HSC Industry Spotlight- Lauren Listor
It's not very often that we get to interview the talent on the OTHER side of the camera. This week we caught up with NYC photographer, Lauren Listor of Laurel Creative. Lauren is killing it in NYC, photographing bloggers and influencers during the week and then weddings on the weekend. Lauren shares some behind-the-scenes stories and advice on what it's like building a photography business in the world of influencers.
What are your favorite places to shoot in and around NYC?
I LOVE shooting in the West Village. With all of the adorable stoops, the cafe’s, and the quaint, small streets- It’s the perfect place for photography. As cute as it is, there is also easy access to larger crosswalks & taxis for that “big city feel”.
Do you have a favorite time of day or time of year to shoot?
Every single day, I shoot at 7:30 AM. Crazy, I know. Most of my blogger clients work full time 9-5, so I like to accommodate to their schedule. As early as it is, I gotta say, the light is incredible! The sun is just peeking up over the trees, and it’s very flattering to my clients. Because I use a pop-up tent for my clients to change, warmer weather is my friend! Not fun changing in a windy & cold tent in the middle of NYC!
Not only are you working with some huge names in the blogging world but you also shoot weddings! How do they compare? Which has more pressure?
The most common question that I get asked is if I like shooting fashion or weddings better- honestly BOTH. They are both challenging in their own ways, and provide such different, creative elements to play with while shooting. The more serious and focused side comes out of me when I’m shooting weddings because they require so much time management & organization (but you better believe that when The Wobble comes on at the reception, I’ll be out on that dance floor!) while on the contrary, my fashion shoots can be go-with-the-flow. In my photography, yes, there are times to be organized and serious, but I’m naturally a funny and goofy person (as my clients can attest!) and I like to let it show. Weddings definitely have WAY more pressure; but the good kind of pressure that helps you be your best self & create some amazing images.
You work with a lot of influential bloggers… Do you reach out to them or do they reach out to you? If the potential client is ‘High Profile’, in your experience, what’s the best way to get in touch? Email? IG message? How do you decide who to work with?
When I first decided that I wanted to shoot bloggers, I reached out to ONE. @mimosasandmanhattan was my first fashion blogger client and after doing one free shoot for them back in 2015, other bloggers began to find me (through other bloggers or through hashtags). The power of word-of-mouth is absolutely astounding- and I’m thankful! Most of the time, a client will find me through another blogger, a google search, a hashtag, or a facebook group where many of my current clients so graciously pass my name along in the comments. High profile or not, that does not change how I treat my communication or photoshoots with them. I also have a fashion blogger contact form on my website where I get inquiries through there many times a week. When it comes to deciding who to work with, I don’t pick and choose. I always aim to shoot with everyone who inquires with me and make the shooting experience as fun and productive as any other. And if they feel like they “vibed” with me, then hopefully they’ll book me again. I’ve been so fortunate to have incredible clients who have been with me since the beginning!
What’s your most memorable experience or moment photographing a blogger or fashion shoot?
Oh, I could name many! My most memorable shooting experience has got to be traveling down to Ochos Rios, Jamaica this past December with three of my fashion blogger clients: @laurenmazzei, @eastcoastfox, and @publyssity. We were there with Moon Palace Jamaica. I had never shot anywhere in the Caribbean before & it was a dream. The colors, and beauty of Jamaica made getting photographs easy and our creativity ran wild there. It was definitely a chart topping photography trip!
You have quite the portfolio with your work being in some big name publications, InStyle, Southern Living, J.Crew, Topshop, just to name a few. How did those come about… how long into your career did you finally realize, “Wow, I’m being noticed”.
I have been shooting weddings since 2011, but it wasn’t until I stepped foot into the fashion blogger niche that I really noticed my business skyrocket. I have always put more emphasis on shooting/getting to know as many bloggers as I can. Not only has that helped my name get out there more/my exposure as a photographer; It’s also provided so many new friendships and connections. Networking is EVERYTHING. It’s still kinda crazy to me to step back and look at my business and what it has grown to be in just three short years of adding blogger clients to my repertoire. I honestly owe all of my achievements to my clients- without them booking me, Laurel Creative would not be where it is today!
For all of the Bachelor/Bachelorette fans out there… you recently did a shoot with Derek and Taylor… 1) How was it 2) They’re both pretty big names, how do you go about getting a big client?
