I use a mix of poses, prompts, and dad jokes to achieve natural expressions. My goal is for a client to look at their portraits and be able to feel the emotion of the moment and cherish the special details. 

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
I’ve had some challenges along the way in starting this business. My family is my priority and being there for them is one of the reasons I wanted to start this business for the flexibility. There’s a lot of hours that need to be logged for education, editing, learning new programs, and working the business. So, I continually work to find a good balance. 

I’m self-taught and I struggle with imposter syndrome. There are times I feel I’m not a professional because I don’t have a degree or that I’m just a mom out here pretending to be a businesswoman. I have to remind myself that I am out here doing my best for each client and continuing to work on myself to improve. That it’s okay to not know how to do everything because even the best top-name photographers talk about learning new techniques! 

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I photograph a lot of newborns, maternity, family, seniors, and couples. I really enjoy the creative process of putting together a newborn session though. I feel like every time I do a session, I think oh my gosh this is my favorite photo I’ve ever taken. The thing I am most proud of recently is a maternity session I did. It was one of those sessions that everything comes together just like you envision it will but even better! The location offered a lot of variety and the lighting was perfection! My editing style is true to life, with a little warmth. I think there’s a couple of the things that set me apart from others. I always hope that my clients feel warm and welcome when they are with me. I once had a client tell me how happy her daughter was that I had taken her suggestion for a location because it was one of her favorite places. It might seem so simple but it was a great location and that happiness was definitely visible in her senior photos. Another is that when I create an image it should be worthy of hanging on display. I’m also not afraid to be completely silly to get that natural smile from a toddler! 

Do you have recommendations for books, apps, blogs, etc.?
I follow a couple local photographers, Nathan Chanski and Cassidy Lynne. They have a lot of great advice and tips for business. They’re both on Instagram and have podcasts. 

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Image Credits

Justine Harris Photography

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