Behind the Studio: Rebecca of Fancy Face Photography
After a decade teaching middle school students, Rebecca of Fancy Face Photography launched her own photography business and used skills that she honed as a teacher to grow a thriving portrait business. One of her pieces of advice? Don’t expect any two-year-old to sit still. Who would want that! In an interview with Pinhole Pro, Rebecca shares the inspiration behind her studio name and insight into her time management skills.
Please tell us a little bit about Fancy Face Photography and also the inspiration behind your studio name.
I was inspired by my two older daughters who were one and three when I started my business. They were deep into a princess phase and loved everything fancy. I wanted the name to reflect my style, which is fun and silly, and quite often all about capturing the expressions on children’s faces. So the alliteration popped into my head and I went with it!
You spent a decade working with middle school children as a teacher before you embarked on a career as a professional photographer. How did those years of teaching help shape your approach to the medium? Do you think it was to your advantage that you had so much experience working with children before you started photographing them? If so, how?
My background as a teacher informs all of my interactions with children and parents–mainly because I respect kids and I have reasonable expectations of them. I never want a parent to be stressed because their two-year-old isn’t sitting still or “cooperating” during a shoot. I don’t expect a two-year-old to sit still! The whole shoot is based around where the children are developmentally. With very young kids, I focus on playing games and singing songs and capturing their genuine interactions with their parents. Slightly older kids are more physical, so we do lots of running and jumping. With adolescents, I joke around about their friends and things that are going on in popular culture. I relate to them and they relate to me.
You don’t often hear photographers getting excited about shooting big groups of kids, but because of my background as a teacher, it is one of the things I love to do. When I taught eighth grade in New York City, I had 30-32 teenagers in my class and thought nothing of parading them through the city on field trips. Sometimes I would take 60 kids on the subway. So when I get a big group of kids together I am back in my element. I usually send the grownups away to have a cup of coffee while I hang out with their kids and document the fun.
The Holiday season just passed, and I’m sure you were busy keeping up with family photo sessions. How did Fancy Face Photography approach the holiday season? Did you offer any special holiday packages or do anything outside of what you normally offer?
Yes! The fall was a totally crazy time. I do more than 50% of my business from September-November, so it was crucial that I planned my weekends carefully. I offered back-to-back minis at a local park or nature center so I could fit in as many families as possible. Even in 20 minutes, I captured beautiful moments for families.
How do you best manage your time during the busy shooting season and throughout the year? Do you use any digital applications or other means to help you stay on target? Do you have any tips for other photographers who juggle being a full-time photographer and parent?
This is definitely a huge challenge. I have three daughters ages 7, 5 and 2 and the older ones are involved in lots of activities. Our typical Saturday involves two soccer games and at least one birthday party plus a nap for the little one. My husband does a great job looking after the girls on the weekends, and I am fortunate to have lots of friends who help me out by doing extra carpool shifts when it’s my busy season. During the week, I work when the baby naps and when the kids are asleep at night.
One thing that has helped me balance being a mom with being a photographer has been my decision to ditch the pro camera gear when I am not working. You won’t see me on the field or on an outing with my kids with a big camera around my neck. I used to be obsessed with getting really high quality pictures of my kids all the time but I found that I wasn’t in the moment, enjoying being a mom. I definitely photograph them around the house or at big moments like graduations and recitals, but I do the majority of documenting with my iPhone.
How did 2014 differed from previous years with your studio? Is there anything that stands out professionally that you accomplished last year? What are you most proud of for 2014?
For me, 2014 was the year of the house! My husband and I are doing a gut renovation of our new home and a lot of my energy has gone into that project. I knew I couldn’t spend a huge amount of time on marketing this Fall, and I was okay with that. I am not superwoman! Fortunately, I have a huge amount of repeat business and word of mouth referrals. So even without a big marketing push, I had my best season to date.
I am honored that so many of my customers return to me year after year. I live in an affluent suburb that is saturated with photographers so clients have plenty of choices when it comes to hiring someone to film their families. When clients select me time and time again, they are letting me know they value my work product and my style of interacting with children. This is a big source of pride for me.
You’ve ordered a lot of Pinhole products over the years, everything from our Magnets to Panoramic Books. What’s been the most popular product with your clients and which products would you personally recommend to our readers?
I love to surprise my best customers with special gifts at the end of the year. I have sent photo notepads, magnets, calendars and memory games. My clients and I are always impressed with the high quality of these products.
I also love Pinhole’s panoramic albums. I am able to customize the layouts to produce unique photo books for my clients. And, of course, I also have a personal collection of albums to showcase my own family photos.
Rebecca Mansell is the owner/photographer at Fancy Face Photography based in Westchester, New York. A former New York City public school teacher and mom to three girls, Rebecca has a special rapport with children and loves to capture candid family moments. Rebecca has a BA in Education from Brown University and received her Masters in Education at Bank Street College in New York. When she’s not taking pictures, you can find Rebecca cheering wildly on suburban soccer fields, corralling hoards of kids home for play dates, scouring the internet for home renovation ideas and attempting to prepare healthy meals for her family. See Rebecca’s work at www.fancyfacephoto.com.