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Inspire Me Interview #11} Photography Studio Spotlight with Josee Caza

 I’ve told you a million times about NAPCP and how much I love being a member.  Although it is growing, the forum is a small group and ‘ve really enjoyed that, I really feel like I can say anything, ask anything and offer anything and it’s always returned back to me! 
One of my favorite NAPCP gals is Josee Caza of Portraits by Josee. Not too long ago a new thread appeared on the NAPCP forum from Josee. She told us all of an awesome opportunity for her dream studio space and wanted some feedback before the plunge. I feel like we all know each other and one another’s work pretty well and it was easy to yell “go for it!!” from my computer screen to hers! Josee is one where when she speaks, I listen so I knew she has the business sense to make this dream viable! As immediately as I knew that I also knew I wanted to ask Josee to share her story on Go4Pro because it’s absolutely!! 
Thank you so much Josee for generously letting Go{4}Pro get inside on your new adventure! Congratulations! 

How long have you been a photographer?
I’ve been a full time photographer for 4 years now, but I’ve been working on my craft and my portfolio for 6 years.

When you started your business, did you have a plan on where you wanted to take it?
I always wanted to be different than the rest.  I wanted passion, soul and spirit in my business.  I wanted my work to stand out with originality, creativity and love.  I wanted to be the difference between customer service and customer care.  I wanted to be the choice of clients with discriminating taste.

Tell us about the decision to move into a studio.
Since I launched the business full time in 2006, I struggled with my vision for the future of my business; working from home was economically the smartest decision for me, but at the same time, my personal life was suffering.  It wasn’t long before I’d gone from working from home, to feeling like I was living at work.  I was single with no kids, and wanted my financial success to take me to a higher level than just being a renter, but I didn’t know what I wanted.  A condo loft like the one I lived and worked in?  A small retail space and an apartment?  A storefront with foot traffic or a tucked away space? Should I rent or buy?  It was all a mess in my head that was preventing me from moving forward at all.  One day, I got a postcard in my mailbox with a photo of a raw space I had to see.  I scheduled a showing with a realtor and as soon as I walked into the space, I connected with it.  It had to be mine.  That’s when I decided to put in an offer.

What important components were you looking for in a studio space?
I wasn’t actively looking for a studio when I found one so I can’t tell you exactly what I was looking for.  I can tell you what seduced me into moving forward with leasing a studio space.  I was shown every available space in the whole building and I wouldn’t have settled for less than the spot I fell in love with.  It was the corner spot on the top floor with the ten 10×10 windows with an unobstructed view.  And I was going to splurge and get the entire 1500 square feet.  Although he showed me the whole building and tried to sell me on taking a spot on another floor, I told the realtor it was all or nothing; I wanted the dreamy corner spot.  I decided that if I were to make the move from home to studio space, that it would have to be a spectacular move or the increase in expense wasn’t going to be worth it for me in terms of personal fulfillment. 

How many sessions were you doing before the studio per week?  Will that number change?
Before moving into the space, I was shooting 3-5 shoots per week.  I’m hoping that will stay the same.

Do you have any anxieties about having a studio space?
The anxiety was all in the very beginning.  The move was expensive; not only was I spending a lot of money on renovations, furniture and fixings, but I was closed for business for a few weeks, and that made me nervous.  I have no spouse to have my back financially if things slow down; I had no backup income and I felt like I was bleeding money.  I couldn’t wait to get back to work!  But I just calmed myself with affirmations that I was ready for this and that everything would be fantastic in the end.

What are you most excited for with your new studio?
The most exciting thing has been working with the shoot space.  It’s enormous…  I used to work with a 100sq foot space, and I could ever only shoot from two angles of that space or my television, my couch or my kitchen would land in my background.   Now I work in this space that is completely photogenic.  It’s the most wonderful thing when I’m working with toddlers because I’m no longer needing to coax them into a small area to capture them; I can let them run and frolic and find their comfort zones wherever they choose.  It’s liberating, and creatively it’s been refreshing to expand the look of my portfolio with a new look.

