nyc photographer

The Secret to Freelancing

I won’t pretend like I’m some freelancing wizard who knows all the tricks and trades and is making millions each year off of my photography business. I’m not. But! I am incredibly happy in my freelancing business and I feel like I’ve found a sort of golden ticket to the whole thing. And I’m going to tell you! Because I’m full of myself and want everybody to share my ideals! Kidding…. it’s because I really think this made my freelancing life so much easier and more enjoyable. 

Which is why I’m pairing this post with the full set of images from my absolute favorite shoot this year- an elopement I was fortunate enough to shoot in the beautiful snowy mountains outside of Salt Lake City. It’s all going to tie in together beautifully, I promise you that! 

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It’s not a scam, I promise! It’s a real tip that when applied, can make YOU the world’s happiest freelancer, too. It might not bring in more clients (although it’s possible!), and it might not make you rich (I guess it could…), but I guarantee it’ll make you feel better about the work that you’re doing. And the funny thing about it, is that it seems fairly simple. It’s something we can tell ourselves to do over and over, until we’re blue in the face. But it’s when we actually put it into action that our lives can change.

Okay, I’ve held out on you folks for long enough. The real secret to being a happy freelancer is….

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Only take the work you enjoy doing. It sounds radical, right? Sorry- you mean… you want me to enjoy my work? YES! I want you to LOVE what you do! And if you don’t love it, stop doing it. We are all so young and so old and have only as much time as we’re promised. Why would you waste that time doing something that doesn’t bring you joy?

Even better- applying this tip to your freelancing business will not just make you happier, but it will improve business. Think about your favorite artists. Do they love what they do? Do they seem happy about it? Are they excited to get out of bed each day and create? I know that’s something that drives me to take my freelance photography full-time: every other freelance photographer I see seems to love the hell out of it. And I want to love the hell out of my life too! I want to do something that excites me every single day! 

It’s a lot of work. It’s coming home from a full-time job exhausted, ready to turn on some Netflix and pour myself a glass of wine until I pass out on the couch… and instead, turning on my computer and launching Photoshop. It’s giving up Saturday morning to go chase that warm sunrise light. It’s sacrificing evenings with friends to stay in and edit. It’s too much work to dedicate to something I don’t enjoy. Which is easy to say, but what does it look like in practice?

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For me, it’s an easy answer. It means- turning down clients. When I was studying photography in college, my university made it something I hated. I dreaded picking up my camera, to the point that I never wanted to touch it again after graduation. It was because I was being forced to practice all kinds of photography, not just the photography that I love. So now, if a client approaches me and says “hey! Can you photograph me on Christmas Day?!” I get to happily say NOPE and not feel bad. This is my career. Do I lose money when I turn down clients I don’t want? I guess you could look at it that way… or look at it like this: instead, I get to make money from clients that I do want to work with. And the good news is that I’m attracting clients who want to work with me too.

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So next time you’re dragging your feet to a shoot that you reluctantly agreed to, ask yourself if this is really the life you want. It’s okay if it isn’t! It’s taken me 25 years to figure out what life I want, and I’ll probably change my mind again next year. But for now, I’m going to do what makes me happy while I’ve still got the time.

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Mountain Maker Session | Chautauqua Park, Boulder, Colorado

I love the mountains. And not just in the simple way, either. I mean… I need the mountains to survive. My parents first took me to the mountains (that I can remember) in the summer of 1999 and it’s safe to say I was immediately hooked. I spent my 6th birthday in the mountains that year, and I got my first camera (a 35mm pink Barbie camera with a flower on the front and a photo album that I filled with photos of Yellowstone). The mountains are where I spent my first summer away from home, when I moved to Denver with my sister for my Denver Art Museum internship. Whenever I’m feeling sick or unsure of myself, I run to the mountains. They have, quite literally, saved my life several times.

I think that’s the truth for a lot of people. I don’t know anyone who isn’t in awe of the giant rock formation jutting out of the ground, reaching up to the skies. And if you’ve never seen the flatirons in Boulder, Colorado, I’ve just described them. These incredible, larger than life, red rocks that emerge from the ground completely unannounced. So how could I not plan a photo shoot there? 

