Meet Courtney Allison, owner of Fairytale Creations Photography. Courtney shoots weddings and portraits using both eyes, and loves using both wide open apertures as well as super tiny apertures. She uses Canon equipment (though for the first year she did use Nikon), she shoots 100% RAW, uses Manual mode 98% of the time and Aperture Priority 2% of the time, and she uses actions that she created for herself based on her workflow. She is also a fan of Ashley McNamara‘s actions as well as Totally Rad Actions.
Image by Desiree Hayes
Describe the moment you decided it was time to pursue this as a career?
I had always had a love of Photography, and always wanted to take pictures for a living. I started with my first SLR camera as a film Canon EOS in 2001 and took pictures of pretty much everything in sight. My Husband and I had gotten our anniversary pics done in 2002. The Photographer was such a nice guy and had explained to me that he quit his career to pursue Photography full time. His Wife was a little less than thrilled since he was nearing retirement in the next 10 years, but he made a go at it anyhow. The one thing that deterred me was that he was using a DSLR and he told me the price and I about went through the roof. (They were a bit more back then, LOL) His perseverance was inspiring and something that always stuck with me. In 2005 I found out I was pregnant with our first child and lost my job in November as a result of it. I had been playing with and learning all about my Nikon DSLR since August of that year (05) and had DREAMED of having my own Photography business on the side. When I lost my job, I realized that it was now or never and I started my business in early 2006. While it has been a roller coaster ride, I am glad I took the leap of faith that I did, and so thankful to my Husband and God for sticking by my side through it all.
What is one thing you’ve learned so far that has proven most valuable?
Realize your value and stick to it. Don’t undercut others in your area. (If you are starting out and PB’ing, don’t charge, and explain to them that you are PB’ing and will charge someday! Even put a timeline on it if you want..) If you start off devaluing your work, your original clients will not only expect it for the future, but will also recommend you as “the reasonable priced Photographer” forever. I started out with decent prices from the get go, and learned that it was always easier to give a discount or a “Thank You” gift certificate/coupon than to give it away for free. Even then, there are still clients that think that you should work for free. On that same token, if you undercut your peers you will not only lose their respect, but it will also seem to potential customers that there is a level of unprofessionalism there that must be lurking around the corner. Its not cool.
What makes you different from everyone else?
I guess I can say that I am different because I am me. 🙂 My clients come to me because of my personality and the levels of trust that I have built with them, and others that have referred them to me. I am a great listener and I try to be creative and not run of the mill. My clients have told me that they love what I do because its not something you see everywhere else. Even though I think differently, I also need to realize that they aren’t looking at every other Photographer on the internet for comparison. They like me, and that is why I am different. I tend to get along with everyone and I try to be empathetic to every situation.
Who is your one favorite up-and-coming photographer?
WOW, I have so many. I would say first and foremost, Lindsay Jane Photography ( a team of Photographers based in the Western Sates) and Becky Earl in Las Vegas. Lindsay Jane has really changed a lot in the past year and I admire what they have done in such a short amount of time. Not to mention all of the Photographers on board are all incredibly talented. Becky Earl is just amazing and she is going places. 🙂 She too has grown so much in the past year and it has been great to watch her bloom via blogland.
One item you can’t live without?
My camera. LOL. Seconded by my Mac.
Your favorite bokeh image and why?
I have so many. I love Bokeh 🙂 Its so hard to choose, which is probably a good thing.
The Bible, there are so many valuable lessons in there. The Notebook would be next 😉
The Notebook 🙂 Followed by Pretty in Pink. LOL
Where do you find inspiration?
Its all around me. I find it in my clients and my surroundings.
What do you think is the most valuable aspect of your business?
My clients. Without them I wouldn’t be here. Secondly I would say that customer service is key. Its amazing how something so little can become something so huge and I try to remember that. Things can always go two ways, good or bad. So I always keep it in the back of my head when I am ready to blow. LOL
Do you use a second shooter?
On Weddings where the clients have requested or paid for one in their contract. I am perfectly happy shooting most Weddings on my own but I really cannot knock the luxury of having two sets of eyes on the most important day of someone’s life. 😉
How would you recommend that someone wanting to second shoot with you go about getting the gig?
Simply contact me. I am very approachable and very friendly. I really believe we are all in this together and trying to hoard clients or not help out a well meaning Photographer would just be bad karma. 🙂
If you could second shoot with anyone, who would it be?
David and Kimi Baxter, at Ohana Photographers. They are amazing people and photographers. Secondly I would have to say Mike Colon, thirdly, Jasmine Star.
Are you a member of any organizations and have you won any awards?
I am a member of WPPI, & PPA. I have never entered a contest, although I would love to. Time is key here and I am hoping to have more of that this year with my price increase. 🙂
What did you have to do to actually take the leap? Did you have any hoops to jump through?
Well getting laid off as I mentioned earlier, was pretty much the push I needed. I was still pregnant with my Daughter at the time and didn’t want to start anything until she got here, so I used that time to research, read, and learn everything I could before taking the plunge. Luckily I have a very supportive Husband and Family that really encouraged me from the get go. They continue to encourage me to this day.
Do you have suggestions for others trying to make the transition?
Do your research, get plenty of practice and take people up on their offers for help. There are a lot of great Photographers holding workshops these days, and dishing out a little cash to see what they have to offer might save you a lot of money in the long run. Although I never went to any starting out, I wish I had. Everyone has growing pains and when you do sometimes its not pretty. I would also say that networking is a must. I came from an area where that was so frowned upon, so for the first two years of my business I didn’t network with really any of my peers. Once I started I was so glad I did.
What is the biggest or most creative thing you do/have done to draw new clients?
Nothing really crazy comes to mind 🙂 Everything has been pretty much word of mouth.
What’s your idea of the perfect photographer networking “date”?
Good laughs, drinks and fun… With not the entire time being about Photography. Just people with common interests, having a good time.
Anything else you would like to share?
Reach out to your peers. Even if it is just to say hello.