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

Read More

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. 

Read More

29. Artificial Light for Children Photography on Film with Sandra Coan

Shooting artificial light on film is a lost art and many photographers haven’t really learned how to properly use strobes. Sandra Coan runs a successful children photography studio and she talks about her business and how she does it in this episode:

Subscribe to The Photo Report Podcast wherever you listen to podcasts:


Braedon:

Share a little bit about your history of photography and how you got into where you are and doing what you're doing?

 

Sandra:

Yeah. So, I always tell people that I kind of became a photographer on accident. When I started my business, I didn't actually think I was starting a business. So at the time I was a teacher, I used to teach kindergarten, I was honestly just kind of struggling to make it on a teacher's salary I was single at the time and Seattle is an expensive place and I was fresh out of graduate school and had all these bills and so I started doing photography on the side kind of to supplement my income and within three years of deciding that was going to do that to supplement my income, it kind of took over and I decided to quit my teaching job and launch SantaCon photography and so that's how I got started.

 

Braedon:

For people that maybe are in a place where they're doing photography on the side and wanting to be in a place where they are able to support themselves as a photographer, how long do you feel like that took you to be able to quit your teaching job and just be a photographer?

 

Sandra:

Yeah that's a great question and honestly it's a question I get all the time, so for me what helped me was I decided that I needed to be able to replace that salary so I was a full-time teacher and when photography really started working for me I went to part-time teaching and then before I could really go full-time photography, I wanted to make sure that I could consistently make my full-time teaching salary through photography and so once I got to that point where it was pretty consistent. I was like okay let's do this and that's when I decided to go for it, and you know, it was a little bit rocky so I think I made so many of the mistakes that so many photographers make when they get started and trying to you know chase what's on trend or do what they think that they should do them but the beginning of my career was a little bit rocky. So I would say it was probably it was probably six or seven years into it before I really kind of found my groove and it became what it is today. I was figuring out what I was doing in those early years but financially I was always able to make that teacher salary and you know teacher salary so it wasn't a super high goal.

 

Braedon:

With just even starting out with photography though and starting to get gigs how did you go from not really having gigs and deciding like I want to start shooting photos to then all of a sudden you know being able to start booking stuff and was it did you start out shooting families is that how you started out?

 

Sandra:

No. I kind of lucked out in some ways so when I decided to do this, this all this all started for me in 1999 and I had this group of friends and my friend Ginger was the first to get married in our group and the first to get pregnant in our group and you know is that it was the s and we were all still kind of reeling from that great Annie Leibovitz shot of Demi Moore right that kind of launched the Eternity photography industry and so I had always done photography on the side it was something that I just love to do. We had a dark room in my house growing up you know so it was something that I always did I just never thought of it as a career and but when Ginger got pregnant I said you know what we should totally do one of those like Demi Moore photos you know and so we did so we took off all her clothes and did the dramatic Demi Moore pose and we got one gorgeous photo and she was the one actually it came to me because you know all my friends I was living in Seattle in the 90’s all my friends worked in like the dot-com world and then I was this teacher who would go out you know with all these people who worked in the dot-com world and they'd all be ordering steaks and wine and I'd be like a glass of water and a side salad please and so they kind of knew where I was financially and so it was my friend Ginger who said you know I love this picture maybe you should offer this to other people and see what happens. So lucky for me at that time maternity photography wasn't what it is now it was kind of the very beginning of that genre and so there wasn't a lot of people doing it I think when I started advertising I was like one of two in of Seattle who were really pushing it and so I took that one picture of Ginger is kind of adorable actually and I turned it into like a little postcard with my contact information on the back and I drove all around Seattle and I put them in every maternity store and baby store and coffee shop I could find and people started calling so it was very boots on the ground kind of old-school marketing but that's how it started. So it started kind of trickling in maternity clients maternity clients maternity clients obviously lead to newborn clients and so I started doing that kind of work I you know I was a teacher I had a history of working with kids and little kids so I'm really good with working with kids and so as my maternity clients turned into newborn clients and those newborns grew up it was just kind of a natural progression that helped build my business to what it is.

