We had the good fortune of connecting with Rebecca Grant and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Rebecca, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
Deciding to start my own business was not a decision I made overnight. One of the jobs I held after I graduated from college was as a full time photographer for a fashion company where I worked for a few years. During my time working at that company, I began to learn what the hallmarks of a poorly managed business looked like, where politics and personalities were making the creative decisions. In a positive sense, I learned a lot about working in a studio environment which I was able to build from the ground up with some other creative and collaborative minds.
After that job, using that knowledge and experience, I started freelancing as a photo assistant, digital tech and retoucher, while at the same time I was test shooting in my studio in Brooklyn, intent upon working with as many models and creative teams as possible. After 6 years in the industry, learning from mentors, collaborating with other creatives and building my skills as a photographer and an independent contractor, I made the decision to officially start my own business and Rebecca Grant Studios was born!
It has been the best decision I’ve ever made….so far! The ability and freedom to work towards my own goals is by far one of the most rewarding parts of owning a business. Everything I do in my business is dictated by me with advice drawn from people whose experience and knowledge I value. I get to set my own goals and try to achieve them with every decision I make.
Starting a business is not a decision I made lightly. There are so many hurdles to overcome as I learned about all the new and different aspects of a business. As a business owner, I am in charge and responsible for it all…the good, the bad and the ugly! But with all the challenges comes a great sense of fulfillment and accomplishment. While pre-production, photoshoots, post production and customer service came naturally to me, finances and contracts (legal things) did not, so it took me time to read, listen, learn from others and implement it all until I started to become more comfortable. I was a photographer before, but now I’m a photographer and an entrepreneur and I couldn’t be happier for taking that leap in my career!
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
One of the things that sets me apart from other photographers is my demeanor on set. During every shoot, I strive to get the best images possible for my clients, which means the model has to feel completely comfortable and open with me. Part of my job as a photographer is to coach and direct the model, but before we even reach the set, I talk with the model so that we can get to know eachother better and hopefully build a deeper connection. If there is good conversation, and laughter I can guarantee good images. Almost every shoot I do, I get positive feedback from models about how comfortable they are with me and how they love the energy at my photoshoots. I take huge pride in that and it is one of the most rewarding parts of my job. Getting to this point in my career took extreme passion, persistence and dedication. I studied for years in school, I worked hard getting to know the craft and industry working for others, I learned how to turn photography into my own business, and most importantly learned from years of shooting how to collaborate with others and be my best self on set. As a creative and business owner you are bound to hit rough patches, as have I, but I think if you can learn how to overcome and learn from them, then it will help you grow immensely as a person and a professional.
One of the biggest things I’ve learned thus far is, it helps to be a people person if you’re a photographer as well as an entrepreneur, especially when you’re working with models and a whole crew. You need to be able to read the room, and have control over the set by speaking to people, so that the results you get are exactly what you want. Until I was a business owner I considered myself more of an introvert but when I had to start putting myself out there and being the face of a business my extroverted side definitely started to show.
Now that I am starting to expand into directing video work, this will put my interpersonal skills (even more) to the test. I found that while having a good eye helps in the production of good video, there is a whole other skill set required to directing models in motion and it is definitely a fun and welcomed challenge. Everytime I shoot and edit new video work, I learn something I never knew and it helps to inform my future work. The best way to learn is by doing, so I will continue to be a doer.
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?
I am new to LA, so I would love to see what other people wrote for this question! However, in my months of preparing from this move I’ve done some research and have a few places in mind I’d like to go visit. I’d like to take some weekend trips to Santa Barbara, and Carmel-by-the-sea, Catalina Island and some wine tours up in Napa Valley. I plan on finding some good hikes and camping outside of LA in Angeles National Forest, San Bernardino National Forest and Joshua Tree National Park.
When it comes to restaurants, I’m taking suggestions! I’m excited for all the amazing Korean food, seafood and Mexican food I’m about to be surrounded by. Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I honestly don’t think I can attribute my success to just one person or place. There have been so many important people that have been part of my career up to this point and I think they all deserve shoutouts. My first shoutout goes to my Mom, she is my biggest supporter, #1 fan and the person that keeps me sane through the ups and downs of business and life.
The second shoutout goes to my Dad, the person who I got my photography gene from. He always pushes me to follow my dreams and not let anything stand in the way of that. My parents have never questioned my choice in career; instead they asked how they could best support me, for which I am grateful.
The next influential person in my career was my first real creative mentor, Ms. K. She was the assistant principal and photography teacher at my high school and she always gave me full reign of our high school dark room and let me run with my ideas while supporting and motivating me the whole way.
My experience working at the International Center of Photography had a huge impact on my photography. I did everything from assist in the darkrooms which helped perfect my skills to being a teaching assistant to some of NYC’s best photo professors, one of whom was Keisha Scarville. She was patient and thorough and was the first person who helped teach me digital skills like color management and printing for portfolio and gallery shows. She was a fine artist herself, so seeing her show her work in galleries around the city and learning the process of how she got there, was inspiring. She had also attended RIT which influenced my decision to go there, as I knew I would need her technical skill set to help me succeed.
In college, Professor Susan Lakin taught many of my classes. She didn’t try to teach me how to see, but instead taught me the technical skills I needed to make what I saw translate accurately. As a result, I learned that when I better understood how the final product had to look, I was able to approach the project with a better idea of how I needed to shoot it from the start. She gave honest and informative critiques which helped me improve each project that was assigned. Each and every project challenged me in understanding and executing a new skill so that I understood everything my photography could accomplish.
Post college, my shoutout goes to my wonderful friends and family for being there for me in every possible way from letting me crash on their couches, to using their skills to help build my websites or their marketing knowledge to help me market myself, or even just letting me use their faces to test lighting techniques throughout the years. When people say, “it takes a village,” IT REALLY DOES!
And lastly, my creative consultant, Leigh Andersen. This is a relatively new relationship that I am excited about. She is helping to push me in the right direction in my career, and realize what kind of work I should strive for.
Thank you to everyone who has had a hand in getting me here. I can’t wait to see what other mentors will come into my life to influence my career!
3 girls- For Glo Skin Beauty, Makeup: Janeena Billera, Hair: Nyla Nasser, Models: Brittany Ball, Tia Marie Hemphill, Elizabeth Courville 2 girls closeup- For Glo Skin Beauty, Makeup: Janeena Billera, Hair: Taylor Houser Models: Carly Jade & Ele Rae Eye: Model- Taylor Kramer Makeup: Katelyn Simkins Face w/ red lipstick- Model: Ione Noel King, Makeup: Katelyn Simkins, Hair: Meredith Boles Freckles w/head wrap- Model: Aleela Taylor, Makeup: Sameera Ahmed Freckles w/ short hair- Model: Sasha Morton, Makeup: Sameera Ahmed, Hair: Ansley Bird Green shirt- Model: Maddi Silva, Makeup: Sameera Ahmed, Hair: Cassandra Voss Zetlmaier Girl Smiling with hands on face: Model: Brittany Ball, Makeup: Sameera Ahmed, Hair: Cassandra Voss Zetlmaier