Monday, June 8, 2009

Rachel Ray, baby!

On a regular basis at work, I read stories about mass layoffs at newspapers around the country and how the industry is flailing. Then, after a few rounds of layoffs in my own news room and feeling the pinch of other corporate cost-cutting measures, I couldn't help but wonder what if.

At this point in my life, I honestly can't afford to go back to school -- financially and time-wise. I can barely balance all I'm doing now. There's no way another degree is possible.

So I started brainstorming what other options I have. I love my job. I love newspapers. I don't want to sit behind any desk at any building just to earn a paycheck.

Part of the reason I chose journalism is for the challenge. The other part is for the creativity and love of the written word. When I moved from reporting into editing and page design, it was like I found my calling. The work of making the stories fit in an attractive and informative and mistake-free manner all by a nightly deadline makes my pulse flow.

I wondered how I could continue doing that while supplementing my income and still be responsible for Allison during the day. Something that would give me creative freedom and provide a little bit of a backup plan in case the unthinkable happens.

It seemed like a tall order. And I drew a massive blank.

Then, while I was trying to jot down my thoughts and encountered a particularly gripping bout of writer's block, my computer sat idle long enough that my screensaver popped on. As I sat there admiring all of the pictures I've taken over the past few years, it hit me.

I could take photos.

Even voicing my idea to Jerry was difficult. I'm not professionally trained. I'm friends with and work with professionals. I wondered and worried about what they would think.

On the other hand, I just have a feel for it. My background in design helps me understand composition, balance and color. I find joy in it. I take pride in the photos I've taken of Allison. I believe in myself. And I know I can capture moments that other families will cherish for generations.

Jerry knew it too and responded more positively than I ever could've dreamed.

Then I mentioned my idea to my mom -- the woman who has always been my biggest supporter but doesn't let that stop her from giving me a huge dose of reality when I need it.

Instead of trying to talk me out of it, which I had expected, she encouraged me.

But because my ideas were too big too fast, I swore them both to secrecy.

Since then, I sprung into action. Every spare minute of every day has been spent brainstorming. My mom put me in contact with a portrait photographer from my hometown, and he has been my business startup angel.

Scott helped me figure out which equipment to purchase and gave me some invaluable advice that I can't possibly express my gratitude for.

Fortunately, I had a small account that I've been saving for a rainy day. I opened it with my mom as co-signer when I was probably 12. I haven't added to it in more than a decade, but I refused to take any out either. I promised myself that I would only use it in an emergency or as an investment.

And what's better than investing in myself?

After cleaning out my workspace, painting and buying minimal office furniture, I felt ready to take it to the next level.

I asked my mom to withdraw a couple thousand dollars, and I purchased two 800-watt lights with flash bulbs; a remote trigger; stands with umbrellas; two gigantic black and white backdrops and a bar to hold them; a laptop, which will soon have all the software a photographer dreams of; and, best of all, an amazing new Nikon D-90 camera.

Then the weirdest thing happened. My overwhelming excitement turned to nerves. Here I am trying to find something that will help my family by boosting my income, and I just spent my emergency savings. I wondered what the hell I was doing.

But when my equipment arrived, my courage came back threefold. I wasn't just excited, I was ready.

I still have an overwhelming amount of tasks to accomplish before I can call my work a business, but I'm getting closer. Right now I'm practicing on family and friends to build a portfolio and eventually set up a website. I'm going to concentrate on children and see where it takes me. I've already been asked to do an engagement session and some belly shots, so who knows, I may end up dabbling in a variety of portraits.

For now, I'm only allowing myself to think three steps ahead. Any more than that and I don't sleep. I have a hard enough time when I'm thinking of the immediate goals as it is.

But it feels good.

I have no immediate expectations other than having fun, giving away a ton of free sessions and eventually setting rates.

In the back of my mind, I have two bits of advice that keep me motivated.

One from a wonderful friend: "Rachel Ray is self-taught, and look at her."