I get asked about this all the time and my answer is always the same: They’re two amazing people who happen to be on a hit show. Whenever I’m working with someone who is very well known in one way or another, I try to really just step back and remember, “Okay- yes, these clients are ‘famous’, but they are just like me. People with jobs, goals, families, and talents.” It’s helps me not get wrapped up in who the world knows them to be, but to get to know them solely as my clients & new friends. So for me, instead of getting into the Bachelorette/Bachelor fandom, I’m having more of a “fangirl” moment watching Taylor succeed in launching a podcast and Derek growing in his career! (Also, I want to give a big thank you to my dear friend & client Caila Quinn for passing along my name to her friends from the show. Caila is now a super successful NYC blogger/businesswoman. If you haven't seen her blog, you’re missing out!)
What’s your favorite part of your job? Worst part?
My favorite part by far of photography is the connections that I get to have with people. When someone has their photos taken, a certain guard is let down. I get to experience the true selves of so many people through my camera.
I’d have to say that the worst part is that if it rains/snows/super cold/super hot outside, then I can’t shoot. I’ll either take the day “off” and catch up on computer work inside, or my client & I will get creative!
How important do you think is it to have clear goals and a business plan when it comes to blogging professionally?
It is SO important to have a business plan. I have so many clients that set their shoots with me in their calendars months in advance, and those are the bloggers that are the most successful. Consistency is seriously key & a game changer for success. I’m also a firm believer in sharing your goals with others. So what if you write a goal list in your notebook… I guarantee you’ll forget about it in a week. SHARE it with your friends and mentors. Invite people into your life to help you complete your list and succeed more than you ever thought possible.
How do you stay organized with all of the logistics and travel you do? Many people ask me this and honestly, I use the calendar app on my iPhone for EVERYTHING. To rearrange shoots, and make plans. (I also recently started using setmore.com to help with automatic bookings. My clients can go on to my booking site and schedule without having to text me!)
What are your go-to materials? Camera? Editing software?
Although I have a variety of camera bodies and lenses for wedding photography, for fashion photography, I keep it very simple. ON THE DAILY I shoot with my: Nikon d4s camera body, Sigma 35mm 1.4 art lens, and (if needed) my favorite Altura Speedlight. Also daily, I carry around a pop-up tent! It’s quite hilarious to open that up in the middle of the sidewalk and have my client change in it. But it works! You can see it in my Behind the Scenes videos on my Youtube Channel.
In regards to editing, I am a huge advocate of using Adobe Lightroom to edit photos. The editing options can really save any photo with bad lighting, or seriously make any photo pop for Instagram! I recently started creating custom Lightroom presets for my clients which has helped them find their true style and achieve very cohesive insta feed.
What is the best piece of business advice you’ve received whether it be from someone in photography, blogging or an outside field?
I don’t necessarily have a quote or advice that has motivated me in my business. The best “advice” I have received has been growing up watching my parents work. My mom works in a corporate job in New York. Watching her climb the corporate ladder & succeed in her field has been extremely motivating to me. She is an incredibly hard worker and I’m thankful to have inherited that from her. My dad is an entrepreneur & started his own successful historical carpentry/restoration business when he was in his 20’s. Growing up watching his daily hustle to gain clients and grow his business has also lit a fire under me to follow in his footsteps and create a successful business.
What would you say is the strongest asset or skill that you possess and have used to build your business?
I actually didn’t go to college for photography per-say. I majored in Graphic Design and minored in Photography. In such a digital world, I found that learning all of the Adobe graphic design programs and learning to create things on my own has benefitted my business the most. Any marketing materials that I need to create for Laurel Creative, I can make! I spent 3 years working in corporate NYC jobs as a graphic designer in advertising, so that experience has also helped in growing my business.
Any pro tips for shooting on an iPhone/camera phone when you gotta be ballin on a budget?
For outside: Shoot in the shade! Nobody wants harsh lighting and shadows on their face. Also try to keep the backgrounds clean.
For inside shots: Shoot near a window!!
Any advice to give to young, budding photographers?
FOCUS: Know your end goal and what kind of photographer you want to be so you can take all the steps you can NOW to achieve your goal LATER.
LEARN: I highly suggest second shooting for other photographers to learn and grow your experience. Also, a photography class or two can also help you learn shooting in Manual mode, or techniques with lighting.
SHOOT. I cannot emphasize this enough. If you want to be a successful photographer, simple GET OUT AND SHOOT. The act of doing is the most powerful class- You will learn so much, make mistakes, and find your style by simple just shooting as much as you possibly can. Trust me.