How Photographers Can Avoid Burnout, With Kara Harms

Take a walk each day to move my body and clear my head. It doesn’t have to be long, just 30 minutes around my neighborhood has helped me mentally and physically.

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I had the pleasure of interviewing Kara Harms, founder of the lifestyle travel blog Whimsy Soul which has a community of over 100,000 women. Whimsy Soul exists to help women live the mantra “I did not wake up this morning to be mediocre.” Kara keeps it real and is focused on giving more than just a pretty picture on Instagram, and instead provides relatable, attainable and useful lifestyle content that empowers her tribe to live a life that’s anything but mediocre.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

After graduating college, I thought it would be a good idea to move to San Francisco without a job or an apartment. It was a bit reckless and while it did work out in the end, it took us a good 3 months to find an apartment and for the first 8 months I didn’t know anyone other than co-workers and my now-husband. It was pretty lonely, so I started putting my energy into a blog where I wrote about my move, my life, my style. I eventually found a job in marketing and social media. For the last 3 years I’ve worked primarily with startups in the Bay Area as my day job, but each night I’d run home and work on Whimsy Soul. I’d drag my husband out on weekends to help me make content and spend hours each week writing, editing photos and building a community.

Startups are a volatile industry and I got laid off last summer which ended up being a blessing in disguise as it was just the kick in the butt I needed to turn Whimsy Soul into a fulltime job! My biggest accomplish yet, though, is hiring my husband a few months ago. We now get to spend everyday creating meaningful content and connecting with our community, which is the best job I’ve ever had!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I ran into a follower on the other side of the world and it inspired me to become a full-time blogger.

I got laid off a couple months before I got married last year, which is literally the worst time to get laid off because it’s unrealistic to start a new job and then right away be like “ok bye, I gotta take the next 4 weeks off to get married and have a honeymoon! See ya!” This was in the stage of my blogging career where it was unclear if I could make Whimsy Soul profitable enough to live on or if I’d have to find another office job, so I was interviewing at some places and in general having a bit of a career existential crisis.

We kicked off our honeymoon in Munich and on the first day we visited the Neuschwanstein Castle, that famous one which inspired the Disneyland castle. To frame this scene, the castle literally gets thousands of visitors each day. Each tour is broken up into a group of 30–40 people and spaced 5 minutes apart, all day, for 8+ hours. During the middle of our tour, a girl turned to me and said “Are you Whimsy Soul? I follow you on Instagram!” I was floored. This lovely Australian girl was on holiday with her family and by chance happened to be on the same tour as us, which is pretty unlikely considering just how many tours happen each day. We chatted a bit and I left the castle feeling like the universe just yelled at me and told me to stop interviewing at companies and keep working on Whimsy Soul because that’s the path that’s meant for me. I think the universe was right.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The same week I bought a drone last year, I went up North with a friend and flew it over a sunflower field to make a video. This was before I educated myself on drone laws and I would never fly it over someone else’s property now because it’s actually illegal! But at the time, I didn’t know that.

Turns out, during that flight, someone called the cops on us! By the time the sheriff rolled up, we luckily had the drone packed away in the trunk otherwise I totally would have gotten fined. My girlfriend and I did exactly what you see in movies: we giggled, spoke in higher pitches and explained to the officers we were there to take photos of the flowers for Instagram because “they are just so pretty!!” We talked ourselves out of a ticket, but that encounter freaked me out and I immediately went home to read up on drone laws. I’m now pretty strict about where and when I fly a drone and encourage everyone who has a drone to be responsible when flying. “Doing it for the ‘gram” doesn’t mean it’s ok to break laws!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I try to give more than I take.

I’ve always been really focused on sharing my “real life” moments along side the “highlight reel”. I make a point to talk about real issues, like body positivity issues or things like why voting matters. In a world where most influencers only post their highlight reel, I know I stand out with the real life moments. I share things like how I struggled with my body images as a teenager (here) and also focus on building my community members up. It feels really great when women reach out and tell me they’ve been struggling with their body relationship, but reading Whimsy Soul has helped them in little or big ways. From wearing a swimsuit in public for the first time years to having to confidence to move to a new city or just visit someplace on their bucket list even if it means traveling solo, it feels great to know that all my work actually helps others. I think that’s the key to succeeding in this industry — you have to give more than you take.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

I work at home in a small studio, so it’s easy for me to wake up and work for literally 14 hours straight because my office is also my home. To avoid burnout, I…

  • Take a walk each day to move my body and clear my head. It doesn’t have to be long, just 30 minutes around my neighborhood has helped me mentally and physically.
  • I set strict “office hours” and when I close my computer each evening, I hide it so I can’t be tempted to keep working after dinner!
  • Know when to ask for help. Running a business all by yourself is pretty impossible! It doesn’t make you a bad business owner by asking for help or hiring help. You don’t have to do everything by yourself to be successful!
  • Stop comparing. In a world where everyone throws their highlight reel up for everyone to see, it’s really easy to get sucked into a black hole of comparison. That takes such a mental toll on you. When your job is centered around creating content, it’s hard not to feel like you have to constantly be doing more, because everytime you go to post a photo on Instagram, all your peers are posting interesting things, too. I try to put on blinders and only focus on what we’re doing to avoid mental burnout.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My husband has been supportive from day one when I threw on a pair of blue shoes, dragged him away from a football game and made him take outfit photos of me. I even think I asked him to lay on the sidewalk so we could show off the shoes better! You know that viral video of the “Instagram Husband?” That was us for a while. He was a trooper in the beginning and over the past 3 years transformed from just an “Insta Hubby” to a hard working, smart, talented business partner that I couldn’t have gotten this far without.

