Growing up in Lakeland, FL, Tahnee Marea always had an affinity for photography. Her father was creative with a camera, helping to expose Tahnee to the hobby at a young age. In high school, she took a black and white film class and learned the entire process of developing film. According to Tahnee, this laid the foundation for her interest as an adult.
The possibility of turning her hobby into a career was never something she considered until the photographer for a wedding she was attending didn't show up. "They came up to me and said, 'Oh my god can you take the pictures for us?'," Tahnee said. "I agreed to do it, even though I never did anything like that before. Thankfully it was a small wedding. Anyway, the final product was something I was really proud of and I was able to do that with no experience. That's when I started to think of photography as a possible career."
The wedding Tahnee attended was in the beginning of 2015. While still working as a Driver and Assistant Manager at Domino's Pizza, Tahnee spent the next few years developing her craft, gaining confidence and adding clients.
"At first, I started with family and friends," she said. "People I knew were getting married and I offered to take pictures at their wedding to gain more experience. Most already had a professional photographer, so my pictures were just extra for them. For me, it was a chance to practice and to build my portfolio. I put everything on Facebook and started to get the word out. Slowly but surely business picked up."
Tahnee's business became official in the beginning of 2018. For another year, she continued part-time with Domino's until the business was generating enough revenue to where she felt comfortable leaving.
"I just decided it was time," Tahnee said. "I knew I needed to devote more energy towards growing my photography business."
Tahnee candidly shared that, as a new business owner, she was a bit overwhelmed. She knew her craft, but the business side of wedding and portrait photography was certainly an early challenge. Nevertheless, despite not having mentors or proper guidance, she remained committed and taught herself everything she needed to know.
"My focus has always been on quality, not quantity," she said. "I'm learning as much as I can and always improving my craft. I want people to have an amazing final product."
Tahnee's focus is on quality wedding and portrait photography, but she's also known throughout Central Florida as a very inclusive photographer and somebody that wants all people, regardless of gender, sexual orientation or race, to feel loved and accepted.
"One of my strong points is that I stand for inclusiveness," she said. "I'm proud to be a LGBT-friendly wedding vendor in Central Florida. In the past, I had gay couples ask me if I'd be willing to shoot their wedding. That frustrated me so bad that they even had to ask that question. Going forward, I, along with my neighbor, created a Facebook group for other LGBT-friendly wedding vendors in Central Florida. Now it's something I'm known for."
Looking ahead, Tahnee would like to build the business to a size that would warrant hiring additional photographers. She'd also eventually like to offer services like videography and photo booth rentals.
What advice does Tahnee have for aspiring entrepreneurs? "Never stop learning," she said. "I still look online at YouTube and different photographer's channels and websites that provide tutorials on photography-related subjects. Things change rapidly in this industry. It's important, regardless of what industry you're in, to stay on top of your skills and your knowledge. Don't ever get stagnant with your learning. It gives you confidence and builds a strong foundation. That's something you can always turn to if things get tough."