How A Rental Camera Turned Into A Career: Monique Serra On Chasing Her Dreams

Monique Serra is a talented photographer based in Oregon. She captures stunning moments with her photos, while also using her platform to be authentic & vulnerable. She often shares about her own learning process, tips for other aspiring photographers, and how she navigates running a business as a mom of two. We admire her honesty, creativity, & passion! Learn more about Monique’s journey in her profile feature below. 

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself!

Monique: "Hi! My name is Monique Serra and I'm a portrait and wedding photographer from Oregon. I'm 30 years old, a strong type 2 on the enneagram, a Christian, a wife, and a mom. I have two beautiful babes, Parker who is 5, and Adeline who is 2, and my husband and I will be celebrating 10 years together, this May! I've been a photographer for 5 years now, and have been able to spend those past years traveling the world, documenting love stories, meeting the most incredible people, working with world known publications, and speaking and teaching at multiple photography and entrepreneur conferences all over the country."

Q: What sparked your interest in becoming a photographer? And how did you turn your passion into a business?

Monique: "What sparked my interest in photography was really just happenstance. I was studying electronic media at the UofO journalism school (I always wanted to work at E News!), and my sister in law was in her senior year of high school. She was feeling insecure about her senior photos and I offered to take them. I rented a camera from the school, spent hours on youtube learning how to shoot in manual and how to use photoshop, and that was that! Her friends asked me to take their photos, and after a while, it grew to be too much to balance with my full time job. After finding out I was pregnant, my husband convinced me to quit my job and pursue photography full time. He said 'if you don't do it now, you'll never do it. You'll get too comfortable. Now is the time to take chances.' BLESS HIM and his unwavering faith in me."

Q: Do you have a favorite shoot you’ve ever done? 

Monique: "I honestly don't know if I have a favorite shoot! Each session is so different, so tailored to the person or people I'm photographing, I don't know how I could possibly compare them. I've been a part of SO many incredible stories, and I've even been able to document my closest friends going through some of life's biggest adventures. I've photographed my best friends births, engagements, maternity shoots, pregnancy announcements, gender reveals; I get to know a LOT of secrets, which is fun ;) I've also gotten to meet some amazing people, which has been such a blessing."

Q: What have been the biggest lessons you've learned throughout your career? Is there anything you wish people knew about working as a photographer? 

Monique: "I think the biggest lesson I've learned through photography and throughout my career, is that the only way you'll stand out is if you are true to yourself. There are so many photographers. So many creatives and entrepreneurs. Working moms and dads and people starting businesses every single day. It used to overwhelm me, feeling like a small fish in a massive pond, but the more I tried to 'fit in' or do what seemed to be trendy, the more invisible I felt. It wasn't until I felt confident in who I was and what I had to offer, that my business really took off. Cliche, I'm sure. But it's true. Anyone can take a photo, use my preset, shoot in the same location, but they won't be me. I have worked really hard to make my brand less about my editing and my style, and more about my heart, my passion for photography, and my desire to serve others. Photography is SO much more than just taking a photo."

Q: You have two beautiful children! How have you navigated running your business while being a mom? 

Monique: "I do have two perfect babies! I am so blessed to be their mama! I think my followers, my clients, and the creatives in my community really know that my kids come first. It's something I make sure I'm transparent about, because when I need extra grace or patience with my business, I want my clients to know where that's coming from. It's hard to balance. Sometimes it feels truly impossible. But I've gotten much better at setting personal and professional boundaries to give myself the space and time I need to be both: a business owner and a mom. I edit when my kids nap or do school, when my husband is home, or early in the morning when my family is sleeping. I respond to emails consistently twice a day (morning and late evening), and I shoot mostly when my husband is off of work. I do travel a lot for jobs, and with that can come serious mom guilt, but I'm genuinely really proud of my business and how hard I've worked to be where I'm at. I want to show my kids that they can do whatever they want, and they can truly LOVE what they're doing. I want them to see me chasing my dreams and living a fulfilled life, both at home as their mom and a wife, but also in the work world as a bad ass entrepreneur woman!"

Q: How has motherhood changed you? What lessons do you hope to teach your children?

Monique: "Motherhood has changed me in more ways than I can begin to count. It has taught me to be selfless and patient, more present and appreciative of life's moments. I'm a lot more aware of who I am, how I treat others, and how I show love. I know my kids are watching, and being their mom has made me want to be a better me. I want to set a good example for them, and they've absolutely changed my business and my heart. I look at photo shoots SO differently now. Rather than overthinking about poses or 'perfect' Pinterest worthy shots, I care so much more about the honest in between moments that I KNOW go by way too fast. I want to honestly tell people's stories in a way that is genuine and authentic, so that as the years pass and they grow, they'll always have timeless candid moments of their lives to look back on. I hope to teach my kids how to love unconditionally, how to serve others, how to be confident in who they are and who God created them to be, and how to fearlessly chase after their dreams."

Q: What advice would you give to your younger self?

Monique: "My younger self would undoubtedly not even recognize me today. I wish I had been more secure in my identity growing up, but that's just not the case. I made a lot of mistakes, I was selfish and unbelievably insecure, and I really lived a life that centered around me. Not that I was a horrible human or have these insane deep dark secrets, but I didn't know who I was supposed to be or who I wanted to be. I tried to fit so many molds and expectations, that one day I had to really make a conscious decision to chase after myself. To find her. I think that's why I'm so proud of my life and the woman I am today. Not because it looks good from the outside, but because it honestly FEELS good on the inside. I love what I do, I am so grateful for my career and the opportunities I've been able to confidently pursue, I love that I've grown stronger in my faith and my relationship with the Lord, I'm married to my very best friend in the entire world and we have a marriage that, although not perfect, is honest and real and beautiful, and when I look at my two perfectly unique and incredible babies, I think 'this really is happiness.'"

Q: What do you root your identity in? 

Monique: "My identity is rooted in Christ. I make so many mistakes and I am a flawed flawed human being. But I really strive to live a life that serves Him and is less focused on ME. My identity is also rooted in motherhood and my marriage. My husband saved me, my kids challenged me to be the woman I always hoped to be. When I introduce myself and work events or conferences, I always say: 

I am Monique Serra. A Christian, a wife, a mother, a friend, a daughter and sister. Photography is what I do." 

Thank you for speaking with us! Monique is wearing the Gene Twill Jacket Driftwood from our Pre Spring 2021 Collection. 

Connect with Monique on IG @moniqueserraphotography & @moniquetserra ~ explore her blog here

Photography by Monique Serra