Member of the Month | Geni Bean

We’re excited to introduce you to Geni Bean, a senior photographer with two Pink Owl Photography studios in both Louisville, Kentucky and Raleigh/Duraham/Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Tell us how you got started in photography and why you chose to specialize in seniors?

I started my professional career in Marketing, I worked for a small entrepreneurial company that sold to Coke. While working for Coke, I was traveling non-stop and just generally on the go all the time. I always loved photography, but really didn’t know how to operate my camera or the general rules. I decided to take an 8 week photography 101 class as a creative outlet and release from my crazy work schedule. That was the beginning of the end, as soon as I knew how to actually work my camera I couldn’t stop myself from planning photo shoots. I followed up my 101 class with a 102 class and starting photographing anything I could. I gravitated towards shooting people, especially my two sisters, who were in their early twenties at the time. I knew how to relate to high school aged girls, and I loved that I could really help style their shoot and give them a unique experience that I didn’t have for my senior portraits. Plus I’m really just a big kid at heart, so I fit in well with my senior girls.

Where did the name Pink Owl come from? We love it.

I knew I didn’t want to use my name as my brand. My biggest concern was SEO and spelling, I figured, the odds of clients knowing how to spell “Geni” G-E-N-I were very slim. I wanted a name people would remember, something “sticky”. I knew I usually remembered things that didn’t exactly go together, so I wrote out my favorite colors in one column and in another column I wrote items, things, animals, etc. I liked. Then, I crisscrossed the colors that wouldn’t typically go with the items in the other column, like blue lime, purple sugar, and of course Pink Owl. I did a quick search to make sure the names I liked were not already being used, and I sent an email to family and friends to have them choose from my favorites. I received a unanimous vote to move forward with Pink Owl. That was in 2009, now Pink Owls ( and owls in general) are all the rage!

When you think back to the beginning of your business, it there anything you wish you’d done differently?

Oh my goodness, so much! But, at the same time I’m thankful for all the mistakes I made and was able learned from. The biggest thing I would have done differently, would be to focus more on my own work and less on following other blogs and trying to see where my photography fit in.

What are your photography related goals\plans for 2014?

2014 is a BIG year for Pink Owl Photography. We now have two locations, our original location in Louisville, Kentucky that will be managed by my associate photographer Jilli,  I’ve also expanded to Raleigh/Duraham/Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Our biggest goal is to grow our brand in North Carolina and to continue to give our clients a Senior Portrait experience they will remember long after they graduate.

What’s your best SA success story?

My favorite thing about Sticky Albums is that you don’t have any limitations. You can use Sticky Albums one day in an ordering session to help sell your highest package, then turn around and create an album of the latest styled shoots your hair and make up artists have worked on. My motto is “how can I make more Sticky Albums?”.  There is no down side, the more you make, the more your name and brand is shared.  It’s that easy.

Will you share your most popular SA with us?

Sure!  Here it is!

How do you set yourself apart from your competition?

We pride ourselves on creating an experience for our seniors. From the moment our seniors book their session we’ve taken care of all the details that might stress you out about having your pictures taken. Everything from What to Wear, How to Prep, Hair & Make Up is included. Our goal is to build relationships with our goals, not just take their pictures & send them on their way.

If you could take only three pieces of gear on a shoot, what would they be and why?

Nikon D700 because it’s literally the best camera EVER, research it, it’s true! 🙂 My reflector because I’m a light freak and I don’t know how to function without it. My 85mm 1.4 because I love the compressed look it give my backgrounds!

Any photography crushes?

Can it be a girl crush? lol, I just love Annie Leiboviz’s work, such diversity.

If you were not a photographer, what would you be?

That’s a great questions. I LOVE marketing and probably enjoy that part of owning a photography business as much as the photography itself. But I also love to explore and push myself in new areas. I’ve told my fiancee if I ever decide to give up photography, I want to become a detective! He laughs, but I’m 90% serious, I love solving problems!

What aspects of photography do you find most challenging?

The most challenging part for me, is the need to stay creative! You can get bogged down in the business side, client relations, and doing the same kind of photography over and over again (which is not a bad thing, because it’s why your clients hire you). So there is a need to create and stay challenged. You have to plan your own shoots to exercise your creative mind, and work outside of your comfort zone.

Where do you find inspiration?

My go to is the mall, I go to places like Urban Outfitters, Free People and  Anthropologie. But I also like to take long walks or runs through neighborhoods, nature trails, or downtown streets and just observe. The people, colors, patterns, shapes, and of course the fashion.

How do you push yourself to keep growing and learning?

At my core I’m a perfectionist.  I’m never truly content with any of my work. That can be a blessing and a curse, it definitely is my motivation to keep learning. Every three months I study my own photography and I critique it. I write down what I could have done better in terms of lighting, posing, and general composition. I keep notes in a journal about what I consider my weaknesses and areas I need to concentrate on as I go into my next shoots. I also keep notes on the types of photo shoots that I would love to do, but scare me. If you look at why something scares you, it’s really easy to find out where you can improve and what you should be learning.

Funniest or most awkward moment on a shoot?

It’s always awkward when I’m shooting a really pretty senior girl and a random dude walks by, who think’s it’s a great idea to jump into my shot with said pretty girl! After this happened a couple of times, I really perfected my Stink Eye. Now, if I see a dude approaching he doesn’t have the chance to jump in my shot, because he can see my stink eye ½ a mile away!

Sarah

Sarah Responsible for weekly blog posts; pro photog; thrives on organized chaos; loves beer, Booty Barre, and nights in with friends.