Capturing Self-Employment


Capturing Self-Employment

Tiffany Ferrari is the Owner and Lead Photographer for Exposure Best Photography in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is a passionate photographer with a love for capturing life’s beautiful moments. Her interest in photography started as a typical hobby when she was a junior in high school. In 2011, she took the leap from hobbyist to professional photographer and launched Exposure Best Photography! Since then, she has photographed over 100 weddings and dozens of portraits, Branding sessions, corporate profiles and events just to name a few. In addition, she offers professional mentorships and workshops aimed at helping both professional and aspiring photographers navigate through the different phases of learning photography, starting, running and maintaining a business, as well as, marketing, networking and goal setting.

She enjoys exploring new places, meeting new people, discovering unique perspectives and channeling that through her lens. Whether capturing moments, portraits, vibes, or something in between, she strives to create images that are both visually stunning and emotionally impactful. When not behind the camera, you can find her spending time with family, traveling, or getting some well-deserved alone time with her new favorite person in the world...Myself!

When and why did you join the NASE?
I joined NASE because I wanted to be part of an organization that offered essential business tools to micro businesses like me and that represented a large variety of entrepreneurs as well as networking channels within itself that foster growth and cross business collaboration.

What inspired you to enter the field you are in?
I was always inspired by my love and adoration for capturing the smallest, yet most impactful people, places, and things. The reason that I was inspired enough to take the leap from hobby to professional is because the more that I learned about photography, the more passionate I became and thus the more time and money I invested as a result. The more confident I became, the more interest I generated from friends and family who I provided pro bono services for. When I considered all of the obstacles preventing me from taking the next step, I realized that the biggest obstacle was my belief in myself. A belief that a 31 year old with a degree in sports medicine with no entrepreneurial skill and no background would be able to run a successful photography business. I guess I can say that I was inspired by a dream to do something that I loved, despite the most extraordinary of circumstances.

When and why did you start your business?
I started my business in August of 2011. The reason that I decided to take the leap of faith at that point in time was because of a few contributing factors which all added up to August 7, 2011 being the perfect time to launch Exposure Best Photography. At the time, I was a mother of 3 and had been married for 5 years, being a stay at home mom throughout the duration of that time. I come from a large family of 5 other siblings, and being spread around in different states, we hardly had the opportunity to be together, as a group. About a month prior to me registering my LLC, my father expressed interest in going to Atlanta to visit my sister and her kids. He thought it would be a great idea to do a family session with all the grandkids and siblings etc. That session planted the seed which prompted me to stop dreaming and start doing! Well, as of this year my business is 12 years old and counting! The rest is still being written.

How do you market your business?
The majority of my business marketing efforts are through Google, Facebook and Instagram. In addition to marketing on social media platforms, I also market through cross networking by attending local events held by vendors who compliment my industry, such as, videographers, podcasters, caterers, event planners etc. In addition to indirect marketing efforts, I also cold call businesses offering on site corporate headshot and branding sessions, pre-school portrait day, social group portrait days for organizations such as churches, senior living facilities, holiday events etc.

What challenges have you faced in your business?
In 2017, my father, who’d relocated to his hometown of Ohio, started experiencing a myriad of both health and personal issues which resulted in me having to make the difficult decision to move my family to Ohio to help him. Obviously this meant that I had to close my LLC in Louisiana, relocate to the midwest with my husband, 3 kids, and brand new rescue dog. I also had to find a steady paying job that offered a schedule which was flexible enough to continue to take care of my household and to be able to also help my father. In the meantime, my husband, who had over a decade of experience working in the oil field industry, planned to start operating his LLC as an IT consultant on a full time basis.

After a very unexpected culture shock and terribly slow acclimation to Ohio, we started to integrate ourselves into our new community. However, 2018 and 2019 were very difficult years, both professionally and personally.

In January of 2020, my husband’s business was doing well and I decided that it was time to dust off my equipment and start marketing in my new area. However, 2 months later in March of 2020, the pandemic caused the shut down before I could even hit the ground. To say I was a little discouraged would obviously be an understatement. However, I pressed on and prayed for new ways that I could get my name out there, despite the quarantine and pandemic! In business, my instinct is always to give back, first and the rest will come. So my first idea was to create a Facebook group dedicated to helping the high school senior class of 2022, since they were losing so much of an important milestone in their life due to the pandemic. The focus of the group was to “Adopt a Senior.” I invited a ton of my friends to join the group and asked them to invite their followers to the group as well. Anyone in the group was able to nominate a senior that they knew personally and write a short bio on that person and their likes and dislikes.

