Guest Blog: Photographer & Photoshop Addict Gilmar Smith

Last time I wrote a post here, I was seven months pregnant, on bed rest, and stuffing my face with tiramisu ice cream.

A lot has happened since then; I didn’t have any idea what life had in store for me.

I lost my fiancé a year after our baby was born. And that completely changed my life forever.

Just a month after my fiancé passed away I sold all of my belongings in a garage sale, got my kids in my car, and moved back to Orlando. I knew I needed to be in a place I love, and Orlando has always been my happy place.

I decided to not only get back into photography, but to do it full time. Yes, I know, it sounds like a dumb idea because we all know this is not the easiest industry to make money from, but I needed to do something creative, something I love. Also, I needed to do something that allowed me to be present in my kids’ lives, especially after everything we went through.

So, I gave myself a year to make it happen and this is what’ve learned so far.

I started redesigning every element of my life to keep myself on track.

There were a few seconds every morning when I woke up, and everything was fine until the realization of him being gone hit me. It felt like he died every single morning for at least the first six months. But, still, I had to get up, take care of my kids, and make their life beautiful. I didn’t want them to look back at their childhood with sadness. So, instead of staying in bed and crying as many times I wanted to, I made the best out of my day.

It’s all about how you use the time you have.

Instead Of Listening To Music, Listen To Audiobooks And Podcasts
Sorry, Adele, it’s not you, it’s me. In order to have the right mindset, I needed to invest my time wisely. I needed to keep myself inspired. And, as much as I love Adele, I had to ditch her. I started listening to self development, business, photography and inspirational podcasts and audiobooks. That made a massive change in my life. I still listen to them in my car, when I’m editing and even when I’m getting ready to go out.

Keep A Journal With The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly
This not only allows me to get everything out of my head, but it also gives me perspective. And it’s a way to track my progress.

Be Thankful
As the first year of my fiancé’s death approached, I felt emotionally burnt out. That night, I sat alone in my bed and started writing the names of people and the things I was thankful for, and, to my surprise, the list was huge. 2016 was a rough year, but I will never forget the support and the kind gestures I received from mostly everybody I know. I wouldn’t have made it through that year if it wasn’t for them. The photography community is full of people with HUGE  hearts.

Since then, I give thanks every night before I go to sleep.

Build Your Tribe
I try to surround myself with creative, positive, inspiring, hardworking, and badass people. People with big ideas and talents.

This is why I love going to Photoshop World so much. I’ve been going to PSW since 2013. It’s the perfect environment for creatives. I’ve met many of my best friends there, and we keep in touch throughout the year to talk about our projects and support each other.

Keep Your Thoughts, Words, And Actions In Check
Everything starts with a thought, comes out of your mouth and, it’s turned into action. So, be aware of what’s happening in the roof.

Do Something Nice For Somebody On A Daily Basis
This one became a habit to me. I’ve been in the dark so much; I know how a kind gesture can bring light to someone’s life. I try to spread a little bit of joy every day. This is not hard at all. Check on your friends, answer questions, be a cheerleader, help someone out, give compliments, hug somebody, share their work.   

But do not give yourself away (I tend to get too invested sometimes when helping people) so, know your limits and establish boundaries.

Recognize And Embrace Your Uniqueness
There are many things that make us different from each other. I’ve learned a lot about myself in the last two years. I made peace with my flaws, I accepted my misfortunes, and I keep trying to learn from my mistakes. I know who I am, what I’m willing to do, and what I’m not willing to sacrifice in my life for my business. Sometimes, I’m too much for some people. Maybe I talk too much; I’m too passionate, I’m too happy, or too opinionated. Those comments used to bother me and put me into negative self-critique mode. But now, I embrace them instead and see them as qualities.

When Was The Last Time You Did Something For The First Time?
There’s nothing more refreshing and exciting than doing something for the first time. A few months ago I was asked to cast for a TV commercial. I have no experience with acting. But, I said yes, and I went to the audition. I didn’t get the part but I had a lot of fun!

Go ahead and do something exciting! Go on a doors off helicopter ride! I did that recently with my friend Dave Williams, and it was a blast.

Find Balance
I’m a single mom of two, and I run a business. Sounds simple right? Well, it is not, especially when you want to do everything so perfectly. I usually find myself in front of my computer making things happen, either writing content or editing pictures, with my three year old girl sitting on my lap. My kids are very involved in my photography. They love to model and to come up with concepts for Photoshoots. It’s essential for me that they can enjoy and understand what I do for a living.

You can see a lot of the projects we do together in my portfolio.

Write Lists, Follow Up, And Have Deadlines
My desk is covered by sticky notes. I have written on a blackboard all of the important due dates and projects I’m working on. I have all kind of reminders on my phone, and the Evernote app is my best friend. Without all those, I’m not able to function. I get distracted too easily, especially with a little girl pulling my arm asking for ice cream and cookies about ten times a day.

Make The Best With What You Have
I still shoot with the first and only camera I’ve ever had. My trusty Canon 5D Mark II. I bought my Elinchrom strobes at around the same time I bought my camera. It was probably September of 2011, and those are still the only ones I have. My computer is about that old too. It even died on me a couple of months ago, and I got a new hard drive, a new battery, turned to YouTube, and fixed it myself. This is proof that when you want something you go for it. I can’t make excuses. I do drool over gear, but I’m supporting two kids on my own and building my empire brick by brick. So, I make the best with what I have.

Develop A Personal Style
It goes back to what makes you unique. I get a lot of messages from people asking me how can they jump into the photography business to make a living. And, to be honest, those questions were the inspiration to write this blog post.

I don’t have all the answers. My process hasn’t been easy. I’ve gotten a lot of doors shut on my face, and I’ve had to dust myself off, get up and try again. But I’ve been fully committed all the time.

First, find your niche, then, make your work stand out from the rest. You can only do that by investing long hours on your craft. Try different techniques. There’s no shortcut. Put the hours in and be creative.

Be Nice, Play Nice
This is a big one. Relationships are the mother of every business. I’m genuinely a people person. I love human connection, deep conversations, I love making friends and keeping in touch. I’m not afraid to approach people.

I also don’t believe in competition. On the contrary, I’m the first one to support other photographers and celebrate their successes. I think there’s room for each one of us in the industry and we all have a different thing to bring to the table.

Bring Value
Are you a giver or a taker? I always do my best to bring something positive to every relationship I’m in, whether it’s a personal or a business relationship. Yes, you can expect people to shower you with love and goodies, but if you don’t give anything in return, chances are that relationship won’t last long.

Ask people what you can bring to the table, what kind of help they need, how you can benefit each other.

I’m approaching my third-year mark of doing photography full time, and I’m not yet where I want to be. But the last couple of months have been incredible, and my hard work is finally paying off.

I want to give a big thanks to everybody who has put their trust in me in these last three years. My friends, my wonderful clients, everybody at KelbyOne, Platypod, Spectacular Themes and the amazing people at 3 Legged Thing for making me part of their Pro Team. I finally can say I’m starting to live my dream!

So, go ahead, take the leap, be brave, be constant and live the dream!

You can see more of Gilmar’s work at, and keep up with her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

  1. Certainly one of the most inspiring posts here! Gilmar is an amazing professional and a great person. No one would imagine Gilmar had to go through all of these when meeting her. She is always so funny and so positive. I guess that’s part of the secret: be determined, when life hands you lemons, you make a great lemonade out of them. Way to go Gilmar!!! You rock!

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