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Women in Business Spotlight - Tanya Goodall Smith of Workstory Photography

by Erin Peterson

It is rare to find a photographer that is a true artist and professional all rolled into one, and when I do, I hold on tight, ensuring that I have them in my corner for professional branding images. In today's digital landscape and uncertain times, there is nothing more important than having a thoughtful and high-quality presence on the internet.

Enter branding photography expert and Spokane resident, Tanya Goodall Smith of Workstory Photography. I discovered her by chance online and was immediately impressed by the crispness and storytelling element in her imagery, and as a photographer myself, I have incredibly high standards. If you're not an industry pro, you may not know what you're looking for in truly exceptional pictures. What do I want? Photos so sharp that you can see every hair on a person's head, that they read light beautifully with vivid colors and flattering shadows, and most of all, that they provoke a real emotion. A powerful feeling just from looking at the picture. That's where marketing magic comes into play, and an experienced eye with detailed planning makes all the difference.

I hired Tanya to do my own branding after carefully considering the investment. As the best in town, it isn't inexpensive, but after seeing so many examples of her work, knew that the value would be immeasurable. I was immediately impressed by her thorough intake process. It's more like an interview and Iditarod planning session all rolled into one. We talk outfits, props, location, light, and goals, and it seems more like a fun conversation with a friend than work because of her inherent charm and communication style. The resulting library of images is able to carry me not just through this year, but beyond, and I can use them in a wide-variety of professional applications.

Simply put, I won't trust anyone else in town with my needs from this point forward, and working with her is now a permanent line item in my budget for my business.

I sat down with her to interview her about what it's like being a woman in local business, and where her inspiration for her work comes from, and I am honored to share her wisdom (and our mutual love for the great Elizabeth Gilbert) with you.

What made you interested in the photography business?

I worked for 15 years as a graphic designer before I started transitioning to Professional Photographer. I worked in branding and marketing, half of the time with large international brands and the other half with small local businesses. A big struggle for me as a designer, when working with the small businesses, was the lack of appropriate, custom photography to be used in their visual communications. Using the same stock photos over and over again seemed counterintuitive when we wanted to help these local businesses build trust with their audience. I wanted to see their faces! See their office spaces where they offered their services. Telling their stories visually in a compelling and genuine way seemed impossible without custom photography. And that’s why WorkStory was born.

What is your greatest passion other than your photography work?

One of my favorite gurus, Elizabeth Gilbert said “Passion is rare; passion is a one-night-stand. Passion is hot, it burns. Every day, you can't access that.” Rather than focus on passion, which tends to fizzle out pretty quickly and possibly leads to crimes or poor decisions, I choose to follow my curiosity.

Curiosity has led me to so many incredible experiences in my life. I’ve been a U.S. ambassador to Europe with a folk dance ensemble, a missionary in the slums of Boston, an art student in downtown L.A., a fierce advocate for my son and other people with physical disabilities, a documentary photographer for a “voluntourism” project in Jamaica, a wife to a man I have nothing in common with except that we’re madly in love, an entrepreneur, a fund-raiser, a writer, a guest on the radio (OMG, if you have a podcast I want to be a guest! I love it!). I guess I just love people, connecting with them and telling or showing their stories.

Give me an example of someone you have trained or mentored. How have you developed the talent of others to give them opportunities they may not have had otherwise?

I have been mentoring and teaching photographers for years as a writer and brand ambassador at SLR Lounge (link:, a global photography community. I’ve loved being part of that community, but for years have wanted to create a training program for photographers who want to learn how to work with small businesses.

When I ventured out to start WorkStory, I didn’t have anyone to guide me. There were so many educational resources and workshops available for wedding and portrait photographers but nobody was teaching about what I wanted to offer. So, when Covid19 caused a shutdown of businesses I thought it would be the perfect time to create this course. And I did! I have an amazing group of photographers learning from me and they are already seeing incredible results. I teach my entire business model, from how to choose a target market, to how to execute a successful outcome for clients and how to market their services. It’s been so amazing.

I feel like I finally found my calling in teaching. I have plans to create courses to teach small businesses how to brand and market themselves and solve other problems we often discuss, in the future. If anyone is interested in learning more about my educational courses, visit

How would you describe your photography style, and what makes you stand out as a branding specialist?

My style is modern, marketable, approachable. It’s appropriate for marketing. Clients will often come to me after they hired a regular portrait photographer because the images they received just wouldn’t work in their marketing. It’s not like they weren’t beautiful photos, the photographer just didn’t consider all the things that might be needed to make a photograph appropriate for advertising.

My background in graphic design ensures we’re creating images our clients can use across many platforms for marketing. I personally have purchased or art directed the shoots for thousands of images for marketing during my career as a designer. Plus, my signature process walks clients through a pre-production planning phase to ensure they’ll end up with images that will help them reach their goals and fit their brand voice and style. It’s all about THEIR brand, not ours and it’s so much more of a production than just a photoshoot.

What are some resources that you find valuable in learning about branding photography and creating a strong brand message (podcasts, influencers, websites)?

Definitely check out my blog:

For branding I love Pia Silva. She has an article series on Forbes and a podcast.

StoryBrand for honing your brand message:

What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment in your career so far?

Making money! Seriously, sometimes I wake up and pinch myself that people pay me to photograph them, teach them and help them grow their businesses. Only about 10% of arts graduates in the United States actually earn their living as an artist. It’s been a struggle and I’ve worked so hard to learn and execute the business side of being a Creative. I’m proud to be one of those 10% and feel privileged to be able to do this work.

How do you feel about the marketing community in Spokane right now? What trends are you seeing? What do you hope to see in the future?

Spokane is made up of a lot of small businesses (which is awesome). I see a lot of business owners trying to do everything themselves. I see them afraid to spend money on marketing. Often they’ll say “After I get more clients I’ll hire you…” And I leave scratching my head. Marketing is the one thing you can spend money on that will get you more clients!!!!

With a solid marketing plan and help to execute it, I’ve seen businesses who take the leap into investing in marketing, even a simple social media marketing plan, totally take off! You don’t have to spend a ton of money to get the word out, but if you're not online and you don’t have visuals that are going to help you stand out, you’ll be left in the dust. Hiring some help with these things relieves the burden from the business owner so they can focus on running their business.

What do you do to help you unwind from a busy day? Do you have hobbies or interests outside of your work that bring you peace?

I have three young kids and a husband who works shift work so I often find myself spending my evenings alone… working. LOL. I am obsessed with British period dramas and biographies and love to analyze films. I’m also a self-help junkie and listen to podcasts about improving my mindset. I have recently started learning to play golf and that has been an interesting challenge. I lift weights with a personal trainer twice per week and that is time reserved just for taking care of my body. As I’ve gotten older I find true self care for me is getting enough sleep, some exercise and eating a salad every day.

What are your hopes for where you are 10 years from now?

My mission at WorkStory has always been to help people grow their businesses. I envision the WorkStory Education platform to be serving thousands of small business owners within the next 10 years. I’m not sure if I’ll still be personally photographing and filming people, but I’ll definitely be creating and story telling in some way. It’s part of who I am and the gift I’ve been given to lift others up.

by Erin Peterson

Erin is a professional educator by day and a food blogger by night. She is a devoted wife, loving mother of three boys, and enjoys traveling around the region she calls home. Her hobbies include tending her cut flower garden, playing with her pet Corgi, drinking Washington wine, and thrifting for treasured vintage goods. You can follow her on Instagram here.

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