Today we are so excited to get to share some images from our "To Have & To BHLDN" Anthropologie-inspired, Walk Through a Wedding w/ J&M workshop that we put on earlier this month at our home in CT. Of all the things we get to do with our business, I feel like the chance to get to be a teacher and help lift up the next generation of photographers is one of the most humbling. And... one of the greatest honors.
For me, it is right up there with documenting someone on their wedding day and the start of a new life together. Because if we can help someone at the start of their business, if we can make that path just a little easier, then we can help them build that life as well. To make not just a living but a LIFE doing this thing that they love. And we can help make sure that all the couples they photograph have someone great to tell their story too. And that they might be able to help out another up and coming photographer when the time comes. And the ripple effects just go on.
We've taken a lot of heat over the past couple of years for helping out new photographers with things like the Pancake Sessions & workshops like Walk Through and What's Next. The argument goes something like they should have to figure out for themselves the hard way. And the market would be a whole lot less flooded if some of them would just fail already. But I think when the craft stops being taught and passed on from one photographer to another....that's when all of us fail.
Because the thing is, we ALL had teachers. None of us were born knowing f-stops and shutter speeds. Justin had teachers in both high school & RIT who took an interest in him and saw the talent that he had. And then in turn, I in him had a phenomenal teacher. Why wouldn't we pay that forward?
I think when you really, truly fall in love with photography you can't help but want to teach it. Because you just want other people to fall in love with it too.
So as for us, we will continue teach on. And do everything in our power to help new photographers.
Because like my pal Will.I.Am said it best: "Who-who cares what the haters think."
Today is one of my favorite days ever because today we have some of our favorite PEOPLE ever on to guest blog for us! We first came to know Malika & Arjun as our clients when they hired us to do their Seattle engagement shoot/ DC wedding a couple years ago. Since then they have become amazing friends, fellow photographers and now Walk Through a Wedding alums. These guys came to us when they were first getting started, so we thought it would be awesome to hear how someone who was brand new on how they were able to put Walk Through to use. Enjoy!
We're SO incredibly honored to be guest blogging for Justin and Mary today! When J&M first asked us to do a guest blog post for them, I sort of sat there in utter disbelief for a few minutes. Really? Us?? The newbies? What could we possibly have to say that any of the established photographers who read their blog would be interested in reading? And that's when I realized that *we* regularly read their blog and we're not at all established yet. And that maybe, just maybe, we can help some other newer photographers out there realize that Walk Through a Wedding is an invaluable experience that isn't just for photographers who've been in the business for a few years!
Arjun and I attended WTAW last June and it's helped us tremendously since! Initially, we were afraid that we didn't have enough experience under our belts to attend. We started out the year before doing mostly lifestyle family portraits and wanted to get into shooting couples and weddings but had yet to shoot a single wedding. When a friend of ours took a leap of faith and hired us to shoot his wedding last summer, we knew it was a major opportunity. We had discussed attending WTAW before but thought we needed to be further along in our business to do so. Fortunately, we reached out to J&M to see if we would be a good fit and we're both so glad we did! They reassured us that photographers at any stage of their business could benefit from the workshop and well, we definitely did to say the least! I strongly believe we avoided making some major mistakes while shooting that very first wedding (and everything thereafter!) thanks to everything we learned at the workshop!
Walk Through a Wedding provides such an amazing treasure trove of information, it's impossible to highlight just a few main points. But attending as photographers who were relatively new to the world of wedding photography, there were three significant things they covered that really gave us the confidence to move forward over the last year towards building the brand and business we want.
Focusing on Past Clients: One of the toughest parts of starting a new business is developing a constant flow of clients that are excited about having you as their photographer. It doesn't happen overnight and it's easy to get lost in the frustrations of why there aren't more people lining up, just waiting to hire you. While we were at the workshop, Mary said one sentence that was a huge game-changer for us: " Ok, well what have you done for your past clients?" It was such a simple question with a major impact. If we didn't have a steady stream of clients waiting to sign up, that was okay. She explained that instead, focus on the clients you already have and forge stronger relationships with them. Do something for them; Something to make them feel special, something to make them feel like they matter, something to make them feel like they simply HAVE to recommend you to anyone looking for a photographer. Channeling your energies on ensuring your clients feel like you really care will pay off in the long run and before you know it, that steady stream will start to flow all on it's own.