We started in downtown Boulder, over a few tacos and margaritas (my absolute favorite way to start any and all sessions!!).

One quick outfit change and a few minute later, we hit the range (like… home on the range??) for the real meat of the shoot! Here’s some tips if you’re looking to shoot at Chautauqua Park in Boulder. It. Will. Be. Busy. You can maybe even see some other photographers in the backgrounds of some of these photos (although maybe not. I’m pretty good at photoshop hehehe). When we arrived, there were FOUR other photographers within earshot. I think if I was still early in my career and still got nervous about other people watching me work, things could’ve gone poorly.

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Okay this was just the warm up for the whole reason we were there. Maybe it was the margaritas that made us totally forget hahaha. Nathan is A MAKER Y’ALL!!! Like a real life quilter (which I am just amazed by over and over again). He REALLY did make this quilt in these photos, and he makes other quilts too, and I’m sure that if you asked nicely he would even make you a quilt!!

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Mikey + Marisa | A Downtown Wedding

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Marisa contacted me a few short months ago, “I came across your beautiful work and would love to know if you could be interested in shooting my courthouse wedding in June?” She gave a few locations- the Queens Courthouse, Flushing Meadows Park, a restaurant in Long Island City. She’d found me through a Facebook group that we were both a part of- a fan club for the My Favorite Murder Podcast

Although we bonded over our true crime obsession (it was the day after the Golden State Killer was captured and we were LIVING FOR IT), I had to email back and let her know that I was regretfully unavailable for her desired date/time. And so, life went on.

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Then a few days later, I got another email. “Kara. We are now considering a different date. Maybe in Central Park. Maybe close to Manhattan. Would this new date work with you?” At this point, I’m thinking…. okay…. their wedding is about 2 months out and they don’t have a date or location selected. Yikes. But Marisa explained: her fiancé was in South Africa, awaiting his visa approval. They weren’t entirely sure when it would happen, but they figured a June wedding was a safe bet.

I emailed back- the new date was a go! 

She emailed back- the new date was no more. 

I emailed back- let me know if it changes. 

She emailed back- the date has changed!

I emailed back- somebody is interested in your date!

She emailed back- we’re ready to commit. We’ll book you for the date. We’re pretty sure it’ll be that day.

And it was. On the day of their wedding, Mikey had only been in the country for about a week! We started in City Hall Park and did some couple shots and formal family photos. It was so nice and quiet in the park that day, the weather could not have been better, and everyone’s spirits were high! We snuck over a “do not cross” fence into the green grassy area of the park (what’s the point of a park if you can’t cross over into the greenery, NYC??) and got some adorable shots! They were just so happy to be with each other finally, and it showed in their photos!

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We had all met up at this location prior to their wedding, and Marisa had literally shrieked when she saw a Nathan’s Hot Dog cart. She made a point to let me know that there would be cheese fries in her wedding day photos. And we all know- the bride is always right.

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Family members slowly started rolling in, and we began taking a few fun family photos. If you’ve ever talked to me about weddings, you might know I roll my eyes at every formal posed photo I ever have to take. Family portraits are different, because almost every mother, aunt, and grandmother wants a formal posed photo (I think it’s probably a generational thing). I was so happy when Mikey and Marisa let me know that they’d prefer a more casual approach.

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Guys… we did all of this in AN HOUR. Like… less than an hour actually. Do you need a photographer who is FAST for them courthouse weddings and elopements? It’s me, y’all. I am like lightening. I am like Usain Bolt, but with photography and definitely not with running. But the whole under an hour thing was mostly planned, because we had to run to the actual ceremony!

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Mikey and Marisa were wed in the most adorable little Tribeca restaurant, Two Hands. They stood in the room, surrounded by a literal circle of their closest friends and family, and they spoke into each other the most heartfelt, handwritten vows. I laughed. I cried. I took a lot of photos.

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When you have a small, intimate wedding, you really share the day with your guests. You don’t stand on a podium, removed from your loved ones. You are right there with them, and when you cry- they cry. Love filled the room from one side to the other; it was contagious.

