Student Success: Student Profile Monica Starks

By Sharon Gumerove on August 29 2010

Monica Starks

Student Name: Monica Starks
City: Southfield, MI

Editor's Note: We first heard about NYIP Graduate Monica Stark's success in photography when she posted on our Facebook page that she'd "made 50K with just one client." Intrigued we set out to learn more about how this came about and more about Monica's photography career.

Tell us about your very successful project.

One of my clients found out I was a photographer and asked me to start taking photos of their rehab projects as they progressed. That lead to photographing the finished product (completed renovation), putting together a virtual tour, and finally making a movie with the stills that included family portraits of the new owners of the home. The photo project has been exceptionally successful for my client, who received praise from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This lead to even more photo projects for me!

Monica Stark Hockey photo

I must say that this isn't quite the type of photography I had hoped to be successful at. I like to shoot landscapes, nature and portraits. I've also shot a hotel's photos for their website, photos of the President,and hockey games. I had hoped to sell my prints.But I have been more successful than my wildest dreams…all because of one client!

Since you normally like shooting landscapes/nature, what particular challenges did you find transitioning to something so different as shooting architectural/real estate photos for your client?

There are lots of challenges. Lighting, how to make the properties appear appealing, what should I showcase, etc.For the real estate projects sometimes the renovation isn't complete but the photos are needed. I still have to shoot and make the property look beautiful.

What other jobs/successes have you had in photography?

Recently a couple of my photos taken at an event were published on the cover of the business section of the Michigan Chronicle and in the online edition.

Detroit Photos
Monica Stark Detroit Photo

How did you first become interested in photography?

I joined the photography club my freshman year of high school. I learned how to develop 35mm film and have a Pentax 35mm camera.

What do you enjoy most about being a photographer?

The best part is meeting people. I've used my press pass to shoot AA hockey and other events. I've met other photographers, including NYIP alumnus.

What's your favorite photograph that you've taken and why?

The President of the United States. It is very cool to have taken such a photograph.My cousin had tickets to see him in Detroit on Labor day. I was close but the crowds were pressing. I had to stand on my tip toes, hold my camera above my head to shoot!

President Obama photo by Monica Stark
President Obama

What other types of photography do you like to do?

I've tried my hand a light painting. I really like to experiment. My favorite remains nature and landscape.

Why NYIP for your training?

When I was growing up NYIP advertised on TV in Chicago. At that time they had a Chicago location and I always wanted to attend. I finally got my chance!I actually took the Professional course more as a hobby/semi-professional as I already own an environmental consulting and training company. I had hope to take on photography full time when I retired.

How has your NYIP training helped you?

I'm a much better photographer today since taking the class. It helped me to formulate the types of photos I wanted to take. To this day I still pull out my books for advice. Recently I joined the photography ministry at my church. Before going out to shoot an event I pulled out my books. I have to shoot these events without flash and it was really challenging. I have to shoot them in manual mode. It always helps to have the books to rely upon. The investment in the course has been paid back more than 50 times! I can now call myself a successful professional photographer! I still stay in contact with my former instructor, Karen Schuld. She has been very supportive and excited about my success.

Networking seems to have been very helpful in your photography career. Do you have any advice to photographers just starting out about how to cultivate clients?

catepillar by Monica Stark
Flowers by Monica Stark

Tell everyone you are a photographer. Have a way to showcase your work. In addition to my website I have business cards that have different photos on the back with my information on the front. Ask friends if you can photograph them. I did a lot of portraits for free but it allowed me to hone my skill set.

What’s next for you and your photography?

I just bought a medium format camera and looking forward to taking my photography to another level! I'm working on publishing a coffee table book. The title is "Faith in Detroit." Detroit is in the news because of its financial problems. It has all type of religions and churches in the metropolitan area. I want to take photos of the churches. We even have churches here that were part of the underground railroad that helped slave to escape. The book is my goal for 2013.

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