Brightly-Inspired Portrait and Headshot Photography by Nashville’s Harazim Photography
Christine Harazim has always had a passion for the arts. After graduating from Berklee College of Music with a degree in Professional Music, she moved to Nashville, Tennessee to pursue her dream of becoming a singer/songwriter. She released two albums before launching Nashville Offbeat, a popular Instagram account where she began posting photos and endorsing local musicians. Nashville Offbeat quickly became a brand focused on networking and live events, which spurred her love of entrepreneurship, hard work and, above all, photography.
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson How does the quote represent your business?
I keep this quote on the homepage of my website because I believe that your essence is wrapped up in not only your physical aesthetic, but also in your personality and how you carry yourself. Despite living in an age of body positivity and empowerment, we’re still being bombarded with messages about how we should wear our hair, clothes, makeup, and weight. Posing in front of my camera, you’ll be encouraged to bring your personality and confidence instead of preconceived notions of mainstream beauty. I never go into a shoot with someone trying to capture anything but who they are. The reason that so many people love the images I take of them is because when they see the final product, they see themselves. I set out to run a business that encouraged self-love and confidence because I myself have spent too much of my life struggling with my own “flaws.” No one should ever step in front of my camera feeling like they’re less than- I see you, and you’re already perfect.
With your degree in professional music from Berklee College of Music and experience as a professional singer/songwriter, do you have plans to work with other artists to create visual portfolios?
I’m always open to working with artists and creatives! Actually, I feel that my work lends itself to them in particular. To be in that line of work, and to have a passion for music and art, you have to have a certain degree of transparency. When you put something of that nature into the world it’s an extension of yourself. I love being the one to put a face to that extension. I haven’t (yet) done any extensive creative projects with artists, but having just launched into photography full-time with the pandemic, there’s plenty of time.
Why did you start Nashville Offbeat?
I started Nashville Offbeat out of a need for connection with my local Nashville music community. At the time, I was putting a band together with friends and realizing that though I had been in Nashville for a few years, I hadn’t had a chance to get to know anyone in the world I wanted to live in. I waited tables downtown on Broadway for several years, and though I met some cool people, I wasn’t furthering any goals (just paying bills on a good month). When I finally got a camera, I saw it as an opportunity to connect. I began going to live shows and photographing local bands and artists for fun. And when that turned into an Instagram account, it almost immediately grew into a blog. Being the overachiever that I am, that wasn’t enough, so I hosted monthly showcases and networking events from there. It was all exciting and new. I grew it until I felt I had learned all I could from it, and here I am years later, applying those lessons to Harazim Photography.
“Quarantography” sessions. Most challenging aspect of shooting at a social distance?
The beginning of this pandemic provided me with an opportunity to make people happy through “Quarantography” sessions. While there were challenging aspects to photographing families from a distance, it was overall a really beautiful experience. The challenges came in moments when I wanted to walk up and pose a family with some easy guidance, but being overly cautious, staying 10 feet back was more important. Wearing a mask during these sessions (and all sessions now), also provides its challenges. I love kids, and during quarantography I kept finding myself trying to smile and make silly faces at them but realizing that all they could see was my eyes.
The beauty that came out of these challenges though was that families were truly just interacting with each other for their sessions rather than always focusing on me and the camera. I was a fly on the wall in many cases, just capturing their moment. It made the outcome really authentic and lovely.
Every photographer develops their own shooting strategy in their own unique way. How did you develop your photographic style?
I think if you ask most photographers, they’ll say they developed their style through simply doing it. I allowed myself, and still allow myself, opportunities to mess up as I find what works. When I want to try something out, I’ll either invite a friend over for a test shoot, or run a super sale. For instance, last year I fell in love with portrait photography but I wasn’t any good at first. To practice, and also to purchase many of the backdrops I use to this day, I ran a sale that was (x) number of images in exchange for purchasing the backdrop color you wanted to use. It ended up being an amazing learning experience. I got to work with all sorts of creatives, learn how to pose my subjects, practice lighting techniques, and cultivate a gallery to showcase my work. I developed everything and continue developing my style by being hands-on and just showing up.
What professional photographers have influenced your work, and how do you incorporate their techniques into your photographs?
