Yvonne Metcalfe has always loved photography. It’s in her blood. When she was twelve, she picked up a camera, snapped a few pictures and thought, “Hey, I like this.” After snapping a few more, that thought evolved into, “Hey I REALLY like this.”
And so it began. A lifelong passion was born.
After studying Leisure and Tourism at the University of Calgary, Yvonne met her future husband – a pilot. They married and ended up moving all over Canada for his work. Yvonne managed to keep up a career in the tourism and restaurant industry, but, as life went on with its characteristic hustle bustle and dramatic increase of responsibilities, Yvonne’s free time began to slip away… and so did her photography hobby.
“As life goes on and you get older and have school and new jobs, you kind of forget what you’re really passionate about,” she said. “And then you start a family and have kids and, before you know it, free time is in very short supply.”
Relatable, anyone? Yup, I thought so.
“After university, my initial plan was to go into hotel management,” she explained. “But things change and cities change. You think you’ve got a plan, and then life takes you down a different path, but everything turns out better than you ever could’ve planned.”
But Yvonne hadn’t forgotten about her photography passion forever. Years later, she rediscovered it through another, rather unusual hobby: insect-watching.
“Nowadays, of all the things I like to take pictures of, insects top everything,” she said. “I’m fascinated by them.”
So, Yvonne started bringing her camera along on these insect-watching excursions to snap a few pictures.
“Insects were the reason I got back into photography,” she explained. “I found some cool bugs, got some cool shots, and then I started investing in better photography equipment.”
And then it started to become a little more than just a hobby. Casually and unintentionally, Yvonne kick-started her future business by simply uploading the photos to the internet.
“I started putting my images on the internet, watermarked with ‘Yvonne Metcalfe Images.’ My intention was just to get my name out there and copyright my photos, but that’s how my business – still called ‘Yvonne Metcalfe Images – actually came about.”
But it wasn’t an “instant success” story either. In fact, Yvonne said that she came across many moments of doubt along the way.
“When I would upload my photos back then, it was funny because the initials of my watermark were Y M I, and often I’d be thinking ‘Ugh, why am I even bothering?’” (Get it?)
In spite of these doubtful moments, she kept on ‘bothering’ until the pandemic hit in early 2020.
“When the pandemic hit, I felt this urge to help the community,” she said. “I’m a supply Secretary with the school board, and I wasn’t getting a whole lot of work during the pandemic after in person learning ended. So then I had a whole bunch of free time, and I got to thinking, ‘Well, why am I not working on my business and working on my skills and contributing to the community?’”
And that turned out to be a pivotal turning point.
“So, I brainstormed a bunch of different ways I could do that. I tried selling some of my photography, thinking I could donate all my profits to the food bank. But then that didn’t really work out, because during the pandemic people were losing work and holding onto their money.”
She kept thinking until she came up with the perfect solution: she could help the community by donating her photography skills and services.
“It’s been an amazing experience,” she said. “Interacting with the businesses and the people I’ve met, and using my photography to help them out, it’s just been amazing.”
And the experience has given Yvonne a boost. “It’s also been great for me to build my confidence as a photographer and build my portfolio. Plus, with the connections I’ve made, I’m sure some of them will think of me down the road when they’re back on their feet.”
Now, that’s what I call doing business the right way. And her assumption was correct, too: it has boosted her business.
“There’s a lot of small paid jobs that I do on the side,” she said. “Family photos, event photography for friends, like anniversaries, birthday parties, and reunions.”
And most of all, she likes to be outside when she’s shooting. “I’m not a portrait studio kind-of-person. I’m candid. I love outdoor stuff and natural light.”
And it’s this love of being outdoors that causes her to spend so much time in nature, capturing as much as she can through her camera lens.
“When I go up to the cottage, I love taking my camera into the bush and seeing what bugs and critters I can find,” she said.
Yvonne went on to describe how many insects – especially spiders – she’s captured before. Big spiders, small spiders, poisonous ones, you name it! Yvonne is most certainly NOT an arachnophobe.
“And even when I’m at home, I love going for an evening walk in my garden to see what I can find,” she continued. It’s very relaxing. I can just go out at night, you know, look for what’s in my backyard and try not to walk into a spider web. That’s my main goal.” She said with a laugh. She might like spiders, but she still doesn’t like getting caught in their webs.
But, sometimes, Yvonne also likes to add a splash of excitement into her photo shoots. One type of shoot she enjoys involves setting steel wool pads on fire and using a long exposure shot to capture the flying sparks and embers. Oh, and kids: don’t try that one at home.
Yvonne has also become heavily involved with the Barrie Chamber of Commerce. Her interest in helping local businesses thrive is mutual with the Chamber, so she has found her relationship with it to be very beneficial. She loves the networking, communication, and sense of community that the Chamber offers.
“So, whenever the Chamber needs some photography done,” she said, “I’m right there, like, ‘Oh, I’m your girl!’”
And this relationship with the Chamber has opened yet another door for Yvonne: food photography. Almost every time the Chamber puts on a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a local restaurant, Yvonne volunteers to take photos of the event and the restaurant’s food.
“I really love getting a fantastic, colourful image of someone’s food or a movie shot of a fancy dinner. And it’s just so much fun to play around with it and experiment with new angles and colours just to make your mouth water.”
And I can guarantee you, Yvonne’s food photography will make you hungry. Customer beware!
I think it’s easy to see that Yvonne eats, sleeps, and breathes photography. It’s what she loves to do. And to any aspiring photographers out there, she’s got some advice for you:
“Never stop learning,” she said emphatically. “I’m constantly reading or going to an online photography seminar. We have guest speakers that come in and virtually talk to us at the Barrie Photo Club and they give us tips on all different aspects of photography.”
So, to any aspiring photographers, there’s your dose of wisdom for today. And to anyone looking for a photographer, give Yvonne a call. You’d be nuts not to!
Yvonne’s headshot by: Adrienne Callan Photography
All other images by @yvonne_metcalfe_images
Written by: Peter Wilson 🖋️