Inspiration & Encouragement, Series

Dreamer of the Month: July

I love making new friends… especially when those friends just so happen to be super encouraging individuals who help to keep you inspired in your personal journey, as well. Lauren Bell is exactly that kind of person, which is why I chose her to be the first interview to kick off this new “Dreamer of the Month” series here at ADI.

This series is meant to be a way for us to support one another as a community of people trying to reach our goals, rather than competing and tearing each other down. It is also a way to bring in someone else’s perspective other than my own; a refreshing change from which I felt I could truly benefit. So without further ado, let’s officially meet the “Dreamer of the Month” for July: Lauren Bell.

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Full Name: Lauren Melanne Bell
Profile: Owner of Lauren Melanne Photography
Location: Central Ohio (Circleville-Columbus area)
Favorite Quote: “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something is more important than fear.” ~Meg Cabot, The Princess Diaries

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What would you say sparked your interest in photography?

It’s really hard to remember because I’ve loved photography for life – I really have! When I was a little girl I used to use my mom’s camera… one time I wasted a whole role of her film, but she let me do it! I would just go around the house and take pictures of random stuff, and they were horrible pictures, but my mom was just letting me do it. So, I’ve played with the camera from the time I was little, and then I asked for new cameras a lot for birthdays as technology changed.

But, I think at first it was the excitement – because when you have film, you can’t see it immediately – of getting it back, and being able to see what you did. And then, as I got older, it turned more into capturing memories…

So, I guess you could say it just…developed over time. [And yes we both acknowledged the humor in this pun haha!] But, it all traces back to my mom letting me play with her camera.

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So, if it was developing over time, what would you say was the turning point that made you want to turn it into a business?

I think the first time I thought ‘I really want to do this’ was actually through a friend of mine that was already doing it, and we were both the same age -we were both still in college. So, to see that we shared a passion, that at that time no one else really knew I had, and that she had already turned her passion into a business, and to see how well she was doing – I just wanted to learn everything from her because it was so inspiring! But, I definitely think seeing someone in the same stage of life as me, already doing it instead of waiting, was definitely the first thing that sparked me into wanting to really pursue photography as a business.

Wow, it’s crazy how well your answers are playing off of each other, because my next question was actually, ‘do you have any mentors or people who have inspired you while pursuing you dream?’ haha!

Yes! Haha! That girl’s name is, now, Kari Bowman, and she owns KariMe Photography… so like I said, seeing her do that sparked my ambition. And then, as her business grew, and as time went… I thought about asking her to meet up one day, and just sit down and answer some more questions for me. Then, out of the blue, she started offering mentor sessions through her website! So, I immediately wrote her and told her that I had been thinking about that for a while, so I booked a session with her, and we spent the day together. I had just gotten my first “real” camera, so she was basically starting from scratch with me, but she broke down the camera for me and explained the details of the features. She also helped me figure out how you actually run a business like that, and answered a lot of questions you may not even think about, like finances and customer service.
…Now, she and her husband, Trevor, have businesses together too, and they, as a team, have been a big help, and they do workshops now as they continue to grow because they really want to invest in other photographers.

So, I’ve learned a lot from them, and then just other photographers who I may not have met in person, but I follow their blogs – I want to learn as much from them as I can because they’re already doing what I want to do, and they’ve gone through all the steps, and learned hard lessons… they have all this knowledge, and I just want to soak it all up like a sponge!

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Okay, so this is something I definitely struggle with, after a long day at work, so I need some tips! I know that you’re working full-time on top of pursuing your photography business on the side, so do you have anything that keeps you motivated?

Honestly, for me, it’s actually strangely simple – it’s the fact that photography really is my passion. It’s not just something I thought would be fun for a little bit, I actually get on a little high every time I do anything with it – it kind of just lights my fire. So, I think because it’s my passion, I don’t lose the motivation for it (or at least, I haven’t yet) – but it is hard! Especially when things were picking up, because last year was my first full year of putting my name out there, and working with people that I did and didn’t know, and I just kept getting busier and busier. I did lose a lot of sleep that first year, but I was kind of learning as I was going along, so I saw 2AM a lot… I would stay up late editing, brainstorming, or learning and I didn’t sleep much. So, this year is going a whole lot better!

But, I think keeping the inspiration going, for me anyway, is keeping that vision of what I want someday to happen (because I want to be full-time someday), and having a mission really keeps your passion alive. Even though life is crazy busy, and you’re trying to fit your passion in to what you have to do to get by, but I think if you make a mission for where you want your “side” thing to go, it is really important because it reminds you why you’re doing this, and what you love about it.

