“I want to photograph your life”
This is the banner of Photographer Lauren Listor’s website for her rapidly-growing business Laurel Creative. After following this 25-year-old on social media for the past couple months, stalking her stunning photographs, and seeing the way she treats her clients and conducts her business with grace, authenticity, and professionalism, I was dying to interview her for my Young, Scrappy, & Hungry series. Here’s a look into her life as a creative entrepreneur!
What first lead you to photography? When did you decide to pursue it professionally?
I was always creative growing up. I wanted to be an art teacher “when I grew up.” I struggled in school and sports, so I found that art was something I really enjoyed. I messed around on family cameras and my own cheap point-and-shoots back in 2006-2009. In 2010 I got my first SLR camera and practiced like crazy. I started portrait photography in 2010 and then landed my first wedding in 2011. The snowball effect started, and after college I worked in NYC for Ad Agencies for graphic design [while] still shooting weddings and portraits. I discovered the influencer realm of photography just as it was starting to get popular in 2015 and I feel SO thankful I got into that when I did. [T]he summer of 2017 is when I took [on] Laurel Creative as my full time career and haven’t looked back since!
I know on Instagram you’ve talked a bit about the name of your business and why you chose not to brand it after YOUR name. Can you talk a bit about that process and why you selected Laurel Creative?
Absolutely! It’s probably the most confusing thing in my business – what my name actually is. My name is Lauren. When I started photography, I wasn’t married. So my business name was Lauren Adriance Photography. I had been dating my now-husband at that point already and knew we would get married so I began the 3-year-process of thinking of a business name. It was always in the back of my mind, trying to come up with a name. I eventually, after MANY years, landed on Laurel. My name, Lauren, means “From the place of laurel trees.” I then already had the idea of not only having a photography business, but somehow branching my business out into many creative fields, so I knew I didn’t want it to be “Laurel Photography.” I remember thinking about Laurel Collective, Laurel Arts… I landed on Laurel Creative. (And yes, most people think my name is Laurel, which I totally understand the confusion! I just roll with it.) I didn’t want my business to be my name. I like how it is now: I work for Laurel Creative. My associates work for Laurel Creative. Yes, I own Laurel Creative, and I started it, but I like the mentality that I am working for something bigger than just my name.
On your website you advertise wedding, engagement, and fashion/blogging photography, do you have a favorite? Why? What are some of the perks/challenges to each?
Great question! I get asked this ALL the time. When someone asks me what I shoot, I usually just say “weddings & fashion.” Keeps it broad. I truly LOVE BOTH. I like to think that I specialize in weddings and influencer/brand photography. I believe that photographers that try to photograph everything will never succeed in all. It’s good to refine your skills in limited topics to photograph.
Weddings can be very challenging, obviously, because you are photographing something that can not be recreated. You have one shot to do it and do it right. So there is an immense amount of pressure that comes with wedding photography. I absolutely LOVE getting to be an adjunct bridesmaid for the day, captur[ing] the love, and seeing how each wedding is always unique.
Influencer photography is very rewarding. Getting your work publicized, gaining many artistic friends all climbing the creative ladder, and shooting in some really cool places. Sometimes – recently – it can be challenging to stand out. I’ve noticed that blogger photography has become very popular. Back in 2015, there were about 5 of us in NYC that were doing shoots for influencers. Now there are probably over 25 people that specialize in this industry. I like to set myself apart by truly caring about my clients and not just treating what I do as a way to earn a living.
Talk me through the evolution of your business. What all has happened from day 1 to today? How have you balanced being both businesswoman AND photographer (among many other titles, I’m sure)?
It’s truly the snowball effect. Some portraits early on of some girls I knew then got my name out there enough for a wedding, which turned into two, then three. Now Laurel Creative as a whole averages 25 weddings a year [between] myself and my associate Olivia. I really just feel SO thankful that this gets to be my job. As much as I adore photography and the art behind it, I am truly passionate about the business side of it. That would be, client relations, bookings, managing, and growing my Laurel Creative Team. I absolutely feel so privileged to now have 9 people working under me as freelance artists. That includes editors, many photography associates, and my assistant. It brings me SO much joy to be able to provide side incomes for all of the ladies that work for Laurel Creative. What a blessing.
Being a freelancer/having a nomadic job that doesn’t lock you in a cubicle for 8 hours results in each day being a bit different from the last. Can you walk me through a typical day in the life of Lauren?
