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Life & Work with Sydney Barrett

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sydney Barrett. 

Sydney, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I am the commercial photographer behind Four Lane Photo. Since a young age, I have always been obsessed with photography. I got my first automatic film camera in an elementary school fundraiser. After I finally got the camera in my possession, I spent all of my birthday money for years on kodak film and set up areas to photograph my sister, pets, and friends. It wasn’t until high school that I got really interested in the industry. I signed up for college-level photography courses at my local career center, where I learned to process my own film and print my images in the dark room. My Uncle Scott was a documentary and fine art photographer, and he got me really interested into making this hobby of mine a career. He gifted me my first manual film camera, a Minolta X-700, that I still use to this day. After spending 2 years at the career center, learning more about the art of photography, and slowly stepped into digital photography my senior year of high school. I was completely hooked. I started assisting my career center teacher on his professional sessions like weddings and family portraits and soaked up as much experience as I could. At this time, I started thinking I could seriously do this as a career and began looking into colleges with a photography major. My parents were not quite on board with the idea at first, but with a lot of convincing and a promise to take all of my electives in the business department, I enrolled at Columbia College Chicago for my freshman year in fall of 2012. I graduated with a BA in Commercial Photography in 2016 and worked at photo studios and other small businesses as an in-house photographer until I took the leap into entrepreneurship in 2020. 

Since I started working at the age of 14, I have always worked for small businesses. I also come from a family of entrepreneurs and have always been inspired by their dedication. That being said, I do my best to support all small businesses as frequently as I can. When I was in college, I really started paying attention to all of the small businesses that were in my hometown and noticed how many of them were truly struggling with their online presence due to the lack of marketing and professional photography. Some of these businesses had the best products or the most inspiring stories behind their brands but having difficulties sharing them with the rest of the world. I helped out where I could, but once COVID hit and I saw how many small businesses were struggling (not just in my hometown) with shifting to selling strictly online (due to the lack of content and images), I knew it was time to take the leap. Four Lane Photo’s mission is to help small businesses elevate their brand’s story through impactful imagery of their goods and services. 

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
Ironically, I launched my business two days before COVID shutdowns, so needless to say, the first two years of business have been very challenging, but I slowly figured it out. On top of COVID throwing curveballs at me, I also had to move across the country from Virgina to San Diego in the height of the pandemic, as my husband is active duty in the Navy. This forced me to completely rebuild my creative network/community and get creative with marketing my business. 

I started out by going into small businesses when they started opening again and introducing myself all masked up with business cards in hand. Next, I signed up for virtual courses for small businesses and entrepreneurs. These courses were free and hosted by the local Small Business Association and Boots to Business. Attending these virtual courses inspired me to start attending in-person (and outdoor only, covid safety still in mind) networking events. I learned quickly that making connections with other creatives and potential clients in person worked best for me. 

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I offer a wide variety of services for small businesses with every type of budget. I only work with small businesses and take pride in this. The beauty of this concept is that I can be flexible with each business’ individual needs, all while keeping their specific budget in mind. The main goal of my services, including flat-lay product session, e-commerce images, or a lifestyle session with models, is to help small businesses elevate their brand’s story through impactful imagery. I help small businesses from anywhere. While my home base is in San Diego right now, I have clients in San Diego, Indiana, Chicago, Virginia Beach, Tennessee, Boston, Utah, and several other places. I have a home studio where I photograph most of the products and also often work on location for lifestyle sessions. 

Before we go, is there anything else you can share with us?
I love being involved in my community and host monthly (free) networking events for creatives and entrepreneurs with a friend of mine through an organization we created called Pop-Ups for Startups. 

As if my first two years in business were not crazy enough, my husband and I decided to add a personal photo assistant to my team this year! I am expecting my first child, a baby girl, in December! I’ll be shooting through Thanksgiving weekend, taking a maternity leave through the winter months, and booking sessions again in the spring. 

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