Julie has so much to share. She started her photography business over 10 years ago and just recently started another business, Photopantz. Amazing!
Q: What inspires your photography?
The fabulous juxtaposition of curiosity and control. There’s a saying “The difference between a pro and an amateur is that a pro knows what the image is going to look like before they click the shutter.” I agree, but I’m so curious and ready to be thrown into chaos…action & vibrance are as a necessity, born in unpredictable moments. The photos of my own wedding are excellently exposed, but flatly lit, and have no action. There was no emotional connection between the photographer and anyone. That was 1998 and I had no idea it meant so much to me until it was too late. I remember thinking, “Man, if I was a wedding photographer, I know EXACTLY how I would act. I would pay emotional attention to the bride, her mom, her best friends… I would b.s. with the whole wedding party, learn names, really immerse myself in their family, you know? So that’s what I did. And I realized that clients had such a need for reassurance…reassurance that they were really being heard. That, coupled with my surrender of complete control, is what makes photography totally fascinating to me. Sometimes I say to a high school senior “Hey, this moment is awkward…but this is EXACTLY the tension that’s gonna take us to Awesome ImageLand.” I am able to build trust extremely quickly this way. Seriously, my favorite shoots are with seniors who don’t even want to be there!
I played alone a lot as a kid, on two acres…that must be part of why I’m predisposed to doing “my own thing.” I’m so comfortable being alone, I think it actually developed a heightened interest and curiosity about other people.
I have a deep empathy for how other people experience their journey of life. I know my subjects feel it when they are in front of my camera. If they are ANYTHING like me, they are hard enough on themselves…and since I’m the wielder of the “discomfort” device, the camera, I feel I have a great responsibility to counterbalance their discomfort.
I just realized that part of my flow is to almost “ignore” the camera when I am interacting with a client. With body language, you can make a big deal out of adjusting settings, or you can be subtle about it (depending on your client, either behavior could set them at ease, or increase paranoia! ? ). It is a huge leap when you recognize and accept the leadership role you have placed yourself in, by choosing to become a photographer. Your vibe & your thoughts guide the entire experience and can leave them feeling inspired about the possibilities in life! As you can probably tell, I’m completely inspired by the psychological side of photography…I seem to have always gravitated towards photographing people in times of transition: weddings, high school seniors, and new parents and babies. These are all times when I believe the best gift I can give my client is an inspiring image to absorb into their consciousness about who they are and who they are destined to become. Maybe some expectant moms or brides-to-be already exude confidence and a knowingness of who they are, and that’s awesome when I can tap into their energy immediately and collaborate at a deep level. But I honestly get the most pleasure out of subtly shepherding a client who may feel unsure about their impending transition in life, through laughter and remaining emotionally accessible to them. Through the act of participating in a session, they are demonstrating how they make decisions about “the unknown” (the image I’m making) based on the amount of trust they have in my direction, and how in touch they are with their gut instinct. It’s totally fascinating to me…lately I’ve been inspired by Jennifer B. Hudson and her work with women. That chick is INSANELY awesome!
Q. Two best marketing/promotion ideas for newbies?
Doing the studying/work you feel you need to do in order to feel confident about what you can offer clients. With confidence, it is nearly effortless to spread the word about what you do. Doesn’t that feel good to imagine? Read books, practice, learn, get coaching, get therapy, pray, throw knives, imagine life as a video game, do whatever you have to do to feel comfortable talking about what you have the ability to create. It is very important to remember, most people LOVE meeting a photographer! By introducing yourself or sharing what potential lies in knowing you, you are giving someone a “cool” story to tell their friends. So don’t be bashful, but of course don’t go on and on about it, either. Leave them wanting to know more. Every person I come into contact with routinely, knows I’m a photographer… my bank tellers/managers, my gas station attendant, my hairstylist, my insurance guy, my kids’ teachers, my chiropractor, my dentist; Dr Louie dentist, etc. Do all of these people in your life know what your photographic specialty is? Have they seen your work? Do they have your cards? ? Plant the seed of good intention as a habit and let go of any expectations.
