PROfile is a series of interviews with artists and creative souls who have built businesses around their craft and passion. We'll dig deeper to try and find out everything you could want to know from seasoned pros who have experienced the full gamut of highs and lows that come from running a creative business.
Niki Strbian is a portrait photographer based in Finland, who specialises in children and families. Here she shares her journey from a background in engineering to becoming a professional photographer.
What was your first ‘proper’ job and how did you land it? Was it what you intended to do as a career?
My first job was an after-wedding couple shoot, kind of ‘delayed wedding portraits’. It was quite precisely what I wanted to do as a career.
Has photography always been in your blood?
Nope. I picked up a camera when the kiddos were born. I am a classic MWAC (mum with a camera).
How did you know you were ready to have your own business?
I decided I was ready when I was accepted into the ‘Just Beginning with Business' level at ILP. They organised a portfolio review, which was judged by volunteering professional family photographers from around the globe, and I thought the judgment was fair. I thought that if I am good enough for them, I am good enough to open my business.
How did you go about starting your own business?
I did my research, found out all licensing that needed to be done and paid. I made myself a website and started writing a blog. I read everything on the ILP forum related to a photography business. And didn’t underestimate the power of a good accountant.
How did you secure your first clients?
Mainly through word of mouth among my own friends and acquaintances. Later people started finding me on Google and referred their own friends.
What is your typical daily routine like?
On weekdays I start working at around 8am. My days are filled with sessions, meeting clients and business meetings. I stop working at 4pm and it’s family time till 9pm. After that I'll go back to work, often working until the early hours.
What traits do artists have that help with running a business?
Being able to multitask, having an open mind and a thirst to learn, and a readiness to try new unknown paths.
Why did you decide to specialise in babies and children?
I didn’t. It just happened to me. Also, I found out over time that I am much better at a close contact with clients rather than documenting an event. I like the interaction, which is perfect for babies and children.
How do you decide which kit to use?
When I started, Nikon D50 was reviewed as the best entry camera to the DSLR world. I've stuck with Nikon since then because I felt no need to change.
Do you have an allegiance to a particular type of gear?
Any camera that shoots in complete darkness, and fast lenses. You know – Finland. :)
Artists and writers often describe the compulsion to work – do you experience an overwhelming desire to pick up your camera and shoot the world around you?
Nope. I am fine with just looking at things. Usually I don’t photograph at all during my holidays. I feel like a camera comes in between of me and the experience of life. I rather live my life instead of documenting it.
Do you ever feel alone in your work?
Yes, when I have time to stop and think about things. Luckily I have other lady entrepreneurs around me who also run businesses alone, and share the same feelings. It’s good to talk to them. I think being an entrepreneur is always a lonely run, unless you work with your relative or spouse.
How do you relax?
Sports, reading, family, learning new things, knitting, and recently I became a beekeeper :)
Where do you find inspiration?
Usually in words. When I am really down, I listen to interviews with Tom Hiddleston, or for example, ‘Talking fun', a BBC program about how stand up comedy is made. It is very similar to what we experience in our creative process. Actually I believe all creative processes are somewhat same. For shoots I find inspiration in my subjects and their homes. It’s easier to do new things with new people and new locations. Also, workshops are a great source of experience.
What advice would you give to your 21-year-old self?
Time heals all wounds. It’s better to be late, than sorry. Friends and silence are golden.
What would you like to be remembered for?
Being a good person, mother and wife.
What’s been the best moment of your career so far?
Most of my days are my best moments. Every time I come home with pictures I love, it’s the best moment.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
That I get paid for having fun. And that my job makes people happy.
What have been the biggest challenges or obstacles you’ve faced in your business and how did you overcome them?
How to stay on top of the game. Also, currently I am trying to find a way to enlarge my business and not put in more hours of my life.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Take pains, be perfect. (from Midsummer Night Dream)
If you could have dinner with any inspiring person (past or present), who would you choose?
Marie Forleo, but only if she cared to have a dinner with me.
All images by Niki Strbian.
Web: Niki Strbian
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