Katy Lengacher transformed a love of photography into a career. The 27-year-old mom launched her photography business in Bloomington, Ind., four years ago and hasn't looked back. She speaks with Name.Kitchen about what it's like to build a one-woman business on a 'dot-photos' (.photos) domain, and how an ancient tale that ends in death sparked her business name.
How did you turn your love of photography into a full-time career?
I had my daughter right out of college, and I was making new friends that had babies around my daughter's age. So I started offering to take pictures of their kids. I started out [photographing] a lot of kids and babies. It grew from there, mostly word of mouth.
You’ve since shifted your focus from babies to weddings -- the most important day of most people’s lives. That's a lot of pressure to capture on film.
Yeah, the first several that I did were pretty nerve-wracking because it's such an important day. But now that I’m so comfortable doing it and know what people want out of it, they're fun. I'm providing something that people are going to look at and appreciate for the rest of their lives.
What do you look for when you’re behind the camera?
The most important thing especially with wedding photography in particular is that you have to tell this particular couple's love story, and everyone is different and everyone has different ways of interacting with each other. Once you figure that out, it gets so much easier, because they might not you know just smile at each other all the time lovingly, but there are other little things you can find most of the time.
Have there been any bridezillas in the bunch?
I don't know if I’m just extremely lucky or if there's something about me that really attracts laid-back people, but I feel like I've been extremely lucky and I haven't had any total bridezillas, and I've done, like, 50 weddings over the last four years.
Let’s talk about your business name, Icarus Photo. It reminds me of a Greek myth I learned in middle school ...
Yes! I've always been really into fairytales and mythology. So when I was looking for a business name I knew that I wanted something from Greek mythology because I loved everything about it so much. I just started looking at different myths that I liked the most.
Remind me the story of Icarus.
It's about a father and son, and the son's name is Icarus. They are trying to escape from Crete because they have been imprisoned by King Minos. The father is this master craftsman, and he comes up with this plan where he builds these wings out of feathers and wax for [them] to fly out of Crete over the ocean to escape.
Before they take off on their escape, the father warns his son not to fly too close to the sun because the sun will melt the wax and he will fall into the sea, and don't fly too close to the sea because the sea will dampen your feathers. Icarus ends up over-exhilarated with the whole experience and flies too close to the sun and his wax melts and he falls into the sea.
The story doesn't end very positively. Which begs the question: What's the story's connection to photography and your business?
Well, the reason I landed on Icarus was because it's a story about ambition. You might say it's about failed ambition, or over ambition, but it's a reminder to me that you need to try, and if you fail, it's okay because at least you tried.
The biggest challenge for me is that most of the time I feel like I should be working all of the time, and that is just not possible – and probably not very healthy to feel that way all of the time. But this kind of goes back to the essence of my business name: Don't fly too high, and don't fly too low. I am always struggling for some sort of balance between having a life and having a business, and being a mom.
So it’s got a lot of personal meaning. How does it translate with your clients?
Most of the time I have to explain the story. That’s good and bad because people who don't recognize that name or the story can't relate to it – but it has been a really good conversation starter in a lot of cases.
How did you take your business name online?
When I first went into business and I picked my business name, what I wanted was ‘icarusphotography.com,’ but that was not available. I landed on ‘icarusphoto.net’ because it seemed to be the other domain besides ‘dot-com’ [.com] that was the most prevalent at the time, that actually applied to me, since I wasn't a non-profit or anything.
But you decided not to stick with that domain name. Why?
I've never really liked ‘dot-net’ [.net]. It just reminds me of something that I didn't get. So when it came time this year to launch my new website, I wanted to find a new domain that I liked. I started the hunt for a new domain name that would be shorter and easier to remember.
How’d learn about ‘dot-photos’ [.photos]?
A few months ago I saw an article on one of the photo blogs that I follow about the new photo domains that were becoming available. ‘Icarus.photography’ wasn’t available [when I checked], but ‘Icarus.Photos’ was there – and I grabbed it. And, yes, I love it!
Having a unique domain that describes what I'm thinking about, doing and breathing all day was a no-brainer. It's the perfect new branding identity tool.
Photography is often a word-of-mouth business. Why was it important to have a website, versus relying on Facebook and Instagram?
To attract more clients. My biggest hurdle in making the transitions from doing lots of kids and families, moving over to the wedding industry is that most of my friends are already married and all of their friends were already married.
I wasn't getting very many inquiries from [engaged couples], and that's who I need to target to grow the wedding part of my business. The Internet is how Millennials find things. I'm 27, and that's the first place I will look for a service or anything, actually.
What sort of leads have you received since the new website went live last month?
I have my friend who redid my whole website, and she's been working on the SEO [search engine optimization] and kind of making everything connect online so I can show up better in searches. I have been getting a lot more inquiries over this last month. So, something in there is working.
To learn more about this business, visit the website icarus.photos.