Photographer Spotlight: Kristina McCaleb

“I wish I could stop time.” Many sleep-deprived, yet elated, new parents have said that phrase at least once. The first few days, weeks, and months of a newborn baby’s life are so exciting, yet they can seem to disappear in a blur.

That’s where Dallas, Texas-based newborn and children’s photographer and ProPhoto user Kristina McCaleb comes in. Kristina’s photography has a magical way of gently slowing down that time and capturing all the tiny details, so they can be savored forever. It’s easy to see why she has been named one of the 19 best newborn photographers in Dallas by Expertise multiple years in a row!

Yet, as a mom and small business owner, Kristina knows that time is limited, and that managing it well is one of the keys to success. Kristina mentors and coaches other photographers in how to do just that, and this month, she was kind enough to share her thoughts with us.

Read on for Kristina’s advice for staying on schedule, crushing goals, and keeping the joy in photography.

Please tell us a little about yourself. How did you become interested in photography, and how did you get started as a newborn/children’s photographer?

I am a mother of two, Jack is 15 and Sophie is 11. My husband is a firefighter. We met in college and actually, the very first time we met, it was in the photography lab. Back then digital was not the norm, so we spent many hours in the photography labs. I started my career in my other major, radio/TV. I loved my job but the hours were hard with small children. My portrait photography started very small and slowly grew. I can still remember my very first newborn session. I did not know what to expect but I was in love!

What are some of the things you enjoy most about your job?

My favorite part of my job is working with people. I am an introvert but I love working with people. Newborn sessions can be long and sometimes stressful for new parents. I love talking with them about this new time in their lives. We usually chat about the changes and what is normal for newborn parenting. I think it helps to have someone in your corner who knows what it’s like to have a new baby, or a new baby with a toddler.

Any unique challenges of working with little ones?

Safety is the number one challenge when working with little ones. Newborns are so delicate. I have studied and taken classes to keep my newborns safe when they are in my environment. With little ones, I like having fun on sessions and playing around. I think as an introvert it helps ease little ones who might be nervous about talking with a stranger with a big ol’ camera.

What helped you choose ProPhoto for your website, and how has it made a difference for your business?

I won a free flash site from a Facebook giveaway a long time ago. I started my business with that site. Eventually down the road, I realized that I needed something different. I researched different websites and found ProPhoto. I think I fell in love at first sight. I loved that you could use one of their free templates (I am very thrifty in my business model). Or you could choose from a huge variety of templates to purchase. I have studied some SEO techniques from really wonderful teachers. When I first started with my ProPhoto site, I put those techniques into place. My page grew on the web, thanks to the behind-the-curtain way that ProPhoto is set up.

How do you market your business? How do most of your customers find out about you?

Most of my customers find me on Google and through SEO. I market my business in many, many ways, but the number one way is always from Google.

I see that you offer mentoring services for photographers, as well as business coaching. That’s really cool! What are some of the most popular topics that you cover in those sessions?

I LOVE helping other photographers succeed. When I first started I remember being told in a photography forum that my work was not good and I should quit. Obviously I didn’t, because I knew that even if it wasn’t that good at the beginning, it would get better. I worked at it and eventually found friendships in photographers who truly believe in rising the tide. When your photography reaches a certain point, though, you need to have the business knowledge to get you on the path to finding clients. In my business coaching sessions, we go through what it takes and how to create a business plan. Then we outline what to do to get to the first goal you have in the business. I know that goals change, so I like to set up goals in different increments: 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, etc. After that I like to dig deep into your marketing, SEO, and actionable, scaleable steps to get you where you want to be.

Do you have any tips for photographers who are thinking of making the transition from being a hobbyist to a full-time professional photographer?

My number one tip when moving from hobbyist to full-time professional photographer is find a business coach or create a mastermind group. Your photography is most likely already there or getting there. Business, on the other hand, can drown a person. The business side of any pursuit is hard, but having a support system in place can make the transition easier.

Many photographers find it challenging to balance doing what they love (working with clients and shooting photos) and handling the practical aspects of running their own business. Do you have any tips/advice to share on how you handle this?

Prioritize. Make a schedule (an actual paper schedule) of what needs to be done each day in marketing, in your business with clients such as editing, and your daily/monthly business maintenance tasks like website upkeep and bookkeeping. When I don’t have my calendars, I get overwhelmed with what to do on a given day. There is so much that needs to be done when owning your own business that it can take the joy out of photography. Having a solid plan in place can help, and for me, that plan needs to be written in pencil and planned out month to month. Things change and you have to adapt, so being flexible is key. And also add in fun personal shoots to your life. I photograph a daily photo with my family, and creating those memories keeps some of the joy in photography.

What is one of the most memorable sessions you’ve gotten to shoot?

This is a tough one. I have a lot of memorable sessions, but when I get to photograph a child who I saw as a newborn and have gotten to see grow into a great kid, those are my favorite sessions.

Where do you get your inspiration?

My inspiration comes from everywhere. I know that sounds like a cheesy response, but it really does. I love looking at what the industry is doing, I love watching movies to see what makes me happy. Music is a big inspiration for me, as well as my own kids. I also get a lot of my inspiration from going to photography conferences. When you are around that level of energy and positivity all because of the shared love of photography, you can’t help but feel pumped and ready to tackle the world.

What are some trends in newborn/children’s photography that you’re excited about?

I love that newborn photography has kind of circled back to classic posing and nothing too outrageous. I love delicate, simple, sweet baby set-ups. I love that so many great companies like Intuition Backgrounds have created backdrops and sets that can be used for not only newborns but kids as well.

Do you have any new projects/ventures in the works that you’d like to tell us about?

I am a newborn and children’s photographer, but my daughter is 11, so personally, I have moved into the world of the tween. I have started photographing her at this stage and I am in love! Many of my clients will be reaching the tween stage soon so I love that I am getting comfortable in creating art for their families that will represent their children as who they are and what they love.

Your outlook is so refreshing, Kristina! Thanks for sharing it with us.

Photographers and small business owners, what are some tricks and tips that help you manage your time and meet your goals? Let us know in the comments–or drop us a line if you’d like to be featured in an upcoming Spotlight interview!

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