Over $1,800 Average Sale Using Creative Networking in Tampa with Kristina Houser
• Don’t be afraid to make mistakes in business – make mistakes and learn from them
• Find your happy place in business and outsource the rest
• Set fear aside and start your business like you have everything to gain
• Find a community that brings you joy and builds your confidence
Get to Know Kristina Houser
Q: What initially sparked your interest in photography?
A: I grew up loving art in all its forms. I love paint under my fingernails. I like lines, shapes, compositions. I am drawn to bold color. As a kid, I always had an eye for design, style, fashion, photography, and other art-forms. After trying to find a way to make a living as an artist for quite some time, including painting and graphic design, I finally found out that I could use many of the elements of art and express a longing to create visually pleasing imagery, mixed with my favorite thing – people. Art for me was always a solitary process and I am just not the hermit-type. So portrait photography became my new favorite art-form! Bonus – I could make a living doing it.
Kristina’s First Year in Business
Q: Explain how Sue Bryce Education helped you overcome obstacles in your business.
A: SBE was a game-changer for me when I was starting my business, as I built it, and as I continue to grow it. When I first started out it helped me with the basics – posing, lighting, equipment, shooting. Whenever I would run into an obstacle, I could always refer back to the videos, PDFs and other materials available to me, to give me an understanding of where I might have gone wrong. Sometimes I could anticipate a challenge and find answers before I encountered the problem. Most of the help overcoming obstacles, though, came from the community. I could speak directly to other people who were up against the same, or similar circumstances that I was going through in life, and business. They were always there to uplift, encourage. and give a reality check when needed… and gave me the strength to push through a tough time.
“Don’t feel like you have to have it all together before you get started – just start.”
Q: For someone starting out on their photography journey what advice would you have for them?
A: If you are getting started, be open to making mistakes. At least you are out there doing something and learning from it. Do not feel like you HAVE to have it all together before you start. That being – a glamorous website, beautiful marketing materials, an ideal pricelist, a studio, the best equipment and a dressing room full of gowns. NO. Be creative and invest back into your business as you grow. I have never had one single dollar of business debt. I did what I could, scraped on by until my business could afford to pay me PLUS buy that new something-or-other I just had to have. I tried everything, learned a ton, and still don’t have it all figured out. But hey, I am doing just fine making clients very happy and making money in exchange.
Q: Most artists have a point in their life where they knew this was meant for them. Do you have that moment?
A: My moment came to me after I had been tinkering with photography for barely a year. I would look at fashion magazines and want to make my mom-of-3-neighbor look and feel like that woman on the cover of Vogue, in front of my camera. After talking with a friend about partnering up (she would provide hair and makeup services, I would offer a photoshoot) I was introduced to the work of Sue Bryce. The first time I googled her, I sat there in AWE. In fact, a few weeks ago, this sweet friend Angela forwarded me the email that I wrote to her on December 13th, 2012. She wrote, “I think you should see how far you’ve come, and visit where you came from. You have done amazing things.” Tears rolled down my face as I read the email I sent her way back when. It started with a link to a video of Sue Bryce shooting portraits of a grocery-store clerk, wearing a ballerina’s outfit, in an old warehouse. It read, “Angela! When you have 15 minutes at home later, PLEASE watch this. Check out the styling and makeup. The woman’s reactions. THIS is what I want to spend the rest of my life doing. CHANGING the way girls, women, moms, sisters, and daughters see themselves… affirming to those who love them, how valued they really are. I want to BRING OUT THE BEST IN PEOPLE! Ugh. I cry.” That is when I knew. And I have that moment documented forever, thanks to email.
Q: There are many parts to running a business – shooting, culling, editing, marketing. What’s your favorite and do you outsource any of it?
A: My favorite thing to do is shoot. That is when I am in my happy place. A client in front of my lens. Being behind the desk is not my strong point (I am a very easily distracted person) so I outsource retouching work! A close second to shooting is networking. I LOVE to meet people and ask about what they do, and get to speak about what I do in return!!
Q: Over the years you’ve met and photographed countless clients. What inspires you to keep going?
A: The thing that inspires me most is the relationships I have built with those clients. I have taken a couple’s engagement photos, and then their wedding, and then their growing family up to three children now! Every year I get to keep up with how they are growing and thriving and it is always fun to capture new memories during their beautiful life.
Q: What fellow artists in the industry do you gain the most inspiration from?
Q: Everyone has a favorite shoot – tell us about yours and why it’s your favorite.
A: My favorite photoshoot was with a high-school senior – Anna. It was the first session I did where I feel like everything came together perfectly. Exquisite styling, a beautiful girl, the perfect weather and light, and somehow I just knew how to move her through all of the locations, outfits, and poses seamlessly. I remember leaving that session with so much adrenaline and energy running through my body. I called my best friend crying and said, “I finally feel like a professional photographer.” I will never forget that photoshoot.
“At Sue Bryce Education I am constantly surrounded by joy and by people who have something to celebrate.”
Q: How has Sue Bryce Education changed your life for the better?
SBE has given me a lot of confidence. It has pushed me to learn to network, to speak in front of people, to be a leader in my community. As someone who skipped around to 3 different colleges, changing my degree, and my day-jobs once every 6 months, I have been so proud that this flaky, spontaneous, and free-spirited artist found something that I could really stick to and build a life on. For the past 8 years I have been non-stop-passionate and constantly excited to learn more about photography. Every day with a new client is a new opportunity to serve someone and get to know their story. To experience some of the best days in someone’s life. I am constantly surrounded by joy, with people who have something to celebrate. And that has brought me joy.
Q: What do you hope people take away after listening to your podcast episode?
A: I hope people are not afraid to just jump in. Start somewhere. TODAY. I started with an old camera, one used lens, and a ton of enthusiasm. I looked at it as I had nothing to lose. Because truly I had nothing. Life was simple and my family was scraping by with a new baby. Instead of starting in fear, I started thinking I had everything to gain, and maybe I could show some people they were truly amazing and beautiful along the way. I did so much more than that while building a profitable business…because I just got started, and never looked back.
Q: What goals do you hope to achieve next in your career?
A: I want to narrow my focus in photography. Right now I am very broad, shooting everything from weddings to glamour, families, and headshots. I want to build my team so that everyone can focus on their specific passions and interests.
Q: Where do you see your business in the next 5 years?
A: I see my business growing to support more associate photographers. I also LOVE capturing video and moving images. My big goal is to open a beautiful, large, picturesque studio that can double as a wedding and events venue. I am going to turn my attention in the next year on this project. It is all I can think about.
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Kristina Houser of Visual Muse Studio
Kristina Houser is a mother, a travel enthusiast, and a lover of art in all its forms. She owns Visual Muse Studio, a portrait, and wedding studio in the Tampa-Bay area of Florida, specializing in bright, personality-filled photographs. Visual Muse operates out of a unique space offering a full hair-salon where clients can get pampered with professional hair and makeup before their close-up.