I had the privilege of doing an interview with my friend and longtime colleague, Joy Phillips of Joy Danielle Editor + Designer. She plays a very important role in my business.
So, here's your invitation to step behind the scenes with us as we divulge small beginnings and what really goes on behind the curtain with our Charming brands.
1. What do you enjoy the most about being a photographer?
I adore the lifestyle that photography has afforded me the last ten years. Granted there have been times to step back and allow it to float and times to lean in and push to the next level. Over all my business has afforded me the luxury to grow with it. I was only just a kid when I took the first step (with my dad's prompting) to sign a lease and open my doors as a portrait studio.
Now my business runs virtually as well as on location in Chicago. For a few years I had the opportunity to be apart of a brick and mortar business community, yet another growing experience. Seasonal industries force you to learn quickly to think outside the box. The 'outside the box' thinking I wish I'd done in my twenties was taking some accounting classes!
2. How many photo shoots do you average a year?
This is a multi level question so stick with me a minute.
My portrait company, Everyday Charming, averages 25 high school and established family sessions per year. By 'established family' I'm referring to families with children mostly over twelve years. I find at this stage families are wanting to capture life before becoming empty nesters - or having quieter nests!
We spend weeks planning for these sessions; perfecting clothing choices, measuring for future canvas to hang and choosing the shoot location to compliment their home decor. Literally each element is planned before these sessions ever happen.
My younger sibling site, Charming Child, is the polar opposite. Specializing in children's lifestyle photography, Charming Child focuses on kids 0-12 years being their crazy cool selves. As you might image nothing is planned or contrived as we document their lives.
This side of the Charming brand has only begun last August. My associate photographers shot at a break neck pace the last season, nearly 50 sessions.
Since these lifestyle shoots are far less involved then Everyday Charming's portrait sessions, we can pop in and out of client's homes in less then 2 hours and offer a rate young parents can afford multiple times a year.
Our newest addition, Charming in Love, shows off our romantic side. We've only just launched this Valentines Day and are currently booking 2016 brides. It's wild how far in advance we must plan but it keeps us on our toes. We've projected 10 weddings for 2015 specializing in sophisticated nuptials for the couple who adores classic glamor. Stay tuned.
3. How has outsourcing your photo editing improved your business model?
It's always been very important to me to keep my business clear and concise in the services we offer. For years I've turned down photographing weddings because I knew the infrastructure was not in its perfect place. I had two specialties with Everyday Charming and my clients knew what they could expect.
I began outsourcing my editing during a huge boom in business five years ago. I was over worked and worried if I held on to too many of the key pieces they would eventually come crashing down around me.
I also worried about the national statistic stating photographers on average continue their profession ten years. Ding, ding, ding… I have no intention of quitting at five, ten or thirty! Was this a massive noise in the back of my head?
Absolutely! I knew I needed editing systems in place and with a micro-managers attitude I contacted Joy. It took months to feel like I could loosen my grip on post production. I would meticulously scour her culled and retouched images to find not one overlooked. I'm embarrassed to think of the hours I've wasted repeating this task. But like handing your children off to the sitter for the first few times I held on.
5 years later relying on professional post processing is what keeps my businesses rolling each season. Before launching each branch of my brand I've worked hard to create a look and feel for post production that reflects its own style within my brand. It's become my secret to sanity sending off EVERY image after a session. Out of mind, out of sight. Like magic they reappear to be shared with our pleased clients. Bonus, this frees me to devote all my time to planning more unique sessions.
4. Describe your favorite shoes in your closet:
I just realized while dashing off to a photo shoot what kind of a relationship I have with my shoes. In the 3rd year of my business I had an entire wash basket full of broken, yet loved shoes, 20 some pairs. This career is hard on my foot's wardrobe. The basket boasted many heels snapped in half, rips in unlikely places and rubber soles peeling their way to freedom.
I was sad. I saved every last one in hopes of creating a shoe sculpture one day that would remind me of the pain involved in building a business. My favorite pair right now are probably the Valentino flats I wore to my wedding in March, very lady-like flats with some snarky gold studs.
5. What is the biggest challenge in running your own photography business?
Time management is my biggest struggle. I'm a born perfectionist who never knows when to say good enough.
6. Your favorite item in your makeup bag?
This is hard… I'm a product junky. There are three items that have stayed with me for years now… my Nars lipstick in Damage, Nars Sheer Glow foundation in Punjab and Laura Mercier highlighting powder in Startdust. Stardust isn't produced any longer so if you see me in a lady fight its probably over this shimmery little dust.
7. What accomplishment as a photographer are you most proud of?
I'm most amazed by the fact that I can shape my own destiny through a career as a photographer. I allow curiosity and passion to lead my business. If I have an interest (like perfecting skills in airbrush makeup or clothing styling or travel) I adjust my business model and search out a niche to fill.
There's a world of opportunity for small business living here in the States. It took living and traveling abroad to realize just how great this opportunity is. You only have to reach out for opportunities and then be willing to repeat daily to continue making it a reality. I can't really claim any of this accomplishment on my own. I'm blessed to have a loyal and supportive team behind me encouraging my next steps.
Liked this interview? Follow Joy Danielle for more on how to outsource your post production. She's created a video series of steps to speed up your photo selection process. Its her gift for coming along on the ride with her.