 

Braedon:

Oh, that's a great story. Yeah, I think so interesting with people now in just strictly we're in our digital age where you know with marketing and everything and so much is online the actual getting you know I have a background a little bit in commercial photography and like having your portfolio and actually go into New York and shopping it and but like that physical aspect of promoting yourself is sort of sort of lost today but it's powerful.

 

Sandra:

Yeah and I tell people all the time because I mentor photographers now I'm like don't just rely on Facebook and Instagram there's so much more that you can be doing and when I got started my original goal I kind of started small like I'm like okay I want everybody who is pregnant or has a newborn in my neighborhood to know me right and then when that happened you know I was like okay and you know a three neighborhood radius I want everybody know me now I want everybody in Seattle to know me you know and it kind of grew and that's advice I give to people I mentor it's like don't underestimate that boots-on-the-ground marketing I go into the coffee shops and see if they'll display your work go into stores where your ideal clients going to be shopping and make a relationship like that stuff still works and it's still important to do.

 

Braedon:

Love it and so you you've been a photographer now for a few years and with that you also have a blog called little bellows and you teach on creative LIVE and so you had obviously you have a teaching background which I didn't know you had the kindergarten teaching but it totally makes sense because you're so good on the education side but can you talk about sort of how it got to a place where now you are really teaching or how you maybe even how you started little bellows or why you started it and what it is?

 

Sandra:

yeah so I started little bellows actually with my sister-in-law who was also a family photographer at the time and little bellows came out of a night sitting on the floor in my kitchen with my niece her baby who was crawling back and forth between us and we were drinking wine as moms do and talking about the industry and we were just frustrated that there was really no place for family photographers to publish their work or to be published or to be recognized. I believe and Kath believes that family photography is really important and you know I always say like this is I would say the most important you know we capture people's families and we create heirlooms and we tell your story and it seems you know maybe I have a little chip on my shoulder about it but it seems like it's a genre in the photography world that is kind of pooh-poohed or not taken seriously and we wanted to change that dialogue and perception and we wanted a place that not only family photographers could show their work and be published really showed family photography as the art that it is and how important it is and so that's kind of the goal behind little bellows and why we started it. We had no idea what was going to happen we had no idea what we were doing at that and that kind of took off and I think it's because of little bellows that I kind of saw like oh maybe what I have to say is important and as an educator and I could help people because I have been doing this a long time and I do have a background I'm teaching I'm actually really passionate about teaching I love it. The other piece of how that kind of evolved into this education space again goes back to this idea of family photography being really important but also this career was life-changing for me you know I could I told you a little bit about my back story when I was teaching like I was struggling and I'm happy to share that with people. I was you know I drove this a horrible car I was living in this kind of crappy apartment I was on food stamps even though I was a teacher with a master's degree I qualified for food stamps which is insane. I was in a really, really hard place and I feel like photography completely changed my life in that way and has allowed me to live the lifestyle that I have now and so I know that that's possible for people and I see so many women in particular who are artists and who are so good at their craft and they just need to be told how to do it so they can change their lives and they can change their family's life so that was always my inspiration behind all of it I know this is a very wordy answer.

 

Braedon:

I love it you've done.

 

Sandra:

It kind of it kind of evolved into that so little bellows started as a place where we were just featuring other photographers it kind of evolved its involved with me so it evolved into where I was talking more about it a teaching platform when I started went back to shooting film it kind of evolved into that and then I've had things kind of go off of that so now I have another business with my friend Elena Blair called lady-boss-workshops and we speak directly to this this mostly female photographers and we teach business foundations and kind of like what you can do there I have an education site just through me Sandra Cone education where again I talk about this stuff where I do a lot of my teaching there so I guess I've got a lot of irons in the fire but all with the same purpose you know to elevate family photography as an art form to teach people how to run successful profitable businesses that they love and that they it will change their life and their families lives and I really believe that so that's kind of the background of how that started and then yeah teaching just kind of evolved organically from that and I think I have a really interesting weird thing that I do because of the way I shoot and how I shoot so that's also curiosity which has led to me speaking and talking about it.

