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My Journey to Becoming an Award-Winning Photographer

I never really thought of myself as the type of photographer whose pictures wind up published and winning awards. Even before I created CSC Photography, my photos would be published in yearbooks, and to be completely honest, I didn't count that as "being published." To me, it was classwork... something that just had to be done.

Fast forward a little to Spring 2017... I had picked up photography as more of a hobby. I photographed my little sister's soccer games because after years of being on the sideline cheering for football/basketball games and always having theatre rehearsals in the spring, I don't know how to sit and watch a game.

In other words, I did not have any intention of sharing my work, with the exception of with my sister and the people she snapchatted and emailed pictures to.

My little sister has several friends on the Honaker soccer team from her ASA years (the pee-wee teams of Southwest Virginia soccer). We're both from Lebanon, and if you know anything about Lebanon, you know that Lebanon and Honaker are hard-core rivals.

I took pictures at their Lebanon @ Honaker game, and those pictures are sent to Lauren's friends without a second thought.

A couple weeks later, I receive a text from my sister saying that those pictures were going to be put in the Honaker yearbook. Of course, I was really excited.

Still, I would look at amazing, award-winning photographers and never saw myself as one of them (I still don't).

However, this experience did push me to start CSC Photography.

I started capturing everything I could.







I photographed every chance I had, in order to learn and grow in my craft.

October 2017 comes, and I'm in Lebanon during what is my Fall Break and Lebanon High School's Homecoming. Since my sister is also a cheerleader, I picked up my camera and went to every homecoming event I could.

I was going to be there anyway, so, again, why not take the pictures, even if it's just for my sister and her friends.

At the Homecoming Bonfire, I felt so discouraged.

I drew inspiration from previous bonfires, even ones where I cheered.

Those pictures showed a glowing bonfire behind happy cheerleaders doing the high kicks of the LHS Fight Song. And that dance had plenty of high kicks.

However, when I tried to recreate these images or take any images, the pictures I took looked nothing like the ones I had seen other photographers and parents capture.

I thought to myself...

What am I doing wrong?

Of course, at the time, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.

I'm a very emotional person, but the only thing keeping me from tears was the fact that another photographer was having similar issues as me.

I thought that right then and there, I had failed as a photographer just because I couldn't get those shots...

I delivered 11 photos to my Facebook album that next morning.

Yes, you read that correctly... 11.

Of the 11 that I did deliver, 4 were just of the fire, 2 were of the firefighters there to supervise the fire, and the remaining were of my sister and some of her friends after the bonfire festivities had ended.

At the end of the day, I truly only liked one picture.

This picture.

You can tell how old it is simply from my outdated watermark, and the only editing I did on it was a touch of contrast and slapping my watermark on it... That's all I knew how to do at the time.

I showed this image to my parents, my sister, my friends, even the other photographer I mentioned earlier.

They all told me the same thing.

You should enter that into a contest or something. It's really good.

So, I did.

I entered it into so many contests.

Too many to keep track of.

Like I said, I took this picture in October.

June 2018 comes, and I had long forgotten about the picture, let alone entering it into so many contests.

I receive an email while I'm away at a youth conference. It more or less told me some photographers on the site liked my work and to check my notifications on an account I had with the contest site.

Because I forgot I had entered the photo into that contest site, I had to do some research on the site. I legitimately thought it was a scam.

It wasn't a scam...

My photo... the one I just showed you... the one from the night when I wasn't getting anything... the one I didn't edit... the one from when I didn't know what I was doing... WON TWO AWARDS... in November... a 2017 Peer Choice Award and a Peer Choice Award for Jaw Dropping Image!

That's crazy, right?!

I was in shock, to say the least!

I didn't spend hours writing this just to brag about myself though.

That is truly my last intention.

I want you to know that sometimes, even if you don't think you're good enough for something, go for your dreams.

I've always been a dreamer.

That characteristic has been both good (such as when I started CSC Photography) and bad (like when I dream too much and can't do it all - which happens all too often).

I want my small success story to inspire you to chase your dreams... maybe the dreams you've been hesitant to go after until received a sign of some sort.


CSC Photography loves the dreamers.

I LOVE the dreamers!


You don't know what might happen.

Keep dreaming,

Caitlin S. Cornett

Want to see more?

Check out our other blog entries!

Jumpsuit on Main |

Lauren - Portrait Session |

Abingdon, VA


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