We had the good fortune of connecting with Yael Pachino and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Yael, what is the most important factor behind your success?
I would say a combination of personal branding and consistency. Personal branding is so vital for a small business like my own. People want to see the person behind the work, they want to get to know you, relate to you and trust you. Now more than ever before, it is so important to go above and beyond. It’s essential to showcase more than just what you are selling, but who you are and what you stand for. It’s funny, I’m not the kind of person who loves to be the center of attention. I didn’t have Facebook or Instagram until I started my business and it took me way too long to full comprehend the idea that if I want to stand out, if I want to make a difference in peoples lives, then I need to step out of my comfort zone and show people who I really am. Sometimes it’s not pretty, sometimes it is still really hard, but the more I show my true self, the more I connect with my ideal client. The more I connect to my ideal client, the more I make a difference in peoples lives. Once I started putting my face out there, writing personal blog posts, expressing my personality, I became more relatable and my business went to an entirely new level. Personal branding really helped me connect and become more than just a wedding vendor, but someone who can have a positive influence, someone who could show up for my clients and someone who could really make my clients feel comfortable. Showing up for your clients mean you have to be consistent. Show up means standing out. Standing out means making a difference. Making a difference means living a life full of purpose. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to live a life full of purpose?
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I don’t have one of those typical photography stories, I didn’t pick up a camera when I was 5 years old, I wasn’t the high school girl who was on yearbook or constantly taking pictures of her friends and family. I actually hadn’t picked up a DSLR until I was graduated with a B.A. in Communication from University of Maryland and working at a PR agency in the heart of Washington DC. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was standing in my best friends kitchen watching her ice a cake, complaining to her for the 10th time that week how unhappy I was at my job when she looked up at me, gave me a stern look and said “Shut up Yael! Stop complaining and go get a hobby.” She went back to her icing. All I could think was she was right. I needed to stop complaining. An hour later, I sat in my car right outside of my house and told myself I wasn’t allowed to go in until I picked a hobby. So like every good millennial, what did I do? I turned to google. I opened up the internet App and searched “best hobbies for 20 something year old women” I clicked on the first list to pop up, took a few minutes to scroll through when finally I stumbled upon photography. A week later, with my dad’s DSLR in hand I found myself walking into the WeWorks in DC’s Chinatown for a one hour photography class. I couldn’t tell you what we learned, I couldn’t name the photographer who was teaching the class and I couldn’t even tell you what exactly clicked for me, but I can tell you this…That one hour photography class changed my life forever. The next day, instead of working like I should have been, I went back to my trusty google and searched “How to become a professional photographer.” Miraculously that worked (I promise my google searches have gotten a lot better). It led me to Hallmark Institute of Photography, a small photography school located in Western Massachusetts. Hallmark taught me everything I needed to know, from how to turn on the camera, to how to set up lights and all the way into how to deal with taxes! I applied to Hallmark that night, got in a few weeks later and moved to Western Massachusetts three months later. I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into. Was this a whim? A distraction from reality? A way to avoid responsibility and adulthood? I spent the following 10 months learning, breathing and falling in love with photography. I had incredible mentors, awesome friends and a drive to become the best photographer I possibly could. I graduated with so much confidence and excitement to get started that I couldn’t wait to move to Philadelphia and open my own business. I really thought I had all the answers. Turns out, I once again, had no idea what I was in for. I have to admit, people warned me that starting my own business was going to be difficult, but I really thought they were just saying that. It took me only a few days to realize I have a very long journey ahead of me. For the first 2.5 years of my business, I worked part time in any job I could. I was a barista, a photo assistant and even an employee for a rug store. I did everything I could to make sure I had enough money to survive. Yet, my business was my top priority and whenever I felt like one of my side hustles was taking up too much mental capacity or time, I would find a new one. I jumped from part time job to part time job when finally, in 2018, I realized I couldn’t do this any longer. I needed to give my business a real chance to thrive. In 2018, I quit which ever part time job I was