Q&A session with Missy Stayner, a professional photographer who is self-employed.
Q: Can you tell us who you are currently employed with?
A: I am self-employed as a children’s photographer at Stayner Photography.
Q: What is the most requested service you provide?
A: Portrait sessions of children as they grow-up. Many parents have a regular seating session with us each year. Besides the school pictures that they receive each year, they want a better quality of image to have for their keepsakes of childhood.
Q: How long have you been a professional photographer?
A: I have been in business for 13 years. We are able to succeed in this area because of our reputation and the lack of quality photographers in the area.
Q: Can you tell us a little about your training and school experience?
A: I went to public schools and community college when I was younger, and while learning about Political Science for my major, I took photography courses as an elective to add to my college experience. What resulted was that I was a better photographer than a public servant. After 5 or 6 years of practicing and learning about techniques and procedures, I began to shoot different events and things that gave me some exposure to people who really enjoyed the pictures I took. After a few years of working on the side as a photographer, I decided to open an office for people to come and get their pictures taken. It evolved from there to focus specifically on children because, honestly, there is a bigger need for images of kids as they grow than other events in life. I like working with kids, too, so that help.
Q: What’s your favorite part about being a professional photographer, and if there are any bad things, what would they be?
A: I’m fortunate to be able to be known for what I do. People come to me to have pictures taken knowing that they will get exactly what they want in return. I enjoy working with the children and then turning the sessions into great images through processing and technique. I like to think that I am one of the best and I think that keeps me doing all I can to deliver a great image that people will enjoy forever.
Q: Tell us about an average day.
A: We work by appointment only, so my average days are just that, average. We get to the studio around 9:30AM to prepare for the first appointments, which usually start at 11:15. We continue to shoot pictures throughout the day when there are clients who have made an appointment until about 5:00PM. I’ll collect all the films and prepare them for processing. I will process some images myself – what I do not send out – and end the day at around 7 PM. Outside of any road shoots that I may have to take, I’m in my studio and then I go home.
Q: If you ever take the next step in business, what would that be?
A: I think the step I took to make my own studio is where it ends. I hope that one day my son or daughter might enjoy doing this and they can continue the business. If not, then we’ll probably sell the property and retire. I’ll always take pictures though. I don’t see why I can’t continue doing what I want. I could even make some extra money too. My business ambitions are not that great seeing how I love what I do.
Q: Did your previous work history have anything to do with your current business position?
A: No, I can’t say that it did. I went to school to be a public servant and I came out loving photography. I think most people end up doing what they love over what they were trained to do in the first place. I guess I’m one of those people.
Q: In your field of work, what kind of benefits do you receive?
A: I do not receive benefits outside of what my husband receives from his company. Because most of the work I do is contract, and we only support a very small staff, we can’t support a large benefits package like a big company. We earn our money and spend it appropriately on the health insurance and retirement savings we need outside of the photography business.
Q: Tell me about the money you make.
A: In a good year, the studio can earn upwards of $40,000 after all the bills are paid. I made over $150,000 one year, but that was out of the ordinary, as was the year I earned under $30,000
Q: What makes someone good at this profession?
A: A good eye and knowledge of the equipment. The rest is up to artistic license. I think someone has to have a good personality and enjoy the business. People want to respect and enjoy the sessions as they come to your studio. Someone has to be able to be a good customer servant in order to save themselves the problems that can arise from unhappy parents and clients.
Q: Would you recommend this career path to others who are looking for the same things you were when you started?
A: I would suggest that if they wanted to become a photographer they should not go to school to be a politician. I recommend this job to those who want to have a creative freedom to explore the best way to take great picture.
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