I’m so happy to feature Danielle Finney of Dfinney Photography + Design in today’s Creative Spotlight post. Danielle specializes in lifestyle, portrait and business photography in the Washington, D.C. metro area. I got to know Danielle at the beginning of this year when she shot two sets of images for my online portfolio and marketing materials. I was looking for someone who would be able to visually convey my identity as a creative professional and she delivered. Barely in her mid-20s, Danielle possesses a vibrant creative spirit and small-business savvy well beyond her years. I’m so thrilled Danielle was able to share some of her small-biz experience with me. Check out what makes her click.
What’s your mission?
There is beauty in everyone and it’s my job to help each client see it. I want the photos my clients walk away with to be the best photos they’ve ever taken.
What makes your company unique?
I think my silly personality definitely helps put my clients at ease when I work with them, which in turn results in beautiful relaxed imagery. What sets my company apart? Attention to detail. I am fairly OCD when it comes to certain things. I’m concerned about correct color, sharpness, location, outfits, makeup, etc. — how everything fits together to create a superb final image.
How did you get started?
I was laid off from an admin position I had in 2009 and began looking for something new. Until that time, I’d been doing photography on the side but never considered making a career of it. I figured I’d try and do a little more with photography until I found a new position, but it kept me busy so I stuck with it. I just came up with the business name, got a Web site and Facebook page, looked up what was involved in owning my own business, and then got started!
Your Facebook page has more than 5,000 “Likes.” How did you get the word out?
I had a big sale early on to try to drum up business and it got the buzz going. From there I would just come up with ideas for specials here and there while adjusting my pricing as my skill and level of service increased. A few bumps and bruises later, here we are! I rebranded last April and things have been going well since.
What was the most challenging part of getting your business off the ground?
Probably just the uncertainty of it all. I’m very much a planner so the fact that I didn’t have all my ducks in a row when I got started was a bit off-putting. But once I got out of my head and into learning more about my craft and growing my business, I found that I actually loved it!
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in running your own business?
Hmm … This is a big one. There are tons of lessons, but I think I’ll go with the fact that you need to be genuinely passionate about what you’re doing. You may be able to get along for a bit without it, but when the going gets tough, you will not stick with it if you’re not passionate about it. Especially in artistic careers, money is definitely not everything so it can’t be your motivator. Love for your craft is the only way.
What’s the most important business decision you’ve ever had to make?
Rebranding. Last April, I did a complete overhaul — changed the logo, colors, pricing, etc. because I wanted my brand package to be a better, more cohesive reflection of my work. I think it’s been one of the best and most important business decisions I’ve ever made.
What’s the most rewarding part of doing what you do?
Seeing my clients’ reactions once they see their photos. I love that! I feel so privileged that I’m able to create images with genuine feeling that really touches the viewer. It’s a beautiful thing.
Can you describe an instance where something happened that made you see your creative work (or your business) differently?
My grandmother passed the morning of April 1 of last year and later that same day, I had to shoot a mother / daughter session. It was bittersweet. Their session was absolutely beautiful and a great reminder of why everyone should have photos with those that they love while they’re here.
What biz tools can you not live without? In other words, what’s in your “biz bag?
1. My camera, of course! (Nikon D700 + 50 / 1.4 lens) I use that lens about 95 percent of the time.
2. Editing software (Lightroom 4 + Photoshop CS6)
3. My apple gadgets (iPhone + iPad)
4. Social media apps (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest)
Can you name a couple of resources that have proved valuable along the way?
I’m very much a find / figure-it-out learner, so the resources I’ve used over the years have been many and varied. Most notably, I’ve recently found the CreativeLive courses to be helpful, specifically the Sue Bryce and Jasmine Star courses. There are also countless blogs and online forums that hold a wealth of information.
You design your own marketing materials. Why?
Yep! I do, because I’m very picky. I think I’d probably be a designer’s nightmare! Also, I don’t have an extensive marketing budget, so I try to do as much as I can in-house. I’m very fortunate that I have a design interest because that makes coordinating my marketing materials much easier.
Mentoring is a big part of what you do. Can you tell me why you feel it’s important to devote time to mentoring others?
When I started out, I my brother, also a photographer, assisted me when I needed help. But not everyone has that. You can’t learn everything from a book, so I love that I’m able to tailor the mentor session to the needs of the person I’m working with. Though I haven’t been at this for long, I definitely love being able to help others and watch them progress.
What advice do you have for others wanting to break out and do their own thing?
Stick with it. Try to look to others in your desired field to inspire instead of intimidate. They will push you to learn and grow that much more. I think the most valuable thing in is to love what you do. I am beginning my fourth year as a professional photographer and I’ve learned tons of lessons during that time, but it always comes back to your passion. If you’re passionate about your craft it will keep you inspired, push you to try new ideas, and always strive to improve.