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Rising Stars: Meet Gracie Shafqat

Today we’d like to introduce you to Gracie Shafqat.

Hi Gracie, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I fell in love with photography when I was 12 after my dad taught me how to use my first camera. At the time, I didn’t know anything about photography – only that I loved creating art and wanted to try a new hobby. I started out doing nature photography, but once in High-School, I became involved in my media arts & broadcast journalism courses which were more videography-centered. I improved my videography and editing skills during these classes, and to improve the quality of my video content, I upgraded my camera. However, I was also playing around with photography again outside of class and taking my friends’ senior photos. I discovered I had an eye for portrait photography and color-grading.

While in college, I made a photography Instagram and gained recognition from local clothing boutiques and CPG brands in San Diego and Orange County. I worked diligently on growing my portfolio during my freshman year. I was more passionate about my side hustle than my broadcast journalism homework. More graduating seniors and brands had reached out to me as I improved my craft and posted more on social media to break more into the market. My minor in advertising played a role in social media and web design skills which helped me become a reputable entrepreneur. I have never taken a photography course and am fully self-taught. However, if I could go back in time, I would take a class about processing film. I’ve become interested in 35mm film and wish I could develop film myself. My dad gave me his old Canon A1 from when he was my age. I don’t know why I didn’t start shooting with it sooner!

This past year was the busiest photography season of my life. I tackled schoolwork along with a photoshoot every day for three months while also trying to figure out what type of post-grad job would set me up for success. After graduating, I decided to stay in San Diego to work in the marketing industry and continue my photography on weekends and after work hours. Connecting with people and capturing their smiles, passions, and milestones drives me to work harder.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Unfortunately, during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many shoots had to be postponed or cancelled. I was excited for many of these opportunities, but with everything shut down, it was a difficult and stressful time for everyone. Luckily, once I saw other photographers going back to work while using safety precautions, I was able to reschedule shoots and do what I love. With the lens I used, I had already been social distancing from my clients, and the only new thing I did was wear a mask which was only necessary when I’d show them sneak peeks as we went through the photoshoot. I slowly booked more sessions as the pandemic went on, and since I only shoot outdoors, this made clients feel more comfortable because the likelihood of spreading COVID was decreased. Another struggle that I’m working on overcoming is comparing myself to other photographers. It can be challenging to see another photographer working with your dream brands/clients at beautiful locations across the world and feel a sense of FOMO. I look at it as motivation to work harder, and one day I will get to that level. It has been a privilege to work with many amazing brands. It can be frustrating to be turned down after pitching a company, but for every 5 no’s, there is usually 1 yes. As I’ve grown my portfolio, it has been a bit easier to pitch bigger brands. I would definitely attribute my current success to past clients that have trusted me even when I might not have had as much experience as competing photographers. Having confidence, fun models, and encouraging mentors has been helpful and improve more client acceptance. All of the difficulties I’ve experienced with my business have been great learning opportunities that push me in the right direction. I’m grateful that after each obstacle comes growth.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I am a portrait, lifestyle, and brand photographer. This means I photograph a wide range of session types like graduating seniors, families, couples, employees that need professional headshots, newborns, maternity portraits, influencers, products, events, etc. I am most known for my senior sessions – both College and High School. Most of the grads that reach out are from schools in Southern California. Since graduation, I can commute to any client which helps to expand my consumer outreach. I am most proud of the recent brand content I’ve been producing and the relationships built with returning clients. I love working with a brand that has a strong mission statement and a mood board. It helps me prepare in advance and guides me through the shoot. My fast delivery time and the amount of photos I send in a gallery set me apart from others. I typically deliver a gallery of over 100 photos to a client within 72 hours and sneak peeks within 24 hours. I pride myself on commitment to delivering content quicker than a client expects. I will spend hours editing small details because I want to exceed client expectations. I also want the client to have plenty of photos to choose from. Some photographers only deliver a small number of photos in a gallery and have the client pay per photo and print. There is nothing wrong with this method; however, I like to do things a bit differently.

What has been the most important lesson you’ve learned along your journey?
There is always room for improvement. I try to make every shoot better than the last – whether it be capturing a bigger variety of poses, being more detailed with editing, delivering the gallery quicker, or improving my film photography skills. I am always striving to be the best at what I do and I remember hearing a photographer say, “your biggest competition is yourself”. I remind myself of this every time I compare myself to other talented artists.

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