This girl is killing it on the Oregon coast with her stunning wedding photographs. She also has graciously agreed to photograph some of our projects. I asked Xiomara to be our first entrepreneur spotlight subject. You’ll see why.
It’s Tuesday morning and I’m on my way to meet with Xiomara Gard, the owner and creative behind Imago Dei Photography on the Oregon coast. We’re meeting at the newly renovated Five Rivers Coffee Roasting Co. Her daughter is with her today and would love to use her gift card. Xiomara’s life and work revolves around a couple of important things, her family being one. Five Rivers coffee shop has a crisp, industrial feel and they’re making new additions to their grounds all the time (oh the puns!) They also do their own roasting, one delicious caffeinated bean at a time.
When I walk in, she’s tucked in on the couch, phone in hand, wearing an adorable t-shirt with a Bible verse printed on the front in a script font, giant mug of coffee steaming on the table. It’s easy to talk to Xiomara and we spend the first 30 minutes catching up on what’s new in her world. I open up the business side of the conversation by asking some of the most basic questions. I found out that she specializes in working with brides and capturing senior portraits. When she told me that she worked with seniors, I initially thought she meant senior citizens. Hey—I bet there’s a niche for that somewhere!
Photography as a business began so she could help supplement her family’s income, but the photography bug first bit her when she was 16. She started taking photos on a Nikon EM camera for her small town newspaper. I had to ask what a Nikon EM camera was, and she told me it was made in the 70’s and requires real live film. She learned to develop the film herself and fell in love with the process. Back then, it was .45 cents a click, so she learned right away how to slow down and be very intentional with her shots (click–45 cents/click–45 cents). She eventually purchased her own camera in 2000 and began taking portraits for friends, free of charge.
As a fellow small business owner, I asked Xiomara about her experience with the “business side” of the business. She is a self-proclaimed Type A so even though it wasn’t easy, she was meticulous about getting her business off on the right foot. She told me that she started with a mentor through PPA (Professional Photographers of America) and that having an organization that offers education and resources is an integral part of success. In 2011, she went to a PPA conference and was inspired by Blair Phillips’s speech. “He owned his craft and was so joyful about his job.” Something he said has stuck with her over the years: “Comparison is a thief of joy.”
She explained that Phillips exemplified joy, quality in trade, and family first. After that conference, Xiomara became bolder with letting her personality come out in her work and allowed herself to make decisions with clients based on if it would be a good fit instead of taking every client because of fear. She decided to hire a designer to help her re-brand her website, blog, and everything else except for her logo. “My goal for my website is to repel and attract. The correct client will respond positively. The wrong client will not want to work with you and the right client will be a perfect fit,” she explained.
Xiomara is a downright romantic. ” I love LOVE.” She’s a true romantic at heart married to her desire to be intentional with her photography means that her perfect client is “the nostalgic bride who values heirlooms, tradition” and is more interested in the value of the photographs and what they mean than just booking a photographer to check an item off the wedding to-do list. “It’s not about the colors, or the venue. It’s about the new life stage, a new beginning of something so special. Looking into the future with hope and joy.”
I wrapped up our conversation by asking her to share some advice for baby entrepreneurs. So, if this is you, take note! Her advice is sound and comes from someone who has been running her own company for 11 years and counting.
-Find a mentor
-Find and organization or person to get continual education through
-Good software for client communication and invoicing
I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Xiomara and her amazing business Imago Dei Photography. Take a peek at her website and her amazing work (she has an outstanding InstaGram feed too. Not to mention just the cutest [and funny] Instastories). And if you bump into her at Five Rivers, tell her I said hello.