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Life & Work with Desiree Ortman

Today we’d like to introduce you to Desiree Ortman.

Hi Desiree, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
Those closest to me call me Des. I’m the owner of DOP – Desiree Ortman Photography. I guess you could say I’m the creative type; I don’t draw, but I love calligraphy and my brain works on overdrive thinking of creative ideas for decorating my home or planning a party. I consider myself “photo obsessed.” I’ve been taking pictures since I was a teenager (I was the annoying friend that took a disposable camera everywhere). I still have real albums of all of the pictures I took back in the late 90’s and early 00’s, but fun fact, I didn’t get my first DSLR camera until I was 29.

Before officially opening my biz in 2018, I worked in marketing and public relations for eight years with a Fortune 500 company right here in Baltimore, MD. I loved my job, but staying home with my babies was super important for me. In 2011, I left my marketing career to stay home with my firstborn. After six months home, I decided I needed some sort of creative outlet and worked as a freelance marketing consultant, dabbled in a few other businesses, and took photos recreationally for friends and family who always encouraged me to launch my own photo biz. I honestly didn’t think I was talented enough and oftentimes compared myself to the many other local photographers who I felt were way more skilled that I was. It wasn’t until a photo of mine (a cute shot I took at courthouse wedding in downtown Bel Air for two friends of mine) landed on the cover of our local newspaper that I finally felt I had the momentum to pursue this little hobby of mine full time.

I officially launched my biz in January of 2018. While I primarily shot families at the onset of my biz, I’ve recently transitioned to focus primarily on teens, seniors and dancers. I love the one-on-one connection I get with seniors and dancers. I am very detail-oriented and focusing on photographing just one subject allows me to tweak the smallest of details to get a photo that is perfect on all levels. I’m 100% self-taught, and I am constantly investing in learning and growing as an artist. I’m what some would call a recovering perfectionist, so I’m always experimenting, trying new things and thinking of ways that I can my work stand out amongst the crowd.

On a personal note… I’m the mother of two pretty amazing kids – a sassy ten years old little girl with a heart of gold and a sweet and silly seven years old little boy. I married my very own prince charming in 2008 and he’s been the driving force in helping me pursue my dreams.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
Honestly, the road has been pretty smooth. I sometimes struggle juggling all of the aspects of owning my own biz – being the photographer, the accountant, the marketing guru, the editor, and the admin is tough. I recently brought on an intern to assist with some of the day-to-day copywriting for my website and it’s been a game-changer for me.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
Simply put, I’m a portrait photographer. I’m known for my work with teens, seniors and dancers. I’ve been featured in several national senior portrait publications and a few nationally recognized Instagram accounts like Senior Style Guide, Pas de Deux Photography and Inspiring Teens Magazine.

I love working with this demographic for two reasons…. 1. each session is unique. I try to tailor a session to match a teen’s individual style and personality, and this means shooting at a variety of locations in a variety of outfits which results in a very diverse portfolio. I love that my images are infused with color and light. 2. With the prevalence of social media that these kids are exposed to these days, the expectation to be flawless is so elevated. A lot of the kids I work with have been bullied, suffer from low self-esteem and don’t see themselves as beautiful. It’s my goal during every session to make each teen feel comfortable. I assist with outfit selections, posing and location selection to ensure their experience is perfect. The messages I receive from parents following our sessions are so heartfelt. Upon seeing the photos, which oftentimes look like magazine-worthy content, my teen clients are blown away, their confidence has turned a corner and their spirits are high. It brings me so much joy that I’m able to help these kids see how beautiful they truly are.

As for dancers, I’m a former dancer myself, so being able to photograph something I’m so passionate about is truly incredible.

As for what sets me apart from others, I think my creativity is one of my differentiating qualities. Each year, I recruit a team of rising juniors to represent their senior class at their school. Launched in 2019, this team (I call them my DOP SENIORS) participates in 3-4 editorial shoots each year. Each shoot is themed and styled in an editorial format. The seniors share their photos in an effort to spread the word about my biz in their schools. The content produced by these groups is really one of a kind – we’ve done shoots at the Beach, a local ice cream shop and even tackled a HUGE Clueless tribute shoot last year. This team is certainly one of the things I’m most proud of and I can’t wait to see it grow through the years.

The crisis has affected us all in different ways. How has it affected you and any important lessons or epiphanies you can share with us?
Covid really forced me to slow down, take a break and reflect on what’s most important. It was after my biz reopened that I decided to really only focus on working with seniors and dancers.

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