Maile Mason, founder and owner of Maile Mason Photography, was recruited at the age of 12 to begin a career in modeling. When she arrived on set for her first professional shoot, it didn’t take long for her interests to switch to the other side of the camera.
“Once I started working with photographers, I was fascinated with the creative aspects of their work. The use of light and equipment was fascinating. It was then that I decided I was more interested in photography than modeling,” Mason tells Mom.me.
Mason honed her craft and was admitted to the Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, Calif., where she interned with professional celebrity and wedding photographers. She loved the work and knew that she wanted to start her own photography company as soon as she finished school.
Mason did just that 15 years ago, at first working on her business part time while she also was the photographer for MaxStudio. She then went into the wedding industry for a few years.
“I loved working in the wedding industry because every detail is planned out and beautiful, and everyone looks their best and happiest. But once my husband and I decided to have a child, I wanted to start working on my company full time,” says Mason.
Today, Maile Mason Photography is a thriving business. Mason tells Mom.me how she balances her own family with photographing other families.
As a mother as well as the owner of Maile Mason Photography, how do you make it all work?
It’s truly a juggling act. Every day, I have to prioritize my time and stay very organized. I create a to-do list for work each week to help me stay focused. I make sure to spend quality time with my daughter and husband every day. I have to remind myself that work will always be there, but this moment in my child’s life and development won’t.
What's your advice for moms who are looking to start their own business?
Make sure you have a good support system, including a coach and/or marketing director. Also, depending on what kind of business you’re starting, there is a creative side and a business side—you have to wear so many hats! It is important that you are able to spot your weaknesses and delegate tasks so you can work more efficiently.
What are your favorite types of shoots?
I love photographing different genres for different reasons. For instance, children are fun because they are carefree and pretty darn funny in front of the camera. Babies are fun because you get to capture all the milestones. Maternity shoots allow me to create photos that capture my clients’ relationships before the arrival of their newest family member.
When did you first feel successful?
I started feeling successful when clients would call me after shoots and then again after they got photos. It is always great to hear how happy they are with the experience and the photos. It makes me feel so good about myself and my work.
Has there been anything about creating Maile Mason Photography that surprised you or inspired you in a way you didn't expect?
I absolutely love what I do. There is such a great connection between myself and my clients. Taking family photos is so personal, and as such, I have built long-lasting friendships with many of my clients.
Can you tell us about one of the connections you've made with your clients?
I met with a new client about a little over a year ago who was getting ready to have a baby. She was due in four weeks but really wanted to have maternity photos done, so I met with her the next day and we got her some beautiful shots. We hit it off right from the start and when she heard that I also photographed births, she asked me if I would be there and capture some photos. She said she would normally never consider having a photographer in the room but felt so comfortable with me that she wanted me there to capture this amazing time in her life. Since then, I have captured many of her daughter’s milestones. We keep in touch regularly and last week we had a playdate with our kids!
What sacrifices have you made as a mom and business owner to keep everything in balance?
I don’t want to miss out on time with my daughter during the weekday, so I work a lot of late nights editing and color correcting after she is asleep. As with all busy moms, I sacrifice personal time and much-needed sleep!
As a successful female entrepreneur, what are some ways that you want to teach your kids about "girl power"?
My industry is very male-dominated, and I have to fight to get photo jobs that are typically offered to males. My mom taught me from a young age to be prepared, educated and confident. She also taught me to be a kind soul and to stand up and fight for what is right. I'm teaching my daughter to do the same.
How have you experienced gender bias in the photography industry? Are there any jobs you feel like you’ve missed out on in the past because of this?
It’s no secret that men have classically dominated most artistic fields for decades. I think I first noticed it when I was interviewing to be an assistant. Physically speaking, many photographers hire male assistants because it's (wrongly) assumed that woman can't carry heavy photography equipment. I had gone on two separate interviews with two male celebrity photographers. I was more than qualified and had a great résumé and fabulous references but unfortunately, the position was given to less qualified males.
Are there any new initiatives or products on the horizon for Maile Mason Photography?
To kick off the summer, I am offering 20 percent off maternity and family photo sessions from June 20 to July 20. I also offer mini shoots a few times a year, usually around the holidays, and I offer vouchers for free prints with print orders.