Featured Photographer: Laura Novak

Sat, Jan 1, 2011 How did you get started in photography?
I started out mainly photographing weddings, assisting a wedding photographer in college when I was living in the Boston area. After college I moved from Boston to Delaware and started my own photography business as a wedding photographer and loved all the wonderful people I met on that journey. After a few years, my wedding clients started having children and asked me to photograph their kids and this is when I absolutely fell in love with children’s portraiture. Since then, I have been photographing fewer weddings and more children – and now I book a few select weddings a year and mainly fill my calendar with families.
Who have been your influences in photography?
Truly… my clients inspire and influence my photography. The more I have an opportunity to get to know my clients, the better the images are. My favorite images are always of families that I know really well because by letting me ‘in’ I have more of an opportunity to tell their story through photography in a meaningful way. My best new ideas come from talking with customers and learning about what is important to them.
How would you define your style of photography?
I would say that my style is connected. It’s really important to me to be present during the photo sessions, to bring my heart and soul to the session and connect with my subject. Children know when you are just humoring them, or if you really care. They are very intuitive. I love to make images that tell the story of who a person is, my favorite images are often of customers I have known for a long time because I develop a relationship with the child and then communicate who they are through the photograph. I love it when a client says “wow, that is SO my child.” To me, the creative process of achieving a great image is a collaborative effort between myself and the subject.
What is one thing that has helped you grow your business?
Creating beautiful collections for the walls of our studio to give customer ideas of what to do in their homes. I think as a portrait photographer it’s really important to be able to show ideas and wall collections to your customers so they can imagine what the concept would look like in their homes. Now that we are onto our our third studio we have learned how to present our ideas and concept to clients in a way that is exciting to them. It’s important to me to create a space where immediately when the customer walks in they experience the five senses right away – smell (we usually have a candle lit), taste (there is usually candy out), sight (a simple, easy display to look at along with fresh flowers), touch (we usually try to have something tactile they can touch) and sound (we often have a light, relaxing XM station playing). Being able to host our clients in this way I think enhances the experience we are able to provide them.
Developing a strong team with positive people who have great values. Everyone in our company is required to read ‘how to win friends and influence people’ by dale Carnegie when they first start with us. The title is a little funny but it’s simply a book on practicing old fashioned values and simply how to be a nice person.
What is one failure that helped you grow as a business person or artist?
I love moving forward on a lot of different ideas at once, and over time I’m learning the importance of focus. It’s not only important for me, but for my staff, who needs leadership from me in the form of constantly communicating a consistent direction without switching gears every time I have a new idea. I still have new ideas all the time so I have make sure to stop myself and prioritize (it’s a work in progress!).
What is one piece of advice that you would give to a person that is in the first few years of their photography business?
Start out with a business plan – know how much money you need to get going, the kind of customers you want to bring in the door and take the time to understand what is going to be required. Most people I have talked to in my workshops (women especially) fall into the photography by accident and don’t really have a plan for what they are going to charge, how they are going to get customers, how much money it is going to take to start and when they can start taking a salary. Then they are not taken very seriously by their spouses or family and become upset or frustrated which creates conflict. It’s always best to establish expectations in advance – for yourself and everyone else in your life!
Laura Novak is a marketing and pricing guru. I love her stuff. I learned a ton from her Strategy Avenue DVD and Work Book. You can get 50% off the price of Strategy Avenue with the code “fallsale”. Additionally, check out her “Living the Dream” workshop. It is an experience you’ll never forget.
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