Ask James – What Did You Do Before Photography?

What did you do before moving into photography full-time?


I worked at Bank of America as a Personal Banker/Mortgage Specialist. I opened personal and business accounts and sold mortgages, home equity loans and all other sorts of credit/debt. I got that job right before I married Kristin, because at that time I was making $10/hour at Cabela’s and needed a job that could actually support us. I think it paid right around 35k/year which was a huge increase for us at the time. I didn’t know anything about money back then. I was a stupid kid just a few years out of high school. By God’s grace, we discovered Dave Ramsey after financing Kristin’s engagement ring, our honeymoon, stuff for the house and buying a new car we couldn’t afford. Suddenly I saw the path we were going down and had to get out. At that point, my eyes were opened to what I was doing for a living. I was helping people go into debt. They would have us pull a list of credit card pre-approvals from the local college and cold call them to set them up with student credit cards. We would give home equity loans to people with 580 credit scores and no money in their account. This was right before the crash of 2008 but I was already seeing that something just wasn’t right.

I began trying to talk people out of doing HELoans, HELOCs and credit cards. I would have a student come in for a credit card and they’d leave my office with a checking/savings account and a personalized budget. None of that went over to well with the higher ups. My numbers began to suffer because I was no longer reaching my loan goals each quarter.

In early 2009 I had become totally obsessed with photography and began taking clients; doing family sessions, senior portraits, newborns and whatever else came my way. When things started picking up a bit, I asked to go part time. There were two men who ran our region (Steve and Jeff) and they approved my shift to part time for 6 months while I figured out what I wanted to do. That wasn’t normal. There were no other part time personal bankers that I knew of. This was my chance to see if I could make this work.

Six months later I had clients coming in and my first wedding booked. Jeff sat down with me and told me it was time to make a choice. I could either go back to full time or put in my notice like we had discussed when I initially went part time. I went home and talked about it with my wife that same night. Before I went part time, our marriage was suffering because of my job. I worked a ton, came home in a bad mood and was always stressed out. It was no way to live. After going part time, I felt like a new man. We were both young, had no kids at the time and had our whole lives ahead of us. With Kristin’s support, I put in my two weeks notice.

I mentioned Jeff and Steve by name because I couldn’t have done this without them. They let me go part time to decide what to do with my life. When I put my two weeks notice in, Steve called me to wish me luck. He also let me know that he would mark me as “rehire-able” in case I ever wanted to come back. He also set me up with 6 months of paid health care after my last day along with 6 additional months of access to that same health care for something like $300/month. It was a huge primer to kickstarting my business and gaining traction early. I don’t know if I could have done it with their help, and for that I will always be grateful.

Nobody gets where they are alone, and I’m certainly no exception to that rule. There are countless people who have helped me along the way and I will never take that for granted.


  1. Thanks for answering my question!
    It’s so great that you had/have people that supported you in one way or another to achieve your goals. While it’s nice to have options, sometimes you just have to go with what makes you feel “whole” and seems that you’ve made it work for you.

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