Are you working on any exciting projects now?

We’re currently finishing up the biggest project of our career with Starbucks, which has been in the works for over 8 months now and I’m very excited to finally start sharing all the fun things we’ve been working on.

Besides that, the Instagram handle @whimsysoul finally became available, so I’ve been working on building up a community over there which is focused on sharing all the great things Whimsy Soul tribe members are doing. I love being the leader of such a great group of women and want to make it even easier for them to connect with each other, not just me.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I think it’s important for influencers to bring attention to real-world issues. As a body positive blog, I’m always focused on lifting other women up. But beyond the body relationship movement, I make a point to shed light on awesome charities or draw attention to important issues. From gun rights to local elections to petitions that can be signed online in 2 minutes, I think it’s important to use my reach to not just share pretty photos on Instagram. My community looks to me each day to learn and feel inspired, and so I try to open the dialogue on topics that can help change the whole world for the better.

Can you share “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Take Stunning Photos”. Please an example for each.

1.My biggest tip for taking stunning photos, *even with an iPhone*, is waking up at sunrise to snap that photo. Is getting up at 5am fun? No! But the morning light is always perfectly soft and has just the right amount of warmth that it’s actually almost hard to take a bad photo at sunrise. The other best aspect of taking photos at 5:30am? There’s nobody else crazy enough to take photos at 5:30am, which means you’ll be able to snap that amazing photo of the Lombard Street in San Francisco without hoards of tourists photobombing your masterpiece.

Example: Lombard Street (crookedest street in the world!)

2. To get an amazing food flat lay photo (#nom), I always use this $10 mini ring light that I found on Amazon to help light the table. It’s so small, it can fit into almost all of my purses. There’s a little clamp so it’s easy to attach to your phone and there are three different brightness settings. I no longer have to stress about getting a seat by a window as this little light make food look amazing — it’s what all my food blogger friends use!

Example: Wine tasting flatlay (ring light used!)

3. To get a great photo, sometimes you have to just wait for a person or a group of people to move. Have your camera up and ready so when people move out of the frame, even if it’s just for a second, you can snap that killer photo! Don’t settle for strangers photobombing your pictures when you can spend a few extra minutes and a few extra shot attempts to get it right.

Example image: at the Top of the Rock where we took over 50 photos and only got one with nobody else in it.

4. When in doubt, add a bright pop of color. Colors like red, pink or yellow make a photo POP! Your #OOTD can go from bad to amazing just by adding an accent color. I especially adhere to this rule when photographing myself in nature. I learned that when I wear dark colors, I blend into the rocks and grass! But when I threw on a red coat or a bright scarf, my photos instantly became more interesting to look at with very little extra effort.

Example: Yosemite National Park

5. Editing is incredibly important. Even if you are just snapping photos on your iPhone, how you edit can make or break your photos. Editing platforms can transform the mood and vibe of a photo, and take your work from average to amazing with a few button clicks. I personally use Lightroom for 99% of my work. I also sometimes use VSCO or the new Tezzamb photo editing app to edit photos on the go. Even if you are just using a cellphone camera, you should invest time into editing post-snap!

Example: Before and after images in this folder.

6. Try an unexpected point of view to instantly have a more interesting photo. This takes a bit of creativity, but sometimes the best photos are born from unique angles and points of view. For example, next time you’re camping, take some photos from the inside of the tent looking outwards. That’s a view that most people aren’t used to seeing online and will instantly make your photo stunning!

Example: Glamping

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’m very vocal about the body positive moment. I grew up with eczema, which got me teased a lot in school. I’ve also never weighed under 165 pounds in my adult life. Being a teenager in the 2000’s sucked because I grew up in a society where I was taught that women were only beautiful, important and worthy if they were flawless and skinny. When you feel bad about your body, that in turn takes a huge toll on your mental health. You start to question your own abilities and your own worth. It’s crippling.

One of my biggest passions is helping women feel good about their bodies so they can, in turn, live a more empowered life. The body positive moment is underway but has a long way to go. Until a person of color or someone over the size of 6 isn’t casted just for the “diversity hire”, or until plus size models aren’t labeled as plus size models anymore and are just called “models,” I think it’s important for people in my position to be that presence that is still missing in the digital world.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can find Whimsy Soul on all the major social channels @TheWhimsySoul!

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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