So many thoughts are going through my mind right now, as I reflect back on nearly 2 decades (!!!) of doing what I love—warning: long post ahead.
17 years ago when I was waiting in line at the St. Petersburg, FL courthouse, eager to obtain a business license to start my own photography business, I knew 2 things for sure— I wanted to work for myself, and that a camera was my tool of choice. I had no business experience, but I was no stranger to hard work. I started working at the age of 14/15, holding 2- 3 jobs at the same time. At 18 years old, I had worked my way up as a manager at a famous fast-food chain—I knew then at such a young age, that I had what it takes to run a business. I wish there was a way to watch a highlight reel of my life from that day at the courthouse, to now. Wish I could use a remote control to replay and pause the best parts, re-watch moments when lessons were learned, and milestones were made. My journey as a photographer and business owner has been a fun and crazy road trip—with you, my clients, as fuel getting me through each milestone.
If I was asked to write a guidebook on how to be a successful portrait photographer, my intro would be lengthy, and my dedication page never-ending. There are so many things I can attribute to becoming a successful photographer—drive, passion, hard-work, purpose—but the bulk of it goes to the people who have been in front of my camera, entrusting me to record their memories and experiences, and the people behind-the-scenes—mentors, educators, friends, family (you all know who you are!). You see, becoming a master at what you do takes a village—no matter how self-made and independent you think you are. It is for my “village” that I am most grateful for.
I cannot even put into words how much growth 17 years of being in this industry has brought me. I could just laugh and cry thinking of all the ups and downs, monumental errors, and happy mistakes I’ve made trying to make a name for myself in this industry. I remember when I used to do it all by myself, wearing all the hats, taking on all the jobs.
If I could go back and talk to that little 14 year old me, wide-eyed and eager to make an impression on the world, I would tell her —do exactly what you are doing now, and be as fearless as you are now, because one day, you’re going to wake up living the life you always dreamed of.
Hard to believe we’re in 2022!
Now that the holidays are over, I’ve had some time to reflect on the whirlwind year 2021 was, and get you all caught up on what’s new and what’s to come for Portrait Boutique. As some of you may know, this is the 7th year I’ve owned my studio, and excited to announce that I will be adding a brand new building behind our current one as my business expands to commercial/rental real estate. My team has also grown, adding Mara as my Studio Manager, and Lily as my Hair and Makeup Artist. We’ve also successfully re-branded to Portrait Boutique by Christine Nicole, and have a beautiful new website (www.portraitboutique.com). With the current re-brand comes big changes—please stay tuned for our announcements!
Before I sign off, I leave you this: To all the aspiring photographers and business owners— my advice to you is GO FOR IT, PUSH through it. There are no fails when you seek out to do what you love for a living, only lessons learned. You just need to be eager and open, and willing to learn from your mistakes. CONNECT with your clients on a level where you build trust. It is through this connection that you build a successful business with loyal followers. Keep a Customer Service hat on at all times, and provide the level of service you would like to receive. Value is perception—treat your clients with the highest level of care , and you will be regarded as a high-value business owner.
Xoxo, Christine Nicole
as told to Mara Cunningham