One of the ways I consider myself to be most fortunate, is in the amazing women I have in my life. And though I’m a little late in posting this (okay, severely–but I can pretend I saved it in honor of International Women’s Day last week!), I want to draw some attention to one of these women–Courtney Bowles, of Courtney Bowles Photography.
I met Courtney through my husband’s job about eight years ago. He’s been slinging coffee at Starbucks almost as long as we’ve been together, and he got to know her when she was a frequent customer at his old store. I was incredibly sad when he first got to know Courtney–not because of anything she did, but because we got to know her shortly before we got married–but after we had signed a contract with another wedding photographer. The more I saw of her work, the more I wished so badly that we could have hired her instead, and to this day, that is my one regret about our wedding.
Courtney is an amazing artist. If you are active at all in the mom!tog communities on instagram I’m sure you’ve seen her work, but if not, check out her website and especially her instagram. I tell her often that she is a wizard, because the art she creates is nothing short of magic.
While the timing did not work out for her to photograph our wedding, we were lucky enough several years later, to have her do a couple of sessions of Kairi during her first year, along with a newborn and nursing session with Sebastian. I have recommended her to several friends, and will continue to do so, because I am just so in love with her work.
Recently however, I got to experience something even better than having her photograph me and my family–but having her teach me.
Courtney has always been quick to offer feedback or give advice when it comes to my journey into professional photography. Whether responding with a quick critique if I ask, or keeping me abreast of a new theme in an instagram hub that is relevant to my work, she has never made me feel like anything less than an equal–even though I still view her with a modicum of hero-worship, despite knowing her before she was “instagram-famous.”
Last month though, I got the chance to actually work with her, as she agreed to let me shadow a wedding she was photographing, ahead of a wedding that I have booked later this year.
From the beginning, I never felt like I was there as anything other than another professional. Courtney brought me in with her as if I were a second-shooter, not as her student, and her confidence in me was contagious. The wedding party accepted me, and she made me confident, in spite of the fact that I was so nervous the morning of that I was certain I was going to make myself sick. She filled me in on the details of the wedding beforehand, along with her expectations of me, so I never felt like I wasn’t supposed to be there, and over the course of the day, I learned, in a way that seemed to be as effortless for her as her photography. She included me in her thought-process when it came to certain key images, she offered insight into tricks of working in poorly-lit churches, and she set an example of when a photographer needs to take charge, and when they need to blend into the background. And she did it all while being as kind and authentic as a professional, as she is as a friend.
When the wedding was over, I really felt like I had learned. I had the same giddy exhaustion that comes from my own shoots, while my head was swirling with the insider’s view to an event I was nervous about going in.
She’s a great teacher. For as much as she’s an amazing artist, she is equally amazing–and generous–at sharing how she achieves that art. She is quick to respond, to answer questions, and she doesn’t treat her knowledge or experience as a secret to be earned, but as a gift to be shared. She’s constructive but not critical, and an amazing partner.
I look forward to learning more from her as time goes on, whether it is in working beside her on-location again, or attending a workshop she may host (especially in editing–nobody knows her way around photoshop like this lady).
Want to learn from Courtney? Here are a few ways you can!
She is a presenter at the Insta-Inspire Retreat happening in northern Utah in April.