We recently connected with Denise Benson and have shared our conversation below.
Denise, looking forward to hearing all of your stories today. Let’s start with the story of your mission. What should we know?
I began my entrepreneurial journey in 2002 when I graduated from the University of South Carolina. I was unable to find a job in my chosen field and my father had recently opened an independent insurance agency. He saw my struggle with finding a job nearby in my chosen field so he offered for me to come on board at the insurance agency. And while I never envisioned taking this route, as my major was in Fashion Merchandising, I made the decision to try it out. From 2002 until 2021 I co-owned and worked at the agency day in and day out. Working for myself for my entire adult career gave me insights that I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else. I appreciated what it takes to be your own boss, how to work with clients directly and the meaning of good customer service. I still had an itch for creative works so in 2009 I took an intro to photography course at a local tech college so that I could have a new hobby to explore. This hobby quickly turned into a side hustle and in 2011 I decided to go part time with photography. About 5-6 years after that branding photography began to emerge as a popular niche and I decided to try my hand at it. As I began to work with more and more entrepreneurs I became more excited about this niche. Working with couples and families was fun, but working with fellow business owners truly sparked joy inside of me and got me excited to spend my weekends shooting. In 2020 I niched down to capturing primarily brands and in 2022 I took my photography business full-time, stepping away from the insurance agency as a day to day job. My mission is to help fellow business owners become more visible online through their visuals. Helping to connect them with their ideal audience and set them apart from their competitors. I truly believe that I would not have found this passion for branding photography had I not been a business owner myself for most of my adult life. The insurance agency began the spark and photography has fueled it. I’m excited for all of the amazing business owners I’ve yet to meet and work with! I know the work that I am doing will help them to grow and go after their own dreams.
Denise , before we move on to more of these sorts of questions, can you take some time to bring our readers up to speed on you and what you do?
I am a branding photographer based in the Charlotte Metro area. I help fellow business owners tighten up their visual presence online with professional images that set them apart from their competitors and connect them with their ideal clients. My branding sessions aren’t just about taking beautiful images, but help my clients showcase what they do so that it comes across in a clear manner to the audience they want to connect with. I am passionate and excited about the work that I get to do and that excitement translates through into my sessions. My clients come away with an experience they feel good about and gives them content that they can share on a consistent basis via their websites, blogs and social media accounts.
What else should we know about how you took your side hustle and scaled it up into what it is today?
If you would have asked me 5 years ago if I’d ever take my photography career full time my answer would have been a resounding no. I had a comfortable job at the insurance agency I co-owned and I felt that the only way to make “good” money in photography was to either capture weddings or to do in person sales, neither of which interested me. When the pandemic hit in 2020, I decided to take 2.5 months off from shooting. I was unsure of where the world was headed and at the time we didn’t know much about the virus so I didn’t want to risk myself or my family by meeting with clients. Somehow, in the midst of all of that I managed to have my best year yet financially. And in 2021 I did it again. I was already passionate about branding photography and decided I wanted this to be my niche concentration, but it wasn’t until the pandemic hit and more and more people decided to leave the traditional workforce and go after their own dreams did I see that I could make an actual living off doing what I loved. I wouldn’t have to compromise the work I enjoy doing to make ends meet and that was the most important thing to me in deciding to go full-time with photography. I wanted to be in a good place financially and I wanted to continue doing the work I love. Both of those things happened in 2020/2021 and it allowed me to take the leap into full-time photography at the start of 2022.
What do you find most rewarding about being a creative?
The most rewarding part of what I do is seeing how my images help my clients to become more confident in their own businesses. When you have professional images in your arsenal you’re more likely to show up online by sharing those images with your audience on social media, you appear more professional by showcasing those images on your website instead of just a selfie you took at home and you have the confidence to go after what you want. On a base level you may just see a nice photo, but I’ve seen how branding sessions can truly transform businesses and seeing my clients live their dreams by doing what they love is the best reward.
- Website: denisebensonphotography.com
- Instagram: instagram.com/denisebensonphotography
- Facebook: facebook.com/denisebensonphotography
- Twitter: twitter.com/dbensonphotos
K Marie Photography (my bio photo)