How to Know When You're A Real Photographer

Let's face it – with the rise of smartphones, everyone is a photographer in some form or another. In fact, there are photographers out there who are marketing themselves for hire and solely use their smart phones. Others purchase DSLRs, throw them on auto mode, and declare themselves open for business. With the barrier to entry for photography being so low, when do you know if you've become a true photographer enough to call yourself one? 

I'll let you in on a little secret. There is no right answer. There is no benchmark that makes you a professional photographer, since there are so many ways to enter this space. There is no magic button or one-size-fits-all formula. There is no incredible, life changing transformation for you to undergo before you're allowed to officially carve a name for yourself in this great space. Here are some common myths that I've heard regarding when someone feels comfortable enough to declare themselves a "real" photographer: 

When I have a website. Though I do believe websites are pretty important for your business and will help with everything from SEO to brand recognition, there are incredible photographers who don't have one. They rely on word of mouth, social media, and private messages. Even if you don't have a business website, you are still a photographer!

When I shoot fully on manual mode. I think many people will have mixed feelings about this one. I became comfortable with manual mode very quickly, and I truly do believe that it's the only way to shoot. Instead of saying that you're not a real photographer until you shoot fully manual, I would instead say that it's more important to understand the modes. Even though I do shoot fully on manual mode, I think there are situations that warrant the quick switch to auto or a priority mode in order to capture a perfect moment quickly. Be warned, though – that tiny camera screen can be deceiving, and sometimes you just don't know how much auto mode has failed you until you throw your photos in Lightroom. My advice: learn manual and how to use your camera, but by no means will you only be successful if you shoot fully in manual in every situation.

When I have a lot of social media followers. Some of the most beautiful Instagram accounts don't have huge followings, and vice versa. Having a lot of followers doesn't make you a real photographer, and some of the best ones I know don't have a massive social presence. 

When my calendar is booked with paying clients. Here's another hard truth – photography is saturated. There, I said it. You can listen to whoever you want tell you otherwise, but the long and short of it is that there are many photographers out there with a variety of price points. Because of this, it might take awhile to get some traction. Does this devalue your artistic eye or your ability to call yourself a professional photographer? Absolutely not! 

When I have a full frame camera. MYTH! Full frame cameras are great, and there is no doubt the versatility that they bring...but do not doubt your artistic abilities. You are capable of taking phenomenal photos on entry level gear, and you absolutely do not need to invest a ton of money in lenses or a full frame camera to gain clients and traction when you're starting out. Don't believe me? Check out this great article that shows just what entry level gear is capable of. Remember, it's not the machine as much as the person operating it! Is a breathtaking painting gorgeous because of the brush or the paint? No. It's the artist. 

I want to know – when did you consider yourself a real photographer? Was there a pivotal moment for you? 


Photo Session at Covert Park at Mount Bonnell in Austin, Texas

Covert Park at Mount Bonnell is one of my favorite spots to shoot in Austin. There is a gorgeous city view, as well as a stunning view of the Colorado River. I would recommend shooting here for any occasion, whether it's a cake smash, engagement session, or senior portraits. The light is dreamy, and the views are breathtaking and look pretty incredible in photos. There are also some really beautiful peeks of shade where the light is just right for headshots. 

I ventured over there with my muse, also known as my daughter Hayley. Every time I want to shoot in a new spot or try a new technique, she is right by my side asking to be my model. I would say she loves spending the 1:1 time with me, and I wouldn't be wrong...but truthfully, she also loves some good Instagram content. #teenlife

Scroll through some photos from our shoot below. Do you have a favorite? 


Jessica Rockowitz
Ode to May 2018 – Client Affirmations

May was a big month for me as a photographer. I had a total of 16 shoots, and I absolutely loved each and every client that I worked with. It's really important to me to always let others know how much I appreciate them and how grateful I am to have worked with them. You have a lot of great choices when choosing a photographer, and I absolutely don't take for granted that someone has chosen and trusted me to capture their precious moments. I am so grateful for every client whose path I cross, and I therefore wanted to take a moment to shout out all of the amazing people that I was honored enough to work with this month. Here's a little tidbit I loved about each and every session. Will you be on my list next time?  

