So there was that one time when we drove up to Rochester to see the Lilac Festival.
And being the good tourists that we are, we of course wanted to get our picture taken in front of a lilac bush right?? That's what you do! So we asked one of our fellow tourists, a kindly looking little old lady with a gray bun on top of her head if she would mind snapping a picture of us. Justin had already picked the spot for her to stand and dialed in all the settings when he handed the Olympus over to her, so she was all good to go. But then....she went to WERK!!
She backed up twenty feet so she "could get the light good." At one point she was standing behind a bush and shouting out for us to get closer to each other. She turned the camera every which way, including once, I'm pretty sure, upside down. She would point the camera at us for entire minutes at a time before snapping a shot, while we stood there with frozen smiles, poking each other & trying our best not to laugh. And then...it got REAL y'all!
Because that was the moment when she asked us to stand IN a lilac bush.
It started off innocently enough, with her directing us to stand on either side of this one little itty bitty bush in the midst of all the huge ones. So we did. And we smiled. Then she said "no, no, no...BACK UP!! Really get INTO the bush! This is going to be so COOL!" So we took a baby step back and a baby step in, still smiling the whole time. "NO! Closer! Really get in there!" At which point this itty bitty little old lady came over and MAN-HANDLED me into a plant. Let me tell you, she may have looked small, but she was strong. Then she backed up to her original spot and said, "Now look at each other! Hold hands in the middle! This is going to be great!" But we just kept smiling until she finally, finally, took the picture.
Then she came over and said, "Now let me show you what I did!" We ooohed and ahhhed the appropriate amount and thanked her profusely for her time as we sent her on her way. But just before she walked away she said, "In case you couldn't tell, I consider myself a bit of a photographer."
So Justin just smiled his Justin-y smile and said, "Yes ma'am, I could totally see that."
Happy Friday friends!
***And I think it's high time for another birthday giveaway don't you! This week, we'll do a $25 gift card to Yankee Candle so you can get your choice of one their lilac scented ones or something else! Just leave a comment in the box below & we'll announce the winner next week! And....GO!!
**Happy Thursday you guys!! This week & next, Justin & I are off on some fun adventures (wine tasting in the Finger Lakes & the Lilac Festival this week & then something EXTRA fun next week for my birthday!) so we thought it would be fun to have some of our past Walk Through a Wedding attendees guest blog for us so we could check in & see where they are now. First up, we have the amazing & super sweet Alicia White! Alicia came to our April Walk Through last year, and at the end of the night on the second day we sat talking in the corner about where her business could be. A year later, I am SO blown away to see that Alicia has accomplished everything we talked about and MORE! She just launched her new brand last week that fits her to a T!! And she's here today to share how she got there!
Oh, Hello There Everyone! Let me start off by saying that it’s such an honor & treat to be guest blogging today! I have learned so incredibly much from Justin & Mary and am extremely grateful for their openness to share and strong passion to help others succeed & grow in their businesses. I cannot believe it has already been a YEAR since I attended Justin & Mary’s Walk Through a Wedding Workshop. It’s hard to imagine that two days can make much of a difference in the direction of your business, right? But it was exactly a year ago that I started to take my business to the next level and I am grateful to Justin & Mary for empowering me with the tools and courage to get where I am today.
I’m not saying it will happen overnight or that there is a simple solution, but it IS comforting to know there are resources and workshops like Walk Through a Wedding that aim at ALL parts of who we are as photographers; both as artists and business people. Having had the opportunity to attend the workshop, I can whole heartedly say I know myself better as a photographer and have a solid understanding of my brand & how I want it to be illuminated throughout my business. Bringing my brand to life was a key focus of the last year and now I can officially say I’ve launched my new website and brand (YaY!). Now that I have a strong brand and professional website, I feel that much more confident to charge what I’m worth. The truth of the matter is, without the knowledge I gained from Justin & Mary, the result would be nowhere near where it is today.
