Sydney Creative People: Photo Corner

Sydney Creative People: Photo Corner

Today's story is about an awesome little Sydney business, Photo Corner - an open-air photobooth and hashtag printer hire business.

I should probably preface this by letting you know that the owner, Renae, is actually a friend of mine who I've known for many years. We both used to work at a bar, back in the day. We bonded over red wine, music and the compulsive need to chat... and have been friends ever since. 

I knew then that she was an amazing person with an amazing work-ethic, and I also knew she had a brilliant eye for photography, which she was studying at the time. But what was not revealed to me in those days of mixing margaritas and martinis, was her incredible sense of style. It wasn't until I went to her wedding last year, and saw how she'd styled and added beautiful little details and touches to every single part of the event that I realised how creative she was.

When Renae told me a few years ago that she was going to set up a photo booth business, it was one of those moments when you look at someone and go 'YES, that's exactly what you should do!'.

She has taken all of her hospitality and people skills, as well as her eye for detail and creative ability to make props and backgrounds, not to mention her skills as a photographer... and wrapped them up into a bright and colourful, but very classy package.

Renae set up Photo Corner about two years ago, and in that short time has grown the business to the point that she now has four employees. And no wonder! There are photo booths, and there are photo booths, but having experienced Photo Corner at her own wedding, I can personally vouch for how good it is. It's obvious how much effort has been put into making the props and the backgrounds just right. It's the perfect mix of fun, craziness and class.

There's one downside to Renae's success, and that's that she's pretty much booked up every weekend, but I'll forgive her that, as it's been so amazing to watch her grow and succeed in her business. I can't wait to see where it will go over the next few years.

Here's her story...

 Photo Corner owner, Renae McDonald.

Photo Corner owner, Renae McDonald.

I started Photo Corner while I was working as a commercial photographer for an online retailer...

I worked with an amazing group of talented creatives who I still stay in contact with and am inspired by. I learned a lot about myself and honed my photography skills, but the day-to-day work was getting pretty monotonous. I felt like I'd gone as far as I could within that role, so I built up Photo Corner during the weekends until it started getting busy enough that I actually had no choice but to quit my day job.

Like most good ideas the idea of Photo Corner was born over a cold beer catching up with a good friend... 

We were scheming ways to make money doing the things we love. Obviously I love taking photos and also had a background in events, so I thought why not mix the two and take photos of people at parties in fun and beautiful sets? We trialled it at a friend's engagement party the very next weekend and everyone loved it! I had nothing to lose and everything to gain, so I thought, 'Okay, let’s just go for it and see what happens'. Two years later and we’re going strong!

There were a lot of fears and a lot of doubts at the start...

I undervalued myself and was always wondering if I was making the right decision. I think looking back it was mainly that I didn’t trust myself and while that is still a work in process, I’m definitely learning to trust in myself and my judgment a lot more.

My experience as a professional photographer has helped...

I believe this laid the foundations for Photo Corner’s success, however, I’m only just realising that all those years of working behind a bar and running events to pay for college and support my photography have been pretty fundamental in my success with Photo Corner also. The two (photography and events) really go hand-in-hand, and it’s my understanding and experience of both that have really contributed to our success.

On digital marketing...

I was pretty slow to jump on the social media wagon with my marketing, but these days it’s definitely something we invest time in. Geotags from Instagram are becoming our main source of new potential leads. The power of Instagram is real!

Our brand identity has developed as our business has grown... 

When I look back at some of our early branding I can’t help but feel a little embarrassed by it. As I’ve grown more confident in myself our brand has become much stronger and refined. We used to try to do a little bit of everything, now we just focus on doing things we like and can relate to. As a result we attract the most amazing clients and our brand is something I can be proud of.

 Photo Corner Sydney, Renae McDonald 2
  Photo Corner Sydney, Renae McDonald 3
  Photo Corner Sydney, Renae McDonald 4

My brand is a pretty good reflection of my personality and tastes...

I take influences from absolutely everywhere and everything, and keep a kind of mental log of everything I like and want to implement in some way to the business and our brand.

I’m at my most creative in the quiet of night when everyone’s gone to bed... 

I’ll play my favourite music, have a glass of red or a cup of tea, and zone into whatever project I’m currently working on. What stops my creativity in its tracks is when I’ve taken too much on and the stress blocks any creative thoughts. I’m always trying to find the balance between the two.

One of the best moments so far...

There was one time when we were working at an event and I heard a group of people approaching say, ‘hey it's Photo Corner, awesome!’. At that time I realised we had actually created a brand and that people recognised us and, most importantly, liked us! It was a minor moment but I was pretty chuffed about it. 

Trying to find the balance between personal life and work is an ongoing struggle for me...

When you run your own business there’s no switching off, learning to schedule some time for me is a work in a progress for sure.

The biggest thing I've learned...

To trust myself.

 Photo Corner, Sydney, Renae McDonald

To other business owners...

Go all in and don’t hold back. Once you’ve put everything on the line you have no choice but to hustle and make things work no matter what. It’s hard work and scary at times but it’s all worth it in the end.

I've really put my all into the business...

At times I wondered if giving up the cruisy 9-5 job was the right decision? Now I’ve found my feet, I genuinely wake up every morning excited about the future and more importantly happy to ‘go to work’, even if that may be beachside with my laptop! I can let my creative mind go wild and channel those ideas into some really fun and exciting projects. 

3 businesses that inspire me...

1. Thankyou

2. Reformation – makers of sustainable and ethical clothing

3. Tomfoolery – Awesome photo booth company in San Fran

It makes me happy being able to be part of the big moments in people’s lives...

We get invited to really intimate and really festive events. It’s such a privilege to be part of that and never something we take for granted.

The ingredients for a great party...

An excellent photo booth, ha ha! No, I think it’s a mix of wholesome food, good music, the right lighting and great friends. 

What will the next year look like for Photo Corner?

We have a few exciting things planned for the next year but we can’t spill the beans on those just yet. Hopefully we’ll keep on growing and having fun at amazing events with awesome humans!

www.photocorner.com.au