We’re continuing our Entrepreneurial Women who Inspire interview series. Last week you got the chance to pick Katch Silva’s brain in our interview on Redefining Success & Becoming Happier. Today, we’re excited to give you a peek on the life & business of another talented and amazing photographer, educator and woman – India Earl.
Interview #2: India Earl
You’ve surely heard about The Posing Workshop, Honey Presets and tons of other amazing products released by India Earl. Today you’ll discover her journey, how she started off at 15 and grew her business, the important life lessons that impacted her career & personality, as well as why it’s vital to learn to say NO.
India, you started out in photography when you were 15, how was that like?
It was obviously really exciting. When you’re young, you’re more fearless. You’re willing to try all these new things that usually scare you as an adult, because you keep thinking “I’m not good at this or that”. So for me photography clicked instantly. I’ve always known I wanted to work in arts in some way. While growing up, I thought I’d be either a cake decorator or a tattoo artist (laughs), since I always drew a lot. But then around 14, I picked up a camera and just started shooting a lot.
Back in the days Flickr was huge, so it was my main source of inspiration. That’s how I learned how to shoot and work with Photoshop. I used to do a lot of surrealism & conceptual photography during that time. Since that’s what everyone was doing on Flickr those days. I think during that time I was my most creatively free self, even though the work I was creating wasn’t anything spectacular. I just felt creatively fueled every day and it was amazing.
Then, around 15-16 I started to shoot weddings, families & babies for work. It was really scary and frustrating because of the lack of trust I was getting due to my young age. I remember moms approaching me at weddings, telling me exactly how to do my job, where to stand & how to shoot the photos. Obviously that didn’t feel very good – being told how to do something I’ve been hired to do. I think I’ve battled that till around my 20s, trying to reassure people that they can trust me, that I know what I’m doing, that I have the experience and that they’ve hired me for a reason.
When & how did the spike happen?
When did you realize that things are going in the right direction?
It was really gradual at first. While I was in school, I was taking the maximum amount of credits per semester. I was trying to study 5 different things at the same time, but nothing felt right. So I decided that I’d rather put my time and energy into doing photography. I dropped out of school and started really pushing, working really hard and dedicating all my time to shooting. That’s the year when everything changed.
I went from shooting 4-5 weddings a year to 70 weddings. It was terrible (laughs), it wasn’t great for sure, but I’m really grateful for having that experience because it forced me to learn new things so quickly and grow. I wasn’t shooting that much because I was great, it was because I was really cheap and I didn’t know it.
That year my career definitely took a turn, because I worked so much. I would literally go shoot a wedding, go home edit it. Wake up the next day, shoot another wedding go home edit it. One time I even shot 2 weddings in a day, because most weddings obviously fell in summer time. I was shooting EVERY SINGLE DAY, and that forced me to grow and develop my people skills real quick – because I was meeting so many new people, I had to interact with them and make them feel comfortable.
So having worked so much for that whole year, has really impacted my business. My portfolio grew and I was improving a lot & fast. That was also the year when I started to shoot in a different way. Before I dropped out, I was trying to shoot how I saw other people shoot. And that year a leaned into whatever felt right for me and just tried to reconnect with that creativity that I felt when I was young.
Do you think that shooting so much made you look for new angles & perspectives to make it more interesting for yourself?
Absolutely! 90% of those weddings took place at the same church, so I really had to make myself get out of the box.
So how does one get 70 wedding bookings for one year?
I don’t think I had a website that year and Instagram wasn’t a thing yet either. It was all word of mouth. I would shoot one girl’s wedding and then all her bridesmaids would hire me too. People get married here quite fast and at a young age, so I would photograph the weddings of a group of 8 friends girls during the same summer.
To be honest, I have no idea how I did it. If I shoot more than 12 weddings a year now, I’m already drowning & dying (laughs). But back then most of them were mormon weddings and they’re very different. There’s no getting ready or ceremony photos. it’s basically just the bride & groom walking out of the church, doing family photos and then doing some more photographs at the reception later on. It was half of the wedding that people usually shoot now. So this allowed me to go home and edit the entire thing right away.
