We had the good fortune of connecting with Tammy Karin and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Tammy, why did you pursue a creative career?
I was born an artist. All forms of art and music have always come naturally to me! I began winning drawing and painting contests in first grade and am self taught in a variety of genres, but my first real success was as a saxophonist. I survived a difficult home life by disappearing in to practice rooms and went on to attend Interlochen Arts Academy and joined the saxophone studio at Northwestern University under world-renowned Fred Hemke. Unfortunately, I was forced to quit the saxophone due to medical reasons before finishing my degree, but I have continuously sought out ways to bring in supplemental income for my family through the arts. I started my photography business in 2013 when my third and youngest child was almost 1 year old. I already had developed quite a passion for pregnancy and birth through my own struggles as a mom, but when I found pictures of birth photography while scrolling through Facebook, I instantly knew exactly what I was meant to do. I was able to build my business at a comfortable pace as a work from home mom for the first few years, but after my divorce, Little Leapling Photography (named after my youngest child who was born on Leap Day 2012) became my primary source of income. There have been several times I’ve felt pushed to find a more stable and possibly higher paying job. But, I was raised with the belief that we should do what we love and I pushed through some difficult times, gained confidence in my service and product, and now have a wonderfully successful family photography business.

Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
I think there are many things that set me apart from other family photographers. First, and most importantly to me, is that I truly love being out there guiding families into enjoying each other and capturing the connections and true emotions for them to cherish forever. I can be having a horrible day, week, month, or even year, but when I show up at a photo shoot, all of that disappears. I’ve been told I have the same effect on my clients where they were prepared to just survive the hour long shoot, but ended up not just having fun, but turning their mood and perspective around moving forward. I can connect with the shyest toddler, the crankiest teenager, the least interested dad, and most exhausted mommy…and sometimes all at the same family session! And when the pieces don’t all perfectly fall into place to get that flawless, dreamy family portrait to put on an extra large canvas in the living room, I have the editing skills to create that masterpiece.

The lessons I’ve learned are to be kind, flexible, and empathetic while holding boundaries to protect myself and my family. I love working with other parents. We get each other. I’ll occasionally take on a small wedding or have a maternity client who hasn’t been put through the parenting wringer, yet. I have to remind myself that they don’t yet understand that (especially as a sole proprietor) I don’t have has much control as I’d like and need and my kids will ultimately always come first (as will their children). If you look at the scorecard, I’ve been the giver of leniency and flexibility far more than the receiver, but words can’t describe the appreciation I have for the clients who are flexible and understanding when I need to put my kids first. Anyone who has been inconvenienced by a schedule change or any kind of mistake on my part knows that I go above and beyond to right any wrongs. They tend to come out way ahead!

What do I want the world to know about me and my business? This isn’t just a job or career. This is my much needed artistic outlet and my purpose, and I feel a connection with every person who has ever been on the other side of my camera. My goal is to create genuine joy when the pictures are taken so that those feelings are forever embedded in the photo…so they can hear their children’s laughter every time they see the image. That is the mark I want to leave on this world and for as many people as possible.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’ve moved around quite a bit. My mom was a travel agent when I was growing up, so I had the privilege to travel outside of the country quite a bit, too. I grew up in Dallas, went to Interlochen Arts Academy in upper Michigan for high school with summers spent in St. Louis, college at Northwestern University just outside of Chicago, a year in San Diego, five years in Santa Barbara, two years in Boston, four years in Oakland, and now twelve years in Manhattan, KS. I was barely 16 when I left Dallas, so this is by far the longest I’ve gotten to know any city. It’s an absolutely amazing place to raise a family. When I found out I was leaving the California coast for the middle of Kansas, I wasn’t terribly optimistic. I was worried about the lack of diversity, things to do, and flat, boring scenery. It didn’t take long for me to realize I had nothing to worry about. The Little Apple certainly isn’t the melting pot of diversity I had growing up or what my kids were fortunate enough to experience in Oakland, California, but there is plenty to do and the Flint Hills of Kansas are breathtakingly beautiful. And I know all the best spots.
The location guide that I created for my clients is the most popular page on my website. I’ve seen other photographers sending that link to their clients, as well. You can get flowering trees and stunning Fall foliage as a backdrop for your photos at places like City Park and Cico Park or the more rustic, native trees at the Tuttle Creek State Park or Wildcat Park, We can capture your family with that endearing Kansas prairie backdrop with beautiful tallgrass at the Konza Prairie, Warner Park, or Marlatt Park. Or let’s go downtown, to Aggieville, or Kansas State University for a variety of urban photos. The Flint Hills Discovery Center is a fantastic place to take your family for a day of fun and exploration, and it happens to also be my favorite indoor venue for photo sessions. I can’t wait for the Museum of Art and Light that is in the works, and the Kansas State Gardens will soon start building a gorgeous reflection pool and new conservatory.
It’s rare that family comes to visit me here, but when they do, I like to give a tour of the town, go on a prairie hike, show them around downtown and Aggieville, and catch a sunset from Top of the World. In one day, I think I could easily dispel any beliefs about how boring Kansas is.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My older sister, Alissa Shirah, has always been my biggest cheerleader and constant source of support. Even when we were teenagers and both competing in the same solo and ensemble competitions, she bragged about her little sister and went on to decorate her walls with my portrait drawings (which 20-30 years later I’m a bit embarrassed by). She even had me design the cover of her second book that is days away from publication (ironically titled, The Prodigal’s Sister, though the book is not about me). We both have birthed some remarkably talented artists and it’s so much fun to now cheer them on together despite living several states apart.

Website: LittleLeapling.com and TEKimages.com

Instagram: Instagram.com/littleleapling

Facebook: Facebook.com/littleleapling and Facebook.com/tekimages

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrJ-CnLbjraAb9D6oYEg1rQ/videos

Image Credits
Annika Schmit Jason Burrous Meg Shearer, Manhattan MAG

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