And another from someone who does this for a living: "Starting a business is like raising a baby. You have to put a lot in before it can give back to you."

So when I have a temporary panic attack, I think, "Rachel Ray, baby!"

I can do this.


Jennifer Suarez said...

I am green with Nikon envy!

Best of luck to you and your new endeavor. It takes a lot of guts to go out on a limb and I'm so glad you have the support you need to make it happen.


Lioncloud said...

Please don't act as peppy as Rachael is during photos shoots or people will run out screaming.

Hannah said...

YAY! I KNEW it had to be something with photography! I think you do an amazing job with photos! I wish you the best of luck!

Sarah said...

I'm so excited for you! =D I can't wait to see where this takes you! I had no idea that OLP would be this good!

Stephanie said...

Good luck with everything!

gorakagaz said...

that's awesome! good luck with your endeavor. don't forget to have fun while you're doing it =]

Jessica said...

Wow, best of luck! Maybe we'll seek your services for our 5th anniversary this year. :)

aj said...


So I was WAY off when I thought your new adventure was a reality show titled "Kelly Plus 3"?

~rita said...

You're going to be amazing! If I lived anywhere near you, I'd gladly hire you to do family photos for me. I've enjoyed your photographs for years and often think they should be published.

Anonymous said...

I think you will do amazing! That is an awesome idea. There is always a need for a photographer. I am looking for photographer to take a family shot of us when my little girl is 6 months but I don't want to break the bank. Unfortunately the photo studios cost a small fortune, especially to go out to a location (I want to go to a park with our two dogs as well) and I need someone starting out or who does it as a small side business but has talent like you.

Best of Luck to you. I would pay for you to do our photo for sure if I lived closer.

Annie C said...

Hey Kelly,
So excited for you! I had a feeling it had something to do with your fantasic eye for capturing the moment.

A bit of advice from your dirty, moral-free lawyer friend... Make sure in your standard contract you eventually have clients sign, you own the rights to the photos...not the clients! There is a lot of other advice I have for you, but this is by far the most important and the most valuable for a photographer...

the_plainsman said...

What a great idea, one that suits you so well. A perfect way to ease into the profession

One of my guesses, too, because little else would require you to make the workplace so shipshape. And as I have said here many times and others as well, you have the artistic eye for it, catching the right expression, the right pose, anticipating that second when all is perfect and framing it to perfection. Much of photography is about that perfection, too, and you have that inner bug that seeks it out.

Years ago, I had photographs published, used as illustrations and even did two weddings. But never pursued it, likely as I lacked the one most important part, the passion for it, which you have "by the shipping cargo container." Hmm, where did I see that phrase before? :o)

Best of luck, but besides the luck, you have the talent, the ability and the drive to make it a success!

Anonymous said...

YES! I am so excited for you! As a perk, no more paying for professional portraits of Allison. You can get them the way you like the first time around. :)


the_plainsman said...

BTW, you may need a rider on your homowner's policy since you will be inviting people over as part of a business transaction rather than as guests. Talk to your legal advisor about that, too!

Maria said...

Congrats! This is so gushy but you have become somewhat of a role model for me over the past 4 years of reading your blog, I have faith that this is another positive step for you!

Jaclyn said...

Thank GOD you've divulged what OLP is really all about.
Congrats, Kelly. Based upon the candids you've posted on here, I'd pay for you to take some pictures of Katelyn.
I'm so excited for you and can't WAIT to see a sample of your "professional" photos.

julie said...

I think this is a great thing! I'm also slightly envious. Can't wait to see some of your shots. Are you going to set up a website for the photography?

Anonymous said...

You can do this!

LeslieAnn said...

Yay! That's so exciting! My sister-in-law did that. She took so many photos of her daughter and got so into it that she started her own photography business, completely self taught without even a bachelors. In fact she just got her associates in business. But she does it because she loves it and it pulls in a bit of extra cash and she just has an eye for portrait photography. You can do it!!! :D Can't wait to see some of your photos once you start!