 

Braedon:

What it what is it the way that I know the answer but what what is it that the way these shoots and how you do it that that draws people to that curiosity and what it is that you're doing that's different?

 

Sandra:

So I shoot exclusively in studio but I always.

 

Braedon:

As your weather is exceptional where you live.

 

Sandra:

Yes I'm in Seattle and I need to be inside most of the year so that was kind of a natural progression for that but also I just really love I love clean simple work and so a studio is a great place for me to be able to create that and I shoot exclusively on film and I don't even though I'm a studio photographer I think I have kind of a different approach to posing I don't use props I don't pose babies it's more of a kind of almost like a lifestyle feel in studio so it's like I have my own genre I don't even know what to call it but I love it passionate about it.

 

Braedon:

Lifestyle studio. So for people that are wonder like why would you shoot film with kids because they move around so much they blink so much they make they cry all of a sudden film is not cheap why do you end up shooting film especially with studio lighting which is like more difficult for someone probably who doesn't even understand studio lighting that well.

 

Sandra:

Yeah so I started with film remember my story I started back in the 90’s right that's how I learned that's what I did and then I switched to digital I think 2007 when everybody was switching and I thought ok this is the way the industry is going and I honestly I just spent five years kind of fighting with my digital camera trying to get my images to look the way that they look when I shot film and it burnt me out I feel like the whole process of digital photography that switch that happened in the industry things really changed and I didn't necessarily like the change. I'm a portrait photographer my goal and a session is to have one beautiful photo that you're going to hang on the wall and I found that when I made that switch to digital everybody's expectation is including my own really changed around that where suddenly people wanted hundreds and hundreds of photos and I found all this pressure that as soon as somebody walked through the door I just had to shoot you choo, choo, choo, choo, shoot. I couldn't miss a single expression or a single moment and it was really stressful and it burnt me out and so a combination of that and the fact that I just was never really good at getting my images the way to look the way that I wanted them to look I was like in the end I was like why aren't I just shooting film that's what I want to do anyway so I went back to shooting film I was decided I was like okay this is what I'm going to do this is my commitment and then the studio lighting came really out of necessity because I do shoot inside and I live in Seattle and it's dark and there were days you know when I'm even when I was shooting digitally that I didn't have enough light you know and with the digital camera you can crank it up to like 60-100 ISO or whatever okay you can't do that with film so I knew that if I was going to shoot film and if I was going to shoot film exclusively which is what I wanted to do I was going to have to learn lighting and I didn't want my lighting to look like studio lighting I wanted my lighting to look like beautiful window light and so I taught myself how to do that I probably took me about a year and a half to get fussing with it playing around with it to get the look that I really wanted until I was happy with it and once I had that down then I was able to transition full time back into film and I'm so glad I did I feel like shooting film you know people say all the time like isn't that hard with kids and I honestly feel like it's easier because I'm able to connect with them you know I'm not racing to try to get every single expression or image I'm like I'm in conversation with these little people we're having fun together and then I take the image when it's time you know kids move kids have always moved they're still moving they're so toddlers run around my studio like little tiny crazy people all the time and if you I don't know the film doesn't change that relationship necessarily what they're going to do it just changes the way I'm going to approach it which is a little slower which brings the energy down and anybody who has kids or works with works with kids know that kids really mirror your energy so if you're frantic they're frantic and when you can calm down they calm down right does that make sense?

 

Braedon:

Absolutely. Having four kids myself I know that well.

 

Sandra:

Yeah that's like when you start whispering they can take whisper too and they go.

