Happy Tuesday, friends! For the past two years around this time, I find myself binge watching webinars, new courses and taking in all the knowledge I can get from people that have been in the industry longer than I have. Notice, I only said TWO years!! I’ve been shooting now for SEVEN! That’s a lot of time that I wasn’t educating myself. I had to learn the hard way in a lot of areas. Even though I was able to build a somewhat successful photography business during that time, it didn’t look anything like it does now because I WASN’T taking the time, energy and resources and putting it into education.
I’ve learned a handful of things over these past couple of years that I desperately wish I could tell my 19 year old self to do! It would have helped me avoid a lot of mistakes that were made and would have allowed me to grow this business so much faster and more efficiently. It seriously would kill me inside to see another friend take as long as it took me to understand some of these vital concepts that have changed me for the better! So since we’re all friends here, let’s take a dive into some of the things I think you can’t live without in this industry!
Be Consistent in Your Style
I struggled with consistency in my brand early on in my photography. Anybody else out there have a serious battle between loving the emotion and weightiness of some darker more contrasted photos while wanting the feel of the dreaminess and joy in lighter and airy photos? It’s hard when you’re starting out, or even if you’ve been in it a long time, to figure out the style you like best. Sometimes you’ll try a mix of both. The only problem with that is when someone goes to hire you, they might not know what they are going to get. If your photography is darker and more contrasted sometimes and then lighter and airier for others… people start to lose trust with you. We want to do everything we can to gain our clients trust because that is essential in order to book more leads.
The thing that really changed my ability to stay consistent with my photos was when I started using a preset. Yes, another thing that should shock many of you… I went FIVE years without a consistent preset. It makes my stomach churn just thinking about the hours of time wasted in front of the computer trying to get a consistent style without ever knowing about presets. For those who don’t know, a preset is a set of actions that can be saved so that every time you bring your photos into Lightroom or Photoshop, you can automatically add the same set of actions to each photo just with a click of a button. Can we all just collectively say THANK YOU to the person who invented the ability to do that?? This has significantly cut down my editing time which in turn makes it so that I get paid more per hour for my work. Which is a huge win!! Am I right?
There are a few pre-made presets that you can purchase. There’s Totally Rad, VSCO and Greater than Gatsby actions that are all great options and all of which I have used before. However, my ultimate FAVORITE that I’ve used is Mastin Labs. I have used their Fujifilm Pack and their Ilford Pack for the last two years and it has been a GAME CHANGER. Each of these sites have discounts periodically, so if any of these are out of your price point, but you love the look, then sign up for their email and wait for one of their sales!
Even if one of the presets aren’t for you though, you can still make your own Lightroom or Photoshop actions that you could apply to each photo you import! No money has to be spent at all in order to have a consistent edit. With that being said, you could edit the exact same to each photo, but if your pictures aren’t SHOT somewhat consistently, then you will still have a lot of post process work. I like to do the most work I can in camera to avoid the hours spent behind the computer trying to make things consistent and cohesive. I could go on for awhile about all that shooting consistency stuff, so I’ll save that for another blog post!
#1 Take-a-way: Consistency in style is key because it builds trust and makes your brand reliable and easily recognized!
The Best Marketing Tool is Client Experience
I don’t get a massage often, but when I do I LOVE to go to Woodhouse Day Spa in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Are they pretty pricey for seemingly the same caliber of massage as other places? Absolutely! BUT from the moment you walk in to sign in until the moment you walk out the door, you are treated like a queen. The people are super friendly, they are there to help you anytime you need to, your offered drinks whenever you want them and the lighting and mood is always so peaceful. My experience whenever I’ve gone to the Woodhouse Day Spa has made me a raving fan! Anytime I hear anyone talking about getting a massage, you better believe I am quick to tell them they HAVE to go there!
It makes sense with our businesses that we would be treating our clients like royalty. We all know how one bad review of hundreds on Amazon can make us rethink our purchase! So are we responding to them quickly? Are we doing client gifts? Would your couples or families say that at every point of the process, they felt taken care of? This is HUGE in any business.
The wedding industry is becoming increasingly saturated with the rise of freelancers and entrepreneurs… and the photography industry is the worst of all! IPhone’s are doing crazy things with their cameras, so anyone who has a phone is becoming some kind of photographer. Which means we need to pay extra attention to ways in which we can stand out. It’s no longer good enough to have amazing photos, you have to back it up with an amazing client experience that everyone can talk about to others and INSIST that they use you!
So you might be thinking… I am really nice to my clients and do a good job at making them feel special. Well that is great!! Keep it up!! However, what are you doing that is above and beyond? I have a practical way you can “gift” your clients without costing you anything….
Under promise and over deliver. If it normally takes you 4 weeks to get a wedding edited and turned around, tell them they can expect their pictures back in 6-8 weeks. Boom!! They’re super excited because they weren’t expecting it and it didn’t cost you anything because you don’t usually take that long anyways. Do you usually give back around 1000 pictures from the wedding? Tell them they can expect 800 then when you’re delivering tell them “I just couldn’t decide because there were too many good ones, so there are 1000 instead of 800 images in your gallery.” That way, if for some reason you do have to take longer for image turn around or don’t have quite enough images to meet your regular 1000 quota, then all you are doing is delivering on what you promised, which is still great! But under promising and over delivering is the best option… so do that WHENEVER you can!
There is a book by Seth Godin called Purple Cow. It talks about standing out and being the “purple cow” that everyone’s talking about because you’re so unique and different from the crowd. I would definitely recommend reading that one if you haven’t already!
