We had the good fortune of connecting with Rachel Reilly and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Rachel, how do you think about risk?
Taking risks has played a huge roll in my life and career. The first big risk that ultimately catapulted my career was dropping out of college. Our society puts so much pressure on us thinking we need a four year degree in order to have a successful career or land a fulfilling job, but that hasn’t been the case for me. I took a big risk when dropping out of college and although I didn’t have an ounce of a solid business plan at the time, looking back it was one of the biggest factors in growing my own brand. Taking the risk of not getting a formal education allowed me to pick up enormous amounts of real life experience which was a vital part of growing my photography business. Another risk I took in my career was knowing that I just wanted to market to a small niche of clients. With photography it’s easy to want to take on every and all types of clients that come our way, but for me building my brand around equine clients is what makes me love my job so much. While I do offer wedding, family and senior sessions in addition to equine work, almost 99% of my wedding, family and senior clients are horse people which always makes me feel right at home with my clients! I don’t live in a super horse dense part of the country, so it was a risk knowing I had to market to clients hours or even states away from me, but getting to travel all over our beautiful country is one of my favorite parts of my job!
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’m a Midwest based traveling equine, wedding and senior photographer. I grew up showing in AQHA, APHA and POA circuits so choosing to base my photography business around horses was a natural step for me! From a young age I was always drawn to photography and obsessed over the equine photos I’d see in magazines. Digital cameras were becoming popular and easily accessible when I was in middle school so when I got my first cheap point and shoot camera my horses were usually the subjects I was photographing. During high school I took any photography and graphic design classes I could and really enjoyed diving into learning more about the basics of photography and editing. In college I started out majoring in Graphic Design but switched to a major in Photography before dropping out. After leaving college I worked in my dad’s office for a bit while building my photography business on the weekends and after about a year was able to leave the 9-5 job and pursue photography full-time. I definitely didn’t have a business plan or any idea of how to run a successful business when I started out, but over the years of trial and error figured out what I wanted my business to look like and what I wanted to offer my clients. The best thing I did in those early years was take jobs second shooting for other established photographers. I worked for both equine and non equine photographers and really learned a lot from each of them. I was fortunate to travel all across the country with equine photographers as well as work locally with wedding photographers. There are so many ways to run a photography business and getting to work under a variety of different photographers showed me not only want I wanted to do in my personal brand, but also helped show me what I didn’t value and didn’t want my brand to be built around.
What I value most is treating clients the way I would want to be treated when working with a photographer myself. I don’t put limits on the amount of images I deliver and don’t put limits on the amount of poses or outfits they can wear throughout their session with me. I want them to feel like they have gotten the most out of their sessions with me. I prep all my wedding and equine clients with welcome magazines filled with all my tips and tricks I’ve gathered over the years to help them prepare before our sessions. I try my hardest to go the extra mile during sessions and wedding days to ensure we are getting the best images possible and I take my time hand editing each image to deliver beautiful, worthy, valuable content to clients. All of my photography packages are built around offering easy to digest and understandable all inclusive sessions. I’m not a great sales person, so having to upsell clients on packages just wasn’t going to be something I would strive in. Instead I love being a one stop shop kind of deal for my clients – they pay a single flat fee and receive all their edited digitals in both an easy to access online gallery and a copy on a USB drive for long term storage.
Working with horses is really a niche. You really need to understand horse behavior to have an overall successful photo shoot. Every horse is so different, so figuring out how to keep them happy, content and focused on us while posing is a craft I enjoy offering clients. For my equine clients I know their horses mean so much to them, because my horses are my world, so I strive to take images that convey how emotionally attached we are to these beautiful animals. Photographs hold so much value and only gain more value with time, so I really feel the weight of that when at sessions and always strive to provide every single client with photos they can cherish forever.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My shoutout goes to all the clients that booked me and recommended me to their friends and family in those early years of my career. In those first few years of business I really didn’t have a solid brand and was still learning so much at every session, but having clients that trusted me enough to book and recommend me is what has lead to the growth of my business to get where it is today. Having people believe in you and value you is such a blessing and really gave me the confidence and motivation to keep striving to be better in my craft.
Other: TikTok: rachelreillyphotography