Another newcomer to Reset 2019 is Tara Ruby, a Georgia-based family, newborn, and maternity photographer. She is deeply embedded into military life, as a military veteran herself, and also a military spouse and soon-to-be a military mom. She loves to capture portraits with a focus on motherhood as well as our US military. She is honored to have been both published and won awards at both the national and international level. Check out Tara’s class at Reset on Managing Your Business in a Busy Marriage. She’s also doing a newborn shootout!
It’s not a word that we talk about a lot in our industry. You hear words like growth, learning, education, progress, creativity, competition, and success. These words and many more like them are very much a part of our world, but sacrifice should be in that list as well.
I am asked all the time how I got to where I am today, how I gained sponsors, and what did I do to get published as many times as I have. I’m sure that most people believe that I will respond in a way that will just give them the direct path to this version of success that they have for themselves, and that everything will just fall into their laps just like they believe it did for me. Many believe that if they follow a certain path, use a certain collection of gear and shoot a set type of photography that they too would be entitled to success. I’m learning that there is a big difference between entitlement and sacrifice.
I started photography years ago, when my oldest was still in elementary school. I was in an unhappy marriage, we were always tight on money, all three of my children were ADHD and it was just easier for me to take their images at home. A few years into my relationship with my camera, my home life crashed and my marriage dissolved. To keep afloat one month with my babies I pawned my camera and my lenses. It killed me, but when you have to choose between your children and your hobby, you sacrifice your hobby for your family.
After meeting my current husband, who quickly realized that my hobby was something that I missed greatly, he encouraged me to go on Ebay and find a “cheap camera.” We couldn’t afford much, he had just joined the Army, and I wasn’t working so money was tight, but we both knew that a camera would make life for me a bit more enjoyable. This helped out a great deal when we decided to let my children go live with their Dad near family, as a military life is a wandering type of life and we both didn’t want that for them. This was a huge sacrifice for me and to this day it hurts in a deep spot in my soul, and I have conversation almost daily with God about that decision. As I struggled with the emotions that comes with a situation like this I found that my camera allowed me a way to capture other families’ children, and bring them the joy and lifelong memories that this type of photography can bring. I quickly became a photographer that the local military family wanted to work with. I understood the lifestyle, and I understood the importance of the work I was providing.
My husband was constantly in the field when we first started in El Paso. I spent many many lonely days and nights missing him and my children. I found peace behind my camera. I volunteered at almost anything I could find and I grew my business faster than we all expected. I gained the trust of many of the top individuals on Fort Bliss and that trust led to opportunities and projects that helped my portfolio grow and expand. I was even gifted a lens from a very good friend of mine that had an amazing and heartbreaking story of sacrifice behind it. Through loss I was determined to do great things and that lens was my first Tamron lens. (You can read more about that lens at https://tararuby.com/the-
This was the lens that I used when I captured the Army Breastfeeding portrait that went internationally viral. I was not ready to go viral, I don’t believe you could ever be ready for something like that. My life at that moment changed, and I was determined to share that with Tamron. So we scrimped and sacrificed for the next few months for me to start attending WPPI where I simply walked up to the Tamron booth at the expo and had a conversation with them about who I was, what I accomplished, and the sacrifice and story behind the lens that helped me enthrall the world. We exchanged business cards as the lens was needing some maintenance and at that moment our relationship started. I also walked over to the 17hats booth and had a similar conversation with them, as they were my saving grace and organization in the whirlwind of viral life. I was in the right time and the right place and a mentor overheard my conversation and introduced me to the owner of Alien Skin, an editing software that I use almost every day now. I’m a firm believer that things don’t happen on accident, they happen with a purpose — a divine purpose.
I started to have conversations with individuals that I would have before only dreamed of! Bay Photo was the lab I choose to use when I set up my Shootproof galleries for all of my clients. That started a great relationship with them and they helped when I needed prints of my breastfeeding image sent out to hospitals and other similar locations. I’ve reached out to them numerous times and had a conversation with them about how I use their services and I was pleased to be able to assist them in return with feedback. It’s amazing how far a simple one-on-one conversation can do for you and your business.
But life can’t be that easy right? During my high I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and after dealing with years of issues and concerns I finally approached the VA Hospital and after many months of conversations I was given a diagnosis of ADHD and PTSD. This came when I was doing 35/40 sessions a month, volunteering for organizations on and off post, competing in print competition, being a mother and a wife, a housekeeper and a chef. My life was so busy and I’m sure that it would have been easy and even acceptable for me to just lay down and quit. But I was determined to keep going. I continued to network, and was introduced to Spider Holster. This belt saved me, as the pressure of carrying my camera around my neck caused immediate migraines. At a following expo we talked about this, talked about how I used their gear and I was asked to be an Ambassador.
At this point I had sponsors and I was a brand ambassador, but life at home was challenging. Anytime there is success there will be additional expectations on your life. Your time will be challenged, your organizational skills will be challenged, and you will find that demands are made even if it’s from those closest to you or even from yourself. I hold myself to a high standard. I want to constantly make my family proud, my husband proud … myself proud. My marriage has gone through numerous mountains and valleys along this road, and we both have had to sacrifice for the other.
In 2016, during the very height of my business in El Paso we received orders to move to Georgia. I had just opened up a commercial studio space, one that we had done intensive construction on. Our orders gave us less than 80 days to close our life in El Paso and move. That’s a sacrifice. One that we knew would come, but no one was really ready for. I left a space a loved, a business that I loved and friends that had become family to us, for the Army and for my husband. I moved to a new location where I had never lived, a different cost of living, a different lifestyle and in the middle of the country. Moving my business was by far the most challenging moment in my life.
I won’t tell you that I didn’t have moments where I was fighting depression. No family, no friends, my children were still with their Dad and now I’m back to, what I felt like, square one with my business all over again. Through it all I had the support of those closest to me, and my sponsors were amazing. They believed in me. I have spent almost 3 years rebuilding the location of my business but I know now that I am my business… not the location of my studio. Maybe I am honored to have the amazing sponsors that I have because they saw my sacrifice and watched me rise above it. Maybe they see that I continue to grow, to compete, to volunteer my time, and that I can continue to produce great work.
For those wondering how to get noticed in this industry, or how to get sponsors or to even maybe be a brand ambassador and want my advice, it’s this. Be yourself. Rise above the many obstacles life brings. Make great work, constantly strive to grow as an artist. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box. Stay away from the drama, gossiping, rumors and partying lifestyles. Keep your head down, like a horse with blinders on. Things aren’t just given out in life, they are worked for, sacrificed for. I’m positive that I’ve earned every bit of goodness I’ve received in my life, and I still work as hard today as I did when I started. Proverbs 12:11 says, He that tilleth his land shall be satisfied with bread: but he that followeth vain persons is void of understanding. This simply means that you must work hard to reap rewards and when you do, those rewards are so sweet, because you know that YOU are the reason you are successful.