“Featuring Catherine Hall
When Catherine Hall was just starting out as a professional photographer, she had the intention of living a life free from debt. The Wedding, Portrait, and Commercial photographer graduated at the top of her class at California Polytechnic and furthered her education in art at Oxford University. She knew the value of keeping her costs low while also building her new business.
“I started off living and working in a tiny apartment in New York. The room was so small that you couldn’t even open the door without hitting the bed.”
But even that didn’t stop her from booking multi-thousand dollar jobs. Catherine says she conducted all her business meetings at Starbucks. She says she learned early on that you don’t have to have a big studio or a nice office to impress clients. “It’s really more about building a beautiful portfolio and connecting with people and that can be in a coffee shop as easily as it can be inside a studio.”
Helping Her Fellow Photographers Reach Their Full Potential
The award-winning fine-art photographer has attracted the attention of high-profile magazines like Grace Ormande’s Wedding Style, InStyle Weddings, and The Knot, which recently named her Best Wedding Photographer. Catherine is also passionate about education and helping her fellow photographers reach their full potential.
I caught up with the San Francisco-based photographer at WPPI where she had just finished a seminar on Not Letting Fear Get in the Way of Success. So what about the wedding industry is so scary? What were her students so afraid of? Catherine told me the biggest fear her students shared revolved around pricing.
“They have a hard time charging their worth. And there’s a lot of concern about an oversaturated market and not getting jobs.”
Catherine said the photographers taking her seminar had a real fear of not getting work due to setting prices higher than their competition. She chalks that up to a fear of not being good enough.
“I think that’s the hardest thing as an artist is you oftentimes start doing things for free or cheaper and it’s really hard to get over that hurdle of valuing your work.”
Compensation that Nurtures Your Artistic Lifestyle
Catherine tells her students they need to charge in a way that nurtures their artistic lifestyle—giving this example: “If I have to shoot more weddings because I’m not charging enough, then I’m not getting any personal time and I’m not taking care of myself. And over time, I’m no longer the best photographer I can possibly be.” Catherine went on to say that it’s not really about the dollar amount, it’s about making sure you’re compensated correctly.
Despite her many successful years as a photographer, Catherine admits she has made some financial mistakes.
“There was a time period where I had several employees and I was getting drained by their salaries and I wasn’t able to really get ahead.” Now, Catherine uses independent contractors that all have their own specialties, like her personal assistant, Kyla. While I was in Las Vegas for WPPI, I was in constant communication with Catherine’s assistant to coordinate our interview. And until she told me Kyla was in Missouri, I would have thought she was working alongside Catherine at the convention. “She’s totally virtual! And because of the Internet and Dropbox, she has access to everything.”
Another way Catherine positions herself to be the best photographer she can be is relying on an outside raw image editing service to handle her files. “Just like you guys do at ShootDotEdit for your clients, it’s just such a time saver for me.”
Catherine says her job as a professional is to make money and she can’t do that if she’s bogged down by processing raw files when she could be spending that time on improving sales or marketing. “As your business grows, there’s going to be a time when you’re actually losing money by sitting behind the computer.”
Catherine’s ultimate goal is to hand her client a final, beautiful product. In order to do that, she says there are a lot of steps that have to be taken to create an artful, thoughtful image. “It starts before you even take a picture.”
Catherine prides herself on being proactive from the very beginning—coaching the client on what to wear, how to do their makeup, making sure there’s enough time, and using every tool at her disposal to make sure the images are captured as beautifully as possible.
Written by Sabrina Sabbagh