One of the things our fearless leader, Korey, sometimes speaks about is the importance of getting out of your comfort zone. And when you work for him, it isn’t just a suggestion. It’s a requirement.

That became evident early in our professional relationship… back when it was just the two of us (and a small army of interns) slinging newsletters, social posts and the occasional print design. 

Birds chirped outside our office (closet) window on a sunny Tuesday afternoon in the spring. There I sat, quite comfortably, designing yet another Facebook Timeline graphic, without the slightest inkling that my life as a professional creative was about to change forever.

In strolled Korey with his wide-eyed grin that, at a glance, seemed typical and set off no alarms. But as we locked eyes, his grew even wider, and I braced myself for whatever surprise he had in store. 

He placed, on my desk, a small bag. Inside it I found a Canon EOS 60D.

A camera?

“You have a photoshoot on Friday,” Korey’s sang confidently. 

A trained eye would have seen how I picked the thing up and known immediately that I had never touched a camera before. But the room was light on trained eyes, so I explained.

“Oh, right! This should help.” He handed over the instruction manual.

And that was it. I was a photographer now.

The next few days are a little blurry - which, for a while, I attributed to a lack of sleep. Now, of course, I know my aperture was set too low. At any rate, I learned a lot, and by the time Friday rolled around, my confidence level was high (blatant lie).

As mortified as I was, I showed up. And you know what?

It wasn’t that bad.

I mean, besides the aimless fumbling with mysterious buttons, unexpected profuse sweating and general sense of confusion… the shoot went really well. And it turns out, we did it for free. So the pressure was mostly self-imposed.

There were some technical hiccups, but I had Photoshop skills to fall back on, so the shots actually turned out alright. It seemed I had a knack for taking pictures, and after a couple more outings, I realized that I even kind of liked being behind the lens.


I dove in. The next several months were spent learning as much as I could any way I could. I staged my own shoots after hours. I took online courses. And I wasn’t above bribing my photographer friends for sweet morsels of their seemingly boundless knowledge.

In the time since, I have had the opportunity to shoot everything from houses to head shots, people to products and living rooms to lifestyles. But the most rewarding opportunity - the one that’s made the biggest difference in my life and in my career - was the one that came wrapped in anxiety with a little bow of terror on top. It was an opportunity that, like so many great ones, was thrust upon me. One that I accepted largely out of necessity and against my better judgment.

It was delivered to me, by none other than Korey McMahon, in the form of a seemingly insurmountable task.

It was the opportunity to get out of my comfort zone. 

And I’m so glad I took it.

 Photo of Dane by Dane

Photo of Dane by Dane