An independent commercial lifestyle photographer and videographer, Pam picked up her first camera [her dad’s old Nikomat] at age 14. Since then, she’s been developing her own unique, collaborative approach to the medium and aims to find that sweet spot where art, commerce and technology intersect.
Pam has shot for a diverse clientele from TedXWomen to Nike to Peace Collective. Always looking to capture honest and simple moments, she defines herself by her unique approach. Her visual taste and art direction are consistent and authentic. Whether in a rental studio or on location, Pam will seek out an environment to suit the particular mood of each shoot.
What’s Pam’s secret weapon for generating new business? Instagram. It has been an important tool for meeting and collaborating with potential new clients.
Interest piqued? Meet Pam, photographer extraordinaire:
What was life like before you started your photography business and what motivated you to quit your day job and start your own business?
I was in school when I started freelancing on the side. When I graduated, I picked up contract work that wasn’t full time, so I had to find ways to make up my income.
Pam’s 3 pearls of wisdom for entrepreneurs:
- Start small. If you want to become a fully self-employed freelancer, you can take on gigs while still at a full time job. It takes time to build up a network of clients who trust you.
- Be flexible to adapt if something is just not working.
- Define success on your own terms. Success is arbitrary and isn’t purely determined by money or status.
Describe the biggest challenge you’ve experienced as a small business owner and how you dealt with it.
My biggest challenge is keeping my confidence up during low seasons. Even though I’ve been doing this for years and gaining amazing experience and bigger clients, each new job is scary. Freelance life comes with highs and lows. Self-motivation and drive to always improve and keep going is so important.
Physical and mental health has a huge effect on my work. As long as I stay happy and motivated in my personal life, it will reflect in my work. I keep myself moving with things like rock climbing and travel. I like to remove myself from my regular schedule and environment to see things from a different perspective. It’s so easy to get caught up in the mundane day-to-day. Taking a step back to see the bigger picture helps me answer the question ‘why am I doing this?’
Share a story where you went above and beyond to solve a problem.
As a service business, I realized it’s important to think more about product—not just output and time. One time when I was in San Francisco, I met a model at this beautiful blue house and the model was wearing all denim. What started off as a personal passion project quickly became something bigger. I realized I could create a book with the assets I had, so I researched how to do that. When all was said and done, I shot 24 girls in total and named the book bbblue. It recently launched in Mirvish Village in Toronto and it’s been so satisfying working on a long term project that produces a tangible product.
It’s a typical work day. Where would we find you?
Everywhere. If I’m shooting on location or have a client meeting, I’ll work from a coffee shop nearby before or after. If I have a full day for editing and admin work, I’ll work at a coworking space in Toronto.
Inspiration or perspiration?
I think it’s the direct intersection of both. Putting hours in just for the sake of putting hours in is inefficient if it’s not productive and helping you get where you want to go.
Who is your role model?
I always myself following photographer Christina Paik. Her style feels pared down and unapologetic, and she has a way of presenting herself that allows you to become invested in her day-to-day.
Do you have a motivational mantra or inspirational quote that helps you get you out of bed in the morning?
Do it till it’s easy, then start over.
Work-Life balance is *tough* for a small business owner. How do you stay balanced?
I work days, nights and weekends depending on when I have a shoot and how crunched my deadlines are. Weeks tend to go by without any time off and I start to feel burned out. Scheduling exercise several times a week as well as going for coffee or dinner once a week with a friend helps me keep sane.
What’s next for Pam Lau?
I’m excited to branch out from operating a purely service-based business to producing more content and exploring product as well. I’m also looking to do more collaborations on an international scale.
Pam’s book, bbblue, was shot over an entire year and includes shots of 24 women, shot on 24 rolls of film, taken when she was 24 years old.
Learn more about Pam and her breathtaking photography:
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About the Author: Amanda is the Community Coordinator at FreshBooks. She loves executing extraordinary experiences every day both on and offline. When she’s not doing that, she is taking her dog, Jonny, on adventures or searching Toronto for the best coleslaw.