Today we’d like to introduce you to Tonya Tomory.
Hi Tonya, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
Being an entrepreneur and a business owner was never part of the plan. I’ve never even taken a class past Intro to Business and numbers and budgets overwhelm me. Originally, while attending Pittsburg State University and majoring in journalism, my goal out of college was to go to work for a major newspaper or publication as a writer. I liked writing, but I didn’t love it. During my junior year of college, I took my first photojournalism course and fell in love with the camera.
I knew within the first few weeks of that course that behind a camera is where I belong and was my true calling. After graduating with my Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication, I wasn’t fulfilled educationally or personally. I applied to graduate school and began my photo-focused Master’s degree in photojournalism. After graduating with a Master of Arts in Communication in 2011, I also learned that media work and being on-call as a photojournalist for news was not the fit for me, either. I began shooting on the side from my adjunct teaching position at PSU and developed Expressions Exposed Photography as a small side business that satisfied my heart and brought in some supplemental income in the beginning.
Fast forward a few years, I was blessed to see growth and development in my photography business and continued to build clientele and my artistry. EEP became my “main” career, with teaching taking the back seat and becoming a part-time thing. As of this year, I am a full-time photographer working on location for each client session and thriving with continuous growth. Throughout my career as a photographer, I’ve focused my work on shooting weddings, seniors, and engagement sessions, along with dabbling into entertainment photography.
It has been a winding road full of ups, downs, and detours, but the journey and everything along the way have led me to exactly where I’m meant to be. Also as an artist and entrepreneur, I am very passionate about supporting small businesses, shopping local, and keeping the mom-and-pop shops alive. We can’t expect support for ourselves if we don’t support the endeavors of others.
Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
The road as an artist and an entrepreneur hasn’t been all sunshine and roses. For me personally, I struggled most of the first several years to find the balance between myself as an individual, and myself as a photographer. The first few years of learning, shooting, and building my portfolio included non-stop work weeks, 2 am editing nights, lack of social life and the constant drive to be better.
I’m thankful for those foundation-building years and the push they gave me to create that balance and boundaries in my life to separate the two. Photography is also a very saturated market in this region, so finding the balance between myself artistically and in the business sense of the field was challenging. I just wanted to create art that amplifies the beauty of my subjects and make a career out of it while giving clients documentation of memories at that point and time in their lives.
The constant back and forth of finding a happy medium point of charging what I was worth with what people were willing to afford was challenging at times.
Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I am a natural light photographer serving the eastern Kansas region, including the Kansas City area. I specialize in capturing weddings, seniors, and engagement sessions, as well as shooting entertainment events. I am most known and sought out for my use of lighting in photos, the energy captured in them, and providing a fresh, natural style. I have been very blessed with some amazing opportunities throughout the years by being featured in publications such as Kansas Weddings Magazine, KANSAS! Magazine, Southeast Kansas Living, and having work from shooting shows for country music superstar Miranda Lambert featured on two tours of her merchandise and social media.
I feel what sets me apart from others aside from my visual work is how I structure my business. I’m a competitive person, but I’m not a competitive photographer. I’ve learned that not every client is my client – and that’s okay! Managing expectations is so incredibly important when agreeing to work with someone and scheduling their photo session. I always like to ask and make sure we are on the same page stylistically with what they’re expecting and wanting, along with clarification of my photography style and what I provide.
If those things don’t line up, neither I nor a client is going to be pleased with the outcome. I also have never compared my pricing to other photographers. One of the best pieces of advice I received early in my career is “know your worth.” I set my pricing structure based on what I am happy and at peace with as an artist to receive for my work while remaining financially sustainable.
I truly believe what I’m most proud of is growing up in a small town, dreaming these big dreams, and working as hard as possible to see the fruition of them, even when the ultimate goals or the finish line weren’t 100% clear. This small business is built on hard work, determination, good morals, honest ethics, and the refusal to settle.
Any big plans?
My plans for the distant future aren’t quite in focus yet. But my goal each and every day always remains the same: to be a better photographer than I was yesterday. There is always room for learning, listening, changing, and growing.
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: www.expressionsexposedphotography.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/eepkansas/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/eepkansas
Tonya Tomory/Expressions Exposed Photography