How She Started a Photography Business at the Age of Sixteen with Mikayla Christiansen
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Favorite beverage, hobbies, passions, family, etc. Give us the quirky details!
Okay, I am a super quirky person, so this question isn’t too difficult for me. Hi, I am Mikayla. My favorite drink is matcha with soy milk. Trust me, just because it is green, doesn’t mean it tastes like broccoli. This stuff is the bomb. I am a collector of passions. I am passionate about people, honestly. I love meeting people, loving people, serving people, and just doing life with people. Is sitting in coffee shops a hobby? I’ll take that as a yes. When I am not in a coffee shop, I am jamming out to unknown indie artists and taking pretty pictures of people. Oh, I am a photographer. That’s kind of my thing. I am also a huge advocate for holistic health. I am always in a yoga studio or spreading my essential oil love on people. Some quirky things: I spent most of my life on a farm. I can only snap on one hand. I am a huge believer in singing in the shower. I have a list of dad jokes on my phone.
You started a photography business at a really young age. How exactly did this happen?
I actually started my business when I was 16. It was kind of daunting. For some reason, age plays into how qualified you are to take on challenges. I was quite young, and I wasn’t really taken seriously. Building my business was a process and took trial and error. Let me give you the backstory. I modeled as a child and always loved the idea of showing up in front of a camera and creating something unique. My passion for modeling started to fade, but I still was interested in being in the industry. I did what every sixteen year old does when they want something - I put it on my Christmas list. You betcha. I got my first DSLR camera that Christmas. From there, I searched on the internet how to actually use it. That’s the short story of how it all began.
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What advice could you give to other creatives trying to pursue their dream job?
My biggest advice is just going for it. Jump in. Don’t be afraid of the fall or unexpected shift in weather. That’s my metaphor for not letting the deep fear of failure be the reason you don’t do something you love. Yes, you are going to fail, and you are not going to get it perfect every time. For a long time, I did not receive any paying clients. I thought I had failed. Creativity is a process of learning what works and what doesn’t. Don’t be afraid to fail, because eventually you will get out of that and turn the corner towards achieving your goal. Whether you are a photographer, singer, painter, writer, etc., you are going to face a lot of creative roadblocks. Eventually, those roadblocks are removed or even jumped over.
You’re off to college this fall. What do you plan to study there, and do you still want to pursue photography?
It’s so crazy that THIS fall I am actually off to college. I am off to study psychology counseling to pursue a career in mental health counseling. I definitely still want to do photography! I know moving will create a shift in my business, but I am excited for that challenge. I am also excited for a change in scenery. There is nothing I love more than photoshoots in the mountains.
I love that every human being has different experiences, moments and memories that mold them into who they are. Life teaches us so many lessons along the way! What’s one of the biggest life lessons you’ve learned thus far?
I love the same thing! I love how people’s stories shape the way they are and how they live. I know I am young, but I definitely feel like I have lived. One of my biggest beliefs is cherishing people and making them feel like they are known. I struggle big time with feeling loved and acknowledged. I never want to meet someone and leave them without them feeling like they are loved or that they are not worthy of love. That is something my wonderful dad taught me over and over again when I was a kid. I remember being a small human and holding his big, worn hand. If you ever looked into my dad’s eyes, you would have seen pure kindness. Every time we would go into public, he always knew someone. He wouldn’t just pass by them, but he would stop and have a conversation with them. That kind of annoyed me because I didn’t expect a 10 minute grocery store trip to last an hour. I now realize how important that was. My dad wanted to know people on a deeper level. He asked the deeper questions and cultivated relationship. When I was 16, he passed away from cancer, and I think my heart is just starting to heal from it. Because of this rocky life experience, I aspire to live a life that doesn’t go through the motions. I want to know people and make them feel known.
You didn’t have any professional training in photography, but your work is absolutely beautiful! How did you teach yourself all of it? Any advice for other aspiring photographers?
Well, thank you, my dear. Yeah, I had no professional training and don’t plan on going to school for photography. I learned through the handy dandy internet. Honestly, I learned what ISO was via Pinterest. Pinterest isn’t only for building your dream life. I watched a few courses from some universities. For the business side of photography, I took a few courses from photographers that I looked up to (women like Jenna Kutcher). My biggest advice is to dive in. Scared? Go for it. Inexperienced? Create experience for yourself. Do a few test shoots. Offer some free or discounted sessions. You are in charge of your own success, take a hold of that!
Life has its ups and downs, and sometimes it’s hard to stay upbeat and excited about our work. How do you stay inspired in your photography?
Staying inspired has a lot to do with what I surround myself with. I do get in funks with my work sometimes. I didn’t even believe that I was any good until people started saying “Wow! You are so talented.” I let words and critiques and compliments define me a lot. The most important thing is trying not to do that. Stay true to you and don’t feel pressured to do what everyone else is doing. When I am in a funk, I have to change my space, change my mindset. I have to completely refresh. Sometimes refreshing means going shopping and being inspired by all of the pretty fabrics and colors. Or it is having a me-day and living without a schedule for a day.
Related: 10 Ways to Spread Positivity Today
Lastly, what imprint do you hope to leave on this world? Whether it’s through your art, words, or smile, what do you want to contribute to society?
My mission and vision is to leave someone feeling better than when I first met them. You know how your parents always said “leave it better that when you found it?” I think that applies to people to. People are people and they go through the same struggles that you do. That might not necessarily be spoken out loud, but behind every smile, there is a unique story that may include pain and heartbreak. I want to acknowledge that and leave people with the feeling that they are valued no matter what they have been through. I aspire to speak more love into a broken world.
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Mikayla Christiansen is a fashion and portrait photographer located in North Carolina. She serves in the Triangle area as well as her hometown, Sanford. She is is a small town barista and photographer. She is passionate about story telling and visual imagery. Her heart is where her passion lies -- people. She is passionate about loving people, coffee shop dates, and sharing Jesus.