Featuring Carolyn Clarke
This week’s featured photographer is Carolyn Clarke, and comes to us from the beautiful Sunshine Coast, in British Columbia.
Where do you operate your business?
Mostly on the Sunshine Coast, two hours north of Vancouver, B.C. in Canada. On occasion, I get invited to travel to other locations, including Mexico.
Your Facebook page
I LOVE my 18 – 200 lens, my 18 – 55 lens, and my 50 mm lens for close-up portraits.
Processing Software (just provide the names of the one’s you use)
Photoshop and Portraiture
Do you use any actions?
I’m old school and really prefer an unfiltered look, unless specifically asked for by my client.
Do you retouch and if so can you give me a quick rundown on if you use and plugins, etc.?
I’ve appreciated growing the Photoshop process of editing my own photographs over these last few years, learning the subtleties of correction and enhancement. With no time to edit a recent shoot, I put a call out to the AIBP membership and was connected with Jen Swedhin (jengetsshitdone.com). I’m in love with her work! I hadn’t realized how time burdened I am each time I have to edit a client shoot. Budgeting for Jen to do the edits is a definite for my future business, freeing me up to focus on other photography.
What most people want to know is how you market to your clients. Have you qualified who your ideal client is?
Aside from frequent social media posts and keeping my website as updated as I can afford (gradually learning to do my own WordPress site now), I am most active with the local networking circles, Chamber of Commerce and SEWN (Self-Employed Women’s Network) and attend events consisting of a few hundred women. My community reputation these days is mostly related to capturing impactful professional portraits and slideshows for the local business owners’ marketing needs. As I work with them, this becomes the perfect opportunity to extend my photographic offerings to meet their personal portrait interests too. My average photo clients are women in business for themselves, between the age of 40 and 60 years old, with considerable health and fitness achievement and still feeling vital and sassy. It’s been a treat to witness the considerable body image ease and self-acceptance in this age bracket, having gone past the stage of trying to aim for media’s norm.
I’d love to add any inspiring client stories you might have. Also, have you had any issues with clients that you would like to share and how you resolved them. That is always something that can hugely benefit the readers.
Geez, which client to speak of? Each client comes with their own stories of life, love and challenges, health problems and loss. Each client ultimately finds their way to overcome and grow and it is such an incredible treat to witness and encourage their photographic journey. But, yes, there are some clients that stand out even more incredibly so!
“Rose” was a neighbor for many years, having first met her in the 1980’s in Vancouver. Though stiffly English, this sparky and well-dressed woman in her late 50’s came to me in advance of her fast approaching double mastectomy for a pre-surgery glamour / bikini shoot. My goodness. She came to my home studio with a lightness and spirit and upbeat energy and she played throughout her shoot, in celebration of her sassy fit figure. She admitted that she’d always felt her breasts were too big for feeling good about herself and she felt optimistic about the pending surgery for anticipating a new body image. I had so much admiration for Rose and her incredible spirit and felt honored to be a part of her healing procedure, through photographs.
Do you have a “welcome” product you give the clients and can you share that if you do. Thanks.
Aside from the total pampering experience of a makeover with a platter of tasty food treats, chocolate and bubbly Pelegrino with lime, my preferred gifts result AFTER the photo shoot. I love to gift each female photo client with a pretty sterling silver necklace with a camera pendant…an unexpected wow for them. I love to over-surprise them with other little unexpected items too, such as additional photos beyond their package items, maybe a custom slideshow with all of their favorite photos, etc. I put a lot of love and care and energy into every moment of my shoot experience, right down to how I package their chosen products afterwards…this is my fun and joy.
This is probably one of the most important things that the readers want to know. How do you sell to your clients? Can you provide info on your sales process and your pricing. Would you be willing to share with your readers what you charge for a session and what your range is for your products, like albums for instance?
I offer both packages and individual products from my Collection List, as seen in my website…
Most of my clients choose a package and then build on it for additional desired products. I am preparing for a total revamp of my offerings soon, wanting to make things FAR simpler for my clients to select from.
What products perform best in your studio?
High quality, lay-flat photo books are the most sought after product, plus custom slideshows for my clients to share with family, friends and on their social media.
Best describe your workspace. Do you have a studio or work from home? How large is your space? What are the challenges with it? What works really well for you? Can you please include a photo or two of it, if possible.