Saying No: On that note, starting a new business makes it easy to think that you have to take on just about any client that comes your way. At the end of the day, it's work, it's something to keep the business moving and the thought of turning down clients probably sounds insane. And you're right. However, is it moving your business in the direction you want? Are you getting the kind of work and clients you want? Are you excited about each and every client? These are the questions Mary posed during the workshop that really made us stop and think. Why weren't we consistently getting the kind of work we wanted? We realized it was in large part due to the fact that we were taking almost any client that came our way, regardless of whether it was going to help boost us in the direction we wanted to go. And as a result, it was breeding more work just like it. If we didn't want to shoot birthday parties and baby showers, we needed to stop agreeing to shoot birthday parties and baby showers. We needed to learn to start saying "no." As a new photographer, or anyone with a new business, this is quite possibly one of the most difficult things to do. Turning down business when you're just getting started sounds absolutely backwards. But, it's also quite possibly one of the biggest things that will help your business and brand grow in the direction you want, giving you the clients you want and breeding more clients like them. In just one year, we're already reaping the benefits of having learnt this early on.
Building a Timeline that Works: As I said earlier, when we attended WTAW last year, we had yet to shoot a single wedding. We ourselves had gotten married the year before but we knew very little of what to expect being on the opposite side as part of a wedding's creative team for the very first time. One of the things that really helped us that J&M really honed in on was building a timeline for the wedding day that works. The average couple isn't always aware of how much time is ideal for a photographer to tell the story of each part of their wedding day and working with them in advance to build a timeline that makes sense is one of the first steps to success. We were able to take this knowledge from the workshop and work with our couple on that very first wedding last summer to ensure that we had built in enough time throughout the day for bridal portraits, couple portraits and family portraits. Conversations were had a couple months before their big day to walk through the timeline and guarantee we were all on the same page. Of course, as Mary always says, there's real time and then there's wedding time. Things go wrong and that timeline often gets pushed back and squeezed down. But having the knowledge to educate your clients beforehand and set expectations to at least attempt to create an ideal wedding timeline, gives both you and your clients the confidence that you are a professional who will be able to handle their wedding day with the utmost polish and ease.
Of course, these are just a select, few things that we've highlighted from WTAW. It's amazing just how much information J&M share over the course of two days and we are SO grateful to have had the opportunity to go when we did! Attending it while we were still in the wee early stages of developing our brand and business was a priceless experience that has helped us to avoid making some major mistakes and pushed us in the right direction from the very start. While we're still newbies and haven't quite been able to put everything we learned from them into practice, thanks to their generosity and willingness to open both their home and hearts to us, we know we're equipped with the right tools to build a successful brand and business that we'll be proud to call ours. And that? Well, that makes WTAW one of the most valuable assets in any photographer's toolbox.
**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!
It was somewhere around the middle of November 2011, when I laid on the floor with my face buried in an old sweatshirt and cried angry, salty, stinging, bitter tears.
They ran down my face without apology, and with each crashing drop I felt the weight on my shoulders growing heavier.
I was stuck. I was frustrated. I was furious at myself for not doing more...and being more...and having more to show for the year behind me that was so quickly fading away.
I was tired. Tired of watching somebody else chase every one of my dreams. Tired of watching other people do what I wanted to do, and do it better. They were out there getting it done. Making each and every one of their dreams happen, like some golden to-do list that they were just marching their way through like an invading army . And I was on the floor crying into an old sweatshirt.
I felt the impending downward spiral of the ugly, ugly comparison monster coming on, and in that moment I just let go and let it wash over me in waves. I told myself a flurry of lies about how that would never be me. I listed out all the things I would never be able to do, so what was the point in even bothering at all. And I rocked the idea of just giving up altogether back and forth, as my sobs faded away into quiet tears.
It was a not very pretty moment in my life.
I felt jealous....and angry at myself for being jealous. I felt lost...and angry at myself for being lost. I felt like a failure....and I was angry at myself for failing.
But somewhere in the smoldering ashes of just giving up altogether, a spark started to take root.
