Today we’d like to introduce you to Yvonne Estes.
Yvonne, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Today, with our iPhones and access to digital cameras, I find many people can pick up a camera and swear to the camera gods (I guess) and say “I AM A PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER”. Then voila! They, start charging to take pictures of others. I do not want to be thrown into this group of photographers so I believe I have only been in the business as a professional full time for one year. Literally, in February of 2017, God opened a door to this dream of mine. A dream I had not thought of since I was in junior high school. I gave up on this dream by college because during my generation, I was “going to college” and I would study to become “a doctor, lawyer, accountant, or teacher” because that is what we did back then.
My parents were great providers, but there was a price to that. I could not afford college and I was spoiled. So I gave up that dream and in 1990 I earned a BBA in Marketing from The University of Texas at Austin. I was not going to be an accountant like my dad was, but I did have a business degree. Little did I know this would be helpful today. So, I went on the get married after college and I spent a few years in retail management. It was not long after this for me to admit I was not happy. I was working long hours and realized my future was not in retail management.
Five years later I in 1995 I began teaching. I became a certified bilingual teacher in Texas. I had pretty much forgotten about the dream I had. Next, came kids. Joe in 1996 and Gaby in 1998. They were and still are the loves of my life. Mothers out there will get this. I can’t explain it, but they are still my babies, a 21-year-old and 20-year-old baby at that! So for the next 20 years, I was a teacher and a bilingual program coordinator. I was happy, despite long hours and summers filled with summer school or professional learning, it was better than retail management. In 2010 I even earned my Master of Education in ESL (English as a Second Language) and Reading at Dallas Baptist University.
Then in 2016 all that changed in the blink of an eye. We sponsored a foreign exchange student in 2015-2016. She was from Germany. She brought with her an awesome DSLR camera by Sony. She wanted a good camera to capture her experience. She also loved art, expressing herself in art. This simply rekindled the dream I had forgotten about. I loved how photographers could tell a story in their work. To me that is what it is all about, capturing those special moments in time, creating a photograph that tells your story at that time. I was not going to let this go unless God shut the door to this dream.
To me, the doors to teach were closing and the door for pursuing this dream was wide open. Well, if I was going to do this, I did not want to be another person with a camera. I felt God led me to an online website that held self-paced classes by specialists in the industry. Within a year I studied and practiced and I was driven to pursue that dream I had forgotten about. I did not want to find myself in 10 years regretting it if I did not move forward.
By the end of 2016, I purchased my own Sony, just like my German “daughter”. I had also learned about professional level cameras and I became a Nikon lady with my D750. Sorry Canon lovers, Nikon salespeople sold me on it while I visited the Texas School of Professional Photography. It was then I thought, about starting a business.I remember clearly the phone call I made to Mr. Peter Horn, a photographer in Frisco that once did photos for my son for a program called The Texas Leadership Salute (TLS).
The mission of this program is to recognize graduating seniors for their leadership accomplishments in high school. It offered the opportunity to earn a small scholarship and be recognized in portraiture. Little did I know I would be the chairwoman of this program at that time. I called Mr. Horn because I simply wanted advice on buying good equipment. A 10-minute call became an hour-long conversation about the industry. During this conversation, he asked me if I had a mentor. At the time I did not. What an awesome opportunity this was! This door was opened wide so I was going to move forward.
In a matter of time, he offered me an opportunity to be a second shooter at his events, and actually help photograph graduating seniors in TLS. By the summer or 2016, I was introduced to a retired Denton photographer, Mr. Don Barnes. He had a successful business for over 30 years. Plus, he was the photographer that started the TLS program in 1985. Small world I thought! God was giving me great mentors to help me learn about the business of photography and the art of photography! What an opportunity this was! God was giving me so many opportunities to succeed!
So, I simply began to build a portfolio. I offered to do photos for people at no charge and prints could be done at almost cost. They were helping me so I wanted to help them. Then in February of 2017, I made the decision to leave the field of education and start my business full time. By May of 2017, I became the next photographer and chairperson of the TLS program. The same program that recognized my son in 2014. I was to pay it forward. So here I am today, one year later, with a small room I can call my studio.
I rented an executive suite her in Hickory Creek (or Corinth). I have attended Texas School of Professional Photography, continued to study online with Creative Live consultants, and mentor a student as well. Today, I specialize in graduating seniors, families, newborns, pets, and special events. I give back to the local community by photographing animals needing a furever home at Lake Dallas and Hickory Creek Animal Shelters. I try to go weekly, but sometimes I am so bust I can’t. I am leading the TLS program too, which has been a huge undertaking.
However, here I am doing the dream I had back in 1981. I really do not know what is next. I simply try to follow where God leads me. That is not easy either. I love the art of photography, and I use that marketing degree I earned back in 1990! So, here I am writing another chapter to my story. Until this door closes, I plan to keep studying, practicing, running a business, and of course creating images that tell your story. My motto is from Ecc. 3:11, my goal is “to capture the beauty HE created in YOU!”
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The art of photography is exciting, intriguing, and a joy to do. Taking the pictures is the easy part of the job. Retouching and editing can be a challenge and it is time-consuming. I feel like most consumers do not understand this. Since many take pictures with their iPhone or a digital camera, it seems the pros can do the same.
