After about 8 months of having DIY photos on my site, I decided it was time to look into professional photos. However, it wasn’t just about professional photos, I needed images that could help tell my story. Enter Laura Benn of Gooseberry Studios. Read on to learn more about the gal behind the camera.
1. How did you come up with the name Gooseberry Studios?
The name quite literally came out of thin air! After spending hours upon hours with Google looking up all sorts of name ideas for my print shop (only to discover that they were in fact already claimed) I turned to my faithful little ragamuffin of a dog, Lucy, who is nicknamed Goose, and said ‘What is to be done Gooseberry?!” Needless to say, the name stuck. Fast forward a year and a bit and I applied the name ‘Gooseberry’ to the whole business: studio and shop!
2. Growing up, were you always into photography?
Growing up I had my heart set on being a writer. I lived, breathed and dreamed in the written word and more than anything wanted to be a story-teller, an author! My first career was actually in publishing and journalism. I worked as an Editorial Coordinator and Web Editor for national titles for many years and studied photography as a way to illustrate the pieces I was writing for newspapers and magazines. Over time, I ultimately fell in love with photography just as hard! I still consider myself a story-teller but through a different medium.
3. In your opinion, what traits are needed in order to be a great photographer?
In my opinion, you need to be patient, detail-oriented and a free-thinker. That sounds like a totally artsy-fartsy term, I know, but what I mean by it is that you need to be able to look beyond what is considered ‘popular’ or ‘mainstream,’ because ultimately being a photographer is about delivering the way you see things, your unique perspective, through the images you dream up and create. Patience is key because a lot of the time the people you work with aren’t used to being ‘on camera’ and coaching is involved. And of course, being detail-oriented matters because photography has a million moving parts to it – it’s so much more than taking the photo itself.
4. What do you like the most about your job?
I love being a part of people’s history! Whether I’m helping them build their dream job or capturing squishy newborn moments, I get to meet people from all walks of life and be a part of their story for a time. It’s pretty cool! I also love the variety of my work and the luxury of controlling my own time – something I never had working for other people (personally).
5. What do you like the least about your job?
Honestly, there’s nothing I don’t really like about it. Sometimes I miss having co-workers in the office, but a lot of what I do is quite social in nature anyway, so that’s a fleeting feeling really.
6. How do you determine if someone is a good fit for working with you?
On the photography side, I have one criteria only – kindness. Be a good human, that’s all! It doesn’t matter if you’re shy, not confident in front of the camera if it’s a hectic event to capture or whatever. Be a kind individual and we’re good to go! The same criteria apply on the Brand Building side of the studio. If you’re a good human and serious about making a go of being your own boss, I’ll move mountains to help build a brand and strategy that will stand out in the marketplace and generate income (metaphorically, of course – my actual lifting arms are like noodles!).
7. What is a typical day like for you?
My days are pretty varied depending on what projects I have on the go. Typically, however, I wake up, guzzle some Earl Grey tea and take my puppers for a walk. Then it’s a 30-minute workout (full disclosure: I’ve been skipping a lot of workouts since the holidays), shower, breakfast and I’m usually in my studio, sitting down at my computer by 9:30 am to dive into the inbox. I like to use mornings for correspondence, calls, planning, strategy and prep time. Then afternoons are all about shooting, meetings, organizing events and post-production. Some days I start at 4 am, others I work until 10 pm. It really depends on the scope of the project at hand.
8. Did you encounter any struggles when you first started on your own?
Oh my gosh, yes! My business wasn’t actually planned. I was laid off very unexpectedly from my full-time job in publishing and couldn’t find another position in my field after six months of searching. I was faced with a decision; either relocate for my career or try and go out on my own. So I chose the latter and fought every day to make it work. As anyone knows who starts a business, there is a steep learning curve, bouts of anxiety, a never-ending to-do list, self-doubt and honestly, fear, involved. These were all things that I too had to work through and overcome.When you’re your own boss there is always a challenge to address. I don’t think that the challenges ever truly go away, but you become more confident, calm and capable of addressing them and problem-solving effectively.
9. On your site, you have quite the variety of photography sessions ranging from branding all the way to dog portraits. Do you have a favourite type of session and why?
Haha I do! I love all my various photography focuses for different reasons. I do especially love the fine art fashion shoots (I basically pretend I work for Vogue and create dreamy vignettes), the dog sessions are always a blast (because dogs don’t give two figs how they look on camera), and the branding photography (because there is such an opportunity for imagination). It’s all a good time though, from babies to family moments, to events, to fashion and beyond!
10. You recently launched a series of business coaching sessions called the Tea Talks. Could you briefly describe what that entails?
Thank you for asking! Gooseberry Tea Talks are intimate roundtable coaching sessions that provide direct access to no-nonsense practical information that answers all of your business questions!Essentially, it’s a curriculum I wish I had had access to when I was starting my business five years ago. I could have avoided so many costly mistakes if I had had a program to check in with and ask all of my questions to on a regular basis.Tea Talks topics change from month to month, but each event delivers each attendee a clear action plan for their goals that is strategically designed for their dream job. There are limited seats to ensure that everyone gets extensive opportunities to ask their specific questions, network meaningfully, workshop their ideas closely with experts and have fun in a relaxed environment! It’s access to my full business coaching services, at a more affordable price point to help those who are just starting out.I like to jokingly call Tea Talks, “a grown-up tea party for people who mean business.” It’s a blast and a way for me to be the resource/person I wish I had in my life when I was trying to figure out this whole ‘be your own boss’ thing (Discover our upcoming topics here: http://lauralbenn.com/product-category/the-tea-talks).
11. Aside from your photography business, you currently run two other businesses, Pawsh Magazine, Gooseberry Prints – as well as a non-profit initiative, The Lovely Mine Project. How do you find the time and energy for all those things?
Funny you should ask! Gooseberry’s 3rd Tea Talk in June is all about answering this very question — “A dream job that doesn’t cost 40 hours a week: How to work smarter, not harder by boosting productivity and profit.” This Tea Talk is all about helping people adjust their work habits, mindset and time management so they can rock their never-ending to-do list without working 16 hour days. I’m going to sit down with each attendee and teach them all my personal strategies and tricks to work smarter, not harder so balancing multiple businesses or projects isn’t a nightmare. And so you don’t burn out.Personally, I’ve always been the type of person who enjoys having multiple projects on the go and I thrive on variety. In terms of finding the energy, I am deeply passionate about each of my businesses so working on them isn’t a chore (yes, there are hard days, but the joy I find through each of my businesses always exceeds those). In my experience, if you’re genuinely enjoying something, it doesn’t feel like exerting energy because it’s fun! Finding the time, however, is another matter altogether! If I could ever have a super-power I would wish for the ability to not sleep – I’ve always thought eight hours of sleep a night is such a waste of time. (Well done biology…) Ultimately, the secret to running multiple successful businesses and projects is scheduling and creative time management skills. Master both of these and you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish without having to work every waking hour.
12. What advice would you give to people who are looking to start their own photography business?
Don’t give up. It sounds really cliche, I know, but perseverance is half the battle. It’s going to be a bit of a fight, like starting any business, so be prepared to love the struggle. Be really excited whenever you have a chance to work on your business. Practice shooting – all the time. Practice editing even more. Study business. Invest wisely in workshops or a mentoring program. Look beyond your industry for inspiration and definitely develop an online presence (a blog, social channels, a professional website) to showcase your work.