We had the good fortune of connecting with Rebecca Grant and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Rebecca, where are your from? We’d love to hear about how your background has played a role in who you are today?
My affinity for faces started early. Beginning around 7th grade I was granted the right to take NYC public transportation…. by myself. So I did, a lot. It is kind of like a New Yorker’s right of passage. Most kids that age are getting permits and cars, I got a metro card and a flip phone. At the time I lived in South Brooklyn, the last stop on the R train. I went to school along the B/Q train line and had friends all over the city, in Brooklyn, and beyond. If I wasn’t using the subway or buses to get from point A to point B, I was riding them as a “people watcher.” People inspired me and man was I in the right city for that. Every face you see there has a different shape, color, age, expression, and profile. With every neighborhood and every stop you pass, the faces change. That’s the beautiful thing about New York, all the different neighborhoods come together to create a diverse mosaic of people. Growing up in Brooklyn was challenging, but rewarding and has most definitely impacted my career. My parents filled my life with arts, music, and culture. I started violin lessons at 6, and it was a big part of my life through college. However, in High School, I found a different way to express myself creatively…through photography. I was constantly surrounded by culture, music, art, photography whether it was just walking through the streets of Williamsburg, or through one of my various internships at Lincoln Center or The International Center of Photography. I started photographing the faces of my family, friends, acquaintances, strangers, and models from high school through college. NYC helped me see all the possibilities life had to offer and pushed me to dream big.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
The business aspect of my company was more challenging than the creative side. As a creative, my strengths were how to improve my work through lighting techniques and how to use the appropriate camera gear. Once I started running my business full time, there were steep learning curves as I figured out all the ins and outs of managing a business that wasn’t taught in college. My first hurdle was client management and correspondence and figuring out the best way to keep track of the work I was doing with each client like job quotes, contracts, invoicing, and final image delivery. For this, I found 17hats as my business software and Pixiset as my image delivery system. Once I signed up for 17hats I made templates for job quotes and invoicing. Making a contract was a bit more tricky. I scoured the internet for sample contracts and took pieces from each of them that applied to my business to create my own personalized contract. I read advice from websites like ThePhotoEditor and F-Stoppers on things that must be in contracts to make sure my contract covered all bases. Now when I send job quotes to potential clients, I attach my contract to it so that when they accept the job quote they also have to sign the contract which helps set me up for success. The next thing I learned rather quickly was, if a client calls or messages you for a quote on how much a shoot would cost, DO NOT THROW ANY NUMBERS AROUND UNTIL YOU HAVE THOUGHT IT OUT! More than once, I have given someone an estimate which ended up being completely wrong for their job and it’s hard to take those numbers back once they are out on the table. Always ask about the scope of the work you’ll be doing, what the job consists of, how long, where the work will be presented (local, national, international), how many photos they are expecting in the end, retouching, etc… before you quote any prices. Anytime someone asks for a number my response is, “Let me get some more information from you, and then I’ll be able to send you a formal quote with all the numbers laid out.” That is when I go into my business software and write up a formal quote which itemizes each part of the shoot so that there is no confusion about what I am charging. One of the biggest lessons I learned along the way is that you can be the best photographer but if you are running your own business and have no interpersonal skills you will not be as successful. The majority of your business is about the relationships you create with your clients. If you aren’t responding to them in a timely fashion or putting their needs first, they will most likely not return for another photo shoot. They are looking to you and your expertise in the field to really help them through the process in a simple and helpful way. If you don’t take the time to answer their questions and really get to know their needs, the final product may not reflect what it is they want. I have learned a lot in the past few years running my business and I am proud of how many hurdles I have overcome to get to this point. Remember, there are most definitely other people going through similar situations as you, so lean into your community like Facebook groups, friends you have in the industry, or even just reading professional blogs and listening to podcasts about other people’s experiences so that you can learn from them. The key is, you might not nail everything on the first try, but then you learn from your experience and mistakes and do it better the next time!
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?
Oh man, there are so many good spots around Colorado. We would first take a weekend trip to Steamboat Springs. We’d visit Strawberry Park Natural Hot Springs and spend a few hours changing pools. We’d get lunch at Salt & Lime and dinner at Mambo. We’d then drive downstate to Breckenridge and hike the Peaks trail and get a burger at Flipside. The next stop would be camping in Winter Park in dispersed camping right off Vasquez Rd. We’d then drive up through Grand Lake and enter Rocky Mountain National Park from the south entrance. We’d drive the road through the park exiting in Estes Park. We’d end up in Boulder and walk around Pearl St. mall, for some window shopping and dinner at Centro and drinks at The Bitter Bar followed by late night cookies at Boulder Baked and dancing and arcade games at Press Play. We’d finish the trip in Denver eating brunch at Corinne and brewery hopping in RINO. We’d also check out the Museum of Contemporary Art and take a stroll down South Broadway with a stop at Postino and Sweet Action ice cream. Our last day would be full of eating and drinking. Breakfast at Olive & Finch, latte at Frank & Roze, lunch at White Pie and dinner at Humboldts with a walk around City Park in between. Aren’t you glad you didn’t ask about a two-week trip?
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?
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 from who I got my photography gene. 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 darkroom 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 2 girls waist up- For Overtone Haircare, Makeup: Nina Marie Diaz, Hair: Taylor Houser, Models: Jackie & Kerry Kalu 4 shots together- Model: Taylor Kramer, Makeup & Hair: Katelyn Simkins Freckles w/head wrap- Model: Aleela Taylor, Makeup: Sameera Ahmed Freckles w/ short hair- Model: Sasha Morton, Makeup: Sameera Ahmed, Hair: Ansley Bird Girl w/pink cheek- Model: Jasmine Rutledge, Makeup: Joi Offutt, Hair: A. Renea Dyson