Hey folks! Sarah here. I had the pleasure of getting to know Jill Graniero last year when she attended our Professional Intensive program. Since graduating the program, she has been practicing fitness photography and building her connections and portfolio in that arena. Now, she is back at RMSP for a while as a teaching assistant, sharing her knowledge and experience with our current Professional Intensive students. I asked Jill if she would answer some questions about the process of changing her career to attend our program, and I want to share her answers with you. So, below find a little bit more information about what Jill's experience was with RMSP and our Professional Intensive program.

What led you to RMSP?

Photography began as a hobby for me. I started taking photos of members of my local gym working out, and the more I shot, the more I fell in love with photography. Eventually some of the members took notice, and started to ask me to shoot photos for meaningful events in their personal lives. I started taking on clients with no idea how to run a business, and no idea what actually made a good photograph. I had a strong desire to learn all of these things (and more), but with a demanding full-time job, I struggled to find the time. I truly felt that if I could remove all distractions and dedicate myself to learning these things, that I could turn this hobby into a career. I ended up finding the Professional Intensive program through a google search of photography workshops. I watched the PI video on the RMSP homepage, and I was so inspired. It was everything I was looking for, and more. I was so drawn to the fact that the program put just as much emphasis on running your business as it did on photography. I truly felt that if I gave the program everything that I had, that I would leave with the tools and knowledge that I needed to have a successful career in photography.

How did RMSP help you?

I think it's fairly obvious that you will become a better photographer by the time you leave RMSP. Beyond that, there is a huge amount of personal development that takes place while you attend the school. We regularly took the time to develop our photographic vision by looking inward. We got to know ourselves through personality tests, reading books, and by doing various mental exercises. I think that a person's mentality is an often overlooked variable to success, but is perhaps the most important. RMSP helped me understand my strengths, weaknesses, and my reason for picking up my camera every single day. When you understand these things about yourself, your vision becomes much more clear, and your “why” becomes the driving force behind your journey to success.

Did you ever think about learning photography on your own?

I think a lot of people that develop an interest in photography begin by learning photography on their own. I believe that deciding to come to school to learn photography is really based on the needs of the individual, and for me, I had a strong desire to accelerate my learning. I knew that by attending the PI program, I would learn in 8 months what would have likely taken me years to learn on my own. I also think that there is something to be said for surrounding yourself with like-minded people who are inspired by the same thing as you are. As students, we were constantly growing and learning from each other. We learned from each others’ success and mistakes, we pushed each other when we were having bad days, and we were constantly inspired by the creativity and beauty in the work of our classmates. That is not something that you will find by learning photography over the internet.

Did you learn anything at RMSP that you couldn’t have learned elsewhere?

Attending RMSP provided me with access to a number of working professionals in the industry that I wouldn't otherwise have had access to. These are people that are sitting in the position that I would someday like to find myself in, and it was wonderful to be able to pick their brain. Not only will they share everything they know with you, they will also critique your work, join you out in the field, and meet with you one-on-one. I don’t think any other school gives you access to so many working professionals from so many different genres of photography. If there is something you love, you will very likely meet and connect with a professional who is currently working in that field.

What is your favorite thing about RMSP?

RMSP is a family, and you feel that from the moment you walk in the door. I truly felt that each and every instructor and staff member cared for me as a person. You are not just a number here. Your instructors will take the time to get to know you, and you have the opportunity to form a connection with them that goes beyond the classroom. You will also come to realize that your fellow students quickly become your family as well. There is a focus on supporting each other at RMSP, rather than competing with one another, and I believe that this brings out the best in everyone. There is no question that the people are what make RMSP special.

What would your life be now if you hadn't gone to RMSP?

Before coming to RMSP, I worked for seven years in healthcare management. I imagine I would still be in that same career, wondering what it would be like to quit my job and pursue my dream of becoming a professional photographer. I would probably be doing some photography gigs on the side, with no real idea of what I was doing. I wouldn't have gotten the chance to explore Montana; a place that I discovered to be one of the most beautiful states in the country. I would have missed out on meeting some of the most beautiful souls and inspiring personalities that I got the chance to know throughout my time at RMSP. I would probably spend most of my time wondering what it would be like to have the courage to take the leap and attend RMSP.

What happens after finishing school? What does it take?

During the program, RMSP is a safe space. It is a place where you can learn and grow and make mistakes. It is a place where you are surrounded by people who have the same passion that you do, and who push you to be your best every day. When you graduate, it is difficult to lose those comforts. I think to succeed after graduation, it is important to remember your “why.” Everyone chooses to attend RMSP for a different reason, but usually that reason is rooted in a belief that given the proper skill set, you could succeed as a professional photographer. During the program, there will be a ton of working professional photographers that will come through and share their stories on their path to success. If there was one thing that stuck with me, it’s that everyone's journey was vastly different, and that one thing they all had in common was persistence. Each of them refused to give up, no matter how many roadblocks and setbacks they faced. If this is something that you truly want, you have to understand that the road may not be easy or glamorous, but it is attainable with hard work and persistence.

See Jill's awesome photography on her website and her Instagram feed.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah Chaput de Saintonge

Sarah Chaput de Saintonge directs Rocky Mountain School of Photography with her husband, Forest. She has a BA in photojournalism and enjoys experimenting with many kinds of photography, but her primary interest is portraiture. She attended RMSP's Career Training program in 2011, ran a business in consumer portraiture for a while, and has worked as an instructor and assistant ever since. She successfully completed one 365 project (take a photo a day for a year) and once made it to 155 consecutive days of making self portraits. She is now documenting ten years of her life with a daily photo of a person, place, or thing. She loves people, image editing, composition, film, her cats, and Forest.

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