The people in the group would then select a senior of their choice to “adopt” and would send them a care package with the favorite things that they listed. From there, I chose 10 seniors to gift an outdoor senior session. Considering the fact that outdoors was the only place open and the fact that I have long lenses, it was the perfect way to step into the market, get some well needed practice to shake the dust off, and be able to be a blessing to many. It was a win/win. I started booking more outdoor sessions and even a few outdoor elopements. I am very proud of the fact that my business was built on solid ground, and that I was able to start my business in Louisiana and resume it 1000 miles away!

One of the best quotes that I read during this time was, “Don’t be afraid to start over, this time you are not starting from scratch, you’re starting from experience.” That really resonated with me and helped to catapult my faith to get started once again, despite the pandemic and despite my discouragement. And I am so glad that I did!

Do you have any employees? If yes, how many and are they full or part time?
I do not have employees for my business at this time, however, I do plan to add 2 associates in the future. For now, I hire industry professionals as contractors on an as needed basis to assist with photographing a variety of services such as weddings, portrait sessions and events.

What’s your schedule like, what’s a typical day for you?
My schedule as a wife, mom, and entrepreneur can admittedly get tricky. As a full-time photographer, my day is a dynamic mix of creativity and business, in no specific order, quantity or sequence. Instead my schedule primarily depends on the most pressing task for the day.

A typical day for involves managing business tasks such as marketing, social media engagement, website update, SEO management, finances, collecting and issuing 1099’s for both hiring contractors and contracting services out, etc. I spend a large portion of each day performing client management tasks such lead follow up, client acquisition, follow ups and account updates etc.

Lastly, I spend a portion of my day planning and executing photoshoots. This includes scouting locations, setting up lighting and equipment, either in studio or on location, and directing subjects on what to wear, how to pose and everything needed to achieve the desired result. After the photoshoot, I spend the majority of time editing client images to present in an online proofing gallery. Professional editing involves using software like Adobe Photoshop and/or Lightroom to adjust color balance, remove unwanted elements, and enhance the overall quality of the image to taste.

What’s the best thing about being self-employed?
The best thing about being self-employed is the ability to create my own schedule which allows me to prioritize my family first and myself second. I’m not a morning person so being self-employed means I’m able to structure my day so I can work on creative tasks later, when I’m naturally more productive. Lastly, I love the ability to create what I want, pursue whatever goal that I want, and promote my own vision and ideas without someone in a higher position minimizing my ideas and trying to limit my potential by keeping me in a box. I’d much rather use my skill, education, and experience to promote myself than to promote another company’s service or product which often fails to meet the standard for the what is being promoted.

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received from a client?
The best compliment that I’ve ever received from a client was when I was photographing a wedding. One of the grandparents walked up to me and complimented me for doing an amazing job covering her granddaughters wedding. She said that she was the last to get married, so she was able to see a few different wedding photographers cover her other weddings. She said that she has never seen someone so efficient, professional and personable, especially when dealing with the kids at the wedding. She said that she hated taking pictures but that I made her feel seen and beautiful. This is my entire goal. I named my company Exposure Best Photography as a play on words of sorts….to Expose Your Best!

What’s the most important piece of advice you would give to someone starting their own business?
I would strongly advise someone who is just starting out to first and foremost, find a professional in your industry who offers mentorships, and pay to learn the ins and outs of the industry which will save you a lot of time and money in the long run.

Which NASE member benefit is most important to you?
One of the main reasons I joined NASE was the fact that they offered grants to new businesses, in addition to assistance with collection accounts and assistance with legal resources to assist with creating client contracts and other pertinent documents. I have been a member for a little over 2 years now, and earlier this year I was notified that I was chosen to be a small business grant recipient! It truly helped me to boost my business marketing this year!

Any other information you would like to share?
I am super proud of my career with Exposure Best Photography! When I started my company in August 2011, I had no idea of how small or large my company would grow. I just knew that developing my craft and consistently pursuing knowledge about how I can create sharper images with a touch of vibrant flare because I believe that life should be lived in color. The most exciting places that I’ve ever been, my favorite being the Bahamas and Haiti, the thing I most remember is how beautiful all the colors were. So, I celebrate color in all of my imagery. In the beginning, it was a true struggle because I am self-taught, and I only had about $500 to start my business. But, I learned to never despise small beginnings!

Today, I have my own portrait studio and am blessed to be able to offer photography mentorships for both beginner and advanced professional photographers to help accelerate their photography career by avoiding the costly mistakes that I made along the way and by giving them all the resources need to begin successfully.

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