Meet Keri Meyers :: {Women In Business, Series}

NTERVIEW WITH KERI MEYERS PHOTOGRAPHY, Seattle, Wa.

Hi Keri! I am so thrilled to feature you on my blog in this edition of Women In Business! Your newborn photography is phenomenal, and I so admire your artwork. How long have you had your own photography business? Hi! Thank you for having me! I started my photography business in October of 2008. It was slow at first, but I stuck with it because I knew I had it in me to make this dream come true…as cheesy as it sounds.

How did you get started in the industry? Let’s see. Once I got my business under way and I felt confident in my work I began networking with other photographers and industry artists, including prop makers. I have a great group of peers that I admire and respect. In addition to my photography, I also make and sell hanging newborn slings and work with other prop vendors and photography related businesses. I love to share when I come upon a great business or prop vendor that I love. Great prop makers are true artists and should also be recognized for their talents. I like to feature my favorite prop makers and photography related businesses on my blog. All of these wonderful little networks of peers and businesses have helped me move forward in this industry. Most of all, I have gained life long friendships. This industry is full of wonderful people and I feel incredibly fortunate to call many of these people my friends.

When you were just beginning your business, how did you reach new clients? How did you best get your name out there in the world? Facebook has been huge for me. Let’s face it, if you don’t have a Facebook page you need to get one. It’s a great tool to connect with your clients and potential clients. Once I found my passion, newborns and children, I decided I needed to target my clientele. I believe in the power of networking, both online and in the local community. Once I found my business focus I got in touch with other local businesses in my area that catered to moms expecting and with small children. I struck up a relationship with these businesses owners and we worked together to help promote each other. I offered to display their business cards/fliers in my studio in exchange for displaying my work. I rarely spend money on advertising. As mentioned above, I have worked very hard to get my name out there by working with other mom-targeted businesses. In the beginning I offered joint giveaways with other local businesses and set up shop at local family fairs. Once the ball got rolling client referrals set in and that is now how I get 90% of my business. Some find me via Internet searches, but I don’t pay for any online advertising.

How did you know you wanted to specialize in newborns/ infants? When I first started out I tried everything from babies, to seniors, to families and weddings. I quickly realized that weddings were NOT my thing. After photographing several newborns I knew I had found my niche. I absolutely love, love, love photographing newborns. I love the creativity it allows me with each session. I enjoy matching blankets and hats and finding new props. I love meeting new parents and hearing their stories about welcoming their new little family members into the world. After each session I am so excited to start editing the photos from that day. Newborns are a gift and it is such a pleasure to be able to document those first few days of life for my families.

Do you ever photograph anything other than newborns? Yes, absolutely. I think it is so important to try everything when you are first starting out. Find what you are good at and passionate about. I’ve photographed a handful weddings and quickly realized I don’t do weddings.  I’ve photographed high school seniors (which are fun), families and children. I’ve even photographed a couple of dogs! After a short time I knew newborns would be my specialization, but I continue to photograph children and families as well.

How long does a typical newborn session last? Do you ever have a baby that just won’t go to sleep? Do you have any tricks up your sleeve on this matter? My sessions usually last about three hours – that leaves time for nursing if needed. If I have what I call a touchy baby, I try to get the most out of each pose by way of different hats and/or headbands. Shoot at different angles to change things up. I have had my share of not so sleepy babies. In these cases, I resort to wrapped shots.  Being all wrapped up sometimes even encourages them to fall asleep. In my experience you can usually get the baby back to sleep if you work at it.

What does your set up look like or consist of? Do you use all natural light or do you have studio lights? Do you use reflectors? I prefer to use natural light. I don’t know the first thing about studio lighting.  My main light source is a south facing sliding glass door/window. Ideally, you want a west-facing window in the morning and an east-facing window in the evening. But, with the way my studio was built this just wasn’t going to happen. It’s not a big deal though; if it’s too sunny I just diffuse the light with a white curtain. I have a large reflector, but I usually only pull it out if I’m photographing a family and it is a dark day. I do live in Seattle where the fall and winter are rather wet and dreary. Luckily with my large window this hasn’t been an issue. To take advantage of the best light I schedule my sessions in the mornings, usually starting at 10am. Here a few shots of my studio. My typical set up includes my Newborn Nest and my Savage Backdrop Stand. I clamp my blanket to my backdrop stand and pull really tight! For prop shots I use the space in front of the sliding glass window. I like to keep it simple.
 My shooting area.
 Sitting area and prop storage.
 Sitting/Nursing area.

How long have you been mentoring? How did you decide to branch out into mentoring other photographers? I have been mentoring other photographers for about a year now. I had never thought about mentoring others, but I had several photographers express interest in coming out to spend a day in the studio with me. So, after some thought I decided to start offering 1:1 and small group workshops. I really prefer the smaller groups because I feel a smaller teacher to student ratio maximizes results. I want each photographer that leaves my studio to feel they got what they came for and more. I want them to leave confident that they have the tools to take their newborn photography to the next level.

