Set a goal. More specifically, make a plan. You can’t just say “you know what, I’m going to make a business today.” You’ll be stressed out and disappointed. I personally went into photography knowing very little, and I think it set me back a bit. I wish I would have done more research into what I was doing and why I was doing it.
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brianna Parks.
Brianna Parks, owner of Brianna Parks Photography, is an elopement photographer based in Northern California who is also studying to get her Bachelor’s in Sociology. She’s been a photographer for three years and started her business at the age of 19. She’s extremely passionate about breaking the traditional mold and helping couples realize that they don’t have to follow the grain.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I was never interested in photography until I was a junior in high school. Even then, it wasn’t something I was ever passionate about, but instead, more of a hobby I would do on the side with my best friend.
During my freshman year of college, I decided to major in human biology. In high school, I became a certified medical assistant, so I thought medical school would be the path for me. However, after one semester, I realized how miserable I was. I was constantly thinking about having to work for someone else at a 9–5, and the thought of this terrified me. However, I continued within my major hoping I would be able to find something better along the way.
During my first semester, I ended up meeting my now husband. We got married fairly quickly and only had around 500 dollars cash, and 700 dollars in Target gift cards we got as gifts from our wedding.
After our wedding and my 9–5 breakdown, I stumbled across a YouTube video about photography, and everything suddenly clicked. I convinced my poor husband to let me spend the 700 dollars on a camera so I could start a business, or at least attempt to. I wasn’t sure if I could make it work, but I knew it was something I needed to get back into, at least for the creative aspect of it.
Three years later, here we are. I ended up switching my major to sociology, something I absolutely love, as a backup in case photography doesn’t work out. I’m now 21, a wife, work around 30+ hours a week as a receptionist, 10 hours a week at my internship, and run a successful business. I guess you could say my life is pretty busy.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
One of my favorite quotes is by Davee Jones. It reads, “You’ll never know until you try.”
As cheesy as it sounds, I can’t imagine where my life would be if I decided to let my fears of failure overcome my potential for success. Now, I try living my life without fear. There have been many times where I have failed, but if you get back up and keep going, you’re guaranteed success, even if it’s small.
If I had let my fears of inadequacy overcome me when I first had the impression to do photography, I strongly believe I would have still been majoring in human biology and trying to find myself, three years later.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Simon Sinek has a book called Find Your Why that’s all about digging deep into the core of why you’re doing something. People don’t buy out of logic, but rather out of emotion. This book really helped change the way I see my business and see myself.
After finishing the book, I sat down and did a whole exercise to help find my why, which is to, “inspire, encourage, and empower couples to push traditional boundaries and create experiences they’ll remember forever.”
It wasn’t until I found my why when couples started booking me and I became more confident within myself and my business. It truly changed the way I see marketing and helped me better serve my clients. I recommend it to everyone.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
Before the Pandemic began, I was booking around 25–30 weddings a year, all in Idaho (where I live). I charged pretty low and was only shooting traditional weddings at the time. While I was happy I was finding success out of this, I wasn’t getting the creative aspect I longed for in photography. In fact, I was a bit down. I wasn’t looking forward to shooting weddings like I once was. They all seemed to bleed into each other, and I was looking for an excuse to pivot, but I didn’t have one until COVID came along.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
As a result of the Pandemic, I realized that couples were eloping more than ever before. I knew that this would not only be a good business opportunity, but it would be an amazing personal opportunity as well. I knew that I would finally get the creative aspect of photography I one had.
Once I realized couples were eloping, I completely rebranded myself. I changed my business name, built an entire website from scratch, approached my social media marketing differently, and started serving my clients in ways I had not served them before.
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
I had always been interesting in pivoting towards elopements, however, COVID was really that driving force.
It wasn’t until I had three brides completely cancel their weddings that I realized I needed to shift, and that I needed to do it fast.
I was losing money rapidly, and while I do have other ways of income, I didn’t want what I worked so hard for to completely crumble. As soon as the third bride canceled her wedding, I took down my site and started the process of shifting towards elopements.
How are things going with this new initiative?
Better than I could have ever dreamed. I’m absolutely floored by the amount of couples I’m attracting and booking. I was able to double my package pricing within three months, book elopements all over the United States, and I finally have the creative freedom back that I was looking for.
I’ve been able to meet such wonderful people, and I’ve even been able to teach others about how to run a successful photography business, something I never thought I would achieve.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I want to thank Maddie Mae. She’s an elopement photographer based in Colorado who has a course called “The Elopement Photographer Course.” If it wasn’t for this course, I don’t believe I would be where I am today.
She has inspired and taught me how to truly serve my clients and speak to them in a way that they will only understand. She taught me about utilizing social media, SEO, and so much more.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
Since shifting to elopements, I’ve had some very interesting couples and travel experiences. One of the coolest experiences I’ve had so far was in Washington State.
I book a couple who loved Olympic National Park. I helped plan their day, and they realized they wanted their ceremony location to be at Hurricane Ridge, one of my personal favorite spots in Washington.
While the sun was setting, my couple began exchanging their vows. Out of nowhere, dozens of deer from behind me started appearing to eat the grass. It was one of the coolest experiences I’ve had shooting, and my couple absolutely loved it as well.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Set a goal. More specifically, make a plan. You can’t just say “you know what, I’m going to make a business today.” You’ll be stressed out and disappointed. I personally went into photography knowing very little, and I think it set me back a bit. I wish I would have done more research into what I was doing and why I was doing it.
- Don’t go “all-in.” In other words, don’t quit your job. Make sure you have a plan. I like to encourage people to have photography as a side hustle. Test it out. There’s not a rush to jump into something, especially when you haven’t been doing it for very long. Like I stated before, I jumped in. Thankfully, I didn’t quit my job. I know how exciting a new opportunity can be, but you also need to think logistically about it.
- Don’t go into debt for this. Set aside some money that you can eventually use to help you throughout your business. While my husband and I didn’t go into debt, we were on the brink of it. It would have been much harder to pay off debt if I didn’t have the success that I do, which is why I encourage everyone who is wanting to start a business to set emergency money, up to a 6 months salary worth if they can.
- Have a marketing plan. Who is your audience? What problem are you going to solve for them? Most photographers simply post pictures on Instagram in hopes that they’ll book clients for the year. However, it’s important to not put all your eggs in one basket. For myself, I participate in social media, podcasts, articles, directories, etc.
- Get a mentor. Investing in my education is one of the best things I’ve ever done for my business. It helps to learn from those who have come before you. I personally invest in my education once every other month. Usually, I do a mentorship with a photographer that I really admire. They have given me knowledge about the industry that I have been able to utilize within my business. You can have all the camera equipment in the world, but if you don’t know how to use it, it’s not going to be much help.
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
During this stressful time, the gym along with yoga has seriously changed my mental health for the better. I have also found great stress release in planning out my day and accomplishing small tasks throughout it.
The first I do in the morning is go to the gym. It helps release stress and puts me in a good headspace throughout the rest of the day.
I try doing yoga a few times a week, especially on days where I feel completely overwhelmed. This has also really helped calm me down.
Lastly, I’m someone who thrives on schedules. After I get home from the gym, I sit down and journal out what my day is going to look like. I make sure to set realistic goals that I know I will accomplish. This really helps me to separate work from family, especially when working from home during these times.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
If I could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, it would be a movement of self-confidence. I thoroughly believe that if people had self-confidence and lived without fear of failure, we would have innovations unlike anything we’ve seen before.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
If I could have lunch with anyone in the world, it would be Elon Musk. I really admire his persistence and knowledge. I feel as though I would walk away with new insights about running a successful business after a lunch with him.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!