Lydia Yekalam is a lifestyle and portrait photographer living in Seattle, WA. By day Lydia works in communications, sales, and marketing, and by night, and weekends, she finds her zen in photography. We love how energetic and full of life her photos are. Lydia, thanks for sharing your words with us!
Tell me about your path to becoming a freelance photographer.
I took Intro To Photo way too seriously in high school. We had point and shoot cameras, shot on auto that entire class and we just focused on the basics— composition, rule of thirds, etc. I definitely did not become a good photographer from that elective, but I learned that photography was something I was interested in. Fast forward a few years to when I got my hands on a DSLR. I started taking photos on manual setting and let me tell you – the photos looked HORRIBLE. I was pissed. My thought process was basically, um, shouldn’t my pics look dope as hell? I started to learn as much as possible about photography so I could create images exactly as I imagined them. I spent all my free time shooting, watching tutorials, taking online classes, and shadowing all the local photographers I could get in contact with.
In the beginning, how did you attract your first good clients?
Everything that has helped my business has been through word of mouth. At first, I started taking photos of my friends to practice (it helped that I had 12 roommates in college!). Since then, the friends I used to beg to shoot for free have hired me to take more photos of them, have told their friends about my work, and so on. Referrals are everything.
What advice would you give to somebody starting out in photography?
Educate yourself. It is really easy to buy a camera, but there is so much more to being a photographer. It is one of those things where the more you learn the more you realize you don’t know.
Do you have any tips for being your most productive?
I am most productive when I am passionate about something, and this tends to be right after I finish a shoot (when I am still hyped up). For me, this is the best time to edit, or at least to cull through photos, because I am excited to see all of them.
What has been the biggest “Aha!” moment that you’ve had while making photographs?
My biggest “aha!” moment was finding my own style, which was really more of a gradual process. Especially when I was learning, I would spend so much time trying to find the “right” style of photography or replicate other photographer’s styles. Finally, I realized that my clients hired me for a reason – because they liked MY style. Ever since, it has been so much easier to be creative and go with my gut on what the shot should look like.
"I realized that my clients hired me for a reason – because they liked MY style."
What has been your greatest struggle as a freelance photographer so far?
Selling myself. I’ve always strived to be humble and “let my work speak for itself,” as they say. However, when you are a freelance photographer you need to represent your business. It might seem egotistical to talk about yourself, but it is important to step back and realize that you are promoting your business, just as someone might promote their restaurant or boutique.
What is your favorite thing about freelance?
I am able to do a lot of side projects and collaborative projects.
How do you continue to attract your ideal clients?
By finding my own personal style and being true to myself I am able to attract clients with similar styles.
Since you are your own boss, do you have any advice for maintaining a work-life balance?
Set a schedule for yourself and an editorial calendar. That way, you have to keep yourself accountable.
The 3 greatest attributes you need to be a freelance creative are:
Patience, determination, A GOOD PERSON – in the end, being the type of person that people want to be around will help you keep clients and attract new ones.