 

Braedon:

Yeah, this I mean you that that's the longer I was even like if they teach you in psychology or in communications courses like people mirror how you are in a conversation so if Like you're wanting someone to engage and you lean forward and you're engaging then they're going to end up mirroring that body language as well but yeah for sure that makes a difference with kids. When people ask you who don't really know the difference like let's say a client and they say what like why do you shoot film like what is your response to that like in so as a client I'm assuming they wanted to know the aesthetic value like what is it your response. I have my own responses but what's your typical response?

 

Sandra:

I have a client once ask that because I don't necessarily advertise it on my website that I'm a film shooter I feel like it doesn't matter to my clients as long as they're getting a product that they love but what I do say is when they come in I just say hey, just in case you didn't know I do shoot film so it might be a different flow than you're used to or sometimes because the way the camera sound people think my cameras broken that's called

 

Braedon:

What is that?

 

Sandra:

So I do tell people that and then I you know sometimes I do get you know well why do you do this and when I tell people is that I just I feel like I like the process of it better so that instead of doing all the post-production I can shoot the way I want it to look in camera I would say the way the Lord intended just nice and easy and then it frees me up to take on more clients it frees me up to do other things with my time like see my family but or you know just and then people get that they totally get that and like I said my clients as long as they're getting a product that looks like what I'm selling they're happy and it doesn't matter.

 

Braedon:

Amazing. Yeah, I tell people it's come for me it's completely an aesthetic choice and I just I'm so drawn to the look of film and that's really why I shoot it. Could so for any family photographers that are out there listening or anybody that just it also shoots families on a business side so instead of you know I'm a pretty big advocate of not just shooting and burning and handing them everything especially as a film shooter but I would say even as a digital photographer you're pretty much just thrown the baby out with the bathwater and really I think it's devalue in your work but how do you approach sales with your family shoots from like a studio sitting fee to then your prints and what is your end goal and do you end up sort of pre selling and that way to sort of let people know an expectation of how the flow is going to go?

 

Sandra:

Yeah, I feel like I started educating my clients before they ever even contact me that's a huge part of this and I have kind of an interesting sales technique especially because I am a film shooter so I have a sitting fee and then I have different product that people add on to that so I push albums I think it's important to have something I like albums and I have some what I call signature printers your wall prints and then digital packages. Everybody once the digital and so I've incorporated those digital files into my album packages so different albums come with different amounts of digital files but what's interesting and this might be interesting for you or for your people is that I don't necessarily do an in-person sales meeting so how it works for me is people come in, we do our session at the end of the session while they're there in my studio we sit down and I say okay this is your session fee these are the album's I offer these are the wall prints I offer what should we what should we add on to your session fee what do you think you're going to want to do with your images and so my people then order their albums at their session or and order their wall prints at their session and I know this is weird people always like how do you do that they haven't even seen the images and I always remind people I haven't even seen the images at that point because I'm shooting film but it works for me and it works for my clients for a couple reasons I have a really strong brand so people are pretty confident in my work and what it's going to look like and I'm I know the needs of my clients so I always tell people when it comes to selling or that sort of thing you really have to get in and know who your client is and that my client is a busy working mom these are my Amazon moms and my Microsoft moms that Seattle clientele they don't have time to keep coming back in for multiple sales sessions and all of that so for them the convenience of ordering everything right there is a big selling point so that's how I do it but I do agree that you should be offering something to your client beyond just the shoot as far as like shoot burn and that sort of thing goes.

 

Braedon:

No, totally I mean going back to the ships from film to digital back then and I think on a commercial level or even if it was like a family session what you would do is you would end up having your shoot you would send your film to your lab and then you'd get stuff back and then from there people would buy images or prints you stuff printed because everything had a cost associated with it but now it's just digital's becomes such a come I don't know commodity if that's the word but it's just become this thing that's expected but yeah I don't I don't feel like it has created more value for the photographer right it has creative more work for the photographer.

