Photo Managers are finding innovative ways to get the word out about our industry and help people manage their photos. Let’s learn from two Australian Photo Managers about their advice for new and growing Photot Managers.

Chantel Imbach and Fiona Staff are Photo Managers based in Australia who both have growing photo management businesses of their own. These two entrepreneurs joined forces out of a desire to help as many people as possible through the DIY Photo Organising Podcast.

What advice would you give to anyone starting a business as a Photo Manager?

Fiona: For anyone starting out or thinking about it, there’s a very natural progression that I’ve seen, in my experience. First of all, it’s the awareness that Photo Managers exist. Then, the next stage is when you realize how much there is to learn. That can bring a sense of overwhelm because you start to see just how much is involved in this niche area and industry as a business. I think that if you start out knowing that overwhelm is coming, it can be helpful to then be aware that there’s a lot of support available. The Photo Managers organization is a brilliant opportunity to beat that feeling of overwhelm. It’s about pushing through and really bringing your own personality and flair to a business. 

So if you’re starting out and looking at this as an industry and a possible career change, or starting your own business, be aware of that natural progression and don’t be overwhelmed with the depth of information that is available. At the end of the day, people need help. There’s no right or wrong person for this industry, which is so beautiful. We come from all different backgrounds and all different experiences so what we bring to clients is really us. So when you get to that level of overwhelm, learn, breathe, and then find your own feet. There’s not one particular type of business that you need to model yourself after. It’s the skills that you need. And then you bring yourself to the role.

Chantal: To someone starting out I would say, be brave and really niche down. We are already in a very specific niche, but within that, It’s amazing how many other niches are possible. There are many that specialize in scanning or digital, some do only Macs, others only PC, and some restore photos. 

Start with what you are most comfortable with. Over time you will grow and learning new aspects of photo management will feel less overwhelming. One mistake I made was that I tried to be a “Jack of All Trades” at the start because I’m interested in everything. But it’s easier to have that niche and to focus on that. 


What do you love most about your job (and what do you not love about it)?


Fiona: What I love about the job is unlocking memories for people. I come from a very corporate background, and my experience when I came into this industry had very much been process driven. What I’ve found as I’ve journeyed through is the privilege really, that we have with the families we work with. It is a privilege because we’re in their life and their memories. It brings around such a personal opportunity to really release and unlock these parts of their life which have been trapped in a drawer or a desk or a phone or a computer or boxes of slides and negatives. It is such an emotional process for them because, by the time they get to the point of asking for help, it’s been a burden. It’s been a weight on their shoulders or a family member’s shoulders.

As a result of seeing how much emotion is underlying in these projects for the client, I’ve been moved to study for a Bachelor of counseling degree. This has come through a need for me to really understand the process that people go through when they’re organizing their photos. So I’m going to be adding counseling as part of my services, which is also delving into unlocking maybe where a client is stuck, and that can be a very difficult process,

To answer the other part of your question, as far as what I don’t love, it’s the actual process of getting a job done. We would love to just click our fingers, and it’s done. But it just doesn’t work like that. It’s very systematic, and it needs to be set up so as not to get ourselves in a twist when the client gives us new photos to add to a collection or they forgot to give us a hard drive or something. There are no shortcuts, so I don’t love that. But, I’m a very process-driven person. So you just get in and follow the steps, it’s part and parcel of what we do.

Chantal: I always love when we deliver and show the client what has been achieved, and how they can move forward. Just seeing the joy they get from that. As Fiona said, it’s not just about photos, it’s their memories. For me, photos are a means to help connect, stay connected, or to even make new connections with people. That’s my big thing. I see the connection. And it’s not about living in the past, it connects us to where we came from. 

From a more technical perspective, I just love learning. I’m learning something new pretty much every day. Especially in digital photo organizing, things change so fast that it’s hard to keep up. But I do love that, I have always had a love for learning. 

What I don’t like so much is also something that Fiona touched on. I hate it when you know you go through the assessments, you gather all the photos with the clients, you explain everything, and you’re almost done, and then the client calls you because they found another hard drive or something. Over the years, I’ve learned to communicate and to actually explain to them that this gathering process is really, really, really important. And that it’s gonna cost them more if they find more stuff later on. And that does the trick most of the time, but it still happens, and it’s just human, we can’t change it. It will keep happening from time to time, but I find that frustrating.


What skills from your past experiences did you bring with you into photo management?


Chantal: I’ve got a business admin background and worked in corporate for 20 years, mainly as a personal assistant and financial controller, which is hugely helpful when you run your own business, regardless of what the business is. I have outsourced a few of the admin things, but knowing about marketing and having that background was enormously helpful. I was also always an organized person, so organizing in general came naturally to me. 

Fiona: I also had been in a corporate background so my life before children was in a corporate setting. I was an ex-pat manager with Goldman Sachs in New York and London and traveled a lot in Japan. I think just being resourceful is a skill and I picked up many other skills along the way. I had always been an organized person, I also love the creative side. So photography, Photoshop, and being able to produce and have a creative outlet was definitely a skill that I brought with me. Also being process-driven and then the ability to be empathetic and relate to people because at the end of the day, you know, even though we’re tangibly doing a process, the connections we have with people are very important. 

Watch the full interview with Chantal and Fiona to learn more about their businesses and their DIY Photo Organising podcast.