BABE #139: KIARA ROSE, Wedding + Fashion Photographer
Kiara is a beam of light and a breath of fresh air. We've been following her work in both photography and macrame for quite a while now, and her genuine spirit and love for her craft really does set her apart. She's passionate, resilient, and sticks to her guns, always choosing to be real and transparent in a (digital) world where it's pretty damn easy to fake it. It was a pleasure to learn more about her perspectives on admiring others, setting boundaries when working for yourself, and being an Australian immigrant learning to live and thrive with a fresh start in the States. Thanks so much for your time, Kiara! You are so freakin' babely.
Hometown: Born on the Gold Coast, Australia and raised in Sydney, Australia
Current city: The rainy little city of Portland, OR
Alma mater: Only finished high school (barely) and a Bible school dropout!
Very First Job: I worked in a cafe in a tiny country town outside of Sydney
Hustle: Wedding + Fashion Photographer @ Kiara Rose Photo + Indwell Weddings
Babe you admire and why?
I actually stopped “admiring” people a long time ago, because I felt so defeated in comparing myself to others’ accomplishments. I became hurt by some of my biggest inspirations' poor actions and decisions, and decided I was only going to admire people who I truly knew as a person and not from afar. In doing so, I no longer feel envious of their success, but instead joyful because I totally support them. One of my dearest friends, Lisa Fahey, is someone who comes to mind with this topic. She started photography much later in life after having completed an entire psychology degree, and fell completely in love with creating with her camera. She’s totally killing it now, and is such a reminder to me that it’s never too late to start; even if I want to change direction in my work, I can do so, and totally achieve whatever I want to.
How do you spend your free time?
I am also a macrame artist and make a lot of side income from creating wall hangings and selling supplies. Last year alone, I sold over 400 spools of rope and more than 50 hangings, which was great considering I only found my passion (and talent) for fiber art late into the summer.
Favorite fictional female character?
I love Alice (in Wonderland) and Hermione Granger. Any girl who can stand up for what she believes in and take no shit from any man (while doing so with a sweet and gentle spirit, because we need more of that) is my kind of girl.
What would you eat for your very last meal?
Bottomless avocado sushi rolls or a big bowl of pasta with red sauce.
If you could have coffee with anyone in the world, who would it be?
Probably Gary Vee or Michelle Obama (because she’s the ultimate babe and I’m so inspired by her).
If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would it be?
Probably back home in Australia, on the beach somewhere. This winter is ruining my life and I miss the heat of the Australian sun and the crystal clear ocean.
What’s one thing you wish you knew more about?
Information marketing. My husband is a marketer and I still wish I knew more. I also wish I knew how to play an instrument fully or speak another language fluently. Never too late to learn, right?
Currently: Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper, Future and Cardi B. Generally, my favorite musicians are Vallis Alps, Novo Amor, Bon Iver, Sigur Ros, RY X and Asgeir.
What’s something not many know about you?
I’m a qualified karate instructor, although I’ve lost most of my knowledge over time. I started teaching in our family-owned karate studio when I was 10.
Tell us about your hustle.
I’m three years into being a self-employed wedding and fashion photographer. Since 2015, I’ve been shooting weddings, portraits, fashion editorials and lookbooks full-time, and I run a full-blown wedding company, Indwell Weddings, where we shoot (on average) 25 weddings each year in-between our cross-continental travels. I moved to the U.S. in November of 2016, relocating my whole business with no clients, no friends and no foundation. Today, we’re almost booked out for 2018. I am the primary shooter and boss for the business, and my husband is my second shooter and videographer, as well as our marketing and advertising genius (when he’s not working on his own hustle.) Weddings have taken us all over the world, and I am absolutely and completely in love with photographing couples for a living.
What does your typical workday look like?
