Grace Vo starts her week working at the Hennepin County Medical Center. She is currently working to grow her career in medicine, specifically aimed towards becoming a physician. Monday through Thursday, Grace is constantly taking on documentation and clerical responsibilities to ensure a given patient receives the best and most efficient visit possible.
Grace has always had a passion for science, participating in her high school’s Science Olympiad team. She even competed in the program’s national competition in Washington, D.C. After high school, she continued exploring the field, earning her undergraduate degree in Neuroscience at the University of St. Thomas. Grace is now in the process of applying to medical school, noting medicine’s continually-growing landscape as one of her favorite aspects of the field.
“I’ve always been a science person,” she said. “My parents always encouraged me to pursue the sciences. Medicine is a field where there is an endless supply of learning material. It is very fast-paced, and I learn something new every day.”
Grace also enjoys working with and helping people, a quality shared by her hobby-turned-second career.
“Photography is obviously very different from medicine, but they both allow me to work with people,” she said. “I love working with and connecting with people. Photography and medicine both do that for me. In a way, I’m growing two careers at the same time.”
As she pursues her goals of becoming a physician early in the week, Grace spends her time outside of the medical center behind a camera.
Grace picked up the practice from her father, who let her work with his camera from time to time. She took photography courses in high school, starting with her own film and developing her own negatives. What started out as a hobby quickly escalated into a potential career path once Grace went off to college.
“Photography is a creative outlet for me. I take photos to communicate the emotions or the events that day. I let the photo speak for itself. Photography makes it easy for me to express myself because I’m not as good at writing blogs or narratives.”
“I never really expected [photography] to become a business. My friend Gina and I started a fashion blog on campus at St. Thomas and rolled it out to social media. I think that was what really propelled the business side. It became a great success. We had a Facebook page to share the posts, and when we featured other students from around campus, they would often share it on their pages, too.”
Grace now focuses on weddings and engagements, taking on local projects that are typically less than 5 hours away. That will change next year, as she already has a booking for a summer wedding in New Hampshire. Long-distance travel is not out of the question, as her dream job would be to shoot a wedding in Italy. As she continues to grow her business, she spends hours developing her social media presence.
Playing a key role in Grace’s photography, social media platforms have helped Grace construct a digital portfolio. Using Instagram and Snapchat, she showcases her work and highlights the different stages of the production process.
Wedding venues, table arrangements, and happy couples fill up her Instagram page, showcasing her favorite type of project. Visitors scroll through her grid to find that Grace instills a timeless, airy and happy vibe in her work. While she finds the majority of her work through word-of-mouth, social media provides her the opportunity to have a portfolio that is readily accessible for friends and clients.
“Usually a person will find out about my work through a friend, and they will be pointed to my Instagram profile,” she said. “Many times, I’ll not only get a new follower out of it, but I’ll also see a new message or email inquiring about wedding or engagement photos.”
Grace is very measured in her approach to Instagram. By using the app’s insights to track when her followers are online, she is able to align her posts with times that will give her photos the most exposure. She tries to post at least three times per week, usually in the 9-10pm time slot, and her attention to detail has been rewarded with increases in likes, followers, and engagement.
Grace makes sure her education in photography never stops. A student of the field, she is constantly parsing her favorite photographers’ Instagram profiles, picking out elements that she likes or needs to work on. She then implements those practices into her upcoming shoots. She has also found Pinterest to be one of her most valuable tools in finding inspiration.
“I organize my Pinterest account into several boards that correspond to different details in photography like venue, floral décor, makeup, lines, lighting and pigments,” she said. “Pinterest is great for organizing those different categories. Then, when I go to an event, I’ll pick a group of photos from my boards and create a mood from those samples.”
In expanding her social network, Grace has also worked on growing her professional network through networking events and professional workshops, building relationships with photographers, florists and make-up artists.
“In these groups we get together and discuss different topics like social media and engaging clients. We also try to connect with each other in case we have a need for a second photographer in one of our jobs. Each month we have a theme or topic of discussion that we meet up to talk about. I’m in a couple different groups, and it’s a great networking opportunity.”
In her experience, Grace has found that there is no number to creating a successful photoshoot, stating that she has taken as few as 25 photos to complete a job, while also using as many as 600. What does make a job memorable is a project that is fulfilling across personal, professional and social levels.
“A photoshoot, for me, is memorable when everything comes together,” she said. “It’s when I get to work with great people, take great pictures, and convert the final product into good social media material.”
Her favorite part of the process, however, is revealing the final product,
“Being there with people and seeing their reactions to my photos is very rewarding. I love that moment, getting to see the excitement that my hard work helped create.”
You can see Grace’s work on Instagram, Pinterest, and by visiting her website.