Rachel Ponstein ‘15 found Calvin's Organizational Communication major to be the perfect foundation for growing her business, Rachel Gabrielse Photography. From teaching best practices in social media to lessons on how to market your own business, the Org. Comm. major covers it all.
Q: How did you decide to pursue a career in photography?
A: Before high school, I started working as an assistant to a local photographer. I carried bags and she taught me some editing. I shot my first wedding the summer before college. I wasn't sure if I could do photography full time because it's a fairly saturated market, so I decided to go to college to get a degree in something else. Sophomore year I started to realize I could do this full time and I chose to major in Organizational Communication. The combination of business classes and communication classes really appealed to me. I’ve expanded from two weddings the summer before college to 36 last summer.
Q: Did you have any internships during your time at Calvin?
A: Junior year I was the communications intern for Christian Reformed Home Missions. I talked to church planters, conducted interviews and wrote a lot of articles. It definitely helped me because I actually do a lot of writing with my photography. Captions and blog posts are important, and e-mail communication is huge. The internship helped me refine my email techniques and become more effective in my writing.
Q: What CAS classroom experiences or projects stick out to you most?
A: In PR & Advertising, we had to summarize each chapter in the textbook with a haiku. I always remember those and I love how they made me be precise and less wordy in my communication. Another one that sticks out is my honors research paper on millenials and how to reach them using social media. In my business, millenials are my target audience and effective use of social media is crucial. It was really cool that the professors let me tailor my research to something that would benefit me.
Q: What’s your favorite aspect of being a photographer?
A: I'm an introvert but I really love people and love how my job tailors to both. I edit alone at home with my hot chocolate and audio books, yet when I go out on a shoot, I love being able to meet people. I've gotten to know wonderful people and witness some beautiful moments—some of the most intimate moments in a person's life.