Today in the blog series we have the incredibly talented photographer and creative wizard, Naomi Zaki.
Naomi and I have actually never met in person! We met via Instagram (I don't quite even remember how?) and we've built a really supportive creative friendship through the platform. I actually didn't think friendships like that actually happened, even though I'd heard stories from other people doing exactly that, however I genuinely feel like I've Naomi for YEARS. (It's actually only been 18 months!)
Naomi is based in Sydney and runs Naomi Zaki Photography, her photography business! She is an travel wedding photographer - how cool! - which means she runs around really funky places capturing awesome couples being in love and looking divine. And golly she is good at it!
She also lends her voice to numerous causes she is passionate about and is beautifully transparent in her journey of faith. Plus she has the coolest hair around!
Find Naomi Zaki Photography online!
You can check out her business Naomi Zaki Photography on Instagram and Facebook!
How long have you been running your business for? And what is your business about?
I've been running my photography business since July 2019, so for a lil over a year now! My biz specialises in portrait and wedding photography, and I'm mainly drawn to couples and branding for fellow small businesses. What I'm really all about though is helping people who are "not good at photos" (their words) see themselves in a totally different light, and watching their confidence sky-rocket as they let go and just have fun!
What made you decide to go down the path of running your own small business?
I started running this biz while I was studying to be a high-school teacher at university, a career-path which I very quickly decided was not for me. I had been shooting on and off for years but had become obsessed with photography all over again earlier that year. Once I realised that this was the thing I was investing all my time and energy into (e.g. editing photos for fun instead of writing an assignment that was due 2 days ago…), I figured I might start getting paid for what I love most! After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts (I'd dropped the teaching degree), I realised there was nothing that I could picture myself doing except photography. As someone who dabbled in so many different hobbies over the years, most people that know me well are surprised I've stuck with this one for so long! I feel like things are just getting started, so that's another good sign.
Do you ever feel pressure to be “killing it” on social media? i.e. - do the number of likes or comments impact you?
Ooh, such a good question. I used to absolutely place my worth in my social media engagement, and I still hold my breath every time I publish a post or story or put my work out there. But it's such a relief to know that social media is highly controlled by algorithms that no longer favour creatives and small businesses, so engagement isn't a good reflection of our followers' appreciation for our work. I find it's more important to make yourself and your clients happy, and use social media to connect with and get to know the people that admire your work.
"No two people's journeys are the same (even if they're in the the same field), so don’t plan your life based on someone else's timeline."
What does it mean to you to invest in yourself? In terms of both your business and you personally?
To me, it means prioritising my peace and what brings me joy over anything else. I know in the photography education world, the term "investing in yourself" usually implies putting your money into education and gear and other resources (which can be important), but for me, my currency is peace of mind. This means sometimes saying no to certain jobs or environments which not only rob me of my peace, but only have temporary benefits (e.g. saying no to photographing a well-paying 21st, because I know that the clients will be hard to work with or I will absolutely hate the environment, editing-process etc.). So to sum it up, investing in myself means putting my time, energy and money into things that will bring me peace and joy.
What would you say has been the biggest challenge you have faced so far?
Starting out, hands down. As I mentioned, I graduated from uni with a degree that I already knew I wouldn't use, with photography being the only thing I could see myself doing. But when my biz didn't take off when I expected it to, I had a bit of a quarter-life crisis! Seeing all my friends either busy with uni or their jobs while I sat unemployed at home, questioning my ability to make this thing ever work out was awful. I knew I wanted to specialise in weddings and elopements but had only ever shot one wedding which I wasn't even proud of, so getting work and targeting my ideal clients with my lack of experience was practically impossible. I felt like I was bobbing aimlessly in a sea of purposelessness. Honestly, it was a relief when Covid hit, because it felt like everyone was finally in the same boat that I'd been in for months (FOMO totally isn't a thing for me, not at all 😂). But God is so good, providing me with a job with another photography company which has not only given me so much work for my portfolio, but also showed me the beauty of working in a team. It's also taught me so many other lessons about business that would've taken me years to learn! It was also kind of hard at first having to step back from my own biz to work for another, but I strongly believe there is a time and place for everything, and this experience will only make my own biz so much better when I get back to making it my priority. Being flexible to change is so dang important!
How do you celebrate your business wins?
I try to always thank God first. It can be hard to remember in the moment sometimes, but it's important to give Him due credit for His blessings! Most of the time I just excitedly share the news with my fam, to be honest. I'm a simple gal!
What is something that you find is taboo about small business to talk about?
Honestly, this might sound bad, but being jealous of your competition. As someone who has struggled with envy since I was a little kid, it's been so hard trying to not let it get the best of me. I fully believe in prioritising "community over competition" (and it's one of the tactics I use to switch my mindset into wanting to support my peers instead of envying them), but I think we need to start acknowledging that it's natural to have reactional feelings of jealousy sometimes, as long as we acknowledge that - although they're somewhat instinctual - it's crucial to make a conscious effort to change them. Nobody's perfect! We're all works-in-progress and it's only human to have flaws.
And how do you think we can go about breaking down that stigma?
I think it's important to create safe spaces for our fellow creatives + small biz owners to admit these feelings so that they don't feel as though they are the most awful, hypocritical people.
"I find it's more important to make yourself and your clients happy, and use social media to connect with and get to know the people that admire your work."
If you could look yourself in the eye back as you were starting out, what would you say to yourself?
Hahaha seriously, it was the most stressful time of my life because I (embarrassingly) thought that my biz would just take off instantly as soon as I graduated, simply because I had nothing else planned for myself. I literally expected to be a full-time photographer within the space of a couple of months, and focused wayyy too much on making money without even realising what I was doing to myself. I was comparing myself to my role-models who were my age, even though they'd been in business for years and I was only just starting out. Don't do that to yourself, friends! As cliché as it sounds, no two people's journeys are the same (even if they're in the the same field), so don’t plan your life based on someone else's timeline! Also, remember why you started your biz and hold onto those feelings of love and joy in your craft.
Who is your biggest inspiration? - small biz, big biz, anywhere in between!
Christian and Elle-May Watson (aka 1924us)! Oh my gosh, I adore them so much. Their heart for Christ and His children, the way they make Him and creativity the centre of everything they do, and their ability to draw beauty out of anything and everything is beyond inspirational. Also their lack of ego in everything they do is such a standout quality, especially in the creative world. It's rare to find, and seeing their journey towards this selflessness (especially for Christian) is beyond motivating and hopeful.
Make sure you give Naomi's business a follow on social media! And if you can share a post, or if you book a session, make sure you share it with the world and get the word out about her amazing work!
How To Make An Impact:
It's so easy to do.
- A follow, a like, a comment , a save or a purchase all go a long way in the world of small business.
- We mindlessly scroll through Instagram and Facebook, so if you can take two of those seconds to interact with online content you'll be making an impact bigger than you know for that small business.
- Buy from small businesses. Christmas is coming up! Birthday's! Any time you need to give a gift, think of buying from a small business first.
- Leave a review - Facebook, Google, their website or email them!