Kelly + Michael: Kelly, the love you have for your son is so apparent and so palpable. I can see how proud you are that he is ready to take this next step and embark on his college journey. It is very clear that you two have an incredible relationship. Michael, you are such an intelligent and polite young man. It was great to work with you, and I am positive that you are going to do AMAZING things!

Amanda + Family: You have given me an adorable peek into life with two boys, a few years down the road from where I stand. Your boys are just so much fun, full of zest, and so very handsome. I really loved how after working with you, I got a sense for the love you have for your family – and it is unequivocally reciprocated. 

Sarah + Emily: When we met, I felt instantly at ease. You know how some clients are just fun to hang with? You were both exactly that. The strength of your friendship is so apparent, and you are both such beautiful people inside and out. 

Devin + Caleb: SWOON. You are one of the most adorable duos that I have ever encountered. The mom/son bond is just so strong and beautiful between the two of you, and it was an honor to be able to capture it.

Arden: To say you are an amazing person is an understatement. I truly think the world of you in more ways than one, and this little window of time I got to spend with you and your family was pretty incredible. 

Blakely + Mike: The two of you are just so beautiful in more ways than one. The love you have for each other and your gorgeous children is palpable, and your energy is electric. Frollicking around South Congress with you both was a true pleasure. I love the images we captured.

Jessie + Olivia: Are you sure we haven't been friends for years? You two are some of my favorite people already, and we've only met in person once. Gorgeous both inside and out, and I am certain that Olivia is going to rule the world one day. I am pretty obsessed with her!

Kylie: Our session was super mini, but you are one of my absolute favorite people. You are such a delightful, intelligent, fun, and STUNNING person and friend. Thanks for letting me snap some for you. 

Mikela + Family: Your amazing little boy's first birthday was one of my favorite shoots to date. You, my friend, are incredibly beautiful and amazing. #MomGoals all around, Levi is an incredibly lucky little boy! 

Masarra: Oh my goodness, I just had an absolute blast with you and your gorgeous family. You, Ben, and Amalie are just a dream to work with and just fantastic people. This baby boy of yours is so lucky to be joining your amazing crew, and I can't wait until the next time we get to hang! 

Victoria: First, your backyard is pure magic. Spending time with you and your beautiful girls was so much fun that I forgot for a moment that I was there to photograph y'all instead of join in! I absolutely love the fierce love you have for your girls and how you encourage them to be utterly themselves. I think we captured their adorable personalities and the beautiful mother/daughter dynamic that the three of you share.

Taylor: I feel like you and I clicked almost instantly, and our shoot felt more like hanging out with a good friend. You are incredibly beautiful, smart, kind, and oh-so-talented. I have no doubts that you are going to do amazing things. 

Jessie + Family: Our session was one that I will absolutely treasure. I feel like we clicked so well right off the bat, and I am just in love with your gorgeous family and the very apparent love that the three of you have for each other. Amelia is such an incredible little girl, and I can't stop swooning over her smile. 

Amber + Family: Elijah had my heart from the moment he stepped in front of my lens. The beauty of your family takes my breath away. The three of you are incredible people, and so much fun to hang out with. I wish you all the best of luck on your move to Georgia, and I am so thrilled that I was able to capture some images with an Austin vibe for you before you left! 

Bailey + Family: We've chatted for a little while now, and I have admired you throughout. The strength you have for yourself and your GORGEOUS babies is nothing short of incredible. The three of you are more stunning than I can even convey. It was a true joy to hang with you and snap some moments that capture your amazing dynamic. 

Meghan + Family: What an honor to be able to snap your first official family photos with your new addition. Your kids are swoon worthy, you and your husband are incredible human beings, and I had such a great time capturing your new dynamic. 

Cheers to May, and onward to June! If you are looking for a session, be sure to reach out. I'd be truly honored to have you on my schedule! 


Juliet on South Congress Street in Austin, Texas

Let's take a moment to reflect back on our eighteen-year-old selves. I want to challenge you to sit quietly and think about what you thought your life would look like back then. Where did you want to attend college? What did you want to major in? Where did you think you'd be at age 25? 30? 40? 