Since I want to create art that you treasure, I look at images and find the strengths. I enhance these and remove or retouch the weaker parts. Also, I may take 100 pictures within an hour. It is time-consuming to cull photos. It is easy to eliminate ones that have closed eyes, ones that are blurry, or ones that just don’t highlight strengths. I am still learning to manage my time so that I can turn around proofs within 7-10 days. It has been a learning experience and I am humbling myself when I am overextended and need a bit more time.
Running a full-time business is challenging. Photography takes up 30%-40% of my time. The remaining time I dedicate to work on my business. I am always marketing my business and trying to find affordable ways to get my name out. The first time I had a request from a Google search was very exciting.
The cost to start a photography business is expensive. I am constantly finding things I would like to improve my services. I try to offer a competitive price. Writing, revising, reviewing, and following a budget is not always easy. There are so many products available for photography businesses and I simply cannot have them all.
My biggest challenge is finding time to connect with God. It is easier said than done. All it can take is one excuse to not pray or ask for God’s help. One excuse leads to two, three, and so on. I will find myself struggling and it is simply because I try to do things on my own and I don’t seek His guidance first. However, we serve a loving Father, a forgiving Father. I love how I can get on my knees and ask for His help. He is always there with arms open wide ready to help when I ask.
So, as you know, we’re impressed with Yvonne Estes Photography – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
I specialize in graduating seniors, family/children/newborn, headshots, pets, and special events. I strive to provide a personalized experience from start to finish. Clients have commented on reviews that they felt comfortable and relaxed during their session with me. They don’t feel rushed during the session, and they don’t feel pushed to buy during their photo showcase (when we preview proofs). I just do not want to be another photographer that rushes clients. Nor do I want to be the photographer that will not listen to what the client wants. If I cannot meet their needs I will let them know.
At the moment I am proud of what I am doing to give back. As I mentioned earlier, I was given the opportunity to continue the Texas Leadership Salute. This program was started 30 years ago by Mr. Don Barnes in the Denton Area. The name has changed over time and the reach has grown to include high schools in the surrounding counties.
However, the mission has stayed the same. We want to recognize graduating seniors for their leadership, service, and academics during their high school career. We take nominations during their junior year. Students that are selected are given the opportunity to participate in a complimentary portraiture session. It is meant to present their story in portraits. With all the negative information presented in today’s media, I am happy to present these students to the public in a positive fashion. We create a 16×20 montage with 4 images and a short biography that present their story in high school. The portraits are displayed in local malls and their respective high schools this spring. Then we select a Leader of the Year and they win their display and a monetary scholarship for college.
The cost of managing the program is a big challenge. I pay for all the expenses up front. I donate my time and services to create the portraiture. Being a former teacher, the fact I love telling a story in portraits, and the fact my son was a nominee in 2014, I felt drawn to accept the offer to continue the program.
This year, I am funding the program and scholarships by private donations I raised and from selling photos. It is not a requirement to purchase the display. They are told this upfront. I do offer them for sale at a discount. This helps cover some of the cost. It is my plan to create a non-profit this year to continue the program moving forward. As a 501C3, I will be able to accept donations from public and private businesses that offer matching funds. I would also love to be able to offer a larger scholarship and bigger discounts on the portrait displays we create. I have hired part-time help to help me with the program, but it is something I have to budget so I have a limit to paid hours. I would also like to seek out volunteers to help me. The time needed to manage the program is a challenge so I am learning how to manage these challenges through this real-time experience. This year I have raised $1500 to offer in scholarship money. I hope to see this grow in the future.
If this philanthropic endeavor is not enough, I serve the Lake Dallas and Hickory Creek Animal Shelters by photographing the animals in need of a furever home. I have a huge heart for these animals. I actually have 5 of my own to care for. If I could bring all shelter pets home, I would. Instead, I offer my time to photograph the animals on a regular basis. It can be a sad experience because while I am there, I see pets surrendered by owners that should not be. There are many reasons to list for this, but it is just sad. So, I focus on the love the animals show me while I photograph them. I have seen my images posted on their websites and in the Denton Record-Chronicle. This is actually very surreal. I know that I would not be doing this without God’s help.
I do keep photos and information and photos about these programs on my website. www.yvonneestesphotography.com
I do have a Facebook page dedicated to the Teas Leadership Salute at www.Facebook.com/TLSalute
So, what’s next? Any big plans?
Honestly, I am going to work on improving all I have done this past year. I am told that it can take 2-3 years to build a successful business. I have only been one year into this endeavor, so my big plans are simply to change the things that have not worked and improve the things that did. I mentioned on the previous page that I want to create a 501C3 organization status for The Texas Leadership Salute. This will be a big change this year.
I have faith that God will provide what I need this year. I may not know what this is today, but faith is believing that which I can’t see. I just want people to pray for me to listen and continue to seek God in this business endeavor.
- Address: 3630 FM 2181 suite 101 Hickory Creek, TX 75065 (Business Location)
101 Red Bluff Ct. Hickory Creek, TX 75065 (Mailing Address)
- Website: www.yvonneestesphotography.com
- Phone: 817-455-6356
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/YvonneEstesPhotography
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/YvonneEstesPhotography
- Twitter: www.twitter.com/PhotosEstes
- Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/yvonne-estes-photography-hickory-creek?osq=Photography+Stores+%26+Services