Things have been really crazy around here lately, and while it’s a good crazy it’s still overwhelming at times, and I’ve definitely let a few balls drop. It can be hard to balance a creative business with real world expectations, and sometimes it’s hard to still be creative and intentional every day. One of the things that has made such a huge difference for me is having a community of incredibly talented, mega busy creative business owners and entrepreneurs sharing their stories of the same problems and struggles, and offering constant support. Those communities are an unparalleled resource for me when I’m feeling lame or uninspired. And out of those communities I’ve managed to meet some truly amazing people that were really the entire basis for the #wcw series. After all, why shouldn’t we all be obsessively in love with the same people?
That’s why I’m so excited for today’s #wcw profile, because I have been swooning over this lady for weeks now and I can’t wait to share her with you. Inna is a wedding and lifestyle photographer who captures the most stunning stories you’ve ever seen. Like her photos she’s so kind and sweet and genuine, she’s guaranteed to be your #wcw too. Today we’re chatting with Inna about taking chances, overcoming the need to please, and daily gratitude.
Tell us about your career path – how did you get to where you are today?
I’ve always been involved in the arts, but never really thought of photography as a viable career choice. I’ve never even studied it! I finished my honours in English Literature in university, but I remember one major turning point that slowly started bringing me into photography (and film). Caught up in academics, I had almost forgotten about the beautiful, amazing world out there. University is a weird bubble like that. In second year, I stumbled on this video by Mammoth Media of a fishing trip through BC and Alaska. I remember this immense feeling of clarity and knowing this was exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to create things that inspired people to remember what an amazingly awesome world we live in. So I got a dslr for my next birthday and started doing that. Instagram also launched at around this time, which opened up a whole new world for me in terms of sharing my images and connecting with a wider community of artists.
But when I graduated, I started working in digital media marketing at a non-profit. It was an amazing experience that took me to a lot of cool places, but I kept falling more in love with photography and found any excuse to do it at the organization I worked at. After two years of the 9-5, I realized that if I truly wanted to commit myself to this art, I needed to take a risk and invest my full self into it. I had to overcome a lot of mental hurdles to leave my job and the security it provided, but sometimes you just know that something better is on the horizon. Right after leaving, I bought a plane ticket to California to learn from Ben Sasso, came back and started building my business from scratch. So far, putting myself out there and taking chances consistently has gotten me to where I am now!
So by the way, your photos are absolutely breathtaking! You have an amazing eye for lighting. A lot of your photos are taken outside in gorgeous natural surroundings. Do you choose those settings on purpose, or is it a happy accident?
My parents totally brainwashed me into loving camping when I was a kid, so I am now a proud tree hugger! Nature is so organic and wild and that’s a huge inspiration for my imagery too. I’m always encouraging my couples to do their sessions with me outdoors. There’s just so much inspiration that could be taken from what the earth already provides us. There’s so much beauty in that.
What attracted you to the wedding industry in particular? What’s your favourite part of your job?
Photographing two people in love with each other is pure and real and raw. It’s something each one of us can relate to because love is a human instinct. My favourite part of my job is actually learning about my couples stories. So much of my time is invested in getting to know my couples as friends and people, and it’s taught me a lot about love and marriage in return. That’s very humbling and rewarding to me.
What advice would you give to new photographers looking to get into wedding photography? Do you have any tips for navigating what is a very competitive industry?
Oh my gosh, I’m not sure I’m one to give advice because this is still only my first full-time year of doing weddings! I’m still fairly new, haha! But I would say, lack of experience or a bad experience does not disqualify you from doing weddings. Back in October, I had my first consultation with a couple who I didn’t know from before and it completely knocked my confidence. Basically, I was told by the fiance that I wouldn’t last very long in this industry (I actually shed a few tears walking to the subway!). I told my photographer friends about that, and their encouragement made me realize that it was a one-off situation and not everyone would talk down to me that way.
There is SO much more that goes into being a great wedding photographer than wedding experience. Put your best photography work out there, curate it well, and really get to know your couples as people rather than clients.
Tell us what a typical “day in the life” looks like for you.
Every day is different, but I’m trying to find some sort of routine so I feel more organized. I’ll wake up in the morning, have breakfast and get dressed (no pj’s or sweatpants – that’s important!), and respond to emails and post on social media before noon. If I’m not on location that day, I’m usually editing or researching ways I could improve my service. I try to finish work every day by 6, unless I have a client meeting later that day. I’ve realized as a wedding photographer, my weekends are gone so I try to make Mondays and Tuesdays my slower days for rest.
What’s one piece of wisdom you’ve learned along your career journey you’d love to share with other creative biz owners?
You can’t please everyone. This was a hard pill for me to swallow because photography is so personal to me, but I realized I can’t confuse the need to please with love. Naturally, I want everyone who contacts me and works with me to be really happy with the service, but I’ve also had to stand by my policies and artistic vision at the risk of losing a client. It’s about being flexible and generous, while also realizing that there are some things that could really hurt your business/brand if you try to make every single person happy. Your vision is beautiful, and having the courage to stand up for it is important.
What’s your next goal?
To be honest, I’m not a huge goal-setter. I have ambitions for myself and my business, but I try to just be present in the every day and work towards things rather than having an end-point. I’ve come to learn that success for me is fluid, and not goal-oriented. Waking up and getting dressed in the morning, that’s success. Challenging myself to try something new with my photography, that’s success. Figuring out how to do my taxes, that’s a huge success ;)!
If you could pick anyone, which three women would you invite to your next dinner party?
Oh this is hard! I want to have a bigger party!
- Emma Watson would definitely be there. I would LOVE to have a conversation with her and ask “What is the source of your courage and strength?!”. Her unapologetic passion for gender equality and human rights inspires me.
- Ishita Malaviya, India’s first female surfer. She sold everything to buy her first surf board. Any woman who relentlessly pursues her passion and opposes systematic barriers and fears is a huge inspiration to me.
- Ellen Degeneres, because who wouldn’t want Ellen at their dinner party?! If I’m ever having a bad day, I youtube Ellen videos and it always, always puts me in a way better mood. I want her at all my dinners.
What are your favourite Instagram accounts to follow?
@brandenharvey – Branden uses his Instagram to tell stories about the world that help create empathy and understanding. I love that.
@hutsandcabins – I’m kind of dreaming of my secret a-frame cabin in the mountains on the daily, so this account helps with that 😉
@fireandjoy – Nirrimi is my photography inspiration. Her photos feel alive and her words are always so poetic and visual.
I wish I knew how to…
Play the violin! I’ve always found it beautiful, but I already play piano and guitar so I feel like I need to stick with those, haha.
Tell us what “celebrate the everyday” means to you.
It means daily gratitude. I try to start and end every day by reminding myself of three things I am grateful for. It really helps me put things into perspective and see the beauty in the daily.
Isn’t she amazing? Thank you SO much Inna for taking the time to talk to us today! It is honestly so encouraging to hear people speak to the importance of putting yourself out there and working through those negative days. I think we can all relate to those feelings.