India, you’re super active!
You’ve recently launched 2 new websites, a kickstarter campaign, new Honey presets..
How does one manage to juggle so many things?
It’s funny because all of that happened within 2 months. And I kept asking my self how did it happen so that all these deadlines fell so close to one another and why did I do this to myself (laughs). I know it’s not a popular thing but I genuinely love to work. Just me sitting on my computer figuring out how to change my website or do emails or whatever it is. I just like getting things done. That’s my personality type. I love checking things off my list. I also feel that when you work for yourself, everything is more fulfilling and gratifying. So me feeling productive is one of the best things ever!
I recently took 1 month off, and this entire time I was thinking “when can I work again?” I think it’s important to be passionate not only about the photography, education or connection part – but also about everything else that goes into running a business. I actually had to learn to be passionate about those things. I’m not a natural born business person, I don’t think anyone is. I intentionally set my goals each month. So when I’m doing little things, I know they’re working towards a bigger goal, and that gets me really excited and pumped. That’s why being really active for the past while has been so rewarding, I know I’m closer and closer to my desired results. And I LOVE taking on new projects. As soon as the presets were done, I was “Ok, next project!”
So I guess it’s all about being passionate about every little thing that goes into photography and running this business.
Do you feel guilty when you have a lazy day?
I used to. I would sit on the couch watching TV and thinking that it is mindless and I need to be editing right now or getting other things done. I’ve learned to balance my work life with my personal life. I’m trying to be present in the moment, rather than thinking “when can I be done with this, so I can go relax?” while working, and then “ When can I start working again?” when I’m chilling.
Now, I tell myself “ok, I’ve earned this. I worked really hard and I’m going to enjoy this”. I’ve changed my mindset about time off and time on, and I’m trying to force myself to be more present during each of those processes, so I can better enjoy each. Because when it’s your own business, it’s really difficult to have a clear boundary between work and personal life.
What does success looks like to you?
Being fulfilled in all areas of your life and have it pour over into others’ cups. I hope that makes sense.
When you were 15, the photography industry was a lot more competitive. There wasn’t really a community out there. What do you think influenced that change?
It could be a million things but in the way I experienced it and perceive it – it probably started with ONE person being willing to help someone. Probably the mindset of caring only about oneself has shifted.
Back then, if I asked someone for help or insights they would email me back with “I can’t believe you even thought of asking this. This is so disrespectful.” I feel like the more people help one another, the more we all improve, our worth goes up and our jobs become better. We’re being valued the way that we should be. The shift from competition to community could be caused by a million reasons, but I think it all started with this one person who helped someone, and inspired them to go help someone else. Turning it into a chain reaction.
Looking back at all your journey, the ups & downs, would you change anything?
No. I think about that a lot actually. It’s probably cheesy, but I think to be able to get where I am today I wouldn’t be able to do that without the experiences and things that I’ve done, even if they were shitty. They’ve had an impact on me, pushed me and helped me grow. Every business mistake I’ve made as well as personal mistakes have all lead to growth. So I’m really grateful for those things , especially grateful that so much has happened with my career at such an early age. Because I have so much clarity about what I want to move towards now in my life. Whereas a lot of people still don’t.
Share a few of your mistakes that taught you something valuable?
ONE would be saying YES too much, and I still struggle with that. Learning to say NO is hard, but it helped me set my boundaries. As I’ve had times when I felt like I was drowning. I would wake up every morning at 6am and go to sleep at midnight, and wake up the next morning and do it all over again. And that would go on for months.
I think your business is more defined by the things that you say NO to than the things you say YES to. And it took me up until last year to finally realize that and start implementing it in my business. Because as a wedding photographer your life is kinda of predetermined for you for all next year. I’m saying YES to something right now, next year I’m going to live what I said YES to, because people schedule weddings so far in advance. So you have to consider what you say YES & NO to. And I would not have learned how to do that if I did hit rock bottom by being insanely overly busy all the time. That ended up killing so many things that I originally got into photography for..