#2 Take-a-way: Giving your clients an amazing experience will increase word of mouth leads, increase raving reviews and increase your ability to stand out from being just any ol’ photographer!
*Past, present and future AP Brides at Casey + Konny’s wedding! Gaining friends not just clients!
Personalize Your Brand
So if a consistent recognizable style of pictures and a stand out client experience are what we are going for… then it’s pretty easy to conclude that having something that makes you unique from the crowd is essential in getting people to inquire and book with you. Naturally YOU are going to be the single biggest portion to that equation of differentiating yourself from others. I’ll give you an example, I LOVE Starbucks (it didn’t help matters when we moved 2 minutes away from a drive through one last year L). You’ll often see Starbucks as a part of my brand and as one of my “connection points” with people. A couple other connection points of mine with people are the fact that I’m a wife and a mom… and that I’m really tall… like 5’11! My husband Tannan is 6’6” and our little 2 year old Marcus is in the 99th percentile for height. Needless to say we are not a little family. I’m also very passionate about my relationship with Jesus. All these things make me unique and able to stand out from others. If I post on Instagram about Marcus, or about how it’s hard to find jeans to fit our length of legs, people’s responses are ALWAYS so much more personable and telling me how they can relate (or maybe how they don’t have that problem because they are 5’2”). 😉
What is it about you that you can use as connection points to people throughout your brand and on social media? It can be ANYTHING!! Maybe it’s the fact that you’re a complete health nut, or maybe you have an insane collection of snow globes! Maybe you love to travel or have the cutest little dog in the world that you’re obsessed with! I’m not saying make this the sole focus of your brand, because obviously we are still photographers and our work needs to be the top priority, but your personality is a close second!! Make sure your About Me page on your website tells more than just how you got into photography and how much you love weddings. Make sure it allows people to get to know you and fall in love with you through things they can relate to. A bride is going to be way more excited about hiring you to shoot her wedding if she feels like you could be another one of her girlfriends (or guy friends) because of the way you’ve connected with her.
#3 Take-a-way: Make people fall in love with you by being relatable and adding connection points throughout your brand!
Connect with Vendors
We were all designed to live in community with one another. It just makes sense that we would set ourselves up to have a community of likeminded people in the industry that we can connect with. Whether it’s a florist, baker, wedding coordinator or DJ… everyone needs friends in the industry! If you’re a one-person show in your business, it can get lonely. The part that I did love about my 8-5 job was the fact that I was able to hang out with my other co-workers and talk about things that only we would understand because of the job we were working. Within the last 6 months, I have been able to be a part of a group of women within the wedding industry that have helped encourage me. We get together for coffee and chat about the industry and what’s working and not working for us. It’s also created a group for us to trust and refer others to! I now have many amazing vendors that I can recommend my brides use because I trust and know each of them.
A practical application for this is to just reach out. You can contact a local vendor (preferably one that has the same amount of experience as you) in your area and ask if you can grab some coffee, or bring them in something to drink or lunch to their venue or location! My friend Krissy with Simply Be So Events was reaching out to a few local vendors to get connected in this industry so her and I met at Starbucks (of course!!) to chat. Two hours later we had begun something so special. We have now been able to work together on a wedding, a bridal show and are working on a few things for 2017. It just took her reaching out to start something! We now have a group of vendors that we’ve started a Facebook group page with that are all helping one another in this industry. We have the page to help with engagement on posts, make announcements for upcoming gatherings and styled shoots and more!
Make sure to always approach any vendor with an attitude of love, respect and service and not of expectation and entitlement. You will burn bridges before even building them if you come to people expecting to only gain from them. Remember, at the end of the day, we are ALL real people, with real feelings. Be kind, care about others and genuinely start friendships! That will absolutely be the most life giving thing you can do in your business adventure!
#4 Take-a-way: Vendor connections create community; community creates relationships, relationships foster friendships and friends love to refer! Start connecting, and serve the vendors in your area!
Be an Expert in One Area
The single BEST decision I made for my business and my sanity was to solely shoot weddings. I started doing this about a year and a half ago and haven’t regretted it once. I personally was getting overwhelmed in wanting to be the very best in every area of photography. So I would shoot a family shoot and walk away discouraged because it didn’t go exactly how I wanted it to go, or I would shoot a newborn session and feel like it wasn’t a good representation of my very best work and what I want my brand to communicate. However, I have still yet to leave an engagement session or wedding feeling anything but excited and fulfilled in what I was doing. That’s what we want! We want to find the thing that fulfills us the most so we don’t burn out and give up before we’ve even really given ourselves a chance to shine!
If shooting families and kids is your passion, that’s so awesome!! If newborns are your bread and butter, then all the power to you because I admire your craft so much!! If senior portraits are what you live for, then by all means keep it up!! I’m just saying, if you are just REALLY craving an amazing burger and fries… where do you go? Five Guys, because no one does a burger better! If someone wants the best of the best in their area for a newborn photographer and you LOVE newborn photography, then serve them best and become AMAZING at it! Study it, pour your resources into it and when it comes time for someone to refer the best they know, you will be top of mind because that’s all you do. You will have the best opportunity to serve your clients well and become an expert in the area that will ultimately bring you the most joy and satisfaction!
#5 Take-a-way: If you’re focused on EVERYTHING, you’re not focused on ANYTHING!
If you got through this whole thing then I’m giving you a inter web high five because I’m so proud of you and the fact that you are taking steps even by just reading this to better yourself and your business!! So congrats on that!!
Also we’re all in this together, so if you have any questions at all to ask, comment below and I’d love to answer them!