Katie Hannah of Katharine Hannah Photography has been officially in business since May 2017, but she has been taking pictures for over 10 years! Originally from northwest Indiana, I had the opportunity to meet and interview the talented portrait photographer and share her story.
How did you get into photography?
I was homeschooled and alone a lot as a kid. One of my friends was a photographer, and she had gorgeous whimsical photos. She got a lot of attention online, and I thought, I want to be popular too! I bought a cheap camera online and started a 365 project—take a picture every day for a year—and taught myself how to take pictures through that. I would go to the woods every day while my friends were in school and take pictures. It was the way I expressed myself. I’m not always good at talking, so photos were a way I could say what I wanted to say without stuttering or blushing. That’s how I got into it.
How and why did you decide to specialize in portrait photography?
I went to college at the Art Institute for photography. I realized my sophomore year I didn’t want to be a fine arts photographer because I didn’t see a future for myself in the gallery exhibition world. I started taking every business class my school had, built my website and thought about how I could be a photographer for actual money. I was one of three photographers who did portraits in school. One of the things I love about portraiture is anyone can be involved with art making. I want people to have access to art, and I think what I do gives access to others even if they’re not the ones taking the photo. When I graduated in May, I incorporated, and the rest is history.
Did you always plan to become a photographer?
100%. No doubt in my mind.
Where do you find inspiration for your work?
When I was younger, my inspiration was mostly through music. Now, it’s from the people I meet and why they are pursing their passion and goals.
How do you make your clients feel comfortable with you?
I take a lot of time to make clients feel comfortable. I try to incorporate that in my process. We talk on the phone first to get to know each other and then meet up for a coffee date to build up a rapport. That way each client gets to understand me and my sense of humor, and I get comfortable with them as well. Then come the pictures. I always ask if they have ever been photographed before to gauge how much direction to give and provide a lot of direction when necessary. I also incorporate conversation in each session so it’s not a cold and awkward shoot.
What made you decide to start your own business out of school?
For some reason, it never occurred to me to do anything else! My thought process was simply: This is what I’m going to do. It wasn’t even a conscious choice. I wasn’t thinking “I want to be a small business owner.” It was more like, “I want to be a photographer.” And I just jumped into it!
What have you learned about being a business owner?
I’ve learned that I’m going to mess up a lot and just have to roll with it. I don’t know as much as I think I do, and I should always be learning. I will never know everything, but the more I learn will be better for me and everyone around me. I think about failure a lot and what I can learn from it.
What piece of advice can you offer to your fellow photographers who are starting out and new business owners?
For photographers, know your worth before charging clients. When most photographers start out they charge so little that it undercuts their value and the industry’s value of photographers. Knowing your worth will lead to less frustration down the line.
For business owners, I recommend finding a mentor—someone who is in the same place as you right now who knows different things than you or someone you want to be like. I worked with a wedding photographer and learned so much from her. I asked questions all the time. It was interesting to see her process and how she did things differently than I would but realize she’s still successful. Take advice from everyone, sort through it and see what works for you!
Wednesday, February 28, 2018