Today’s guest post is brought to you by the lovely Casie of Rebel Belle Photography!  I had the pleasure of meeting Casie in person just the other day in Orlando (you can check SoNg Designs for a pic)!  She has such a hilarious, fun, laid back, and chill personality!  If you are interesting in being a photographer, then read on to see how Casie made her start and she leaves us with some great advice too!


My photographic love affair began much like that of any other kid:

A cup of coffee was never just a brewed cup of caffeinated beans.  No, to me it was art.

Laughter wasn’t just a reaction, but rather a fragment in time that needed to be savored.  Captured, and relived as frequently as possible.

And details…details so intricately woven that most people would miss them with a mere blink of an eye?  Left a resonating beat in my heart.

I graduated high school, like any 18 year old kid – bright eyed, and guns blazing – declaring to people that I, Casie Shimansky, was going to be a photographer.  Was I going to school for photography?  Heck no.  I was going for general education!  But, I knew that it wasn’t something I wanted to be TOLD how to do anyway.  Photography – like any art form, like any moment in life, and any true passionate love story must be EXPERIENCED, not defined.  Must be LIVED, not instructed.

I wasn’t always the girl with the camera though.  You see, there was a day, and a time, and a place where not EVERYONE had a camera.  It would take me another four years to see the light, because I simply had no other option.  In April of 2004, my younger sister Kellie became ill and passed away unexpectedly, within a week.  Life after Death is…odd.  Fuzzy.  It’s light and dark.  It is every bit of a Fish-Eye Lens; never quite right, and never quite wrong.  For me, it was a trigger.  A trigger that sounded faintly like the click of a shutter button.

Photography chose me; it is as simple and as complicated as that.  That one moment changed everything in my life.  The entire earth seemed to shift, and it catapulted me to here and now.

It was as if before that moment I was a single pane of glass – pretty and untouched; even afraid of breaking from time to time.   Entirely transparent.  But now, I am this intense mosaic.  Pieces and fragments have become something so much more “whole” than I could’ve ever imagined.  I know exactly what these pieces are capable of too.  They are somehow prettier to me than just one singular, untouched pane of glass.

If life had just thrown me a curveball, photography was my homerun.

The best camera, I believe, is the one that you have on you.  The one that you can afford.  If you have the talent?  The true eye of a photographer?  Equipment is nothing.  Equipment enables you to participate in this art; it doesn’t make you or break you by any means.  You can have the best equipment, and still go nowhere.  You can have the “worst” equipment and still stretch it to unknown limits.  You won’t hear that from too many photographers.  And to be honest, it’s probably why it took me so long to start, because all these other photographers were telling ME that I NEEDED the $10,000 body style in order to be any kind of photographer who knows anything about something.

I’m here to tell you that that is a load of ca-ca.  If you have talent — if, in your heart, you are a photographer — you’re going to take amazing works of art with ANY camera because you simply cannot imagine your life without those photographs.  Does that mean that you should simply settle for the cheapest camera?  No.  Because, there is a difference, a rather large one, between The Canon Rebel and The Canon 5d Mark ii.  [Yes, I’m a Canon Girl — Sorry, Nikon Buddies…More on that in a Second!]

I got my first job as a real true photographer, in a children’s portrait studio, based off of images that I took with a Canon Powershot digital point and shoot camera.  I knew nothing about cameras, I just knew that I liked taking photographs…and that I somehow managed to capture the right moments.  Three months into this fancy new world of studio photography; I purchased my first REAL camera.  A Canon Rebel xti.  It was literally — penny to penny — all I could afford.

It did not take me long to realize that the studio world is pretty constricting.  This world where I dwelled wasn’t geared towards the art of photography, or even the love of photography — it was geared towards the sales of portrait packages.  I was a caged photographer; a pirate without a ship.  Days spent dreaming would have my mind wandering far beyond those studio walls, and wondering if maybe…just maybe….

I left the studio late one evening, a December chill in the air; I pulled my pea coat close to my chest and breathed a sigh of relief like no other.  It was done…no, I was done.  My breath rose into the cool nights air; I looked up to the stars and a smile found my lips.  I never looked back.  Those days spent dreaming were about to come true.

