We had the good fortune of connecting with Kim Fetrow and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kim, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I am usually a risk-taker. One of my favorite things is to fly around in helicopters with the door off to shoot aerials. As a rule, I generally say “yes” to an assignment and THEN figure out how I will make it happen. Taking those risks has allowed me to learn about SO MANY genres of photography and not to pinhole myself into only one thing. I’m not sure I would have achieved the success I have had if I had limited myself to only shoot “wine”, for instance. I think my commercial clients now trust me to be able to handle all of their needs and come back to me when they need different things = more business opportunities. (For instance event, marketing, headshots, products, artwork for clinic walls, etc.)
“Can you climb this tower crane or shoot from this super high lift?” “Sure.”
“Let’s get the shot from this moving combine as the machine is harvesting.” “Great!”
“What do you think about shooting brain surgery in the OR?” “Let’s do it!”
(I have my own hardhat with my name on it…) I love the variety and the challenge of learning new things. Variety is the spice of life!
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I think what sets me apart from others in my area the most is the hustle. I get back to clients as soon as I can and I think that has gotten me a LOT of jobs over the years. I’m also a firm believer in, “good work breeds more good work”. New clients see the caliber of my work for big-name clients in my area, which then legitimizes me and my business, and they are willing to trust me with their photography needs as well.
I’ve joked for years that my job is like one big field trip after another; I’ve gotten the chance to see so many things that most people only see on TV. It’s been an incredible career and I can’t wait to see where the next 20 years take me. I feel blessed to be doing what I’m doing.
Can you tell us a little bit about how you got started?
I was born and raised in Walla Walla, Washington, and received a full-ride to Whitman College where I learned how to learn. I was a HISTORY major. I had NO IDEA what I wanted to do with my life when I graduated and feel so blessed that a medical marketing company took a chance on me as a photography assistant over 25 years ago.
I quickly began learning about photography and fell in love. When I saw my first cover in print and I was hooked. After 4 years I took a job at a multimedia production company. I was the staff photographer/scriptwriter/ video producer for 13 years before being let go as the company was sunsetting. I was devastated but felt I had no other choice than to hit the ground running with my own business. Because the company was closing shop, I didn’t have to worry about non-competes and already had a full commercial client base. I felt SO lucky. I continued to provide the same level of service and quality that I had before. The only thing that changed was my office address.
I think my biggest “aha” moment was about a year ago. As a photographer, you end up working really weird hours usually because of sunlight. But I didn’t have to MEET with my clients after 5. You don’t meet with your dentist or accountant or lawyer after 5…why was I giving clients access to my personal time? So I stopped that and started saying “no” a LOT MORE to weekend shoots unless there was absolutely no way around it. I only shoot about 3 weddings/year for this same reason. And you know what? My clients figured out a way to make the weekday workday work.
What are some other things that have helped you succeed?
I feel my brand is successful because I am consistent. I deliver what clients want when I say I will for the price I quoted. I use charitable marketing wherever possible (banners hanging in baseball fields right up there with businesses like Les Schwab, our local hospitals, etc.) which legitimizes my business. I have clients tell me “you are EVERYWHERE” meaning they see my logo all over.
Every third person with a camera these days is a “photographer”. I think what sets me apart is that this IS my full-time job, and it takes a much higher level of skill and gear to be able to shoot commercial photography successfully.
I’m really happy and thankful that I have been able to make this a career as I don’t have any formal training. I didn’t go to school for photography. (Side note: Although I think getting a degree may hone your skills, the only people that care if you have one are other photographers, and they aren’t paying your bills.)
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
This question cracks me up as I have always said that Richland is a nice place to live but a boring place to visit. There are a LOT of wineries in our area and I have the opportunity to call the best my clients! I’d head out to Red Mountain and spend some time enjoying the patio at Hedges and then stop in at Bookwalter for lunch. After that, we might go paddleboard on the Columbia River and stop in at Longship for a glass of wine or a walk along the river trail. Our town has a rich history (it was quickly built in the 40s for the Manhattan Project) so a tour of our Alphabet Homes (I live in a “B” House) could be fun or we could head out to the B Reactor for a tour which is now a National Monument!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would like to thank Coffey Communications, Nick Bauer and Matt Hammer for taking a chance on a young professional and for allowing me to fully develop my photographic skills while on the job. A huge thank you to all the clients that trusted me with their photography needs along the way.
Linkedin: Kimberly Teske Fetrow
It’s A Keeper Photography, Kim Fetrow Photography