We had the good fortune of connecting with Michelle Sobel and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Michelle, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I would not have my photography business without my failed acting career. I had spent the last 16 years chasing a dream-trying to be at the right place at the right time, fighting for the approval of others and convincing myself, teachers, friends, my parents, that I “had what it took” to make it in Hollywood.
This mentality all came crashing down after one too many bad auditions and at 25 years old- I walked away from the biz. I loved acting but I didn’t like how the business made me feel. Everyday was like this ” you’re not good enough” feeling and it felt like being in a unhealthy relationship you just want out of. I was done- so I left.
As a way to stay creative, I signed up for a Photo 1 class at Santa Monica College. I had no idea what I wanted to shoot or even how to turn on a camera for that matter, but I enjoyed taking pictures and saw it as a good alternative outlet to create art.
Fast forward 2 years and shooting everything and everyone “for fun,” an engagement session fell into my lap, then a wedding and from there, I believe- was the start of my business.
I never went into photography thinking I wanted to start my own business. I went into photography because I wanted to create art, be seen, be heard and not rely on the approval of others (agents and casting directors) to get me a job. Starting my own business has taught me that if they won’t hire you, do it yourself. Find a way, be your own boss, don’t take no for an answer. Believe in yourself.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
The core of my art is to capture emotion. I want to be able to encapsulate the way someone felt on either their wedding day or an idle Tuesday at home with their family- and be able to look back on it years later. Photos are powerful-they can bring back a time, a place, a person, a feeling, when all may be lost. It allows us to go back in time and feel what we felt.
It’s my responsibility to make sure that the feelings being projected within a photo along with the people and place are all true in nature.
It’s my rightful duty.
I got where I am today just by finding something I was passionate about and incorporating it into my daily life. Consistency- I picked up my camera everyday and I never stopped taking pictures.
It took a solid 4 years to be paid for my work, but through the help of social media, blogging, and referrals, leads came in from people I didn’t know and that’s when I knew I had every right to start charging.
To be a full-time wedding photographer and build a business wasn’t necessarily hard because I enjoyed doing it, but it was ALOT of work. Building a portfolio, website, social following, contract, pricing guide, review base- it’s all work! But hard work pays off and so happy to be where I am today.
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?
Oooh I LOVE this question. For starters, Griffith Observatory! I’m a huge runner and I spent 10 years of my life running up to Griffith Observatory to catch some of the best views of the city. Added bonus that you can see the Hollywood sign from up there too!
The Greek Theatre- because who doesn’t want to see a show surrounded by nature? Griffith Park is such a magical place to be in. It’s like LA’s Central Park.
The Surly Goat in West Hollywood- best craft beer bar in town. I also bartended there for 12 years and will always hold a special place in my heart. Monday nights has the BEST trivia as well- so much fun!
PCH/ El Matador State Beach- you cant come to CA without seeing the ocean and driving along the PCH! Take this highway to view Santa Monica Pier, but I wouldn’t stop there as it is such a tourist trap. Keep driving North and rather visit El Matador State Beach in Malibu- I love it for it’s massive rock formations and breath-taking cliff views.
Musso and Frank Grill- best place to eat for dinner in the city and SO much Hollywood history. Do not come to LA without eating here!
Good Times at Davey Waynes- Fun bar that will take you back to the 70’s. You enter the bar thru a fridge door and their whole aesthetic to the bar is so cool, Always such a good time and great place to bring friends visiting the city.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Shout-out to my Dad who always believed in me and my art. Even when I didn’t think I was good enough to be paid for my work, he consistently told me to put an end to free gigs- that I was ready. If there is one thing I learned in the beginning of my career it’s that clients who pay so little are the ones that expect so much. They tend to be the ones to devalue you, criticize you and MAKE you feel incapable of becoming a business owner.
Listen to your dad, listen your friends and listen to those who admire your art.
I lost my Dad in 2018, the day before my first paid wedding. His death played a pivotal role on where I am today. I never devalued my work again and every shoot I do- I do it for my biggest fan. Thanks Dad.
Lisandra Vasquez for picture of myself! The rest were taken by me.