040 There is No Magic Pill with Paul Von Rieter

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Paul has been a pro wedding photographer for 10+ years and in this episode, he shares his story, dealing with burnout, and gives some great advice to how to last in this career. It’s a good one. Enjoy and please subscribe to the podcast.

39. Find Your Voice with John Dolan

John Dolan is best known for finding the in-between, unplanned moments that make real people look beautiful and beautiful people look real.

John has woven a career of advertising, editorial and fine art photography. He is a recognized leader in contemporary wedding photography. Wedding clients include magazine art directors and editors, as well as celebrity couples Will & Jada Smith, Ben & Christine Stiller, Kate Bosworth & Michael Polish, Bridget Moynahan & Andrew Frankel, and most recently, Gwyneth Paltrow & Brad Falchuk.

The modern wedding has become so much about the photographs and John takes an approach that is more about the wedding and less about the shot list. He photographs as things happen vs curating and cultivating what wouldn’t otherwise be there.

This is a great interview and hope you like it. (always remember you can subscribe to The Photo Report Podcast wherever you listen to podcasts.

And here’s the transcript from the conversation with John and Braedon:

Braedon Flynn: 00:01 John, thanks so much for coming on the show and sharing your wisdom and all that and stoked to have you here. Awesome. Well, for people that don't know you as well, can you just give a slight background as to, I mean where you are in your photo journey and how you got there.

John Dolan: 00:22 I've been in the game for a long time. I was thinking about last night. It's the only job I've ever had since I was 15 years old. Uh, so I've never had a full time job. I've never had a paycheck from somebody besides myself. So I've had 30 years freelance in New York and I started out as a magazine photographer and slipped my way into weddings in the early days of the nineties and I've always had an ambition to keep weddings as part of my business but not let them be the whole business. So I've balanced magazine work, ad work and weddings for 30 years.

Braedon Flynn: 01:09 I think a lot of people either. I know a lot of commercial photographers that have just recently started getting into weddings because I know when I first started getting into weddings who was sort of like, oh, that's cute, you shoot weddings, and it was almost. It was really frowned upon to shoot weddings. Have you found that to be the case coming from both worlds?

John Dolan: 01:31 Certainly when I started, weddings were the lowest form of photography, even I remember being at a party with a lot of journalists back in the nineties and people were talking about doing projects in Nicaragua or Bosnia and they turned to me and said, what are you doing? I've been shooting weddings and they all kind of frowned at me for a second. And I said, well, I just thought will smith wedding. I shot Ben Stiller's and, they started handing out business cards. Do you need a second?

John Dolan: 02:08 But it was, it was a great moment because I realized that I wasn't ashamed of doing it and I was doing it my way. And also in the nineties it was wide open. There was a very small group of us who embraced wedding as photographers rather than as wedding photographers. When you come to it with that attitude that you're. I really thought of myself as somebody who was fascinated by weddings rather than by the wedding industry. I just wanted to tell the stories that I saw in front of me and and dive deep into them as if I was shooting a magazine story. So it was almost that I was naive to the ways of the wedding industry. That was a real help. Sometimes being being an amateur is a help and I feel for people who are starting these days because the wedding industry is so strong and they're so many great photographers who are. I'm making a really good living, doing big time wedding photography, but in a funny way. It was much more innocent to a movement. We were rejecting the cheesy stuff with the eighties and just doing our thing in the nineties, so it's a tricky time now.

Braedon Flynn: 03:38 We'll get into that in a second, but I'd still love to go back to just going from being a journalist and then going to shooting people like will smith and Ben Stiller. How, how did that end up coming about? Like how do you feel like you started getting into that celebrity circuit?

John Dolan: 03:55 It's funny when you, when you look back on a career, it really is just a series of cobblestones being laid out in front of each job, the cobblestone and you cobble it together for years and there's definitely no such thing as overnight success. I didn't start making money as a shooting photographer till I was 30, so I had a long apprenticeship, a four year apprenticeship with a incredible photographer named Sylvia Plachy. And she was a Village Voice staff photographer and then a New Yorker photographer. And her son is more well known than she is. Her son is Adrian Brody, the actor, but he was just a seventh grade kid when I worked there. And I was at their house every day for four years printing her pictures and her attic. And um, so I, I really had a slow evolving, uh, of my sort of way of seeing as a photographer before I started showing my book around and getting assignments, uh, and then it took me another 10 years of shooting to get the sort of, the first big jobs. So I think it's important for people to slow down and lay your cobblestone slowly and not rush to make it into the whatever top 10 lists you're shooting for.

John Dolan: 05:31 I did, I did 10 years of assignments of various intensity and size that kind of shot everything and learned how to fail at a job miserably and how to surprise myself and how to challenge myself. But, there's also a cheaper time to live in New York City. I could live on $500 a month rent and all those sorts of things. But I really think that slowing down and working on your vision is something that people don't necessarily get to do these days. You know, we're all, we're all our own brand and we're all rushing to make it to the top. That's a long way to get there.

Braedon Flynn: 06:20 Yeah, and I completely 100 percent agree with that and I don't know if you have could right off the top of your head think of what that looks like, but I mean if you were trying to either tell a younger photographer, tell your younger self to slow down in the midst of, you know, this instagram crazy world where everyone's looking at Ronell's those images and you can see what everyone else is doing or appearing to be doing what, what does slowing down and building your, your vision or laying your cobblestones actually look like

John Dolan: 06:55 a great question because it's I who just gave me a lot of work that was not for a lot of money. I worked for a free newspaper in Tribeca in New York, a weekly newspaper and they would give me five assignments and I would get on my bicycle and I would go shoot a restaurant. I'd go shoot a portrait of a politician. I'd go shoot a homeless shelter. I go shoot a feature story and then I'd go back to my dark room, develop the film, make little quick prints. Then that was in the old days of faxing, so I'd fax these wet prints to the art director so he could start laying them out and you know, I did that for a couple of years and it just got me so fluid with being in a situation and having to problem solve and to know what to do when things aren't working.

John Dolan: 08:03 Just all those lessons. And that was not a money job at all, but it was like being in the minor leagues and working on your swing or your throw into the plate. So if you can ever find a situation like that, and it could even be for nonprofit, it could be for your kid's school, it could be for anything right in front of you,, where you get to exercise your eyes and your instincts and how you deal with people. That's the gold at the stuff you'd tap into when you're shooting a big wedding and something goes wrong and there's no sun and no, you have to figure out what, what's in your Ninja tool kit.

Braedon Flynn: 08:51 Yeah, absolutely. I'm a big advocate of. I, I was already shooting. I mean I went to school for business, but then after I got done with my Undergrad College, I went back to a community college and took all of their photo classes and think there was something about learning to make a photo versus just take a photo. But then at the same time the importance, uh, I think it's difficult for a photographer, anyone to self assign, but to, to have a class where a teacher is telling you to go create this or document this, which is. I think it's similar to working at that low pain magazine. But yeah,

John Dolan: 09:35 Here's a radical premise: photography is easy. I've seen people get really good at it in just 6 months, kill it in a year. You get to a really high level. And then I've seen people get completely stuck or frozen after a couple of years of shooting because it came to them so easily. And you know - what other art form can you get good at in six months? With sculpture, painting, drawing, music. I haven't seen people soar in that way because the camera does a huge percentage of it. I've even had students in some of our workshops who just had some really great photographs with then when I asked them about f stops iso, they basically said, oh no, I just put it on 'P', whatever that means. And I shoot my kid by the window and get this great stuff. You know, it's amazing how easy it is to fake it.

John Dolan: 10:35 And I think what that does is it presents an opportunity to challenge yourself where it's not about how to take pictures, it's about why and what do you have to say and what's your passion? What's your, what's your mission? Or the big one also is what's your superpower? And I think that's a great thing to kind of figure out. And I definitely had a light bulb moment as a young photographer, old days in New York, you'd see other photographers walking around town with their portfolios and you'd be incredibly intimidated by, you know, imagine what's in their book. So I meditated on my, in my, in my little apartment, like what am I good at that other people aren't? And the answer was that I get really calm around people who are nervous. So I'm the youngest of six. So, you know, chaos is kind of the norm.

John Dolan: 11:43 I show up and oh good. There's always kids running around the house. So I realized that the first time I did a wedding that was a very comfortable place for me to be, to be in a house with people getting dressed and people yelling at each other where's my shoes, where's my Tuxedo, all that sort of stuff. That was just me as a kid in, in the, uh, you know, in my house with everybody getting ready to go to. So once I found that in my, in my sort of effect, found that a super power, I realized that weddings where the place for me as opposed to, you know, like a corporate portrait where I have five minutes with the CEO, that was not a happy place for me. I'd rather have an eight hour wedding to get my pictures. So it's good for everybody to dig in and say what matches your personality and how do you turn that into an asset photographer?

Braedon Flynn: 12:50 No, that's really important to figure out how to switch switching direction. But you wrote on your blog a little manifesto and I want to read a little part of it and then we'd love to talk more about it. And before I get into that, you, you came from. How many siblings did you have?

John Dolan: 13:10 6 and I'm the youngest one.

Braedon Flynn: 13:11 That's what I thought you had told me before. Uh, yeah. So chaos would be comfortable for you.

John Dolan: 13:17 Yep.

Braedon Flynn: 13:18 So to your manifesto says: 'As a wedding season comes to a close. I have some reflections on the role we play as photographers. Pop culture would have us believe that a wedding must be perfect down to every last detail to be successful. I see things differently in my experience. It's precisely the unpredictability of a wedding that often makes it memorable. Photographers have a great opportunity to look beyond the shortlist list and find beauty and truth in these imperfect moments. Current trends in photography have inadvertently reinforce and unattainable ideal of perfection by focusing on flawless over the real brides and grooms may not realize that many of these images they see online are actually produced during styled shoots, a shot weeks before the actual wedding. While these photographs maybe inspirational, they often end up creating an unrealistic expectation of what can be achieved during a compressed and stressed wedding timeline. What if wedding photographs aren't only meant to depict dreamy romance, but instead chronicle a full range of emotions" - and then you go on to talk a lot more and and what you do and how you do it. But can you, and I know we chatted about a bit out at engage and you spoke out there. Could you just sort of go into where your heart is behind a lot of this and some of your passions?

John Dolan: 14:34 Well, it comes from what I've seen at weddings and I realize because they're, imagining what people are going to see of their wedding, what people are going to think of their wedding based on this false ideal that they've seen at other weddings. So it's a really strange loop. Um, and so, and the other thing is that I've always been fascinated by the sort of salty and the sweet at weddings, the melancholy, the stress of all that stuff makes a wedding rich for me and to only see photographs that are, uh, don't even know the term to use, but they're, they're only showing a. it's really when you see people posting saying best day ever and the day was perfect. Everything was perfect. Sometimes feels like they're selling something to you or they're a, it's all to sugar sweet from my point of view, when there's so much richness in the rest of the wedding.

John Dolan: 16:01 And it's not to say that we're not taking romantic pictures, but I'm just trying to expand the, the shortlist from the pretty to the real and to come away with pictures that ring true to the wedding, not to the ideal of the wedding. So it's funny, a little shift, but why is the wedding industry so a narrow in its portrayal of what weddings are. I'm afraid the answer is that it's because that's where the greatest profit is. There's no doubt you can make a lot of money by making really pretty pictures. But I'd take the role in a different way, I take the role of photographer as a historian, as a cultural historian, as a family chronicler. I take that seriously. So I don't want my pictures in 20 years to be the kind of.......let me take it a different way. If you look back at wedding photos from the seventies or eighties, there's something about them that's kind of fake. And it was, as I've looked at those pictures, the way the photographer's treated, the bride and groom's was in this kind of fuzzy ideal of marriage, during a time when, when marriages were in rough shape in a lot of parts of the country.

John Dolan: 17:43 So I don't want to make wedding photographs that are this kind of false dream world. It's a really funny thing. It's we have an observation as photographers tell the truth, doesn't have to be the absolute truth, but has to ring true. So my hope is that the photographs that I take will be discovered by some child in 20 years and when they open up that box of photographs, they can feel what their parents were like in 2018, what they looked like and what their real personality was as opposed to some idealized version of that.

John Dolan: 18:31 And also, this is my, this has always been my approach. I know that some people really revel in the other approach to make the dreamy idealized view. but I'm fascinated by finding that essence of every wedding. And that's what's kept it fresh for me for 30 years is that I don't know what I'm going to get an each wedding I kind of enter and try to discover something from that couple in particular and not just stick them in the same setting and have the bride turn back to the camera and fire away.

Braedon Flynn: 19:14 Can you talk through how that plays out for you? Like how do you approach a wedding and what are you..... You know, it sounds like you're trying to come away with the authenticity, but what is, what does that look like for you and how do you feel like that's different than what is happening?

John Dolan: 19:33 The first thing I do take a nap. So I have all my gear laid out, I have my suit laid out and then if I'm leaving to go to the wedding at 2:00 all just like lie down for 10 minutes and I'm sorta emptying my eyes, empty my brain and just sort of saying, "I don't know what's gonna happen today. I'm really looking at almost like a novelist or a short story writer. So I'm thinking of these two families coming together and entering into this union and so I, I really set myself as a kind of empty vessel to be filled up by the day. And then once I start, um, I almost throw away the shot list because at this point I know what the shot list is. I, I, I entered that house and I put my sensors on high alert.

John Dolan: 20:42 Like what is going on with this family? What's going on between the mother and the daughter? Where's the stress point? Who's going to be complicated today? You know, there's, every family has usually one family member who calls him a little, a little bit of extra stress. I don't want to give the impression that I'm shooting edgy pictures of stressed out people fighting with each other. I'm just looking for subtlety and narrative and just, I'm trying to look at each person and imagine how they're experiencing the day. And the interesting thing is that the older I've gotten, I've shifted now where I'm seeing what the dads are going through. I'm really keyed in on father of the bride because I have my daughter's 23, 24 now. It's like all of a sudden I can see myself in these people and I go up to these guys and go, "man, you like the guy she's married because that's big."

John Dolan: 21:46 You're like, you're adopting somebody, you know, so my point of view has shifted and, but still I'm, I'm just kind of um, observe her neutral observer. I don't have an agenda and I'm just trying to really feel what it's like to feel what it feels like in a house full of nervous people. I guess my goal is that six weeks later when the bride sees these pictures that I tap back into exactly what she was feeling at that moment. So that's why I don't direct people at their wedding because I don't want to be the person changing their flow of the day or you know, they're express their feelings and emotion. I don't want to mess with that. I think that's kind of not our job as photographers. I certainly guide people into good light, but I would never tell somebody put your hand here. It just feels like I'd be violating some code of a, I don't know, a little private code.

Braedon Flynn: 23:14 I hear you not to be contrary, but to sort of just have a conversation on this because I would say from my, the way that I approach it is, I mean the photos that I love the most are the candid images and I think I've found over the years of shooting is that there are.... It'll be a of a question I'm going to ask him a little bit is how much you feel, you know, blogs and magazines and that sort of pressure is put on the expectation of the photographer and the bride. But going back to this is: I mean I find that as much as I always tell people, I'm getting "Both And" where I think I even at the reception I say less because I had a handful of weddings where my first weddings, the brides were very coming from the fashion editorial world. And say we want nothing traditional, just be as candid as you can.

Braedon Flynn: 24:09 And I would shoot that. And then, and those weddings got featured in magazines and they came out beautifully and the couple was really happy, but then I was getting mom writing back and being like, where these photos? Why are there no photos of people just looking at the camera? And I told her that her daughter didn't want that, you know, so. So now I say, "listen, those are my favorite photographs as well and I get those, but I'm also going to make, I'm shooting, I'm looking for the laughter at the reception, but then I'm also going to walk up and say, Hey, can I grab your photo and have people look at the camera and take their picture?" So it's, I'm getting, I feel like I'm getting both, but it's in a very natural, candid way.

John Dolan: 24:46 I'm with you 100 percent at a certain part of the wedding from being the neutral observer to being a welcome guest. And I think really what I, I've evolved into is that I'm much more patient than I used to be. So, uh, now I'll kind of wait for the wedding to open up to me rather than force myself into it. In other words, I start slowly and want to get to know people and I talked to people and I mingle and I hang with the bridesmaids and I make friends with the groomsmen and it's a real process to be led into a group of strangers. But it's, it's a funny thing that how I am as a photographer effects the pictures. So the, the, the older I've gotten, the more comfortable I am with, I'm just kind of putting the camera down and engaging with people first and a kind of human level and then the picture is so much better, rather than just walking up to somebody cold and, you know, just firing away. It is a real rhythm to the whole weekend. In fact, when I do weekend wedding where I'm on the outside and then I'm, I find my allies and I worked my way in and, you know, the best ones end up with me on the dance floor dancing with the bride. And um, but that's a are from being total strangers to being intimate strangers, you know.

Braedon Flynn: 26:38 Absolutely.

John Dolan: 26:40 And that's the really glorious thing about this. We do, we do see things, family drama that nobody else gets to see that the photographer is a privileged position. And it's definitely some reason that I've, uh, that I'm really big on leaving egos at the door, you know, when, when, when you start the job, you're this kind of invisible and then very visible and invisible and you kind of shift back and forth, um, in your presence at the wedding. But it's never about me. It's their wedding. It's just there to squeeze the essence out of it. But whenever a, whenever the photographer or the videographer becomes too big a role, the wedding, it seems really wrong to me.

Braedon Flynn: 27:40 Yeah, I totally agree with that. But I want to go back to the directing, not directing because I,

John Dolan: 27:53 yes, I mean, I saw how you moved at Engage and very much a similar thing where you're, dancing with people as you're photographing them. You're engaging with them physically and with your eyes and emotionally and get the best picture out of them and then you're moving on and you keep moving. But I'm not averse to jumping in when somebody set up a group picture of five friends from college with their iphone, I jump right in on that and grab it because I don't know what the five friends from high school or college are. So, but I know I can't even say that I have one way of working. It's very intuitive and it's very dependent on what I think I need for the story and what I think is happening at that moment. And um, so there are certainly times when I could tell the bride doesn't want me to direct it all. And there are certain times when the bride through says, can you get this and this? So there's not a one size fits all. I tend to get a lot of people who are shy and a little bit older and are, I'm really into photography but not into being the center of attention.

