We had the good fortune of connecting with Krista Miller and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Krista, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
I read something recently:
“Embarrassment is the cost of entry. If you aren’t willing to look like a foolish beginner, you’ll never become a graceful master.”
Dang. That hits home for me, as I’m sure it does for any business owner who put themselves out there, or any person who tries something new for the first time.
Success for me is an evasive, ever-evolving, amorphous goal that is constantly changing its parameters. When I first started a photography “business,” I was 19 or 20 years old, finishing my degree in biology, and doing it “just for fun.” I thought, “I want to shoot weddings! That’s how I’ll know I’ve made it.” Looking back, weddings are probably the most difficult thing to shoot in the industry (albeit the most rewarding)…oh how naiive I was. Success as a 20-year-old looked more like earning a few bucks here and there to make people happy and do something fun, all the while, attempting to reach my ultimate goal of becoming a physician assistant.
Eight years later, here I am, having accomplished my goal to become a full-time physician assistant, and now at the same time running a full-time photography business that has taken me to 15+ states and other countries. I am photographing beautiful , amazing, strong people who have incredible stories to tell and playing an integral role in their wedding day, watching the moments unfold as if it were from their very eyes. If you had asked 20 year old me what I wanted out of photography in the long run, there is 0 chance I’d be able to predict the now.
What I can recount–and this is something I am forever grateful for–are all of the couples, families, seniors, etc. who took a chance on me to capture some of the most important moments in their lives. When I imagine the horrors that could have occurred when I first started (which thankfully never did)–lost photos and corrupt memory cards, bogus contracts, nightmare couples, missed flights–I can’t believe I was ballsy enough to think, “Sure, I can do this!” without having even the slightest idea of how to run a business, let alone an educational background in it.
The main factor for my personal success in my brand–and I truly believe for any person who wants to succeed enough–is fearlessness. Not being afraid of embarrassment. To fall on your face. To screw up so dang bad, but turn those screw ups into a learning experience. To put my photography out there for the world to see, and then look back years later at the way I used to shoot, edit, and pose couples and think, “How the hell did someone hire me.” For this reason alone, I refuse to delete any of my early photoshoot albums from the web. I WANT people to see the work that I’ve put in to my craft and see the upward slope of change and evolution in the way I capture memories. I want them to know that I, like them, started somewhere, too.
Now, at 28 years old, success looks like this: I’m working my two dream jobs, having thrown caution to the wind about how much free time I (don’t) have, I’m married to a loving a supportive husband who occasionally carries my 40lb backpack of gear during an elopement, and I am constantly in awe over how absolutely AMAZING all of my clients are. Success for me means seeing my clients over and over again as the years pass, having earned their loyalty and getting to know them as well as I know my own family.
The perk of having another full time job is that I get to do photography because I love it, not because I have to. This means that my client and couples are always at the forefront of my mind when I’m making a decision. Call it poor business, but if it means I come early, stay late, or throw in a few extra printed goodies, it just means I love them. I truly strive to make every decision with fairness and transparency. It may not always be the right decision, but that’s the beauty of owning your own business–it’s yours to screw up, and its yours to make right. The world of photography is competitive, cutthroat, and a nonstop vortex of imposter syndrome and keeping up with the joneses. However, there are also a large group of wonderful creatives who are constantly willing to lend a hand or advice and slap you around until you realize your own worth. I wish every industry could be more like that.
I’ll leave you with my final thought–while the cost of entry is embarrassment, and you WILL eventually become a master if you keep at something long enough–true success comes when you share your gifts. If you have something to offer the world, share it. Don’t be stingy with your gifts. If someone comes to you and is passionate enough to learn your graft, TEACH THEM. But, keep your mind open enough to LEARN FROM YOUR STUDENTS. The true Master never stops learning, striving for success. I certainly do not claim to be a Master yet, and it may take another 10 years before I feel like I am. Maybe 50. It doesn’t matter, so long as you keep your people in the forefront of your thoughts, you will always find success.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
As I mentioned in the previous question, I’m a full time physician assistant. Balancing an already-demanding career where I occasionally work weekends, holidays, and take overnight call for emergencies was a huge adjustment for me when I finally graduated and got started. There are times where I just feel like I can’t “give” anymore. At my core, I’m an introvert, so my alone time is important for my recovery between jobs. Self-care has become a must in my routine. Usually, this comes in the form of exercise, hiking, or getting a massage for my aching joints after standing at the operating table for hours at a time.
Was it easy? For most looking in from the outside, they’d probably think no. But for me, it was never a question of ease, and more a question of, “is this what I WANT?” I think that knowing what you want out of life is important. I could never work a job(s) where I’m not contributing to the world or helping someone. My daily work needs to have meaning, whether I’m helping to perform a surgery on a patient or photographing someone’s wedding day. Simple answer? No, it’s most likely not easy, BUT it’s sure as hell worth it. I never want to avoid doing something because of the sorry excuse of, “I’m afraid of hard work.” Not to say that I don’t get tired; I’m only human. But I’m very much motivated by my desire to do something good for someone else.
I want everyone that I interact with to know that I truly care about them, their story, and their experience. Life is so short and unpredictable (which I too often see as a PA), and I want to just give them my best work. I also want them to know that I am always learning and picking up ways to make their experience even better than the last.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Well, we only just moved to Denver 4 months ago! So I’m still learning the spots myself.
My husband and I have done 3-4 14ers already…I’d say if our guests were up for the haul, I’d probably take them to one of the easier ones because it’s such a unique experience for those who aren’t local. We’re always up for staying at a local Hostel, meeting fellow hikers, and enjoying good food and drink.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’d love to dedicate this Shoutout to all of my past, present, and future clients for taking a chance on me a choosing me of all people to photograph them. I’d also like to dedicate this article to my amazing parents and husband; they’ve spent more times shuttling me to and from the airport for me to shoot a wedding more times than I can count. And finally, I’d like to thank my full-time coworkers in the medical field for putting up with my crazy schedule.
Instagram: @kmm__photography. (double underscore)
First horizontal headshotshot: A&B Photography Studio headshots: Clare E. Photography The remaining images are mine