I have very few photographs of myself as a child. I hated having my picture taken. And as an adult and a professional photographer, that just breaks my heart. There are almost no documentations of Christmases past, or BBQ’s or my sporting events as a child. These special moments are so important to your family history. That is why I love what I do. I get to capture the most cherished moments and preserve them forever. What is better than that honor? I have been a professional photographer for 24 years! (I almost have a hard time reading that myself!) My career definitely has not gone the way I originally anticipated, but I wouldn’t change a thing. What I have come to realize is when being an entrepreneur, change is essential to remaining relevant. Technology has changed, the way we advertise has changed, customer service has changed and our work environment has changed. For many of us, it’s probably easier to resist it, but I learned the hard way that unless you embrace it, you’re going to sink really fast. Let me back track a bit.
My original course of study was photojournalism. I was going to change the world with my photographs. And in a way, I think I did in my decade-long journalism career. But life happened.I had a child and I didn’t realize chasing fires and natural disasters wouldn’t be conducive to being a mom. So I had to change gears. I had no formal training in portraiture, but I took my journalistic skills and began photographing babies and pregnant women in a more candid style that fit my training and skill set. What I didn’t know 13 years ago is that I was “expert” in this genre they call lifestyle. (I didn’t know what I did had a name!) I think during this phase, I really became enamored with the female body and the power of helping women feel beautiful; even at a time when their body seemed so foreign. Fast forward 8 years and I slowly began moving into event photography and started my boudoir business. It was such an exciting time as I was truly beginning to learn some new techniques The digital cameras were getting so much better and I was loving what I was able to create. In 2012 I rebranded my business to VeroLuce Photography, which was more representative of the type of business I was turning into, offering a variety of different types of styles. I was becoming known for tasteful boudoir, personality based head shots and timeless events. But I wanted more. More of an opportunity to stand out and be unique. I started investing in more equipment and training. With the evolution of the quality of cell phone cameras, I had to find ways to make photographs that iphone users didn’t think they could do just as well. I honed my style and became internationally awarded and recognized.
That leads me to today. 2018/2019 has definitely been a year for change, yet again. I decided to completely shift gears and create a 5 year plan to delve into the fashion and advertising world. I still get to do all of the other types of photography I love, but I wanted to challenge myself to learn a completely different genre. I recently took a workshop, networked with agents and editors and cultivated relationships with editors who were willing to take me under their wing and train and educate me. If I’m being honest, it’s also quite a scary time. It is not easy unlearning all of the skills I’ve used for over 20 years. With fashion, those same rules don’t quite apply. I’ve been studying other photographers and reading magazines, following model on social media and have spent hours on the phone with my editor critiquing my images; just like when I was a young photojournalist. It’s exciting and at the same time overwhelming. But I needed a change. My industry was changing in ways I wasn’t happy about so I needed to make decisions that would keep me relevant during the second half of my career. It’s so important to recognize when you need to close one door to open another, and when your time in that particular genre is up. I had to make those hard decisions this year and then prepare for what I’m going to realistically be able to do as I age in an industry that’s hard on your mind and body. As I reflect back on 24 amazing years, all of the failures that taught me valuable lessons and the successes that made the failures all worth it, I do have unique wisdom for the young entrepreneurs and photographers.
Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits? How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?
As much as your family and friends love you and want to see you succeed, chances are you will not get the validation from them that you crave. Friends will often expect free services and family don’t want to see you struggle so instead of encouragement they may try to tell you to find a new career. It can be very shocking and upsetting. But if you know this going in, you can prepare. I have special rates I offer friends and family, but personally I don’t necessarily do “free” for anyone unless I decide to on my terms. If someone asks or expects it, chances are, that’s not going to happen.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
Take business courses. I never did and that is the most difficult part of running a business. You can be superb as an artist but you need to remember the purpose of a business is to be profitable and learn how to do your books and keep track of all of those receipts and business expenses! We’re all guilty of envying some of our competition and obsession over how they’re more successful, etc. Try to take a step back when you realize you’re doing that and focus on the changes you want to make to YOUR business. Be a better version of YOU each day. Don’t worry about your haters or competition.
What advice would you give to an upcoming entrepreneur locally and internationally?
Get out and meet your clients for coffee or a drink. Make an in person connection. It is so important to connect personally and create a bond. Don’t just rely on text and emails.
Network, network, network.
Step away from your computer and talk to people. You are your business and can sell it best. Find networking organizations that you feel you can give to and believe in and your business will grow organically.
Failure is good.
We are going to make decisions that seem good at the time but end up shooting us in the foot. Embrace it. Learn from it. Move on. It’s so important to fail ( or what initially presents itself as a failure) to grow as an entrepreneur.
There’s always something new to learn. I don’t feel any of us will ever know everything there is to know about a business. Learn, innovate, change. It keeps you fresh. And invest in a business coach. Being held accountable is so important and a coach is always pushing you to be the best you can be.
Learn to delegate.
Of course we want to control every part of our business, but a good business person knows their strengths and weaknesses. Stick to what you do best and leave the rest to others.
I’m a big believer in a gorgeous business card.
That may be one of the first impressions someone has of your business. Get the best you can afford as it will make a lasting impression more that you can imagine.
Give referrals freely to those other entrepreneurs you respect. The more you give, the more you will get in return. It’s just the way it works. It feels great to help another business and it helps build your relationship with others in your community.