Today we’d like to introduce you to Kelley Raye.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Photography became a necessity in my life from a very young age. I used to move around A LOT as a kid. Having to start over at a new school every year forced me to not only perfect the art of making new friends quickly but also to find a way to remember the friends I knew I would be leaving behind at the end of the school year. I started carrying around disposable cameras so that I could snap anything and anybody I wanted to remember. I knew that the memories would always be there, and photos would help me unlock them whenever I wanted. That’s how my obsession with photography started.
About 5 years ago I was a Director of Sales at a hotel and started to feel the itch to move on. I had wanted to be an entrepreneur since I was a kid but never knew what I would be doing. The purchase of a DSLR camera for an entirely different business idea is actually what turned photography into my new career. I’d always had an eye, I knew that I just never thought of it as a business until someone pointed out that I should think about becoming a professional photographer. I’ve been self-employed now since 2013 and love every minute of it.
Has it been a smooth road?
Entrepreneurship is never a smooth road, sorry to burst anyone’s bubble. Life isn’t always a perfectly curated Instagram page. Being self-employed has lots of challenges, the most pressing being collecting those checks so that you can, you know, eat. I work in a very saturated field, so if I am not constantly and consistently putting myself out there, doing good work, and being an overall kind human, then I won’t get to keep growing as a photographer or entrepreneur. There are always days when you’re not sure where your next deposit is coming from, but that just comes with being your own boss. Despite the challenges, I wouldn’t trade being self-employed for anything.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
I am a photographer and I am known for my wedding photography as well as my super awesome branding sessions for female entrepreneurs. I’m most proud of the friends that I have made through my business. When I first meet my clients, of course, we are complete strangers, but by the end of a session, we’re making plans to get coffee. I have formed so many relationships through photography, and I absolutely love showing people how beautiful they are (a lot of my clients are so shy and anxious when it comes to being in front of a camera). I think what sets me apart from others is my ability to make people so comfortable so quickly into our session.
My client being comfortable is absolutely necessary to make amazing images. If our interaction is weird, their photos are going to look cold and uninviting so I make it my mission to make sure they are never that, would have never thought that mastering the ability to make friends quickly so Id have someone to sit with at that very first lunch table every year, would be useful as an adult. I am most proud that I was able to successfully make my company bi-coastal last year, and now I am able to serve clients in both Los Angeles and Atlanta without charging travel fees.
Is our city a good place to do what you do?
I love Los Angeles and California in general. I can remember living in CT and visiting my west coast family every summer and thinking to myself, I was born on the wrong coast!
LA is an amazing place to grow within your creative field, and it also kind of puts a stamp of approval on your business, in my experience. I feel that if you are able to be successful and build a life and business in LA, then you can definitely be successful anywhere else. It is the perfect place for me as a photographer; everyone needs a good photographer in their life so there are unlimited opportunities, especially if you are willing to put yourself out there and do good work.
For those just starting out, I would recommend that you attend small social events where attendees are people like you, so if you’re a creative attend a creative event, if you’re a female entrepreneur, try to find some events or meet-ups that are specifically catered to ladies only. And when you attend, try to actually talk to somebody you don’t know, I know that might be hard, but at least one person. Also, I’d recommend to be genuine when you meet new people and not just be on the hunt for someone who you think can help you do something.
- Branding and Lifestyle Sessions start at $250
- Adventurous Elopements start at $750
- Weddings start at $3,000