Gisela said...

Congrats on 'coming out' but Rachael Ray? I'd rather get a pap smear done by Muhammed Ali than withstand 10 minutes of her raspy voice. Pick Oprah or someone less annoying.

Wendy M. said...

Good luck!!!

Taren said...

I was really hoping it was photography. I love your photos and I really think you'll be great at it. I can't wait to see your work! :)

Joanna said...

Sooooo happy for you! Kelly this is awesome!!

Are you at all interested in wedding photography? I live in NNJ, not too far away from you I'd imagine, and have TONS of friends who are couples getting married within the next year or so and would GLADLY pass on your information! Plus it would give me a shot to actually meet you.

After years and years of reading this blog, I can say this is one of those moments where I'm REALLY happy I've followed you from xanga to here :)

Shal said...

Yay! I was hoping you'd say Photography... and you know what... I bet ppl would love your "notes" on the picture as well.. you are SUCH a gifted writer, so don't let that go!! :)

If we're every up in your neck of the woods I'd definitely get our family's pictures done!

Good luck and yes I too am green with Nikon D-90 envy!

MadHousewife said...

Bravo! :)

Anonymous said...

That is perfect! I never would have guessed that but I've always thought that you took amazing pictures! Congrats and good luck!

Janice said...

YAY! That's so amazing. I have always thought about photography as something else to do and then I get nervous and talk myself out of it. Who knows, though, right? Rachael Ray, baby!!! Good luck, please keep us posted!

Anonymous said...

you're an idiot. why would anyone go to you when they could go to a professional?

novelle360 said...


You are absolutely allowed to make judgements ... after you see my photos.

Come back tomorrow.

mk said...

Duh mean anonymous, if she charges for her services, she IS a professional. Also, I think her pictures are often professional quality.

Kelly, I think this is a great idea and I'm very excited for you! Get it girl!

Anonymous said...

I am so happy for you Kelly!! Your pictures are always a pleasure to look at. I have been a hobby photographer for years, and it is so much fun. I know you are going to do great. Best of luck as this unfolds!! *g

Anonymous said...

Hi Kelly, I think this is GREAT!
We live in the Philly area and after you are up and running we will make the trip over your way. My first grand child is due in late July and I can't think of anyone I would want to do her pictures beside you. Congrats on your new adventure and BRAVO for taking this step. Jerry and Ali should be very proud of you.

Mandy said...

I live in NW Ohio and would drive all the way there for you to photograph my daughter! You have such talent! Best of luck!

Miss said...

congratulations! i wish you all the best :)

Anonymous said...

Do what you love,and the money will follow.

samuraistrong said...

Too funny, I am a graphic designer and started working custom photo books for photographers into my freelance business. I have a long history with photography and just last summer started photographing again and this spring my business has boomed. I'm shooting a lot now and business grows by word of mouth. That, on top of the custom books I offer, it's been a great supplement!

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I would love to see a picture of your studio and furniture you picked out for it!

Lori :-) said...

The D90!!! You are living my dream girl. I'm just a chicken to start my own OLP....

Good luck, and great pics!!!

Ray said...

Kelly, I am so happy and (even though I don't you) proud of you! This is awesome news and I hope that this endeavor of yours takes you to places you could never imagine. I also think it's so smart to play it safe and to have extra income coming in. And what better way to make that extra income than photography (such a fun way to make money, especially if you love it).

I cannot believe you're going to do an engagement shot that is so great. I can't wait to see those photos. =o)

Kristin said...

Ohh woww =DD
I'm really excited for you =D
I know you can succeed in this.
I've always thought that your pictures were unnaturally good xD
Good luck, Kelly =D


Anonymous said...

Congratulations!!! This has always been a dream of mine and someday I'll be brave enough (and have enough time) to follow in your footsteps. Enjoy every single moment!