What My Photography Was Like 5 Years Ago

Starting A Business While In College

When you don’t drink coffee.


I don’t know what I was thinking but I re-started my side business while in college probably from fumes of pure excitement. Formally I started Bethany J. photography in high school when a family friend hired me for Christmas photos. If you want to see the work I did back then and a cringe bathroom selfie of me in high school click here. I wanted to grow my business but I wasn’t sure how to go about it.  Have you ever been scared to ask people for money before because that is exactly how it felt at first? I decided to offer free sessions wherever I could in order to build my portfolio which was full of fine artwork. I think I had some imposter syndrome and didn’t feel official enough to actually charge anyone for my work. What I didn’t anticipate was how hard it would be to create family photography while also trying to create more in-depth work in school. I think any creative has been there if they have ever done both meaningful art and fun client work.  I don’t have a formula on how to do it but I can share my experience so you can get to know me a bit more. I have a big rebrand announcement coming and wanted to do this blog post so you can “grow up” with me and understand where I have been and where I am going. Stay tuned for next week’s launch of the new brand!


Getting real-world experience

Check out some of the work I created with my first clients. While I had worked on more artistic fine art photography learning to communicate with people for family and professional portraits was a new skill that involved learning to direct people on how to pose, and working with various lighting situations. 



Developing My Voice

While starting to shoot clients I was also in school learning to develop my voice visually. College is where I learned how to be purposeful with the techniques I had been taught as well as how to tell a story. Here are a few projects I think show my thinking over time by exploring self-portraits, costumes, and dramatic lighting.

Fairy Knots

This project was about my natural hair. I cut my hair in high school and remember being so nervous to have short hair. I learned a lot about myself having to accept my hair as it was. 


One thing I can reflect on is that during this period of my life, the growth really showed in my technique. I was able to bring that back to my clients. Here are a few samples of the work that I did with some great people!


What I look forward to is bringing back some of my passion when it comes from the fine art side of my practice while continuing to use the vibrancy and warmth that I brought to my client portraits. I also look forward to taking the time to make portraits with even more detail and thought. I hope if you are working on your own skills or craft that you choose not to give up. Everything takes practice and time. It took years for me to get to where I am and I still have room left to grow. I like to always say enjoy the journey the destination will come. I would love to hear about what your work looked like 5 years ago! Find me on Instagram @bethanyjphotography or email me by clicking the contact button. Also, stay tuned for my podcast The Creative Cure, and more information about my rebrand launch!








This Dress Did Not Exist

The Fine Art Side of Photography


Let’s talk about the art side of photography. What makes your portrait “Fine Art?” I could give you a dictionary definition or dive into what makes art well- art. I think that it would be much more fun to show you what it means to me. I am going to share behind the scenes of creating the above portrait and how photography like painting, designing, or drawing is an art form. I am also going to share how you can create your own fine art photography.



Gathering Ideas

I had a vision in my mind of a vague idea for a portrait. It started with fans, gold lines, and playing with color combinations. I knew that the dress would be white but I didn’t know exactly how it would look. I am not Picasso with the pen but getting ideas on paper helps me to start thinking of possibilities. I looked at some of my favorite photographers for inspiration and continued playing with the idea in my head for a while. Art to me is about intention. It’s making choices to frame something or nothing in a particular way. When deciding on what you may want to photograph as fine art consider playing with sketches, color palettes, textures, and more. Collect these elements in one place so your brain can start imagining where your photo will go.


Creating The Canvas

The day came to shoot the portrait and I was nervous and excited. I am always nervous to do a good job but excited to make a new piece of work. When you think of a blank canvas you may think of a white plain piece of paper. For me, my canvas is an unedited photo. How I compose the subject, light, fabric, and exposure all create the base for a polished portrait. Having the basic sketch in mind helped me to walk with some confidence and guidance as we took photos. Photography is in part a time-based artform. I am composing a moment that will not exist exactly the same way ever again. I began to play with fabric and the train of a bridal gown letting my initial idea morph. As the picture became clearer in my mind I began to work with more excitement and my friend posing went along for the ride. It looked crazy but I saw the vision. Having a plan is important but considering the environment, you are in when you are photographing is just as important. There may be something special about that moment and as an artist, you can decide how you want to incorporate the uniqueness of the moment into your work. Street photographers capture unplanned uncanny moments of humanity. Landscape photographers capture the fleeting daylight, clouds, or weather. Photo Journalists capture history as it happens. As a fine art photographer, you tell the story and frame it for the audience leading them on a journey.