A few months before attending the workshop, my husband and I had just moved to Charlotte, North Carolina and I was looking to really start building my business now that we were settling down in an area. Overwhelmed doesn’t even begin to describe how it felt. At the time I had a logo, website, & blog that I created myself that helped to display my work. But let’s face it, I was missing a brand to help highlight my personality and the experience of working with me. As for the BUSINESS side of things? (Insert theme song to Jaws). Phew. I came into this profession as an artist and emotional storyteller and have learned we must also tap into our business/marketing minds as well. It’s unfortunate that the business side of our profession is often overlooked because it is what enables us to pursue and grow our artistic selves that we all love so much!!
Even though I could write a short novel on all the information I learned within the two days of the workshop, I wanted to share highlights of THREE topics we explored in depth that really impacted me and gave me the confidence to really grow and expand my business this year:
Brand Power: The information that I learned about branding & business from Mary is absolutely priceless. At the time of the workshop, the in-depth discussion about the power of branding was exactly what I needed for my business and where I focused most of my attention this year into creating. Having a strong brand that represents YOU (and the experience of working with you) not only sets you apart from others in your area, but also creates an emotional connection in which the right clients will want to hire you for their wedding. A brand is not just about how organized or “pretty” a website looks, but more importantly how does the website make the couple feel. Everything from the initial email and onward should be reflected in the brand. Creating that emotional connection by demonstrating who you are throughout the brand is one of the most valuable things you can do for your business. Don’t be afraid to show off what makes you unique! A strong & consistent brand should highlight and attract clients that are a good fit for your personality and experience. Think of your website as a store front. When someone enters your store, what do you want him or her to see, feel, and experience? The branding process WILL take some time and should be done correctly and reflect professionalism. I’m extremely thankful to Mary for sending me toRavyn at Three Fifteen Design who helped create the logo & website that I envisioned and felt in my heart for my brand.
Creating Love Marks: Looking through their website, you might notice particular trends in the fashion and “feel” of the Justin & Mary couples and weddings they photograph. They have an impressive portfolio filled with couples that look almost hand selected by them. As described above, having a strong and consistent brand will help to showcase the type of weddings & couples that you will attract. When we create an emotional attachment (often due to feeling a familiar “like” connection), couples will feel that they HAVE to work with you. We must create those “love mark” relationships and experiences within our business that make an impression on our couples so that whenever the word photographer gets brought up, they will shout your name from the rooftops! Just as when someone says the word coffee, my mind automatically thinks of Starbucks, the right “fit” clients for your brand should do the same about your business! We talked about the importance of going above & beyond in maintaining positive relationships and creating cheerleaders for our businesses. What’s the first thing you do when you get upgraded to first class on a plane or get moved to a bigger hotel room that you reserved when you show up at the door? If your anything like me, you post it to your Facebook wall for the world to see what an amazing experience your having! That’s the same experience we want to create for our clients as photographers. Justin & Mary completely blew me away with how much time and effort they put into pampering their clients with gifts & treats that reflect their brand throughout the year (and I mean, who doesn’t love a fun branded surprise?) Instead of pouring their money into online/print advertising, Justin & Mary have found that putting more money towards catering to their couples has set them apart and creates a luxury brand.
Lighting: I knew coming to the workshop we were going to be discussing lighting, in particular off camera flash. What I wasn’t expecting was how in depth Justin & Mary went into ALL the different sources and dimensions of light and how this creates different results within the look and feel of the images. Not only was this presented throughout a powerpoint & real life demonstration, but we were also given the opportunity to practice shooting as if it were a real wedding day. Before the workshop I had no prior knowledge about anything off camera flash (seriously, none). To be honest, it was something that I didn’t think “was my style” and seemed so “out there” for me to learn when there are so many other things in the business I could be spending my time doing. But you know what? There might be situations in which having the knowledge to be able to do OCF is worth its weight in gold. For example, lets say you arrive at a wedding and the reception is underneath JUST the sky/stars with nothing to bounce your on-camera flash. Now what? (Scary, huh?) How about a reception in which the entire room and ceiling is all red oak - ever tried bouncing light off that? (Hint, it turns the entire room and people bright red). Having the knowledge of using OCF sets you apart as a professional in that you are able to work in various settings without worry for both you and the couple. Sure, I still consider my style as a “natural light” photographer (and will use natural light whenever I can), but having the knowledge of HOW to use my off camera light gives me the added confidence and professionalism that I am taking care of my couples no matter what the situation might present.
