Using Dropbox to collaborate on the go, this entrepreneur crafted a career that combines her love for music and photography.
When Lydia Bell was growing up in Tallahassee, she didn’t dream of launching her own business.
“Honestly, it was a complete accident,” she says. “I never really knew what I wanted to do.”
Music had always been her true passion, but in Tallahassee, art was just a hobby, not a career. So Bell worked as an X-ray technician for years, while supporting a friend and her photography business on the side. Then a twist of fate steered her career in an unexpected direction.
“I’d been helping her,” she recalls. “Then she suddenly, without warning, left town and changed her life and location, leaving me with all her clients.”
So Bell stepped in—and the photography business grew faster than she expected. She saw an opportunity to use her innate marketing skills to support people who were pursuing a creative path, just like she was. She decided to rebrand: good bye, elleBelle Photography, hello, InVisual Creative Services.
Now she and her distributed team provide photography and video services to creatives, Fortune 500 companies, magazines, and more. She’s finally getting to lean into her love for music by shooting live shows and managing area musicians, and will be teaching the next generation of Tallahasseans that art can be a career.
We spoke with Bell to find out how she’s planning to evolve her business with a little help from Dropbox and Dropbox Sign.
When did you begin chasing your dream of shooting music festivals and concerts?
About nine years ago, I was asked to shoot some photos for a local artist who was preparing to release an album and we became best friends. He said, “I want you to be my manager.” I said, “I don't know what in the world a manager does.” He gave me a book and said, “Read this, then tell me again.” So I read this book and thought: I'm already a manager, absolutely. Through that, I picked up a couple of different gigs.
What do you love about photographing live events?
It's that bounce of emotion that you can capture. There's a theater in Athens, Georgia, called the Georgia Theater—my favorite place on Earth. I went to go see a Fleetwood Mac cover band back in college. I went upstairs to the third floor, and there were these giant floor-to-ceiling images, black and white, of all the artists who had performed there. I thought to myself, Their still images are just the most gorgeous thing on Earth. That really inspired my chase for that.
“It's that bounce of emotion that you can capture.”
When you were adjusting to life as a first-time entrepreneur, how did you learn the skills to build your business?
I think, inherently, I am a salesperson, and I didn't realize that about myself. I come from a line of people who are creative, but in our own unique ways. I think it's a treat to be able to not only be an artist and have that creative brain, but also monetize it with a business.
I jumped on the road, began networking all over the country, and just became involved with every single opportunity possible. Anything you throw at me, I'm going to learn as best as I can. I know my weaknesses and hate a lot of parts of running a business. Delegating was something I didn't do very well. I just wanted to do it myself. But you cannot grow that way. You just can't. It's just something you learn.
Now that you’re delegating to team members who live in different locations, how does Dropbox help you coordinate projects at a distance?
I started using Dropbox literally when I started my business. I'm self taught in everything I've done. I'm not a fan of sitting at a computer and not very technologically savvy, and Dropbox was easy. It just all made sense. It has always just been there, on my phone, on the computer. I don't use any other cloud service. I've actually stopped using hard drives because it's just so dependable. A photographer’s greatest fear is losing photos. Dropbox has never failed me.
Chase is my main assistant. He lives two and a half hours from me in Panama City. Kinard is my other go-to partner. He lives in Tampa. My original business partner and forever sidekick, Gerome, lives in Atlanta half time and Orlando the other half. But no matter where we're at, we've never had a lapse. We store everything in the trusty old Dropbox. That way I can see it, they can see it, clients can see it. It's the only thing that supports our raw files, which are ginormous. I can listen to raw music that the guys write and drop in. It's right there and it's always instant.
My team and I are building a new service of the business that will rely heavily on Dropbox and Sign. It will be super important in the workflow while signing up new schools for their contracted photography services.
“A photographer’s greatest fear is losing photos. Dropbox has never failed me.”
What projects are you most excited about in the year ahead?
I'm thrilled about teaching beginner photography to high schoolers at Turner Center for the Arts. And I just partnered with an amazing new team member, Bianca, on our new added service Help My Airbnb, which has taken off! I'm just ready to work on my business and do what I want to do. I wouldn't know what to do if I were to retire. I love my job. To me, that's kind of a secret to life. If you love your job, you don't want to stop working.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.