John Dolan: 29:25 And, and those brides are just the greatest. They're challenging because they're shy, but they're incredibly grateful when you bring them 12 really beautiful pictures because they didn't expect that. I think if you have a high maintenance bride who'd love being in front of the camera, you know, that's, that can be trickier. But...

Braedon Flynn: 29:49 totally, I mean I would say that almost every single couple, whether you know, that they're going to be obsolete simple in front of the camera because they're ridiculously good looking or from couples who just like are more shy and nervous or don't like the center of attention. Generally. Everybody tells me like we're not really good in front of the camera, you know? And I say like, "listen, unless you're a model, what other time in your life are you being photographed for? You're looking at going, I'm going to have like 30 minutes where I'm going going to be the center of attention." And I think couples feel this pressure that they need to perform for the camera. So what I generally say is, "listen, I'm going to direct you through this whole process so you don't have to perform so because ultimately what you've resonated with my images is that they're really candid and natural, but I'm directing you through that whole process."

Braedon Flynn: 30:40 I can. And so I'm not telling people, put your hand here, put your hand in there. But it is still, I feel like I'm directing them so they don't have to think about what they're doing and they can just be with each other, which I think is probably what you're doing when you're saying you're directing them into light. But I think if you just leave them to do, it's almost like that, you know, will, will ferrell thing. It was like, well what do I do with my hands? You know? So it just like, hey listen, just be with each other. If I needed to look at me, I'll tell you to look at me, but just be, walk and it's moving quickly through the space and it's just so they don't have to like think that they're being photographed.

John Dolan: 31:14 Yes. The only thing I would add is that I'm sort of loving slightly awkward moments, that is if the couple is really awkward. I had one couple recently they told me they were awkward and then I did a little quick engagement shoot and I thought to myself, yes they are super awkward

John Dolan: 31:35 and but then at their wedding, even on their wedding day, they were very awkward. They're just super smart and super shy and self conscious than they're just way too smart for the camera. But the awkwardness they loved in the pictures, it just completely worked for them because it's, it reflected who they were and I know that if I had gotten frustrated with that and wished for them to no really do something magnificent, they would have just been miserable. So it's about reading. It's about knowing the people and really reading those signs of what they're capable of or what they're willing to do. And, you know, I just, my main thing is I do not want to add any more stress to the day. I want to take stress away from constantly sort of reading the temperature of a couple and you know, how they're doing, they need a break. Um, sometimes I leveraged that and if I see them being stressed by family or something, I said let's leave the tents and go take a quick walk. And people love that. People often really loved the relief of that.

Braedon Flynn: 32:54 Yeah. It's funny because I think a lot of the things that you're describing that you think through do is I don't even, it's just sort of a natural piece of

Braedon Flynn: 33:06 my personality. You know, it's that warmth of just making people feel comfortable. Like I literally tell brides like, your maid of honor is going to be a little jealous because you are my person on the day, you know, as like there's those elements where I feel like it's such a win when the bride is coming to you asking for a peanut. It's like, what do you think I should do with my hair? Or like, you know, like those little things of I think it is that element of really gaining trust. And, I mean to me that is the most special thing about the day is when, when you are so valued in that position of trust,

John Dolan: 33:48 Yes, but also your personality is that you're a positive force. We are neutral and I think sometimes I see other photographers at weddings occasionally who are working so hard and you know, just really trying to crush it. And I think that's good to remember that you've got plenty of time and the more effortless it looks like the more effortless you make it look the better it is just for everybody. And I regularly hear stories of people who went to another wedding and the photographer took the bride and groom away for two hours to take pictures. She pictures and the bride and groom missed the cocktail hour and all that stuff. And I just think he doesn't have to be that way. We can get our pictures, we can make it fun. It's not our wedding and

John Dolan: 35:00 it's not our photoshoot. And that, that gets back to the funny thing about, that's the trend of styled shoots had this accidental thing that came after it is that people think they can get that on their wedding day. Like, yeah, can we inbetween the ceremony and the reception, can we go take a helicopter up to a cliff in New Zealand photo shoot? Well, how about we just stand here and blow out the background or. No, I, I really think we can, uh, can relieve pressure and still come away with a pictures and people just appreciate it so much that we didn't take the whole day for them.

Braedon Flynn: 35:55 I think going on that same styled shoot. Do you, because you've seen things come into existence and now they're here like blogs and, and a lot of the social media. How do you feel like that has changed the industry or even expectations and do you feel them and all that sort of stuff.

John Dolan: 36:23 I mean I just have one basic thought that's been spinning around my head for the last 15 years or so. Why does, why do most photographers stay in the herd and just kind of a herd mentality. And everybody imitates each other and I keep looking for people to break out and reinvented, um, and find her own way. And yeah, certainly bride reinventing their weddings and doing things differently and having less formal things. But photography still feels to me like it's in a very narrow bandwidth. And um, you know, I just, I'm really curious to see what people do and it gets back to this central thing that for me, the most important person to please at a wedding and the bride, it's not the planner of the mother's fried, but it's myself. So, you know, I want to, at each wedding I want to make pictures that I haven't seen before and push myself into this other area and, and not just take the same pictures, but I don't see as much of that as I would love to. And um, and I think that when, no, when I've looked at blogs, they all follow a set pattern of the bride and groom's name at the top and then pictures of the dress and the shoes and all that sort of stuff. And then 30 other pictures that all kind of look a little predictable, even though the quality is super high, it doesn't feel to me like, uh, people are pushing the boundaries or taking risks, which is what I would love to see just from my own eyes.

Braedon Flynn: 38:20 Can I ask that question or statement to give an example of where I'm going with this is let's say you were hired for a commercial job from, for an ad campaign of a particular. And they have, you know, like here's our expectations. If I feel like there's an element. If you were to just go out and shoot what you wanted, you know, it's like that element of like you're getting paid to do a job, you've got to deliver on the job.

John Dolan: 38:54 The way I flipped it in my head, if I'm doing a job for tiffany's or something, art director, no, I have great respect for the art director and their vision aiming for that. What I've seen at weddings is that the typical bride groom are 28, 29. They'd never done this before and they don't know what they don't know and they don't know. They know what they've seen on blogs and Pinterest, but they're coming to me to, to capture something they haven't seen before. So when I. So I actually think, I know I have higher standards than most of my clients.

Braedon Flynn: 39:43 Yes.

John Dolan: 39:43 So that's the difference. Our jobs are definitely different. A wedding is almost too important to leave into the hands of a person who's doing it for the first time. but it's, that's a really great window into the mindset of most photographers where you want to be professional, you want to do a great job. But I would contend that weddings are different. you are, you're a specialist coming into blow them away or to, I don't know what the equivalent is, but it's a very unique job and I treated totally differently than my, my other jobs.

Braedon Flynn: 40:33 I'm assuming you know Art Strieber? I went to one of his workshops. For people that don't know who he is, he's a pretty massive commercial photographer. Amazing work. And I went out to the palm springs photo expo a couple years ago and heard him speak and went to his workshop and one of the things that he said was he, takes on a lot of basically editorial jobs or his personal work because, you know, they don't pay all that much and, but he, he said, listen, I owe it. They have an expectation and that's why they're bringing me on. "And so I'm doing a job and. But what I do is I do, I get their shot. I just basically like one for them, one for me. So I get the shot that I know that they want, that's the safe shot. And then I go out there and I do what I want to do that I feel like is art to me."

Braedon Flynn: 41:19 And so I think I've always taken that approach is where, and I think it goes back to those first couple of weddings where I would get emails from the mom saying where these photos. I was like, listen, I don't necessarily care for the photo of the bride and groom just looking at the camera smiling. But I now say, listen, I'm going to end up getting these felt like because I want to come away with something that was better than the last thing that I shot. And I think that's a constantly difficult thing to do when you are shooting. But being able to also get like, listen, I'm getting the photo when they are walking into the light and they already are smiling. Be able to turn around and say, all right, put your cheeks together and put your arms around each other.

Braedon Flynn: 41:57 Click, click. We've got a nice classic photo and then we're gonna keep on. But I think for, I know for me and it, and it could be different for you, but the, uh, that element of still coming away with those traditional photos, but then I, the element of once you've got those are in the middle of getting those. Then being able to like take it and be a little bit more creative and do the thing that you're gonna walk away with. And I think for younger photographers, like if that's what you're trying to do, don't show the safe photos. Show show the photos that you're the most proud of and then eventually it gets to the point where like where you are, John, like if, if that person from tiffany's hires you, they're hiring you because they know you have a voice and they know that you have a point of view and so hopefully at a certain point by starting to only feature those images really resonate with you. People are going to hire you for that. And then you get to do that thing.

John Dolan: 42:51 That's exactly the core of it. If you don't have a distinct voice, you're not going to move up the ranks. There's everyone knows Jose is. Look, everyone knows, uh, if you don't have a specific vision and point of view, then you're just taking pictures every Saturday and it's, you know, you can make a living but you won't be able to stay in it. You won't be able to grow as an artist. And No, I think that along the way at a wedding I'm shooting, I'm aiming high, but even when I Miss, when I'm aiming high, I'm hitting the middle and I'll please the mom. And I definitely learned that years ago that you need that one picture for the piano or the mantlepiece, so, so, you know, that's definitely not worth missing. Um, and it's amazing how often I still forget that picture and then, oh, better get that

Braedon Flynn: 43:57 and it's so easy to get to,

John Dolan: 43:59 but it's so easy to get. But the real thing is that if I, if I aim towards the middle and then I'm down in the drink, if I aim high and miss, I'm still, I'm still hitting the middle and then pleasing a lot of people. But it's, it's about, um, again, sort of a cobbling together of images that create this mosaic of what happened that day. But um, but I need those 12 slash 15 peak pictures, high point pictures. It doesn't necessarily have to necessarily have to be as specific thing on the list and the timeline. But I just think in our memory of an event, we remember, you know, eight to 12 things in our mind, or at least that's what I want to bring to the bride and groom when I'd be over there. Pictures want to bring these, these peak moments of list or a tension or beauty or truth or beauty or whatever it is. But um, it, it's all there. We just have to sift through and find it.

Braedon Flynn: 45:22 If someone was listening and thinking, man, I don't know if I do have a voice in my images yet and I really want that. What, how would you encourage someone to find that voice?

John Dolan: 45:39 Well, because I had written down, I had written something down, uh, after I saw and there's a great moment. We're broadly talking to lady Gaga and they're on a balcony overlooking La. It kind of says to her, a lot of people can sing really well, but what's your, what's deep in your soul that you're going to share with the world? And I thought that was just completely app to the whole conversation that know a lot of people can shoot pictures. So what gets you anything anymore? It's no dig deep. And I would say turn off your follow up following a people who are like you and dig into other sources of inspiration. So for me, that's a, uh, I love older photography and discovering new photographers from the fifties and forties and thirties and back. Uh, I love reading short stories and uh, I love reading really good detective novels because they're completely observational.

John Dolan: 47:01 So the detective walks in a room and can see all these relationships that informs me as photographer. I love watching really good television. There's just an incredible time for tv before the visual aspect and the light and the camera movement. And I watched TV in a very active way. Same with, with films and older films things. So, you know, you've got to find your source of inspiration, but I wouldn't suggest following photographers. You can get caught up in that. The hyper loop of blogs and Instagram, you're gonna your brain's going to explode and that's not a good thing.

Braedon Flynn: 47:49 Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. It's either been, if, obviously if you're listening to this, you probably shooting weddings to some degree, but you know, looking more at fashion magazines. I love looking at Bon appetit and the way that people shoot food and even just like the way that they shoot portraits of the chefs. There's so many amazing styles of photography and if you're just looking at other wedding photographers, it's really difficult. It's almost like it's hard not to plagiarize when you're just reading one author, you know, it's, it's hard not to sound like a muse, a certain musician if that's the only musician he listened to. I think. Yeah, there's that element of being able to look outside of your craft and even looking at paintings look like all that sort of stuff. Yeah.

John Dolan: 48:36 No, I just got contacted by a woman in South Africa who started a new instagram account called counterpart and she just reached out to me and started talking, but she's featuring kind of out of wedding photographs from history or current, but I just really applaud her for trying something like that. Just curating pictures that haven't been seen before and know how do you stretch it all out and replenish your inspiration and your creative soul because uh, you know, there's always that balance between art and commerce. And I think photographers these days are so strong on the commerce and on the Seo and I'm posting and all that sort of stuff. But are you filling your art quota for the day? I, are. You feeling your inspiration that outside the wedding industry and um, it'll, it'll really make it so you can stay relevant and stay fresh and I highly encourage it.

Braedon Flynn: 49:53 This was a really enlightening conversation and I hope that other people listening find that as well because I, I just love your perspective and point of view and also the fact that there is such a young industry, but it's the, I feel like the barrier to entry is so low. There's so many people that have only been in it for a few years and to have someone being it for as long as you have. And I mean I, and I'm always looking to that as well, being that I've been in here for vet as well, trying to figure out how to, how to continually do this and make a living doing this while supporting a family and then also not burning out. And, um, maybe maybe we could end on that element as I just thought of it is for shooting for this long. How do you feel like, have you gone through burnout? Have you, have you gotten out of it? How do you not get into it?

John Dolan: 50:46 Uh, I definitely went through burnout. Child was born. I realized that I had shot, realized I'd shot pretty much every beautiful weekend

John Dolan: 51:02 in New York. We have made June, September, October, and I used to do 20 weddings a year and like every beautiful weekend was gone, so definitely slowed down after that. And then now I do 10, the 10 to 12 a year and it's great. And I would encourage people know if you're feeling any burnout, then do a wedding for a family member for free or for 500 bucks or something and just go as a, bring one camera and just shoot completely fresh without the obligation of pleasing that big fancy wedding planner or big fancy, broad. Um, I have a big family as he knows. So my nieces and nephews are getting married and each of their weddings has just been incredible because I been a guest, I've been a relative, I fit in all these different boxes while shooting it as well. So I kind of love the spirit of that where I'm just part of the party and in it and dancing with everybody and, and I'm not trying to please anybody except just making our family history.

John Dolan: 52:19 So I do a wedding for free or for, for fun every once in awhile, like once a year. And um, and that definitely helped use your winter time if you get a break during the winter, use that too. Reenergize and make a battle plan for the next year. Um, and uh, one other thing you said earlier, Bryan, was don't show pictures to clients that you don't love. Don't try to please the client. Don't try to sell them, uh, on something. It should be a really strong match. And whenever possible, I'd say meet people in person and look in their eyes and see if you want to make pictures for them and not. It's not, you're not trying to sell yourself, you're trying to see, am I the right photographer for this wedding, but showing pictures that really get to the core of your vision and your superpower during meeting is

Speaker 3: 53:26 super crucial.

Braedon Flynn: 53:28 That's huge. Yeah, it is. Those are the things that either make the job life giving or life sucking is when it's not a good fit, you know?

John Dolan: 53:39 Yes. There is. There's a real energy exchange at weddings. You put out a lot of energy as the good ones. You've come back to your home, to your family and go, I was filled up by that weekend. Totally. And that's, that's really the guiding principle for me is if I make great pictures, I come back really fulfilled.

Braedon Flynn: 54:02 Love it. Well, hey, thanks so much for just sharing your knowledge and if people want to see more of your work, is it just John Dolan Dot com?

John Dolan: 54:11 There is a secret, a secret other part of the website. [inaudible] dot com slash wedding.

Braedon Flynn: 54:17 Alright, perfect. And then to find really hidden, defined your manifest so they can go to blog dot John Dolan.com and they can read that whole article, which is great. On what? Well, thanks again and hopefully get to see us in. Fantastic man.

Intent in Your Images with Rebecca Yale

Rebecca Yale is a talented photographer who got her degree in photography out in New York. She takes her photo school and art history background and applies intentionality and thought into the images she takes. In this interview, we chat through the importance of knowing why you’re taking the images you take and how Rebecca approaches her work.

Below is the transcript from the interview with Rebecca Yale:

Rebecca Yale: 00:00 I'm always asking myself, why am I writing it this way? Why am I? Because everything you do is a choice, like every time you put your shutter, you're making decisions, and I think like most people again who maybe haven't really thought about it, don't realize that they're making these decisions.

Braedon Flynn: 00:13 Welcome to the photo report podcast where we talk to top level pro photographers about the business behind their craft, their journeys to get them where they are and the lessons they've learned along the way. I'm Braden Clinton. Your host and this episode is an interview with photographer Rebecca Yale, who unlike most photographers today, actually went to school for photography and share some powerful insights into how she approaches her craft and thinks through design and composition while shooting her subjects or styling decor. Before we get into the show, want to tell you real quick about our sponsor film supply club. If you shoot film or you're interested in film, I love film. It is the best place to get it at the best prices than amazing community of some of the top photographers in our industry. You can check it out@filmsupply.club slash. Join now onto the show. Welcome to the show, Rebecca. So excited to have you on. And I just, for people who are not completely familiar with you, can you give a brief little intro on just your background in photography and sort of catching us up to where you are right now?

Rebecca Yale: 01:08 Sure. Yeah. Thank you for having me. So I've been doing photography my entire life. I started when I was basically 10 years old and fell in love with photographer, went to NYU for it where I was intending to be a fashion photographer when I started and quickly decided that wasn't right for me. And went and documentary photography and worked in that for about four years. So two years in school period. And quickly realized that wasn't right for me either. And um, wanted something that I could do everything in one day, a fashion still life documentary and was really kept being told but that didn't exist. And then I had to pick something to specialize in and I never had thought about weddings. I was not the little girl that dreamed about a wedding by any means. I am not married myself. And I thought weddings were like my parents really like old school, 1975 awful photos like no room to be an artist in wedding photography. And then in 2011 my cousin got married, um, and a beautiful estate in Vermont and I followed her around her wedding photographer. The whole day was so that I know and get that like I would be like, leave me alone. Um, but luckily she was really nice to me and I fell in love with weddings and seven years later I'm in 100 plus weddings. Later I'm shooting weddings.

Braedon Flynn: 02:24 Went from shooting that one friend's wedding. How did you go from there to then getting booked, you know, and getting your name out because obviously people have shot a wedding before. But then going to book, I've shot a wedding, now I've got a full business.

