At last I’ve been able to come up for air after conquering two fairly excruciating deadlines. So now begins the first of many fun interviews with cool, kickass people making the time to do what they love.
5 Questions with Yasmeen Anderson: Marketing Maven to Fabulous Photographer
Yasmeen Anderson is an award-winning portrait and headshot photographer.
I was inspired to interview her because in the midst of a hectic-lifestyle working as a marketing consultant and raising two young kids with her husband in New Jersey, she managed to step back, find her passion and change her career.
Take a look at her stuff and there’s no question she’s doing what she was born to do: www.yasmeenphoto.com.
1. When I knew you back in school, you were kind of a brain and a rebel. Looks like not a lot has changed… When you were younger, did you see yourself doing photography, and in the way you’re doing it today?
I never even considered photography in high school. I never considered myself an “artist” and I hated art museums. I had a full-on marketing and business mentality–very driven and career focused. These photography shenanigans only happened seven years ago when my daughter was born and I started taking lots of photos of her. We had a “point and shoot” camera and I was frustrated because I kept missing moments. So we got a Digital SLR–a Canon Digital Rebel (great first camera)–and I set out to take photos of every waking moment for fear of missing something and forgetting any expression or movement that she made. The SLR was great because I could quickly take one photo after another.
When my son came two years later, I added more photos to my daily routine. It was then I started to realize that the photos, while capturing beautiful moments, actually kind of sucked. I just couldn’t get the camera to do what was in my head.
I started taking class after class, and that started me on my journey of becoming a photographer. I then started taking photos at my kids’ friends birthday parties for practice and giving the parents the photos. One of the parties was for my college roommate’s son. She loved the photos so much she asked me to take photos of her family. And I thought, “Hmm, that’s weird. I don’t really do that.” But when I did I realized “Hey, I can actually do this!” I started to put out the word that I was taking family photos. I’m a member of this great mom’s group called Mothers and More, an amazing source for finding plumbers, childcare, and you guessed it, photographers. A few people posted recommendations and it grew from there.
2. So photography was a hobby that you enjoyed more and more. What made you decide to ditch your long career in marketing to devote yourself full-time to photography? Was there an “ah-ha!” moment? And where do you think you’re ultimately heading with it?
I had worked as a marketing consultant for many years. I loved my main client, but once I started doing the photography, I got a spark of energy and excitement I wasn’t getting anymore from marketing. I’m one of those people who have to keep on learning. When I do, I thrive. There wasn’t one “ah-ha” moment but a progression of them. Shooting and editing evening and weekends was eating up all my family time. I didn’t want to give up photography, but at the same time, I wasn’t thinking I’d be able to walk away from my career and the income. I had a talk with my very supportive husband and he said go for it. So, after doing photography AND marketing for a year, I took the leap. Yeeeeeeeeehhaaaaaaaawwwwwww! (<–That’s me leaping!)
About where I’m headed? Well, photography is a very physically demanding job. I’m already beat up from being an athlete in college so I needed to find a way to have a long term sustainable career. Now I’m in the process of developing a company called AldenRain, which is going to be THE source for photographers. People don’t necessarily realize that the appropriate photographer to do family photos, a headshot, photos of your new line of purses, or architectural photos is not necessarily the same person. Working with people and things is very different in photography. There are definitely some that can excel across specializations but for the most part, it’s great to find someone who specializes in what you need. Enter AldenRain. The company will guide clients to determine who is right for their needs and budget.
The website is under development, but you can see a sneak peek here: www.aldenrain.com Check it in the upcoming months to see what’s going on. It’s going to be an exciting move to get this business going. You can also follow the company here: http://www.facebook.com/AldenRain and http://www.twitter.com/aldenrain. I hope you come along for the ride and reach out when you or your readers have photography needs of any kind.
3. You bring up some beautiful concepts when you talk about your work on your website. I especially connect to the idea of you “being an emotional photographer” / of “stopping time”. How did you come to understand this about your photography?
The ideas of being an emotional photographer and stopping time works best with family photography, but in headshots, the emotional photography translates to me connecting with my subjects–relaxing them, making it fun, and being able to bring out who they really are in the photographs.
Before we begin, we discuss what they want their headshot to portray. What’s the end goal? It’s probably the marketing background that makes me feel like I need to understand the mood and the message I’m creating in the photos.
As far as understanding the emotional aspect about myself and my photography–this probably came from the beginning, as I was learning technique and improving mine. There are times when a photograph isn’t technically perfect, but if the emotion is translated, it’s absolutely perfect. Clients don’t care about “technically perfect.” They care that you’ve captured something special.
4. You also talk about “putting people at ease.” Can you share a little about how you do this–maybe even give us some tips on getting kids to cooperate for photos!
Almost every person who comes to me for a headshot says some version of:
“I wish I’d lost ten pounds”
“I hate having my photos taken”
“I’m sooo not photogenic”
“I’m really nervous”
So one thing that helps is to let my subjects know that every other person on my website said the same thing before we started. I tell them that if they like those photos, they will likely feel like they look good in theirs.
When I’m photographing someone I ask what it is they want others to see in the photographs. Do you want to be approachable and friendly? Are we going for more authoritative? And so on. Then we get the music going. I can’t shoot without music and it’s also amazing what a little music does for people, putting them in the right frame of mind for the shoot.
For photographing kids? Be goofy. Don’t be afraid to get dirty. Roll down the hill with them. Put down the camera for a moment and play games. The more relaxed and silly the parents are, the more engaged and lively the kids will be.
5. What advice can you give someone looking to switch careers?
I wish I could say just jump ship! But that’s irresponsible. The frank response is that I had a backup. I have a husband with a job. That allows me more flexibility to go off on this wild career chase than many others. However, there are TONS of people who keep their day jobs and follow their passion evenings and weekends. I started gradually on that route, and eventually my hobby became my career. Though evenings never really worked for me. I have a thing about going to bed early. I need my sleep too much!
Hey you played an awesome “Molly” in the Port Summer Show Production of Annie in the ‘80s. Any song-and-dance going on in your life lately?
I do in fact break into a jig every once in a while during a shoot and I’ll always be humming along to the music during shoots and while editing. Music is what keeps me moving and shaking.
A huge thanks to Yasmeen for being the first visitor to the Shed! Head to her website at www.yasmeenphoto.com to see her amazing work.