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  • Writer's pictureKristin Ator

My Journey with Photography

My love affair with photography has spanned a lifetime. It wasn't until recently, however, that I contemplated taking photos for others.

My first memory of taking photos was at summer camp when I was eight. I remember being particularly proud of a landscape composition of a cross on top of a hill overlooking the lake… I'm sure the beauty of that image in my memory is much better than the actual photo! (edit: Ha, so true! I just went on a hunt and found that old photo, complete with a finger blocking the bottom corner of the image!)

When I was 20, I backpacked around Europe for several months with a strict 'picture budget'. I had a predetermined number of rolls of film for my point and shoot camera, which I meticulously numbered and saved for developing at the end of the trip. My picture budget allowed for only 2-3 photos per DAY, which was challenging, but really made me think about what I wanted to capture. I have many photos of my travel companions for the day (often sourced at the hostel) posing in front of our main sightseeing spot. Not exactly original, but good for triggering memories and marking destinations. I even have a photo in my album of just feet as I'd given someone my camera to photograph me joining in a traditional dance at an outdoor square in Spain, but they missed the main action. That photo still brings back everything about that moment in a flash.

I love the relationship between photography and memory.

Darkroom Photography

In my mid 20's I got interested in black and white darkroom photography and took a course to learn the basics. For that class, I used my mom's fully manual (no fancy auto settings!) 1970's Canon camera, which really forced me to learn the relationship between shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and light. I also fell in love with the darkroom 'magic moment' of seeing your image first appear in the developing tray.

I enjoyed the darkroom so much that I bought some used equipment and set up a darkroom in my basement. My darkroom inspired me to stay in film photography longer than most people, but I eventually gave it up when I was pregnant with my first baby as I was nervous about the exposure to the chemicals.

Going Digital

My mom bought me my first basic digital SLR (Canon T2i) as a birthday present - I think she was hoping for nice photos of her first grandbaby, Juliet! I didn't realize how much I wanted it until it was stolen in a Cambridge café only a month later, while vacationing. When shopping to replace it, I bought the Canon 60D with the 18-200mm lens. That camera was my real workhorse in exploring my love of photography. I joined an online 365 Project ( and committed to taking and posting one photo each day for a full year. The 365 community really pushed and inspired me to explore many facets of photography and the components that come together to make a memorable photo. The project saw me through the birth of my second girl, Nora, and so many special moments.

Once I finished, however, I had a bit of photo burn out and set aside my 'good camera' for some time, happy to capture our everyday moments with the iPhone. After the birth of our boy, Dexter, I decided that I needed a reason to have my DSLR out again to capture some creative moments of his first year, so I rejoined the 365 project for another year.

Friends and family that followed my 365 projects were encouraging about my abilities. Several even suggested that I should turn it into a business. I was flattered, but I wasn't sure what that would look like. I really love photography and didn't want to ruin my favourite hobby by turning it into 'work'. I doubted my qualifications as I am a big proponent of formal education - my Civil Engineering degree and MBA certainly aren't directly correlated with photography skills! Also, I didn't have a specific focus and wasn't sure that I would enjoy portrait work that seemed an obvious starting point. When doing some fun photos for a few friends, I was happily surprised that I enjoyed the portrait making experience - even the editing work. My favourite part was (and is!) sharing the photos and experiencing the happy reactions from others for my work. I filed the thought away for the future - thinking maybe I'd explore it more when my kids are in school and I have more time…

How My Business was Born

When a friend of mine was starting up a business magazine (Industry West Magazine), she was looking for contributors and I indicated I would love to help out with photography. She suggested I get a business license so I could write off some expenses, so in January 2017, I did!

And just like that, a lifelong dream of owning my own business was fulfilled! YAY!

I named my business 'Kristin Ator Photography', thinking that in keeping it general, I could potentially expand into other areas sometime in the future.

Then, without me announcing that I was in business, people were asking me if I could do family and portrait type shoots, and I started saying 'Yes'!... So I took on several family shoots, a headshot shoot, a small wedding, some personal events, and a farm photo shoot.

Now a Website!

In creating a website to highlight some of my work, I am taking the next step in showcasing my work and putting my name out there. Right now, I'm not looking for heaps of work as I'm still busy with the kids at home, but once Dex hits kindergarten in the Fall of 2019, I am hoping that I will have more consistent time to dedicate to my business. In the meantime, I'm hoping I can naturally expand to fit my schedule.

And that's my story!


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