There is no doubt about it, I am incredibly grateful to have attended the workshop. I would have never known exactly what was necessary to propel my business the way it has this past year if I hadn’t experienced such an in-depth and open workshop. The hearts of both Justin & Mary are so genuine and they continue to encourage and challenge me to face my fears and become the confident business owner that I know exists within. Which in turn, allows me to enjoy my career as a photographer (and artist!) that much more. Thank you SO much J&M! I feel more ready & confident than ever for the future of my business.
***Our next Walk Through a Wedding Workshop will be taking place June 11-12th at our place in CT!! The theme is "To Have & To BHLDN" and we are already working on some KILLER Anthropologie inspired details that I can't wait to show you! We would LOVE for you to join us! If you want to grab your spot, just head over HERE and be sure to use the code "blogreader" for $250 off your seat!
When Justin & I were first getting started, we sat down one night and took a look at our numbers and realized we were actually losing money for every wedding that we shot. Uh yea, WHOOPS! I had learned a couple of things from the business classes I had taken in law school, and I'm pretty sure one of the chapters in our text book had read "in building a successful business, really try not to lose money." So we knew some things had to change.
A few years later when we had gotten our prices up where "everyone" said they needed to be, we were so proud of that really BIG package we had and made sure everyone knew about it. Yea, until we sat down again one night and realized we actually MADE less from that package than one of our smaller ones. Again yea, WHOOPS!
Let's face it, pricing your worth for something as subjective as photography is hard work. And so is running a business that actually makes you a living. Justin & I are both full time, this is our bread, butter and JAM! So we had to find a way to make sure this wasn't just an expensive hobby, but something that actually made us a living. Over the past seven years, we've lost jobs because we were too expensive and we've lost jobs because we were too cheap. And somewhere through it all, we've found a pricing structure that just really works for us & our clients. We realized we didn't want to be one of those photographers who are only known because they charge a lot, but then don't actually book anything. We wanted to work. And we wanted to shoot. Because we love it.
And we wanted to be able to make both a LIFE and a LIVING doing this thing we LOVE.
On May 22nd & 23rd we are SO honored to be part of an online free event called "Pain-Free Pricing" put on by The Joy of Marketing & WHCC, where we will get to join 9 of the top industry experts to share our pricing story and what we've found is really working for us now. Like I said, it's totally free for you to tune in & listen and all you have to do is head over HERE to get registered. And if you can't listen in those days, they also have the downloads (along with the pricing packets from all 10 speakers) available for purchase!
Pancake Session: When a Client Wants to Change Your Style
A little while back we got an email from a sweet bride. Like we talk about in The Guide, we use a lot of the questions on ourinquiry form to help us filter our clients to make sure we're only taking the weddings where we are truly the best fit for that couple. Because, of course, what we've found is that when we're only taking those couples where we're truly the best fit for what they're looking for....they're a lot happier & so are we!
One of the most helpful questions on that inquiry form to help us figure that out is just an open ended comment box that says "Tell us what you're looking for." There is no character limit, so that couple can tell us as much as they want. And in doing so, they're really giving us an idea of whether we would be a good match with them or not. This particular, very sweet bride filled out her answer and when it was all said & done, it may as well have said "the exact opposite of what you guys do!" :)
To give you an idea, one of the things she mentioned was that she didn't want a lot of "dark, black & white photography." I don't know if you guys have noticed or not :) , but we LOVE us some black & white photography around here. It's become a huge part of our style and our work. And for us the moodier, the better! So I pretty quickly knew we were probably not going to be the best fit for her. I wrote back letting her know, and she responded asking if we could just change up our style for their day and then go back to how we shoot after. I responded with a very kind, but firm "no," and I did it for three major reasons.