As scary as it was, and as scary as it still can be on some days…I began Rebel Belle Photography.  Some people have children.  They have homes, and puppies, and white picket fences.  I have this company.  I breathe this company.  I live this company.  It is, in every second of every day, my heart beat.

So, advice?  Start now. Start with whatever camera you can get your hands on.  Whether it’s film or digital.  Point and Shoot or DSLR.  Use the camera on your phone if you absolutely must (and I do, quite frequently, by the way!).  The best camera, my friends — is the one you have on you.  The one you can afford.  There is no rule that you absolutely cannot upgrade, and there are awesome companies out there that rent equipment too – which is great for trying before buying! (I use The Lens Depot here in Orlando)  The one thing that so many of us photographers say over and over again is that we wish we would’ve started sooner.  I am here to tell you to start today.  Right this second.  Seek out different angles.  Awkward moments.  Inanimate objects.  Tell THEIR story, because…in essence, that is YOUR story.

Nikon vs. Canon? You will hear photographers argue this until they’re blue in the face.  I’m not one to argue, so I’m going to tell you, quite simply, it is a uniquely personal choice.  There are all kinds of arguments to as why one is better than the other — at the end of the day?  They both take incredible photographs, and very few people on this planet, if any at all, will be able to tell you if an image was taken with one or the other.

Be more concerned with the moment than the equipment.  Equipment is important, but what is more important is your eye; the way you see the world – and your heart; the way you leave your fingerprints on this planet.

Photography is every bit an exploration. Don’t be afraid to explore your camera.  Try different settings, take off the training wheels.  For so long I was terrified of shooting on anything but automatic because I didn’t want to screw it up — but here’s the thing about that — those manual settings?  Will open so many more doors and windows.  You won’t just be taking photographs, you’ll be creating photographs!  Personally, for me — exploring on my own terms is the best way that I learn.  So I jumped in feet first, completely blind, and taught myself everything I know.  I learn each and every day.  Don’t assume that you know it all, because that is when you stop learning — and in almost any profession or hobby — after you stop learning?  You might as well kiss it goodbye.

Get out there & just SHOOT! What they say about practice making perfect?  Is true.  You can NEVER get enough practice!  Sometimes when I can’t grab a friend to photograph…I just go out and photograph my world.  Flowers.  Rain drops.  The way the sun is setting on that particular day.  Pets & what I ate for dinner.  If I’m having a rough day…I’ll grab my camera, hop into my Mini Cooper, go out for a random drive and explore.  Photography always brings me peace, and keeps me in hot pursuit for my next favorite image.  Yes, I’m good at this.  Yes, I make a living off of this.  But at the end of every day?  I am a photographer because I am in love with this; my heart simply knows no other way.

Break the Rules. Composition and Lighting techniques are always things to play around with.  Yes, there are right ways and wrong ways and “Rules to Follow” — but who likes rules?!  You can Google “The Rules” — but who wants to be like everyone else, right?  Go out there and try something different!  If you love it then it may very well become your style!  Know the basics, but don’t be afraid to break tradition.  One of the biggest things I had to overcome and learn in the early days was that there really wasn’t a right or wrong way — you’ll go through a process, of course, in finding who you truly are as a photographer in terms of what lighting you’re in love with, what composition suits your soul, and ultimately what style speaks your language.  But don’t be afraid to at least try!

Get out of Your Way! At the end of the day, whether it is photography or…anything else you are insanely passionate about?  The only thing, the only person, who can stand in your way…is you!  I speak from a great deal of, “Having Been There”…I came up with every excuse to NOT be a photographer.  I had a mental list of reasons for NOT doing what it is that I truly love, and for not being the person that I truly am – how horrific is that?  For YEARS…I stood in my own path.  And, if you haven’t picked up on it prior to this statement…a great deal of that was cemented in fear.  Once I got out of my way?  The fear subsided, and confidence took its place.

I’ve found that you’ve got to listen to the people who inspire you, who have gone where you yourself want to go — because they’ve been there and can tell you much more than someone who’s only read about it on the internet.  Be constantly curious and always ready for an adventure…and never, ever let anyone tell you that your dreams are out of reach.  I promise you, your dreams are out there just waiting to be achieved.

Casie Shimansky