~ Hey Look Mom ~

I was recently interviewed by MO.com a website devoted to entrepreneurs across all industries around the world. It was a great honor and today my article is on the main page. So if you'd like to see my lovely face and interview click HERE

I've also attached a transcription of the interview below.

For Kelly Manno, owner of Kelly Manno Photography, taking photos is a passion turned into a successful career. Her talent in photography didn’t come from a classroom. Kelly received her Bachelors degree in Radio/Television performance, and had a wonderful career working for “The Steve and DC morning show”, KMOV Channel 4, and 93.7 “The Bull”.

Kelly Manno decided after the birth of her first child that she wanted to pursue a career in photography. Kelly’s website boasts photos from weddings, engagements, family portraits, births and more. Kelly’s accomplishments include being chosen as the lead still photographer for ABC's Extreme Home Makeover, being featured in the New York times, and being picked by theknot.com as 2010 "Best of Weddings" for the photography category. Kelly Manno photography has also been featured on KSDK's "Show Me St Louis" and she has been behind the lens on the red carpet to shoot celebrities such as Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian.

MO: Mothers turned entrepreneurs always impress me. What gave you the confidence to know that you could make this passion into a career?

Kelly: I couldn’t have done any of this without the support from my husband. After all photography is not a cheap venture, I had to spend a lot of money that we didn’t have to get started. I asked him if he trusted me to turn this into something great for us, and he said yes. It was really a sink or swim moment in our lives and we have been so blessed to see this grow into something so huge.

I remember going to Best Buy one night and buying a $50 website program and he and I sitting up until ALL hours of the night trying to build my first website. He has always been my biggest cheerleader. He doesn’t know the first thing about photography but he was the only person I had to bounce ideas off of, so I was always dragging him into my office saying “Does this pose look cheesy?” “Is this shot over-processed?” He has always been there for me and there is no doubt that I could not run this large of an operation without him.

MO: What skills did you learn from your career in radio/ television that aided you in owning your own photography business?

Kelly: I firmly believe that at least 50% of my success in this business has to do with my personality and the ability to feel comfortable in almost any situation. I’m a naturally happy and energetic person and as a photographer you can really “set the tone” for a bride’s wedding day by the way you act and carry yourself, after all you are spending the entire day with her, and you need to know how to blend in with HER family and HER friends. Everyone is different and you have to respect that. I spent 6 years of my life talking into a microphone live in front of hundreds and thousands of people so handling a rowdy and drunk bridal party or an incredibly shy and quiet bridal party is a cake walk compared to that.

MO: How do you go about finding clients, do you advertise at all, or is it all referral based?

Kelly: I have never ever spent one penny on advertising. In the beginning I didn’t have the money for it, and now I don’t need to. In 2005 I shot 4 weddings, in 2006 I shot 26. I based my business on a very simple quote from another photographer I admire. "If you truly make your business about helping other people you'll always have plenty of work." - that quote struck me down to my core. It seemed so simple, yet so brilliant. I just put one foot in front of the other and followed some really basic rules we all learned in Kindergarten, be nice, be fair, do what you said you were going to do, and treat people the way they you would want to be treated. I have the most fabulous clients who get so excited and passionate about their photos that they shout it from the rooftops to their friends and family. Without my great clients and their support and referrals, there would be no Kelly Manno Photography. They are the backbone of my business.

MO: What is your biggest challenge in day-to-day activities as a photographer?

Kelly: Oh that’s easy. Hands down it’s balancing family life and running a business. It’s knowing when to close your editing program and go play with sidewalk chalk on the back patio. It’s designing an album with a toddler in your lap throwing cheerios at you. Most of all it’s learning how to say NO. In the early years as my business grew bigger and bigger I just couldn’t tell anyone “no” I was greedy and giddy and didn’t know how to balance all the attention. My second year in the business, June of 2006 I took on 6 weddings and 4 births and 12 family sessions, I thought my head was going to spin around and fall off.

But that insane month was a big learning lesson for me, I learned that by taking on more than I can handle not only is it unfair to my family but it’s unfair to my clients. When I would add on another family session to a day I knew was already over-booked I would find myself getting burnt out and stretched too thin. My clients deserve better than that. They deserve someone who is happy, ready, refreshed and excited to take their photos, not someone who is worn out and ready to launch my camera out the car window. Once I put my foot down and set limits for myself my job has been much easier. I am happy. My family is happy. My clients are happy.

MO: Do you have any employees working for Kelly Manno Photography? If so, what do you see as the most important key to succeeding in managing people?

Kelly: I do have assistants who work with me at weddings and the key is to let them know up front what you expect from them. Never assume that someone knows something, spell out your expectations for them.

MO: What advice would you give to someone interested in photography with no formal training?

Kelly: This business is HARD. Do not be fooled by the sunshine and rainbows on everyone’s blogs, including mine. This job is not about taking photos. It’s about contracts, and clients, and meetings, and editing. It’s late nights banging your head on your keyboard because your computer has frozen for the 12th time that night. It’s staying up late to meet deadlines and keep your head above water. It’s being available to your clients 24 hours a day 7 days a week for wedding day timeline questions, or re-scheduling a family session because a toddler is sick. It’s that sick to your stomach feeling that your clients won’t be happy with their photos. It’s constantly being jealous of all the fabulous equipment you can’t afford. It’s looking at other websites and saying “Why don’t my photos look like THAT?”

With that being said this is also an awesome business. I get to see the best part of people’s lives. I am there when they are married, have babies, celebrate milestones and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

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