Making the jump from a childcare employee to self-employed photographer – we interview Jo Schumann on the motivation behind her big step
Have you always had an interest in photography?
During my final years of education I developed a passion for photography with my boyfriend at the time, who is now my husband. This was back in the days of film cameras, long before the digital age. I loved the process of taking photos with a film camera. It was good to take your time, plan your shots, think about composition, lighting and subject matter, because you had to get it right, no looking at the digital preview. We had our own dark room where we processed our film and printed our own prints. From there the love of photography grew.
What motivated you to change your job to become a photographer?
When I fell pregnant with our first child in early 2005, I started working towards qualifications in childcare. I thought that as I was going to look after my own children it made sense to turn it into a career. Over the last two years, I have been answering the call of my creative side and have been doing photography with my husband, as a part-time business. Last year, we made a decision that it was time for me to quit childcare and work on the plan of being a professional photographer. The bigger plan is that my husband will be able to quit his job eventually and we can both work as photographers full-time.
What is your favourite style of photography?
I enjoy working with natural light and being able to capture those magical moments, whether it’s at an event or a special occasion. The best moments are always captured when the subject is comfortable and relaxed. This is in contrast to my husband, who tends to like working in the studio where he has control of the lighting and situation and creates the atmosphere he wants to capture. It is a nice yin to my yang and allows us to bounce different ideas off each other.
What services do you offer?
We take portraits, both in a studio or on location. We offer a special service where we work with the client to create a truly special portrait session. This involves meeting with the client to discuss ideas, scouting for the best location, potentially working with wardrobe, hair and makeup stylists and finally working on a concept as a team to create a portrait session that is one-of-a-kind, truly reflecting the client’s personality. We also offer school and event photography, as well as commercial food and product photography.
We can provide the final products from prints and canvases all the way through to high end aluminium and acrylic wall art.
Do you like working for yourself and why?
There are parts that I dislike but I love that I am able to do what I truly enjoy. The serious business side, i.e. making sure that there is enough work coming in; the general running of the business, are all the parts that are not creative, so are my least favourite but I know go hand in hand with the parts I enjoy. It’s not a 9 to 5 job being self-employed. The responsibility of looking after and growing your business never ends. I would not trade doing what I love for going back to working for someone else.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of starting their own business?
You do have fears. What if this fails? What if we cannot get the clients? What if I am not good enough? Your mind does this daily dance of “what if’s”. My husband, being the eternal optimist, took those “what if’s” and asked “what if we can”?
I would say the biggest thing about doing your own thing, is to make sure you have support. There are various ways to get financial support but without the support of my family and friends, I don’t think I would have done it. Planning is another bit of advice, without planning you don’t have direction or goals. You need something to work towards, whether it’s a business plan, a goal or a dream.
Did you have doubts about starting your own business?
I don’t think that there is anyone who starts out on their new adventure that does not have some doubts, big or small. I think it’s about how you approach those doubts or unknowns. The best you can do is try and turn them into knowns, or at least try and be as best prepared as you possibly can be.
What does your family think?
My family say I am definitely doing the right thing. According to them, I am more relaxed and less stressed than I used to be. My eldest daughter, Paige, reckons it has been a good thing, as I get to spend more time with them and they also enjoy helping out on some of the shoots. It’s great to have their support.
What makes you different from other photographers? Every good professional photographer aims to be different, we try and stamp our individual personalities on our work. I guess the main difference is in our creative process and methods. How we capture the moments, how we deal with clients. Like great painters and other artists, your work is as individual as you are and your subject. Hopefully, what sets us aside is our ability to listen to the client and work with them to deliver not just another family portrait, but rather a unique piece of commissioned art that they love.