Photographer Captures the Sweet Life with GoPayment

Picture this idyllic scene: a forest creek at sunrise, a fetching bride astride a majestic stallion, with her husband-to-be securing the reins …

“The idea was to have my sister-in-law on the horse in a beautiful gown that seemed to float,” explains wedding and portrait photographer Valerie Holifield. “It was pretty cold and, as I was setting it up, I slipped on moss, fell into the creek, and ruined my camera. Then, when the skirt [of the dress] got wet, it was too heavy to float on the water as I’d hoped.”

Undaunted, Holifield grabbed her backup camera and snapped her picture by noon for a portfolio for the Sweet Life Images, a business she started with her friend Stacey Warner. Today, the two moms photograph weddings, families, children and newborns, pets, graduating seniors, and even products in Ste. Genevieve, Mo., and beyond. “We are destination photographers,” she says. “We’ll go anywhere.”

The GoPayment Blog spoke recently with Holifield about launching the photography business and the benefits of getting paid with GoPayment.

GoPayment: How did you and Stacey get started in business?

Holifield: When Stacey and her husband moved here, they sold us their red Jeep. We were both photographers on our own. We kept running into each other over the years around town, at church and at craft shows where I was selling candles I made and she was selling her jewelry. In April 2010, when I was going to shoot my brother-in-law’s wedding, I asked her to do it with me. Then my sister-in-law got married, and we did it again and thought, “Hey, this is working out really well.” Within a week, we were set up as an LLC and got our website going.

How did you come up with the name?

We spent a day sitting together, trying to think of an idea. Our names were too long, but everything we’d come up with was already taken. Then she just said it, “How about ‘the Sweet Life’?” because she was living her sweet life, raising a family and adopting horses outside of Bloomsdale. And I said that was fine by me.

How do you work together?

We each have individual styles, but we can also do the same thing. When we do a wedding, we pick different roles. We have a traveling studio, with a backdrop and lights, which we set up at receptions so guests can have their pictures taken. Stacey will run the booth while I walk around the reception getting more candid shots. Then we trade roles at the next wedding we shoot. If either one of us got sick, the other could do the job.

How do you advertise your business?

Word of mouth has worked best for us. We know a lot of people in the area. Business was slow in July and August because of the heat and drought, so we took out our first ad in the local paper, the Ste. Genevieve Herald. The grocery store has a lighted cabinet that local businesses can buy space in. At each event we shoot, we hand out cards with a link where people can view [photographs] and order online. We have student reps who get their graduation pictures taken, and we give them cards to hand out to their friends offering 48 free wallet pictures.

What do you like about GoPayment?

No monthly fees! When your business is slow, you really don’t want to pay a monthly fee. We started using GoPayment last November, and I like pulling out my phone, entering the information, and being able to provide an instant receipt.

What do you like best and least about running your own business?

The fun is taking the pictures — more fun than sitting at a computer for 16 hours editing them! I can be pretty hard on myself if something doesn’t turn out the way I want it to, but I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to see compliments on Facebook. When someone comments that they really like our work, like my sister-in-law, who I’m still getting to know, or people who don’t know us but like the pictures, we are both very happy.

About Kristin Ewald

Kristin Ewald, a former Time Inc. editor based in California, has written frequently for the SMB audience. She is also a small business owner who helps companies write and produce user-friendly websites.
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