TWO is being too influenced by others’ work and determining what’s right and wrong in art. When really there is no right & wrong. Also seeking others’ approval, when the only approval that you should care about is your own. Once Instagram got really big, along with other social media channels it was hard to not get influenced by it. This again has to do with setting boundaries and realigning with your Why. Even now, I am still sitting down from time to time, to think and check with myself “Okay, am I doing this for the right reasons?” and “Are my reasons mine, or are they someone else’s?”
Speaking of social media. Do you set boundaries for yourself on how much time you spend on it? Instagram for example?
I go through ups and downs with Instagram, it’s a constant battle, even though most of my clients come from Pinterest, not Instagram. At some point I went ahead an unfollowed everyone apart from my close friends and photographers that I support, so I’m not that much drawn in and influenced by other people’s work. Something that has also helped me was scheduling posts upfront so I don’t have to get on my Instagram all the time, and get lost in it for 30 minutes.
What do you think are your strengths?
I’m really good at getting things done, and getting them done right (rather than just fast). I’m good at making people comfortable, be that with my clients or making people feel understood as far as education goes. Since I’ve been through a lot in the early stages of my business, I feel like I can better connect with people who are in the same stages and going through those same waters. I guess that experience helps me be more empathetic towards the people that I’m teaching and educating, helps me make them feel comfortable, listened to and important.
I think I’m finally getting good at saying NO. This helps me stay focused and avoid opportunities that may sound enticing now but down the road aren’t actually gonna take me towards my goals, regardless if they are business or personal.
What are you learning right now?
Something I’ve been learning over the past year was to see the bigger picture. I’m not very good at that. That’s actually something that Ross [Tanner] has taught me a lot about. I remember he asked me last summer what’s my 5 years goal, and I didn’t have one.
I realized that I really do need to be looking at the bigger picture, and change my lifestyle form “living to work” to “working to live”. So I’m not just going through the motions of every day hustle & bustle. I actually don’t like the word hustling, and I don’t want to be hustling in my business. I want to be creating things for people that are meaningful and helpful, whether that be through photography or education.
Something else I’m learning is to set boundaries and getting more of my time to myself rather than spreading myself really thin to everybody else. And that probably just goes along with saying NO.
How do you recharge your batteries?
Doing my hobbies, things outside of my work. Camping, climbing, skydiving. Just being outside. But also doing creative shoots in between all the hectic times. Even if I’m super busy, I force myself to do a shoot where I photograph however I want, it can be as weird or as stupid as I want it to be. I don’t even have to use those photos, but those times really helped me recharge and get me really excited about photography.
Also meeting new people, seeing their perspectives and how they live their lives. That always pushes me to try and better myself, to take what I’ve learned from them and implement it into my own life. I admire basically everyone that I meet, because I feel like everyone is an expert in something.
Who is a woman you admire and why?
It will sound super cheesy but I honestly admire every single woman that I meet. They’re all so strong and have so much potential, so much to give. I love to be able to pick up on the little things that make them who they are. I also have this fun habit of picturing every new person that I meet how they laugh really hard. That makes me so happy.
We hope you enjoyed this interview with India Earl as much as we did. Let’s agree, in the end there’s no secret formula or trick that can get you from a novice to a popular, successful brand in one night. It takes time, courage, effort and working your butt off. Stop comparing yourself to others, unplug more often to reconnect with your creativity and loved ones. Say NO to projects and people that you don’t want to work with and try to figure out what makes you happy. Because, in the end, the ultimate definition of success is feeling fulfilled and happy with where you are, what you do and who/what surrounds you.
We believe in you! Do You believe in yourself?
P. S. Next week we’ll be talking to Laurken Kendall about parenthood, and how to combine it with a successful photography business. As well as how to help clients loosen up during a photoshoot.