Rebecca Yale: 02:38 Yes. that is not how it works. Luckily I had been, for lack of a better word, beaten down a lot when I was doing the documentary photography and had kind of learned humility already when I, uh, when I graduated from Nyu, um, I was definitely a little bit big headed. Um, I had just won a big award from pen and I spent six months traveling around Africa and Asia and I was like already for Nat Geo to give me a contract and they certainly did not and the editor ripped me to shreds and made me cry, but then became my mentor for the next two and a half years and changed my life. So I'm very grateful for that. And that's why I'm such a big fan of mentorships and critiques because I think that's how you grow. But yeah, luckily by the time I started in weddings, I had already gone through that experience and already had been kind of told, um, I'd been an instance of a mission and told that you needed to pay your dues.

Rebecca Yale: 03:27 So, I started by shooting a bunch of city hall elopements. I was living in New York and those were kind of an easy way to enter the genre. And then I was really lucky that two of my sister's friends were getting married and took a chance on me. My first couple to ever higher me, I will never forget this. I literally just told a prospective client this on Sunday, the first client to ever hire me outside of one of my sister's friends said: well, you photograph elephants well, and if you can do that, you can probably make me look good. They hired me. So, for $3,000 by the way. And that included whole day coverage and an engagement session. So good times. And I was already shooting film. So I definitely lost money. I lost money probably my first year and a half if not two years on most of my weddings because I was building my portfolio and I was shooting almost anything that would come to me. And I really did because being an artist was so important to me. I didn't want to sacrifice my own standards. So I've basically been a team of three. I definitely shoot a lot more film that I used to, but I've been a team of three had been shooting films since I started

Braedon Flynn: 04:32 What do you mean by a 'team of three'?

Rebecca Yale: 04:33 Yeah. So I always have a second shooter and an assistant basically, unless it's like under 15 people I always have that I shoot on average 80 to 100 roles at a wedding. Um, especially if it's like an outdoor California wedding. So I really need, I always need that team can't function without it.

Braedon Flynn: 04:49 I get that. Well, can I go back to when you had the mentor from Nat Geo? What? Yeah, how can you talk about how that was impactful and like obviously it sounds like you got beaten down, but then you said it like how powerful it was and changing for you. Like what, what in that, in that process I guess was helpful.

Rebecca Yale: 05:08 Yeah. So that's actually something I talk about all the time that I feel like we've talked about at WPPI and it really bothers me that I feel like WPPI is the only conference for photographers that doesn't have a critique process. So I met this editor at NAMPA, which is the North American Nature Photography Association, and I did a paid critique with her as you can do at the Santa Fe, New Mexico Workshop or the palm springs, like anywhere else in any other conference has critiques except Wppi and any kind of wedding started. But um, I paid for a critique with her and I was super excited. I had my old book, this was 2010, so I had my, like 11 by 14 leather bound portfolio that I spent thousands of dollars on and she opened it up and I had a photo that had won PDN, photo annual and I was super proud of and she was like, okay.

Rebecca Yale: 05:54 And then flip the page and saw the next photo and kind of.me and then flip the other page and close it and was like, we're done here. And I was like, oh, I can I have a contract with National Geographic? And she was like, nope. Your first photo showed me that you can take a good photo. Your second photo told me it was by chance and your third photoshop me, you have nothing, you should not be in front of me right now. and I burst into tears and ran out because I was an immature 22 year old and ran out crying. But luckily it came back later that evening and apologize for running out and asked if I could because I paid for that and like wasted by time by running out. And I was like, I don't owe you, don't owe me any more time.

Rebecca Yale: 06:30 Like, that was awful of me. But I'd really appreciate if I could buy you dinner, take you out for a drink. I'll pay for more of your time. Like whatever it is, can I have a little bit more of. I'd love to hear more of what you have to say. And she like, you know, I've had, I've had a lot of people run out on me, which I was like, yeah, your name. But like I've never had anyone come back and I'd be happy to. And we had, we had drinks and she talked to me more and afterwards as I could, I said, you work in the future, like as I take in some of the things you said. And she said yes. And for the next two years, um, as I was traveling and working and that's when I was still working with a lot of NGOs.

Rebecca Yale: 07:04 I would send her work and she would be really, really harsh. I don't think I ever got good words from her. I got like an okay, it's better or like an acceptable. She never gave a ton of praise, but it really has so changed my work that during art school there was a ton of critique. But I think a little side of me like I was and again, like being young and stupid that like I wasn't really listening to the other students because I was like, Hey, like I'm better than them. They don't know. They're talking about and it was rock and you need to listen to your people. You respect and internalize that feedback to become better. Yeah. One of the, it's actually one of my first things that I give to my mentees and it's one of my first assignments when I actually tried to do it at least once a year.

Rebecca Yale: 07:42 This is why when I was going to Rwanda and Uganda Baptist editor gave to me as an assignment, she said that the entire time that I was there I couldn't, I had to shoot Jpeg, I couldn't associate and digital because I had to send photos to get a from the field says working for getty images at the time. Um, and I would shoot 100 percent jpeg. I wasn't allowed to crop, I wasn't wanting to do anything, so I had to nail it in the camera 100 percent. I had to look at every corner of my frame, every angle, make sure it wasn't tilted and that one assignment changed the way I look and see the world. Um, and it's the first assignment I give to my mentees. And I love seeing how things change for people doing that. And I still, again, I try to do it once a year now because it just makes you think differently.

Braedon Flynn: 08:21 Yeah, that's really great. With the background, having photos school and because there's a lot of photographers out there that didn't go to photo school, how do you feel like, I guess going through that program has. It hasn't been beneficial. Like how, how is that sets you up for sort of what you're doing now and how you're shooting?

Rebecca Yale: 08:41 Yeah, absolutely. I'm a big believer so I went to a school at Nyu called Gallatin School of individualized study, so it wasn't just a photography major. I was art history and aesthetic philosophy and basically the main, the core of my thesis because it like you're an Undergrad thesis was semiotics, so it was how do we derive ideas from imagery and specifically it was when I was still working in documentary photography, it was how do we use photographs to motivate social change? That was my study, but it's the idea of semiotics is it's the study of signs and symbols. So it's wire brain interpret things the way we do and in retrospect like, well, weddings were never what I thought I'd be doing. I was basically doing a master course and being a wedding photographer because I was studying all of these concepts that I use every day and I think there are so valuable and I completely, I understand not everyone, like I feel so lucky that I had the opportunity to go to photo school and I know that not everyone does, but you hopefully can take the time to learn these on your own.

Rebecca Yale: 09:38 Um, uh, well again, like I found my mentor after photo school who helped change me so much and I took a lot of persons that ICP and you work the center of photography that I talk about this all the time, that like 99 percent of wedding photographers, especially film shooters, are fine art community, don't know how to light. They say they're not light because they don't know how to light. I learned a little bit of lighting in school, but then I took a course from Uj camp at ICP. Like we can take the initiative and the time to learn these things sell just because we didn't go to school and there's just so much online that when I was um, I was like literally pulling out my dissertation notebook when I was just making related to the ecourse and working on like these 10 elements of design in it.

Rebecca Yale: 10:14 But I was like, oh, like I couldn't find certain things and I was like, oh, like I want to do claimants who have been accused spiral and there's so much information on the FIBONACCI spiral. Like you got like people can take the time and it's just, it's the prerogative. And I think a lot of people don't even know that they should be doing that. But it changes. It changes your life. When I say all the time about at least the courses that I'm doing now is that my goal is when you look at a photo. So many times people don't understand why it was good or bad and like they're like, I noticed photos better, but I don't know why. And I want to change that. Like it should be so easy to understand these concepts and be able to figure out what you need to sit. So that's what I'm trying to teach is the basic elements of visual language, how to read a photo, how to know if it's good or bad is subjective term. So like I try to say like visually interesting or dynamic or engaging.

Braedon Flynn: 11:02 Yeah. So if you were to, if you were to go through, obviously we will talk a little bit more about the courses that you have, but if, if you were to give just examples of a couple of things in a photo that would make, like as you are looking at a scene or you're looking at a couple or whatever it is that you're shooting, maybe details, what are the first couple of things that you're looking for that you will owe that you're always looking for? Does that make sense? Yeah,

Rebecca Yale: 11:25 yeah, totally. I mean it depends on what the frame is, but the overall I think always is why did I take this image? Like that's always the number one question that I'm telling people and it's not the same as like Angela Adams story that's told, although I just ruin the punchline by saying it that way, but there's a story that's told and like all photos, so all photo school, like there's this man on the side of the road taking an image of Yosemite and this old man comes back to them and it's like, why young men? Why are you taking this photo? He's like, if you were somebody of course, and he was like, what? Why are you taking that photo of Yosemite? And he was like, Hon, it was Angela Adams. And he was like, open up your frame and like shoot it this way. And it's the idea of thinking a little bit deeper about what's in your frame and why you're taking it that way.

Rebecca Yale: 12:09 So whether I'm shooting a detail, whether I'm shooting a couple, like a documentary moment, I'm always asking myself, why am I writing it this way? Why am I. because everything you do as a choice, like every time you click your shutter, you're making decisions. Even if you don't like most people again who maybe haven't really thought about it, don't realize that they're making these decisions. Um, I just had a great talk with um, another amazing photographer in New Mexico about that, that we, we've really different styles and how we should our reception. And she was like, no, I never really thought about even like white, like shooting it differently. Like this is just what works for me. Um, and she likes what she does and she can stand by it and that's totally fine if you can, but I've seen yourself like why am I shooting with off camera flash or why am I shooting with on camera flash and dancing it?

Rebecca Yale: 12:50 Or why do I want it everything dark? Why do I like those apps? Like every decision you make is the decision. So that's Kinda the first thing I would say when I look at an image is I asked myself why did the photographer take it this way? And then what is it telling me as the viewer looking at it. So that's like. And that, that change. Then you get into all the specifics, but that's really the most basic thing because then you get into like movement and flow within the image. Like where does my. I enter it, where do you pass through the image? Like where's my ibm cloud? Is it being led to the subject? Is it being bounced out of the frame? Am I seeing if it's a pride issue like posed in a way that she's going to hold, like, is that a good angle on her? If they're walking to their legs, look crooked. I'm like all of those little things that like get like way, way worse, but it all starts with why. Why that image.

Braedon Flynn: 13:38 That's great. And so when you're directing a couple, and I'm, I'm assuming you're directing them a lot more than just documenting. Yes. Yes. And so you're directing them and how like how do you, are you structuring that? Let's say, let's say you've got a pretty backdrop and you've got a couple and they're standing there. You can be using the backdrop. How are you directing them? Are you getting them to movie directing the interact? How much are you just using them as sort of subjects in the frame and really using the aesthetic, the backdrop, just maybe like if someone was listening in and wanting to hear like, okay, what, what would be a good strategy and like looking at this, how are you going into that?

Rebecca Yale: 14:16 I definitely, I really interact with my couples and it's funny, I actually um, I didn't even realize this about myself until a couple of years ago. I will physically move them by myself. Like I did not realize how hands on I was until someone was watching me do it and I think it was like my mom was watching me and she was like, I understand like I used to love like Barbie dolls as a kid and she was like, you're a couple of their, like Barbie dolls. Like you're literally moving their arms like you did when you were a child. And I was like, yeah, I guess I do really think about it like that. But yeah, I really like it is. Or like humans, all you get to play with it. So much fun. But I do, I want my photos to look as genuine and as authentic as possible.

Rebecca Yale: 14:51 So even when they are posed, I want them. It's like, I know Christian off kind of coined this term of like the pose pose, but I really like, I like it so I stolen it or given him credit, but I really, I want, that's what I always want my photos to see. Like I like to think of them, it's like kind of be cinematic moments that like someone like prep pod, so it's like this beautiful authentic looking moment, but it's the, it's the decisive moment. So it's like the army, Mccarthy, a pinnacle of the action, but everyone also still looks amazing, which you kind of can't do if they're not posed. And that's where like, I totally understand like the fear list and like kind of photographers out there don't really care about that stuff as much. Um, and they just want that genuine emotion and that's great.

Rebecca Yale: 15:31 And I think there's totally a photographer for everyone. My background coming from fashion as well, like I spent six months working in Abidjan archives, scanning one shoe of Lauren Hutton in the sixties in Paris and it was her walking towards the camera and her walking away and it was all shot in a heartbeat and I just spent like a month and month scanning the exact same thing of her walking and then I could see like Alexey brodovitch and I've Bene Lieberman which they had circled in which avalon his circle and that again, like that experience that happened outside of art school was so informative to me of seeing the difference of like a Pinky by her faith or pinky farther away from her face that the care that's put into these images and that the care that I believe it's on was the first one in a million dollar contract from vogue.

Rebecca Yale: 16:15 I'm certainly not getting a million dollar contract and vogue anytime soon, but I want. I want to shoot everything at that same standard. Which is why I was saying when I started in 28, when I was doing 2012, 2013, I lost money because I was not willing to compromise my standards and luckily it caught up and the investment was very worthwhile. But yeah, that's a huge. That perfectionism is a huge part of my work, but I do want it to. It's like, it's perfectly, it's perfectly imperfect. Like I want it to look authentic and awesome and so many of my couples don't realize, I suppose like when they are, when I'm talking to them and they're like, I want on my part, like totally natural, like within your portfolio. And I'm like, oh, point to what you like. And I'm like totally posed. So

Braedon Flynn: 16:52 yeah, it's the same thing where it's like, yes, every. Yeah. Basically everything is directed, you know? And I, I always say like, listen, I'm, I'm directing you to interact. So it looks incredibly natural and comfortable and directing. So you don't have to think about what to do, you know? So, so often people feel like they have to perform in front of the camera. So if you can take that away from them, it's like, oh wow, this is really easy, and then then you're able to really sort of construct and frame around that. But yeah,

Rebecca Yale: 17:18 yeah. I think a big part of our job is just getting people comfortable in front of us. It's weird to be in there. I hate being in front of the camera. Like I'm so glad that you guys can't see me right now. I'm recording the intro to my course. Took me nine hours to get three minutes of contact because I literally could not like words would not come out of my mouth when I had the camera in front of me. I don't know what happened. I was really surprised by it. But uh, it's really, it's hard. I always joke like the Alec Baldwin from 30 rock when he has to be on camera and he has two mugs and advantage, like what do I do with my hands? And he looked like crazy. I always joke with my couples, but like that's what happens when I point the camera at them and I really, I feel like it's our job as portrait makers to kind of break down those walls and make them feel comfortable.

Rebecca Yale: 17:58 That's like going back to avid on like there's this amazing photo that he took a Marilyn Monroe. He vomits famous and amazing and beautiful and it's kind of, it's her dying and it's at the end of the photo shoot and she had spent the whole time performing for the camera as she was used to doing. And then she thought he had put it away and she kinda just slumped down and he took this one last frame and it's now very famous work of art and that, you know, there's very few true photos of Maryland's essence and that's amazing. And that's always. I feel like my goal is to get the essence and just let people drop their guard. So I feel like again, like you can't really have too much of an ego as a wedding photographer or a portrait. Just in general. I'm like, I joke, I'm adapting my pee on wedding days. I will do anything to make my client files and make them happy to make them laugh. Yeah, whatever it takes.

Braedon Flynn: 18:45 Yeah. It's always funny the what you were saying like taking yourself too seriously when you think about wedding photography and when there's people who are like really famous as a wedding photographer. He was like, but just remember your wedding photographer and that sort of thing and you

Rebecca Yale: 19:01 know, it's funny. I feel like there is a little bit like having the celebrity wedding photographers that are starting to happen a little bit of a back side to that culture of like again, like we have to remember what we're there for that like I especially when I moved out to California, I found it way more than you work have. Like these workshop dog refers who we're taking all these workshops weren't actually spending the time to learn how to tell a story and we're just learning how to take a pretty photo and nothing more than a pretty photo and so much more than pretty photos. And I had a second shooter way, long time ago that I asked him or her not going to call anyone out to shoot some cocktail, just like a, like Robin grants. Um, while I was shooting the couple and details and the person came back to me and was like, after five minutes he was like, I'm done.

Rebecca Yale: 19:44 And I was like, there's 200 people out there, what do you mean you're done? They're like, oh, I thought I like, I got everything. Like this is boring. Like I got a few, it's fine. And I was like, are you kidding me? Like go back out there and do it in person was like, stuff like I wouldn't like why am I doing this? And I was like alright, I'm gonna if I fired them it was, it was awful. But I just like, we are never are they actually. And they told me too that like I said for a photo and they didn't want to take it. So when they just pretended to take it and I was like, that couple is going to ask me for that photo and you are not going to have it in your gallery. Like what are you thinking? And it just, it blew my mind.

Rebecca Yale: 20:19 It was one of my first weddings in California and I was just like, oh my God, I'm, we're not above anything at the end of the day. Like. And I used to do photography at Nyu my whole four years there I was. Skeletons, events photographer. You're, we're not above anything. Like get over your ego, get over yourself, take the photo to your client wants. It's not. You don't have to show it. Like if your groom, what? I've had so many rooms, lobbies like awful photos, but I'm like Oh God, please do not post this and tagged me in it, but I'm going to take it for them. Like just ego needs to be out of way and I feel like anyone, like the most famous people will tell you that that's why they got famous. That's why they're good.

Braedon Flynn: 20:53 Exactly, exactly. One, something you and I have talked about before in an other conversation is being financially savvy and knowing your numbers. Can you talk about that and sort of and what do you, I guess, what do you do and what are you looking at and what are you. What are the pitfalls? You see?

Rebecca Yale: 21:09 Yeah. I think that's so interesting. I think so many people are getting into this without any business plan in their head and if you don't see yourself as a business person, then so many people were like, oh, like I want to be. I mean, forget weddings. I want to be a photographer. You don't think of yourself as being a small business and you are in. You need to pay ty had it like a two hour call with my accountant yesterday. Now that I'm getting into education stopped like it complicates things and I'm like, oh joy, but you need to. You need to have a plan and you need to be smart. When I work with my mentee is one of the things I do. I do a whole. One of my whole sessions is all about finances and your business plan and how you're getting business and how you're keeping it.

Rebecca Yale: 21:51 And I run metric sheets for people and for many people it's the first time they've ever, like, they don't even know what a metric sheet is and it's the first time they've seen these numbers and realized like cost prohibitive pricing and what their cost of goods sold are and how just lowering like I hate, like I've never wanting to tell people to lower their prices. Usually I'm telling them to raise them. But for people who aren't looking for them to understand that if they lower $500 in their booking more weddings, the difference that makes is like mind boggling because when you're something like so expensive, when you're like four to $5,000 or four more, booking one or two weddings can be a $10,000 difference. And I feel like people don't always think that through. So like, yes, demand what you're worth and know how much you're charging and uh, make sure you're making profit.