working at that point and became a full time Wedding and Portrait Photographer. Now nothing could distract me or take me away from taking every photo opportunity I could. I did everything I could to make my business a success. Webinar after webinar, article after article, book after book. Network meeting after Network meeting. Failure just wasn’t an option for me. If I wasn’t shooting and editing, I was marketing and educating myself. If I wasn’t marking and educating myself, I was meeting with clients and working on creating the best client experience out there. It was exhausting, it was hard work, it felt like I was going no where fast, but in the end of the day it was all worth it. I am currently in my 5th year of business and am loving every second of it! It’s still hard, it still has it’s challenges, I still put so much of my energy in learning more, striving to serve my clients better and growing my business, but in the end of the day it is all worth it. I love what I do, I love my clients and I love that I get to have such a positive influence on people. There is so much more that goes into a Photography Business besides the actual photos. Don’t get me wrong, I do everything I can to make sure my product is as consistent and as good as possible but it’s the experience that I find really makes me stand out. A huge part of my Wedding Photography Experience is the concept of Teach. Master. Create It’s not just me making magic. It’s not just the camera doing its thing. It’s to just having the perfect conditions with the perfect weather. It is us working together to create beautiful portraits that not only represents the couple as individuals, but who they are as a couple. I will take the time to teach my couples my core poses. I will explain exactly what I am doing and why I am doing it. I’ve learned over the years that the best way to create breathtaking portraits is to let my couples be a part of the process, let them understand my movement, my adjustments and my mindset. One of my biggest goals in life is to make people feel as comfortable as possible. That is especially true when it comes to my wedding couples in front of my camera. The best way I know how to assure this is by teaching, mastering and creating.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I love Old City and everything it has to offer. The beautiful architecture, the amazing coffee shops and the incredible restaurants. I would probably start with a walk down Elfreth’s Alley and make our way to Washington Square Park and the Merchant Exchange Building. At some point in the week, I would want my best friend to see Rittenhouse Square, city hall and the Magic Gardens. We would walk along the Schuylkill River and depending on what time of year it is, either hit up Dillworth Park or Spruce Street Harbor Park. I would want to find an awesome show at Punch line and go on a hike on the Wissahickon. We would check out Talia’s Bagels on Girard one morning and hit up Chue Fishtown for dinner. We would go to La Colombe almost every day, check out Heritage for their jazz music and maybe even stop at Green Eggs Cafe for brunch. I would want to take her shopping at Reading Terminal and even go see the HUGE Whole Foods we have in the Fairmount Area. I’d want her to see boathouse row and try Abe Fishers. I would want to introduce her to the amazing community I belong to here and show her exactly why I love this city.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
It’s no secret, starting a business is exhausting, time consuming and so incredibly maddening; My story is no exception. There I was, 24 years old, right out of photo school, moving to a new city with essentially no money in my bank account, zero real experience and only a 15 person network within 30 miles. I think back at that time in my life and shake my head. Thank god I was so naive! Within the first week of living in Philadelphia, I was hired as a Photography Assistant for Allebach Photography and Lee Shelley Photos. When I walked into that interview, I was so nervous I could barely keep my hands steady (as a photographer, that isn’t great)! Lee and Mike greeted me with the warmest smiles and the kindest hearts that instantly left me at ease. I am so grateful that Lee and Mike gave me the chance that I so desperately needed. They took the time to mentor me, teach me and introduce me to their photo community. With out them, I really would have been lost. Fast forward 8 months later and it was time for me to try and make it on my own! I learned everything I could from Lee and Mike and I was itching to grow my own business. It was scary, it was intimidating, but it was time! This is when my amazing and incredible fiancé really stepped up. Robert was not only my cheerleader but my IT support, my Business Consultant, my editor in chief, my marketing strategist and everything in between. The poor guy was in his second year of law school and I completely overwhelmed him with my crazy hours and insane focus on my business. I honestly don’t think I could have done it without him. He was my rock, my safety net and the biggest comfort. He made sure that I was taking care of myself even when the only thing I wanted to do was grow my business. I don’t think Robert truly understands how much I leaned on him. He believed in me in a way that no one else has ever before.
Yael Pachino Photography LLC