This week we’re sharing an inspirational story from everyday photographers, rock stars in their own, right, who support themselves and their families with their photography alone.
Today’s guest on Focus & Facets is Marcela Limon, maternity and newborn photographer who runs her business, Lemonshoots, in Alameda, California.
Funny, sweet, and with a marvelously charming accent, Marcella started her business five years ago with a hope, a dream and an emotional story of love and loss.
We talk all about the right time to move to a retail studio, marketing strategies that catapulted her client base, finding your purpose and its impact on your business. Plus, Marcella offers me big lessons about the unintended consequences of small seemingly unimportant steps in your journey, lessons that you can take into your own life and career.
Take a peek at our conversation below, and have a listen of the full episode above!
Marcela On Getting Started:
About eight years or so, I got a DSLR camera as a Christmas present, and I just started photographing everything and anything. And five years ago, I decided to do this as a business. So, I launched my website and, you know, started doing things. I have no clue about how to pose newborns out or you know, how to conduct this at all. So, in 2016, I started taking courses and preparing myself; both online classes and in person workshops, just to know what I was doing. I remember taking Market Like You Mean it and it’s punchy, and you have sort of everything in one place. But, I knew right away that I wanted to focus on maternity and newborn only because I have a story, it’s my why, it’s the reason why I just completely love what I do.
Early, very early on, I understood that if I wanted to make it, I had to understand the business part because for us artists it’s very easy to just fall into love being behind the camera and creating art, but it wasn’t until I understood the business part of it and the price part of it that I could really, you know, love what I was doing.
Marcela On Infertility:
In 2015, when I was starting to do this, my husband and I were trying to have children and we weren’t successful. So, when my friends here started having babies, it was, you know – people that have struggled with infertility know it’s very hard to be around people that are expecting. It’s just heartbreaking and being in baby showers with your friends and loved ones, you feel terrible because you want to be part of that joy. But it’s just very hard. So I found, well, I started taking photos of them. Like, “can I take your maternity footage for fun and your baby photo?” Just for fun.
I didn’t know it back then, but it was about three years later while I was, you know, doing some soul searching and understanding why I was doing this, that I understood “okay, this is why maternity and newborn was my calling,” because back then when I was taking those photos, I brought photography to the mix as a way to be around babies and moms and be joyous about it.
So, I was doing something that I really enjoyed and something that brought me joy. And it was my way of being with my friends. I always feel like babies are miracles and it’s such an incredible time in a person’s life to become a family for the first time to have this baby in your arms, because it’s something that I never got to experience. And it’s been a joyful story because that’s what brought me to Lemonshoots and to have it as a passion.
I joke with my clients when they’re like, “Oh, Marcella, you are so patient.” And I’m like, “well, that’s because I had eight hours of sleep last night. I have another eight tonight, so don’t be too hard on yourself.”
My calling was being a photographer, a newborn photographer.
Infertility is such a taboo topic, and that’s why I’m open about it because I feel that no woman should go through this by herself.
Marcela On Channeling Infertility Into A Beautiful Project:
We developed this idea to do an album that’s called success stories. And it’s an album that showcases images of the patients that graduated from this fertility clinic, of course, with their permission and you know, their contract and everything. We put this album, so it has several of the clients with their stories. They shared their testimonials of working with this fertility clinic. And we put this album and they’re in their offices. So, the idea was that while patients were waiting for their treatments they would wrap this album, which doesn’t have anything baby on the cover. It just says success stories. So when you pick it up, you know what you’re going to get. They’re going to be babies in it, but. People just flip through those pages and they found people that were, I don’t know, went through IVF and got their baby and maybe they were waiting for their IVF process. This gives them hope. And being in that emotional state, it’s better for your fertility procedures, but when you’re in the middle of everything it’s so overwhelming that you need a hand, you cannot do so overwhelmed.
The fertility clinic of course, could use these images and testimonials for their marketing purposes. So, it was a win, win, win situation. Later after releasing that album, I got clients that were patients and said like, “Oh yeah, we saw your album. And it was amazing. We definitely felt that we connected with that and we knew that we wanted to do this after the baby was born.”
So, it was beneficial when those clients told me that I was almost crying.
Marcela On Pivoting During COVID-19:
I love 5CC (5 Carat Collective). You go in there, you put an idea out, and then people start commenting and this idea becomes this master idea that everyone is just making it better. And then this mastermind is so needed, like you have mentioned in other podcast episodes, entrepreneurship is a lonely road and just having a tribe that you can trust and that supports each other is so critical; even just to celebrate wins with people who understand that.
I think I was the third person to comment on a thread and make it bigger, because I think you (Julia) said something, and then another person said something about it that connected him with something else. And then I had this “aha moment” kind of like, “why don’t we start a magazine?”
We thought all of this would last until April 10th, April 7th, everything’s going to be “back to normal.” So, the idea was once everything opens up again, we as photographers could approach businesses in our community and kind of interview them and say, “okay, tell us your story. Why do you do what you do? Why do you love it? Who are your clients? And what excites you about reopening?” Take some pictures of them in their business and doing their craft. You know, if it was a florist, or if it was a hairdresser, or whatever, brand images for a cost essentially.
So imagine, I don’t know, I’m going to just scream a number here, $20, but inside you’ll find all these vendors and these vendors will have like a deal. “If you come to my flower shop, you’ll get $5 off your first bouquet,” or whatever the vendor wanted to do. It was a way for you as a photographer to meet all these business people and make all these connections, and as we were saying before, this is what makes marketing amazing. You want to connect with your local businesses to collaborate especially when everyone would be in need of revenue opening back up their doors.
So, it was bringing clients through the door as a community and locals. They’re going to feel that they’re helping their community with this. I’m buying this magazine and helping their local businesses that they love. Plus that $20 for the magazine was going to go to a fund to help the most effective businesses in the community. That was the idea we had in the beginning.
Marcela On “Where Do You See Yourself In Five Years?”
I truly hope that I’ve expanded my studio. You know that feeling when you have your first camera and you don’t even want to go manual, and then you all of a sudden discover manual and you start shooting and everything is new and exciting.
I’ve been doing IPS since the beginning and I love it. I think I will continue to do that. I really don’t know, but I hope that I can be a source of inspiration to people just as you (Julia) have been to me and many other photographers that are elsewhere and everywhere.
I cannot thank Marcela enough for taking the time to be featured on this week’s episode of Focus & Facets! This is only a small snippet of our larger conversation, and encourage you to head over to wherever you listen to your podcasts to get the full interview and conversation (or listen via the player above!). She is truly a gem, and someone I admire and am inspired by in SO many ways.
Follow Marcela on Instagram at @lemonshoots and visit her work and website over at www.lemonshoots.com.