Finishing Touches 

After the session was done I uploaded my photos at home and looked through them. I looked at the expression, color, and reflections and began the polishing stages for the portrait. I considered making the gown a different color, creating a really full fluffy dress with insane volume but decided on adding just a touch more shape. I like to collaborate with the subject of the portrait so I spent a lot of time going back and forth with some questions with my friend in the photo. I listened to her thoughts and incorporated them into the final portrait so that we both agreed that it looked great! Getting feedback as you finish your art piece is incredibly helpful for navigating if the image is saying what you would like it to say. In my case, I wanted to play with shape and texture without looking bridal.  My friend’s collaboration helped me to make the finishing touches with the right emphasis and detail. Check out some of the processes as I transform the finishing touches. You can see me going back and forth on the pink but in the end, the contrast of the white won.




Art Is…

Art is intention, invention, creation, and experimentation. That is what I do. I construct and build and at the end of it, all my hope is that you see an amazing person presented beautifully. You may never know all of the behind-the-scenes steps and that is ok. Part of the joy is in the process. I hope you enjoyed this behind-the-scenes look! If you want to collaborate on an art piece or commission please email bethany@bethanyjphotography.com or click here.

Join the conversation about how 6 hours of drawing class taught me a lot on the latest episode of The Creativity Cure Podcast here.


What is your creative process? DM me on social media or email bethany@bethanyjphotography.

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Welcome to Bethany J. Photography

What’s gonna be new?

As an artist who creates one-of-a-kind portraits to help people celebrate uniquely, I want to re-introduce my brand to friends and attract the community who will most benefit from my style of work.


The New Logo




Everything has started looking different around here. The new visual expression of my brand reflects more than just new fonts and color choices. This new logo is simple and classic and a bit more serious. I sought to emphasize my professionalism for every person who visits my website. When you see Bethany J. Photography here are the three values you will see.




Celebrating Originality | Crafted With Quality | Connected To Community


I thought long and hard about how I wanted to communicate what I felt about photography and the way I have served clients as an artist. These values encompass more than just my business but my personal belief in everything I do. Let’s dive into how I will be incorporating these three values into my business.


Celebrating Originality

You are original. I celebrate you by creating one-of-a-kind custom art portraits.

I consider your unique qualities and needs and then tailor my approach each time you get a portrait.

I create a distinctly original style developed over time and perfected daily.


Crafted With Quality

I invest time, resources, and research, and focus on each client fully.

With a passion for the craft of image making I use the best tools to craft your original portrait.

I use clear communication and careful planning to maintain a professional experience.


Connected to Community

We are neighbors, collaborators, and dreamers I work with you to create something new.

I give back to the creative community that helped me grow in the field I enjoy now.

I collaborate to build up, connect and support local or small businesses and crafters when possible.


Here is a small list that demonstrates the difference between what I currently offer compared to what I used to offer. 




As mentioned above I am shifting to not only incorporating being better focused on each individual client’s needs but also providing a service that creates portraits that you can treasure as key pieces for your home.


The Updated Style


Luxurious, classic, and dynamic are all words I would use to describe my new style. I drew a lot of inspiration from painters such as Ben Enwonwu from the African Modernist Movement and photographers such as Alaina Airitam’s series Golden Age (inspired by the Dutch Golden Age.) I sought artists who took extra care with deep skin tones, vibrant colors, and strong poses that felt part photography and part painterly. Additionally, I incorporated my signature glow, organic elements, and warm lighting.



Why commission a fine art photo portrait?


As an official patron of the fine arts here are the situations in which you might want to commission a portrait.

Celebrations + Milestones

Professional/ Headshots
Artist Portraits


What Will a Session Look Like

A session will start with a questionnaire after which we will schedule a 30-minute call to talk about you! This is an experience I want you to enjoy. We will get to know each other and then I will get to work creating your custom plan including your look, the location, and any custom set or props.

Additional options include a hair and make-up artist and a stylist consultation. Locations are historic mansions or natural reserves in Maryland. I also provide a full-length mirror during your session if you would like to see yourself posing. After the session, you choose your favorite portraits to keep and have the option to create a statement leather album or locally framed print. These portraits are meant to be seen big, think of them as signature pieces.


This is an experience you will have to try yourself! If you are ready to book your 2023 session please visit here and contact me!



New Podcast: The Creativity Cure

I am connected to the community and I want to strengthen my commitment. That is why I started the podcast The Creativity Cure. Not everyone will decide to get their portraits taken with me. I still want to share life with you! This podcast is to encourage women to rekindle the fire of creativity within. It’s not about any ability to design or take photos (even though those topics aren’t off-limits.) The Creativity Cure is about taking the skills I have developed to solve creative problems and sharing how you can use those same principles to increase your own problem-solving ability. We will talk about creative thinking, empathy, writing, and more! The first episode is live! Check it out!


I hope that this podcast becomes a place where I get to go deep with some of you. I want to encourage and inspire you to get up and go again. I will post new episodes every other Friday! In between episodes you can stay connected through The Creative Community newsletter! Keep reading for more.


