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Meet Angela Levy of Casually Candid Photography in Bay Park

Today we’d like to introduce you to Angela Levy.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Angela. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I’ve always loved taking pictures and felt a deep need to preserve memories. Once I had children, this passion grew to the point that I had a camera with me at all times – and then I needed newer and better cameras to capture the world around me. Photography became my biggest creative outlet.

About eight years ago, I was taking pictures at my son’s soccer game and became intrigued with another parent’s DSLR camera. He let me borrow it, and wow! Being able to “freeze time” and capture those action shots at that level flipped a switch for me. I had to have my own DLSR and I became obsessive about using it properly. I took classes and workshops, watched every online tutorial I could find, bought gadgets and gizmos and books – you name it. Others began complimenting the pictures I took and were thrilled when I presented them with pictures of their children or family. I began to wonder if my passion could turn into a career.

I began to build a portfolio and took and shared hundreds of free photos with friends, teammates and others. I found a mentor and began taking private lessons. My first specialty interest was newborns. In 2010 I photographed my first newborn in the living room of my home in front of a large window using natural light. I didn’t know it was possible to fall in love with photography more than I already had until that moment. I began stalking new moms, offering newborn photos to anyone who would accept. By April of 2011 Casually Candid Photography was officially in business and my journey as a professional photographer had begun.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Once I committed to turning my passion into a business, the challenge became making that business a success – and I took this challenge very seriously. I wanted my business to thrive.

I opened a studio with the mindset of, “If you build it they will come.” But what if no one came? I initially spent a great deal of time marketing and building up my customer base. I decided to focus on newborn photography with the hopes of growing along with each family as the kids got older and new babies were born. I was beyond blessed to have a steady flow of business. In fact, at one point it became too much to handle! I wouldn’t turn away business for fear that the phone might not ring next month; I had overhead and bills after all. With two young children at home and a husband who worked long hours with his own business, my family time was being worn thin.

The answer for me was creating a studio in my home. It was a tricky transition; I didn’t want to lose credibility and appear less professional working out of my home. I needed space that was separate from my personal life that still made my customers feel welcome and comfortable. I truly believe I accomplished this, and the feedback from customers has been nothing but positive. My home studio offers me more financial flexibility as well as more time with my family.

My newfound flexibility allowed my business model to grow, and in addition to newborns I am now able to focus on children and family sessions as well as and High School Senior sessions.

Casually Candid Photography – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
There are so many great photographers out there striving for success. Everyone has a favorite photographer they can recommend. Standing out is a challenge, and in this “Groupon” world where others are offering their services at steep discounts, it’s hard to compete.

To set myself apart, I found my initial niche – newborns – and established a studio space. My marketing background was critical: I was able to pinpoint my target market, prepare a winning marketing plan, and then grow and maintain my business.

Another thing that sets me apart: I offer three digital images with all of my full sessions. I realized early on in our digital world that customers are far more interested in owning their images than they are in investing in paper prints and various products with me as the middleman. I take pride in knowing that with each session, my customers are guaranteed to walk away with something to treasure – no matter what their budget may be. Photography is a significant investment; I respect my clients and want them to come away feeling that their time with me was money well spent.

My studio’s environment is very “mommy” friendly – warm and cozy. My newborn prop inventory is ridiculously extensive, and new parents love the variety and appreciate that I can shift my style of photography to reflect their family.

Outside the studio, with my family photo sessions I take pride in my energy and effort to earn the trust of my subjects – even ornery 2-year-olds. Family photos can be really stressful for parents, from finding the right outfits to coordinating a group of people to be in the same place at the same time (with many who would rather not even be there). Cooperation isn’t always a guarantee. I work really hard at making the session as comfortable and fun as possible, while keeping up morale!

As for my High School Seniors: There is a lot riding on their photos in today’s social media-centered world. I spend a lot of time before and after the session to make sure these young people’s goals are reached and there are some Instagram-worthy photos to be shared – as well as something for mom, dad and the grandparents!

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
My family has been amazing through this journey. Photographers work a lot of weekends, so my husband and kids made a lot of sacrifices. Photography equipment isn’t cheap. There was a lot of personal financing going on in the beginning as I upgraded to more professional gear and continued taking classes, workshops and private instruction.

My mentor, Mark Holmes (www.markholmesphoto.com), has been instrumental in my success. He’s been my biggest fan and critic, helping me through the good and the bad in the whole process. He’s taught me so much and is always there when I need him, whether offering advice about a tough shoot or just supporting and assisting me with a large session.

My friends have been incredibly supportive along this journey. They offered encouragement and sent tons of referrals. So many of them have been my guinea pigs as I used their families and children for endless practice shoots in every type of light and venue. I’m a very lucky gal to have the support system that I do!

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