In the summer, it looks like waking up, emailing, doing some things around the house, catching up on editing, grabbing coffee with a client or friend or on my own to get out of the house, going on a bike ride to get some fresh bread, shooting in the evening around sunset, and editing again until it’s time to shut off (like 10 p.m.) In the winter, it’s a lot of computer work, editing, advertising, marketing and emailing—oftentimes I hardly leave the house, but I try to get out and work in coffee shops to stop myself from going stir crazy. We’re out of town regularly, working from airports or coffee shops and hotels/Airbnbs, or shooting weddings from dusk 'til dawn, or driving five hours to meet with clients. I love it though—it’s all so unpredictable and exciting.
When/how were you first introduced to photography? When did you decide to pursue it professionally?
I started photography when I was 11 years old on Flickr and gained lots of traction, millions of views and thousands of followers. At 14, I nearly dropped out of school to go full-time when opportunities were flowing through my inbox. Due to strict parents, I finished school and waited until I graduated to go full-time. When I finished school, I went straight into Bible college to make my parents happy, but 10 weeks in, I quit both school and my four jobs and went completely freelance right after my 18th birthday. Then, I booked a ticket to the US to visit my Flickr friends (including my now-husband, David Talley). I always knew I was going to be a photographer, but I never got much encouragement from the people in my life to pursue it, so I doubted my ability for so long. Only until I actually went freelance did I realize the potential for success, and last year I realized I could genuinely do this for the large portion of my life (if not forever).
How would you describe your photography style? How has it evolved?
Originally, I did fine art photography; weird self-portraits in a 365-day project, a 52-week project and many other project collaborations with other photographer friends. Now, I’m shooting primarily weddings. Our style would definitely be described as timeless and romantic. Living in the Pacific Northwest has definitely contributed to a lot of moody portraits, too, which is nearly unavoidable.
Have you always had a love for creating and storytelling? Where do you think that comes from?
Yes, yes, yes! If you look at much of my earlier work, you’ll notice how much “storytelling” there is. I had a very difficult childhood and I definitely think photography and storytelling was an escape, and a hope for a new world that I was in control of and could create entirely from scratch.
Which genre of photography is your favorite?
I definitely love conceptual portraiture the best (creating stories in portraits). I am so inspired by Tim Walker’s work and love his set designs, props and character portrayal in his models. One day, I’ll focus more on work that emulates that style. For now, there’s very little that makes me happier than shooting photos of two people who are madly in love on their wedding day.
What is your philosophy on work/life balance? How do you stay organized and on top of your work?
I’m probably the worst person to ask about this; I either procrastinate so hard that I’m behind deadlines and stressed and can’t stop from watching The Office on repeat every hour of every day; or I’m working from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. and my husband has to disconnect my computer in order for me to stop. I’ve really not nailed it down yet; when I’m working on a project I love, you can’t stop me from working, but if I’m in-between things I’m not so in love with, it takes a lot of push to get me to finish them. Thankfully, Picr has been amazing for organization. It gives me a step-by-step breakdown on what to do with each project and gives me the option to mark off when I’ve done each of them. Otherwise, my husband and I both work very demanding jobs, so we’ve made Friday night our date night We’re strict about it—nothing is allowed to change unless it’s a paid job or special event, and we try to do one thing together on the weekends: eat dinner at the table, watch a bit of TV or a movie together before we sleep, etc. Most of the time though, I’m a mess. There’s always something to do as a freelancer.
How often do you feel satisfied and purposeful in your work?
I battled with this a few months ago, feeling so purposeless and unsatisfied with my work, and wasn’t sure how long I was going to be a photographer, as I’m on my 10th year of using a camera almost daily. I unfollowed a lot of people on Instagram this month because I was sick of comparison. Seeing other photographers brag their life away made my blood boil. I've done photography for most of my life, never expecting a single dollar from it, and now I’m running a full-on, in-demand business where I can’t stop bookings. It’s hard to see people pick up a camera, grow a stupidly insane Instagram following, share overly trendy images and brag so much - I just feel that’s so dishonest. I was so mad that I felt like I was the only one who was in it for the right reasons! If I never booked another photography client again in my life, I would still be a photographer and I would still take photos. I was only reminded of that a week or two ago when I stopped comparing my work to others, reviewed my portfolio, stepped back and said, Dang, Kiara, you’re good. Sometimes you have to silently toot your own horn and remind yourself how good you are at what you do.