5:15 Wake up
6:25 Train into NYC
7:03 Arrive in NYC
7:30 First shoot of the day
9-10 Second shoot of the day
10:30-11:30 Third shoot of the day
11:30-3 Always different! Sometimes I’ll do 5 shoots a day, or during this time I’ll hang out with a client…. Or check out a new camera/lens at my fave store, FotoCare.
3 (ish) Train back home to Jersey
4-6 Edit. Export proofs. Work on emails. Literally anything.
6:30 Gym. [I’ve] gotten really into spin classes at my local gym recently.
8 Dinner! I love to cook. It’s very relaxing.
10:30 Bed. Probably have an early morning the next day. I’ve gotten used to it!
On Instagram, you have done a couple posts talking about events where you photograph a ton of bloggers in a very short period of time. What is that/how did it begin?
Yes! This is a super fun event that my team and I participate in called Sip & Shoot. It’s hosted by my good friends Erin & Steph who own Out Of Office Media. They’re successful entrepreneurs who own their own influencer company. They get drink sponsors, recently Dunking Donuts, and my team and I choose a location and photograph around 25 influencers in the span of 2 hours. I LOVE that Erin and Steph thought of this fun idea- all the credit to them. Thankful we can be a part of it. It really provides new influencers with a way to get new images for their blog without breaking the bank. 1 or 2 outfits, shot quickly before work. We shoot from 7:30-9:30. That’s it!
In terms of customer service and client interfacing, do you have any special methods on maintaining happy customers?
I have really been trying to put a big emphasis on not only photographing my clients, but sitting down to meals with them and listening to them. Hearing about their life, their struggles, their highs and lows, their family. I want to truly be a friend. I have had the privilege to meet so many of my client’s families, photograph their weddings, have been welcomed into their homes. I’m realizing more and more that the bond between a photographer and the subject is so much more than just capturing photos. It’s, to reference something from the other day, shooting with a client who is pregnant, having an efficient shoot, but then spending the following hour and a half cooking a chicken pot pie with them in their home and chatting about life. (I’m looking at you @asliceopi!) I’m so unbelievably thankful to work for myself – work very, very hard when I need to so that I can be flexible enough to sit with a client in her home and work on our friendship. Not just our working relationship.
How old are you? Has your age played a significant role in your progress in your industry? If so, how?
It’s funny, some people think I’m 21 and some people think I’m 28. I turned 25 in December! I graduated college in 3 years, so I basically had a whole year to work in the city than the rest of the people in my “grade.” I feel like I was gifted an extra year of life to get a jump-start in my career. Being this young has absolutely helped me. I have the stamina to walk 5-8 miles a day on the streets of NYC. Mentally, I am thankful to be this age. I am young and married so I feel as though I can relate to my “older” clients who are married but I’m still young enough that I feel as though I can still relate to someone who just graduated college.
Do you have any mentors that helped you get to where you are today?
I totally think that having a mentor is an awesome thing. I didn’t have any specific photography mentors per-say, but I would absolutely say that my parents are my mentors, in a way. My dad is an entrepreneur and I grew up watching him seek out clients, drum up business, and grow his company. And my mom is so motivated in her corporate career and a leader in her position. I have watched each of their careers grow so much and have learned so much about hard work, leadership, encouraging those around you, and finding joy in what you do.
What are your goals and dreams moving forward (the cliche version of this question is ‘where do you see yourself in 5 years’)?
I plan to continue to grow Laurel Creative over the next 5 years substantially. No spoilers, but I totally have some new creative avenues that my business will be going down. I’d love to add more associates of course, become an educator in the influencer photography realm, and continue to grow incredible bonds with my clients, to become their “life photographers” (i.e. photographing their weddings, baby photos, family photos & beyond).
What advice would you give to a young professional who is striving to build a creative business similar to your own?
I say this all the time and I’ll say it again: keep on doing whatever it is that you love. If you want to be a photographer, what the heck are you doing sitting down right now? Get out and shoot! If you want to be a writer, keep writing. Eat, sleep, breathe writing. Just like I remember my mom said to me when I was laid off from my corporate job after college, “eat , sleep, breath job applications.” At the time it’s what I truly wanted, a job. Same thing goes for your passions – give it your all until you’re able to look back and see all that you have accomplished.
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I’m so grateful to Lauren for taking the time to answer these questions. I found them to be super enlightening, and I hope you did too! If you’d like to keep up with Lauren, check out the following links:
To shoot with Lauren or one of her associates, fill out a photography inquiry.
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Do you know anyone who should be featured in this series? Leave a comment or send me a message!