learn. create. do.

CreativeLive Alumni Update: Rachel Kabukala on Being a Full-Time Mom and Business Owner

by Topher Kelly
featured, student stories


The weekly student profile series is dedicated to featuring our favorite element of creativeLIVE — our community members, who are bravely learning and making real things every day. We started the series off two weeks ago with a profile of creative visionary — and portrait photographer — Berit Alits. Last week, we dove into the tempting world of food photography with an introduction to Seattle’s talented Hilary McMullen. This week, we head to the Midwest to chat with studio photographer and dedicated mom, Rachel Kabukala.

Describe yourself in 140 characters or less:
An artist that draws inspiration from my life as a wife and mother. I am a people lover and story teller, and I use my camera as the method of translating people’s stories into beautiful images that capture their essence.

What is your day job?
I used to be a high school art and French teacher, but now I balance a full-time role as CEO of our household (a chaotic but wonderful role I took on after our kids came into the picture) and manage a full-time photography studio.

What is your dream job?
I am obsessed with being a wedding photographer, but as I look to the future I know I’d like to have more flexibility with our children and their schedules. Also, the way I shoot (constantly on the move, laying on the ground, hanging from fences, etc) will be tricky to continue as I get older. So, my dream job would be something in the editorial realm of the wedding/photography industry. I used to work as the managing editor of a magazine, and although glossy mags will soon be a thing of the past I still LOVE them and would be thrilled to work with them in some capacity.

What is your biggest business/professional challenge?
We recently relocated from Jackson, Mississippi to Kansas City, Missouri, where we know absolutely no one. Trying to establish my business in a brand new market has been a huge challenge, but one I know I can overcome. I just finished my last wedding in Mississippi this past month so I’m ready to really dig into marketing myself here. When I started my studio in Jackson I knew about photography and had a great network of friends, wedding vendors and other photographers in the industry to help me, but I didn’t know the first thing about business. Now I don’t have the network, but I know how to run a business, so I’m trying to use that to my advantage!

What do you do when you need to be inspired?
I love looking to fashion and interior design for inspiration. I feel like the colors, textures, shapes, etc of those two industries really shape and influence a lot of other areas like event/wedding styling. Whenever I need a little inspiration I grab a coffee and a copy of House Beautiful or domino and start flipping. I also watch episodes of Project Runway while I edit. It’s fun to watch other artists create work with specific parameters and time constraints. It makes my job seem a little easier.

If you could live in any other decade, what would it be?
I’d say something like the 1610’s in England because it seems like such a romantic time period. Unfortunately, I imagine it was a romantic time for a very small percentage of the population, and a pretty crummy experience for the rest. As an opinionated, somewhat insubordinate woman it’s probably good that I’m living in the current decade ;).

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
I’d choose the Democratic Republic of Congo. I was there nearly a decade ago when I was studying photography in college and made a series of film images that were some of my first photos. It’s also where I met my husband and where much of our family still lives.


Favorite cL instructor or workshop — and why?
That’s a tough choice, but Sal Cincotta is my favorite because of how profoundly and how quickly his advice impacted my business (in a very positive way). He is so willing to share his business model, and it works! I’ve purchased all of Sal’s courses and I just went to his workshop in St. Louis this fall. He and Taylor are amazing.

If you could teach anything on cL, what would it be?
This is so not photography related (and not obviously linked to anything creative), but my minor as an undergraduate student was American Racial and Multicultural Studies and I still help facilitate classes on issues of race, diversity, reconciliation and white privilege, so I’d love to do that on cL!

What topic would you like to see covered on cL?
I honestly can’t think of anything that I haven’t seen touched on before. As boring as it is, I always like to see more about the aspects of running a legit business (as far as legal things, taxes are concerned) because I think a lot of people get started way too late with all of that stuff. It’s not as fun as a live shoot with J*, but it’s so important!

What was your first-ever introduction to cL?
Jasmine Star’s Building Your Wedding Photography Business way back in 2011.


If you attend a cL class with any instructor in the world, who would it be?
Sue Bryce. Even though I don’t do glamour photography I own most of Sue’s classes because I find her to be so incredibly encouraging. She imparts great wisdom for both business and life, and (let’s be honest) her sweet soothing voice is so relaxing. I’d sit and listen to Sue any day!

How can our readers find out more about you? 

Topher Kelly

Topher Kelly is a San Francisco-based freelance writer and editor at CreativeLive. Follow Topher on Twitter@Topher_LIVE.