I'll play. Here's mine:

  • At 18, I was a new mom. Yup, you read that right! I had just had my first baby (now an amazing 13 year old), and I was totally terrified of juggling college with raising her.
  • Throughout my entire high school career, I was very set on attending an Ivy League School. Or Notre Dame. For some reason, I was in love with that school. 
  • When I became a mom, I decided to attend college at a small liberal arts school through a program that helped support me. They paid for my childcare and housing, as well as a plethora of other perks that helped me succeed. Admittedly, that's a whole other post! 
  • I started out as a Journalism major but ended up in Biotechnology and Nursing because I felt the intense pressure to choose a definitive path that provided stability for us. I am so grateful for my background, but I'm equally grateful that I had the courage to walk away from it and choose a path that was better suited to who I was as a person. 

All of that to say...I love Senior Portrait Sessions, or just sessions in general with teens. They are at such an incredible point in their lives where the world is literally at their fingertips. Perhaps they'll walk the exact path they've envisioned thus far, or maybe they'll deviate from it. You are freezing a moment in time for them, just before they transition into adulthood. It's kind of magical, if you think about it. 

I loved photographing Juliet. This was one of my very first sessions as a brand new photographer! We chose South Congress Street because we felt like it was funky and vibrant, just like her. We chased the light together and found some cute spots, and the end results were nothing short of amazing. Scroll below to see some of my favorites from our session! 

If you're looking to book a senior portrait session, reach out. Let's make some photo magic!

Jessica Rockowitz
Rory + Rowan at Butler Park in Austin, Texas
family photographer austin, texas

My friends have really cute kids. I mean, really cute. Rory + Rowan belong to my dear friend Alexis, who is a local Austin doula, therapist, and general breath of fresh air. I'm pretty much obsessed with her and her family. 

I think one thing parents (including me) stress about during a shoot is whether or not our kids are cooperating. Are they looking at the camera and giving the right smile? You know, the kind that doesn't resemble the cover of The Shining? Are they listening/posing/standing in the right position? 

Here's a little secret. 

This is precisely why I love lifestyle photography. Sure, smiles are great...but I'm here to capture what happens in between the smiles, too. The giggles, pouts, laughter, and general goofiness that comes with the territory of kids. 

Rory and Rowan were so much fun to hang with, and I think we got some great photos that I hope their parents will cherish forever. You can see peeks of their incredible personalities through them and know just what fabulous little people they are and will grow up to become. Scroll to see some of my favorites from our session. Which one is yours? 

The Norris Family at Lakeway City Park + Some Photographer Truth Talk
Family Photo Shoot Lakeway City Park Texas

I'll be totally honest. Family sessions intimidate me sometimes. This is because as a mom of three, I know how stressful it can be to prepare for them! Sure, sure – I know there are many articles floating around out there that talk about how family shoots don't have to be stressful if you implement these five random, magical tips...but let's be honest! THEY CAN BE TOUGH! I don't care how great your photographer is, prepping behind the scenes with mini humans can be a challenge. There are wrinkly shirts, berry stains, protesting about their choice of shoes, and the random meltdowns. I see you, parents, taking a deep breath as you pull out of the driveway on your way to your session. Your kids are buckled in their seats, and there are prayers thrown up that nobody will wrinkle, throw up on, or spill anything along the way. 

Tip: Pack up your kids' clothes, arrive several minutes early to your session, and just change them right there in the backseat/trunk. It might be a small scramble, but I swear that has greatly alleviated our stress level with photoshoots. 

Fun little back story: I was absolutely set on having newborn photos of both my boys since I hadn't had one with my daughter. With Colin, I chose a lifestyle shoot in our then Philadelphia home. The photographer was lovely, but reality awaited me. He was an October baby, and I had pinned SO MANY PHOTOS of sweet, sleeping infants in pumpkins. The night prior to our session, I had gone on a sleep deprived rampage and actually hollowed out a large pumpkin (or maybe I had frantically asked my husband to do it during cluster feeds – the details are hazy) in preparation for our son to be photographed inside. The photographer looked at me like I was crazy when I told her my vision, and let's just say that he screamed almost the entire time. Our pumpkin pictures were a bust. 

When Graham was born two years later, I was determined to get THE perfect photos. We ended up booking a studio photographer to mix it up. She was great, but driving almost forty minutes with all three kids was torture – especially when one of those children was prone to car sickness. Remember that tip I gave above? There's a reason for it. Before we had even stepped foot inside the studio, my stress level was through the roof. Not to mention that I ended up sweating, standing under bright studio lights and awkwardly cradling my infant while I secretly hoped nobody could tell how exhausted I was. 