*In the heat of the moment, we're always going to shoot the way we see the world Even if I promised to change up our style and go for more of what they were looking for just to get the job, the truth is in the heat of the moment, when push comes to shove, and when things are happening a mile a minute like they always do at a wedding, we're always going to revert back to how we shoot naturally. When that moment is unfolding right in front of us, we're always going to end up shooting from the gut....from the heart. The way that we see the world. And that's always going to lead back to that style we have already.
*We've spent a lot of time figuring that style out & we believe in it Our style doesn't just come from what aperture we use or what photoshop actions we put apply. Our style is driven by a fiercely believed in Why that guides every action. A belief in the beauty of light, a belief in the truly authentic moment, and a belief in what these images will stand for over the test of time. We've spent years figuring out exactly why we do what we do & the how that goes along with that. And for me, I would rather lose a job than ever waiver on that.
*The clients who love us for US are going to help grow our business much faster anyway. I could say yes to this bride, knowing full well that I'll probably disappoint her in the end anyway and tie ourselves up in knots in the process. Or I could say "No, but let me help you" and help her find someone who really is a good match for her. And for me, that move has way more integrity because we're looking out for her interests as much as our own. In doing so, we'll keep a good referral from her if any of her friends do happen to love black & white photography. And it keeps the door open for us to hold out for those clients who truly love us & the work we do just as it is. Because those are going to be the clients that we work the hardest for, get the best work at their weddings, remind us of why we love what we do, and they're also the ones who go out shouting our praises for the world to hear. Those are the clients who will go to bat to make sure we keep getting inquiries from people just like them, and that we have a calendar full of clients who were looking for exactly our style. So in the end, it works out best for everyone involved.
I know that whatever stage you are in your business, it can be really hard to think about turning work down when there are bills to pay & mouths to feed. But if you could see it from above & over the long haul, trust me being willing to hold out for the clients who love you for YOU (and will help build the business with their two hands alongside you) is the far less risky move. And...the MUCH happier one!
I hear the sound of my own footsteps pounding out a drum beat on the great grayscale of concrete below. They're coming faster now. Louder. Like my feet and my heart are in a race of their own. Running towards something. Away from something. And like they just might leave the rest of me, in pieces, behind. They know what they want, and they know where they're headed. The rest of me just hasn't caught up to figure it out yet. And in that moment, I fear that I never will.
To my right, the water stretches on in pale blue paradox: calm on the surface, but just underneath a constant struggle of rip tides and torn currents. The silver light from a gray sky dances across it and never quite lands. As if it is buoyed up on some unseen, just out of reach tight rope. It plies & pirouettes without once fear of falling- the steady confidence that only comes of knowing what it is you were born to do. And over the sound of my own racing footsteps & racing heartbeat, I can't help but find myself envious of its fearless endeavor.
A little while back I wrote about the promise of giving up on someone else's dream. And the big blank slate that it opens up for you to be able to pen your own. The only problem, of course, comes when you haven't a clue what that should be. Lately, I've been feeling....restless. Agitated. Stirred up. Like that dream you have where that one thing you've been looking for is always just on the other side of the door, but every time you open it you just find another, more tightly locked door.
It's the hunger that inevitably follows, when you remove all the other voices you've been listening to...and realize you've forgotten what it is to hear your own. So you sit in the emptiness, (or as my friend Anne likes to say) sit through the edginess. And learn to love the silence again. You listen to the sound of your own footsteps and pray that they might one day lead you back. Or lead you forward. But that wherever they lead, it will be a path and a drumbeat of your own making.
I sit in the uncomfortable in between that resides & lives between what the world says you ought to do and figuring out what it is you were born to do. And I don't like it one bit. It's frustrating. It's frightening. And it makes you feel lost.
So I write this post to remember, because I never want to forget. Never want to forget how it feels to chase a dream, because the key word there is chase. Never want to forget what it is to wait and wish and work. Because it is the waiting and the wishing and the working that makes it all worth it. Never want to forget that if this dream were handed to me tomorrow it wouldn't mean a thing...because it's the journey in getting there that makes the finish worthwhile.
And so I start with the sound of my own footsteps, because they keep moving me forward.