If a picture is worth 1,000 words, it’s safe to say that Pamela Leon has millions of words to her credit.
The owner of 28 Sunflowers Photography said she’s had an interest in taking pictures since her teen years but admits that it did not come naturally.
“I had a black and white film class in high school,” she said. “I took it because I thought it was going to be an easy class but I really did like it and took it for a couple years. It was fun and a creative outlet. But I wasn’t very good at it back then. I was really, really, really bad but it was still fun.”
As time went on Leon, formerly Hyde, said her eye for photography got better. She went into real estate and again dabbled with photography by taking photos of the listed houses.
“Once the crash hit, I decided I wanted to take better photos and learn more about photography in the digital age,” she said. “I decided I didn’t want to do real estate any more. I didn’t find enjoyment in it. Then one day I decided to do this (own a business) and said, ‘how hard can it be?’ It was 100% a leap of faith. I hadn’t run my own business, so there was a big learning curve.”
That love of photography turned into a full-time business in 2009. And while she loves what she does, she realizes there is always room for improvement as she experiments with new techniques within the art form.
“I still have so much more to learn and areas to improve upon,” she said. “Everything I shoot has its own learning curve. Everything is its own nuance.”
While weddings used to be her bread and butter, these days the majority of what 28 Sunflowers Photography does is portraits, along with product shoots, real estate and school-related photographs.
“On the custom photo shoots, it’s led by the client’s wants and needs,” said the 1996 BCHS grad. “If it’s a family photo shoot, I don’t tell them this is what they have to do. But I guide them through things like what to wear and give them location ideas but they’re in the driver’s seat because it’s their photos. It’s all driven by them.”
When Leon’s not on the clock, she does enjoy photography as a hobby including taking pictures of her children and flowers, as evident in the name of the business.
“My favorite thing is when people see their photos and their emotions come out by having these images that they may not have had otherwise,” she said. “I love the emotions and making people happy. These photos are a memory they can hold forever.”
As for the business name, Leon said it was not easy coming up with one. But in the end, 28 is her favorite number and thanks to her love for flowers, sunflowers was an easy choice.
These days with digital photography and Photoshop, it’s easy to manipulate photos to either change a photo completely or to catch in print what the naked eye sees. But as Leon pointed out, decades ago, photographers were manipulating photos in the darkroom.
“I love digital because it really opens the door for so many people to enjoy photography as a hobby or outlet,” she said. “Photography is such a beautiful way to share the world with people.”
On those lines, Leon was asked what percentage of a good photograph is the camera and what percentage is the photographer.
“I really think probably 75% is the photographer,” she said. “I have three cameras and they’re about eight years old so I don’t have the newest and greatest in technology. I think it’s mostly the connection you have with what you’re photographing and how you present it. Obviously, the gear is important, but mostly, it’s the photographer.”
As for what drives her, Leon said it’s not the business aspect but rather the joy she has when shooting a photo.
“Running things like sales tax reports is just the worst,” she said, laughing. “But I wouldn’t want things like that to discourage someone from following their passion or making a business out of what they love. At the same time, you don’t have to create a business out of what you love, do it for the love of it.”
She went on to say, “The business I’m in is one that generally makes people happy. I have the most amazing clients so I feel fortunate to bring beauty into their lives. I feel fortunate I’ve been able to turn a hobby into a business. I encourage people to take up photography because it’s something they can do for a lifetime.”
For more information on her business, visit 28sunflowersphotography.com.