What do you think your BEST business decision has been so far? I would have to say networking and building relationships. In this business I believe is it important to build positive relationship with both your clients and your peers.  If your clients love your work, but love you even more they are going to gush about you to their friends. In the photography world, the same goes.

What is something you wish someone would have told you when you were first starting out? Get an accountant/bookkeeper! Ugh. The business side of things is my least favorite part of being a business owner. It is so important to understand the business side of things before jumping in feet first. I think a lot of us jump in and figure out the business side later, I know I did. At the end of my first year when tax time came around I was scrambling trying to figure things out. So, my other piece of advice is to stay on top of your bookkeeping and get organized and stay organized. I now use QuickBooks and I don’t know what in the world I was doing without it.  If your state charges sales tax, find out how much you need to be charging and on what because you will pay for it later if you don’t. Most might say to shoot in RAW or something that has to do with camera settings or editing, but I have found that making my own mistakes and learning from them has played a huge role in developing my style as a photographer and as an artist. I remember having all these “ah-ha” moments along the way when I figured out a new trick to shooting or post processing.  Each little mistake and ah-ha moment has made me the photographer/business woman I am today.

What are five things you couldn’t live without in this business? 1)Facebook . I love Facebook for keeping in touch with clients and other photographers around the world. It is an amazing tool. 2)QuickBooks. I know there are other programs out there, but I just happened to settle on QuickBooks. It helps keep me organized. 3) My 50mm 1.4. I {heart} that lens and the yummy bokeh it provides! 4) CS5. I adore Photoshop. 5)My husband. He keeps me grounded. He reminds me that e-mails will still be there tomorrow and I can get to them later. Owning your own business is a lot of work, especially if you are a “one-woman show”. My husband always puts me in check and helps me keep my priorities in line.

So you have an amazing husband it sounds like! Do you have any children of your own? How do you seem to balance your family time / work time? I have been married to my amazing guy for 5 years. We have two small boys, ages 2 and 3. Balancing family and work is a challenge. It is a constant juggling act and I am still working on the perfect balance between work and family. My best advice is don’t be afraid to say no. Sometimes you just have to. I know it’s hard to turn a potential client away, but don’t overwork yourself. We do this because we love it and we are passionate about our art. You don’t want the quality of your art to suffer because you are overworked and stressed about getting a gallery finished for your client.
In the last few months I have really tried to set hours for myself and to stick to those hours, my husband helps me with that.  I am learning to step away from the computer and get back to e-mails during “business hours”. As a customer I know how important it is to get immediate feedback. But, as a mom and wife my family has to be my number one priority – those e-mails will have to wait. I think most clients and customers can understand that.

Loved that last answer! Another more personal question here, how do you keep your marriage safe from the stresses of owning and operating your own business? Excellent question. You’re really hitting home now!  In short, it takes EFFORT and WORK. As a business owner working from home it is hard to separate business and family time. So, I have made it a priority to schedule days off for family get-a-ways. My husband and I also have made it a priority to find a babysitter so we can have date nights more frequently. It is so easy to get consumed by your business and work. It is yours and you want it to be successful. But, if it starts to get in the way of your family and marriage then it becomes a problem. I think with careful planning and balance we can avoid these stresses, but it does take a conscious effort.

Great advice! Okay so, where do you find your inspiration? What things other than photography influence your art?
When I first started out I would spend hours on Flickr looking for inspiration. After time, I found myself busier and busier and haven’t had the time to take advantage of all of the wonderful inspiration on Flickr. I now find inspiration from simple things I see while out shopping. I will see a blanket or piece of fabric while out and about and have to have it. I will immediately picture a baby snuggled in or on the item and start going through my hat collection in my head and decide which hat (or headband) I will use to complete the image. My style is very simple and clean. My focus always remains on the newborn. I keep my props to a minimum so that they don’t overpower those little babies. I want families to look at their photos years down the road and love them every bit as much as they did when they first set eyes on them. I don’t want them to cringe at the props that I have selected, so I look for props that are natural with earthy tones.

And finally, what three pieces of advice would you give someone who maybe lost or stagnate where they are in their current business, what would you suggest? My best advice is to find your style and what reflects you as an artist. Try everything. If you are just starting out try shooting children, newborns, seniors, families and weddings. Experiment with different post processing techniques. You will soon find what you are most passionate about. Develop that passion and your style. Keep on shooting! Don’t get discourage if you’ve made a few mistakes along the way. I have become the photographer I am today because of the silly mistakes I made and will continue to make. Finally, find a support system. There are several great online forums in which you can interact with other photographers around the world; my personal favorite is Rock The Shot. These forums offer a wealth of information that surely inspire you and help develop your passion and style.

Thanks again Keri! I am so happy to feature you and your thriving business in this series!

images in this post are (c) Keri Meyers Photography
Did you enjoy this edition of my {Women In Business Series} ? I’d love to hear from you! Also if you have any questions that you’d like to see answered in future Women In Business posts please leave those below!
Please let Keri Meyers know how much you appreciated her words of wisdom, I’m sure she’d love to hear from you as well!
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As always, thanks for stopping by ~ Heidi
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