How has your experience as an immigrant shaped your place in the workforce?
I love this question. For the first half of the year, I wasn’t even allowed to work. Since I moved to a completely different part of the world, I had no photos to reflect the Pacific Northwest environment. My work consisted of warm photos on Australian beaches, and no one in Portland booked that kind of work. When wedding season finally came around, I finally got my work permit but was still struggling with the inability to leave the country, not drive our car, run my own bank account, etc. Immigration was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, even as seamless as our case was. It was isolating. I’m still asked daily where I'm visiting from, and for how long I'll be in town. Those questions alone, even if asked innocently, are so isolating because I’m living, working and contributing to a place where people think I’m having a grand old holiday. Cultural differences have also set me apart. Australians are super blunt, to-the-point and honest, while Americans are sweet, and kind, and gentle, and refuse to hurt anyone’s feelings. I’m definitely not wired that way, and thankfully the people who work with me know exactly my intentions behind my words. I don’t get walked on in business, I stand up for myself, and I know what I want and what I’m worth. Relocating my business from a population of 5.5 million to less than 1 million in Portland (with much more competition) was not easy, but I knew what I wanted, and I made it happen.
What’s your biggest career milestone and why?
I’ve done some amazing things in my career. I’ve photographed musicians like Matt Corby, been hired by Instagram and Airbnb, sponsorships from the likes of Vanguard US, yet I really don’t know if a “big career milestone” would fall under something that someone else offered me. I think my biggest milestone would be the fact that I picked up my entire life, moved across the world and still built a thriving business in less than six months—a business doing way better than the one I had in Australia, even. I think if anything, my biggest milestone is my own hustle and hard work in making that happen.
How would you say being a woman has affected your professional experience?
I'm asked very often at weddings by older men how I like working for my husband, and people constantly refer to him for information and refuse to accept or acknowledge that I am the primary shooter. I won’t take it from anyone and I am very straightforward with those who choose to assume incompetence based on me being a woman, but there have definitely been cases where I have been underestimated or deemed insufficient because of both my gender and age.
What are some of the everyday struggles with your job that we might not see?
Peopled don't realize how draining and physically demanding it is. I see a chiropractor every two weeks to readjust my back and my wrists from standing on my feet at weddings for up to 12 hours, from all the flights we’re on, from lugging around all of my camera gear, from the sitting at a computer to edit for long periods of time. I have constant headaches induced by the screens I’m forever looking at - it’s hard.
Who are some women in your field that you look to for inspiration?
Locally, Karra Leigh and Dawn Charles. I’ve shot with both of those women, and admire their genuine and honest love for their jobs and clients, as well as their hard work to raise families while achieving such beautiful results in their work. Like I said earlier, I try not to be “inspired” by anyone I don’t know, because I want to know behind-the-scenes of someone’s business practices or lifestyle. I know these two ladies enough to know they’re doing it right and doing it well.
What advice would you give to a babe trying to break into your industry?
Don’t start charging money until you’re confident enough - it can totally break your spirits. Many people will tell you otherwise, but get good enough in your craft that you become in-demand enough to charge people properly, and what you deserve. Also, practice. A lot. Take photos of yourself, in hard lighting conditions, of your friends, your family, people who aren’t models—literally go for it 100 percent, and if you’re entirely in love with it and your heart is for it, you can do it. Don’t spend your life trying to build an Instagram account. Build a legacy and a reputation outside of social media. Ninety percent of my clients come from word of mouth and meeting people, because we aren't trendy. Don’t copy others just to achieve success; there’s enough trendiness to go around. There's not enough uniqueness.
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
Work hard and know your worth. Whatever you’re doing, do it with complete confidence, and surround yourself with supportive people. And, the best piece of advice I’ve ever received: No decision is ever permanent. If you start something you hate, change it; if you do something you’re not necessarily enjoying, alter it.