INTERVIEW WITH PAINT THE MOON PHOTOGRAPHY / Salem, Oregon
Hi Annie! Thank you for taking some time to share with us a little bit about yourself and how you run your successful photography business! First of all, how did you get started in the industry?
Like many women photographer’s out there, the same old story … the baby came first and then the real photo taking frenzy begins. I’ve been in the graphic design industry since 1992, having freelanced for 12 years and then working as an in house manager of the digital department for a large printing company. I’ve always loved photography, and have lived inside Photoshop since the 90′s (and, yes, I realize I’m dating myself, LOL). But after having my first daughter that love of capturing kid’s personalities and real moments that fly by too quickly really blossomed.
How long have you had your own business?
I’ve owned my own business for about 16 years … twelve years as a freelance graphic designer, four years as a photographer.
What, is your favorite part of owning your own business?
Being able to enjoy my family and be home with my girls. I love having the ability to not only control my own schedule, but what type of work I take on. The couple years I was at the printing company just about killed me in terms of stifled creativity. The clients were very stodgy and old school … they didn’t appreciate it when I added my own flair to the designs I worked on. Thankfully, I was still freelancing and able to keep that creative door open during those couple years. I MUST have some creative outlet at all times … design, photography, gardening are all loves of mine. I homeschool and love being creative in our lessons and how I’m teaching my children.
What was the BEST thing that you have done to better your business?
Decided to follow my heart and be true to my own style, as well as charge what I know I’m worth.
What was one mistake that you’ve made in your business venture you could share so that others may avoid doing the same thing in their businesses?
In the beginning I wasn’t confident in myself as a professional photographer and wasn’t firm about my pricing … and I did way too many free sessions!
Are you married? Do you have any children of your own? If so, how do you best balance your family life without them feeling like your business is #1 time consumer?
Yes, and yes.I have a very opinionated and delightful little five year old daughter, and a seven month old baby girl. My family is absolutely my number one priority. If my business ever starts to take away from my time with my kiddos that is the day I walk away. I happen to be a total insomniac and my prime work hours are 10pm to 4am while my girls are sleeping. For photo shoots, my girls actually come along with me … we’re a package deal. I haven’t done a lot of shoots since my baby was born this last summer, but my clients usually tend to be other new mommies and understand and love that my family is my number one. I don’t take a job if I can’t give 100% to it, but I also don’t take a job if it means sacrificing my family time.
What do you do for fun that has nothing to do with photography?
I’ve ridden horses since I was old enough to walk and now share that love with my daughters and my mom. My five year old daughter is actually the biggest rider in the family at the moment. I developed a chronic illness a few years ago that keeps me from enjoying many of the activities I’ve loved my whole life … but I am absolutely loving seeing my baby girl follow in my footsteps, or rather hoof prints.
What type of photography/ subject is your favorite? What would you describe your style as?
Kids! No doubt about it … I absolutely love capturing that giggly smile that lights up their eyes, or the playful shots of them jumping on the bed or siblings having a tickle fight. I don’t know how to describe my style … but I like “real.” I want to capture the heart and personality in photos … even if we’re doing a studio shot (which in Oregon I’ve been forced to do during these dark, rainy and cold winer days), I want to capture the real expressions and see their true essence shine through. I love the imperfect shots, the ones where you look at the subject and think, “That is SO them!” I think styled shoots are beautiful – and love a beautiful, posed serious look as much as the next person – but if there is no heart in it and you don’t see a real expression or some kind of truth to the photo then it just doesn’t speak to me.
This question sort of just adds to the last… How did you find your style? Do you think it is important to be consistent in your work, or do you think that it is okay to incorporate different editing styles into sessions?
Lots of trial and error, lots of doubting myself, lots of practice until one day my work started looking consistently like MY work. I will never forget the first time someone told me they could spot my work anywhere … for someone who felt so lost in her search for her true style that was a huge complement and confidence booster, and helped me to hone my particular “style” even more. I usually stick with a cohesive theme for each session, with a few complementary styles that enhance the main processing look well. I like my clients to be able to order whatever images they want and have them all flow well together. Having a wall display with a mish mash of vintage style and bright, clean processed images just wouldn’t look so hot in most cases. So, while I may use a slightly different look on a few images if they are calling for it, I make sure they all work well together, side by side.
If you have a client request a certain type of look that isn’t normally what you like or typically do, will you bend for them or is it okay to tell that client “no?”
I am a stickler for turning away a client if I think our styles aren’t meshing. I want people to love their images, and most clients come to me because they liked the style of my work, so I don’t have a problem letting them know that they need to trust me as an artist to produce the type of work that they were drawn to in the first place. I guess I have grown a lot in my photography journey to finally be in a place where I don’t feel the need to jump at every client request.
I see you sell photoshop “actions”. How did you decide to branch out into making those and selling them? Have you found that portion of your business to be a success?
I started creating actions for my own use several years ago to ease my workflow. I started with basic workflow processes that I wanted to be able to accomplish faster, and I was also creating so many different artistic looks for my sessions that I wanted to record the steps so I could duplicate them whenever I wished. Not only did I see a huge increase in the speed of my workflow, but I found that I absolutely adored the process and creativity that goes into designing actions. I started getting requests and inquiries on line about my processing style and the textures I had created for use in my own work. It just blossomed from there and I absolutely ADORE it! And, yes, I have been very blessed in being able to create beautiful things to help provide for my family. I feel very honored that other photographers are using my designs to make their own photographs shine.
That is awesome Annie! Okay, few more questions. What do you shoot with? What is your favorite lens? What piece of equipment is on your wish list?
I shoot with a Nikon D700 and my absolute favorite lens is my 85mm 1.4G. Dream equipment? Hmmmm … maybe a tilt shift lens next?
Gotta love a Nikon D700 girl for sure!! And finally, what five pieces of advice would you give people just starting out in their business adventures? What do you wish someone would have told you when you were first starting?
1. Find your own style and be true to it.
2. Have a budget when first starting out and realize that it’s the photographer that makes a great photo, not the camera or gear.
3. Charge what you are worth and be confident that you are worth it.
4. Practice, practice, practice. Take photos of *everything* and hone your skills and style.
5. Soak up as much knowledge as possible … be proactive in educating yourself about your camera, lighting, exposure, etc.
Thank you so much for sharing with us Annie! It was great having you featured this week!
images in this post are (c) Paint The Moon Photography
If you have any questions that you’d like to see answered in future Business interviews, leave those as well!
Much Love & Happiness ~Heidi