When starting my business, the budget was tight. I wrestled with what to organise straight away and what would have to wait until there was more moolah in the kitty.
I was fortunate enough to be referred to the incredibly talented, camera-toting ray of sunshine that is Michelle Swan: Director and Photographer of Eyes of Love Photography.
After an amazing experience working with Michelle, I knew I wanted to interview her about the need to prioritise an investment in professional branding photography, as well as, digging into her journey into entrepreneurship and the phenomenal success she's found doing what she loves. Here's what she had to say!
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into photography.
In 2009, I married the love of my life, Jacko. As we drove home from planning our wedding album with our photographer, I vulnerably admitted to my new husband that if I could do anything in life, and knew I’d succeed, I’d be a photographer.
Fast-forward a few years, and I quit my fulltime job. This time I was heading to university to complete a Bachelor of Education. And on the outside, it looked perfect for me: I threw everything I had at the degree and worked my butt off, got excellent results, and was offered a job as soon as I graduated. I adored ‘my kids’. However, even after three years of teaching, that sense of unease came sneaking back; the knowledge that this just wasn't ‘it'. It was while I was at uni that I bought my first DSLR camera. Truthfully, I had no idea how to use it; but time disappeared when I played with it.
Then one afternoon in 2014, everything started to change. I was taking photos of a friend at her family farm, and she suggested I share my photography with the world. Intrigued by the possibility of turning this passion of mine into something more, I nervously launched an Instagram account and within the days that followed, enquires started coming in. One leap of courage and Eyes of Love Photography was born.
My new path found me quitting my teaching position; completing a short photography course at TAFE; building my skills and portfolio by working as a second shooter with a brilliant wedding photographer; and jumping at any opportunity to learn, to improve, to grow as an artist.
What was your experience/journey to becoming an entrepreneur like?
What is your favourite thing about your work?
As a photographer, I believe I have a responsibility not to perpetuate unrealistic body ideals for women.
We live in a world filled with false imagery and unattainable standards – which leads to unhealthy comparisons. I’m here to call it out. Gently, lovingly!
I passionately believe that every woman – regardless of age, size, race, or stature - can photograph beautifully. No exceptions.
I celebrate and work with women of all ages and sizes, capturing what makes her beautiful and unique.
I’ve carved out a niche working with women in business and it absolutely makes my heart sing. I’ve never felt so grounded and on-purpose!
What is the most challenging aspect of your work?
I’m a first-time mum, at the time of writing this my little one Sienna is 17 months old. The most challenging aspect for me right now is dedicating time to work ‘on’ my business, rather than ‘in’ it.
Client work is always prioritised and truthfully, I can feel that it’s time to explore outsourcing and calling in more support.
If you could give one piece of advice to new business owners about getting their branding right, what would it be?
I recommend investing in high-quality photography from the outset. We’re hardwired for connection; your clients want to get to know you – the person behind the business. Great photos will elevate even the simplest website template.
What are some common mistakes you see clients make at their branding shoots?
I’ve done branding shoots for hundreds of women now, my pre-shoot questionnaire and planning call prior is quite detailed, so by the time we get to the shoot our intention is really clear – which drastically reduces the chance of mistakes or miscommunication.
Communication = clarity. It’s essential that you let your photographer know what’s most important to you and how you’d love your photos to feel.
How can you ensure you get the most value out of your personal branding shoot?
1. Choose a photographer who’s style you love
2. Communication is key
What’s the intention behind your shoot?
How are you planning on using these images in your business?
How do you want to FEEL in these images?
Chat to your photographer about your brand aesthetic and brainstorm locations that align.
3. Create a mood board with inspiration images. This is a brilliant way to communicate your vision and expectations with your photographer.
4. Capture a variety of outfits. I recommend bringing along 3-4 outfits, it’s so important to choose items you’d usually wear that make you feel amazing.
5. Create a spacious schedule. I recommend allowing extra time for hair and makeup appointments, for navigating traffic and making sure you’ve got time to eat. Set yourself up for an easy day, so you arrive at your shoot feeling relaxed.
6. HAVE FUN! You are responsible for the energy you bring to your photoshoot, the more open-hearted, relaxed and playful you are, the more you’ll love your pics.
One thing you wish you’d known at the start of your business venture?
I wish I was kinder to myself, remembering that every expert was once an amateur. I felt like an imposter when I launched my photographer biz. In our socially connected world, it’s easy to compare yourself with others, a trap I fell into time and time again.
These days I very intentional when it comes to social media. I’m intentional about my energy when I’m using it and I make sure I only follow accounts that feel good when they pop up in my feed.
How do you like to unwind and recharge?
My favourite thing is quality time at the beach. My hubby and I take our daughter and our pups to our local beach a few afternoons a week. It’s my happy place, I literally feel my nervous system reset.
I also love walks around the Burleigh Headland, weekly reformer Pilates classes and I love a good long lunch with the girls.
Wow - so many amazing take-aways and nuggets of goodness here! I really hope you got as much value from Michelle's insights and incredible business acumen as I did.
My hat goes off to this lady, she is is seriously in demand - consistently booked a month or two in advance! And to add to this already stellar resume, she is truly a delight to work with and made me feel so relaxed which is a big help if you're a bit camera shy.
Ready to book your shoot? Well the cherry on top for you my lovelies, is that Michelle has extended an exclusive offer to the Leithal & Co. Tribe.
Receive 5 additional retouched images free of charge when you book your shoot with Michelle and mention this blog post. That's an added bonus of $175!
A fantastic saving for start ups like mine working with a budget the size of the Weasley's back to school book fund...
View Michelle's full portfolio via her socials or connect now by reaching out on the details provided.
0421 600 238
A slow and steady transition.
I reduced my fulltime teaching hours down to part-time, which gave me a reliable income source as I built up my business (I held onto a part-time teaching role for the first year of my business).
To help develop my skills and confidence, I started second shooting with a well-established wedding photographer. This was an amazing experience; shooting for 6-10 hours at a time in different lighting conditions, in a fast-paced environment, photographing lots of people, it was invaluable and skyrocketed my skills. There’s really nothing that compares to hands on experience!
We’re hardwired for connection; your clients want to get to know you – the person behind the business.