We recently shot our Holiday Glam Look Book for t+j Designs and officially launched it on our site on Monday! (If you haven’t seen it yet, be sure to check it out here) Our fabulous photographer from the shoot, Kirsten Miccoli, is a genuine spirit and extremely talented at what she does. We knew that her success story of starting her own photography business would make for the perfect fabulous feature and we are so excited to have gotten a chance to get to know her a bit better! Check out her inspiring story and tips to owning your own business that she has learned along the way.
Corri, Tiff and Jen getting shot by Kirsten at her studio for our Holiday Glam Lookbook
T+J: What were you doing before you started your photography business full time? What made you decide to start it?
KMP: My interest in art started at a young age – I made books, wrote poetry and dabbled in pretty much every art form at one point or another. This gradually progressed into photography. At first, I really didn’t think about it as a business. Before I went to college, I remember having crazy ideas for photo-shoots and having no willing participants or models to collaborate in these ideas with me. It’s pretty hard to get volunteers to try your ideas when you have no physical proof the final product will be anything but horrible. So, at first, I made elaborately thought out self-portraits with props, crazy makeup and clothes. Back then I was using a timer and tripod- running back and forth from the camera to my designated “spot”. I did a self-portrait every single day for an entire year and as I got better at these self-portraits, I started to collect a number of decent quality images to show as my portfolio. These images allowed me to rope others into being my models and eventually I was able to get agency models to pose for me. But being able to create interesting work wasn’t
enough; I needed to be able to survive off of all this. What really got me thinking of starting my own business happened after I graduated college, I got a part time job working as a photographer at the She’d Aquarium. My job was to take photos of the guests as they entered and then try to trick them into buying those photos as they left. This job is what forced me to step up my game. I did not want to do this for the rest of my life and to prevent that I was going to shoot as much as possible to build a body of work that showed what I was capable of. I spent that entire year experimenting, testing, networking and growing my business. When I started that summer, I was working out of my apartment and I had very little reputable fashion work under my belt- by the following summer I had my own studio space and I was finally starting to get paid to do what I loved.
T+J: What advice would you give to someone just starting their business?
KMP: To others looking to become a professional photographer, I recommend the following tips:
1. Network all the time. Being a photographer means running your own business and that means you need to sell yourself and your eye as it’s own brand and identity. Look at every opportunity to meet somebody new as a networking opportunity and always be nice and easy to work with. Even with advanced technology and social media, word of mouth spreads fast and it is important to always make good impressions and establish a respectable reputation.
2. Develop a style. Only put the kind of work in your portfolio that you are trying to get. If you want to be hired for the work you love to do, you need to show people that kind of work and that you are good at doing it! Often times I see photographers that try to be the jack-of-all-trades and although this approach will get you some work, it will not take you very far. With so many others competing for the same job you are, you need to have a specialty that makes you unique.
3. Don’t ever stop making work for yourself. Once every few months I try to do a personal project. I seriously believe this is one of the most important things any working artist can do to keep themselves motivated and succeed. Stay passionate and remember why you started photography to begin with.
T+J: What inspires you?
KMP: Pretty much anything can be an inspiration when it is viewed in the right light. Often times, I look at paintings to get my creative ideas but I also get inspiration from day to day activities. I may see something out of a cab window that sparks an idea or while looking at the work of other artists. I never really cared about what was trending on the runway but I had always admired the beautiful photos in magazines like Vogue, especially from my favorite photographer Tim Walker. Looking through his work inspired me to start those crazy self-portraits in high school and allowed me to see fashion as a form of expression and art that uses the human body as the canvas.
T+J: What has been your favorite project or types of projects?
KMP: I love any project that involves creativity and passion. If I had all the money in the world, I would probably spend it producing elaborate huge budgeted photo-shoots with the best models and amazing wardrobe and props. Whether it is an idea from a client or one of my own, I just really enjoy working with other creative people to bring a vision to life.
Special thanks to Kirsten for her time and inspiring advice to future entrepreneurs. Check out more of her amazing photography work below and check out her website for more of her photography and contact information!
all photos by Kirsten Miccoli