This week's feature for PhotoFANatic Friday is all about Betsy King from Fort Wayne, Indiana. She's got a ton of talent and also has a great brand combined with beautiful storytelling. I feel like seeing the images on her blog are only part of her skill...the way she opens up and let's the reader in is totally awesome! I can tell that she's going to be very successful in this business because photography is all about selling yourself and therefore your work (this I know from meeting many wonderful photographers and reading Dane Sanders awesome book Fast Track Photographer!).
Betsy's products run the gamut for families. She shoots maternity, babies, children, seniors, and families. Her work is crisp and clean and filled with emotion. She also has the same name as my cousin. ; )
Okay, enough of my thoughts...let's get down to business!
1. How long have you been shooting and what kind of training do you have? I have always loved art and photography and even though I had experience with dark room and playing with pinhole cameras growing up, I didn't have the confidence in myself to pursue it in college. As a matter of fact, I started out in an art program, but chickened out. Yep, I'm a late bloomer. BIG TIME. For years I ignored the artistic part of me and tried doing other avenues until I could no longer ignore it. (You'll read more about that below when I talk about my brand.) I picked up my first dslr camera when I was pregnant with my son in 2006 and once he was born, I photographed him every day and absorbed as much information as I could through practice, books and information on the internet. My husband taught me about ISO, aperture and shutterspeed, which he knew from just being the smarty pants he is. (God bless him for explaining it to me 85 times.) I had a good friend, Bobbi Sheridan of Bobbi + Mike Photography who was very supportive of me as I grew and would help me along the way. I never dreamed of doing it professionally, but people saw my personal blog I kept of my life with my son and the calls for portrait sessions came rolling in. (I was seriously that mom with a dslr that I'm sure totally annoyed "real photographers" like crazy.) However, the photography community (both online and locally in Fort Wayne, Indiana) has been amazingly supportive of me and kind. (For that I am eternally grateful!) I quickly threw together a business the fall of 2007 and worked insanely hard to keep up with everything that first year. I ran the first year of my business with my husband under the name "Betsy & John Photography." My husband is a composer with his own business so as my business grew, he struggled to have time for both. So I changed my business to just me, "Betsy King Photography", this past January, 2009.
I feel like I have had my own personal workshop whenever I need it as some of my closest friends are amazing photographers and I can go to them for help and inspiration. I have been very blessed to be surrounded by very giving talented people. However, I have gone to the David Jay Free to Succeed tour seminar and I did attend the Brianna Graham workshop in Michigan this past spring. My post processing has grown a lot since that workshop. (Though I spend more time on it now.)
2. What equipment do you use? Favorite lens? My camera is a Canon 5D with a battery pack, prime lenses and natural light. My favorite lens is my workhorse 50 1.4. I'm pretty barebones with my equipment, but honestly, I'm ok with that right now. I'm getting the job done. My goal is to obtain the 50 1.2 eventually. I sometimes grab my 28 when I need something wider. My 85 has been collecting dust all year. I need to rediscover that lens. If I'm in a wooded area I'll grab my reflector, and I always have it with me, but these days, I keep things simple, using natural reflectors like buildings or concrete.
3. What has been the biggest factor in taking your images to the next level? This one is really hard, because I feel like I'm still learning and growing so much. Looking back through, I think as my post processing knowledge has grown, so has the look of my work. Also, I think once I focused on the light more (and the setting less) and my connection with the person I'm photographing, my images went to the next level as well.
4. Your brand is very unique. Tell us a little bit more about how you came up with it! As I pondered what I wanted my new new look to be, I ended up needing to go back and look at where I have come from. I was making a logo that will symbolize my photography work, but I was also branding myself as the artist of the images I create. I really wanted it to have deep meaning to me. Through out my life I have allowed myself to feel trapped by what I thought other people wanted me to be. The child in me once said, “I want to be an artist.” However, the voice I listened to was the that of the people who said, “Be a teacher.” When I realized that wasn’t the path I was meant to do, I listened to another voice that said, “Sell this stuff that you’re not passionate about.” Though that path lead me to learn many things and meet so many wonderful people, I still felt very trapped. I was stuck in a cage of what I thought I was supposed to be doing, not what my heart truly wanted to do. Then I experienced the deepest loss I have ever felt. I lost my husband to cancer. He was full of passion and talent, but as hard as he fought to live, he had to leave all of that behind. From that point on, I knew that I needed to fill the days I have left with what my heart is meant to do. The times in my life when I felt trapped is where the cage in my logo came from. It’s not a big ugly cage; because that cage, or those experiences where I felt trapped, taught me many things about the world and myself. So it’s not a bad thing at all, considering how much I learned from those experiences. The bird? Yep, I’m that bird, who is free from the cage and ready to fly.
What else does the cage and the bird mean? Well, I suppose it’s up for anyone’s translation but I also wanted it to portray the idea that my photography is outside of the box. (Too bad “thinking outside of the cage” isn’t a popular phrase…) My clients are that happy little bird and I’m photographing them, not just in front of the confinements of a backdrop, but out in the world, flying free.
I came up with the idea of the bird and the cage, but my amazzzzzing graphic designer, Ryan Hunley of Second Street Creative put it all together for me. I wanted the look to be quirky, imperfect and approachable. Like how I (hopefully) come across. I knew I liked yellow, but he put the color pallete together, my blogsite background and my marketing materials. Handing all of that over to a graphic designer was the BEST decision I have ever made.
5. What was the best piece of advice you were given when you were just starting out? I recall my friend Bobbi telling me to just shoot what I love, and I'll keep attracting that. To this day, I remind myself to focus on what I love and It's so true. For example, I truly love photographing high school seniors. I spend the majority of my energy communicating with them and I feel like my love of photography really shows when I shoot them, so they are starting to be the bulk of my business. (Yippee!!!) What can I say? I'm still 17 deep inside.
Some technical words of advice I recall getting? Don't let your shutter speed slip below 160. Don't shoot women from below. Use Lightroom to expedite the processing process and don't get too caught up in Photoshop. (Those words of advice were promptly negated when I went to the Brianna Graham workshop...)
Ok, now for advice that I learned from mistakes I made early on: A photography business can (and will!) take over your life if aren't careful. Set boundaries early for yourself and for others. Block days off in the week and during the month you won't shoot. Only shoot what you love and let the rest slide. My first year of business I photographed everything and anything that came along and gave up a lot of family time to shoot and edit. I know photographers need to do that to get their feet wet, but I think I could have handled my time better. Here's where the harsh life lesson comes in: The first holiday season I shot like an idiot. I took on EVERYBODY who needed christmas cards that year and had no cut off date. I didn't know I had the right to say no to people. When it came time for me to host my family Christmas gathering amongst all the craziness, I was in the worst mood, totally stressed out and wasn't really present for my family. Oh, and it was also my baby's first Christmas too. January came and I was obsessively shooting as much as I could and on the high of creating my business. At the end of that month, my sister succumbed to depression and took her own life. Everything fell away and I saw myself focused on everything except my own family. The last time I saw my sister was at that Christmas gathering and I wasn't even fully myself. As much as I wanted to, I couldn't change what had happened, but I could change how I lived my own life. I knew then that I would never (ok, I would try very hard) to not let my photography business stress me out or take over my life so much that I can't be present for my family. I only shoot 4-5 sessions a month and I don't shoot in December anymore. So my advice is to put your family first, if that is really important to you. If I don't have a strong family life, I can't do my job as a photographer well.
See what I mean about her opening up and sharing herself? I'm certain her clients love her all the more for it and refer her left and right!!!
Thank you Betsy, SO MUCH, for sharing with us and letting us in!!!