When I met Tara Cirigliano, she didn’t have a photography business yet.
But she believed that it was possible to make a viable income as a portrait photographer.
Within weeks, Tara had not one, but two “Julies” (clients who invest over $1,000)!!
I can’t wait for you to hear how this new photographer built her boutique portrait photography business while still learning to use her camera!
Tara, I’m so excited that you are here.
I want everyone to hear your story of how you went from not being a photographer to starting a photography business.
Where were you in your life before you had that epiphany?
It was the middle of a pandemic and I had been working with a wedding photographer as an assistant.
I was carrying bags and sometimes trying to take pictures.
I was learning.
I always had a love for photography and took a course in my twenties, but I never really considered it as a job because I didn’t think I could make money doing this.
What was your “real job”?
I’ve had a couple of jobs, but most of them were in television production.
I was an audience producer for a network here in New York and I was a bartender for 14 years on the side.
I always had a side hustle, especially as my kids were getting bigger.
I have a 12, a 10, and a 6-year-old now.
And when I was pregnant with my third, my husband and I decided that we were going to move.
That left me without a job.
So after that, I still did some freelance television production, but I was taking care of a baby and never really found my groove.
I fell into working with another photographer (my cousin) but during COVID, I wasn’t doing anything.
I was home with my kids like most people, teaching them.
So you were helping out this family member, doing a little bit of photography here and there.
At that time did you just consider it fun to do?
It was fun and I loved it, but the trade-off for the money was never great…
I couldn’t figure out how someone could make a living doing this.
One year I really tried to pursue photography.
I did mini-sessions and from Thursday to Sunday, I did not leave my living room, because I was editing and trying to teach myself how to do this.
I thought there was no way I could actually make a living from it.
And you’re sitting there image after image, hour after hour and your back hurts and it just doesn’t seem worth it, right?
So you’re building this life and you’d shut the door on photography because you thought this couldn’t be a career?
I just didn’t have enough hours in the day.
There was no way that $250 every three weeks was going to cut it.
So what changed that?
I had stopped working with the other photographer.
It was still the pandemic and I needed to find a job.
I came across one of your challenges on Facebook and something in me ignited during that challenge.
I had been led to believe that the photography industry in my area was negative towards each other.
But seeing the camaraderie, helpful people, and overall positivity in the challenge was enlightening to me.
What about the framework?
Was that appealing to you to see that someone had created a system that I can invest in and really build a photography business?
That was the key to me.
When I decided to move forward and work in a boutique photography business and study under you, I decided that it was this or nothing.
I don’t believe in giving digital files away and I didn’t realize that there was a huge disconnect with my clients.
The fact that no one’s portraits ever ended up on their walls never sat right with me.
So you started learning the boutique system.
I love this because you were new even in your editing skills and you didn’t have a workflow or any systems in place.
How did that feel as you’re learning the system and we’re pushing you to go get a client?
I was very excited, but also very nervous and stressed.
But I never questioned that it was what I was supposed to be doing.
Something about this system told me that I needed this.
That whole structure and framework of the system was amazing to me.
It was almost like checklists, which I work well with.
It’s feedback, right?
Because you had to pick a name, get a logo, and identify your brand.
And since you were brand new, you had the opportunity to do it right the first time.
It was scary, but amazing.
I don’t know what I would have done if I would’ve started it without somebody to bounce ideas off of.
I have learned so much – not only about business, but about myself.
I almost feel like if nothing else came out of owning a business that that’s been worth it.
It’s really been enlightening.
The change in yourself and the skills you’ve built will take you into anything you do, which is very cool.
So you’re going along, and you become this “real business” and you go out there and you get two clients!!
I kind of got one accidentally.
I got the first one and then the second is the mother of the first.
The portraits were originally just for one family and the grandparents were just joining.
She had mentioned that the grandparents wouldn’t want artwork, so I never even thought too much about it.
But when I met them, I saw how adorable they were and they lived in a house that the grandfather’s parents owned.
I knew I had to take pictures of them.
So I put together the presentation for the family and added a collection of the grandparents to it.
And they fell in love with it.
The grandfather said that they had to have the pictures.
They took things off their wall to put them in the location that they wanted them.
Was that a fun appointment where you were helping them place their order?
It was nerve-wracking because it was my first one, but it’s now very exciting because I know that they’re going to love the portraits because I’ve learned about them and I know what they’re looking for.
It’s exciting when you get to see their faces when they see them.
I left on cloud nine that day because they were crying and loving it… they wanted to watch it again!!
They placed two orders: $1,175 and $1,169.
Wow, so over $2,200 your first time out.
What were you thinking as you left there?
I was thinking that it was so great but that they were going to call me and change their mind.
I didn’t think it could happen again.
And you ended up doing it again, right?
Did you tell your husband when you got home?
My husband was surprised, he knows the value, but he didn’t think people would buy into that because I also come from a family who did everything themselves.
And what I’m learning is that people cannot do this for themselves.
Or they just don’t want to, right?
We get better at that as we do it more and we are able to help them because they don’t know what they actually need.
How do your kids feel about this new career?
So my kids think it’s the coolest thing ever.
When I go to an in-person boutique sales presentation, they sing a little Julie song!
They do a Julie chant for me because that was working for a while and they think it’s hilarious.
And we celebrate after big sales.
So they understand that you’re doing hard things.
That is so cool to show your kids.
How do you feel about yourself and the person you’re showing up in the world as since you’ve embraced being a professional photographer?
I think it took me a while to show up in my community.
I was forcing myself, I think because I am more introverted.
It took me a long time to actually say that I am a photographer and now I feel more confident in myself.
I am also more confident in my business and my abilities.
I know that I can deliver on what I’m promising.
I’m proud of the person that I’m becoming for my kids.
People are just so moved by the fact that there’s somebody behind the camera that actually cares to give their family an above-and-beyond experience.
And they feel loved and then they feel confident in the artwork because you’ve held their hand the whole time.
You’re giving them so much confidence.
Tara, thank you for being here and sharing your story.
I’m so proud of you.