This is partially why I exclusively photograph babies either in their place of birth or in their home. I don't want any parents to go through the same stress I did! Which leads me sessions. They are fantastic, and every family deserves incredible images, but sometimes the stress is just too much to handle. That's why I try really hard to make it as fun as possible for all family members. I know how much work it can be just to get there, so I always want to make it worth the effort for the family. I give guidelines on things like what to wear and what colors photograph best, but at the end of the day, this isn't about me – this is about the family feeling comfortable in what they love.

This leads me to the Norris Family, who are good friends of mine and always a pleasure to hang with. Annie is likely the most creative person you'll ever met. She runs two handmade businesses  – a children's necklace shop called Shop November Oak, and a mini modern dollhouse shop called November Oak Minis. We are huge fans of both.

Annie and her family were just looking for some casual family photos. She was the first family session I'd ever done, back when I had just taught myself manual mode on my camera that very week. I am in love with these photos because they truly capture the spirit of her amazing family, including her daughter Violette. IS SHE NOT THE CUTEST? 

Here are some of my favorites from our session. Reach out to book yours!

Teen Photo Shoot at Bee Cave Park in Austin, Texas


My 13-year-old daughter is admittedly my muse, and I absolutely love photographing her. For this session, she chose her outfit, and I did her makeup using the tips and products from my Beauty Checklist Guide. Doesn't she look amazing? I'm pretty sure that when I was in 7th grade, my eyeshadow matched my shirt, and I still hadn't discovered what a hair serum was. 


Senior Portraits Austin, Texas

We location hopped to catch the last of the gorgeous Golden Hour sun. The thing I love most about these photos is that they capture her personality. Some are the more model-esque ones that every teen loves to have for their Instagram feed (let's be real), but many of them are just capturing her, and the true spirit of just being a teen girl. Scroll on the right side to see a few of our favorites from the session! 


What are your favorite places for photographs around Bee Cave, Texas?

Before Your Session: Beauty Checklist


Guest Post from Hannah Kuhary, Professional Make-Up Artist & Business Owner

You've made the excellent decision to hire Jessica to shoot your portrait or family session. Congrats! While she will capture your unique character and beauty, it's up to you to prepare for your moment behind the lens. As a professional makeup artist, I work with hundreds of clients and help get their skin, hair and makeup picture-perfect before their session. And while I will always highly recommend seeking out a professional artist to help you, sometimes timing or budget doesn't allow for that luxury. 

Preparing for your photoshoot might seem overwhelming, but I promise you that it's not. A week before your session (or more, if possible), is the right time to start considering how you want to look, which outfits you will wear, and what steps you need to take to look your best.

One of the most important gifts you can give to yourself prior to your session – and for your well-being in general – is investing in an effective and thorough skincare regimen. I cannot tell you how many clients sit in my chair and complain about dryness, breakouts, and uneven texture and then proceed to tell me they do very little to care for their skin at home. Making the conscious effort to properly cleanse, exfoliate, and moisturize will give you amazing results in regards to your skin's clarity and tone, but also your self confidence! Beautiful skin also means less makeup and post-editing work for your photographer.


It is essential to remove your makeup and cleanse your skin every night before bed. Some of my favorite inexpensive cleansers come from La Roche Posay and can be easily found at Target or the drugstore.

Exfoliation is the secret to smooth, radiant skin. I am obsessed with these Reveal Peel Pads from EVER Skin because they are fool-proof, effective, + packed with good-for-you ingredients. The alpha-hydroxy acid in this product remove the dead, dull skin from the surface, giving your skin a fresh glow. If you are new to alpha-hydroxy acids, start by using them twice a week and work up to every other night. You will notice a huge difference in how you complexion looks and feels!

Every skin type needs moisture – yes, even oily skin! A hydrated base will look better under makeup and cause your products to last longer. I use the Hydralift Moisturizers from EVER on myself and clients because they are so nourishing without being heavy. The original formula is for normal to dry skin types, and the oil-free version is perfect for combination and oily skins. If you are on a budget, check out the Priming Moisturizer from Glossier, which works well for all skin types. Choose a moisturizer that is right for your skin type and use it after you exfoliate, both morning and night.