It was somewhere on that hardwood floor with my face buried in an old sweatshirt that I started to realized two things: 1) I didn't want to give up. Not really. Because I never ever ever wanted to be the person who just gave up without giving it one more try and 2) it wasn't really that I was jealous of what other people had...it was just that them going out and chasing after their dreams was shining a big, bright, glaring spotlight on the fact that I wasn't chasing mine.
And that right there was what really needed to change.
I had been stuck in this quicksand mire of just maintaining. A mountain of email and editing and doubt mixed in with fear. And I was so busy spinning myself in circles that I hadn't moved forward at all. And there was one thing right then that I knew for certain: I didn't want to find myself at the end of 2012 realizing that yet another year had gone by and I was no closer to actually DOING something about those really big dreams that I had been dreaming. That another year had gone by, and I still hadn't managed to pick myself up off the floor.
And so, we went to work. And we set about to make 2012 a game changer for us.
And I can tell you now with just a few days left to go....that it has been. In the past 12 months we have gotten to go places and do things that never in my WILDEST dreams did I imagine would be checked off this year. Just a few of my favorites have been teaching a workshop in Australia, writing The Guide, doing a shoot with a hot air balloon, giving away a trip to Disney to a deserving military family at our talk at WPPI, having our anniversary pictures taken by Jose (Freakin!!) Villa, speaking at the What If Conference, speaking at a women's Christian Conference at Pursuit 31, and getting a whole chapter in the new Style Me Pretty book (more on that to come!).
But here's the thing, it's not really about us. Or what we've checked off of our list.
It's about you and your list.
This is a post for any of you who are finding yourself on the proverbial (or maybe literal) hardwood floor with your face buried in an old sweatshirt. It's for any of you who feel like you're too busy spinning in circles to move yourself forward. It's for anyone out there who is feeling like you're looking back on 2012 and you don't feel one step closer to chasing the really big dreams than you were this time last year.
And it's for ALL of you who never want to feel this way again.
In January, Justin & I will be hitting the road in the Showit Tour Bus (along with a crew made of some of our closest friends) to go to 10 cities for the What's Next Tour with one goal in mind: to help you sucker punch fear in the face. To make 2013 the year that's looked back on as the game changer for you all. The year when you picked yourself up, dusted yourself off and decided to never give up without one more try. The year when you refused to stay within the safe comforts of average, when you chose to do the hard work that matters, and you got your hands dirty in the name of chasing a dream.
If you are ready to get up off that floor, we're here to help you. If you're ready to admit that "someday" isn't a day you'll ever find on the calendar, we're here to help you make it happen. If you are tired of standing on the sidelines watching someone else chase every BIG dream you ever had, if you are tired of playing small, I will fight side by side with you as you carve out a next action plan. And then cheer like crazy when it actually happens.
Because here's the thing, I don't think the world needs more dreamers.
I think the world needs more dreamers who are actually getting it done.
We would be honored to have you join us.
***And as an extra push to do this for yourself, when you grab your seat today using the code "mytime" that will get you $50 off your ticket to both sessions!! You can grab your seats HERE!!
I have always been a girl who has wanted to be ahead of wherever I am.
When I was in junior high, I couldn't wait to be in high school.
When I was a Freshman in college, I couldn't wait to be a Senior.
When we had an apartment, I couldn't wait to buy a house.
And, when we first started our business, I couldn't wait to be a big deal "destination wedding photographer' (whatever that was) charging thousands and thousands of dollars like all of the people that I looked up to.
I'm here to tell you something: right now is way more amazing than any of us give it credit for.
And not to go all country music on you but....you're going to miss this.
You're going to miss those early days of your business. You're going to miss the fight. The fire. The firsts.
You're going to miss that feeling the very first time somebody hires you because of YOU. Not because you happen to be a photographer and they need a photographer. But because they can't imagine their day being the same with anyone but you.
You're going to miss the early wins. The hunger. The wanting it so bad you can taste it.
And yes, you're even going to (well sort of) miss those late nights, the losses, the brick walls that just made you stronger.
Oh don't get me wrong, the stuff still to come is pretty world-rockingly amazing too. And the adventure just keeps getting better and better.
But don't you waste a second of your adventure peeking behind door number two to see what better thing is coming.
You only get one chance at right now.
And trust me, your right now is way more wild & precious than someone else's down the road.