I am SO beyond excited to start this new Student Spotlight blog series—a series that is all about featuring my amazing photography students and their photography journey! And I’m thrilled to be highlighting the talented Molly Cruitt!!
She started out as a beautiful #jillgumbride, then joined my Photo University, then Business Builder program, and will soon be a Business Booster student of mine this fall! I cannot say enough about her talent, hard work, and kindness—and I’m forever grateful she has trusted me throughout the years and allowed me to guide her on her photography business journey!
Without further ado, I’m SO excited for you to hear from Molly herself—
“My name is Molly Cruitt, and I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota with my husband, Patrick. We’ve been married just over three years and I was a #jillgumbride! In my day job, I’m the communications manager for the School of Dentistry at the University of Minnesota. I also run a fledgling photography business on the side!
The question of when and how I became interested in photography is an interesting one: when I really look back, I think photography has always been something I was going to find my way toward. When I was little, I always had a disposable camera of my own. I’d get so excited to see the results that I would just burn through the last half of the film, so I could send the photos off to get developed. When I got older, I was the friend with a point-and-shoot camera taking pictures every time my friends came over. Photography has always been something I liked doing, but I never had particular skill in it, and I never really thought about turning it into something more until I went back to school for my Master’s degree in Communication. As a graduate assistant, I worked in the Marketing and Communications office at Saint Louis University, where I’d sometimes be sent out to take photos on campus with a very fancy (and very intimidating) DSLR. After a year of this, I decided it might be fun to have my own camera that I could use for work and for school–so on a whim, when I saw someone share a used Rebel camera for sale on Facebook, I decided to give it a shot.
As soon as I got the camera, I started taking pictures of the easiest subject I could find: dogs. I’d take pictures of my parents’ dog, my friends’ pups, whatever I could find. Dogs seemed to be easier to capture, and I didn’t have to think that hard about posing them. Usually, I’d get a couple good shots–so I started to gain some confidence and thought, maybe I’ll charge my friends and other people I know for little pet photoshoots. I never really thought it would go anywhere, but it was pretty fun. Occasionally, family friends would ask me to take their pictures along with their dogs. At this point, I was still entirely using auto mode on the camera, and couldn’t really figure out why my photos didn’t come out consistently. I bought a 50mm prime lens, because I knew that was the kind of lens photographers used, but I didn’t have any idea how to use it properly or where I should put my settings. I started playing with manual shooting on my own, but really didn’t look too far into it. I was content with where I was: doing well enough for my job and to make a little extra money on the side.
When I saw Jill was launching Photo U for the first time, I went back and forth for a while on whether I wanted to join. I’m not a mom, and I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to invest that much in photography. After seeing some before and after examples, though, I thought I’d give it a shot.
It’s been nearly three years since I started taking classes with Jill, and I have grown so much personally and professionally in my photography journey. I’ve officially launched my own photography business! I’m taking great photos of my niece and nephew, and I am consistently proud of the photos I’m taking. I know I still have a lot of growth to go, but I am so proud of where I am now.
In some ways, I sort of fell into photography as a business. I realized I was getting pretty good, and I didn’t have kids of my own to practice on. Encouraged by friends and family, I became more proactive in my search for more people to photograph, eventually even splitting a studio rental with a photographer friend to shoot Christmas card sessions. That day, when I took photos for six families over the course of a couple hours, was the first time I really felt like a real, professional photographer. I’ll never forget that experience, and how I felt afterward. I was exhausted, but I also knew I’d absolutely crushed each session.
I don’t know where my photography journey will take me next. Maybe someday, I’ll be a full-time photographer–or maybe this will stay a side job/hobby forever. Either way, I’m so happy with my progress and am glad to be surrounded by a virtual community of incredible people–all thanks to Jill!”
Question: What are your favorite subjects to photograph?
“I really enjoy capturing families and kids. My favorite photos from a session are always the candid ones of kids just being themselves. My hope is that in capturing those moments, I can freeze a moment in time that really represents who that person is at this age. I think we all want perfect photos of our families smiling at the camera, but I love just capturing personalities that parents can look back on years down the road, and immediately remember.”
Question: Has anything happened in your photography business or photography journey that was an exciting moment or a win?
