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Meet Whitney Ott of Whitney Ott Photography in Grant Park

Today we’d like to introduce you to Whitney Ott.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Ever since I discovered my dad’s old Pentax film camera at the age of thirteen, I’ve been enamored with photography. Everything from the soft gear clicks of the film lever to the satisfying click of the shutter had me smitten. At that age, I spent a lot of time in the woods taking pictures of pretty much anything I could find (I have tons of boxes of film to prove it). When I got into high school, I was able to take photography as an art elective. Our teacher started us out with the very basics of the craft, we had to build our own pinhole cameras.

With pinhole photography, you have to be very meticulous from beginning to end. You have to be very thoughtful about what your subject matter is going to be because you only have the one piece of developing paper in the camera. From there we moved to shooting with 35mm film and processed and developed our film. Having the opportunity to delve deeper into the process of something I loved gave me the opportunity to appreciate it even more.

I got into shooting still life because it was the easiest thing for me to do on my own. I could let my imagination run wild and experiment. It sounds ridiculous to say, but when I “realized” that people actually got paid to make still life images for magazines, I knew I wanted to do that as well because I couldn’t think of any better way to make a living than doing something you love.

After I graduated from college, I decided to enroll at The Creative Circus, a portfolio building school in Atlanta, to learn about the technical and business side of photography. I had the honor of being taught by some of Atlanta’s finest photographers (Louis Cahill, John Grover, Greg DuPree, and Tim Moxley, to name a few). These teachers taught us everything from basic lighting to the importance of re-shooting something until you get it right. I can’t thank these teachers enough for the time they gave to us. By the time I graduated, I had a portfolio ready for hunting down jobs.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I can prepare you for the life of a freelancer. It has taken a lot of hard work, frustration, triumphs, and learning for me to get to where I am today. The harshest realization I had about being a freelancer is that I’m on my own. Jobs are not going to fall into your lap just because you or your portfolio exists. You have to have the drive to make it happen. I made it a point to never stop shooting new work after I graduated from art school.

It was my fear that I would become stagnant if I didn’t keep my portfolio fresh, I did copious amounts of research of publications, brands, businesses, etc. that I wanted to create work for, and I would send them promos every 3 months. Not hearing back from anyone was always tough, but I never let it deter me. Having the confidence in myself and my work is always a struggle, but I wouldn’t say that’s necessarily a bad thing. I don’t want to let negative feelings hold me back, so as cliched as it is to say, I spin that negative energy into positive energy.

Other struggles have been figuring out the nitty gritty details of what it means to be a freelance business owner. There’s just so much to learn about creating estimates, legal documents, protecting yourself/business, getting paid, etc. Nothing can prepare you for that kind of stuff. A lot of people will try to take advantage of a situation, so it’s sometimes a struggle to stand up for yourself and say no.

Every time I feel like I’ve finally figured something out, I learn something new. It’s taken a long time for me to be able to look at difficult situations I’ve been in and see the positive side. I know that sounds crazy, but I have to consciously make the effort to step aside and assess what happened and see what to avoid in the future or what to do differently.

Whitney Ott Photography – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I’m a freelance photographer who specializes in food, still life, and florals. I think that I have a unique style and creative point of view, which sets me apart from others.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
One notable moment is when I was hired for my first shoot with Cooking Light magazine. Shooting for a nationally renowned food magazine felt like an unattainable dream, but it happened!

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