Eryn Chandler is an Austin-based photographer that specializes in engagement and family photos. Find out how this mom turned her passion for photography into a thriving business, after she got fired from her day job.
You started your photography business in 2011, tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started.
I've always been an artistic person, ever since I was a little girl. When college came around, I did the only thing that made sense to me; I went to art school. In January of 2010, my husband Alex and I started having photo shoots here and there with our friends and family. It turns out, we were pretty good at it.
We started the business in January 2011. A coworker of Alex’s reached out to him and asked him if he ever would consider taking him and his partner’s engagement photos. Alex called me and asked if I would be interested in art directing, and I said, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” I started out as the Art Director, setting up shots and coming up with location ideas, and Alex was the photographer.
Then in September of 2012, I gave birth to the most perfect baby girl there ever was. I struggled with the idea of leaving her in the care of someone else once my maternity leave was over. In January 2013, I made the heartbreaking transition of going back to work after baby and did so for six weeks until I was laid off. It was a blessing. I'm now home full-time with my daughter and am working on our photography business.
How has your photography business evolved over the years?
As I mentioned earlier, Alex was the sole photographer when we first started our little photography side business, and I was the Art Director. We only did engagement and family sessions, the idea of weddings scared us—so much pressure and a long commitment. Then in March 2012, we shot our first wedding, and we did a really good job with it (pats on the back).
We figured we could do more of them and slowly started taking wedding clients. Now I’m the first shooter, sole editor, and handle the business end of LewChan Photography entirely. Alex is my second shooter for weddings once a month, and I contract out additional second shooters as needed. My sole focus now is weddings, bridal sessions, and engagement sessions. I dabble from time to time with family or senior sessions.
How did you land your first photography client?
Our first client came to us without us even being interested in the photography world. Back in January 2011, Alex’s coworker sought him out to photograph his engagement photos. If it wasn’t for Paul and Joseph, I’m almost 100% positive our business wouldn’t exist. I need to send those two a very heartfelt thank you card!
What marketing strategies have worked best for your business?
I’ve grown up in Austin and word-of-mouth has worked well for me. At first we were mostly photographing friends and friends of friends, but eventually, word started getting out, and we began meeting new people who wanted to use our services! That was very exciting. Also, people want to work with people with whom they enjoy spending time. I approach each job, email, and phone call with a super positive and friendly attitude. I’ve received so many wedding clients via past brides who have had positive experiences with me. It’s such an honor when a bride reaches out to me because she loved the work I did at her cousin’s wedding and remembered me always having a smile on my face throughout the day.
How do you minimize income peaks and valleys?
This is something that is inevitable with most small businesses and especially wedding photography. I can always forecast that I’ll have lulls in the summer and winter of any given year. Couples LOVE getting married in the fall and spring in Austin with October/November and April/May being the four peak months. I anticipate these peaks and always make sure I’m caught up with editing, blogging, and the like before those busy times come. Once I shoot a wedding or a session, I start editing immediately and get the work off to my clients when my contract states I’ll have it to them (Most of the time it’s early). I also LOVE a good valley throughout the year. I’m lucky that I’m able to book enough weddings and sessions each year so that I’m able to take the valleys with a positive and welcoming attitude rather than freaking out about them. I relish that time I’m able to spend with my family and friends—maybe even take a vacation or two!
What has been your biggest business struggle as an entrepreneur?
My biggest struggle is usually feeling insecure that I’m not doing enough as a small business owner.
- Should I update my website more frequently?
- Are people reading my blog?
- Do they even care?
- Is my style resonating with clients?
- Why didn’t I book more weddings this upcoming fall?
- Is my pricing structure accurate?
It’s so easy to mentally point out all the negatives rather than focusing on the positives and what I’m doing right.
What advice would you give to an aspiring photographer?
I get asked this question a lot, and it’s a really hard one for me to answer. My business grew slowly and organically, and what worked for me may not work for the next person. I had a full-time job for the first two years of my business, and that was helpful when investing in my business. I never had to take out a loan, and I was able to buy equipment with the money I had saved.
Getting out there and using my equipment frequently is another big one. Learn to use your camera and equipment and know it like the back of your hand. It comes in handy when you're on the job, and you’re able to quickly troubleshoot a problem without having to inform your client about the mishap. Also, always have backup cameras, lenses, and batteries with you.
What has been the key to your success and longevity?
I am frequently told that what I’m doing is so cool. I built my own business, and I’m making far more photographing couples in love than I did at my corporate job. And then I reflect, and I think, “You’re right! HOW am I doing this?” I believe that it all comes down to dedication. I’m fiercely dedicated to my clients who put their trust and loyalty in me. Photographing a couples’ wedding day is a big deal, a tremendous responsibility that I take very seriously. Every email, text, and phone call from anyone business related gets attended to the day of or the next day at the latest. If something falls through the cracks, I feel terrible about it, but it’s important to tell myself, “It’s okay; just don’t let it happen again.” And for the most part, I don’t.
I am meticulous about my craft, recognizing new trends in my field and applying them to my work if they’re relevant or helpful. I edit with an eagle eye and am an absolute perfectionist in trying to make every image I create as beautiful and meaningful as possible for my couples.
How did you choose a photography niche?
I went to art school for graphic design and took two photography courses in the process of achieving my BFA. My first photography class was when I was studying abroad in Florence, Italy, and it couldn’t have been a more lovely experience. My professor, Romeo di Loreto, was and is a master of his field and specializes in black and white landscapes. He used to tell us that Mother Nature was his mistress. To this day, I’ve never met a more kind and thoughtful individual; he cared about his students and the world with a passion I’ve never seen and extended his grace to anyone who crossed his path. When the semester was over, he wept as he said goodbye to us, and there’s probably a new lake somewhere in Florence from the number of tears I cried when it was time to say goodbye to him. I’m happy to attribute a small portion of my love for photography to Romeo. He taught me to be passionate and critical of my images. I’m also a sucker for capturing fleeting beauty and moments, and I want them always to be remembered. I’m obsessed with capturing the joy and the emotion perfectly in time.
But really, it’s hard to say that I chose this path. It chose me, and I’m so happy it did. It fits into my lifestyle perfectly.
Thanks, Eryn Chandler for sharing your story!
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