Rebecca Yale: 22:40 Because that happens a lot. Is like people will add more film into their work more. Second shooter is a not raised their prices enough to do like you need to know your pricing, but you also should know when to invest in yourself. I do not think it's a mistake by any means that in 2013 and 2012 I lost money shooting some weddings because it has paid off off a hundred times. You have to think like any small business tography, forget any kind of any, any business, forget small loses money their first two years of business. If you can be profitable and under two years like wow, and you're probably not doing it yet. You're not even doing something right. You're honestly probably doing something wrong because you're probably not investing in yourself enough for growth. If you're just complacent, you're not ever going to reach the next level. Um, and I'm not telling everyone to go out and lose money by any means, but no pick and choose when you need to invest in yourself to be able to get to that next level of what you want to charge and the people you want to be working with,

Braedon Flynn: 23:34 things that you were doing to invest in yourself that were causing money and causing you to like what, what would be a wise way to be spending your money to be investing in yourself so that you can be more profitable down the road.

Rebecca Yale: 23:46 So a few things. Um, I would say a bad investment is a big style, especially a big styled shoot workshop where you're not learning. I think a good investment is, uh, in your own real wedding. So I'm shooting more film. I'm at a wedding that I knew that might be publishing the or I knew just maybe a little bit nicer. I would shoot more film than I would add like a country club wedding. But I knew that I wasn't ever going to show anywhere. I knew that my clients really probably weren't being able to see the difference between the film and digital and that they wouldn't really care and they just wanted my great photos and they wanted the moment and there would be super happy, but if I knew that it was something I could send a family pretty or to Martha or to bribe, I would shoot more film and it would, my numbers would be very off balance.

Rebecca Yale: 24:34 So sometimes it was more that I was being paid, but that was a wise investment. Um, and then investing in education. I continued to take courses at ICP until I left New York. I learned lighting from Uj camp who has the most rolling stone covers of any photographer in the country. And I was able to assist her and learn from her. And she's incredible. I think investing in actual like actual education sounds really snobby because I really do. I think there are great photographers working in education, but I think that there's a trend right now that we have talked about of photographers doing these workshops and getting great portfolio pieces, but then not actually being able to recreate them or walking away with any, any skill and that that's what I'm frustrated by. I think we need to get back to skill.

Braedon Flynn: 25:17 Yeah. And so on skills you've got, you do have a couple ebooks you just came out with ecourses ebooks.

Rebecca Yale: 25:24 Yeah. Yeah. So my first one is um, more than pretty tone, which I came out with right after Wppi and it actually came from the talk that I did at Richard Photo lab and it's basically, it's my major, like wrapped up into like a little 45 minute packets and replied to wedding photography. But it's the idea of semiotics. It's how can you use visual language and the idea of reading imagery to create stronger images. So it's kind of like this little 45 minute intro into thinking deeper about why you're cooking your shutter and wire lighting things in certain ways while you're opposing things in certain ways. I tell the story of working in abstinence archive and I actually showed some of the photos and getting into it. It kind of skims over a lot in 45 minutes. I'm not able to like go way too deep into any of the concepts, although that is something I hope to do down the line more specifically into each of the like into posing and lighting and all of these things, which led me into my second course that.

Rebecca Yale: 26:23 Because having this art school background so much critique really with super important to me, I wanted to make sure that whatever I did in education was able to have that feedback loop. So I was debating. I was really struggling. I figuring out like I want to do lighting or posing, but I was like, I would need to have like 20 different models so each person can have their own model and then I would need Richard so overnight all the film and it would be so expensive and I want us all to meet the second day so we can go over it and it just became too crazy. I was like, there's no way that there's going to be at $20,000 a student, like I don't know how to do this. So I was like, what can I do that we'll start this feedback loop? And I decided on details that slightly photography has always been something I've loved.

Rebecca Yale: 27:03 And what's really great about it is when you're shooting, when you're shooting something flat, you are simplifying it to its most basic form and shape and composition is everything. Like there is no photo. The composition matters more than a flat image because that is all your, all, you have to literally, you don't have interesting light, you don't have interesting faces, you don't have a moment, you just have competition. So I was like I can use it as a vehicle to get out all this other knowledge that I've been wanting to share with everyone forever and didn't know how to. So that's honestly why I picked details. I also just really liked them and I won rangefinder awards for them. So it was like a good, like, launching place for me. Um, because I had some like a credit, like I dunno, like I had some qualifying things worked in it, but yeah, I, the, the course that I have out is that beginning of it is an hour long introduction that goes over all of the elements of composition and then how you apply them to flat lays but they've really go way beyond that.

Rebecca Yale: 28:00 I talk about like everyone knows the rule of thirds but we don't pass that like we don't really think about and like some people know Golden Triangle's but a lot of people like it's like it's a new thing when I say it like spiral and the idea of like movement and taking the eye on a journey. Like when you enter, when you enter a frame, like where does your eye enter it and then where does it go next and where does it exit the frame and what are you being drawn to. And that's something I didn't even learn in photography that was married history classes. Like I sat on the floor of the Lou for six months with my art history professor in Paris looking at history paintings in Jericho and does he need and being like, where do you enter this freedom and where do you leave it? And we literally spent, and I'm a horrible drawer, but we spent hours like sketching all of that, um, and like making weird little doodles and that. So that's all the knowledge that I'm now trying to get out there.

Braedon Flynn: 28:50 So where can people find that and where can people follow along with you and all that. So at Rebecca Yale, on Instagram,

Rebecca Yale: 28:57 Rebecca are you on instagram? And on facebook, Rebecca Yell, I have a facebook group called sadly styling at where I am. I'm giving critiques and feedback and teaching within the group, which I really loved. Um, it's been really like there's nothing more exciting to me than watching something clicks. So now my ecourses are all out now, which you can get on my website, Rebecca Palm. Um, it just click on the education and the courses are all there. And what's so exciting is now that people are taking them and practicing, I'm getting, I'm getting some before and afters and there's just like nothing could make me more excited than see it because again, like these are concepts, like this is something teachable that's posing and lighting are teachable, but they take a while. This something that like can click really quickly and then it can actually help with those other things. They can help with the rest because it's all competent as composition is composition, but it. So like there's got nothing makes me happier than like watching someone get something. So seeing these before and after photos that are like the, I call it like the paper pop where you just put the paper down and take the photo because you don't know what to do with it versus creating like a dynamic visually interesting frame. Like, oh it makes me feel happy.

Braedon Flynn: 30:06 Oh that's really fun. And so I don't know if, did he say it, but where can people find the courses?

Rebecca Yale: 30:11 Oh, on my website, go to http://Rebeccayale.com. And then there's a tab called education and it's right there. E-courses. And there's some freebies on my website too, so if you're not fully ready to take the plunge yet, you can download. I do a series on instagram every Monday called behind the frame, which is all of the semiotic stuff that I've been talking about. I talk about how I created an image every week and sometimes it's more technical of like lighting or so stuff and sometimes it's really more of the like, speaking of how I'm reading this frame and the visual language element to it and I've been doing it for like almost three years. So I created an ebook out of some of those and you can download it for free. Um, and then I also have a flat lay styling guide for free that you can download that has some of the basic concepts that should hopefully really help people. And then the facebook group, if you just search for valet styling, you'll find it.

Braedon Flynn: 31:02 Oh, how fun. Well, I think you all should go check that stuff out though. There's some incredible free giveaways. But Rebecca, thanks so much for taking the time, sharing your knowledge. And if you have not seen her, wear it, go check it out because it is beautiful. Thank you. Welcome. Thanks so much. Really helped you love that conversation and found something you can go apply to your own business. If you didn't know, there's a ton more content from before this podcast was started over on the photo report dot Com. Or you can search youtube for the artist report for even more. There's a bunch of interviews just with amazingly talented people talking about their business and how they got there. So please, and if you did like this podcasts or liked a couple of the episodes, please go give us review on itunes. Really helps spread the word and gets his podcast notice for other photographers. And thanks for listening and go be well and shoot well and don't forget to enjoy the journey on the way.

37. Refining Your Craft with Jeremy Chou

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HERE’S THE INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT:

Braedon: 00:00 Well Jeremy, thanks so much for coming on. Happy to have you here and looking forward to having a little conversation with you.

New Speaker: 00:05 Thanks for having me.

Braedon: 00:06 Yeah man. And you are down in Mexico right now. What are you doing down in Mexico?

Jeremy Chou: 00:11 So I worked with the grand villas resort and they hired me to shoot a bridal campaign for them. They have four properties down here. So we own property number two.

Braedon: 00:29 How Fun and then how much of your work ends up being more like what you're doing there? I would consider that more commercial work even though it's similar wedding gigs, but that versus just weddings?

Jeremy Chou: 00:41 It's starting to be more. I would love to do more editorial brands and a full hotel chains and stuff like that. But I would say still 90, 95 percent of my work is still weddings. This is just something that came, kind of fell into my lap. So I'm actively pursuing these types of this type of work. But yeah, weddings, about 90, 95 percent, what to do still, you know, almost 10 years, still loving it.

Braedon: 01:04 How Rad. Well, let's just get into a little bit of your history. People are probably familiar with your work, but share a little bit about how you ended up getting into photography, deciding to pursue this as your career?

Jeremy Chou: 01:17 So I think like most photographers that started later in life, I was close to 30 when I started. In my previous life I was actually an architect. I have an architecture degree from Cal Poly Pomona and then I was a big firm for about almost 10 years. There was a little overlap at the end with photography. But yeah, I was in it for almost 10 years and uh, when I, you know, I got promoted to be a more like a project manager. So what I did more or just, you know, medium in his writing reports I staffing and budgeting and stuff like that. So my passion was to design buildings, which I didn't get to do a lie, so I just got to kind of frustrated with the whole architecture thing, but you know, they pay me really well, good benefits.

Jeremy Chou: 02:08 So I kind of stuck around and I have two daughters, so I started taking photos of them. This was before instagram, pinterest, facebook, and this was back on flicker days, so I would take photos of and put it on flicker, a old digital at the time and then slowly made it to facebook and people saw it and liked it. And I started shooting family photos, family photos, grew into engagement sessions and then shot my first wedding back in 2009, 2009 now. And Yeah, just kind of grew from there. And I quit my job a few years after that. So I've been doing this full time. Uh, uh gosh quite a while now. Yeah.

Braedon: 02:43 What was, what was the kicker for being able to. I mean, for someone listening that maybe is working in another job wanting to get in photography, what was it that allowed you to know like, okay, wow, I'm going to quit architecture gonna, lose my benefits. I'm going to lose my salary and do this full time with photography, which, which now probably been in it for 10 years. You sort of look back and be like, man, it'd be really nice having someone else pay my health insurance.

Jeremy Chou: 03:14 Yeah, yeah, definitely. All on my own now. Um, so, uh, so I know first one first sucks. You got to do, like, most people are just, you don't think can make a living doing this. He just thinks it's a hobby. You know, everybody, you know, my parents were like, you know, this is a hobbyist on a job, you know, just have fun and come back to architecture. And uh, I would just, I just got really tired of architecture. I still remember that day. I sat on my little cubicle and I was doing another excel spreadsheet and I just like had a moment of clarity or epiphany or whatever. You want to call it, it's like, can't do this for the next 30 years of my life, kill myself. So I, so, you know. So I started shooting photography and then in the beginning it wasn't anything I want to make a career out of it.

Jeremy Chou: 03:56 I just, I just knew I liked it. Uh, but very quickly, my first year I booked like, I shot like 30 weddings. So, you know, very quickly I realized, hey, if I put more time into it and effort into it, I might be able to make a living doing this and get me out of the hell hole. I called a architecture and then, um, so second year I got really serious about it and I was second year, I think I booked 35, 35, what is my second year? But it was dirt cheap. So at that point I kind of realized, Hey, my, my income from photography actually matched my, my, a fulltime job. But even at that point, you know, I talk with my wife just like, hey, you know, I really want to quit my job. What do you think? I was already married, two kids, a mortgage, two car payments, and she was like, are you insane?

Jeremy Chou: 04:41 Um, so, you know, she said, okay, you know, I know you can do it. You've done it for one year now, but do it one more year and then, you know, see if it's not a fluke. Right. So I did it again and then, uh, so I quit basically 30 months after I started. I shot my first wedding, but it was more like an income thing and I had to match my income and more before I could quit my day job to ensure our lifestyles still remain the same. And that was the most difficult part. And they were up to me. First year I would have, I would have quit my job already waiting another year. Yeah,

Braedon: 05:15 When I'm talking to younger photographers, I. One of the things that I say is don't quit your day job, at least not right away or not for awhile because I feel like there's one, there's this security which makes you not feel desperate to have to take everything that comes your way, where you can sort. I mean, when, when I first started I wasn't trying to be a wedding photographer, sort of maybe like yourself, but I only took on gigs that sounded really great. There were couples they had sort of the style, but um, do you find where you just like taking out everything because it was exciting, which also happens or do you feel like having that other jobs sort of. And obviously it was probably a lot of work, but how has that relationship for you, for someone else maybe who's looking to do this?

Jeremy Chou: 06:01 So. Yeah, so basically what, what it had to do was, hold on, I say this, I didn't really know when that transition is going to happen, uh, for architecture and photography. But I also knew I couldn't continue to would architecture. So I guess it was a I. Yeah, I took on everything. I basically, I've shot, I shall family sessions, senior sessions, engagement, anything I shot a family, their pets, their dogs, a show on everything, but I also feel like the more I shot the bitter I was becoming I guess so I shot everything and at that point my focus wasn't to make money because I still had a full time job but it was just more to like the whole my skills get be better as a photographer and then whatever the next step is, at least I'm still learning, you know, getting better at my craft which allowed me to make the jump at some point.

Braedon: 06:50 Yeah, love that. And I actually think like your wife was probably is wise just to give you the advice to hang onto it for another year and see like is this just something you're testing out and that just happened this one time or you know, I was assuming when you said your first year you shot about 30, 35 weddings. What did your to look like

Jeremy Chou: 07:10 your first year? It was my 30th second year I think right around 32. And in this third year I had 35 weddings booked if I quit my job, so you know, so it was a very, I just, I don't know, I jumped in and just all of a sudden just took off good. But again, I was like dirt cheap and I think my background is architecture kind of allow my, you might composition to be different than most people that were on the market at the time. So my photos came in. I attracted a lot of artists, a lot of creative types. They saw my photos, they're like, hey, this looks different and the composition is different to everybody else's. This looks cool. So I booked a lot of, you know, I, I, you know, I booked one day, it's like a car fabric designer. I didn't deal as a client that was a voice over actor.

Jeremy Chou: 07:53 So I booked a lot of creative types. But honestly at that point I shot a lot of, in a wide shot. So a lot of context, a lot of surrounding. The real reason was because I didn't know how to pose my clients yet. So. So I shot. I still like basically compensated by creating something that's composition is strong but lacking emotion, but you know, that, you know, at that point I, you know, I just, I just knew how to do your standard promposals that's pretty much all I knew and it shot a lot of, you know, uh, surrounding photos in the photo of the context and clients liked it and that's kind of what allowed me to book

Braedon: 08:26 you host a lot of workshops and you educate younger photographers trying to do this when with your architecture background and that. Do you talk about sort of how that has impacted you and maybe other people trying to do that sort of thing?

Jeremy Chou: 08:40 So yeah. So, so why do workshops? I do. What I tell them is that hey everybody, you're different, like whatever your life experience has been led you to this point. So that's why you had to lean on. That's what you have to use if you use to be like, you know, that this is a photography abuse and it used to be a psychologist or something. Um, so if that's, if that's something that, you know, that's your experience, your past, whatever that is, whatever it brought you to this point, that's what you use, right? Uh, so my background's in architecture. If your background's in sports marketing, whatever it is, I'm just used that to kind of separate yourself from everybody else that's on the market. Um, so my work obviously in like most photographers, it has changed quite a bit throughout the years. Uh, so my work in the beginning, it definitely was very architectural, very composition, strong m and a lot of the I still do today, but it just, you know, adding a more human element to it. But for people that take my workshop yet again, just, you know, use whatever your strengths are and then just kind of really developed that.

Braedon: 09:40 Yeah, it's neat because I would say my background is more music photography, fashion, lifestyle for brands like that. And so a lot of my first clientele were people that had that background or they'd see more of my editorial site and if they were either musicians or from the fashion world or design, but they were people that I was able to connect with because Oh, like we have language exactly. Which, which, you know, and that makes it fun because those, those are the sort of people that really resonate with like my heart resonates with what they're doing and what they're excited about. So it makes the whole thing really fun.

Jeremy Chou: 10:15 Right. But, and that's exactly how it was for me in the beginning. I'm, most of my clients are the creative type stuff as well. So we speak the same language, you know, we get excited about different texture on the wall. You just stuff like that. Uh, yeah. You definitely attract the type of, the type of clients with the kind of work that you put out there.

Braedon: 10:31 Yeah. Which then plays into, I mean there's, there's so much, I think with instagram and blogs and whatever, that there's so much emulation of people trying to look like somebody else. Whereas there's a, you know, if, if you're listening and you're trying to build your own brand is like such, such a better, stronger thing to actually use your own voice or find your own voice and what actually resonates with you versus trying to be like Jeremy and shoot just architect, you know, and all that. Yeah.

Jeremy Chou: 10:59 But it does take a lot for me to get to a point. I think especially as artists to get to a point where you're comfortable with yours, your artistic self, I guess at that. I mean people don't think it's a process that takes a long time to get there because like I always say take me like five, six years is shooting all the time, full time to get to a point where okay, this is what I like and I'm going to start refining this and I would, I, you know, I would say I would never stop trying to refine my craft because there's always know comes to like the smallest details of how do you make your photos, how do you make the mood of your photos different than everybody else?

Braedon: 11:36 Yeah, totally. And it's almost a comparison of playing an instrument where you have to do the boring stuff of learning the scales and learning chords and, but eventually, once you are able to master those, then you can start improvising, you know, it's like you start low, you know, most kids today are learning like that new John Mayer Song or whoever, you know, like you're, you're learning these songs of other people. But then you're able to eventually find your own voice and start writing your own songs, her to start making your own, you know, licks. But same deal I think that happens with. Did he ever take any formal photography classes?

