We had the good fortune of connecting with Candace Weir and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Candace, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Most entrepreneurs have to be risk takers to run a successful business. My husband has owned his business for several years and he is definitely a risk taker. I am not. I am the opposite. I like to play it safe.
I have been a photographer for 16 years. But never a full time photographer. I always had other photography jobs working for other companies. When you take those kind of jobs, the pay isn’t the greatest, but they were safe jobs. They were guaranteed hours and guaranteed income. At the end of 2019, I had just taken a job with a sports photography company to manage other photographers at sporting events. I was traveling a lot between Arizona, California, and Nevada. Everything was going great and for once, I was making pretty good money at what I did. I loved the job.
With my photography business, I have always just scheduled sessions around my jobs working for other companies. So Memories by Candace, was always part time for me…when I had time or when I had customers come to me.
When the 202o Pandemic hit, sports was one of the first things to shut down. So I had nothing – it was a scary time. No work. I realized that it was beyond my control. Playing it safe all these years, and relying on another employer to put me to work, all to be put out of work anyway.
So pay or not, I realized I had to do something. Others were sewing masks to help people, more people were donating to food banks. I decided to do the #FrontPorchProject. While photos, were not necessarily a need like masks or food…it was a way to tell our story for our children in the future and a way for families to step out of the house and have something to look forward to when we were on lockdown. It was actually a lot of fun for families. With that, I stepped out into my community and I met people, socially distanced of course…tons of people. I have never been one to just go out and meet new people. So it was a personal risk for me, stepping out of my comfort zone. I was getting easily 20-30 appointments a week of just driving to people’s homes and photographing them on their front porch during the lockdown. I wasn’t even charging a regular session fee. I was just charging $20 to make sure they were serious about me coming! That $20 for each family ended up saving my own family with me being out of sports photography. The families that I met were so wonderful. We would get a little time to talk and I truly would realize how this even helped me in understanding that we were all in this together. There were so many people that weren’t working, scared that income wasn’t coming in, etc. There was a comfort in that, knowing we weren’t alone.
I started to grasp during this time, I am in control of my work. From there, business took off. I was being shared on social media communities like crazy. I eventually stopped the #FrontPorchProject by the summer and all of a sudden my business was still booming from word of mouth from all these people I met in taking photos on their door step. I was so surprised, because usually in the Arizona summers, photography slows down anyways due to the heat. However, I think people were ready to get out of their homes. More people were at home and not traveling for work. So getting photos and this time with their families were important.
November of 2020, the sports company that I worked for managing photographers was ready to get back to work. While there would be limitations on where we could go, they were bugging me to get back to work. I started to struggle internally with what to do, because I did actually love my job in working for them, but my dream job of working on my own as a full time photographer was coming to fruition. My calendar had filled up. I recognized I didn’t have time to work for the sports company anymore. I was busy doing Memories by Candace every weekend. I remember being concerned that maybe this was just temporary. What if I needed that income? Here I am a year later and I have now hired an associate photographer to work for me, because I have been that busy. So not only am I a full-time photographer, but I was able to put someone else to work. I love that.
That risk of getting out of my comfort zone during the Pandemic, going to people’s front door and putting smiles on their faces led me to where I am today. I am living my dream. I am finally a successful photographer contributing to the income of my family.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I started photography 16 years ago when my youngest was first born. I have always had a passion for photography, but never realized I would be good at it until walking into Sears Portrait Studio and being hired on for seasonal help. Within 3 months, they made me a manager of my own studio. Places like that are a good place to start in learning customer service and posing of clients. They don’t usually teach you too much about the camera itself, but it’s a good place to learn some basics and to see if you have the passion of being creative. The passion and creativity is not only what you do with the camera, but also what you put in front of the camera.
My photography career has many roots. My husband was in the military. So my independent photography career started out doing outdoor photography on base at Fort Campbell, KY.
It wasn’t until moving to Arizona that I decided on my business name, Memories by Candace. I had started only about 5 years ago putting photos out on social media and trying to gain some business with Memories by Candace.
With all the experience that I have had with working for other photography companies, I feel like the most I have learned from them is how to treat clients. I feel like sometimes that can be something photographers, as creatives, lack sometimes. Sometimes creatives can be so into their work, but they are missing out on the part about connecting with clients. That’s so important. Connecting with clients can actually make better photography when they are the subject.
As a photographer, I truly have a reason for capturing portraits. I feel they are so important. They are heirlooms. My brother-in-law was killed in Iraq in 2006. I took his last family portraits. That’s so special to me. I have had clients reach out to me when their father is dying. I’ve literally done photos of the whole family gathered at their home when someone doesn’t have a lot of time left. I’ve also had client’s whose family member has died, and they reach out thanking me for images they have through my work. In my years of experience, who knew that I would capture the greatest memories and even the last moments together of families. This means a lot to me.
I think what sets me a part from other photographers is that for my full sessions, I include all the digital images that we get during our time together. A lot of creatives will disagree that I do this. They will say I am selling myself short. But a lot of other creatives offer only a specific number of images. I don’t do this. I want my clients to see my work edited. I edit each photo, so for me, I feel like why not give them each photo. The only time I do not do this is when doing mini events.
I also don’t want to take advantage of people. I want to work for the every day family. Some people think they can’t afford a photographer and so they go to these big name store front shops to be another number rushed in and out for photos. I want to be affordable for families. I don’t aim to just photograph families that have money. I want to photograph the families that think they can’t afford a professional photographer. Usually with my pricing, they will pay about the same for going to one of those big name store front shops and buying all the digital images there. The families that I get as clients are usually surprised at how affordable I am. Those families actually end up being the best clients. They are always so grateful and easy to work with. I think everyone should be able to afford a great photographer. So I try not to raise my pricing too high. I have to make a living and sometimes that includes getting new equipment. But I really have a goal of staying affordable.
I’m also told that I have a bubbly personality and am energetic. This may also set me a part. So yeah, that may be it.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
One of my favorite places to hang out in the evening is Heritage Square and the restaurants there. I love the nighttime vibe there. It’s not too busy but you have hanging lights around you making it so comfortable. I love Bar Bianco. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy drinks with our younger daughters, while playing games outside on the porch.
One of our all time favorites as a family is My Mother’s Restaurant. While it’s not in the best part of the city, it’s definitely the great Southern Home Cooking we have found in Phoenix. That’s definitely a must stop for everyone! It’s hidden and not a lot of people know it’s around. But the cooking is the best we have found as a family growing up in the Southeast of the United States.
The White Tank Mountains are definitely where you can get the full view of out in the desert look in Arizona. It’s complete with the BIG Saguaro Cacti all around. It’s also one of my most popular requested photo spots. If you get up high enough there, you can look out and see the Cardinal’s Stadium.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My husband, Chris Weir of Two Second Media, deserves a lot of the credit as he has always encouraged me to pursue my business. My clients are always a VERY big part of my success with their word of mouth.