Hearing from You

Finally, I want to build community and help connect those of us who enjoy being creative or enjoy supporting those who create. To make this space I created The Creativity Cure Newsletter. This newsletter shares updates from me but more importantly has room for you. I want to see your picture of the week, your encouraging story, your wins, and your favorite creators or businesses. Join the community so we can uplift each other!


Welcome to the NEW Bethany J. Photography. Booking is officially open for 2023 and I can’t wait to connect, grow, and create with you this year!


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How Bethany J. Photography is Changing

What’s gonna be new?


In one week I will be FINALLY sharing my new rebrand and what that means for my clients and followers! I am so excited because I know what’s coming and I hate keeping secrets! I wanna give you some idea of what is going to happen so you can get ready for the launch.

Fine Art Portraits Only

The biggest change will be in the kind of work I will complete for people. I will be shifting from the family photography service category to a fine art portrait photography practice. Here are the differences between the two, for future clients.







As mentioned above I am shifting to not only incorporating being better focused on each individual client’s needs but also providing a service that creates portraits that you can treasure as key pieces for your home.


Changing Style

My style has always been vibrant, warm, fun, and colorful. However, I don’t want to stop growing as a creator so for that purpose, I want to shift into creating work for you from a truer place of authenticity. I will continue to keep the key elements of my style but I will be pushing to create portraits that are a bit more in-depth, carefully lit, and filled with an element of wonder. Each session will be about creating a unique work. I want to invite clients to further explore their own creativity with me.


Inviting the Creative Community

In addition to inviting clients to collaborate I want to extend the community further by helping creative people, supporters, and more connect. I have so many individual conversations with clients, businesses, and more, and want to build a meeting ground. I will be doing this with the launch of a weekly newsletter that will be for people interested in sharing their triumphs, work, connections, products, and more. I want to hear your stories, see what moves you, and build up the creative community. I believe that coming together in an exclusive community will open the doors for great things to happen! Those who subscribe will get updates first and get the opportunity to share their opinions or ideas for topics to cover or events to share. I will also open the newsletter for small, local, or artisan brands to share their business.



New Podcast: The Creativity Cure

I will be launching my Podcast The Creativity Cure on February 17th. In working with clients in photography and design I realize that there is a large perception that being creative is purely a gift or talent. I believe that in a big way, creativity is a skill that can be fostered and cultivated in powerful ways. On my podcast, I will talk to women about how they can grow this skill and use it to change how they handle problems with business, relationships, and themselves. The podcast will be available on all platforms and will be streamed every other Friday.


Focusing In

I will be focusing on what I do so that I work with those who are on the same page and share the joy of being creative. This means that I will no longer be photographing events, weddings, parties, sports, or boudoir. Not to worry I will be on the lookout for photographers who excel at those segments to make sure you can still be covered. In fact, one of the great things about this change is that I will have a chance to branch out and collaborate with other photographers.


The next time I blog I will be reintroducing myself and going into more detail about how you can join The Creative Community and stay connected. You don’t want to miss this!  See you next week.


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Finding Joy

The Official Bethany J. Photography Blog with Bethany Joy Steele

Contact Me





So last year I started reading again! I got through 4 books. This year I’m hoping to challenge my reading by finding more in-depth books on topics I find interesting! I thought I might share just in case yall were interested! Here are my top ten books I want to read this year listed by interest.





Own your past change your future






I found Dr. John Delony by listening to his podcast  The Dr. John Delony Show. I found myself looking forward to his new episodes because he had a compassionate approach to helping people solve problems. The advice he gave was really easy to apply. He recently came out with a book and if it’s anything like his podcast it will be worthwhile. If you have past trauma or want to learn how to communicate better this is a great book!





The Personal MBA


So I have to admit I bought this book already! I was curious because I have been looking for a way to better understand business to help guide how I improve my work. So far I am loving this book because it is written for the average person who doesn’t have any business school knowledge. I enjoy the conversational tone and I really like how it has practical help. If you need business understanding but don’t wanna take another course check this out.






Never Split the Difference




This title grabbed my eye because I don’t like confrontation! It makes my heart race and my palms sweat. In the name of scaring myself this year (read that blog here.) I decided maybe learning about negotiating is a great way to learn how to express my needs without feeling like world war 3 will break out.






Your Brain’s Not Broken




ADHD has become a hot topic lately but is personal for me. Only recently understanding how it has affected my life I am interested in learning how to move forward into working with my brain and body instead of against it. This book had a lot of good reviews so it may be a blind read.






The Prosperous Coach



I may be showing my hand here but I am interested in coaching. This is a long-term plan as I would love to be able to work from home one day. I searched for one of the best books on the topic and saw this one mentioned several times. I am curious about how I can improve my skills in working with people.






