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It’s not often that a person spends her mornings with hair slicked back, steel-toed boots laced up her legs, and manly coveralls hiding every bit of femininity she tried to develop over 23 years. By evening, you toss that uniform to the side, throw on your BCBG pumps, your new favorite romper, touch-up your mascara and you’re ready for the evening. No, friends, I’m not talking about a night out on the town—I’m talking about preparing for the photo shoot that lies ahead. Except I am not the talent, I’m the photographer.

This explains a little bit of my life. I’m a Naval Officer. I spend my morning meetings standing on top of missile launchers, days climbing ladder wells, and instead of a cubicle my office happens to be onboard the world’s most deadly weapon: a naval warship. I promise, it’s nothing like what Rihanna experiences in the movie “Battleship;” it’s way less glamorous than that, but it is hard work. Although protecting America may satisfy the average person for work and satisfaction, I find my heart being pulled by something else—photography.

The smiles of happy clients, the eyes of couple truly in love, and happy families looking to take their next Christmas card photo truly gives me the fulfillment I need to fall asleep at night, knowing I had an incredible day. I’ve spend nearly the last 10 years of my life bouncing from hobby to hobby, clubs, teams, and experiencing four years at the U.S. Naval Academy all to discover what every person hopes to find in life: her passion. Turns out I should have listened to my 12-year-old conscience that told me I loved to take photos more than anything, but I put it aside because I thought it wasn’t “big” enough. I thought I wasn’t “maximizing my potential,” or “going to be able to support myself.” Turns out, even after being able to satisfy every one of those facets (having a “big” title, seeking my potential, and supporting myself) my heart still wasn’t content. I wanted more.

Here are the top 4 reasons why I make time for what I love, and why you should too:

  • Money isn’t everything: I know this is cliché but it really does mean something. A military career provides for you in every possible way but that doesn’t mean it satisfies you. I didn’t start Kellie Rene Photography because I needed financial support; I started it because it makes me happy. Since deciding to pursue photography I find myself happier, with more to look forward to, and educating myself in ways I didn’t know were possible.

  • Challenge yourself: Every day I am challenged due to the nature of the Navy. There’s either a weapon I have to know how to deploy or a sailor who needs guidance or direction. Although I’m educating myself on a professional level, I’m not necessarily challenging myself on a personal level. Owning my own photography business challenges me on every level. I have to know how to interact with clients, balance a schedule, edit photos, learn all the newest software, create a logo and business cards, balance finances, and of course, take photos. I’m continuing to improve and challenge myself to learn something new all the time.

  • You need a Release: No matter how good or bad my day is, whether I was reprimanded by a superior officer or gave a great brief, I always have something to look forward to. I do all of my sessions in the evening after work and it’s just the release I need no matter what the day has brought for me. Some call owning a business “work;” I call it relaxation. Weddings are very different than warships: people are smiling, excited for cake, dancing, not fearful of being attacked. The difference in these two areas of my life provides me with just the balance I need to continue refreshed, ready to seize the day, and excited for what’s in store.

  • “Dip your Toe in the Pool of Possibility:” Jess from the TV series New Girl once said this line and it stuck, so I’m sharing it with you all. Basically, you never know what the future has in store! I’ve surrounded myself with wonderful people who urge me to try new things even when it makes me nervous, and vice versa. The phrase “well, you never know,” goes a long way! Because — guess what — you DON’T ever know! A year ago I would have had no idea that my passion for photography would have led me to be a part of 5 weddings, 26 portrait sessions, 15 engagement shoots, a brand, logo, and Website.

A hobby-turned-passion-turned-business has created one of the most exciting parts of my life. I encourage you all to pursue the things you are interested in, not for money or stability, but truly just because it makes YOU happy. Make time for the things you love—there’s nothing negative that comes from something that fills your heart with enjoyment.

I’ll choose passion over profession, time and time again.


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