Hey there! If we haven’t already met, my name is Karen Stone. I have been a photographer since 2009, and have been in business as a newborn, maternity, and family photographer since 2015. I have built a thriving business that allows me to do something I love while also giving me the freedom to be with the family I love! The road to get here has been a wild ride, but I don’t think I would be here, were it not for the bumps along the way that made me who I am. So, without chit chatting too much, enjoy the story!
The College Years
I started college at Carson Newman in 2001. I LOVED being involved with everything! I really branched out and became someone who could talk to just about anyone. That was slightly different than the nervous and shy high school version of me. Of course, my new found freedom left me little time to actually focus on what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, so I ended up bouncing from major to major (music education –> elementary education –> accounting…). I ended up transferring to the University of Tennessee in 2003, and stayed there another 5 years (yep…7 years total). I found an awesome group of friends at the BCM that I still keep in touch with today! And while I didn’t make a lot of headway in what I was majoring in (…accounting –> finance –> business admin –> psychology…), I made a lot of friends, and learned a ton about who I was, what motivated me, and what not to look for in a husband! 🥴
I was tired of being the “old lady still in college”, so I randomly decided on a major I thought I could pass, and that I thought I might be decent at…so, while my parents crossed their fingers and prayed hard, I jumped into my final (yep, 7th) major – studio art: photography. Go figure, right?
The Single Years
In 2009, I simultaneously had a job as a flooring sales person (huh?) and tried starting a photography business. I was used to being paid next to nothing, so when I started charging for photo sessions, I charged a whopping $50. What. the. heck. Who can possibly live on that?? Apparently I thought I could.
In the same year, I got laid off from my flooring sales job (because I am not a sales person), and went searching for another job all while still trying to make my $50/shoot into a real career. (smh…)
After a nightmare-ish day of shooting a wedding with almost zero light and even less knowledge about true photography…I cried a lot, tried my best to edit, and refunded my client, vowing to never shoot another wedding again. I was done for. I couldn’t muster up the motivation to do anything because I thought I wasn’t any good!
After about 2 weeks of whining about it, I decided I would keep trying. But I didn’t want to do it with a business name attached. How could I convince anyone else I was any good if I didn’t believe it myself? So, I shut down my business, and blasted all my friends and family with requests to use their families as models. Some of them still paid me, but mostly, I got some great experience, and LOVED every minute of it! For a few years, I decided to keep doing it as a “side hustle”, so even though I rarely charged anything for a shoot, I was shooting fairly regularly!
Even though I was doing okay with my side hustle, I felt like I needed to do something a little more “steady”. So, I decided to go back to school for my Masters of Elementary Education. I know, I know. Another major. Don’t even say it. To make a very long story short…I was a straight A student in the program until one particular professor that had it out for me completely derailed my timeline…don’t worry…I quickly realized God had other plans! 😂
Whew! Y’all. I’m getting goose bumps just thinking about all the life that has happened since 2012! Within a little over 2 years of working as a law firm bookkeeper and “side hustling” as a photographer, and a year after I started my Masters, I met Mr. Dreamboat. It didn’t take long to realize this was the real deal! Thank you, Jesus!
He bought a house, and proposed to me in the kitchen of our “future home”! We got married a year after we started dating, and about 6 weeks later, found out we were expecting our first sweet baby!
About the same time is when we found out that my plan to become a teacher was falling through. BUT…we decided to trust God, and in His perfect timing, I found another bookkeeping job that I could do from home! I had that job for about 2 years, and after our second precious baby joined our world, life shifted again, and it seemed like everything was falling apart…
I was laid off from my bookkeeping job, and after searching and searching for jobs that allowed me to stay home with two babies, nothing was coming up that would allow us to cover the needed income and childcare. I wasn’t qualified to do anything else! I had always been a secretary or a bookkeeper. So, we put our house on the market, had a garage sale to make ends meet, and prayed really really hard.
I had taken pictures of my pastor’s family a few times, and his wife (the sweetest person in the world) asked me if I had ever thought about starting a photography business. I laughed. hard. I told her how terrible I was at business and that it probably wasn’t an option, but I’d talk to Steve about it. I went home, mentioned it to Steve, and he looked at me like, “Well? What’s there to lose??” So, I grabbed my amateur camera, created a quick website and a Facebook page, loaded my portfolio, and blasted it out into the world. I told ALL my friends and family. And most of our church family at the time knew our financial situation, so they were all in! I held mini-sessions for the first time in my life, and made enough to supplement our tiny budget for a couple of months.
God provided in big ways through friends and family – little gifts here and there, dinners, and everyone started referring their friends to me too! So, that first year of business was rough, but we managed, and we were able to move back into our house just before Christmas that year! To say we were thankful is an understatement. Really.
After well over 6 years in business, I just can’t believe where we are today. Seriously. For whatever reason, I actually love the business side of things now and have figured out some great workflows that are helping me keep most of my sanity! 😜 We’re still in our house (now renovated), sending our kids to a school that comes alongside us as we show them Jesus, and we are able to give back to our community and our church. We’ve been entrusted with so. much. And I don’t want a day to go by that I don’t remember where we came from and what’s been entrusted to us now.
…and Looking Forward
I just want to take a second and thank you for reading this far! And if you’ve been a client these past few years, I love you! Truly truly! And to those who have supported us along the way – words cannot express how sweetly I think of you! I adore my clients, and I am so excited to get to see you and your families grow and grow! I have some fun news, though! And before I let you in on the excitement, I want to make sure you know I’m definitely still doing photography, and don’t plan to stop anytime soon! 😅
But I’m a sucker for adventure too, so here we go! Again, I am still doing photography! It’s my jam, and I looooove what I do! But as I’ve found myself in more and more conversations with new photographers that want to intern with me, or be mentored – I am realizing just how much I love helping others figure out the business side of things too! When you’re a creative, the business side can be hard for so many, and I don’t want to keep things to myself if I know they can help someone else!
So, I am also excited to announce that I will be creating resources and education for other photographers who want to get a jump start on their businesses! Photographers that want to establish themselves as the go-to photographer in their area, and grow their businesses into thriving careers! It is possible!
If you’re a photographer (or you know one) who is struggling in the day-to-day of your business, or just not sure how to find clients, serve your clients best, or how to do that stinkin’ website SEO stuff…I really hope you’ll reach out! I know how overwhelming it can be, and I want to see other photographers experience the sweetness that comes from building a business from the ground, up! You’ve got this! And if you need help, I’ve got you! 😘