My miniature studio is within my sweet rental home, a coach-house suite (above a 2-car garage) right on the waterfront, overlooking beautifully forested and rocky coastline. I have two walls entirely of windows that allow gorgeous natural light to stream in all day, creating a bright and airy space filled with dazzling light. Because my suite is a tiny 520 square foot space, it stretches me to be seriously creative and imaginative with backdrops and props for as many original looks as possible. It’s embarrassingly cumbersome at times, moving things around to maximize lighting and backdrops, but I joke around about it openly and feel quite proud that I’ve managed to turn out the quality of work that I have over these four years. The fact that my space is small actually serves to create a sense of increased client / photographer connection. This past year, I’ve taken almost every photo client outdoors for a secondary part of their session, with much success.
Do you have any plans to change and/or grow from your space in the near future.
As much as I love my little home, I’m actively looking for a more spacious rental that is closer to town and that will offer me a dedicated room to permanently set up my photo studio. I look forward to being able to expand my offerings and use my time more wisely, free from ever having to assemble and dismantle my home studio after each shoot, as I currently am.
Do you keep strict hours of operation with your clients?
I do not yet have enough photography business happening to put time restraints on prospective clients. I’m happy to be available by phone and email, and respond quickly without time constraints. As my weekends are protected to be away with my sweetheart, my shoots almost always happen mid-week, typically in the late morning or late afternoon for great light.
Natural Light, Studio Light, combination of styles? What’s your preference? What are your strengths and weaknesses with lighting, if any?
I am first a natural light photographer, it being my absolute style preference, but I’ve increasingly developed a deeper comfort level working with fill-in and/or studio lighting too. The investment of an Ice Light last year has served to amp up the quality of photographs I create, extend the time length of my shoots and provide a new sense of confidence and professionalism too. I have other pro-studio lights that I use on occasion for a bigger set-up, otherwise I rely on daylight with Ice Light fill-in.
Do you have makeup artists you work with in your studio? If so, can you give me a run down of what the rate is you pay them and how you feel about the importance of that relationship. If you don’t use them, is there a reason?
To provide my personal portrait clients with a pampering experience, I bring a professional hair and make-up stylist to my home studio to glam them up beautifully. Jen not only does a lovely job of creating a classy look, she does a nice job of putting the client at ease… we all visit in happy anticipation of the photo session. Jen is paid $100 + a tip for her services and typically stays for the first hour of the shoot to help out with details. My business portrait clients do not have this service built into their packages, but are encouraged to afford it for a more polished look…many end up including it.
BUSINESS IN GENERAL:
How long have you been in business? What were you doing before you started your photo business?
Though I’ve been in business for only four years, my love of photography began on my 13th birthday when my parents gifted me with a Kodak Instamatic camera. That cool gift began a great and lifelong passion!
One of the most exciting directions that my photographic journey unfolded into was during the 30 years that I worked in the counseling and personal development seminar business. Yearning to support the many women around me that suffered from poor self-esteem, I began offering casual portrait photo sessions as a therapeutic process to help heal the feelings of unworthiness they carried about themselves. Each photographic client grew from the experience, low self-esteem fell away, and, in its place, a new sense of self appreciation began to emerge. I was super excited to do this work with women, and I grew too. I realized the power of personal transformation at work and recognized a calling to focus my photographic efforts in this unique and rewarding direction.
I love being a woman and, even though I’m now in my later 50’s, I am super comfortable in my strength, femininity and sensuality. I have a gift of nurturing women in their personal empowerment. It sparks a fire inside me to support the “everyday woman” … no matter what age, shape and size, to have fun in front of the camera, support her to remember her playful side and allow her inner beauty to shine. This is an exciting time for women on the planet, emerging into a newfound degree of personal empowerment and expression. If I can support the everyday woman to feel better about herself and how she looks, then this is a worthy mutual cause.
Did you go to school for photography or are you self taught? Did you always want to be a photographer or was it something that came later in life?
I enjoyed studying photography in high school and contributed to the Annual Club by helping to take and organize the many photographs for the yearly annual. A short marriage to a free-lance photographer when I was just 19 years old became another confirmation of my talent and interest in photography. Over these 40-odd years since then, I’ve busily captured many different genres of photography, everything from championship horse shows, dance recitals, figure skating competitions, families, pets, business portraits and even approximately 20 weddings too. Did I mention my love of landscape, zen and fine art?
