Sonoma Small Business Highlight: Portraits to the People

When I first met Sarah of Portraits to the People, her laid back and calm demeanor put me at ease. Kelly and I were shooting a project with Oak & Ashland, and Sarah jumped on board as the photographer. 

It was one of the first shoots Kelly and I did together, and I was a little nervous that A) I was going to act weird in front of the camera, and B) if what we were making, would look good through the lens.

Well, had I known just how talented Sarah was with a camera, I wouldn't have been nervous at all. I think it's one thing to admire someone's work via social media or their portfolio, but once you work with them, you either gain a whole new appreciation for their art, or you think they are crap. For Sarah, I gained a whole new appreciation for her art.  

Sarah established her business, Portraits to the People, with her wife & cofounder Natalie Josef in 2011 in San Francisco, specializing in not-so-corporate headshots and portrait photography. In 2015 the couple decided to relocate, and now calls Sonoma home. 

"Moving to Sonoma has been a huge, wonderful, quality of life change for my wife and I. I love the access to nature here - we now have a lovely yard and a puppy. I'm closer to my family - as my sister and niece and nephew live 7 minutes away. I soooo appreciate the ample free parking and people saying hi to you at the grocery store & coffee shop. The small town vibe here is great, and living in close proximity to some of the best wine in the world, yes please! When I told a friend I was moving to Sonoma she said, "Oh, you're moving closer to the source!" Ha! I'm a huge wine drinker!  
Co-Founders Natalie Josef, & Sarah Deragon

Co-Founders Natalie Josef, & Sarah Deragon

If you're thinking what I'm thinking its: The City to Sonoma!? Two completely different worlds, and two completely different clients. I wondered how the adjustment has been, and how Sarah has been able to manage both sides of the business:

"The people are very different, but in a wonderful way. Folks here are more down to earth, I rarely see anyone walking down the street tuned out with their iPod, and some of the men here wear camo, in a non-ironic way! Everyone knows one another, and the community of creatives up here is so awesome because there's so many women entrepreneurs! We all work really hard and support one another!"

Such truth! Since I have had the opportunity to visit Sonoma for A Savvy Lifestyle, I have fallen in love with the people, the shops, the wine, and did I mention the wine? The amount of creative talent located in little Sonoma is out of this world. I constantly find myself being inspired. 

Sarah founded Portraits to the People by happenstance after becoming burnt out at her day job. At 35, she knew that being her own boss, and working in a creative industry was calling her name. 

"I kind of fell into photography at 35 when I became burnt out at my day job, I never thought that I would do this full time! What keeps me going is my love of people. I specialize in working with people that hate having their photo taken because I think everyone deserves to have a photo of themselves that they truly love! Hell, that and owning my own business. I love working for myself, it isn't always easy, but wow is it worth it!"

As any entrepreneur knows, the business is always moving and growing. I was interested to find out how Sarah and Natalie plan to marry the two ends of the business (SF & Sonoma), and where they see the business going over the next few years:

"Right now I'm working on building up my business in Sonoma County and maintaining the business that I have in SF. In the next two years, I hope to have a few more photographers working for me in SF as I continue to build my business up here. In 5 years, I'd love to be managing a bunch of photographers and taking on paid commissions. I have also thought about doing business coaching because I am super passionate about seeing other lady photographers be successful! Who knows, I am an Aquarius and we change our minds all of the time, ha!"

I admire any person who has the gumption to pursue their passion and their dreams. I think we can all relate to those first few steps of business, so I asked Sarah what helped her keep going, even during those daunting first days of free labor and no pay.

"It took me a year and a half of working at my day job to get to a point where I was ready to make the big leap! I think my business grew organically because I started showing off my photography on social media and telling people how passionate about it I was. I tried to get my business card in as many people's hands as possible (in a non-pushy way), and I send handwritten thank you notes to each and every one of my clients. In the beginning, like a lot of us, I worked for free, hell once I even did a headshot session for a burrito, but once you're ready, you have to start charging money for what you do. As an artist, sometimes we don't value what we do enough, and the moment you ask someone to pay you, you're saying, "hey, what I do has value!" That's some powerful shit!"

As I wrote this post, I delved a bit deeper into Sarah's portfolio as well as Portraits to the People's portfolio, and I encourage you to do the same. There is some beautiful work there, and I guarantee it will make you reconsider your current headshot, and starting at $200 you can't go wrong!

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