One of my biggest influences is actually a local Nashville wedding photographer named Sharon Theresa Wheaton. When I saw her work, I knew it was the quality of work I wanted to produce- it’s all stunning. She’s now a friend of mine and I’ve had the opportunity to tag along with her on a couple of shoots. Every shoot with her, I learned something new and valuable and I’m amazed at the technique and care that goes into the composition of each image she takes. She doesn’t use a filtered look, but perfects her lighting instead. It’s a no-frills approach in that regard. The images all speak for themselves and that’s the sort of work I strive to create and feel inspired by.
“My mission is to make people feel seen in their authentic form.” What details do you believe make the best photographs? How do you go about focusing on them in your work?
The details that make for the best photos are captured when the client is comfortable; a smile or laugh that reaches to their eyes, or a glance into the distance with a truly relaxed gaze. I like talking to people while I photograph them. Not only because I’m a curious person who loves learning about others, but as a strategic move. Being in front of a camera and studio lighting can be incredibly intimidating if you’re not used to doing it all the time. Personally, as soon as the camera is turned on me, I make faces that I don’t make in real life because I’m on the spot. Personality is impossible to capture on camera if your client doesn’t feel like they can be themselves. I use my background in customer service to help everyone I photograph feel as comfortable, appreciated, and beautiful as I possibly can. When you start with acceptance, you create a safe and empowering space where clients can be themselves. That shows.
What do you enjoy shooting the most and why?
Studio portraits are my favorite for a couple of reasons. First, I love being one-on-one with clients and actually getting to know them and empower them through their session. Second, I relish in the art form. I love creating mood with the lighting, making someone stand out against a plain backdrop so that their face tells a story, and editing to enhance their natural beauty afterward. It just brings me a lot of joy and a sense of accomplishment.
What is the most challenging part about being a photographer for you?
I think the most challenging part of being a photographer is just the ebb and flow of the business. I’m still new to doing this full-time, so I still have a lot to learn and a long way to grow. The anxiety around taking on a seemingly “feast or famine” career is real, but I think that the connection I get to feel when I have work to do, and the joy and preservation that a photo can bring is immeasurably better than my past life working in restaurants and retail. I’m finally living to work instead of working to live, so any challenges in this lifestyle are 100% worth it.
What is your best business tip for photographers just starting a business?
Oh! I feel so passionate about this question.
Just do it. (Nike really hit on a simple and powerful message by using this phrase.) Don’t settle for what you’re doing now if it doesn’t make you happy. Be smart. Learn new things constantly, push out of your comfort zone, and for goodness sake fail from time to time. Fail a hundred times if you have to, but don’t settle. I spent several years doing photography part time before making this leap. I kept a day job out of fear of failing- knowing fully that if I had the time to do this right, I could succeed. So now I’m putting that to the test and what I’ve found is an entirely new life where I get to wake up every morning and create my day. I get to create my existence and that’s a really magical feeling. Who knows if I’ll succeed on the first try, but at least I won’t be left wondering, and I’m going to keep going because it’s all a journey. Do the same. Love yourself by allowing yourself to be who you need to be and do what you need to do.
“I believe that a great photo stems from personality and confidence.” How do you make people feel comfortable in front of the camera?
As stated earlier, I spend most of my sessions talking with my clients and making them feel comfortable. Without that comfort, the photo just won’t be there and the client will look at the final images without seeing themselves. I encourage confidence by almost downplaying the fact that the camera is even there. That approach tends to bring out the best in people and you can see it in the product of the shoot.
What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned along the way?
I’ve learned that as an artist, I’m always going to feel that I could have done better. That’s all part of the journey though. My version of “okay” is someone else’s favorite photo of themselves. I’ve had to learn to see my work with empathy and love, knowing that it will get better in time. For now, though, I’m right where I need to be.
What motivates you to continue taking pictures?
Everything. I love that every day this job is different. Some days I’m booking, some days I’m shooting, many others I’m editing. I sit in my backyard and daydream about what I want to create, and then just find a way to do it. I create my existence through this work, and vicariously give light to stories and faces of those around me because we’re all intertwined. My life has so much more meaning when it’s connected to yours, and this is my way of extending my reach.