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Friday, April 16, 2010

MG3Media: Arts to Entrepreneurs - Pt. 2

Photographers sharing their business approach to the Arts - Three Part Series

As a photographer, how would you further describe yourself as an entrepreneur?
Most photographers, except staff photographers, are entrepreneurs simply by the nature of the industry.  We're all self-starters.  We create our own schedules and run the full spectrum for our businesses from booking to marketing, accounting to creating albums.  These businesses are run, if not alone, in partnerships or small groups.  Actually taking the photographs has proven to be a rather surprisingly small part of my job as a photographer. But, it continues to be the most exciting part and that's what keeps me in this business.

I run two small businesses, both photography based, but very different from development stages to end results for clients.  One is focused entirely on wedding photography, 'So Many Moments', and the other is the catch-all for the other jobs that find me.

How would you describe your style of photography?
Since I run two companies,  I have two distinct answers.
For weddings, my style is all about the moments, hence the name 'So Many Moments'.  My goal is to unobtrusively document the big day with style!  I want to capture what ACTUALLY happens as beautifully as possible.  When choosing a wedding photographer, I think it's really important the couple find an artist who really reflects their personal style.  Some photographers set up a lot of shots during a wedding.  For instance, some may go so far as to fake an exchange of the rings after the ceremony, to get that tight shot of the hands. To me, that's cheating the couple out of their day.  Either throw on a long lens, and snap that shot while it's actually happening or find something better to shoot at that moment.  But at least be real!  Because when the couple sees that hand photo, they'll remember the photographer faking the shot after the ceremony; I want my clients to remember the actual moment they exchanged the rings instead. That's the difference to me.  I want my couple's to enjoy their wedding days with their guests, not to spend the day posing for shots.

For freelance portraiture work, I prefer the polar opposite.  Like my earliest idol David LaChapelle, I prefer to bend reality in my portraits rather then tell the truth. "People say photographs don't lie, mine do."  I like to think I build moments or scenes for just long enough to take a photograph of them to prove they existed, even if only for a little while.. I have some big budget fantasy shoots living in my dreams and sketchbooks waiting for the right client to come along, but in the meantime I make the best of what's around.  A recent portrait I took of my friend Kalle, for instance, is her wearing a red throw blanket from her bed, balancing on her grandfather's old milking stool in her side yard.  That's a zero$ budget photo; we made something we can be proud of from nothing.  Maybe that's creativity at it's core, and entrepreneurial, too. 

Do you have a few images you can share with us?
I would love to!!!  The following is a sampling of both my portraiture work and some recent wedding photography from So Many Moments.

*Photographs Courtesy of Samantha Yeakle.  All Rights Reserved. 

Did you go to school to learn photography, or are you self-taught?
I took my first photography class in high school, and while it changed my life, it did not inspire me to focus on photography as a profession.  I had always heard that to work in photography was ridiculously competitive. During another photo class in college, a neighbor asked me to take her portrait and she paid me $40.  Her friend liked the photos and hired me.  I charged $60.  It just sort of grew from there.  Within a year, I was seeing my photos published on album covers and in magazines so I quit working behind bars to work behind my camera full time.  As it turned out, the people who told me photography was competitive were correct, it's an insane business.  But the constant challenge keeps me excited and on my toes.  I can't imagine doing anything else.

As an artist, how important do you think it is to have "good business sense", and what specific steps have you taken to insure your business success?
My business is a success because I've made people happy and enjoyed the journey in doing so. Success, for me, is about doing something that means something.  If I'm given the opportunity to document an important day in someone's life, or create a portrait of them, I feel that's a great honor.  I hope my photos will live longer then I will and the custom albums I create will become family heirlooms. I find pride in that.

How do you balance the artistic and business requirements of your work? 
I'm in the business of making art, not business. There isn't so much balance as there is unity. The art comes first, that's what I'm creating for people, the business falls in line behind it. I've enjoyed learning about marketing, advertising, accounting, web design, and how to conduct meetings.  My background in graphic design has helped me develop my own business cards, price menus, logo and brochures but, it's all a process.  It's always evolving. I'm always moving forward, sometimes more slowly then others, but a forward motion none the less.  And if I ever stop moving forward, if somehow one day I don't care anymore, then I'll quit.  I can't stand to meet jaded vendors, especially in the wedding industry.  If you don't love what you're doing, it's time to find something else to do.

Did  you or do you currently have a mentor that guides your business growth?
I wish I did have a mentor when I was starting out. I spent the first couple years learning a lot by good old fashioned trial and error. More recently I've found people who are happy to help me.  I've written and received replies from photographers I admire, and have found support simply in having friends who also use cameras either often or professionally.  The friends who are happy to have techy conversations late into the night discussing the pros and cons of different lenses and other gear have certainly been a fantastic influence. Most notably, my talented boyfriend

What inspires your work most?
When I first saw "LaChapelle Land" in high-school it changed my world.  It was innovative, sexy, exciting, humorous, and shockingly beautiful.  It spoke to me as nothing else ever had. It was my definition of art, and his collection of books still live front and center on my coffee table today.  He was so bold!  Now there's a flock of us mimicking his reckless love of saturated color and the unusual sense of reality.  Now I find myself inspired by all sorts of artists. Mostly unknown, or struggling, but all so beautiful in their own expressions.

Since moving to Portland, I've been very inspired by my environment.  I want to pay homage to the city with a photo series which I'll shoot this spring/summer.  It will be my first complete body of work suitable for showing. It will also be, by far, the largest scale project I've ever tackled and most demanding, as far as technicality and gear is concerned.  To say I'm really excited to see it all come to life is an understatement.  I can't wait!

Thank you Samantha for taking the time to meet-up with MG3Media to share your thoughts on entrepreneurship with our new business community!

For our readers, if you'd like to learn more about Samantha and her work, please visit her website:

Have an Entrepreneurial Insight or Story To Share?

1 comment:

Bridget said...

What a joy to read your interview depicting your photographic journey thus far. And what a journey it it, with so much further to travel and document through your camera lens. You make me so proud, my unbelievably talented daughter. Keep the photos coming, I can't wait for more!