“A few favorite moments stand out in my own photography journey. The first is a session I never could have imagined doing, but that I had such a great experience with. A Catholic influencer who I’d gotten to know over Instagram and whose quadruplet four year olds I’d photographed earlier in the year (another “how did I get here” experience that was just so much fun and will always stay with me) was the model for her friend’s application for a cosmetology school scholarship. She’d been styled in hair, makeup and outfit by her friend in an avant-garde mermaid style, and they asked me to take photos that she could submit for the scholarship competition. I had never worked with a model or done a styled shoot like this before, and it was so much fun. I got to be really creative and go outside my comfort zone both in shooting and editing, and I’m really pleased with the results! Modeled shoots are not something I’ll do full time, but getting to try it out felt so fun and different.
Another recent favorite experience was my first time second shooting at a wedding. My favorite part about being a photographer is getting to really know your clients and capture a moment in time for them in a way that makes them remember that feeling or that time of life so vividly. Getting to do that on a wedding day was such a privilege. I felt like I was really part of this couple’s love story, and being the second shooter, I didn’t have the pressure to perform and get a ton of crucial images. Instead, I could simply pay attention to what was happening around me and seek out the little moments of joy that might otherwise go by without anyone noticing.”
Question: What would you say to others who are considering investing in photography education–whether they’re hobbyists, moms who want to take better photos of their family, or someone working toward starting a photography business?
“I would say that photography is an incredibly challenging, but rewarding activity. If you’re up for working hard and keeping your head up, you should absolutely give it a shot. Becoming a great photographer takes a lot of patience, dedication, and repetition–so don’t expect to take beautiful pictures overnight, and don’t feel discouraged when you have trouble. In fact, when you start out, you might feel like you’re taking worse pictures because you aren’t relying on your camera or your phone to do some of the work for you. But if you’re doing it because you enjoy it and because you want to capture beautiful things, you WILL get better and it will absolutely be worth it!
I would also say that if you’re going to do it, you should do it right. Do your research before choosing a camera so you get the one that’s right for you, and invest your time and money in education and resources that are going to work for you. If you do that, it will pay off big time in the long run.”
Question: What did you love about learning from Jill? Was it a good experience for you? What did you enjoy the MOST?
“I have loved every course and lesson I’ve taken from Jill. She is such a phenomenal teacher. It’s obvious from her teaching style that teaching and coaching is what she was meant to do. She has made all of us feel so supported and encouraged, especially when things get difficult or frustrating. I can’t imagine doing what I am doing now without having had Jill as my coach, cheerleader, and support system.
In addition to having everything organized and laid out in a way that’s easy to process and digest, I never really felt like my educational opportunities with Jill were extra work. I don’t feel like doing more work when I get home from my full-time job, but I was always excited to watch the newest month’s content or join a call, because I knew I’d learn something new and have a lot of fun putting it into practice.
I think my favorite experience was the most recent in-person segment of the Business Builder. After watching and learning remotely for a few years, reporting back on my progress, and watching my newfound photographer friends grow with me, getting to experience a live shoot with them and watch Jill work was so worthwhile. I got to see how Jill works with clients and bounce ideas off of the other photographers in the group, which added so much value to my own learning experience.”
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I'm Jill, a wedding and portrait photographer based out of Chicago and Central Illinois, and available world wide! I'm also a photography educator, wife to my favorite person on the planet, mama to 3 amazing kids and an energetic aussie, and obsessed with statement jewelry and all desserts (especially fruit pies!).
As a past high school teacher, I have a major heart for education. After going full time in my business, I have built a business I love that gives me an almost 6 figure salary and allows me to be home part time with my kids. I dream for you to run a business that enhances your life and lights you up, and I believe I can help you learn how to do it with a little hustle and a lot of heart!
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You're in the right place! As a past high school teacher, educating others is my life's work and a HUGE part of my business! I have been teaching moms and hobbyists how to use their camera from first purchasing it all the way to coaching them into businesses of their own, and I'd love to help you as well, wherever you are (and whatever camera you have!).
I'm so glad you are here! Teaching Photographers and other small business owners how to run more joyful, successful, and profitable businesses is one of my favorite parts of my business! I specialize in working with photographers to make their goals a reality (or figure out what their goals should be in the first place!).