I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and becoming friends with a lot of photographers since starting CoChic Styling, and I have come to realize how different each and every photographer’s approach to his or her craft can be. I love hearing their stories about how they started, why they love what they do, and how they’re different from others in their industry.
Today’s CoChic Cool Chick is Rebecca Ickes, owner of Rebecca Marie Photography. Rebecca is one awesome photographer that I’ve had the opportunity to meet. She really speaks/writes from the heart and I so enjoyed reading her interview below. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do, and it gives you some inspiration to go get ’em on a Monday. 🙂
Tell us about your business!
Rebecca Marie Photography specializes in weddings and portraits around the world. I consider my approach to photography a study of people more than a study of light as the traditional definition would state. It is my firm belief that wedding photography is only successful if the couple and families whose day it is, feel something when they see the photos. We can create the most unique image possible, we can win all sorts of rewards from professional organizations and national committees, but none of that means anything if you don’t look at your wedding day photos and feel something.
Rebecca Marie Photography is located at 5254 N Damen Ave., Chicago, IL 60625. FInd us on social media: fb.com/rebeccamariephotography & Instagram: @rebeccamarieart
What made you decide to start your own business?
I am the living cliché of the saying, “necessity is the mother of all invention.” Honestly, I came out of undergrad when the recession hit and that “safe & secure” graphic design degree I walked out with (because I thought graphic design would be the employable art path) did nothing to get me a job. I had all the boxes checked off on the list of what you’re supposed to do, but couldn’t get a job. After graduation, I lived in England for a year working with at-risk 8-12- year-olds and ran a ceramics room. The day I came back to the States was set prior to my leaving because I had committed to photographing my cousin’s wedding. After the wedding I realized, “Oh yeah. I could do this…”
6 years later, I’m really grateful I never got that graphic design job because I don’t know that I would have ever started my own company. I truly love what I do and can’t imagine having life turn out differently.
Who is your ideal client?
I document elegant celebrations, rooted in legacy, that have a romantic aesthetic and touch of humor. My couples are urban professionals that are busy people and value hiring a professional that will take the workload off of them so they can enjoy themselves and soak up the unique moments that happen when all of your loved ones are together in one room. RMP couples love tradition but also love modifying those traditions to make them uniquely theirs. They travel frequently and I’m often pulling out my passport to document their stories.
What got you into the photography business?
I was always that friend in college that had the camera but what really got me hooked to specialize in people (and therefore, weddings) particularly was a set of portraits I took of my grandparents. I was simply sitting on their living room floor, with the two of them sitting on the couch, talking. My grandpa always was telling jokes and this time was no different. I have a series of photos where I feel like I can hear his laughter when I look at them. He has since passed away and to this day, they are some of the most important photos I’ve ever created.
To be able to capture someone’s personality and share that personality with someone that may never have had the opportunity to meet that person, is a stunning gift. I can’t imagine a more powerful responsibility I could choose to call my career. Ok, maybe a neurosurgeon but you get my point 😉 Photography allows us to document a legacy and enliven the stories of past generations for those in the future.
What do you love most about being an entrepreneur?
Control! 😉 But really, freedom. I can’t imagine switching to counting PTO days. I love being able to dream about doing something and then taking action to just do it! I think traditional employment would really benefit from giving employees more freedom. With worldwide internet access, a lot of work can be accomplished remotely and I believe people who have the freedom to pursue their own dreams are going to work better anyway.
With that, the other part I love about being an entrepreneur is creating a space and team that can help others live the life they dream. Hiring my first employee was really scary initially. It was the first time I was responsible for supporting someone else. Realizing you are giving them the means to pay their rent and buy their groceries can feel like a heavy weight. But when I focused on that responsibility from a place of empowering someone else to create their own dream life because of our flexible work hours, remote office options, etc. – that’s really exciting. Being an entrepreneur means I get to support other creatives succeed at the life they want.
What is the most challenging aspect of being an entrepreneur?
The uncertainty. There is a constant roller coaster ride, specifically for creatives, of thinking “I have this awesome new idea! It’s going to be amazing. Oh shoot, will people think it’s amazing? Is it amazing? Maybe it’s not? What am I doing? Crap this is terrible! Everything is going to fall apart. Wait, forget that! I’ve been doing this for years and rocking at it! I got this! Let’s do it!” Rinse and repeat. Sometimes all those feelings happen in one day, sometimes they each happen for weeks at a time. You have to learn to recognize the roller coaster and stay on.
What is your best piece of business advice?
In the words of the wise Dory, from Finding Nemo: “Just keep swimming.”
I heard a lot of statistics and landmark dates when I first started. Things like “Most new businesses fail within the first 3 years.” The numbers become even more daunting at the 5 year mark. I met with photographers who told me not to start my business and do something else because it wasn’t going to work anymore. Clearly I’m stubborn because I did it anyway 🙂 But after surpassing those 3 and 5 year markers with flying colors, there’s still plenty of hurdles to overcome. Each day is hard work and that will never end. I don’t think anyone prepares you for that. It feels like after some magical number of years, you should be able to have it all figured out, but that’s simply not true. I know people who have had their businesses for 15 or 20 years who still suffer really hard years where they aren’t sure they will make payroll, and then the following year have more success then ever before. In order to succeed at owning any business, you really have to develop an amount of toughness to push yourself through the roller coaster. Hard days, weeks, months or years when you are the one in charge and feel responsible for making it hard can be exhausting. But if you don’t keep swimming, you’ll be stuck swimming with the jellies instead of getting out.
Do you have any tricks of the trade you could share with us?
The trade of being an entrepreneur? Honestly, there are no tricks. There are endless resources out there that will say “take this course and earn 6 figures in 6 months” or “I’ll teach you how to double your email list” etc. etc. etc. But really, what it all comes down to is really hard work. Period.
Tricks of the trade for photography – Your camera is not what takes a good photo. It’s all about learning how to see light. Take a vase of flowers or your favorite childhood stuffed animal and take a photo facing into a window (note: this works even just with your cell phone camera), then try taking the same photo at a 90 degree angle to the window, then 180 degrees. Move all the way around one still object and 1 light source to start to see how the light moves and decide which look you prefer (I always prefer 90 or 45 degrees). Keep practicing in that controlled setting until you understand how it’s working and then see how much you can notice those same effects when you are out walking around each day. No amount of professional-grade camera equipment can fix not being able to properly see the light.
How would you describe your personal style?
Urban casual. You’ve thought through some of the details and you can strut your way through the financial district downtown at lunchtime amidst the suits but you are also comfortable and can wear whatever it is for your 10-12 hour work day. For example: I don’t wear heels every day, but I always make sure my mascara is on point.
What does CoChic (comfortably chic) mean to you?
Chic to me is a balance between being current with your look without crossing over into being too trendy or fad-focused, which falls out of date so quickly. It’s being timeless with a bit more flare. Comfortably Chic then is when you are able to find the aspect of chic that speaks to you uniquely. Being Comfortably Chic no doubt inspires that kind of confidence in each of us that allows us to check ourselves out in the store window when we walk down the sidewalk and think “I got this!” (Come on, you know we’ve all done it!) It’s exactly that outfit or color that I tell everyone to choose when they are faced with the daunting task of what to wear when getting their portrait taken.