I created Terra Images in the 1980’s, an extensive line of photographic greeting cards that were sold in numerous Vancouver (Canada) gift stores. My cards and canvases are still being produced and sold locally. Fun mentions – A few of my photos have been requested by authors to be incorporated in their books and one of my favorite landscape images taken near Lake Louise, entitled “Lake’s Edge,” was selected as a winner at the BC Festival of the Arts in 1991. My soul lights up while taking zen-like landscape images, so I am actively preparing to share them online through Houzz.com and stock photo agencies.
What is your biggest struggle in this business?
My Sunshine Coastal community of 25 years is really tiny, consisting of many retirees, a lack of employment, crazy-high costs and not much disposable income. Most people have two or three little jobs to get by and self-employment is a necessity. There are probably 15 other photographers in the community, thankfully supporting each other and finding our own specific genre to shoot. Each one of us has our unique effort to generate enough business. My photographic success is more grounded in creating impactful business portraits / slideshows for website, social media and marketing initiatives these days, not quite what I’d hoped for as I built my business, but rewarding none-the-less. Though my opportunities to shoot personal portraits and boudoir happen at a much lesser rate, I recognize the value of my craft to the business folk and I’m good at it, especially being a business person too.
If you knew someone who wanted to be a photographer, and could give them one piece of important advice, what would that be?
Don’t quit your day job too soon! The life of a professional photographer is not quite the glamorous career you might dream of it being, as much more of your time will likely be required generating enough business, plus sitting at the computer for hours and days on end editing photos…far less time spent in the actual shooting of sessions.
Have you ever done a boudoir session yourself, if you are a female (sorry guys) ? Do you think it’s something that is important for female boudoir photographers to do?
OMG! A few years ago, I had the incredible honor of being personally selected to be a model by Sue Bryce and her stylist, Simona for one of her Creative Live sessions in Seattle… Working with Hair and Make-up…which included having my hair beautifully styled on the live program, followed by a mini-shoot with Sue. I was thrilled to be allowed several outfit changes, so I including a few lingerie pieces, ultimately resulting in a collection of four exquisite portraits that I will cherish my entire life. This mini-shoot definitely gave me the insight into understanding what each of my photo clients go through in advance and during their sessions! Sue was amazing.
How do you feel about the male / female debate regarding boudoir photographers?
I don’t know what to say here except that I witness numerous male boudoir photographers in the AIBP community that are doing awesome work… congratulations guys! Michael Sasser, I’d love to have you photograph me…your style is awesome! I well imagine that it might definitely be harder for male photographers to attract as many female clients than women photographers, but those male photographers with obvious integrity will relay a message of safety and artistry to their prospective clients…energy is everything.
What do you do to avoid burn-out? Is there ever a time when you just want to throw your camera out the window?
I’ve definitely had serious times of wanting to give up on growing my portrait business, feeling super discouraged and disillusioned! It takes a LOT of effort to grow a photography business. In those times of frustration and burnout, I pull right back from any business efforts and focus on my artsy photography. My deepest passion is to go outdoors and be fed by nature’s incredible beauty and here I fall in love with photography again…not doing it to generate business or income, but only to nourish my soul.
What do you love about the business?
I adore creating a fabulous experience for my client to look and feel more confident and alive in her sense of self! Old notions of self-worth fall away, and instead, a sparkly renewal of self-belief and self-love flood in. Comments like, “Thank you again for your fabulous work! I’m so glad my friend recommended you, I couldn’t be happier!”… THIS is what lifts me up and makes me love my business.
What do you hate about the business?
It takes an enormous amount of effort to attend to the multitude of efforts needed to keep the business up and running… promotion, accounting, editing, networking, etc. The amount of time I get to spend actually taking photos is quite nominal, sadly.
Are you a member of any professional photo organizations like PPA, WPPI? What benefit do you feel you get by being a member?
Though I am not a current member of any photography organization at this time, I peripherally participate in the wonderful activities of the AIBP, plus a community photography group for ideas. Attending a few Creative Live workshops in person (with Sue Bryce a few times, Lara Jade, Emily Soto and Lou Freeman) have been hugely inspiring and going to WPPI several years ago was also very exciting! I was sad to have not been able to attend the AIBP Retreat recently and would definitely love to make it to a future event.
