We had the good fortune of connecting with Jacqueline Patton and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jacqueline, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
Growing up, I always knew I was an artist at heart, but wasn’t sure how I would be able to sustain myself financially just doing the fun stuff. I went to NYU and studied Communications, but secretly (or not so secretly) wanted to life a life in the arts. I graduated and took off to Spain for a while, avoiding “adulting” for as long as possible and finally came back to the US about a year later. I did everything from freelance writing to bartending to starting a band to then eventually deciding that it was time to get a “normal” job. I got hired at an interactive PR firm in Manhattan, and was actually pretty good at it. But I was dying inside. The thought of waking up every day and doing, essentially, the same thing over and over and over again and living for the weekends made me feel like I was suffocating. So…the same day I was offered a raise, I quit. I had no idea what I was going to do, but I knew I couldn’t keep going down that path or I’d waste my whole life. I decided to totally switch gears and got a job working in the garment district in NYC for a bridal designer. While working for the designer, I ended up having my first baby and my husband encouraged me to find something that was just for me – not work or mom-related. And I told him I wanted a camera. A good camera. And I learned to shoot manually, and I photographed everyone who would let me. And because I’d worked in the bridal industry, I started asking other established photographers if I could shoot alongside them. My first year just starting out, I remember being completely baffled at the fact that people were paying me money for me to photograph them. It felt like I was getting away with something. My very first year starting out, I’m pretty sure I made less than 20k from photography. But then something shifted inside of me and I told myself, “I’m not doing this half-assed. From now on, this is my career and I’m going all in.” My 2nd year in business I cleared 6 figures and the work snowballed from there. Starting my own business was about freedom. Before I went out on my own, I felt like I was using my abilities to further other people’s careers, so I figured if I worked for myself, all the work I put into it would boomerang back.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Before I even started really knowing what great photography was on a technical level, I would experiment and try things and go after a vision. You have to be willing to mess up. Sometimes we get stuck within limits of trying to be good, that we lose our creative edge. It’s hard to not want to emulate work that we admire from others. But after a while, I had to talk myself out of comparing my work to other people’s. The key to having consistency in my business has been that when I show up, I’m all in – I don’t take breaks once I start, and I show up early almost every single time. I understand that when someone hires me to photograph something that’s important to them, it’s also important to me. When I first started my business, I thought I had to look and dress and act a certain way to appear professional – but then quickly realized that if I treat my business the way I feel most comfortable, the clients that really align with my style and personality will come. And they have, which I’m so grateful for.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Wow…so many options in LA! In no particular order, here goes: hiking Fryman Canyon, lunch at Sweeet Salt in Toluca Lake, dinner at Sugarfish in Studio City, sunset at Point Dume in Malibu, vintage shopping at Cannonball & Tilly, and passion fruit smoothies and whatever is on the menu at Flavors from Afar in Little Ethiopia. Also…the Getty is pretty great.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
He’ll be surprised that I’m mentioning him – but my husband is the one who actually encouraged me to quit the steady day job I was miserable in and take a leap. He’s an actor and never gave himself a back-up plan…he always told me that if he had a plan-B, it would be like having one foot in and one foot out. Yes, the stakes are high, but I’ve realized that taking the “safe” route actually feels scarier to me than the the risk of living aligned with purpose.