 

Sandra:

Yeah absolutely and I saw that shift you know back when everything moved from film to digital that like I was saying in the beginning like the expectation from clients changed and so for me it was a learning process because I went along with it I'm like well I guess this is what you're supposed to do now so I'm going to do that and so then to come back and like pull that ship around and be like no actually this is what we're going to do this is the purpose of our session this is what we're, we're getting I really try to educate my clients around the idea of a portrait of one or two photos that you're going to hang on your wall that are going to be there forever you know that are going to become family heirlooms that's really the purpose of our sessions it's not I'm not a storyteller you know photographer necessarily and you know a lot of lifestyle photographers are like well it's all about the whole day and the sessions and that for that those people I'm like well then you should be selling albums that tell that story or like a wedding photographer as a portrait photographer you know an album my albums only have 10 pages so a nice small album or a beautiful portrait for your wall that's our end goal but it I had to really work to educate my clients back to that idea after being in the mindset of no you just get everything if I did that I made all that I did all the things I made all the mistakes that everybody makes I did also so it's definitely important to make sure you know what you want and who your client is and be able to communicate that.

 

Braedon:

When you're mentoring somebody and they're maybe just on the more starting outside of shooting families or I mean whether or not you want to say what your price disparity is between like sitting versus prints but what do you typically recommend somebody to start you know it's like you either have like $2500 sitting fee and then prints are still really high or maybe prints are then cheaper because you already got most your fee and you're sitting fee or you have a cheaper sitting fee and then your prints are really expensive or your albums how do you how you usually suggest people go about that?

 

Sandra:

I think that that boils down to knowing your business model so being really clear on what you need to make and what your expenses are and the kind of workflow you want to do you know all of that plays in right so it's never a one-size-fits-all its who's your client what do you do like what is your where's your model how many clients do you want to take a week or a month and then running the numbers from there what are your costs you know that sort of thing so for me I have a pretty low sitting fee my sitting fees 350 walking through the door and then I said everybody adds something from there but I have a space a studio space and I shoot film so I don't have a lot of post-production so my model is high-volume I work with six to ten clients a week which is a lot but I can do that because of my workflow so I really when I'm mentoring people I really try to coach them on figuring out what their system is what their workflow is and what they need to make to be profitable.

 

Braedon:

What, how many roles do you typically shoot per session?

 

Sandra:

I shoot medium format and typically between three to four roles is pretty standard.

 

 

Braedon:

Yeah that's great I mean and then it's just sort of just for you its shoot and send off and then you get stuff back and it looks like magic.

 

Sandra:

Yeah it is magic.

 

Braedon:

Really fun. Well let's talk I want to ask maybe two more questions regarding like the business side and then I want to get into more of like what you are now currently doing with your education and creative LIVE and where people can find you but if you were to think of your sort of business trajectory and how it's gone what do you feel like are one or a couple of things that you've done that have really impacted your business in a good way?

 

Sandra:

I think the best thing that I did for my business was when I decided to stop looking at other photographers and comparing myself and stop trying to figure out what's on trend, stop trying to figure out, like do I think my clients want and just put on blinders and look at what I do, what is my vision, how do I shoot and then focusing on that I guess that I've made all the mistakes and I think the number one mistake that I see photographers make is trying to be like everybody else you know, we get so caught up in what's being published on blogs, what's on trend, what do my clients want, and we try to do that and what happens is when you try to do that you just become one of many and there's nothing special about your work, but when you can focus on your voice what it is that you do that's how you build a brand that's really unique and stands out and that took me a really long time to learn and it got it was for me it was at the point where I was so burnt out I was ready just to quit because I was chasing everything and trying to do what everybody wanted and I was when I was able to just like stop and look at what I do and just kind of focus, like laser focus on that that's when my business started to really grow because my voice is unique everybody's voice is unique, there are no two people on the planet who see things the same way, so yeah that's the best thing I did for my photography business and I think it's easy to look, I think the success thing is you know you kind of hit the nail on the head, it's easy to look at people who are successful and want that because we all want that and then think or tell yourself well if I do what they're doing I'll be successful too, which by the way is how I ended up shooting weddings for like four years which is a whole other story and a disaster, because every other photographer I saw who was making money was a wedding photographer and so I thought if I was going to make money had to be a wedding photographer too I'm not a wedding photographer, you know, not what I do yeah we all do that I think that that's human nature but you know if you can remind yourself just to keep pulling it back, that's where that that's the secret.

