Kathryn Heitkamp Captures Her Clients Personality Through Her Lens

Kathryn Heitkamp is a photographer and blogger who finds inherent joy in entertaining, exploring the world, meeting new people and learning their stories. She’s a lover of paper planners, copious amounts of caffeine, red wine, gold fish crackers, good manicures, lattes, big Jackie-O style sunglasses, sparkling water, blue pens, lipstick, and black yoga-esque pants & boots (or sandals in the summer months). She has had a camera in her hands for as long as she can remember, a background in professional kitchens, and has a big workaholic problem. Read our interview with the lovely Kathryn below…

What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?

After a long and incredibly wearing attempt to fit into Corporate America, I left that world to regroup. Then three months later, my husband and I moved across the country to Columbus, Ohio, leaving our family in Portland, Oregon to be closer to our family in Ohio. I dove into establishing my business in a completely new market and haven’t looked back since.

Tell us about your business. 

My photography studio has a few different facets:

  • Under my “k.H.a.lifestyle photography brand” I do weddings, portraits, and events.
  • Under my “cook.eat.explore brand” I do food photography. Food and photography have both been long time passions of mine and rather than trying to decide between the two (and with the support and final push from my husband) I decided to embrace both!

I work with my clients to capture the truest portraits, working to put them at ease in front of my camera. I find the most joy in hearing my clients say, “That’s me? Oh wow, I’ve hated every portrait of myself before now, and I LOVE that one!”

On the cook.eat.explore side of my business, I interview local chefs, restauranteurs, and the big dogs of the local food scene, bringing to life their passions and art for my readers. My goal is to get people out of the suburbs and chain restaurants and into local farm to table restaurants. 

List awards/certifications/accomplishments.

I entered 50 of my favorite photos from 2016 into the Shoot & Share contest, and had three rank! One placed in the top 10% and two in the top 20% of over 300,000 photos entered.

Where is your business based?

I travel the country for my clients and am based out of Columbus, Ohio.

What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?

I have had a camera in my hand for as long as I can remember, so once the decision was made to fully kick off my business, I spent the first year focusing on the legal side of things, making sure that all my ducks were in a row. Once contracts and processes were in place, websites up and running, the marketing started. From there, it’s been a rollercoaster of networking, shooting, traveling for clients, editing, and writing.

What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?

The most effective way of raising awareness for my business has been through two different channels.

  • First off, I have been getting out and networking with local creatives, through the local Tuesdays Together group of the Rising Tide Society, styled shoots with other photographers and vendors, and passing out what feels like an ocean of business cards.
  • Secondly, I’ve spent a year learning the ins and outs of Instagram, Facebook, the importance of hashtags, and how incredibly important consistent posting is.

What have been your biggest challenges so far?

My biggest challenge has been moving my relationship-based business to a city where I knew no one, essentially starting over from scratch, which in turn, became a blessing in disguise.

How did you overcome these challenges?

Overcoming these challenges has been challenge in and of itself. Everything in my world changed at once, and largely, I’ve rolled with it. Moving to a new city has afforded me the chance to focus wholly on business and on growing it. By networking with other creatives, I have found a community of people who face and deal with the same challenges on a daily basis, and have built up a tribe of other creatives who can lean on each other for business support, personal support, and who all act as each other’s sounding boards. My husband Jeff has been a major source of support as well, acting as a constant source of support and encouragement.

How do you keep motivated through difficult times?

While in the corporate world, I was given the nickname “Fearless”, which defines me pretty well. I will talk to anyone, about anything, and firmly believe that you miss 100% of the shots that you don’t take. My inherent belief in myself and my talent pulls me through the difficult times that come with being creative entrepreneur. I’ve learned, after a long while, to embrace the bad days, and stop beating myself up for having bad days. After all, everyone has them in every industry. At the end of the day, even with the difficulties that come with this life, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I would rather work 200 hour weeks for myself, than 40 hours a week for someone else.

How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?

I don’t ask the standard interview questions, rather I have two questions I prefer to ask and then I follow the lead of the person I am sitting down with. I am able to relax my clients while they’re in front of my camera, which as someone who actively despises being in front of camera, I understand the importance of feeling comfortable!

By doing so, I have been able to capture images of my clients as they truly are, creating portraits that are loved and shared. My passion for printed art stems from one simple sentence: “You may not ever understand the importance of a printed photograph, until it’s all you have left”. In our digital world, printed art work is making a comeback and I am helping to preserve my clients memories from start to finish.

What is the best advice you have received recently?

The best advice that I have received has been how incredibly important it is to take care of yourself. It is easy to get caught up in the never ending to-do lists that come with owning your own business, and feel as though you can always be doing more. Set business hours. Stick to them. If you continually put off taking care of yourself, it will catch up to you.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. Get enough sleep. Drink enough water. Get out and do something physical. (Photography Yoga, anyone?) Make sure that you set business hours and truly BELIEVE in them.

What is your favorite business tool or resource?

My favorite business tool is my gigantic Plum Paper planner. Without it, I would be LOST. The biggest lie I’ve ever told myself is “oh, I don’t need to write that down, I’ll remember.” Not true. I need to write it down – pen to paper.

What social media outlets do you use? List them below.

Instagram @k.h.a.lifestylephotography@cook.eat.explore
Twitter @kha_photography@cook.eat.explore
Facebook www.facebook.com/whatkatescookingwww.facebook.com/k.h.a.lifestylephotography
Pinterest Cook.Eat.Explore & k.H.a.lifestylephotography
Website www.cookeatexplore.com, www.khalifestylephotography.com
Email kate@khalifestylephotography.com, kate@cookeatexplore.com
Hashtags #khalifestylephotography #cookeatexplore

What is a good article or book you have read recently?

Reading for fun has always been a passion of mine and I find my way back to the same two books to read for fun, to turn off the business side of my brain and recharge my batteries – “Wuthering Heights” & “Shadow of the Wind”.

What are you currently learning about for your business or looking for help with?

I am always looking for new ways to network and market my business.

What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?

I am currently booking 2017 weddings and perfecting my blogging work flow.