Jeremy Chou: 12:11 No, I didn't. So, you know, I play around the 35 millimeter of when I was in high school and it's just, I think everybody did it, but it was definitely nothing. I didn't, I didn't have a discretion to be a photographer. And he's like that. Um, my, uh, so I, I still, like I said, well I was born with architecture and I have two daughters. So I actually bought my first point and shoot camera up to shoot my shoe, my girls and I had a friend back then who has a digital camera and who's already shoot a very shallow depth of field and I saw a photo of like, wait, how do you make the backyard so blurry? And you told me how he's like, this is the lens is the lens I. But he's, he's like, but you can't get it with your point issues. I got an slr and then, you know, just kind of learn from there. Yeah.

Braedon: 12:50 Delete when, when did you start experimenting with film and the Loving Film and all that.

Jeremy Chou: 12:56 So I think it's going to be similar to a lot of film photography stories because I, you know, I started in the digital age, but I've always been attracted to the film look. But I just didn't know people actually shot film. I'm sure she's named because mission every Bot, podcasts like Jose via a. When I first looked at his, uh, images, I mean I had an emotional connection to his photos, but I didn't realize it was film. I just thought it was, I was like, well, preset to use, so I, it took a while to get to a point where it was filmed and I then I started trying to edit your photos like that, but he never does and I mean you can get pretty close, but it never really truly looks like film. My wife knew I wanted to try film, so she bought me my first, uh, like a real 35 millimeter camera. It's the Kennedy [inaudible] v Eight, which I still have. So I started shooting 35 millimeter film for just for fun for my kids and, and I shot, I use it at a family photo session, wines. I shot a little boy and then that way when I came back I was like, this is exactly what I'd be looking for. And I just got lucky with that shot because the, I spent the next two years trying to figure out how I did it.

Jeremy Chou: 14:04 I got in the meter, I didn't know any of these. So, uh, anyway, so I would say I started shooting film. Maybe they play with me five years ago. And in like four years ago is I really got serious about it and I, I will say around maybe six months after is when I really started intentionally should more and more and more film. So right now you know, for all of portrait sessions I should, it's on film, like you know, I'm shooting a campaign for the hotel here is on film and then for weddings I shoot film pretty much all the way up onto a reception and I still shoot on key moments in film, like cake cutting, first dance. But other than that it's a digital. But you know, I would say 80, 85 percent of my work is all film now.

Braedon: 14:46 That's great. Hey, I, yeah, I tell couples, listen, I do shoot some digital but it's probably during the day 90 percent film, 10 percent digital. And then it flips at the reception where it's about 10 percent film, 90 percent digital. Say So. And so with, again probably thinking back for someone listening that is like, Hey, I want to start incorporating film into my workflow. And let's say you were already shooting 30 to 40 weddings a year. How did that transition look where you started incorporating film? Did you just make the switch? Did you change your rates? Did you start including as a separate part of your package? How did that work for you?

Jeremy Chou: 15:24 I just ate. I just ate the cost. So basically I had a. I'm right handed. So basically I had a digital camera by right here. I had a digital camera here and film camera right here. Right. So like all the. I just have two cameras. I'll shoot this. I come back to here, shoot this, come back to the other side. I did that for about a good year and then I do have an assistant, will do film for me. I'm almost assistance assistance, shout digital. Um, so I, you know, I will shew maybe three roles of a wedding at that point. Just basically why remember I'll do it, but at some point that became too much. I just don't remember doing it. I just can go back and forth, back and forth. So, you know, slowly I switched to film, came out to my ride digital, came out to my left and it's like become shooting more film and digital as a backup.

Jeremy Chou: 16:10 I'm so not, I don't even show digital backup by second shooter, shoot digital backup. I shoot film all day because I just can't go back and forth. Um, but yeah, my regular change in a sense I didn't feel it was fair to pass the cost to my clients because I was basically experimenting with film. So I just kind of ate up the cars and realize, you know, totally crap. This thing that expensive. So slowly obviously raised my rate, but I don't think raising my rate was solely because I shall fail my things because my quality of my work actually got better because I was shooting film. And honestly most clients don't care if you shoot film with digital digital want the look, they really can't tell. Right. But for me, you know, is more than just the look. It's also the creative process that Kinda, you know, I love the creative process of shooting film more than digital and that's why I shoot film. But yeah, so that, that's your initial. It's very, very slow. Maybe I would say maybe took a year and half for me to actually get comfortable shooting majority film. Yeah.

Braedon: 17:06 Yeah. And so now when you're shooting, do you have similar. Tell me about your setup with what you're shooting with, how you shooting? Do you have an assistant that's just loading? Do you have still second tutors? They're cheaters. How does that work?

Jeremy Chou: 17:19 Yeah, so I assume so I kind of have to work with my clients a lot on my time and because I wanted to shoot everything myself. Um, so I basically have them staggered a timeline. So basically I show up, I should have boys getting ready first and I go shoot a girls getting ready and put a dress on and first look at Abbott. But I'm shooting everything from start to finish. I do have, I always have a, a system with me who lost my field, follows me around all day, just lots of film. And the only time my second shooter at war, well I'm actively should be shooting is doing ceremony because I just can't be at two places at one time. Um, so, you know, if I the back, the second is in front. Um, so, uh, you know, I do apply for weddings up to maybe 100 feet, 150 people or more than that. I'll get a second, a second shooter who's actually the shooting, but I'm the only one shooting film all day and my second shooter bases just shouldn't digital backup.

Braedon: 18:12 Got It. Yeah. Yeah. It makes such a difference having an actual assistant helping load film and makes the world difference. Yeah. How neat. And then, so you now shoot a lot of destination events. I don't know if it's always been the case, but can you talk about that? How did you start getting destination gigs and. Yeah. Yeah, for sure. So I, so I think naturally as you, as you raise your rates, you have to expand your market because at some point you're,

Jeremy Chou: 18:43 I live in la so I just know I'm top dog in my market. I mean there's, there's a lot of high end. What is your, um, but you do have to kind of cast a wider net to get clients at different areas of, to some, you know, it's kind of nature of the business. Um, I didn't start it on a business wanting to shoot destination weddings. I actually don't enjoy it as much because I think for kids I have two being gone. It's hard, you know, it's all right now, you know, about 20 weddings a year I would say 15 of. And I got a flight too. So it's a very high percentage. I'm going to lie. So the way I got into it is that I, I, I booked this one client who it, who were originally from San Francisco, but now they live in New York.

Jeremy Chou: 19:28 They went to Boston college and they have this one group of friends that they all dealt doctors and lawyers and engineers. I mean, it's a very professional group or a group of friends and I got into one couple in their group and then front that one, one cup light shafts, four or five of their friends. So that network now slowly girl as well from that four or five friends. So the wedding was in New York, New Jersey and Virginia, San Francisco to everywhere. So I think that kind of opened up the market. Um, so I also have done quite a few weddings in Italy. I opened it the market by. I hosted a workshop there and I can make connection with the local vendors there who in turn, you know, look, luckily they liked working with me. He's only referred me to weddings. And then, um, so I've done a few weddings over there because of that, because of that.

Jeremy Chou: 20:13 Um, I think, yeah, I think there's an allure of a new photographers. One of the destination weddings is really one of those things. It's not as glamorous as people think it is for those of us that do this for living. It's a lot of work. I, you know, you're traveling with $20,000 to come in with you. You have like 150 rolls of film with you. I mean it's a lot of stuff to pay attention. Um, so I've been this resort for like a week since last Saturday. Two is a Thursday. I've been the pool once, one hour at a time and just rest these base so I can go shoot it again. You know, I'm not gonna lie, it's cool that you're going to different experience, different cultures and you get to like Steve and parts of world. But I would rather just go for fun instead of going to work. Does that make sense? He says, but yeah. But this initial weddings definitely work where my, my, my business going, I'm just rolling with it, you know, if it's the right client or right kind of wedding, you know, I'm there.

Braedon: 21:11 Totally. Yeah. I mean I, I've got buddies who are professional surfers and obviously trout, a lot of destination photographers and I do that myself. I'd probably similar deal where I'm out of 20 weddings. I'm probably traveling on planes for 15 ish, but it's, it's one of those things where I get really has the most sexy allure to it, but in the midst and I think if I was single I would love it a lot. But with four kids and my wife who is home by herself without much help at all.

Jeremy Chou: 21:45 It's a lot. It's a lot.

Braedon: 21:48 There's certain months where I'm gone four days a week, sometimes five every week for two and a half months straight, you know. So it's like I'm home for three days and barely unpacking suitcases, just washing clothes. They leave a good. Yeah. And you know, the Uber's picking Uber Drivers picking me up and he's like, well you go in for a month because I've got like five bags.

Jeremy Chou: 22:09 No, just three days. It's just a lot of stones and Carrie and I get it. If you're, if you're young and single and you just want to use this opportunity to see the world like that, that's perfect. But for, I want to say for a supportive family and uh, you know, has, do this a living a, you basically spend your profit if you just stayed out there for two weeks. Yeah.

Braedon: 22:31 So does your family like for this Mexico and I would imagine this would outside of school. This would be a perfect one to have the family down there with.

Jeremy Chou: 22:38 Yeah. So they've actually, they came, so I just did the one a couple months ago doing summary for the one, the property in Los Cabos. They actually went with me and my wife and I, she went with me to Italy wedding earlier this year as well. So they do come, they do come once in a while, but you know, again, you had some kind of fall on school days, days off, which is a little difficult to do. Sorry, I'm trying to tell my wife to ask the gardener to quit doing the leaf blower. Right. The majority of working from. Oh yeah,

Braedon: 23:07 yeah. I mean I actually have an office, but with this we had our last debate. Our most recent baby was born in December. So a school starting, my wife is trying to figure, it's either like literally hiring a full time nanny so she can pick up kids and drop them off at school or it's like I'm working from home or you know. So trying to figure that balance out. Actually, don't know. Well you got to do it. Yeah, it's hard. I mean I've, I've done both. I had an office for, I don't know, five, six years and then I decided to move back home because I was traveling so much and then it would be, I would be gone, which as you know then when uh, as you're gone you're creating work and so I would get in and not a lot's getting done with your con.

Braedon: 23:51 So you get home and then I'd have to leave and go to my office. So I'd be gone and then I'd be gone and my wife was just at a point of going like, you know, you either need to get a new career or I need to get a new husband. And He. So that I moved my office home. But then that's difficult too because it's just for product. It was actually really great because now I'm around and I'm able to help out, but at the same time it's difficult because of the. Now I'm not able to just like zone in.

Jeremy Chou: 24:22 I don't have, I don't have an eight hour straight to work anymore. It's like a chunk of time. Your chunk of time here, that's why you gotta do what you gotTa do. As a dad.

Braedon: 24:31 I find this to be the case, but one of my hardest things is, which I'm having to learn to discipline myself is like learning to stop to work and when it's. It's easy when you're leaving an office and coming home and he's like, okay, I'm home. But when it's sort of. I don't feel like I've gotten a lot done today and kids are down. Wife's maybe giving baths and creeping back into the office and working on the.

Jeremy Chou: 24:55 You find yourself just always working, you know, which is, which is I think for a lot of creatives is the hardest thing to learn. To Stop. You just always working. But you do need that time to stop and recharge and it is difficult.

Braedon: 25:07 Yeah. Can we talk a little bit about that and I don't know how good you are at doing that, but with the, you know, having been in this for a handful of years and getting to a point of success and you know, how, how old are your girls? They're 13 and 11. 13. 11. That's awesome. That you. So you're sort of out of the clear. I'm sure they can make their own lunches now. Yeah, my two older, if we just had those two life would be easy. Um, but how, how do you set up systems with either your wife or your family for how you're working? Obviously with travel and then being home, what does, what does that look like for you?

Jeremy Chou: 25:49 I'm not gonna lie. It's difficult. It's hard for us. It's difficult. It's definitely creative issues on marriage and family life. Just how much I travel. I'm a, my wife basically works part time maybe like 12 hours a week. Just some social good. Get out of the house. Basically we closed on the Saturday, but, but you know, it's, it's, it's, it's hard. I wish I could sit here until we found a perfect system, but we haven't. Yeah. Uh, it's basically you're just putting out fires left and right. I mean one of our older daughter's seeing soccer, she club soccer so she has practice three times a week and she's got games on the weekend. My other one's in saxophone and Euclidean and my older ones also on piano and then not, which is ab math tutoring on top of that. I mean it's just a lot and just juggling everything is really, really difficult. And you know, again, like I say, I could tell you how we do. We just kind of put out a fire what we see it.

Braedon: 26:43 Yeah. But do you have either like routines or says like let's say your home this week, like how does, how do you structure your work and family? Is it just day to day or do you, do you have

Jeremy Chou: 26:57 systems that you've said? Oh, I see, I see what I mean. So look again, lucky for me. You'll get to there. You get to this point later in life, but there is cool basically 8:00 until 2:00. So I do have a block of time where I can work and I usually grab breakfast and lunch with my wife and I'm just working from, you know, a good six hour window I can work and I'll do the six hours that I probably work maybe four hours out of that, just, you know, everything else to have to do and somebody's going to run errands. So when they're home, like from two until bedtime, dinnertime. I'm just dad. So I try not to work on this APP to, you know, really there's emails that go somewhere or whatever or I have a crazy deadline and stuff. I try not to work during that time and then I will work a little bit after they go to bed and they go to bed by eight to 9:00 and I'll work for a little bit and I spend time to watch tv with a wife and then we go to bed.

Jeremy Chou: 27:47 Um, but that's kind of, you know, very general sense. That's kind of what our schedule looks like. But then again, you throw the soccer practicing there, he's throwing the classes in there, basically just, you know, if I help as much as I can because I know there are days when I'm not there. Uh, so I'm home. I do take the girls to school, take them to all the classes, so I was going to a little break. Um, but yeah, traveling is definitely been difficult.

Braedon: 28:13 Yeah. I mean do you feel that you are, when you're working at your desk and the community, do you feel like you're a productive worker or are you too is like, it's something that I'm not wired that way but have had. I'm trying really, really hard to discipline myself to not be on email the whole time. He knows like do you, do you have

Jeremy Chou: 28:39 like sit down and sort of a system? So a generous be can't do a Monday. It's like my marketing emails, everything on Monday and then Tuesday, is it usually like editing the. If I get scans back on Richard's or whatever or there's some digital photos. I did edit usually Tuesday and Thursday and Wednesday album date night once. I just do. Well what did these dining just ordered on Wednesday and Friday? You know, usually a Friday's. It's just like anything, some middles, anything else like that. I need to do a submittals, a accounting, marketing, whatever, whatever pickup things I have to do on Friday. That's when I do it on the weekend. Obviously shoot weddings. Generally speaking, that's what I try to stick to. But you know what it is. It's just things come up. Totally. So let's

Braedon: 29:24 end. This is just also for other people listening, trying to think of structuring their day is let's say Tuesday, RBC you can't get through. You can maybe get through all your scans on a Tuesday, but let's say you just shot a wedding. Your home Sunday night, it's Monday. You gone through your emails, your promotion Tuesday comes around. Are you able to get through the entire weekends? Wedding on Tuesday. So

Jeremy Chou: 29:51 I don't show a lot of digital except for reception, so if I'm talking about editing, it's basically think all like, you know, I just, I tried to shoot us consistent. I can just think and it editing, if I can sit there and edit an entire white, he's Dr. finish including colon and all that. It will fly tipping to ours the entire wedding. That's amazing. Yeah. Yeah. It's just an see a lot. I'm sure. I'm sure you know, a lot of film shall we just don't overshoot. So I shoot what I want to show I have to do and what I have to shoot and then uh, as you consistently. So it really saves all the time editing. But the problem is I don't have a two hour chunk of time. The new like three weeks.

Braedon: 30:31 Oh, for shooting receptions, do you. What is, what does your setup look like are using off camera flash? Are you just using one flash? What and what sort of digital camera you shoot with?

Jeremy Chou: 30:41 Oh, so I've a five d mark three. Um, I, you know, for reception I'm pretty much switched with 24 slash seven using carbonite. Uh, it gives them a little more flexibility, you know, so I don't have to be, I'll be in the face. I do shoot off camera, flash a if it's like a, it depends on the wedding. So if it's like a more formal ballroom setting, I feel the healthcare flash looks better. Um, uh, but it was like an outdoor kind of, you know, the one you got to Italy. I just crank up the ISO and shoot it. I have a 51 point two is always shoot at one point four, one point six all night. And critic of ISO to 30 265,000. I still looks cool. Um, but you know, but yeah,

Braedon: 31:21 again, flash at all.

Jeremy Chou: 31:23 I do have, so for dancing I do the drag, the drag, the shutter things. I'll do an onboard flash ponies straight on my, my clients, my, my subjects and I'm shooting like f nine or something and then, you know, like half a second or something, whatever. It depends on the lighting. Um, yeah. So that's Kinda how I shoot. If it's an outdoor wedding where, you know, it's about formal looking, but if it's warmer I tend to go back to Africa or flash.

Braedon: 31:49 Yeah. Great. And so, I mean, some of the stuff that I really like a part of why I do this podcast is for either people like yourself and myself who've been doing this for a Lotta years and get it and to sort of, to hear war stories or other struggles, but hopefully to have like be an encouraging thing or also here like, oh man, I'm feeling that too. But are there things that like, what's besides balance and family, which might be the only thing, like what, what sort of hard right now or what is being in it for as many years as you are? And I mean we're both getting older. Uh, what, what, what is it like? Yeah, what's, what's hard right now or, and then also probably a follow up question would be, are you thinking about like the future and what's,

Jeremy Chou: 32:36 um, so yeah, so I, I think, you know, obviously you're already physically, it's very physically taxing jobs. So I do have to work out regularly, I have to like stay in shape just to, just to shoot weddings, uh, not for any other reason, which is the cycle keeps shooting. So there's a definite, a physical aspect to that, but the other ones I feel I feel with the popularity of social media, I also feel like that's really a, it's a really difficult thing for me. Social Media, um, the obviously you want to create a social media following so people can see your work, but at the same time he knows a pantages bunch of, a bunch of bs on social media. I'm actually just deactivated my facebook pages. I just couldn't, I couldn't handle it. It's too much. But I think nowadays, especially with the newer photographers, building up a presence on social media seems to be a number one priority and I called to get more followers.