 

Braedon:

Yeah, I like the adolescence, growing up analogy.

 

Sandra:

Yeah, right.

 

Braedon:

So, with the other stuff that you're doing now is like you have multiple classes on creative LIVE where people can basically just type in your name on creative LIVE and find some your courses but maybe talk about what are those different courses and what would people find if they went there and then you're also doing your own education stuff off of the creative LIVE platform.

 

Sandra:

The creative life classes I have I have a couple of classes on film photography beginning film photography and then a class on how to use studio lighting as a film photographer and then I also have a class on branding where I talk a lot about what we were just talking about this idea of knowing what it is that you do knowing what your voice is and then how that how you use that in building your brand I believe that you can't have a strong business without having a strong brand they go hand in hand and so learning how to build that brand and what it is that you want it to be is really important so I have a class on that on creative Life too which is really fun and I have some more what's that one called I think it's called how to build your brand or how to build and market your brand or something I have to like on the catalog and see but yeah if you go into creative LIVE and search under my name I'm like all my classes come up and we have some things planned for the future that I'm excited about and then I have that teaching the business side with my friend Elena at lady-boss-workshops and then I'm Sandra Cohn education that's the place where I'm really talking to portrait photographers whether you shoot film or digital it's all the same process so I talk a lot about business foundations there but I also talk about shooting and little things that I have learned as a portrait photographer and a family photographer over 18 my years and teaching that I'm getting ready to actually launch a new class on posing which is really excited about I think posing sometimes is treated like it's a dirty word like nobody wants to pose but the reality is you can lead your clients into poses and help them relax and get those really natural candid photos so that's what I'm working on right now.

 

Braedon:

That's amazing and if someone is going to be or wanting to be interested in that course it is there, can they go to sander Cohen education and do you have something to sign up for?

 

Sandra:

I do I actually have an awesome freebie right now so if you go to Sander Cohen on education I have a link right on my front page I have a couple but I have one that is a free family posing guide, it's actually my system to how I run my newborn sessions, my newborn family sessions and it's a 32 page posing guide, it's really good, and it's free so people can get it there and then that will get them on my list so when I launched the big class they'll be the first to know.

 

Braedon:

That is incredible yeah well if you are a family photographer just if you want to get better at posing that sounds like a really incredible guide.

 

Sandra:

Yeah it's a good one.

 

Braedon:

Oh, so thank you so much for taking the time to share your vast knowledge and yeah, but I think that what you had to share and especially I could on your creative live courses it's really helping the industry and for anyone who's trying to get into this Sandra is an amazing resource and look up her stuff but thank you so much for coming on and sharing with us.

28. Customer Service with The Shacklefords

Good customer service is vital to running a successful business that lasts. That means not just taking care of your customers but also taking care of the vendors and other people you work with. Below is an interview with The Shacklefords - Anna and Daniel, a husband and wife photo team.

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Braedon:   So, Daniel with your background and customer service what can you say what company that was you were working with or what's what industry and what did you learn there that you've been able to apply to your business you might not have.