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My favorite part of wedding days lies somewhere between “I do” and “let’s dance!” Mikey and Marisa didn’t disappoint on either front. As much as I cried during their vows, I equally laughed during the reception and dancing.

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Benita Robledo - Blogger Session

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I emailed Benita with high hopes but low expectations. “Okay… if she says she can’t, at least I tried! If she says she can…. I guess I’ll learn how to work this new lens!” I had no idea how to reach out to somebody that had the little blue checkmark on their Instagram and a full scroll-worthy IMDB! And the more I researched her, the more nervous I got.

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I was heading home to visit my mother-in-law and wait for my husband, father-in-law, and brother-in-law to return home from their weeklong trip to the Grand Canyon. My MIL said she had to work all day Friday, and I had two options: I could spend the day working out, going to the gym, trying out one of the local climbing gyms. Or I could try to schedule a small photo shoot. Because I’m me, I was like “Sure, I’ll do both!” (why do I always think I have more time than I do?), which led me to scoping out #LancasterBloggers and #PAmodels on Instagram. I scrolled through so many duds before stumbling upon Benita’s page, but I was happy to finally come across it.

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We had a lot of fun! She was so smart and genuine with years of experience under her belt, but still looks and acted so youthful! It was my very first blogger session, and I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, so we set up a 2 hour blogger session for 2-3 looks and 1-2 locations, but it really spiraled from there. Benita was SO helpful and walked me through her past photo shoots so that I could set some expectations for the future. She let me know that she had just a few things she needed photographed for sponsorships, but she agreed to bring along a few other outfits just for fun. Thank God she did, because we ended up using them all! We went through 10 different looks and locations in 4 hours of shooting! We both could’ve stopped after 2 hours like we agreed to beforehand, but we were making such great progress and having a total blast that we kept at it!

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I did a little location scouting before meeting up with Benita, so I knew there was a backroad outside of town that I wanted to explore if she had the time. Benita being from California and myself living in New York, neither of us knew exactly what to expect for the outskirts of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, but we both had the time, and what else would we be doing today, anyway? Along the road was a dilapidated barn, a wall of flowers, a greenhouse, and a field full of tall grass.

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And of course- how could we have a blogger session without ending at a coffee shop? Good coffee, cute macaroons, and a whole lotta laughter!

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Benita Robledo spent more than 10 years in the film industries in NYC and LA as an actress and director with shows like Agent Carter, Teen Wolf, and Gossip Girl and movies like What Happens in Vegas and Going the Distance. Now she is an ethical fashion blogger, but you could really call her an educator. She taught me so stinking much about where to shop, how to reuse, modifying your wardrobe, pinching your pennies, and more! For my first blogger session, I don’t think it could’ve gone any better!

Welcome to the blog!

Hey! If you’re here, you must know that I’ve started a blog. And if you didn’t know before- now you do! I wanted a place where I could go a little more in-depth about my latest photography endeavors! Instagram was getting a little cluttered, so I brought it over here.

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Kara in Colorado

If you’re new to my page, let me start by introducing myself! I’m Kara. I’m a photographer based in New York City with a love for people, traveling, climbing, hiking, kayaking, and eating lots of food. Lots. of. food. Originally from the Midwest (O-H-I-O!), I moved to Georgia to attend the Savannah College of Art and Design where I earned a B.F.A. in Photography. I did a few short months in Denver before finally calling the beautiful neighborhood of Astoria, Queens home! I live here with my husband and goldfish Raisin and together, we have a fun little shop called All Good Things. I love being involved in my community, so you’ll find me all over New York- tutoring students at a non-profit, swimming at Astoria Pool, babysitting future city slickers, teaching farming techniques at a local farm, or (most importantly) photographing the local families and small businesses in my city. I spend my days dreaming of the mountains and planning my next big getaway (usually involves a tent and some good hiking shoes).

If you have somebody or something that needs some good photography love, let me know by heading over to my contact page! If you just want to see what I’m up to lately or admire my latest work, follow along!