Interview by April Piazza, editor of Steel City Retro
1. What made you want to start your own business in photography?
I think it was just sort of part of the natural progression of my love for photography. When I first picked up a camera, my intention was to remain only a hobbyist. Photography was a means for me to focus my energy on something I loved learning about and doing rather than focusing on the negative aspects of a job that I had at the time, that often had me feeling frustrated when I got home. After I had my camera, I would get home and right away set out to create images, edit, or learn as much as I could before finally going to bed that evening. It was always something I looked forward to and it definitely helped me get through the work day.
After a few months of intense work and learning I began to allow myself to have the thoughts that I might “someday” consider doing photography for more than just fun. That was sort of an awkward thought for me to have since I had only been shooting for a few months, and knew better than to expect to be able to go into business right away, since I wasn’t all that experienced yet. But fast-forward a few more photography-intensive months with added experience, and I finally began to feel confident enough to put it out there that this is what I wanted to do with my life and that photography would now be my new career aspiration.
I don’t really think there was any one specific defining moment that made me say, “This is it! This is what I’m going to do!”, but it was definitely a progression that happened the more I learned and worked at photography.
2. What aspects do you find most challenging in your line of work?
Time. Finding time, haha. There’s always so much that needs to be done all at once, and finding time to do all of that *and* be a wife *and* have a social life is tough. But I love this enough to keep working at finding a good balance between photography and everything else life holds for me.
Other than that, business in general is the hardest thing I have to deal with. Never having had any previous business experience, let alone any experience *owning* one, tends to make the business side of what I do somewhat challenging. There’s been a lot of trial and error along the way, but with resources online, workshops, and advice from friends who have already been successful at owning a photography business, I’ve been learning a lot and able to shape my business into what I want it to be.
3. Which genres in your craft do you think you’ve mastered? Which do
you enjoy most?
Mastered? None of them. There’s always something more to learn. I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever feel like I’ve *mastered* something. I’m too much of a perfectionist and the things we are able to do with photography are constantly changing, so as I said there’s always going to be a time where I’m learning something new and applying it to the way I light something, or shoot, or process images. Maybe down the road I’ll feel like I’ve mastered a genre, but definitely not right now, haha.
As far as what genre I enjoy the most… Well I started out shooting live bands and that will always have a place in my heart. My original career goals were to work within the music industry, and I’m married to a musician, so music is always going to be a huge part of my life. Photographing bands allowed me to pull my two loves together, which was pretty awesome. For the longest time I thought that I wouldn’t enjoy photographing people, so I focused mainly on band photography, until one day I asked a good college friend of mine if she’d pose for me and allow me to play around with the idea of faux fashion photo shoot. After that first experience, I discovered that I enjoyed it more than I originally thought I would have and continued down the road of working with local models on various photographic ideas.
The more experience I had with that the more I discovered how much I love doing fashion-inspired sessions and have recently decided to venture into building a boudoir and glamour brand in order to continue doing the types of sessions I enjoy doing with women while being able to making a living at it.
4. What is your biggest professional accomplishment to date?
I haven’t actually been in business for very long, so I think my biggest accomplishment is just being able to attract clients. It’s always pretty exciting to get that e-mail inquiry that ends up turning into an actual booking. The best compliment you can give a photographer is to book a session with them, and having been in business for as little of time as I have, I’d also say that having happy clients following the session is a pretty big accomplishment to me, personally.
5. What are you most looking forward to doing with your photography
business in Nashville?
I’m really excited to network with people out there who have been doing this successfully for a long time, and who are not only fantastic photographers, but also great business people. There are some people out there that I have looked up to for a very long time, and I’m excited at the possible opportunity to be able to work with and learn from them as well as hopefully being able to bring something unique to the table. I’m also hoping to get back into shooting bands more often, but I also aim to continue doing building a boudoir and glamour brand as well as a few other things I have saved in my back pocket for later.
6. What advice would you give to those just starting in the industry?
Work hard, don’t settle, take critique with grace and never stop learning.
I never expected to be at the level that I’m at within the small amount of time that I’ve been doing photography. When I first started out, I thought it was going to take me 5-10 years to be able to do what I do, but in 2.5 years I’m already there, because I eat, sleep, and breath photography. If you work really hard all the time, you can get to where you want to be, faster than you planned to be there.
And when working, don’t get lazy and don’t settle for less than your best. If you think that you’ve just created the best work you’ve ever done, bask in that happiness for a while, and then come back in 2 weeks and pick it apart. Figure out what you could have done even *better* and push for *that* next time. We’re always going to have bad days, but when those bad days hit and you feel like selling your camera (and I promise you it’ll happen), take a break for a few days, come back, assess what happened and fix it for next time.
Find places to post your work and get critique. I don’t mean, show your images to your family and friends because they will ALWAYS think you’re the best thing since sliced bread, and that won’t help you grow. Find photography forums to post in, network with photographers who are talented and honest that can help identify what you did right and what you need to keep working on. And if someone says they don’t like something you’ve done, say thank you and move on. I’ve had people comment on an image of mine stating simply that it “sucked’. Rather than getting angry and defensive, I responded with, “Thanks for your feedback. Can you expand on *why* you think it sucks?” It doesn’t ever feel good to hear that something you did “sucks”, but the “why” behind that statement can really help you see things you didn’t see before or help you learn something you didn’t know. Always keep an open mind. As you progress you’re going to realize that some critiques are just a matter of opinion. If you don’t agree with someone’s statement, still thank them for taking the time to leave feedback and just take away the critique that people left for you that you feel is relevant. But always be open-minded and always be polite.
And most importantly, as I stated before, there is *always*, always something to be learned. I noticed that the best photographers are the ones that are still willing to learn something new, whereas the ones that have been “doing this for [x] years” and that refuse to keep an open mind and learn anything new, aren’t as great as they perceive themselves to be. Aim to always be a student, no matter how great you are. You never know if that one new technique could improve your work that much more.
Watch this awesome video starring both April and Emily!