Junior pastoral ministry major from Katy, Texas
Ever since she was in the sixth grade, Erika Winland has loved photography. She got her first serious camera when she was a freshman in high school. Now, the completely self-taught college junior has made her passion into a product she sells.
“It was really a hobby that I started and really, really enjoyed, and now the editing process is really exciting. I just really love capturing moments that people wouldn’t otherwise see, and then editing them into something that they’re so amazed of they would want to have as a picture of on the wall,” Winland said.
In Windland’s junior year of high school, her friends began to commission her to take their senior pictures. Throughout the past three or four years, she has been capturing senior and family portraits for friends and acquaintances.
“Definitely everyone around me was encouraging me. I love being a part of the high points in people’s lives,” Winland said. “I love being a part of weddings, and a photographer is so much more vital to a wedding than I ever realized.”
Within the last two years she began to get clients from “friends-of-friends-of-friends,” or people who she had not met before.
It was around this time that she developed her website, and she soon plans to purchase the URL.
This is a necessity, along with a business license, as her small business continues to grow.
“On my website, there’s a contact page so people can email me with dates and what they want to do, so I’m starting to get people I’ve never met before and have no connection with messaging me, so I realized I need a license to start doing bigger things,” Winland said.
“I’m getting paid to the point now where I’m almost going to have to start taxing clients, and then they can also buy prints from me. I would be making a lot more money that way, but I can’t legally do it yet. At this point right now, I’m kind of at a stopping point growing-wise until I get that business license.”
While Winland currently considers photography a “side job,” she would love for photography to be her primary work, and is inspired by the full-time photographers she knows.
“I follow a lot of photographers who are booked every single weekend for the next two years, and I know it’s really time consuming because the whole week is full of editing for them,” Winland said. “But being able to travel, and I see the connections they make, and it’s not just a client-photographer relationship, and seeing that grow is really beautiful.”
“I think when I graduate, I’ll be looking for youth ministry jobs because I really do enjoy pastoral ministry, but then it comes where [pastoral ministry and photography] meet. I’ve photographed Catholic weddings. That’s the most amazing thing,” she said.
She describes a photo she took which particularly encapsulates this confluence of interests:
“There’s one photo I took of the bride and groom from behind so you could see the whole church full of people, and directly behind them, you can see the priest holding up the Eucharist, and it’s now a huge photo on their wall. I just think it’s a really beautiful moment to have captured. It’s something that’s so unique to a Catholic wedding,” she said.
As an intern for LifeTeen two summers ago, she was able to pursue her love of photography and her love of God during the Catholic events that she photographed.
“Thinking back to LifeTeen, one of the coolest things was being in the Mass or whenever they have Adoration, and I could move around wherever I wanted. One of the coolest things I always loved in it was never the same any weekend, but during Adoration, if I needed to get a close shot, I would just go kneel right in front of the stage,” Winland said.
“As a teen, I was never able to get that close to the stage. At weddings, I was never able to see this perspective, and it’s just really, really beautiful. So … one of the things I will never forget [about] working at LifeTeen was the insane experience I got to have with Christ. Not necessarily with everyone else. I just got to get on a whole new level with that,” she continued.
Previously, LifeTeen did not give photography as an internship option, so Winland just put “other” and wrote that she was interested in photography; she was their first photography intern.
“My photography portfolio before and after is two completely different things. I had never taken a photography class beforehand, so that was the first time I was able to work with people who knew what they were doing so I was able to learn a lot from them, and now everything I do looks completely different in a good way, definitely,” Winland said.