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One of the best things about aspiring in business, is all of the self-development that occurs because of it. I’m so excited to guest blog and speak about what I’ve learned in the past decade! Developing my listening skills was HUGE… Knowing how to not “shrink inward” or “puff up”, but to feel grounded and “right sized” in social/networking situations was such a relief…Learning how to think about “worry” in a new perspective. Man, I indulged in worry “talk” because I thought that’s what everybody did. It came so naturally to talk about worrying. Well that’s not what “successful” people do. I think healthy thinkers realize they can use worry as a tool, in limited amounts. But for too many, worry fights against us, and it is destructive to our inspiration. I’m fascinated by how strongly and tightly worry can grip and hold us. With a perspective shift, I’ve felt worry slide right off me and feel a world away.
#2…I give each client 10 business cards with my favorite image on it from their session. I haven’t tracked data, but I think this highly increases the rate of exposure. Print off a sheet yourself from your photo printer using the best paper you can get your hands on, or order a sheet of cards along with your clients’ lab orders, if your lab can accommodate that. It’s little reminders…giving them a reason to mention you…that can make a big difference.
Q. What inspires me as a person?
I want to prove to myself that I’m scared of all the wrong things! I want to see how closely I can come to realizing my full potential before this life is all over. We have the easiest life of any other men and women who have ever lived. I mean, if Harriet Tubman, Amelia Earhart (did you know she worked as a photographer to earn money for flying lessons?!), & Madame Curie can accomplish what they did back then, just THINK of they would do NOW! I don’t say that to put pressure on anyone…in fact, I believe you are exactly where you are meant to be. But don’t marinate there because of fear. With a fire in your heart and a pioneering spirit, I believe all of us can develop an ability to sense clues as to what our unique and specific contributions are. Because of all of the self-development intertwined with the business of photography, it’s a wonderful way to discovering your purpose, even if specifically being a professional photographer isn’t the biggest contribution you will make to the world…(Madame Curie, a mom down in her laboratory, discovered and coined the term “radioactivity”!)
Q. What are you doing when you are behind the camera “shooting”?
When I’m not shooting, I might be throwing knives at the backyard target, talking philosophy in the garage with my husband, playing a mean tambourine in the music room…but the project that has taken over COMPLETELY in the past year has been….it’s still hard to believe… starting the first APPAREL company that makes shooting slacks especially for women photographers, Photopantz, LLC! It all began in my closet. I was so frustrated not having any nice black pants that did everything I wanted (look sleek, cover my bum when I bend, stretch and have discrete pockets for batteries, lens caps, biz cards, and smart phone, lip gloss). Me Ra’s encouragement and belief in me and my idea catapulted me into action. Next thing I knew, I was at a photography convention debuting the prototype pair. Then I was importing hundreds of yards of fabric, meeting with technical designers…it’s just the wildest thing EVER! I am SO excited to equip women photographers with the perfect pair of pantz that provides places for all of the necessary things for rocking their weddings! Just wait til you see the hidden “ninja” pockets in the cuffs for quick stash of spent batteries….or lip gloss!
Q: Where else might we find you when not editing or at a session?
ON the radio!! I began cohosting “Motivational Happy Hour” an AM radio show on the Chat With Women Network in the Seattle-Tacoma area this month with my cohost, Jennifer Westby. Talk about an amazing Mom!! She founded a non-for-profit that promotes random acts of kindness in the memory of her mom (http://www.momssixdays.com/) ! We are total newbies and there’s a lot to learn, but I TOTALLY dig radio! And guess what? Not only is it a fun way to talk about the reality of building businesses and following passions, the show streams online so you can listen live or to all of our archived shows.
