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Rising Stars: Meet Erin Massie

Today we’d like to introduce you to Erin Massie. 

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
Growing up, photography and owning a business were never on my radar. I was always creative, but it just wasn’t anything that ever crossed my mind as a possibility. Instead, I loved kids and went to Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI to become an early childhood teacher. After graduating, the Michigan teaching market was in a slump, and I ended up moving out of state to start my career. I taught kindergarten, 1st grade, and Title 1 math in both North Carolina and Wisconsin. 

While moving around and traveling, I developed a love for landscape photography. I would search out new adventures and hiking trails in each place we visited. Taking photos of those places became a great way for me to document my travels and be able to relive those adventures after I’d moved on. 

Digital photography was really starting to take off around the same time. Access to learning materials was becoming more widespread on the internet and it was easy to practice without having to spend a lot of money and time on film development. So, I dove in headfirst trying to absorb as much photography knowledge as I could in the little free time that I had. I bought books, joined online courses, searched internet blogs, subscribed to magazines, and bought all sorts of fun gadgets to play with. Slowly, I started to learn the basic skills and discover an initial style. 

Many years later, I had my first son who became my new photography passion- both out of pure love and lessening time for travel adventures. My family moved back to the Grand Rapids area shortly after he was born. I decided not to continue teaching at that point for multiple reasons. And as a newly “stay-at-home-mom,” I had time again to continue developing my photography skills. This time with a focus on children’s portraits. 

Over the next few years, I had two more kids who became my practice models. Friends started asking if I would take photos of their children and families as well. It was probably at that point that I start considering growing my love of photography into a business and pursuing that long term instead of returning to a teaching career. So, I continued learning and growing in the field of portrait photography. 

I officially started my studio here in Ada around 3 years ago. Those years of practice helped me hone my skills and develop a personal photography style that I love. My background in early childhood education helps me easily establish a rapport and patience with young kids. And I continue to pursue frequent photography training, stretch myself to learn the technical aspects of owning a business, and serve the families of the Grand Rapids area by capturing the most important people in their lives. 

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Owning a business and being self-employed has definitely not been a smooth road. I love the creative side of photography and am extremely organized, but there are many aspects that don’t come naturally to me. Marketing, taxes, licensing, accounting, and website design are all some specific things that I’ve had to painstakingly learn or find other professionals to outsource to. There’s also the mental struggle that I think all creatives feel regarding putting yourself and your art out into the community and hoping you aren’t rejected. As an introvert in a service industry, that can be overwhelming and anxiety-inducing at times also. 

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I’m a portrait photographer that specializes in newborn and baby photography. What really sets me apart from other newborn photographers in the area is my “white studio” style. I love, love, love the classic look of clean white portraits. I don’t use bright colors, lots of props, or elaborate setups. In my vision, those elements often become distractions and pull focus away from the person in the photo. I want the main focus of the image to be on the faces of your loved ones- their unique expressions and the relationships highlighted among family members. 

I also offer family photography. My studio isn’t big enough for full family sessions, so those are always done outdoors on location. Generally, Fall is a big family session season as almost everyone in Michigan wants photos with the rich Autumn colors. Although family photography is a more minor aspect of my business, I do love that it allows me to continue the relationships I developed with families during their newborn session. It’s wonderful to watch their kids grow and humbling to be such an important part of documenting their family’s legacy. And the outdoor sessions help me to bring back some of that landscape photography passion that started me on this journey. 

Lastly, one other specialty I’ve started to develop and adore are Santa sessions. For the last couple years, I’ve partnered with Grand Rapids’ favorite Santa to offer high-end, unique Santa experiences. It’s an exclusive one-on-one time where families get to read a story, dance, share their wishlists and take other fun photos with Santa. Kids love it because their time feels more special and personal. Parents love it because there aren’t big crowds and long lines. I’m hoping to continue this yearly tradition for as long as Santa and I can. 

Do you have any advice for those looking to network or find a mentor?
Not really. haha. This is an area I’ve struggled with. Unfortunately, the photography world can be very competitive. Many successful professional photographers don’t want to mentor newcomers in their local markets because they feel they’re essentially training their competition. You can find online mentors that match the style and business model that you’re wanting to achieve, but that often lacks a more personal relationship building and the knowledge of your specific local market. So, trying to find a balance can be tough. 

And as for networking, over half of my official business career has been during a pandemic. A pandemic that removed a lot of face-to-face networking opportunities and large community events. So, I’m still working on navigating that area. 

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Erin Massie Photography

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