Do you have employees?  If yes, to help with what roles?
I have two portrait consultants whose responsibility it is to go to my client’s homes and guide them through the sales process.  This week, I hired someone I’m hoping to groom into a studio manager.  I’m comfortable in my role as an artist, but my office is a mess, and I’m tired of pretending that I can handle the plethora of tasks that come with running this business.  It’s definitely time to bring in some help… especially now that I have somewhere to put that someone.  🙂

Tell us about designing and decorating the space.
I am so blessed to have a best friend that’s an interior decorator.  If she wasn’t in my life, I would have bought some paint and moved my office into the raw space as is.  She made me realize how important it was to plan my space with designated areas for specific tasks.  She really turned the space into a custom studio for me.  We planned an office by having a contractor build walls.  Instead of walking into an enormous space with a lot to look at, the office walls not only provided me with a private space to work and tuck away my mess, but they created a foyer to greet my guests and hang their coats, a hallway to walk down and admire work in, and a nursery for my clients to change, feed and soothe their babies.  Natasha also helped me choose the colors and theme of the nursery, and came up with the idea of adding a wall to the corner change room to provide another space to hang what is now my most stunning showpiece.  

I didn’t cut corners when ordering my studio display pieces because I know that what my clients see, my clients want.  In my foyer, I went all out and ordered 9 10×10 standouts to create the collection I’d love to sell. It was important for me to inspire my clients from the first step they took in the studio. In the hallway, I created another two collections with standouts.  It was important that I made sure that all of the collections that I hung featured one family per collection so that my clients could visualize a collection in their own homes with their portraits.  I splurged on a 40×50 standout to hang on the change room wall that is prominent from the hallway that my clients walk down to enter the studio.

I was lucky to have a woman offer to paint a mural in the foyer; she painted a lovely blue forest on which I hung hooks so that my clients are hanging their coats in tree’s.  She painted little birds for kids to follow into the shoot space.

I went all out and chose furniture I loved and would never tire of looking at.

What was the biggest surprise in the process of going for your studio?
How quickly and easily it happened.  It just felt like a natural progression, like a wave that I hopped on and rode.

What’s your favorite part of the studio?

The foyer.  I really splurged on the collection that hangs in it, and the family that I chose to feature in that display was a family I adored working with, and my biggest sale to date.   I wanted to walk into my studio every morning and feel successful.  And it works…  I feel accomplished when I open the door to my reception area, with my logo and business cards and with all that gorgeous light flooding in every morning.  It feels like a dream every single time I come in.

Tell us what you had planned for your grand opening!
I had two parties; one for parents who wanted to bring the kids in the morning, and a wine and cheese (kid-free) party in the evening.  I rented tables, linen and wine glasses.  I decorated with paper flower garlands and tissue paper pompoms, and as many flowers as I could fit on the window sills. It was magical!  For the kiddie party, I had cake, water and juice, baby bagels with cream cheese, goldfish and mum-mum crackers as snacks.  Lesley, the woman who painted the murals in the studio came by and painted children’s faces or hands.  It was just lovely watching these kids that didn’t know each other play together, I loved it!

The wine and cheese party was a huge hit, the turnout was amazing.  I provided wine, cheese, nuts and fruit, and cake of course.  The studio was lit with candles.  I was moved by how many people showed up, especially since the day before the party, my inbox felt flooded with regrets from people not able to attend.  I had an amazing time catching up with friends and clients, many of whom have known me since the very beginning and understood what this move meant for me.  It was truly a celebration and I wish I could do it all over again! 🙂

Can you believe that space? Congratulations Josee! I am so happy for you, elated for you, thrilled for you. Your new studio is a dream worthy of any photographer and completely and utterly inspiring! Thank you for sharing with Go{4}Pro and as a little gift I made you this slideshow to remember how you went from this….

to this… 
Created with Animoto



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