Q. What is the best thing you have done for your business?
The best thing, hands down, that I have done for my business, is to pursue business coaching. I discovered Karen Buckley right here on Me Ra’s blog in 2007. I can’t even tell you how much I’ve came into my own since I dared to email her, and dared to believe I was worth the investment. I can say without hesitation, that it changed my life completely. Karen was even a guest on our radio show. Since then, I have found several teachers and mentors that have helped me through so many different stages of my businesses, and I am so blessed to be able to get support from them when their specific brand of inspiration is necessary to get me through a rough patch.
Q. What are the classes/DVDs/Workshops that you used to teach yourself photography?
I took B&W film photography in high school, and I have a B.A. in Psychology. But Me Ra’s Workshop in 2007 helped tremendously to shape me, as did Liana Lehman’s Business Bootcamp for Photographers (http://www.liana.tv/). Ken Whitmire’s Wall Portrait Conference (www.wallportrait.com) is a MUST as well! In the very beginning in 2000 I went to the library and checked out the big huge books with portraits in them. I didn’t read instructional photography books much…I was too intimidated by the technical stuff at that time…but I studied the old master’s portraits and took note of what aspects I loved and absorbed the composition, lighting, and my favorite part, guessing what the psychological situation was that brought about this single impactful moment. I also got a subscription to Professional Photographer Magazine and poured over it every month for years. It taught me to know what is important to “the pros” and what characteristics make up the successful photographers featured there.
Q. What equipment did you use when you started?
When I started in 2000, I shot with a Olympus z4040. It was a 4 megapixel and it cost $1000. It was NOT a DSLR, either!! No interchangeable lenses! So in those first few weddings I shot, I had to anticipate “the moment” and hit the button before “it” happened! Looking back, it sharpened my sense of anticipation. Couple that with my empathy for my subjects and that resulted in the specific style of my candid photos that eventually developed. Don’t ever use mediocre equipment for an excuse unless you’ve used and understand everything on it and pushed it to every limit. Figuring out a way to make it work is an ATTITUDE! Right now I shoot with two Nikon D700’s. I’m a huge fan of using reflectors to help with light, too.
Q. What’s the story behind this image?
I really believe that good can come out of bad in every situation. I try to live that. During a wedding I was shooting last September, the officiant didn’t show and no one could get a hold of him. Long story short (you can read it on my blog), after 45 minutes of the entire crowd waiting, I told the groom that I had been ordained online and that I could perform the ceremony. And five minutes later, the best man swapped his ‘lil Nikon for my $10k in gear. He shot the ceremony. Another groomsman tossed me an iphone with vows he found quickly on the internet. I was addressing the guests, and I performed the ceremony. It was one of the most exhilarating moments of my life and I’ll never forget it. For those 45 minutes we waited for the officiant, I told myself “no, don’t suggest that, you’re crazy, that’ll cause more problems, who do you think you are.” But something happened. I knew that all that talk was b.s. And in that next moment, I chose to listen to my gut. And I’ve been listening intently ever since.
Q. How do you know Me Ra and Soarority?
My mom showed me an article in the newspaper about Me Ra Koh in 2007. I was impressed by how quickly Me Ra became successful, especially with such a gentle energy. I am privileged to now assist Confidence Workshop Attendees when the workshops are here in the Seattle-Tacoma area. The inspiring attendees are all, in one way or another, in a time of transition with their photography. I love to float around and talk one-on-one with the attendees about whatever the major issue is they are working on with their photography. On the Soarority forum, I think I’ve found my niche as an image critiquer! Some women are so intuitive with their image making—they don’t know WHAT they did, but they know it’s SOMETHING impactful…giving my unique style of input as to the strengths and weaknesses I see in an emerging photographer’s image is a great way to give back.
WOW Julie! You are so incredibly inspiring! I can’t wait until Thursday night for your Ask and Learn. Join us from 5-7pm PST in the SOARORITY forum, for all the goodness! Thank you so much for sharing with us!