Lauren went on to say that balancing life with your passion is hard, and gives a lovely reminder not to get too “lost in your passion.” She said there was a time last year that she was exhausted because she was just “Lauren Melanne Photography” outside of her 9am-5pm job, and wasn’t taking any personal time or family time. It’s important to make sure we are blocking out time to unwind…which for her may mean not scheduling EVERY, single Saturday with a shoot, in order to be able to take some time to go home for the weekend to see her family. Doing this allows us to continue to enjoy our passion when we are doing it, rather than being bombarded by our schedule.

Many people think that being a Christian gets in the way of the things you want to do in life, but I have found the exact opposite to be true. Everything I feel I’m designed to do only really makes sense or has meaning when I’m centered on Christ. Would you mind elaborating on how your faith has helped you rather than hindered you in pursuing your passion?

Yeah, I love that question! My faith is the most important priority to me, and my relationship with God guides my choices and my interests. It’s true, I find it really funny, that if you’re a Christian or just really religious, no matter what someone’s religion may be, others seem to think that you have no other interests or only like certain things – that’s not true!

But with my faith and my business in particular, I’ve tried to make it very clear on my website who I am, and my faith is part of that. So, with the business, my mission is mainly just to love on people – love on my clients and let them know, ‘you’re not just a job for me, you’re not just handing me a check, I actually care about this moment for you, and I want to capture it for you.’

…I want to really try to be a light to them, whether they’re a Christian or not, and giving them God’s love by investing in them, no matter what that means for them.

Lauren went on to say that as she’s talked with past clients, she feels that sharing her heart/faith has helped her relate to them better and has allowed them to truly open up in front of her lens even more.

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What are some of the dreams or goals that you would like to still work toward?

Oh, so many! Of course taking my business full-time is the first initial goal, but beyond that, I would love to do another destination wedding…

I would love to partner with a business, and do their marketing for them. I would especially love it if it were an organization or a charity.

Something I would really love to do is senior photos. The opportunity hasn’t really presented itself yet, but I would love to work with seniors, in particular, senior girls; I have a big heart for women’s ministries, and I would love to invest in these young girls, and truly show them how beautiful they are, and help them to feel encouraged as they are about to move into the next phase of their life.

Lauren shared some more of her dreams and goals with me, and I truly cannot wait to see all of the wonderful things that she accomplishes!

Do you have any fun or silly habits that help you while you’re working?

I do! On my way to a session, I’ve found that I usually listen 80’s music, like old school New Kids on the Block, because it loosens me up, gets me excited, and puts me in a really fun mood, so I’m ready for energy with my couples who may be kind of nervous for their shoot.

When I’m editing, I seem to have two extremes… I’m either listening to boy bands, like N’sync, One Direction, etc. OR I’m listening to instrumental music, because I either really want to sing along, or I just want to mellow out and get into the zone.

And, my favorite, is after an engagement session, sometimes, but ALWAYS after a wedding – I take a bubble bath. It helps my body physically relax, because after a wedding, that’s a long day, and sometimes I can be really sore from holding the camera, and bending, and constantly walking around. So, even though it’s a lot of fun, my body gets worn out.

What would be your main piece of advice for someone that’s still in the ‘I have a dream, but…’ phase?

I was stuck in that phase for a very long time, and nobody knew I was there because I didn’t talk about it… I had a fear of failure and I was afraid that if I told people and then it didn’t go anywhere, then I would have to constantly have people asking me about it. I finally told my parents, kind of casually, that I was really interested in learning more. Then, for my birthday one year, they got me my first [official] camera, and they said ‘you have no more excuses, go out and do this.’

I just started small. I would say whatever it is you think is your passion, start out small, and experiment a little bit, because you’ll learn very quickly if it’s a passion or a hobby; I’ve found out there is definitely a difference. Like reading for me is hobby, I love it, but I wouldn’t want to make a living doing that…photography on the other hand, lights me up; it’s my passion, I have to do it! But the main thing keeping me from that was simply fear.

…So, for someone that is still stuck in that “what if” phase, I would say, go for it, because if you don’t, that “what if” question will haunt you. It haunted me for a really long time, and here I finally did it, and I’ve been blessed beyond what I ever expected to be. I wouldn’t trade this past year for anything because I’ve learned so much, and have been blessed by so many people and opportunities that I would have missed out on, if I hadn’t been brave enough to finally just go for it. If you’re too afraid to go for it, you’re only holding your own self back.

I’m the first one to say that it can be terrifying, but it’s the good kind of scary – if it’s really something you love, you’ll never been disappointed that you spent that time doing it!

A very special thank you shout out to Lauren for letting me interview her for this feature, and for letting me share some of her beautiful photography! I can say from personal experience that she is a blast to work with, and her excitement for life is contagious. If you’re interested in seeing more of her work, or contacting her about a session, please visit her website!!

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