I am very excited to formally introduce you to a long-time friend, Elizabeth Hay and her new photography company, Elizabeth Hay Photography. One of the most incredible things has been watching Beth's interests and talents come together over the years. While we are both San Francisco city gals, Beth has gone a little bit country (okay, a lot!) and it has been so special to see her adventures.
I am grateful for Beth's friendship over the years, especially recently as we connect and swap stories about building our businesses. If you know someone who would love to work with Beth or is interested in learning more, check out her website.
Tell us a little bit about yourself!
I have been horse-obsessed since I knew what horses were and as a very shy child, I found my solace and my voice whenever I was around horses. This early childhood love caused me to want to study Animal Science at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and earn a Bachelor of Science in Animal Science with a concentration in Equine Production. I've worked in the full spectrum of my Equine degree by training and halter breaking horses, becoming a ranch and breeding manager and even working for 5 years as an Equine Stem Cell Lab Technician and Manager in one of the premier equine hospitals in the US.
As a side-hobby, I've had a camera in hand since 18 and found that more often than not, my lens was focused on my favorite subject- horses. Even with that being the case, it's taken until roughly a few months ago when I finally put the puzzle pieces together and realized that I should officially marry those two passions in a business sense. Love what you do right? I have been interested in photography and have practiced it since I was 18 but it wasn't until the light bulb clicked a few months ago that I realized that I even COULD turn it into a career. So here I go! While I do shoot families, headshots, graduate portraits, and engagements, I find that my true calling lies in photographing "girls and their horses". It's a relationship that I understand so intimately because it's one that I've known since I was 8 years old.
What did you do for work before you launched Elizabeth Hay Photography?
What haven't I done! I've had a job since I was 15 and have done everything from clothing retail, cosmetic sales, and even worked as a theatre assistant in my hometown of San Francisco. And of course, all the equine industry related occupations listed above. Most recently I was working in the Equine Stem Cell lab at an equine hospital before I made the move to Bakersfield, California to live with my husband.
Why did you launch Elizabeth Hay Photography?
In all honesty, the move to Bakersfield was very, very difficult for me. I was established and very happy in my career in the equine hospital which was located only an hour south of San Luis Obispo where I went to college. I had established wonderful friendships in the area and built myself a really amazing group of friends and co-workers over the course of 14 years living in the area. I found that moving in your 30's to a whole new town where you know no one is very different than moving to go to school in your late teens. I became pretty depressed and the thought of "what am I going to do with my life now?" became a debilitating one that often left me unable to get out of bed. I don't even remember how, but thankfully somehow I thought to pick up my camera again. And again, focused the lens on horses and of course my dog. I kind of threw myself into it simply to survive and and it started snowballing into something wonderful. A few months ago I decided it would become my career. A combination of horses, art and a relationship I know very very well. Girls and their horses. So once again horses became my solace and my voice.
What's been your favorite part of having your own company?
I don't know that we can call it a "company" yet. lol. Since the equine photography market is such a niche, I am still working other jobs on the side to make ends meet. Yes, I shoot families, headshots, graduates, etc, but unless you're a well-established full-time wedding or commercial photographer it's hard to have that be your only gig - and even those people started out small and with side-gigs. So I'm basically in the "hustle 24/7" mode and that's fine for me. I like being busy and I especially like getting to know people and their horses. It's just like when I was a kid hanging out at the barn with friends. I enjoy photography for the connection to other people (and their animals) and the feeling that I am giving them something that will last years. A set of images in digital and printed form that years down the road will remind them of a specific time in their lives as well as a very unique and special bond with their horse or animal.
What's been the hardest part?
The hardest part was the very beginning while I was pretty depressed and the hard part currently is self-doubt. What if I fail? What if I'm not good enough? What if people don't like my work?... I struggle with the last few questions daily and have to just remind myself of my "Why?" and then I can keep on going. I feel like the reason "why" I am pursuing this is very strong. My why is because I AM that girl that loves her horse unconditionally. There have been times years ago when I chose to eat Top Ramen for a month so my horse could have something. I have cancelled on friends, boyfriends and family holiday's last minute because there was something wrong with either my horse and one that was under my care. I've sacrificed for horses because I genuinely feel like there have been those special horses that have sacrificed for me. It's a bond that I can't fully explain and I know that most people with a passion for horses feel similarly. It's not something you can explain to someone who hasn't had deep experiences with horses. They have the ability to change your life and I feel like there are relationships made with horses that are very similar or even rival the relationship we have with other humans sometimes. I know I have FOR SURE had horses that were significanty more important to me that certain boyfriends! Lol!! So why not give that relationship with your horse the same documentation and justice that we give our human relationships? That is what I can offer, that is how I can serve other people. By understanding their passion and feelings for their horse and doing that story justice through pictures.
What advice do you have for people who want to start their own company?
I don't know that I'm in the position to give advice yet! Not sure that I ever will be. But I think it's important to know your "why". Why is this something you want to pursue and why are you different than anyone else in the market? What makes you unique? And get advice from someone you trust that has started a business. It's not all sunshine and rainbows! lol. There's legal matters to attend to as well as financial. It involves excel sheets, new software and contracts and if you haven't done that before, it's tricky! Trust your gut, do what you think is right and stay in your own lane! Ignore what others are doing and simply hone your craft and follow your own path. I think by staying true to yourself, great things will come of it - particularly if we are talking about a creative endeavor!! I am not someone that always thinks imitation is flattery. I get that sometimes you need to glean inspiration from others, but I do not think you should ever try to replicate an idea. Make it your own or put your magic touch on it - but don't ever copy someone. Someone put blood, sweat and tears into that idea and while you can copy an outcome, you can never copy the creative force behind an idea. I'll say it again: STAY. IN. YOUR. OWN. LANE. Trust me, you will be happier for it.