Jeremy Chou: 33:30 It just like, you know, put your head down, do good work first. So it's kind of like the kids nowadays. Tyler Gray, um, I think when we started 10 years ago, they were just not social media. It's not popular. It's nothing to see. Instagram wasn't around and you know, pinterest wasn't around. We just, we, we did what we thought was good at work. But now I think a lot of new photographers, they do what they think good work looks like a eastern, really honing the craft and see what they like to know, what kind of resonate with them as an artist. So I think that's, I think that would be like the hard part from there and I just Kinda kinda walk that fine line between putting our content where, you know, people people can kind of resonate with versus staying true and I'm actually kind of private person.

Jeremy Chou: 34:16 So like I don't really devoted a lot of personal details on social media and all that. My personal views about anything. But he seems like a lot of times you always feel like you have to do that so that people can connect with you. I don't know how much of that I actually buy into because I haven't been doing that and obviously I'm able to provide a living for my family. But yeah, that's definitely uh, definitely a hard to find that right balance. And as far exit plan right now, um, I don't go. Actually, I think, you know, I think I'd probably have another good 10 years left shooting weddings. There's definitely small things I'm working on. I think creating education content for every one of them, maybe a larger, a larger platform for, for photographers as well. Um, some kind of app I got cast, I don't know,

Braedon: 35:05 when you [inaudible] you've, you've hosted workshops and you've done that, like when you have students that are other younger photographers that are wanting to learn from you, what are things that you are passionate about imparting to them? Like you wish that they would come away with this.

Jeremy Chou: 35:21 So first and foremost I tell them this is a business if you want to be getting, but it stains hard, right? Because anybody can pick up a camera and start shooting, but like to do this for 10 years, that's hard. And also to provide living for like two to other human beings I had to take care of. I mean that's hard as well. Three, that's hard to. Um, so that's the person I'd tell them. I say, you know, you guys gonna tell me how do I get more followers? You get home, I put destination weddings, but like you know, firstly I'm telling you, this is control. You got to control the subject, control the emotions that you want to project. How does your picture it made people feel and what, what makes you an artist? Like what, what speaks to you? Um, so my workshops instead of a to two days, first day he just all artistic stuff, you know, posing, lighting, composition, a heavy bulk feelings on your subject and stuff like that.

Jeremy Chou: 36:11 And the second day it's all business marketing, pricing kind of feel album is how to network. So I want my students to walk away with real life tools and how they get, they can actually make a living doing it. Like I don't think my workshops geared towards hobbyist in a sense. Um, if you just want to do a style shoe and get pretty focused on the portfolio, like my workshop is not for you, but you've got to learn how to actually do this for 10 years and still making a living doing it. This is the one for you.

Braedon: 36:39 How do you, how do you suggest people sell albums? Because I think that's something that people leave on the table a lot.

Jeremy Chou: 36:45 Yeah. So you know when I first started is those one of those things where I just like, I didn't feel right, so I don't know why I had an aversion to selling albums. But the important thing is you have, you had to tell them from day one that this is important, but you started basically talking, educating, whatever you want to call it to the client. From day one a, we meet with the, if you can show a physical product, I hit this is what's gonna feel like when you hold your album. And I don't even tell. I don't even really show a portfolio on an ipad or whatever. I showed them my albums, you know, I should, I bring two albums that shows a full wedding ones, a portfolio, a highlight wedding, a highlight portfolio. And I showed them both and I basically talked them through the hour and I want them to hold it since day one.

Jeremy Chou: 37:33 Knowing that this is what they like this, this won't be like holding your own album. And I always say, you know, this can be your first family heirloom that you got to pass on to generations. I actually have my parent's albums and I told them this is something that your kid's going to have. So you have to build up the value of testing day one, it can be an absolute bar. And also at the end of the wedding, if you want to sell hours, I tell still, you have to send them the design first. Don't sit on the floor gallery signaling design a. So to make them fall in love with design first and keep it like a week and a couple of days at least to look at it and then you send them. Um, and also there's this thing I do where I probably wouldn't buy it depends on the package, but most of them packages a lower cabinets come with an album credit. So it's gonna be $500, a thousand dollars, I think five, $300 range. Um, basically I said with this package, even though you're not getting an album, here's a $500 credit for you. So they will have to buy a $2,500 problem to claim the dollar credit.

Jeremy Chou: 38:36 So even the album, I'm still making money on $2,000 album, but at the end of the wedding you just told them, Hey, your credit, here's the album, the album for you, if you want to buy you, you find your little table and most of them will take it. That's great. Yeah, I love that. Yeah. So they got to think big and think you know, already have on the table if I don't use them or lose it. And here's a beautiful design and they will usually go for it.

Braedon: 39:04 What album company do you use? I used the Kora. Okay.

Jeremy Chou: 39:07 Yeah. I used to always phrase but they unfortunately went away. So I used, I used the car on. Yeah. Great. Them from Canada and then you know, the quality is the same and they'll. The best thing is Canadian exchange rate. It's like an extra 20 percent discount. So Lazy,

Braedon: 39:23 a little more shipping, but that's okay.

Jeremy Chou: 39:25 Yeah. Yeah, I do whichever. Yes.

Braedon: 39:28 Great. And then on the business side of things, and then I won't keep you too much longer because you're obviously in Mexico and got to get back to work, but on the business side of things, especially like talking to your students as well, like what do you feel like is the most important thing if you're going to stay and do this for longevity, what are things that people need to look out on the business side?

Jeremy Chou: 39:48 Yeah, so actually just bring group work and then continuing to refine your craft. I think. I just think that's a given. You've got to keep getting better. You just gotta you gotta network at the. At some point in our careers it becomes who we know about what we shoot or how we shoot it because we're going to do everything the same exact way. It becomes cool. We know at some point, and I'm glad that Polo right now it's. I'm not a planner, so I know the planet is from Mexico, from Europa there. That sends me work. I actually have the opposite problem, like I don't know a lot of local planners. Any log applies and lesson and give me a call. I'd love to do more local weddings, but yeah, I do a lot more distant and stuff, but at this point is just be nice to vendors after a photo shoot, like credit, everybody sending all the photos as fast as you can, don't put any like nauseous watermark on it and half the photos.

Jeremy Chou: 40:38 Everybody worked on it. Yeah. And you created that, that genuine relationship with vendors and that's how you're going to start referring to our work. I'm actually horrible at networking, like I can go to, like engage with whatever. It's just like, hey, how you doing joe? My Name's Jeremy Gimme, a GimMe Gimme a wedding, you know, I can't do that. I just not in me. So I ended up just doing shoe to a lot of people and to treat them right. Treat people right. And then um, you know, sharing your photos with them. That's how you cultivate that relationship.

Braedon: 41:03 Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I mean, I, one of the things that I tell people a lot, his friends refer friends and then they wait for that to happen is to actually have, you know, it's like people or people that referring people that they know and they like, you know, so the only way to be known and liked is to be known and liked, you know, you'd be you to be out there and when you're, when you finally get the job working with that planner or that team that you really like working with you, then I have to perform and you have to actually deliver and then everything that you just said, followup the, getting the images quickly, being a pro, you know. And, and I think that that goes a long way because for the longevity, it, all, all of my business comes from the wedding planner referrals pretty much.

Jeremy Chou: 41:46 Right. Nice. Everybody just don't burn your bridges. Totally. We'll hear about it.

Braedon: 41:54 It really is. Well, hey man, thanks so much for your time. I know other, like another resource that you have four you have on your website, you can go. Is it like a photographer, Jeremy, Ciao,

Jeremy Chou: 42:04 uh, workshops and so I still have a one to kind of resources about photography workshops.com. Uh, and I actually, I, I post blog posts on 100 price. You'll sell how to still albums and stuff like that on there. So, you know, keep, my background is in corporate. I actually, I used to write tons of emails all day and what we're taught is that right every email I'll see if you go into court so you know, so and so I tend to write emails. I mean not, you know, it's not robotic, it's not cold, but I write emails to convey an idea, like kind of convinced somebody to do something. Over the years I've created 50 of those email templates, and compiled them. They’re available on JeremyChouworkshops.com. I probably have sold over 2000 copies now in about two years.

Braedon: 42:56 So for people that are like how to respond to clients, how to respond to planners, what are some of the templates that you have on there?

Jeremy Chou: 43:03 Oh yeah. So it actually starts with what you say when you get an inquiry. How do you establish that first impression in the email? Basically know that a lot of photographers like to call, but like I said, I have a lot of international clients. I just can't call all of those. I email them. And it also talks about how to up-sell albums. It talks about what happens when clients ask for the raw files. It basically takes you all the way from a get an inquiry to asking for a review at the end of the wedding after it is delivered. I will say there's three volumes. There's, I think about 40 to 50 emails in there. Just all emails I use every single day and dealing with the client.

Braedon: 43:47 How amazing and what do you like if a couple writes a review, because I've had people say, hey, can I write you a review? And it's like, I actually don't even know what I'm going to do with it. What are you dealing with? The reviews? Do you have a section on your website?

Jeremy Chou: 43:59 Yes. So I have a dedicated section on my website just for videos. I got all my website, but I usually tell my clients go to wedding wire. It's a free service. It’s still free I believe but I basically have them just go and leave a review there. So in my initial email I actually have a link to my wedding wire review site. So basically when I get the inquiry I just say, hey, thanks so much for inquiry. Will respond 24 hours. In the meantime, here's the link to hear what other people have thought about working with me.

Jeremy Chou: 44:32 Yeah. So I have previous clients sell for me first. I mean it's a first impression and then my second email becomes a little less salesy I guess.

Braedon: 44:44 Amazing. Well, thanks so much for your time and if people want to obviously follow you on Instagram, if they don't already or your website, what? You're just @JeremyChou, correct?

Jeremy Chou: 44:54 Yeah. You can go to JeremyChou.com Workshops with JeremyChouworkshops.com - I keep everything very simple.

35. Branding and Attracting Your Clientele with Perry Vaile

Perry Vaile is a wildly talented photographer, who shoots mainly analog film, and has built a very successful business. She is the breadwinner of her family with a husband that cares for the children -and any of you who are parents know is one of the most exhausting and rewarding jobs out there - and we talk a bit about in this interview.

Perry talks about Branding and building her image and clientele. She's on the East Coast and I'm over on the west coast so it was a Skype interview. Not the normal for this channel but better than not having it.

I hope you enjoy and below is the transcript from the interview:

Braedon: 00:00 Well, Hey, welcome to the show. Perry, you are an awesome person. We met in person just a little bit ago in Canada at Engage, which was really fun and I've admired your work for a long time and just excited to have you on here to share your knowledge.

Perry Vaile: 00:15 Awesome. Well I'm so excited. I love to talk, so I'm ready.

Braedon: 00:19 Cool. For people that don't know a lot of your story, could you give, I mean you've, you have a little bit of a different background but maybe where you started out and then how you ended up getting into photography.

Perry Vaile: 00:31 Yeah. So, I grew up in a really small town in North Carolina, very rural. I'm all by myself. I have no siblings, so it's just me and my mom was always into photos - but like to an annoying level so I hated it and didn't want anything to do with it. And you know, basically I didn't have any visions of being a photographer to begin with. I was always focused on getting out of my little town and getting out of the not fun childhood situation I was in and just finding my way out. And so I immediately, as soon as I could, I went to college and I was like, I'm going to be an academic because that was like, that was my vision of what the, how to get out and how to do something great, you know. So I went to school and I got my Undergrad and my undergrad and master's in history and historic preservation and all along I've always had this pull, to photos, but I didn't want to acknowledge it because, you know, my mom was the crazy photo taker and it was so annoying.

Braedon: 01:29 Was she just like, just shooting photos around or was she like doing that for work?

Perry Vaile: 01:35 No, she shot. She has shot a wedding before, but she said it went terribly and I'm not surprised because she's a little bit of an anxious person. So, um, she always shot, you know, she's obviously shooting on film and I tried to play with their cameras and, and high school I was on the yearbook staff and I was taking the photos and even when I was going into history and trying to become a historian, I always was pulled to, I guess the visuals of history, which is why I focused on like historic preservation, which is like basically buildings and architecture in cities because I wasn't, I mean I liked being an academic, but I really wasn't until like the book and the words I was into the visuals, you know. I definitely stuck out in the history department. I will say it was just me and a lot of, you know, guys that only watched star wars and we didn't, I couldn't.

Perry Vaile: 02:26 I was like, I want to talk about stuff with people. Um, you know, and so, you know, photography I really focused on even my master's thesis was on early American photographers and I mean just very convoluted versions of what photography was and early history, but I was always drawn to it. And then I started shooting for fun and I had a girl basically message me. I had a blog early on about this is way before, it was like 2008 or 9 that I would take pictures on and I had a girl message me and basically say, oh, your photos are really beautiful when you pictures at my wedding. I was like, sure. And I like never really done that, you know, I'd taken my own pictures. So before that I actually was like, I'm going to reach out to people and see if I could shoot a wedding before that one.

Perry Vaile: 03:11 Like I need some experience. So I asked a girl I went to high school with and I said, hey, I saw you're engaged, you know, like on early days of facebook. And I said, and this is so terrible, somebody should never do this. But I was like, can I just show up and, you know, take pictures while your photographer is shooting. But she was like, oh no, you can just shoot it. Which, thank God, because how rude would that have been if I actually did. But. So she just asked me to show up and she paid me $300 and I was like 'Jack Pot!' I shot her wedding and it was just so thrilling is many things went wrong. Like I had never really even been to a wedding but my own. So I was trying to remember what parts of the day happened and I remember during the cake cutting I ran out of room on my memory and I had to delete a picture and then take a picture and like delete a picture. So I started off with a bang. I didn't really second shoot, I didn't do anything. I just threw myself into it and I honestly, I didn't really pursue it. It kind of came after me after that, you know, she shared a lot of pictures. I shot another one and it, I mean I shot like 20 weddings the first year I ever even started shooting. Now Mind you, I might've been charging $500 but I got a lot of experience really, really fast. So.

Braedon: 04:29 And that was in 2008 ish? Or....

Perry Vaile: 04:34 it was in 2012.

Braedon: 04:42 That's incredible. And so when looking at that then, when did you decide to leave the historian route and actually pursue photography and what was that like?

Perry Vaile: 04:54 You know, I think, I never..... It's one of those things where you want to be an actress or you want to do something that you really love and you never think you could get paid well to do it, you know? And I never had that as my goal. Um, I obviously spent a lot of time in school and I was almost persistent to the point. I was like, I'm not leaving this job because I went to school for it. Um, and so I worked for three years as a professional historian. You know, all the Nitty Gritty of nonprofit and all that goes with it. And I really honestly just, I didn't want to give it up. I thought for a long time I could do both. And I got to the point where I think the last year before I quit, I did 37 weddings and I was like, this isn't sustainable. Um, and you know, I honestly, I got enough money under contract for the next calendar year that it met my salary. And I was like, yeah, I don't need this. I need to just leave, you know, um, and nonprofit nonprofit isn't the best paying version of, you know, so I think when I just really started realizing that I didn't have to do that anymore, I still loved it. So I never left it for that reason. Um, but I mean, photography just took over. It became a monster of its own. So

Braedon: 06:07 when you were doing that year where you had 37, still working a full time job, I'm assuming most of that was local. Yeah,

Perry Vaile: 06:16 yeah, yeah. Or you know, I had a really flexible job. It was just me and my boss Gary, who was my bestie in those years, had no coworkers. I have so much personality and I had nobody to talk to you. Gary was really great and understanding, I don't think he ever knew it would take me away from the job or he might not have let me off early, um, but we, we worked together, you know, and so every now and then I would take off a little bit early on Friday or honestly I would just leave after work and dry run like long hours to get some of the distance because I've always really shot all over. Um, and I would drive five hours after work and then get there really late and then do the wedding the next day. So I kind of just made it work, which is exhausting, but I didn't have kids so it's not that exhausting.

Braedon: 07:02 You were married at the time? Yes. Yeah. Cool. When did y'all get married? In 2008.

Perry Vaile: 07:08 10 and I met him when I was 19, so I've been with him for 12 and a half years.

Braedon: 07:15 People can do some math and figure out how old you are.

Perry Vaile: 07:17 Hey. No, I know. Yeah, you add it up. It goes really fast and I met him on facebook too.

Braedon: 07:22 social media brought us together. If you guys could see pictures, they are quite the quite the couple tell you he would love hearing He gets plenty picture's taken of himself, that's for sure. Well, it's got a good person to do it. So I mean, what I really like to draw out of people, because you've, you've done since 2012 and just getting started in taking $500 a wedding or $300 a wedding go into right now you're, I would consider you one of the more successful photographers, you know, in the upper echelon and so what I like to sort of draw out, like what does that look like because I mean obviously transition. Totally. Yeah. How did it, how did it go from there to there? When did you start deciding like, oh I need to raise my rates and how do you do that? And because that's, that's a scary thing for people. I mean even even at the level that you and I are out to the go like, okay, I need to raise my rates. It's still scary, you know? So

Perry Vaile: 08:20 absolutely. You know, I think I've always been super intentional. I never left anything up to just, I mean other than photography coming and pulling me out of the shadows after I was in it, you know, I was very hyper focused on how to make it work. And I do remember in the early days, and I still am, I think I'm this weight. I was a proponent for what I called charging peanuts to begin with because I didn't feel like I should charge a lot more to begin with because I didn't have the experience, you know. Now with that said, I definitely think there's a line to that because I didn't charge peanuts for long. When I got that experience, my prices started going up right away and I would raise, you know, $200 a wedding. Because I mean at the time it was blowing my mind.

Perry Vaile: 09:03 I can get $800 or thousand dollars a wedding. But I didn't do it for a long, you know. Um, but I, I just felt like, you know, at the time it would maybe be disingenuous to charge a lot more and not have the experience because, you know, shit happens on wedding dates and experience, you know, to me now that's what my clients are paying for is all of the experience and the talent and stuff that I hone. So I started off the first 300 and then my second was 500. I might have stayed at $800 for a couple and then you know, 12. So I just kind of raised incrementally and really, I honestly have always based it on supply and demand. Even today, that's how I manage my prices because I mean I was a historian, I studied consumerism, like I really know how consumerism works and I didn't really understand any other theories beyond supply and demand.

