Member of the week: Lily Kesselman, photographer

Oct 17, 2007

Meet Lily Kesselman, a New York-based event photographer. While she specializes in weddings and portraits, Lily also does still lifes and interiors for commercial clients. She's put together a great website full of beautiful images. You can learn more about Lily and her work in her Freelancers Yellow Pages profile and in the interview below. In addition to a memorable story about photographing a wedding for a couple who eloped to New York, Lily has some good tips for setting up a professional business as a freelancer.

L Kesselman

** ** What has been your most exciting project? I've had a few. I photographed the holiday displays for Lucky Brand Jeans' flagship store that opened on Broadway last winter. The windows featured displays showing gnome workshops below the main displays that you could see from the street. The little workshops had all sorts of fun details with patterns and thread and living quarters for the gnomes. They even had a post-party living room complete with knocked-over miniature beer cans and pizza boxes. I also photographed the interiors including a fun men's section complete with a pool table and espresso bar. My main business is photographing weddings and I photographed a couple who eloped to New York since their families lived in Chicago and London and the couple felt that a wedding in either location would be asking for a lot of travel for their guests. The ceremony was so small I was asked to sign the marriage certificate as a witness since the only other witness was the officiant's wife. We took photos around New York and the couple threw their bouquet to a bunch of girls visiting New York in Times Square. I have actually photographed quite a few couples who come to New York to get married and hire me as they like the way many of my images have an environmental element. It is not uncommon for me to actually meet the couple the day of their wedding since they fly in usually the day before. Why did you decide to go freelance? I started looking for jobs as a studio manager but couldn't find anything available. I started assisting commercial photographers and wedding photographers and also trying to book jobs on my own. I quickly found out that I was pretty good at shooting as well as getting clients and it was much more profitable than just working as a studio assistant. Many of the commercial photographers I worked for referred me for jobs since they didn't shoot weddings so it all happened pretty naturally. What tip would you give to a new freelancer or someone who is considering going freelance? A very successful commercial photographer told me to set myself up properly in the beginning and buy what you need to make yourself more professional. I joined a photographer's association and went to networking events, bought insurance for my equipment and liability insurance (many locations require this so you might as well have it right off), purchased and learned QuickBooks and hired an accountant to help me set up my bookkeeping. I would suggest all freelancers set up an accounting system that works for them and stay on top of their books. The more you act as if you have a larger business the larger your business can be. Don't scrimp on image. What is your favorite spot in the city in which you live? I love the meat-packing district and have a studio there where I meet clients. It is not busy during the week - there are great locations for me to take portraits and there are fun restaurants. It is becoming a shopping mecca but there is still a neighborhood feel. What is your inspiration? Other photographers always inspire me. I constantly look at other websites to see what people are doing in the world of weddings and portraiture. Luckily most photographers have websites and it is easy to find new and inspiring work. I love to see other people's perspectives and what they find interesting and important. I like to see how photographers make a subject their own.