Getting Things Done




I have believed the lie that unhealthy stress was an indicator that you accomplished a lot. I am realizing more and more that if I want to live a life that has room to enjoy my family, fun, and my community I need to manage better. This book stood out to me as a great start, especially that uh…stress free… part!







Lean In





After taking the Katelyn James Business course last year I realized that regardless of whether I want to admit it or not I am a leader. I lead my daughter, my friends, and my clients. I wanted to look to see the thought process behind being a leader and this book was highly recommended.











We all have it! Influence. I am not a natural salesperson I would say. I don’t like convincing people to do things but I have learned that selling is a life skill you need. Part of selling is influence and persuasion. I would like to understand the basics of marketing and why people decide how they do it. I probably won’t leave a pushy saleswoman but I think I have something to gain on this topic. 





Built to Last



Operating a small business is not just so I can have a cool hobby. I truly desire to one day spend my time not only making a living enjoying what I do but being free to help those in need. I want to build a lasting business so that I can do this for as long as possible! 


Blue Ocean Strategy


Business is a huge theme for me this year! Running a one-woman side hustle here I have realized that I can’t compete on the same level as a business with a bigger team. This book looks like a great addition to learning how to build a brand!






Bonus Book!


The E myth



The E Myth looks interesting because I have heard the staggering statistics about how most small businesses don’t last. I wanna have the best shot at it so reading this may highlight some of my pitfalls!


What books are you thinking about reading this year and why? Tell me by following me on IG @bethanyjphotography. You can also reach me by emailing me below.

Finding Joy

Welcome to my blog. Here I am myself. I am an artist who shares her photography, her family, and more! I called this blog choosing joy because 1. That’s my middle name and 2. Finding joy when life is tough has been a journey for me. More often I am choosing to look for the bright side even when I don’t see it. If you are an artist, a parent, a small business or all three then you will like being around here!

Share your Joy Journey with me by emailing bethany@bethanyjphotography.com. You might be featured in my newsletter!

Your Joy Journey can be something funny or moving your story of overcoming or what brings you joy.


What My Photography Was Like 10 Years Ago

Let’s Go Back

Yes, this is me in high school!


It has been 10 years since the first time I picked up a camera. I am surprised I stuck with photography this long considering how many other hobbies I’ve lost along the way. I made purses, sold cards, and even did Avon for a bit, and T-shirts! If you haven’t heard I have BIG news coming in February about how I am changing my business. I thought that one way to help everyone make sense of what is coming would be to look at how I started. I want to bring you into my circle here to help you understand how I built along the way. I have done a general blog on this before but this is a bit more in-depth covering 2014-2015. This blog is the first in this series and it’s looking at my work from when I was 15 and had just started photography class at school. I think it’s cool to share because if you are a teen out there please know you can grow your skills into a business even at that age. I also think some of you art lovers might appreciate it. So let’s go. I had way too much fun going through these. 



Portraits From the Start

From the start, I was in love with portraits! I started with portraits of people on the street and pictures of buildings. I was really scared of people getting mad so I would try and do portraits in stealth mode. I had to build the confidence to ask people for a picture. 


Projects I Still Love

There were some projects or moments that I will never forget. They sparked my love for photography and made me some friends I still have today!

These two portraits were my first studio work. One was a study of the lighting of a Joni Mitchell portrait. The second was a project on making my little brother look like an adult for a project on irony. I remember being so excited because I got the light to do what it was supposed to! This was a win in understanding how to make drama come alive in portraits.




The exploration of this time was so much fun. I teamed up with the Baltimore City Mayor’s photographer and shot the back-to-school giveaway. I started messing with color developing the style that I have now. Shout out to all of my family members who involuntarily posed for me! 




I started developing my warm and vibrant style in high school thanks to my friends and family modeling for me.




One project that I absolutely loved was Uniquely Human. A project where my friend Rebekah and I collaborated with our class to create a single portrait from 20 faces making universal emotional expressions. 





I look back at this and I am so proud of myself and all of the people I met along the way. I had fun just playing, exploring, and connecting with people. Can anyone relate to having a moment of courage when it comes to chasing your dreams? Lately, I have been doing a major rehaul of Bethany J. Photography and looked over all of the stuff I did ten years ago. It makes me excited to dive back into making art again. I tend to remember the fear and nervousness I felt when I would make work and constantly wonder if it was any good. I think looking at the images and remembering that all of that stress did pay off gives me some bravery to make new things again. I kinda wonder what Bethany back then would think of me now. On that note, that’s all I got for this blog. Next time I am gonna get a bit into art school and my first client work. What would you tell yourself 10 years ago? Drop it in a comment below or DM me @bethanyjphotography everywhere.


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