Perry Vaile: 09:52 That's how business works, you know. So I basically, I would have a lot of people coming to me and I would feel comfortable raising my prices. I never raised him if I didn't have a lot of interests. But thankfully I feel like I've been really blessed to always have a lot of interest and I just raise it high enough that I don't scare that away. So actually for the last four, maybe four or five years, I've kept a running spreadsheet that I track every single month. How many bookings I have for the following year. So I could tell you this is November, let's say the end of October because I tracked by the last day, so by the end of October in 2018, 17, 16, 15, maybe 14. I know how many weddings, you know, both total contract but also numbers wise how many I had for the next season. And so that has allowed me because I can track it that well if I was low would be like Ooh, like I need to get a couple more to stay current and stay where I'm at.

Perry Vaile: 10:49 And you know, sometimes allow like a six hour wedding to get on the books or just to make sure that I'm sustaining it. And then the same goes if I was way over booking, that is when I'm like, okay, these prices are going up, you know, and I've never dropped him back down so I try to be really smart when I raised them because it's kind of, I don't know, that would be hard to the lesson prices so I just was really intention about how I tracked it. Um, and then I just raised it based on demand for the most part.

Braedon: 11:18 Totally. Yeah. And so I get all that, but just to break it down maybe for people who are listening and going - what does that look like? I guess I'm thinking about a lot of times you get an inquiry, you know, and they're going to say, hey, I like your work. What are your prices? you know, so are you. Because you sort of know what that is. Are you just changing your pricing as you're getting inquiries and sending those out or are you sending it out or how does that work for you?

Perry Vaile: 11:48 You know, honestly I get a lot of inquiries and I know that a lot of them aren't going to have the price point, but I also have a family and I do not have time to individually write up proposals. I know that maybe it's terrible. I just don't, I have a set price point and the only thing that really changes is so I have an online link that I'll send when somebody inquires or planners always have it so I can change it and then the planner will always have that current rate or if somebody inquired two months ago I can change that pricing, you know, because it's live and it's online, but it's basically a link and the only thing that changes is the travel, like a quote, a different travel or something like that. It's basically just all there and I don't have to worry about it.

Perry Vaile: 12:30 So when somebody comes to me and they've already seen my pricing and they want to talk, that's when I really can invest my time and that sort of thing. So, um, it's just really hard honestly to keep up with. And know who can afford, you know, like, cause I mean maybe only five percent of the people that inquire have the ability to pay, you know, the prices. So 95 percent of inquiries not able to pay was really hard to keep up. Yeah. So I just, I don't have that part of my workflow. I wait until they come back and say, well yeah, I got your pass your packet and I want to talk. And I know they've seen the prices so

Braedon: 13:04 got it. But I guess with that though, if you are increasing your prices based on supply and demand, I know you have your links or are you just like as you book a certain amount, then you're like, okay, I'm going to gradually bring it up now. The now the new inquiry that's now the new packet that's going out. Got It.

Perry Vaile: 13:19 Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. For sure. It's really simple. I don't make it complicated. Don't have time.

Braedon: 13:25 That's great. Yeah. Well I make everything in my life complicated.

Perry Vaile: 13:30 It's some wonderful, amazing proposal for every great wedding.

Braedon: 13:33 I try to. I mean, I try to not give out pricing initially because I like, I like to, and I facetime with all my couples because most of them are from all over the country or world, you know, which I'm sure same is with you, but I sort of want the chance to like one chore, like Lay on a little bit of charm. And then also I like to. Because, you know, I feel like that's my biggest selling point is being able to really convey, hey, this is, this is my personality, what I bring to the table. And I mean, you know, I tell brides all the time, I was like, listen, I'm going to be basically your maid of honor. You know, I'm one of the bridesmaids and your maid of honor's can be jealous because like, you know, you'll see me more than you'll see the groom, you know, that sort of stuff. I think it's different being an ECA guy versus a girl and you know, there's pros and cons.

Perry Vaile: 14:18 I think you're so right. And I honestly, I think that is a, you know, a reason for some of my success because I'm like, you, like, I love people I want to talk to, you know, I want to spend time with them, um, and one way that I've found to do that because I think I just personally pick and choose what I'll spend my time on. if I'm struggling and I need some bookings and I'll get, I'll get real up in their face making friends. Um, but I feel like a lot of people thankfully have felt like they know me when they're contacting you because I do spend a lot of time on instagram and instagram stories, you know, sharing who I am and I think that anybody that checks in, you know, they can see any of the highlights and stuff. And that helps maybe to do a little bit of that for me.

Perry Vaile: 14:59 You know, across like anybody who's looking. So I don't have to individualize it. So I think that really has helped me, you know, showing personality, especially on social media. And I do have some videos on my website that are a little bit of, like frequently asked questions, but it's like me talking like I'm talking to you. So I think maybe that helps that out a little bit. And um, and you know, honestly, once, once they kind of passed that litmus test of like they can, they can afford it, you know, I don't, I just feel bad because I hate telling somebody a price when they get so excited and they get to know me and they're like, oh, we love you, let's do it. And then I'm like, Oh, here are the prices. And they're like, oh dear God, like this is not....I just felt bad doing that. But I guess there's certainly a way if you do that a few times, you can get them to change their prices.

Braedon: 15:49 Yeah. And I guess for me, I like to sort of see if this is a couple that I really connect with because what I've found for me is that's what's life giving is when it's a couple of the venue, the, you know, the environment, their friends, that sort of stuff from shooting weddings for so many years. And that's what actually energizes me. So I really want to, like, if this is a couple I want to try to, like, they, if I just sent my prices, I think they might not have had the conversation. So I generally try to have the conversation so I can try to talk them into being like, Hey, actually I think it's, here's why I think you should spend a couple thousand dollars more than your budget is allowing or people are actually putting in money on top of what their parents are committing so that they can have me, you know, those sorts of things.

Perry Vaile: 16:33 Great. I think it definitely helps, you know. I think for awhile I probably, I don't know, I think, you know, at this point in my life, not necessarily my career, I'm at this point in my life, I have two kids and I have a family and I really got really where I want to be. I mean I'm certainly, if I worked harder I could get hired, but I, I put, I put my focus on other things and I think for a while I certainly spent the time. Now I do still sometimes send out voice messages to texts, you know, if I get a great inquiry and I'll just send a text message out with a voice message or even sometimes a video, I'll just sell selfie videos, something just to get like a little slice of personality to them without like a lot of extra backward.

Perry Vaile: 17:13 And sometimes you can get an idea of somebody can afford the price point just by the inquiry, you know, like the location or the plant or things like that, you know. Um, but, you know, I'm going to be honest because I think maybe I do it differently than you and that I honestly show up to wedding days. It's not uncommon to show up and I don't know what they look like. I don't know anything about them. I've never had a conversation with them and that used to terrify me, but I've had so many amazing experiences where I just am able to get them to open up immediately. And um, and so it's, it's not uncommon. Like I do that fairly often, you know? now I have some clients that they just have that desire to connect and I'm all about it. Like I have some clients that we text all the time.

Perry Vaile: 18:03 We're messaging like, I mean honestly, I haven't clients after the fact we go, we've been on rafting trips, we've been on vacations together. So I definitely connect if they want it, you know, but I have a lot of times, you know, planners will come to me cold asking for a date and I say, yeah, I'm available. And they say, great client. Once you send the contract. And I never communicate with the client now I know, I know. Ideally I want to be friends, but I guess I don't have to. And at this point in my life I'm kind of like, I'm okay because, you know, it's a lot of time and that you do and I want to do it if they want it. But I definitely have some clients that are amazing and warm and pay well and are okay not knowing any more than that, which is kind of a double edge sword because I have the other clients who need to know everything about me and my family and stuff. But I like it. I think it balances well.

Braedon: 19:00 And then, so can you talk about just having a family and how that's changed things and being a mom and how I'd love to even hear how it works with your husband and because I know he's a stay at home dad and

Perry Vaile: 19:15 he always used to joke in the early days, you know, when I was making my big $500 wedding checks, he always used to joke that someday he was going to be a 'kept man' and that he was, I mean, it was just a long running thing. We'd always teased because even when I met him when I was 19, he was an older man. He was six years older, but at 19 that's a big difference. Um, and so he always joked, you know, but he was the one making the money at the time. He was the one having a full time job and I was in school. Um, and it's funny because somewhere along the line the universe just flipped us, you know. And um, I was pregnant with my first daughter and he worked, he didn't do a ton because I started to make good money, which is always awkward to say, but I make great money, and so I was like, what's the point of having paying somebody to watch the kids?

Perry Vaile: 20:00 So it was a funny situation to be the one that I'm like, okay, well I'll travel and I'll make the money and you stay home with the kids. Like it just felt weird, right? Because it's not a typical dad thing, but he's a great husband and he's, he's cool with that. So that's good. Um, but yeah, it was an interesting transition and even now I'm so used to the fact that he's a stay at home dad and he does the grocery shopping and he does the tasks for the house and takes care of the kids and takes one to preschool and he does all of that stuff. And I'm the one in the office, like, could you bring me this? You know, like, I literally did that before we started the pocast, you know, and it's, it works so great for us.

Perry Vail: 20:41 I think it's an interesting thing. It's hard sometimes to be a mom or you know, feel like I'm one that's supposed to be the parent, the main caregiver and the lover and the snuggler of all the kids. And I'm like, Mommy's working. Mama's got a job to do. So, I think having a family, having a husband is wonderful, but it is a different experience than having a family. A spouse is different than children but a lot, we know this and I think having kids, I, I had a point where I had to decide, how much do I want to dedicate to time with the family and how, what do I want to give up in terms of success to do this? And I think everybody has a different answer for that, but for me, I was like, they're only little for this really brief time.

Perry Vaile: 21:27 I'm not going to have that many two kids and we're done. So I was like, I just, you know, I'm where I'm at and where I need to be. I have a great career. My husband's staying at home, I'm just gonna I'm going to allow this to, to relax a little bit and I'm going to take a little bit of pressure off of business and work in terms of overworking or doing a ton of stuff just so that I can have time to really focus on these years. Now those kids are in school and I'm going to turn this thing back into overdrive, but to me, that's where I put my values at this stage of my life. And I'm really grateful because I'm able to do that and able to make the decision to say, you know what, I'm taking a lot of weddings. I want to take one or two less this year. I want to take a couple of last because I don't want to be traveling so much, which I do. But it's, it's an everyday balance. Sometimes I suck at balance, you know?

Braedon: 22:19 Yeah, I think that's such an interesting and difficult topic because I think there's a lot of misconstrued ideas of what that should be and I mean there's, there's so much just even looking at your marriage and you're working in that, it's like there's a lot of role reversals or, or there's a lot like I live in southern California where cost of living is ridiculous, you know, and so a lot of our, I have a lot of friends in the wedding industry, a lot of wedding, the wives or wedding planners and florists, and the husbands are there also, it's like the double jobs and so there's, there's all of these situations where it's like who should be doing what and there's almost an expectation for everybody to be doing everything and it's really, it's not possible to do everything really well.

Braedon: 23:07 And so I think what happens, there's so many internal battles that happen of feeling like I should be doing this, but I'm doing that or I should be doing that and I should be doing, you know. I have two questions based on that. One would be for your husband, just socially, culturally, does he, how does he feel about being stayed home Dad? Does. I mean I understand like you can look at it ideally be like, oh this is awesome, but socially does he like how does he going out and being like, oh yeah, you know, I'm a stay at home dad, my wife is the breadwinner. Like that's, that's one question. And then the other one would be how is the mental challenge for you of making those decisions around like family and life and balance all the answers to those questions. Come on, bring it

Perry Vaile: 23:55 First and foremost. I think being a stay at home dad is a role reversal because it, it's like the original feminine tasks of cooking every night. Like I had to cook once this week because my husband went out to do something but she doesn't do often. And I was like, how do you do this, like I felt like the quintessential bachelor, because I haven't been doing it. So I think honestly a big part has to do with who he is as a person because I'm sure there's a lot of different dads that would have handled that differently. Um, but he's, he's a great guy. One of the reasons I actually met him on facebook because I did a search on facebook for my perfect man back when it was for the universities and I did a search and I chose a major.

Perry Vaile: 24:35 I was just thinking of like a hypothetical man and I chose a major for a guy I thought would be kind, which was I think it was like family and consumer services. I was like, I mean, a guy that's going to focus on families, it's got to be a good guy, you know? and so I had searched him on facebook and I found them he was handsome and I was like, you know, when after him the way I do things and so, you know, he is that kind of guy. He started working and family services and he works with people with disabilities before he quit his job, you know, um, and so I think that he is naturally inclined to being good at those tasks. But socially for them, I don't think he likes certain parts of it because, you know, we moved into our neighborhood and we're talking to new neighbors and they don't look at me, they're looking at him and they're like, so what do you do?

Perry Vaile: 25:17 And it was just such a reminder because all talking to him, like, you know, I was a housewife, you know, and it was such a reminder of the fact, like all our friends, this is how we live our life. But I was like, Oh man, that's right. This is different, you know, especially where you live versus a little more. Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I'm in the deep south out here. We're in rural North Carolina. Like, it's not that common. And so I think that, you know, some days I think there's no overarching answer that because some days he is like, I hit the lottery. Like I'm seeing home with my kids. He's got hobbies, like he's living the life that I'd tell him he's on vacation, but he's got to watch kids. So let's be careful. This is not vacation, right.

Perry Vaile: 26:00 Kill me if I had described it that way he won't watch it. It's not because I spend plenty of time with them too. But I mean, you know, there's so much free time that he does get per step and I think he's very, he loves that because we both, we both had careers where we were given all of our time, nine to five to another person and you know, and doing other difficult tasks and having the kind of freedom that it least setting your own schedule gives you. He loves to work out. He's very into triathlons and stuff. So he has a lot of freedom for that. But then there are certainly are days where I'm like, 'bye', I'm going to go to a party and it's work and thanks for watching the kids. And I don't think he likes that, you know?

Perry Vaile: 26:41 and it's a constant kind of balance. He'll try to go out to movies with friends I think just purposely to add something of his own to go do. So we're always trying to do things. I do try to bring them on trips so that it's not just that I'm living a glamorous life, you know, like, um, he chose it. He actually was my second shooter for years and years before children. So he gets to choose the weddings he wants to second shoot on, which is always like Hawaii and like, you know, like he's always like, those are the ones that I want to come to. And so it's great because, we have somebody like grandmas to watch the kids and he'll travel with me and shoot a little bit, but he always does shoot those weddings and he's like, oh, that's right. This isn't all fun. And Games like this is hard work, you know, so I think it's always a balance. Some days he hates it, some days he thinks it's the best thing in the world. Um, it's just different and honestly he's comfortable in his masculinity. I mean, I think that helps. Having to manage babies and little girls especially. You may just do little girls with Tutus and stuff. Um, and I just think that he's a great person for that. So it works out well.

Braedon: 27:48 And then what about for you with the balance of being a mom and then also working - obviously sounds like you love it, but do you have the internal battles and struggles and feeling like you're not, you know, it's like feeling like you're not there enough and you should be. And then how do you, It sounds like you're also very intentional, so how have you structured that? So you're okay with it?

Perry Vaile: 28:12 Yeah, you know, I think that it is really hard, especially in. I always come back to that some days when I'm super stressed out, but he stressed out with children things, you know, like the kids are sick and I'm like, but I have this issue, you know, with work or something. And I'm like, but Oh, you know, you're not making, you don't have to worry about signing a contract or something. This is a different kind of weight, you know, because I feel a lot of times like I have the family wait because I'm the mother and I'm the, you know, like we can be on this phone call right now and I very well could have a three year old running here because she fell and hit her head. You know, like I don't get off from the family because my office is in my home too.

Perry Vaile: 28:47 So I'm like Gosh, I have both of these things that I am having to be what feels like a hundred percent responsible for it. Because you know, fathers are great and fathers are amazing and have their own role. But there is a spot for a mother. That little girls especially like feeling always need at very inopportune times, you know, so, um, it's stressful, you know, but I, I have the perspective at least and you know, coming from a background where we didn't have a lot of money, I didn't have any privilege really other than smart parents, you know, I will say they were intelligent. But beyond that, like I see now I'm really grateful I think for, for the stress of having a lot of business, you know, so I never really tried it. I'm never like, oh, this sucks, you know, these clients are tiring or have so much work to do because I'm like, God, how fricking lucky that I have this problem, you know?

Perry Vaile: 29:36 So I think, I think having perspective really helps mentally balanced the stress of me having to manage everything financially. Um, I like to save, you know, so I, I have a savings account and I just have goals that I want to meet for that, which I think helps my stress go down. So that way if the Israeli stressful financially, but I'm like, oh, that's okay. I have a savings account. Like that's what it's for, is to relieve some of this stress, you know, and then I pull out for something like that. So that helps me a lot. Um, and then what was the, what was the follow up? What was the second part of that? Do you remember it?

Braedon: 30:09 Yeah, I think it was just more that, that mental game of how you, how you go. It was more because you're intentional, like how do you structure the, your sort of work life balance because obviously working out of the house too, it's easy to constantly be working and it's easy to not turn off and then it's also hard to separate with your family knowing that it's work time versus like present time.

Perry Vaile: 30:31 Yeah, for sure. And I think, you know, especially in the busy season, I travel every weekend which means I leave on Fridays, sometimes Thursdays depending on how far away it is or something. And I don't get home until Sunday but I've been working and my husband I get home and he's like, oh, you're, you know, your health with the babies. And I'm like oh no, but it's Monday. And so I have to get back in, um, and so I think like, we all know that Mondays here at home in my office, those are work days. I don't really try to schedule anything because I really, when I have to get back in from traveling, I have to catch back up on stuff. So Mondays are a way that I separate that's like usually protected. Um, but honestly I tried for awhile to have certain hours, you know, like it's like, oh, I'm going to have hours and I respect people that can keep ours, but I just don't because sometimes I'm bored and I want to work at 11:00 PM, you know, or there's nothing good on Netflix.

