We had the utmost privilege of working with the ever-so talented Natalie Allen! This self-taught photographer juggles being a full-time student and a yoga instructor all at once, and when it comes to her photos, her 66K followers on Instagram will acknowledge the beautiful stories she manages to tell through one simple photo. We asked Natalie how she managed to start a photography business while still in school, and her answers gave us some serious insight! Read on to soak in all her advice!
Go ahead & toot your own horn: tell us about yourself!
Hello there! I’m Natalie Allen. Twenty-something dreamer + do-er who’s running with the wolves. Forever pained with curiosity from a terrible case of wanderlust.
Currently residing in the sunny state of Arizona as a full-time student at ASU double majoring in Global Studies and Anthropology. Meanwhile, I’m a full-time photographer and part-time RYT-200 HR yoga instructor teaching kids classes and private lessons. Surrounded by beautiful friends and family, I am in constant awe of the beauty around me. In my free time, I like to macramé home decor, hike mountains, collect post-cards, critique the latest film in theatres, and tend to my garden.
When did you first get into photography?
I’ve always been in love with visual storytelling. Growing up as a natural creative, I was crazy in love with movies (Wes Anderson or Quentin Tarantino specifically); I even used to study film in my free time. But I later found that completing a movie is a lot more difficult when you’re the only person wanting to do it… so I started taking pictures. I completely fell in love with it. Documentation and storytelling have completely changed my view on life since I first picked up my very own camera four years ago.
How did you find your photography niche? (lifestyle, portraits, landscape…etc)
I pay particular attention to color, tones, and the overall mood of a picture. Natural movements and candid laughter are always a must — they are what truly make up the sense of wonder, beauty, and magic of a moment that I aim to capture.
When did you know you wanted to turn your hobby into a business?
I turned my hobby into a business the very minute I believed in myself. Positivity and reassurance from my friends and family members helped, too, but I was the one who made the initiative. To me, there is no ‘plan B’ but doing what I love.
Why did you choose to use your personal name as your photography business?
Great question! I wanted people to recognize my photography style alongside my name. Branding myself, my lifestyle, and who I am is a lot more personal, thus holding deeper connections with audience members.
How did you get your first client?
My first clients way back when were always my friends and family! They saw how much I loved taking photographs and wanted to take advantage of an opportunity — little did I know it would be something I’d do more in the future.
What marketing techniques did you use to get yourself out there at the beginning?
I don’t hold any personal secrets on how I market myself, I simply do what I love and share it to the world. Constantly challenging yourself to take risks and keep creating what makes you happy is obviously the first step. The second step is to share it among peers, social media platforms, etc. The power of the internet is VERY real, I cannot stress that enough! Share, share, SHARE!
What hosting platform do you use for your website? Why did you choose that specific hosting platform?
I use Squarespace! I absolutely love the simplicity, design, and overall work-space they offer. Great community, too.
What was the hardest thing you had to overcome when you went from hobby to a business?
Transitioning from a hobby into a full-time business is very, very time consuming. While it’s awesome to not hold a set schedule and to always live “on-the-go” as they say, it can be difficult to separate work from pleasure. I am constantly working — whether it be answering clients’ emails, shooting, editing, updating my portfolio and social media channels, or coming up with a new creative project. And in order to be truly professional, it’s important for photographers to take themselves seriously by paying taxes and doing their part as a working citizen! It’s complicated and may be overwhelming at times, but it’s nothing that I can’t overcome. It’s the best job in the world!
How did you determine your pricing rates?
Oy, this is tricky. A fair amount of photographers I’ve talked to charge an absurd amount of money and hold their clients to many restrictions for just a single shoot. I refuse to work that way. I love doing what I do and don’t believe in overcharging or playing games. No matter what, however, rates and pricing should be determined based on the amount of experience and skill-level. As a photographer, it’s important to know your worth as much as it is to not scam people.
What was something you know now that you wished you knew when you were just starting out?
I’ve always stayed true to myself and my work over the years. However, I never knew the working power of social media would become to prevalent as it is now. It’s a very beautiful thing to be a part of as a contemporary creative and influencer! That being said, it’s important to always stay humble as a photographer, work hard, and never compare your successes/failures with other people you see on Instagram or Tumblr. The biggest mistake a photographer can do is to compare their work with that of others. Or perhaps when a photographer take images of subjects that they think people want to see, rather than photographing what they’re actually passionate about.
How do you make sure you’re always improving your craft?
I aim to be better at practicing and perfecting my craft each and every year. The camera itself may be able to take a high-quality image, but it is the person behind the camera who has the ability to take a picture of something far more than just the “subject.” I think any audience member, artistically-savvy or not, would be able to agree on that.
Do you have any tips for someone who wants to start a photography business?
Don’t be afraid to work hard, step outside your comfort zone, and have FUN!
PS: Natalie also took the Bloguettes on a photo adventure in March! Watch the behind-the-scenes vlog of our team-bonding photography class!