This woman here is amazing. I first met Cara in college years ago, when she lived down the hall and sang in an a cappella group with one of my best friends. I won’t tell you how many years because then you’ll do the math.
Not only is she a friend, but she is an incredibly talented photographer. Cara has taken photos for our family (and immediately put my boys at ease and got them laughing), but all of our BEVY professional photos come from her. (See the behind the scenes here.) Boston area folks, I can’t recommend Cara Soulia Photography enough.
Tell us about your journey to start Cara Soulia Photography.
After graduating college with degrees in Math and Economics, I spent 15 years working in the finance industry. I had a challenging, stable career, but I could never shake the sense that I was put on this earth to do something very different.
It wasn’t clear at first that I wanted to be a photographer. I’ve always loved taking pictures, but I wasn’t very good at it. One day, I decided to start a project 365 (take a photo every day for a year) so I could better learn to use my camera. Within the first couple of weeks I found I couldn’t stop thinking about photography. I began carrying my camera with me everywhere and practiced constantly. I took a class at New England School of Photography in Boston and during the very first session I remember being so captivated by the instructor– I had goose bumps all over. It was a pivotal moment in my life — I just knew right then I was going to be a photographer.
I started offering some portfolio building sessions to local moms, and it quickly became clear to me that photography was something I wanted to pursue as a business. For four years I took classes and worked tirelessly on my photo business at night and on weekends while continuing to work at my corporate job during the day. Then in 2015, after the birth of my third child, I decided it was time to make the leap to running my photography business full time. It was terrifying and exhilarating all at once. And I wouldn’t change a thing.
What have been the biggest hurdles and joys?
The hardest part about being your own boss, especially when you work out of your home, is separating work and family life. It’s easy to work every minute of the day and night when you are building something you are passionate about and your office is right in your house. It has been challenging, but I have a set structure of time I focus on the business, time I focus on the house, my kids, my husband, even the cat.
Another challenge of being a solopreneur is that it can be quite isolating. I spend about 1-2 hours with each of my clients in person, but then work behind the scenes for an additional 6-8 hours per client alone in my office. I often miss the days of having a cube mate to discuss the latest episode of Top Chef! I’ve realized it is crucial for me to reach out to other local small business owners so we can hang out, share ideas, and keep each other sane!
I could go on for a long time about the joys of being a photographer. I truly treasure getting to know so many different families–hearing their stories and documenting their relationships. I’m invited into some of the most intimate times in people’s lives, which is extremely humbling. Last year, I received a note from someone whose dog had passed away, telling me how much the photos from their last session mean to them, now that their beloved pet is no longer here. This past summer, I had a family session with a woman who had just been diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. The session was incredibly emotional. It was one of the hardest and best things I’ve ever done in my life.
What did you want to be when you grew up? Any connection to what you’re doing now?
My mom says I always wanted to be a mother and I always wanted to clean the house. Let’s just say half of that dream has come true!!
Seriously though, one time I was looking through a box of old school papers from my childhood, I found a drawing that said “when I grow up I want to be a nurse so I can help people.” I’m way too squeamish to be a nurse, but I do get to hold new babies a lot and I absolutely love meeting new moms, hearing their stories and offering any advice I can about being a parent.
I know this is an impossible question, but what are some of your favorite photographs and why?
You’re right, this is a tough question. However, there is one image that I took back in 2011 that will forever stand out in my mind as a life-changing image for me. I was traveling on the train into Boston with my son and as we went into a tunnel, I saw his reflection in the window. I jumped up and grabbed the shot. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that image was truly a turning point for me in my photography journey. I started to see things differently and although I don’t believe it’s the best image I’ve ever taken in my life, it’s one of my favorites. I have it hanging in my house to remind me of when it all really began.
Other favorite photographs of mine are mostly everyday life with my children. I love to turn ordinary moments into extraordinary images by utilizing light and shadows to emphasize my subject. I also love the challenge of creating self-portraits. I think it makes me a better photographer to put myself on the other side of the camera from time to time.
Could you share some photography tips for entrepreneurs who are starting out and want to take better product and Instagram photos?
I think consistency and simplicity are the key to taking great photos for social media. The goal is to know your brand, know your audience and be as clear and consistent as possible in executing your message. I like to use a similar set up any time I’m photographing my products or albums. If you’re doing it correctly, your viewers will start to recognize your images immediately because they are SO you.
Any advice for women looking to boldly start that thing they’ve been dreaming about?
I think pursuing a big dream can be pretty scary. I recommend sharing your idea and brainstorming with a few trusted people first. Then test the market by sharing your product or service with a small group. There are bound to be kinks to work out. As much as I’m a dreamer and would love to tell everyone to just make that leap, I think it’s really important to make a business plan and take your time before making any life changing decisions (such as a leaving a day job that pays the bills!)
Starting your own business is a TON of work and it’s really important to think about things like taxes, insurance, cost of goods, etc. If you’re lucky enough to have figured out what it is you want to do with your life, I strongly believe in following your dream. But that doesn’t mean throw all caution to the wind!! Do your homework and start small. Once you’ve solidly defined your mission, your brand and your product/service you’ll be in a much better position to take the leap!