When I decided I'd dive back into photography this year I had no real idea what that would look like. I decided early on that something that would bring more joy to my work as a photographer would be networking and finding community with other creatives in Flagstaff. So I started sending out some messages to some other photographers whose work I admired on Instagram, "Hey! I'm Jess. I just moved back up to Flagstaff and I'm trying to connect with + befriend other photographers. Hopefully we can get to know one another and support one another!"
In no time at all I was able to chat with some other girls about their experience with local vendors, other photographers, locations we liked and so on. That's all I was really hoping for so I was thrilled everyone was welcoming right out the gate. One of the photographers I connected with responded a week or so later apologizing for the delay and introducing herself. We chatted back and forth before she said, "I'm thinking about bringing some associate photographers on board this year to help with my workload - we should chat about it and see if we'd be a good fit." I'll be honest I had no real idea what an associate photographer would do, but figured it was a great opportunity. The photographer, Hannah Rose Gray Photography, had a portfolio that showed she worked with plenty of local + large-name businesses, weddings, proposals, engagements, families and beyond. In the days that followed I would see that she was tagged in a ton of photos posted by those I follow - I think that's when I realized what an awesome opportunity it would be to chat with her and see what she had going on!
About a month later we finally worked out a date and met at a local coffee shop. I immediately noticed our similarities in how we believe business should be run, prioritizing fun and freedom in our own photography, a focus on personal growth and investment in self, humor and more. Whether or not the whole "associate" thing worked out, I was excited to have met someone with so many similarities! Having said that, the associate thing sounded like a perfect fit too. In the weeks leading up to this meeting I'd already been leaning toward resigning from my digital marketing job and after talking with Hannah I was certain it was time to send in my notice. "If she can create a wildly successful photography business, I can too," I thought as I walked back to my car. She texted me that afternoon and invited me to tag along with her on a proposal photoshoot the next day as a second shooter and at that point I think we were both ready to move forward with me as her associate.
So what does that mean? Because Hannah is one of the most sought-after photographers locally and for out-of-state visitors to popular locations throughout Arizona she started finding herself fully booked and turning away leads. By bringing associates into her circle that have a similar photographic and artistic style to hers she can still book those clients with one of us. Associates typically make a certain percentage of the final cost of the session and in my case the only responsibility is taking the photos (i.e., no editing, delivery, etc). In addition to this, associates often tag along as a second shooter for sessions to build their portfolio, gain experience and offer another set of eyes and hands on the shoot. In my eyes, this couldn't have been a more perfect fit because I'm still in the process of growing my client base and filling my schedule. By working as an associate I have the opportunity to fill gaps in my schedule, explore new locations and share ideas back and forth. This still allows me to prioritize building my brand.
Almost all the sessions I've worked with Hannah on so far have all been firsts for me, therefore they have each been critical in expanding my portfolio and offerings to my own client base. So far I've been able to take on two proposal photoshoots, one elopement and a sweet family session. We also took a whole day to get together as a team to take our team photos and walk through an entire wedding day with a volunteer couple and the helping hands of multiple local Flagstaff vendors (more to share about this later on!). There are so many fun opportunities lined up for my future working alongside Hannah and it's been a perfect partnership to this point. I'm looking forward to all the growth and creating I'll get to do on her team.
It's in moments of calm and downtime during my day that I find myself taking a deep breath and a step back to appreciate just how aligned this all has happened. Taking a leap of faith to pursue your passion can be terrifying. You sincerely have to figure it out as you go, and it's these things that you can't predict. The Universe simply places them there for you to act on (or not!). I'm thrilled to see just how much I learn working alongside Hannah into the future.