Daniel:   Sure, I studied finance in college and then I did a few a few jobs right out of school before landing at, my last company was called E-vestment. It was a software company but we worked with in the investment industry and I started in the client service world. So, my job was to, me and my teammates were to essentially be the front line of defense for any of our clients or vendors that were calling our company and you know had problems or whatever they needed help with, we were that first line of defense. So, we learned a lot of tactics on, you know how to quickly identify problems and get out ahead of them and of course keeping the mood light if someone was upset just being able to really carry them through whatever their issue was, all the way to the finish and making sure that they left with a better feeling towards our company than when they were coming in. And it was a really fun environment, it was a very young team, we all got along really well and our bosses were very hands-on in a good way and so I learned a lot in that that space and I've transitioned from that role to a more of a product management role. So, then my communication became less reactive, at that company and more proactive. So, I was doing more reaching out on my end talking to customers who are using our product and just identifying, you know how they were using it, why they were using it and then even if they weren't having problems identifying where problems could end up showing themselves down the road and things like that. So, I'm also very outgoing, I think in my just my personality and so I enjoyed being able to constantly interact with people and then I also got a lot a lot of interaction with our sales team. So, there's a lot of relationship building and things like that. So I think that aspect of it just transfer directly right over this you know when a bride and her groom, when they're signing up and becoming clients of ours, you know you beginning a very long relationship in a lot of cases, you know a year I guess on average you could say eight months and through that time there's a lot of touch points along the way and so why can't I said we like to be very proactive with our clients and so you like to identify things ahead of time and get out of a head of those and just make sure that their experiences is just flawless you know they don't, they don't ever have to think about what's happening on our end, you know we're carrying them through that and everything that I learned in that role I think just transferred very well right over to what we're doing now.

Braedon:   Yeah that's great.

Anna:   We very much have different strengths and it plays very well in our business. Daniel is very, he's incredible with people and so outgoing and great with Excel sheets and all that fun stuff that creatives don't necessarily well quite as much so I'm really grateful to have them as a teammate.

Braedon:   Those traits don't usually go together. The spreadsheets plus extroverted. That's amazing that you have both those.

Daniel:   Yeah it is fun. It’s fun being there together especially even so I did an engagement session when previously it would just be Anna and you know the bride and groom. Now we're there when we're moving from location or in between shots or something and there's that moment of conversation that kind of has the opportunity to unfold. Now that we're both there, Anna, I kind of can free it up to be a little more creative in thinking about what we're gonna do next. We've already done planning but she can do a little bit more thinking internally and I can be interacting with the bride and groom and you know just keeping the conversation fun and nice and easy going and so they're just continuing to have a good time while Anna is able to maybe step back mentally and focus on what we want to do next. So, I think that's another area where the husband-and-wife team really in handy.

Braedon:   Yeah I mean having a team in general, I think for anything from like running a business to run it you know like running a fan there's reasons why there's a team because it is like there's a lot riding on your shoulders to be doing it by yourself and a lot of people are doing it by themselves and it's a struggle or it's like if you're having if you are so low but then you have different assistants for each job like that consistency is really nice to have someone who exactly knows the system and can fill in your gaps.

Anna:   Yes.

Braedon:   So, something else which I'm guessing that Daniel you've got a nice expertise in, is handling sort of the business side on the financial aspect of your business and one of the things that I really have a heart for and you know where I hope that this is encouraging maybe for younger photographers that are listening that are like wanting to be doing this, is, one I find a lot of photographers are not making enough money, in their business. Basically, from either not charging enough or just like running bad business but what are things that, have you set anything up in your business on the back end on the financial side to like know a strategy or know your numbers, what is that that you've done?

Daniel:   Sure, yeah, I think you know, we of course are using like a QuickBooks setup on the backend, so everything's flowing through the QuickBooks system, so we have a very clean record of everything and we were pretty diligent on going in and tagging all of our transactions into the various buckets that we need to identify for tax purposes at year-end which we we've just completed of course and glad to be on the other side of that. I think Anna and I actually built on a tag team that's really well together. I think I may have more of the knowledge on just financials in general but Anna's got a really good.

Anna:   I’m very goal-driven.

