DREAM CATCHER: LAURA GRIER
Photographer Laura Grier’s life reads a little bit like a novel, full of plot twists and international intrigue. Her childhood was spent in both the US and Indonesia, planting the seed for what would become a lifelong quest to travel and document the world. She dreamed of being a zoologist or an Indiana Jones-style archaelogist before an obsession with the beautiful images she saw watching National Geographic on television inspired an interest in photography. By the age of 18, she had obtained top-secret clearance from the CIA and started working in their photo imaging department. A dual degree in photojournalism and art photography from Syracuse landed her in London working for rock and roll magazine Mixmag, and then in Florence, Italy, where she understudied with renowned National Geographic photographer Ed Kashi and launched her own career with that magazine. She ultimately landed in Los Angeles and founded Beautiful Day Photography, a highly regarded wedding photography business specializing in destination weddings, and then Wanderlust by Laura Grier, a personal blog about her travel and fine art photography. Since then, her work has taken her to six continents, for private clients and freelance for a variety of media giants and entertainment studios. She has been published in over 25 different magazines and won such awards as American Photo Magazine’s Top Ten Best Wedding Photos of the Year and National Geographic Traveler’s Top Ten Best Travel Photos of the Year. She is a sought after platform speaker and launched her first International Photography Workshop in Guatemala earlier this year. When she’s not shooting somewhere overseas, balancing language books in one hand and a camera in the other, you can find her in her beachfront home office on Venice Beach.
What are three words that best describe your company? Adventure, Global, Visionary.
I wish someone would have told me… That I had more control over the types of jobs that I took and to brand myself from the beginning. Also, to not compare myself to others and to be OK with being unique.
Five years from now I see myself… Teaching international photography workshops, living and working abroad and splitting my time between Europe and the US, selling more fine art, having a TV show about my exotic travel adventures in photography, and having a life partner to share these things with.
I gave up ________ to pursue my dream: My violin and my weekends.
The key to balancing it all is… Don’t we all wish we knew the answer to this question? It is our constant life struggle as entrepreneurs. I travel about 50% of the year and sometimes for extended periods of time. It feels like the more I travel, the more I long to travel. I am always planning the next trip before I have even returned from the trip I’m on. It defines me and I love it, but it can also sometimes make me feel imbalanced. I sometimes long to have a home and an exercise routine and more free time to see friends, study my music, or do other things, and I know it has taken a toll on my previous relationships to be apart for such long periods of time. This is the life I have always wanted, though, and I know that I need to soak it all in and take advantage of it while I am young and able. So I do my best to balance it all by being very organized, working and editing while on planes and in airports to maximize my time when I am home, making sure I make time for friends and relaxation, and having outlets outside of my work like music and soccer and exercise.
I funded my dream by… I was a bartender in college and during my first year in LA. I even lived out of my car for a few weeks when I first moved to town. It all started with just getting out there and doing it, traveling for my photography long before I was getting paid to shoot overseas. In my 20’s I lived off of credit cards to support my travel habit and it definitely paid off. I hustled and worked very hard and then eventually the referrals snowballed and I didn’t have to search for work anymore because people were finding me. But I did have a couple of lucky breaks. I was on Wheel of Fortune when I was 21 and won $7,000, which allowed me to buy my first camera!
What piece of invaluable advice did you receive that you would like to pass on to women pursuing their dream? The best advice I ever got was from a conversation I had with my mother when I was 13. At that age, I really thought I wanted to be a zoologist. My mother plainly asked me what I was good at. Not what I loved to do, but what I was good at. So I said, I am adventurous and fearless, I am creative, and I am good at talking to people. Then my mother said, “OK, based on this I don’t ever see you being a scientist. I don’t see you sitting in a laboratory for hours on end with a microscope. What is it about zoology that you love?” I said that I wanted to travel the world and be around animals and study them, and that I wanted to experience new people and places. So then my mother said ”Why can’t you be the photographer filming the show instead of the scientist?” And it was like a light bulb went off. It made complete sense. From that point on I decided I was going to study photography and nothing has gotten in my way since. She taught me that I should create my dream job around my strengths, weaknesses, and passions and not try to force something that is not in my nature.
Best piece of hiring and/or firing advice is… Hire people who can do something better than you. You are not a superhero. You can’t do everything yourself. As much as we all like to believe that we are the only ones who can do things the way we want them, it is almost impossible to grow a business on your own. Use free interns if you can get them, and hire an assistant even before you think you can afford it. The money you spend on help will come back to you threefold.
I always outsource… Editing, retouching, album design, blogging, anything that is not shooting. BUT… I can’t relinquish my control completely. I am always the one that goes through through my images first and narrows them down to my favorites, and I do the final tweakings before I let anything go into a client’s hand. Everything in between I can outsource. I know at some point if I get busier I may need to let go of my control a bit more, but for now I enjoy keeping my business a ”boutique” business so that I can still be very personally involved in all aspects of it.
The best people to work with always… Think ahead of me or think like me. They are fearless, driven, hungry, ready to do anything for their art, are not in it for the money but for the sake of creating something and working with great people. They are team players, and the last ones standing. They are constantly creating.
LET’S GET PERSONAL:
What are three words that best describe you? Tenacious, fearless, happy.
When you go on vacation you always… Plan an adventure, bring a sarong, do some type of photo shoot, get massages, eat new food, and read a book.
My favorite food is… Bacon!
I am most proud of… My business and how it evolves in ways that are smarter than my original plans for it.
A woman who inspires me is… Hillary Clinton, Angelina Jolie, and my mom.
My favorite scent is… Eucalyptus oil.
One thing I hope to pass along to my children is… My musical talents, ambition, wanderlust and thirst for seeing the world, and open-mindedness.
If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be… A forensic scientist, a travel tour guide of some kind, or working in advertising.
The most important thing I have learned so far… Always do what you love, and the rest will follow.