This year Heather Palecek Photography is celebrating 10 years in business! Wow! 2011-2021!

I am flooded with emotions thinking over all that’s happened in the last decade. It’s been an incredible ride full of memories and growth. Growth as a photographer, an entrepreneur, and a person.

In 2011 I considered myself a concert photographer, photographing local bands and then their promo portraits. Back then I was photographing Smackwater Jack, Boxed Wine, MOTM, Missal and the Mind Readers, among others. And then one day my best friend asked me if I’d be interested in photographing a B’Nai Mitzvah for his brother and cousin and got me in touch with his aunt. They knew it was my first event like this and fully trusted me. From posting these images online I was then invited to photograph a Bridal Shower. Afterwards, a first birthday portrait session. These 3 photo shoots were my humble beginnings on top of my already very humble career as a professional photographer.

Boxed Wine Promo Portraits, 2011

These three families put their trust in me, referred me to their friends, and gave me the confidence to put myself out there and start an LLC. I will never forget them and their generosity, faith, and support in me. Mostly because after all these years… would you believe they’re still clients and friends of mine?! There are families that I have been photographing for a decade. This is mind blowing to me.

Same family, years apart. 2011 – 2018 and 2019. Thank you for your support over the years!

I cannot thank each and every one of my clients enough for their support and loyalty over the years. It’s been an absolute honor to celebrate milestones with you all and continue to capture your memories over and over through the years. I would not be where I am today without you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

I’m looking forward to many more years providing portrait and event photography service to families in NJ!

Like I started with – there has been a lot of growth over these last 10 years.

10 things I’ve learned over the last 10 years in business:

1. I don’t need to photograph EVERYTHING.

Early on I realized that I should stick to photographing things I’m passionate about and say no to everything else: Families + Small Events that celebrate said families are my jam and the types of things I want to photograph! This is why I don’t photograph weddings or have a studio of my own where I photograph people in front of backgrounds. It’s not that I don’t appreciate these art forms and events, it’s just not something I’m enthusiastic about and therefore will always refer those potential clients to my friends who specialize in those areas.

2. Selling Printed Photographs is way better for my clients than selling digital files.

There was only one year that I ONLY sold digital files to clients: 2011. In 2012 I began selling printed photographs because I realized a few things: My clients don’t have access to professional printers, and CVS isn’t going to make them lasting family heirlooms, it was a hassle for my clients and most often if they received digital files they weren’t going to print them on their own. And most importantly: A digital photograph isn’t a final product. What kind of a service am I providing if I’m selling something they can’t physically cherish and hang on a wall? In art school my negatives weren’t my artwork, the print was – and this thought translated well into what I was doing in my business. 9 years later and my clients and I are not regretting that when our time together is done they receive prints to hang on a wall and albums to flip through. 

3. Documenting my own family became more obviously important to me.

After years of creating family heirlooms for my clients families I knew it was important to do so for myself. In 2016 I purchased a family session from a photographer in Florida where my mom lives and I am SO THANKFUL that I have these photos of my family. You’ll never regret family portraits.

My family. PC: Emily Plank Photography

4. I need to take time for myself.

It’s easy as an entrepreneur to consume yourself in your business. I spent many years prioritizing the growth of my business over literally everything else in my life and looking back I regret it. Was it essential to the growth? Sure. But if I was savvier I could have found ways to be more efficient and still tend to my relationships and the other responsibilities in my life. Hard lesson learned, but I learned that it’s so important to take time for yourself and that it’s okay to have a life outside of entrepreneurship. Taking time for yourself means being able to come to work refreshed, inspired, and energized. It means that you’re making memories and living your fullest life while at the same time owning a business! This is key. And that’s why I schedule one weekend for myself every month with no photo shoots.

5. Community over Competition!

I’ve never been a competitive person (I’m not much of an athlete! I was picking clovers out in right field as a kid, haha) so being competitive with the other family photographers in my town didn’t come naturally and I am so thankful for that! I was able to befriend my direct competition (Racquel of Racquel Marie Photography) and the two of us have lifted each other up and taught each other so much over the years we’ve been friends. We’re both a part of The Rising Tide Society too, and that’s what they’re all about – helping each other grow rather than tearing each other apart. I’m now the proud leader of the Princeton chapter of the RTS. It may sound counter-intuitive, but trust me… befriending those in your industry is the better option.

6. Don’t follow the trends.

I’ve learned that I’d much rather create consistent, timeless, portraits for my clients than chase new trends that will be old and outdated in a few months. 

7. I’m creating photos for my clients, not for my portfolio.

As a mentor to new photographers, this is something I see often and warn against. Photographers try to create the coolest photo they can to impress other photographers in facebook groups and gain likes on instagram. I’ll admit this is something that was important to me early on too. But when I remember my why, the purpose for me being YOUR photographer, it becomes clear that this is an unsophisticated mentality. I’m here to make a connection with a family, offer them exceptional service, and then create family heirlooms for them. I am creating photographs for my clients alone, based on their wants and needs. Instagram likes and acceptance by peers are not my priority. 

8. I learned Bookkeeping and Taxes.

Well, this one isn’t as fun, but it’s a big one! In 2012 when I created my LLC I knew I had to learn how to keep track of my expenses. I went straight to the master – my grandfather – to find out how. He owned Woolworths and Ben Franklin stores his whole life and I recalled the office walls filled with his book keeping binders. He was thrilled to show me how to make a spreadsheet, teach me what columns to have in it for my taxes, and taught me all he knew. I still use those spreadsheets today!

9. Connection is key!

This one may be obvious, but creating a connection with clients is a key to success. I’m talking about being honest, real, and friendly. Genuinely caring about people. I’ve been so fortunate to connect with so many of my clients over the years so much so that they’ve actually become my friends. I think connection is key to most things in life. And it’s true for business too. 

10. Personal Growth: 

Over the last 10 years I’ve had a lot of personal growth too. Learning to live off the grid, To trust my intuition, Finally seeing that I have value and worth, I’ve learned my own strength, How to travel solo, Home improvement skills, How to cook, Rock climbing, How to meditate, and much, much more.

2011 Bridal Shower, 2020 family portrait with her two kids.