Ever wondered what it’s like being a professional photographer? We’ve got the scoop! Katrina Keenan is a Vancouver-based photographer and filmmaker specializing in family photography. Below, she shares what inspired her to pick up the camera, what it’s like to capture precious moments on film and her advice for new and aspiring photographers.
Tell us about your business and how it got started!
I own a family photography and film business that began soon after the arrival of my first born daughter 7 years ago. Like many other parents, I wanted to capture all of her tiny features as she grew, so I began taking classes and learning how to improve my technique with my DSLR camera.
I became interested in films when I learned about birth photography and videography. I was moved by the images and films I had seen from other local photographers, and how powerful their work was. I realized that creating family films was my passion after discovering a family film by Courtney Holmes in Australia. I was in awe of how she captured such beautiful moments with families. From then on, I was hooked!
Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?
Actually, no! When I was younger, I had some interest in photography but always focused on the sciences. I never envisioned myself as an entrepreneur until my interest in photography was renewed. At that time, both my husband and best friend were each starting their own businesses. That gave me the confidence to go out and try and make my own way.
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Thank GOODNESS its FrIdAy!!!!!! If you haven't yet joined my newsletter sign-up, today's a great day to do just that! I'll be announcing some special news in the next few days, so get on the list to be the first to know!! Trust me, you want to be on this list! (I promise, it'll be worth it!!) Plus, you get 10% off your first booked full film! 👉 www.katrinakeenan.ca 🧐
What were you doing before starting your business?
I am trained as a paediatric registered nurse, and worked at a Children’s Hospital for quite some time before exploring my interest in photography. I think this is why clients often tell me I am so wonderful with their children and babies! I just love working with them so much.
Are you currently side-hustling or working on your business full-time?
Side-hustling! In fact, I’m scheduled to return to work as a part-time registered nurse after my maternity leave ends in March. However, there is a large part of me that hopes to work on family films full-time. 2020 may be the year it happens! I hope people recognize the real value in the family films I produce! Professional family films are a relatively new concept, so many people haven’t really seen films made in the way I make them.
The feedback I’ve received from families has been incredible and motivating. I love hearing them comment on how much they cry when they watch the films I make for them or how much they value the memories they capture. It’s something I am so passionate about. I know I’ll get there if I keep at it!
What was your process like? Do you remember what your first few steps were?
My process was partly planned and partly just winging it. Lucky for me, my husband runs his own electrical contracting business and has also had previous experience in starting up a business. His wealth of knowledge has been a huge asset to me in setting up my own business. My first step was to figure out what my business name would be.
When I first began, my name was Little Sugarplum Photography because my goal was to specialize in styled newborn portraiture. Early this year however, I made to switch to my own name, Katrina Keenan Photography & Films. I was able to secure my domain name before proceeding to register myself as a sole proprietorship. Then I obtained my business licence, which was quite an easy and straightforward process.
What goes into starting an arts-based business that you think some people might not know about?
It may seem like an easy side job, but to make it a real sustainable business, you must educate yourself in all the costs involved and have a solid understanding of how to actually make money in this field. Make sure what you charge your clients is actually worth your time.
There are tons of people who advertise themselves as photographers and offer photography at bottom dollar prices, but at the end of the year I would imagine the vast majority will find they have either mostly worked for free, or they have gone into debt in doing this.
This is one of the tough parts of the business. People don’t realize how expensive photography businesses are with the gear (and needing to replace it), as well as the cost of your website, your editing software, business licence, props, etc. The list goes on. Look at the time you spend per session, not just the actual shooting time and editing, but also the emailing time, advertising, posting.
All of this adds up very quickly. When you have kids at home, your time is super valuable. Make sure you are not only making a living, but you are making a sustainable amount. Above minimum wage!
What were some of the challenges you faced in the first few months of starting the business?
Initially, there is a substantial capital investment to be made, as good quality gear does not come cheap. Also I found managing my time effectively was very challenging. I had a one-year-old toddler at the time, and so I was limited on when I could spend time editing photos, emailing clients, and posting to social media. Having a planner to write things out helps, and planning ahead. Owning a business keeps you very busy and doesn’t allow you very much down time.
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So, I just realized today that Julia, my youngest of 4 girls, has now her second tooth surfacing. Finally!! I have been so busy trying to keep on going with work, that I didn’t tune into the fact that this is the reason she has been so clingy, and why she’s been sleeping so poorly. In fact, I’m starting to feel like a walking pacifier again. This has been making it harder than ever to get all the things done. 😆 So, if I’ve been slow to respond to you, blame Julia! Haha.. Also, bring coffee. #coffeecoffeecoffee #allthingsbusiness #bossbabe #workinmama #sotired #fraservalleybossladies #fraservalley #familyfilmmaker #abbotsfordmom #fraservalleyphotographer
Looking back, has there been anything that has surprised you about being a professional photographer?
I think the biggest surprise for me was just how much time it takes & dedication to make your business successful. Also, it’s not as easy as just taking photos and editing them. There’s a lot more to it. I have learned so much in the last seven years, and I am STILL learning!
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs and photographers who are dealing with frustration in the early stages of their businesses?
First, make sure you’re proud of what product or service you’re selling! If you can’t truly stand behind what you’re doing and feel passionate about it, your business is unlikely to succeed. If your frustration stems from possibly lacking any of the above, you may need to go back to the drawing board.
Also, the first couple of years of a new business are not easy! You’re learning so much and trying to find your way. Ask lots of questions and find your tribe. Entrepreneurship can sometimes feel lonely and isolating. But once you go out and talk to other people, you will find so many others who are experiencing the same things as you!
What’s next for you? Do you have any exciting projects coming up that would like to share?
I am super excited to start planning my very first Mini “Mommy & Me” films in studio for Mother’s day! If you don’t want to miss the announcement, go to my website at www.katrinakeenan.ca and sign up for my newsletter to get first dibs! Spots will be limited!