I was a computer nerd/programmer and an artist on the side growing up. I did film photography often but was somewhat bored in the dark room. Later, with the introduction of digital SLR cameras, I was able to see my dreams realized as a mix between the computer and the film photography worlds.
I always loved portraits. I painted and drew them from my earliest memories. I could never count how many eyes I doodled, with glistening highlights and faces drawn out of the side of my homework. I started digital photography (among other art mediums) through a school art sponsorship at the Sawtooth Center. I went every year of high school thanks to my art teacher, Mr. Morton, from Glenn High School, who could only give away one scholarship per year. The kindness of my teacher and that scholarship saved my childhood, and changed the course of my life, forever.
My first big purchase from my hard-earned high school fast-food job was a Casio digital point and shoot (from Staples). The lens would flip backwards making it the first “selfie” camera in existence! This was at the turn of the millennium in 2000/2001.
I never thought I could be an artist. I was sure I would be a software developer or maybe go into advertising. Even though advertising was likely my best skillset, I thought of it as “lying” to people and didn’t want to pursue success that way.
I had fallen in love with computers by the age of five. Before even kindergarten, back in 1988, I would sit for hours trying to hack into an old black screen Mac with green text (very Matrix of me). Every millionth [ that command cannot be found ] didn’t dissuade me one bit from the mystery of the computer. I could hack into all of the school computers by the time I was in middle school. I never did anything bad (like changing grades) but I did make pretty desktop designs to replace the plain ones. I would also fly through Oregon Trail daily and type 70 words a minute with nearly no mistakes, much to my classmates dismay. By high school, I could program C++ and design functional software, I taught myself PHP and MySQL and began starting internet businesses and web development as a means of income by college.
When I had my daughter at 22 (in 2005) I greatly admired the renowned photographer Anne Geddes. I started taking baby pictures of my daughter with my, then four-year-old, casio digital camera. I remember one in particular where I digitally placed her into a flower at some point that year. While I didn’t yet understand proper posing, it was quite the foreshadowing into my future life path.
A year later, in 2006, I got my first DSLR (an inexpensive Olympus). I was practicing street photography as I would take her on stroller walks in downtown Greensboro. This is when I saw an advertisement for a photography competition from Greensboro, Inc (now Downtown Greensboro). The experience I had with this wonderful group of people changed my course again towards photography. I entered into their amateur competition and won first place in several categories. This is really when I had the first thought, maybe I’m good at this. Thus, I began taking photos for friends and family and purchased my first professional lineup of Canon cameras and lenses.
At the time, there were not many photographers doing anything like what I was doing. The art I was creating was bold, fresh and unique. Gorgeous in-the-moment style portraits that showed the joy and beauty of childhood. I would always receive accolades about “the eyes”, which harkened back to my drawing obsessions growing up. I was becoming very popular, photographing hundreds of clients, and I thought I would make it to Oprah! (I didn’t get to do that in time, but I did eventually end up getting to photograph Dr. Oz’s family and my work was featured on his show)
I opened my studio on State St. in Greensboro in 2007, when my second-born was only 6 months old. I, admittedly, did not really know much about how to run a business. I found myself burning out with the amount of sessions I was shooting, but I did love organizing and learning as I went along. Finding a balance between running a business and having two young children was a challenge. Thankfully, in 2008, I attended Learnfest (a photographer’s retreat) with four of the top children’s photographers at the time (Tamara Lackey, Audrey Woulard, Laura Novak and Lena Hyde). There, I learned how to run a successful business and how to price appropriately to make a profit. The tools I learned at this event were an integral part of my studio’s future success.
In 2010, I won several international awards through NAPCP and by 2013 was asked to become a retreat speaker myself! And once again a year later. I was able to share my love and passion for children photography and highlighted my class on Baby Plans. I also highlighted the first iPad proofing app, that I had developed specifically for photographers.
At the time of this post, I have long since put my coder-brain to rest and I have completely focused on creating portraits and print art for going on, 12 years now. These experiences have placed me at the top of our area’s best portrait photographers and I couldn’t be more happy with what we do. Knowing how to create and preserve professional work is incredibly important in our day and age. To this day, I am still learning and growing. Yet, I am very proud of how far I’ve come, the quality of my work, and the wonderful families who trust me with their most important memories.
Andrea Halsey is a portrait artist and designer in Greensboro, North Carolina. She has been photographing area families for well over a decade, has achieved multiple photography related awards and was featured on the Dr. Oz show after photographing his family portraits. Raised in the Carolinas, she has a love for beautiful landscapes and family values, with complex inspiration from Mark Twain to Kate Spade.