Perry Vaile: 31:22 And I'm like, oh, I might as well edit it, you know, so I don't have hourly boundaries at all. I think I just have like personal lines with how much time I want to spend with my kids and you know, and that sort of thing. So I think I just mentally, everyday try to readjust. You know, some days I'm feeling extra guilty and I'm like, you know what? Like I just blow off work for the day, you know, not a never a wedding. We're talking like office work, you know, um, and I, I take my kid out and we go do something fun or we take trips and stuff like that. So I think it's always just a constant check in and I try not to beat myself up because there are some times of the year where I'm a frigging awesome mom, like we're doing so much bone graft, you know, like, so. And then I'm a really awesome business owner and I, I think there are some weeks where I'm just a business owner and I'm trying to be mom as much as I can in the evenings before they go down to sleep or something. And I just try to give myself some grace to know that in the long run that's going to balance out. But there's no, there's no schedule there. My answer is I have no schedule. I just overarching on the macro sense, I try to make it work out. So

Braedon: 32:29 yeah. And I think that is really. It sounds like your husband is okay with that. And He is good with that, you know, so I, that is amazing because that can be the situation where, you know, you're feeling torn and that's the other person feels like you're working too much and you never turn off. And I'm speaking from my own experience

Perry Vaile: 32:51 for sure. Yeah. I think um, and there's definitely times where he'll check me, you know, I say I check myself, but there's definitely times where he's like, yeah, so you're wrong about how you're balancing that, you know, or something like that. Um, you know, my husband always tries to get it. He likes his, like outlet is like a workout every day when the girls nap. So, I mean I think you have to listen to your spouse or your partner if you are managing a family to listen to where they're at mentally too, because you might be in two different places. Like I might think I'm doing awesome. And he's like, yeah, no, this is stressful. You need to help out for this day or you know, or something like that. So I think listening and, and that's the beauty of these jobs is that we really do have the ability to change things up if we need to, which is like mind blowingly cool, right.

Perry Vaile: 33:38 Because like if you're working a nine to five and your husband or your spouse is like, yeah, you don't work as much or like, well, sorry, it's a nine to five, you know. So I think um, you know, we just try to balance it in and he, thankfully we've been together long enough, especially through weddings that he gets. It's like an accountant's busy season. Like he knows, like right now I shot six weddings and seven portraits in the last month. So between like October eighth in today, I shot six weddings and six months. So it's crazy right now, but you know, he's given a little bit of grace there too. So

Braedon: 34:11 yeah, it's, I, I, I think that there's a lot of conversation. Why, why I'm asking the question is there's a lot of conversation just in general about balance and everyone's seeking balance. And I, I've come, I think I came out of a place maybe like three years ago where I was like crashing because I, I was so mentally trying to be balanced, you know, and it's, and it's not. And the realization that I've come to us in true balance isn't actually possible. And the trick really in a lot of it, which it sounds like you're good at is intentionality and, and communication and building structure. I mean, when you're single, if I was single, I would be working all day long and I, you know, I have a lot of projects going on and I would have even more and I'd probably be traveling more, but with the family and with the kids wanting to be a good dad, wanting to be, you know, I, my wife doesn't work, she's a stay at home mom.

Braedon: 35:08 We're more of that typical role. Um, but you know, it's a lot of weight to be supporting the whole family, which, you know, but then also like wanting to be a good dad, wanting to be showing up, wanting to make sure that she's not exhausted. Yeah. So it's, but, but feeling like you can do all of that, well at the same time doesn't work, but it's more so being 100 percent where you are when you're there versus like being here and being regretting that you're not there versus, you know, and then when you're, you're 100 percent working when you were with the kids, you're 100 percent with the kids, you put your phone away and you're present, you know. So those are the things that I've had to learn and then also give myself grace

Perry Vaile: 35:45 with that. Absolutely. And I think that, you know, my family was so I guess I always wanted a family, but I didn't know how it would, how much I would enjoy it, you know, and I think, and maybe I caught onto that really quickly because it changes when you're the one carrying the babies, you know, your brain, the good Lord changes your brain to really make you focus on those things. You know, thankfully I never survive adolescence, you know, but um, you know, I think it's something that I realized quickly once I had children that I was going to change because I think before I had them I was like, no, I'm a bad ass. Like I don't need, I don't need them. I can't even balance, you know, like I'll, I'll make everybody happy. Um, and I, I mean for me because I was pregnant and like I said, I do think it probably changes the mother's brain chemistry faster than it does the father's, um, you know, I knew that, that my priorities would change and everybody actually said that to me.

Perry Vaile: 36:41 I remember being kind of annoyed as a, as a really good, I'm a big go getter, kind of a person that so many people would say like, oh, but your priorities are going to change. And I remember thinking, you know what you say that, like that's a bad thing. But I was a workaholic. I was obsessive. I mean like to a detriment, you know, like it was just a very kind of like, um, addictive personality I think. And I was like, you know, if something is so powerful that it can come in and, and change my mindset that work is not the end all be all and I don't need to focus on that. Please let it because I could feel that I had this addiction to work and I was so focused and hyper hyper just tuned in to what I could do to improve my business, you know, to an obsessive level.

Perry Vaile: 37:26 But they were right clearly. And I was. So I was like, I really hope that kids will do that. But I wasn't in the mindset before I had him that they would, you know. And so when I had children and they do change it, I'm like, oh, like this is what I need it. Like just for my own personality, you know, I don't need to be more sharpened and more focused on work because I'm just naturally really aggressive in that way. I needed something to straighten me out personally, you know? And, and that, to me, that's what family really and especially children has done is it's kind of just brought me down to a normal socially acceptable level of work, um, and it helped me to kind of reevaluate and think it will be forever, you know, I think certainly when my kids are in school that I'll probably have a tendency to like crank back up, you know, um, but I'm okay with that.

Perry Vaile: 38:12 And so I'm really happy about the Phase I'm in. I'm trying to enjoy it. Um, and, and I think so far I'm doing a good job at it, but I think that's because my level of valuation is probably very low, you know, they're alive. They know I love them for all our houses going, you know, we have our house paid for it, you know. So like I think that um, I think just having the perspective on, on, on how lucky we are to have every situation that we're speaking about, you know, really helps it to not be, you know, too unbalanced for most part.

Braedon: 38:44 Do you limit the amount of weddings that you shoot and do you have a number that you try to stick to?

Perry Vaile: 38:49 You know, I think no I did 27 this year, which is stupid. I always say that I would really love to be between 18 and 20. I feel like that's just like the sweet spot and maybe not financially because I always want more money, but in terms of like I want to work a lot. I don't want to do a couple weddings here. I want to do, I want to work a lot because I like it. I think you and I are similar in that way. so I think I start really evaluating the weddings after about 22 and trying to say like, oh this is a nice one. Because I do take last minute weddings a lot, you know, like this is a nice last minute wedding to get some income and we're going to go on a trip, you know, something like that. And so, and I do, I take them on for that reason and it was always after 22, I will say it's a little bit more of a family discussion on like, Hey, like do I got time to do the extra, what could we use this money for? Where could it go, you know, so it's a little bit more intentional after that point.

Braedon: 39:43 Is it more like squeeze in another one in October or is it like the one in November, you know, or something

Perry Vaile: 39:49 like my husband, if it's like off season or just like do it, like who cares, you know, I mean I have a wedding every month. I don't think I have one in February, but I have a wedding every month for like the foreseeable future. Like they're just spread out, which I love. Um, but yeah, I mean I always take them at their off season or off days or week days. I'm always, I'm always hustling, you know, to get those extra weddings in versus portraits. I try not to take portraits.

Braedon: 40:15 What. So what, what does hustle look like for you? Like, how do you feel like you're getting your work? Is it, it sounds like initially it all just sort of came to you, but do you feel like you're hustling to still get work or is it just sorta coming in or what? I think

Perry Vaile: 40:27 I, I think it's kind of like tending the garden, you know, like sometimes you get out there and you're days this happened so quick and easy. But if you really thought about the work that went into it, you know, uh, you know, so I, I really constantly in fostering connections with um, you know, with planners, with vendors, um, I love to share my imagery with vendors, which I think a lot of times then they're sharing it and so then it's just, you know, a lot of people are seeing it on social media and stuff like that. So, you know, when I get down to over 25 or something, honestly I will give discounts if somebody is like, he might weddings in six or eight weeks and I'm like, what's your budget? Like I can do that. Yeah, I mean it's astounding. I don't do a lot of them, but I certainly think maybe two to three to two or three year where they are getting crazy deals, you know, like because I am, I'm just like, Hey, like this is where we want to get a little bit more money.

Perry Vaile: 41:18 So I do hustle, you know, I get the bulk of my weddings and very last minute, you know, within I do get weddings, like within two months out or something like that. I'll give great deals for that, you know, and to me that's, that's how I hustle is I feel like I do have a really steady stream of inquiries and it's up me to decide what price point I want to accept those inquiries. So I'm not having to necessarily hustle for people to be interested, but I'm hustling to convince them to raise their price point or to, you know, get somebody. I had people change dates a lot. I always feel like that's part of the like conversation. I'm like, Oh, I'm not available, but if you'd move it to the next day I will give you a friggin amazing deal because, you know, I know I'm like in a city and I can do double headers or something like that.

Perry Vaile: 42:00 So to me I think it's always knowing where I'm at financially and being really um, you know, not afraid to address topics of price with clients. Like I can talk about anything. I don't phone calls, don't scare me with clients. I will talk budget all day, you know. Um, and I think to telling clients like, you know, hey, this is just being open about my price point, but especially when I'm giving those last minute deals, you know, being open about pricing and not being like. So, you know, just let me know if it works. I'm like, so what, what is your budget? And then I don't necessarily, I will say this, the way that I do those, like I guess the last two or three I add onto a year that our last minute or something, I don't necessarily give them a price, you know, of what I'm going to offer.

Perry Vaile: 42:46 I will say, what is your price point? And, and they could say something crazy low and I'll be like, I could give you two hours, you know, like, so I don't give them a price. I ask what their budget is because I want them to be honest, you know, I don't want them to ever try to undercut. And then sometimes I'll be like, well, I mean I could give you a couple of hours, you know, or something like that. And then sometimes they'll actually increase because I think a lot of times they undercut those anyways. They've hit you. Those parents are giving them a budget and they just have no idea. They're just pulling numbers out of the hat because it sounds like a lot of money for sure. Yeah. So, so I think not being afraid to really aggressively go after those with enthusiasm and, and you know, sometimes I think I do open up the conversation, um, because I like to think that my personality is a selling point to, you know, my images.

Perry Vaile: 43:35 I think pull them in the door and get them really interested in me. And then I like to sell them on me as a person and sometimes selling them on me as a person is giving them a comparison of what the alternatives are, you know. And so I'll say, you know, please go out there. I will tell my clients I'm like, please go ask for five galleries from any photographer you're considering. And I'm sure other photographers hate me for that. Like, you know, but they should be able to do, you know, I give five galleries as soon as somebody is, is really interested in. I mean I can give them 10 for 20, you know, and I always almost to like, it's like I'm playing a poker game with the other photographer that they're considering, you know, and I'm like, Hey, like, I mean I feel like I've got the skill, I'm going to show them all my cards and I'll tell him you need to know the experience, you know, I'll tell them to go after an ass things. And I. So I think maybe putting a little bit of that idea into the client's head about what they're considering. And not just saying your pictures are pretty, but like, so were the other person's in, they're half the price, you know? I saw myself, but I also sell the what if on if they didn't choose me,

Braedon: 44:40 you know, and there's something to say that people don't understand the experience, you know, and there's a lot of like the instagram world where people have a lot of followers, but it's really easy to post one good photo versus being able to consistently shoot at this sort of level. But then also like your photographer runs your day, you know. So there's that element of, you know, being able to bring that expertise which only comes from experience and you know, personality too.

Perry Vaile: 45:06 Yeah, right. I know we can just talk about how great we are. Um, yeah, you know, I think that's true. And I definitely try to use it as a weapon in my arsenal of getting clients over to me and stuff. And I'll always be like, you know, well, whoever you choose, just make sure you love 'em and you know, like, I'll definitely put it in their heads, but they're like, oh, that's right. And just kind of opening them up, opening them up to that, the idea that there's more than just the photos, you know, and like that's one of the reasons I send all the galleries because, you know, I truly am certain this as a narcissistic tendency, but I, I truly think that my galleries are just as beautiful as my instagram and my website. I'm will met sometimes. I'm like, oh, there's so many pretty things that nobody ever gets to see, you know, because I just don't have time. Um, and I, and I think maybe having that confidence in my work that's not visible, I think maybe just even the confidence that that gives helps clients to, to get that it's worth the investment or something like that. You know? So.

Braedon: 46:06 Absolutely. And so shifting gears just a little bit and then I won't take too much more of your time. Brandon and you, I know you're, you've got a great brand. And um, can you talk about how that plays into it? And. Yeah,

Perry Vaile: 46:20 I think I've always loved branding so I've always done my own websites, my own brands, like I've never had anybody else do it because I was probably a little bit too type A, like even when somebody would do something, like I don't like it, I could do that or you know. Um, so I've always loved branding in that way and I always looked at it like, you know, there was a point in my photography career when I was first starting and I was like, who am I as a photographer, you know, the big philosophical like am I moody? And I light. And at that point, you know, I don't even when I. So I started shooting, I didn't do weddings, do thousand 12, but I was shooting in like 2009, like portrait, you know, little things. But I really didn't know. I had to figure it out.

Perry Vaile: 46:58 And I started realizing what I was drawn to and what I was shooting most was, you know, certainly more of an editorial. I tried the doc, the super documentary, you know, like leave the coke can and the Bra and the table and shoot it and I just couldn't handle it, you know, and to me that extends to my rant, you know, so to me I said okay, well if I want to shoot in a way that I can continue to do and sustain it, even if I do love other people's work that is totally different from mine and I think they're phenomenal, I just can't do it and sustain it. And so I looked branding the same way, you know, there are some brands, you know, especially like the lighter in the, like the super airy and light delicate and minimal. And I'm like, oh my God, it's so pretty.

Perry Vaile: 47:41 But then I'm like, I cannot do that, you know, like, I love vibrant and I love bold and extra, you know, like if my instagram handle could just be extra, I would have chosen it. So I think that finding the kind of client that I could serve best, even if it wasn't the one that I would have liked, said, oh, this is the one that is the coolest or the prettiest. I've really fallen in love with the client that I think values, you know, color and vibrancy. And um, and, and once I said, you know, I want clients, I like what I like because that's really all I can make. Um, I've started finding clients that were a little bit more eclectic or Redo different things and that's, that's really where I would, you know, get excited, you know, you spoke earlier to like meeting them and finding that connection is really what made your heart sing.

Perry Vaile: 48:37 And I think really finding interesting people and interesting situations and stories. Like you don't even know half the stories because I'm not going to share everybody's like family story on my instagram. But I just really love that. And I think that the brand that I've set up, which is for me personally because it's how I am, is colorful and competent and vibrant. I really try to speak to that, that woman's specifically because I am very female centric in my branding ivy, but guys seem to like it to. But I really try to speak to the woman that would see me and say, man, I wish I could be that girl's friend. And I think, you know, at least in terms of stylistically and personality wise, being really open to the kind of clients that some people don't even want. So I say that because I really love type a clients and I mean I wish I could have on my website for type a people, you know, because I feel like there's a missing.

Perry Vaile: 49:28 There's a gap out there where a lot of photographers are like, Ooh, red flags, you know, these clients are very specific about what they want. They're very like giving you like specific specifications of what they expect. And I'm like, look, I'm so type A, I know how to speak their language, you know? And so trying to brand myself towards clients that expect a lot, um, and I'm okay with that and I'm like, look, you expect a lot. I'm the girl for you. Like, I get you, you know, like I have girls sometimes and they're like, "I just don't want to fat arms", I don't want to fat arms. And instead of being like, Ugh, she's gonna be a mess to photograph. I'm like, oh girl, no me either, like I know how to help you, you know? So I think finding a way to find clients that I would genuinely enjoy being around has really helped me and using branding and, and not just, you know, the stylistic branding, which I think it is really similar to my personality.

Perry Vaile: 50:18 A lot of people say my website looks like my personality, which I like. But I think just people that temperament wise, you know, like we work well together even if it's not stylistically has been such an amazing thing because I love it. You know, I just love watching their story. Even if a client's not going to bring me into their story personally, because sometimes like I said, I have clients I don't know, you know, I'm like, it's so great to meet you and we become friends, but I don't know anything about them and I don't talk to him after, I really love watching them as an outsider and being able to be that close to them, you know, these amazing, intriguing people. Um, that's what I like. Even if they're not going to be my best friend, I'm just like the little girl, frat row. Like, this is really cool. You're really cool, you know? So that's what I love and I feel really grateful that I've gotten a lot of that and so I just continue to kind of go towards that direction because I think I'm really good at surpassing those kinds of people's expectations and that's good business because they refer to this other cool friends that have high expectations. So yeah.

Braedon: 51:23 Well I love that. Thanks so much for sharing everything. I know you're speaking somewhere coming up. Can you talk about that? And we have people want to come see you and then where can people find your work and all that jazz?

Perry Vaile: 51:35 It's going to be next May. I know they haven't, they're going to release a little bit more information this week, but so next day in Asheville, I'm a speaking at the Hybrid Co conference, which I'm really excited about, because I do love talking. So, um, I'm really excited about that and I know they're going to announce a little bit more later this week, so they're going to have all the information there. But any chance I can get, I really try to find a place to, to speak up in chat because, you know, for so long I worked with Gary, Sweet Gary, you know, and it was just us. And I really feel like the community of photographers and stuff, like there are coworkers now and we kind of had this big world of it and I really just loved kind of broadening my base of basically friends. So that's what I'm really doing is making friends in Nashville with. I would go to them,

Braedon: 52:20 love that. Well, if you're interested in learning about film and Shooting Photography and mixing in digital as well, that's what the Hybrid co does. Check that out. And then your instagram and websites. Just @PerryVaile.

Perry Vaile: 52:32 Yeah, it's all Perry Vaile. I tried to make it real simple. Easy to follow.

Braedon: 52:37 Thanks so much for just sharing your time, your knowledge, and you are an awesome person.

Perry Vaile: 52:42 Keep at it. Thank you. I had so much fun, so I appreciate it.

Braedon: 52:45 Cool. Thanks.

Hope you loved it!

34. Business Advice from Brian Greenberg of Richard Photo Lab

"I feel like everybody needs to take inventory. Every business needs to take inventory. What is the whole story? Don't just come to a meet up of 10 photographers and start complaining about the bad economy. It's like that's not going to get you anywhere. You take a good inventory of your business, of the components, what's working, what's not. Be honest about how much time you spent and own it." - Brian Greenberg of Richard Photo Lab

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32. Associate Team Building with Nancy Ray

Nancy Ray is a photographer who has done an incredible job of building a team around her so her whole business isn't resting solely on herself. She has a team of other shooters, she runs educational courses, and built a team around the post-production of her work.

In this episode, Nancy talks through how she hires and what she has done to make her team so successful. 

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