As a new year begins it’s such a time of reflection on the past year, and anticipation of the year to come. It’s kind of crazy to look back at the past year and realize all of the wonderful (and even not so wonderful) experiences we have had. So as we gear up for year 2014 we decided to narcissistically dedicate our first Small Business Series to…well…us. :-)
Can I take a moment tell you how terribly hard it was to take photos for this post? Mainly I think because when I think of our business, what comes to mind isn’t me at my desk, or Ryan looking dapper at a wedding. I really see my sweet little newborns taking a snooze, or my beautiful brides bursting with joy on their wedding day. No matter how many long, long, LONG hours I spend behind the camera (or probably more appropriately behind the computer), really so much of our business is made up of all of you who have invited us to capture special moments in your lives. So I guess I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for contribuiting to making Ely Fair Photography what it is.
So without further adieu, me where I spend most of mine (the computer), and Pete where he spends most of his– on the rug to the left of my chair. He knows that is the free hand to give him pets. And Ryan being handsome. :-)
Name: Elyse & Ryan Fair
Business Name: Ely Fair Photography
From Ely: Lemon Lime Cookies that my mom makes. They’re the best. Seriously so good. Mom, are you reading this…hint hint. From Ryan: Ely’s Strawberry Pie, so fresh and so delish. Or anything but cake, there now it is documented and published, I don’t like cake!
From Ely: Regina Spektor & Florence & the Machine. From Ryan: Ryan Adams, Wilco
When did you start your business? Officially in 2009
What inspired you to start it?
From Ely: I’ll take this question solo since it started with just me. And the answer is…I’m not really sure, haha. Ryan bought me a digital camera that year for Christmas, and I think it reminded how natural taking photos was for me. My high school had a photography class and a great darkroom set up. I think I fell in love with the magic of photography there, watching my photos develop under all the stinky chemicals. I think at that point photography became an extension of who I am, I just hadn’t realized it yet. I was really resistant to digital photography because I felt like it sucked the skill out of shooting your camera, but I think that being able experiment and learn technique and see results in a matter of seconds allowed me to have the confidence to put myself out there. So, I guess my answer is my digital camera inspired me? What a lame answer!!
What would you say was your biggest challenge to overcome?
From Ely: Making money! Haha! Simple, but true. Trying to figure out what to charge was (and still is) a hard thing to do. As a hobbyist it was easy for me to undercharge with out realizing it because it wasn’t my main source of income. But when I sat down and put into account how much time I really spent shooting and editing, the cost of keeping up my equipment, what it was going to cost for business and personal health insurance, taxes, and all the day to day stuff of running a business it was a lot more than I had anticipated. And I realized that I needed to value myself more, and also value the photography community around me and not drive down the prices because those people needed to make a living too.
I also think that another challenge for me is the isolation of running a business from my home. In my last job I was really fortunate to have a great working environment with co-workers that I really connected with and I miss that quite a bit. Good thing I have Pete to keep me company!
From Ryan: Learning how to shoot. Ely has great patience and has been a great teacher of photography for me. Younger Ryan would have never dreamed he’d be a photographer when he was older but here I am and it’s all thanks to Ely. The most difficult part wasn’t so much actually taking a picture but more of what to take a picture of. I constantly had to ask Ely why do you like this photo? Why is that a great pic? She hated answering those questions but she would do her best and it really helped me figure out what a great picture truly is and I’m still learning and still very much ask way too many questions.
Who/what was your biggest encouragement and why?
From Ely: There are several people that come to mind with this question, but I have to default to Ryan. There was a point when I was working full time, and photography was almost full time, and I would get home from work and eat a fast dinner and then edit until 2 in the morning almost every night. I was so exhausted all of the time, and I knew that something had to give. Because I was working so much, the life was sucked out of both of my jobs and I was ready to give up photography because going to a 9-5 that had no obligations outside of those hours was much more of an easy choice. But I remember Ryan’s words exactly “If we give up on this now, we will wonder for the rest of our lives what it could be.” So his unwillingness to give up is really what pushed me to do photography full time.
From Ryan: The answer for me is really Ely, but that’s too mushy and romantic. So I’m going to say my Dad. He may have thought at first we were a little crazy but he’s always been encouraging and especially as we continue on. He thinks we’re great (even if he’s required to) and tells us and anyone else he talks to all the time and it really is so great to hear. I love talking about the business to my Dad because he always has good input and has encouraging words for both of us. He loves to point out that even though this is Ely’s business that we’re a team and I do good work too. I appreciate that from him. He’s a pretty great dad. I was trying to avoid mushy but this got pretty father-son mushyish, which is sometimes worse, geesh.
What is your favorite part of your business:
From Ely: Meeting people! You don’t know how many times Ryan and I walk away from a wedding wishing that we were friends with the bride and groom! I feel like we get to meet a lot of really kind, interesting and fun people. I am not just saying that, I mean it from my heart. I also love it when I email a bride her gallery, and she emails me back soon after and tells me that she loves her photos. It is super encouraging.
From Ryan: Working with my wife. I mean look at that picture of her, she’s perfect. Yeah, I’m trying to earn good points, but this is true. I don’t think I’d do it otherwise. Weddings are hard and a lot of pressure but with Ely it’s easy. I love hearing the giddy glee Ely gets when she see’s a cool wall. I love meeting new people and making new friends with her. I love seeing this thing flourish and the fulfillment Ely gets from it. I love being there for her when she’s having an “off” day. I love so much about her and the chance to work with her is just a bonus. It’s been a wonderful ride so far and I’m excited to see where were going and who we’ll meet next.
Do you have advice to anyone who might be starting a business like yours?
From Ely: Yes, I have two pieces of advice. #1- Don’t undervalue yourself. I don’t just mean your skill, I mean your time as well. Choose a price that you eventually want to charge, and if you feel weird about charging that cost right off the bat, offer your services at a ‘portfolio building price’ but be clear about that when you book people. And when you feel confident about your portfolio and work, bounce up to your normal prices. If you undervalue yourself you will get burnt out #2- Don’t be naive. There are lots of wonderful, awesome things about being a photographer and owning your own business. But a lot of times it’s not as romantic as it sounds. I work WAY more hours than I did with my steady-9-to-5-benefit-offering-paid-time-off job. And not having a steady paycheck can be pretty stressful at times. And there are a lot of things we miss out on with friends and family because of working nights and weekends. Oh, one more! This one is a biggie. Try not to compare yourself to other photographers. I know it’s hard, but what is it you liked about photography in the first place?? I’m guessing it is the point of view you can show other people. Comparing yourself to others will only make your voice harder to hear. Be confident in showing and developing the style that made you excited the first time you took a photo that you loved. And I’ve said it before, and I will say it again. Someone else’s success does not make you less worthwhile. Everyone’s story is different, celebrate in your accomplishments instead of focusing on what others have done and you will be much happier.
From Ryan: #1 Marry someone awesome. #2 Listen to them, they are smart. I guess if I had to give a real piece of advice it would be to make sure it’s worth it. Go have fun. Go see a movie during the day because you work when you want to. I think a major role of mine is to make sure we are reaping the benefits of running our own business and it’s what I’m the BEST at. Seriously nobody is better.
Anything else about your small business that you’re passionate about?
From Ely: Other small businesses!!! I think that the community of small business is so special and I am proud to be a part of them. I also really like getting to work with my hubby.
From Ryan: Umm…I’ve already said I love working with my wife and I love having fun. I’d have to say I’m passionate about learning the craft and becoming better and better. Good thing I’ve got a pretty darn good teacher ;) Oh…And Pete. I love making him a part of the business as much as possible.