Do you compete and do you have any opinions on it? AIBP runs contests regularly. Do you participate? If not, is there a reason you don’t?
Yes, I’ve dared to enter various contests over the years and feel super proud and honoured to have won numerous recognitions, including Best Hair Contest and THIS…being featured in the Best of AIBP 2014 / 2015 Queensbury book. Holy wow!
SOME FUN MORE PERSONAL STUFF:
I love to eat clean, healthy food in order to maintain healthy blood sugar levels (I’m hypoglycemic), and to keep my trim active figure too. My favorite foods are fresh fruits and salads and lean meats.
One guilty pleasure in life?
Since I generally live a pretty clean lifestyle, moderation is therefore a vital ingredient to having a happy life to dodge deprivation. A few bites of dark chocolate, plus a glass of red wine several times each week are gifts I give myself…no guilt.
What is your favorite piece of clothing?
I have a snug, body-hugging red sweater that I adore wearing which shows off my skinny waist and just covers my bum. Paired with tights and boots, I feel smokin’ hot and comfortable too.
What’s one song on your playlist?
Music seriously moves me in life! Rather than sharing just one song, as requested, instead I’ll share one artist that’s currently on my personal playlist…Adele’s new “25” album. Talk about passion.
What’s your favorite movie genre? Example?
I’m old-school and love the feel-good movies of the past…Wizard of Oz, Sleepless In Seattle, Bridges of Madison County…
Favorite shoes to wear?
Definitely boots but I also have a mini-collection of vintage high heels from the 20’s – 40’s too… classic beauties.
What are you currently reading?
Lissa Rankin’s “Anatomy of A Calling”…she’s inspiring and powerful.
If you could go anywhere in the world, where would that be?
I adore the sunshine and often dream of traveling to gorgeous locations such as Spain, Italy, Portugal, Greece, Cuba… and, in an instant, I’d go back to the Fijian islands.
If you could go back and do over anything in your life, what would that be?
I have had (and continue to have) an awesome life with incredible opportunities…deep love, much travel, business success and really good health. Had I given myself the gift of a university experience and subsequent degree, I think I’d have more opportunities at this mature time in my life. Employment directions would have been more expansive had I schooled more formally. I know, it’s not too late!
If you could meet and photograph someone famous, who would that be and why?
I’d far prefer to photograph the everyday person and help them realize their authentic greatness than photograph someone famous, I think. We’re all shining stars looking to emerge and sparkle, but most rarely get that opportunity…this is what tickles me about photographing the average person.
What do you struggle with the most in life? (not photo related)
Geez, this is hard to confess, but I struggle pretty hard to generate ample enough income each month. My little coastal community has very little to offer in the way of decent employment so I’m perpetually peddling in my two businesses (did I tell you that I’m also a professional furniture refinisher? www.thefurniturerejuvenator.com) to support myself. Good that I’m super resourceful, have a good outlook, and many support circles to hang out with.
Are you married, single, have kids, husband? Is life a juggling act for you?
I’ve spent the last five years living on my own (for the first time ever in my life) after leaving my 30 year marriage. Ours was a very unique relationship with a 25-year age difference. We’d consciously chosen to not have children but instead enjoy the kids and grand-kids from his first marriage and, despite our intimate lives parting, how blessed I feel to remain continued best friends with Richard.
Getting to know myself autonomously has been a very liberating, daunting and important stage of my recent life. Matthew came into my life seven years ago as a cherished friend and we’ve subsequently become intimate lovers and life partners for the past four years too. He too has no children so our lives are completely free from those demands. Life is filled with freedom and variety and our love is beautiful.
Who inspires you the most in life? Work?
Matthew models how to keep things really simple in life and I so appreciate this gentle approach. How easy it is to fall prey to busyness. Instead, I’m “being” more frequently; living in the moment and appreciating the power and beauty of today. I’m also reminded of how mindset will either make or break the success of my moment-to-moment experience, so I’ve become the Director of my life play, instead of being a victim to it.
As for who inspires me in my work, it is all of the local self-employed business ladies in my small community (and there are hundreds of us!) who muster up the courage to dare to put our products and services and efforts out to the public. I LOVE watching ladies gain their successes through focused and determined initiative!
If you could provide one single piece of advice to influence a young person’s direction in life, what would that be?
Be willing to be unique and not shrink away in sameness / mediocrity. Stand in your youthful strength and have a voice. Who you are matters.