Don't neglect your lips! So many of my clients come to me with dry, peeling lips, which are hard to cover. Keep yourself well-hydrated and use a lip balm nightly. If your lips are particularly chapped, try a lip scrub or a baby toothbrush to gently buff away flakes.

Finally, if you have a pimple, don't pick! A blemish is easy to cover with concealer, but an angry, oozy scab is not.


Less is more when it comes to makeup for lifestyle sessions or headshots, especially if you are not used to wearing it on a daily basis. This not the time to try out a new smokey eye or winged liner. Choose a look that is classic to you and your style and focus on bringing out your favorite features.

Starting with a well-prepped base (clean + moisturized skin), apply a foundation that best suits the coverage you desire. For most of my clients, I choose something with a medium coverage that helps neutralize redness and imperfections, but still looks natural and fresh. I carry Estee Lauder DoubleWear Light in my kit, which is great for oily skin, and Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk for normal to dry. Apply with a brush or a beauty sponge from the center of your face and blend outwards and down your neck. Don't forget your ears and along your hairline! The trick to a really natural base is taking your time to really blend and work the foundation into your skin.

Concealer can cover a world of imperfections and fake eight hours of blissful sleep. Be sure to choose a shade that is the same or one shade lighter than your natural skin tone. If you go too light, it will look ashy and washed out on camera. Apply the smallest amount of concealer you need to cover your dark circles or blemishes. I have used the NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in my kit for years and it has a very inclusive shade range. Maybelline Fit Me Concealer is a great drugstore dupe. 

Set any areas that tend to move or become oily with a translucent powder, like the CoverFX Perfect Setting powder. For most women, that means setting under the eyes and through the t-zone (forehead, nose and chin). Avoid the urge to pack on a lot - this can cause your foundation and concealer to look dry and cakey. Use a fluffy brush and gently pat the powder into the areas you want mattified or set.

I prefer not to do any heavy contouring for natural, daytime makeup. Instead, add a bit of depth and dimension to your complexion with a light wash of bronzer across the highest points of the face where the sun would naturally hit (forehead, backs of the cheeks and cheekbones, across the nose and down under the jawline into the neck). A peachy pink blush is flattering on most skin tones and creates a very natural flush. Add a little bit to the apples of your cheeks and blend back into your bronzer. I love the bronzer and blush from the Elegant and Empowered palette from EVER, but another favorite universal blush is Melba from MAC.

Keep the eyes simple and defined. If you are not eyeshadow savvy, something like a shadow stick or cream eyeshadow is a great option. Apply it all over the eyelid and blend up and into the crease with your finger. A neutral bronze or pearly champagne shade is beautiful on all eye colors and looks very natural. If you prefer a powder shadow, use a lighter shade all over the eyelid and blend a mid-tone brown into the crease with a fluffy brush. The Out the Door palette from EVER makes it so easy to create a beautiful look because the shades are beautiful on everyone and they come numbered, so you know exactly where to put them.

Eyeliner is optional, but mascara is a must! Curling your eyelashes first really helps to open them up and then put on plenty of mascara to define your eyes and make them look awake. 

Lastly, having defined lips makes such a difference on camera. I always have clients tell me they don't want anything on their lips, but I really encourage you to choose a natural, "your lips but better shade" that will highlight your smile and pull the whole look together. Avoid anything too light or nude. 

Some of my favorites are:

Brave, Velvet Teddy, and Cream in Your Coffee by MAC

Pillow Talk, Very Victoria and Penelope Pink by Charlotte Tilbury


Aim to get a solid 8 hours of sleep, if possible. Keep yourself well hydrated and don't forget to eat before your session! And lastly, remember that you will look gorgeous, no matter what kind of lipstick you wear or outfit you choose. Own your unique features and give yourself a little self-love. Confidence, above all else, is the best beauty secret around!

About the Author:


Hannah Kuhary is a professional makeup artist and licensed esthetician. She provides luxury bridal and on-site makeup services throughout Louisiana and Texas. In addition to training at the Paul Mitchell Academy in Sacramento, California and the International Dermal Institute, Hannah has worked with Cosmopolitan and Seventeen Magazine. She is a wife and mother of two little girls and calls Shreveport, Louisiana, home.