Member Showcase: Terri Parthum

Photo by Mike Fisher

Back when I first joined GRPP, I was approached by our wonderful Past-President, Heather McKay, and asked if I would answer a few questions for a “Focus on a GRPPster” blog post. I was so new to the group, I couldn’t believe she was asking me. After Heather’s presidency, these posts fell by the wayside. I’ve come to realize how important it is for us to know get to know each other, as well as share our members with the community.  So I’d like to resurrect this idea – and give thanks to Heather for originating it, and these questions below that are associated with it.

~  By 2014 GRPP President, Erin Perrotta

Our first Member Showcase this year is about Terri Parthum! She’s a great asset to our group, a member since 2007, and a Certified Professional Photographer with over 10 years of experience in business.

Terri’s website can be found at:

Here’s what she had to say:

How did you know you were successful?
I’m not sure that I’m successful yet.  I think success comes in stages with ongoing learning. When you reach the next stage, you’re successful.  Photography is a tough, very competitive business.  No one is going to get rich.

I feel most successful when someone tells me they love the image I captured of them.  That always makes me feel great.

How did you get into photography?
I’ve had a camera in my hand since I was 12 years old.  It was given to me as a gift when I went on a 6 week trip to Italy with my grandmother.  Since then I’ve looked at things differently, like snapshots in my head. I’d look at a scene and want to preserve it if I didn’t have a camera.

As far as getting into the photography business, while I was working at Kodak as a printer in the Pro Lab, I started assisting a wedding photographer.  I had been practicing at portraits with family and friends, but never really as a business. I took classes at the Community Darkroom to learn how to use an SLR.  In 2000, I began assisting a co-worker who was a wedding photographer and did that for 5 years.  When he left the business he encouraged me to start shooting weddings on my own.

Where do you want to be in 5 years?  Well hopefully, I’ll still be doing photography as well as have a better understanding on how to run a successful business.

Do you have any formal education?
While I was employed at Kodak, I had taken occasional classes in different subjects at community college.  Other than attending many photography seminars and classes I do not have a formal education in photography. I became a Certified Professional Photographer through PPA in 2010. Currently, I am a full-time student at RIT in the Saunders School of Business, in the New Media Marketing program.  Everyone asks if I’m going to college for photography but I think a business degree is much more flexible at this point.  If I were much younger, I would pursue a degree in photography to enter the commercial market.  I believe that having a business degree is much more important to being a sole proprietor and to be successful in Portrait/Social Photography (weddings, portraits, events, etc.).

What has been your greatest achievement?
I don’t think I have only one.  Finally getting the nerve to join GRPP in 2007 was one. Then becoming certified gave me a lot of confidence, which I usually lack. The process of getting certified was the best learning experience.

Another is when I look at photos I’ve taken of my family (some of who are no longer here), I feel accomplished. I think everyone in my family is camera shy. I don’t believe we would have those photos if I hadn’t pushed to take them.

How do you stay fresh and creative?  I don’t get to do it enough, but I love just hanging out with other photographers and have a day of shooting.  It always makes me come away with a new perspective.

What is the best piece of gear in your camera bag?  My new favorite lens is my 105mm f2.8 macro lens. It makes details pop, and with the right set-up you can get so close to an object.  The bokeh on that lens is dreamy!

What do you wish you knew when you began?  I wish I had a better handle on how to run a business. I wish I had a better understanding of lighting, and how important it is to making an appealing image.

Worst day on the job and what you learned?   I have learned to always get a written agreement.  I will always have a contract when someone hires me as a contractor because I have been burned in the past without one.

Best day on the job and what you learned?
There is no one particular day on the job that stands out.  When I know my client is happy, that makes me feel great.  The best feeling I’ve had since becoming a “professional” photographer is being accepted as a photographer by my peers.  It taught me to have more confidence in myself.

3 favorite non-photo hobbies?
Hmm…  I’m not sure I have 3, but I can say my favorite is definitely old (very old) movies from the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, produced during the studio era.  I’ve seen many of them more than twice. I’m not sure what it is about them that I’m drawn to. I have a long list of favorites.

I also love almost any music genre (not rap or improvisational jazz) and dancing.  I’m not a musician, although I have made attempts at a number of different instruments (violin, accordion, piano, guitar).

Also, give me a good polka and I’ll be out on the dance floor.

Best piece of software?  I totally depend on Adobe Lightroom for all of my post processing.  I don’t know how I ever processed a photo session with Photoshop because that’s not the purpose of Photoshop.  Adobe Bridge is okay, but LR seems more intuitive to me.  I worked in a printing darkroom for about 10 years (enlargers and roll printers).

What is the best business tip you have been given?  Learn how to run a business and get paid what you are worth.

Stay tuned for next month’s Member Spotlight!!

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