Making a Career Out of My Passion
Hey, there! My name is Dana J. Quigley and I am a professional photographer in Salem, Mass. I tell people that I am a corporate public relations photographer. In reality, I take pictures for companies to use across digital and print media to support their branding, advertising, and more. Quick examples include CEO portraits for websites, college alumni volunteering at an animal shelter, keynote speakers at national conferences, product launches, and fundraising galas.
I was a creative writing major at Hamilton and double-minored in digital arts and Asian studies. I always had a full plate of things to do in college. I was a resident advisor, Writing Center tutor, president of a few clubs, and I freelanced for a publishing company 10-20 hours a week. I was my own small business and I did not even realize it! By my senior year, I knew that I wanted to pursue photography as a full-time business, especially because one of my first paid jobs was photographing director Spike Lee at Hamilton during my last semester.
I was fortunate enough to receive a full-tuition Posse Foundation scholarship to attend Hamilton College. The scholarship didn’t just provide tuition money—I received weekly training throughout my time on campus with a focus on leadership potential. I could take up this whole blog post with how my Posse Scholarship transformed my life, but that’s a story for a different time. After graduating, I was able to connect with a well-established product photographer in Boston; I knew his nephew from my training as a Posse Scholar. That’s the exact starting point of my business, Dana J. Quigley Photography.
My early career was spent freelancing for photographers throughout Massachusetts. I was able to network and learn from well-established professionals and get paid while doing it. I helped on shoots during this time for clients like Bose, Timberland, New Balance, and other New England mainstays. I wasn’t taking the photos at this time—I helped by moving lights, building sets, retouching photos, taking coffee orders, etc. When I did my own photography, I was first paid for small jobs with goods, like boxes of beer or restaurant certificates. A typical week consisted of assisting during the day and shooting my own stuff on nights and weekends. I volunteered my photography for a number of nonprofits and eventually found my way to shooting regularly for Microsoft New England after donating my time for an event in their Cambridge space. Getting a corporate client with global recognition really changed the trajectory of my career. It was never the goal, but I got there nonetheless. Over the last ten years, I have transitioned from mainly assisting to shooting just my own photography.
I like my line of work because it is always different and usually centered on something positive. I huddled under a raincoat editing photos of Rob Gronkowski eating Yoplait yogurt on a duck boat in Boston, spent a weekend with The Weather Channel in Acadia National Park in Maine, and helped capture images for Dunkin. I’ve seen my work printed in train stations, buses, on billboards, magazines, and posters, and published on websites, social media platforms, and apps.
A not-so-secret to my success is my wife, Kati Quigley. We started dating in high school and were able to make it through college while 200 miles apart. She has been my biggest supporter and is the person I want to make the proudest each and every day. We studied abroad together our junior year in London and I borrowed her DSLR camera from a photography class every chance I got. My business is every bit as successful today because of her help.
Thanks for reading! Feel free to check out some of my work at www.danajquigleyphoto.com or on my Instagram, @djqphoto. You can also reach out to me if you have any questions; if I don’t know an answer, I’ll try to point you in the right direction.
Lightning round of advice:
- Your success might look different than someone else's. Try to set small and big goals to chart your own path.
- If you can’t buy two, you can’t buy one. This is an easy way to budget for big things (new cameras, computers, etc.).
- If you do something for “free” as a favor or experience, write an invoice and include a discount to bring it to $0.00. This will help illustrate the value of your services. Nothing is really free!
- A photography business is 5% photography and 95% business. Pay taxes, get liability insurance, open a retirement account, and never spend more than what you make.