Daniel:  Very goal-driven. She's got a really level she's very level-headed when it comes to this kind of thing and she's very adamant about things like she mentioned staying out of debt and just little things like that that I think are extremely important and that one that one in particular is just a pitfall that is not necessarily gonna wreck someone in their business but can certainly slow you down and really put some more anxiety on you and more pressure on your shoulders and things like that and so I think you know we'll probably just continue to use the word that we balance each other out so well but it is nice having Anna really pushing from that side of things, on the financial end, on the back end, just with what her hopes are for the business from a finding financial perspective but then you know me being the one going in and actually digging in the weeds and seeing where the money has been going and at this point we definitely know on a per wedding basis what you know, what we can expect from an expense stand point and things like that and we do a lot of thinking ahead on you know what our runway looks like and I think one thing every photographer in the wedding world struggles with is maybe you're coming into the spring and your spring looks good but your follow is so empty and it just stresses you out and it puts more pressure on you but you know we just trust that things are gonna work out and we keep doing the right things in preparation and the fall you know like it always does up until this point at least it you know the fall fills up and before you know it you're through fall and you're worried about spring. I think one thing I would I would share it's just that you can't let those stressors get you down because they're so easy to stress over and there's nothing that's stressing over those things is going to do to improve your business unless you're taking that stress and channeling it into okay, if I am worried about filling up my fall, what can I do today you know to start to fill that void or what business practices can I be implementing to help ensure that we're booking more weddings things like that.

Anna:   And I think that from a financial perspective that like I said I'm very goal-driven and so every year we make financial goals of what we need to accomplish that year for this is what we need to you know meet all of our needs and meet all of our livelihood if we want to excel and have more business more money to pour back into the business, this is what we need to make. If we want to you know have more for retirement and savings and to pay off our mortgage or things like that we have all these separate goals and we understand what that looks like quarterly and monthly and the numbers that we need to hit. So, having that mental space of knowing like this is how much I need to bring in this month, makes a huge difference on knowing what needs to be done and how much harder we need to work to meet those goals.

Braedon:   Do you, being a goal-oriented person? Do you have like how do you organize your goals? do you have like a journal that you use and maybe can you share what some of those like goals are for your business this year?

Anna:   Yeah sure. I do know this is I don't know why but do you know thinks I'm kind of crazy but I love at the end of the year I like to make new goals for the year and so for this year we hope to grow by 20% but we want to do less weddings. We're hoping to do 20 weddings this year in the past we've done about 30 on average. So, this is where we would like to be and we're almost there. So, we're excited and we also are more we are working more on our sales process for albums and prints and collections and things like that. It's really important and one of my biggest passions and loves is seeing the work printed and in someone's hands and what we do is not meant to be on a computer or on someone's phone. It's meant to be on their walls and sitting in their laps with their kids in there, like looking through the photos together like that's what our work is meant for and so I'm really passionate about finding ways to express that to our clients and educate them on the best practices and that's one area that we're really putting a lot of focus on this year. But we're working on a few promo films. Thanks to Daniel's skill. That's something that we hope to just kind of grow excel in this year and in the coming year.

Braedon:   Neat, so if you're going down from 30 to 20 weddings but you're hoping for a 20% increase and therefore you raised your prices this year? Is that what happened?

Anna:   We did. We raised our prices and we're working a bit more with wedding planners this year and that's been really helpful and also like I said we are, through our sales album sales and things like that. That's been able to bring our numbers up quite a bit that's been really

Braedon:   Okay. If you were to give like look at one piece of something that you've done in your photo career that you feel like has really been a catalyst. Is there anything off the top of your head that you can think of that you've done or is it just like this consistent smile that you've had on your face with your customers?

Anna:   I would say if anything, I don't think it's been one thing. I think it's been the consistency of providing every client with a great experience. Even the clients that you're like man I really hope that I excel and I know that there are all of these issues but I just want to serve them well like there have been times where I've gone into a wedding day especially the beginning of my career. I was like I don't know that I can make this person happy like some people are just difficult to work with and going into those types of atmospheres with the goal of I'm gonna do the best that I can and provide them the best experience. I think doing that at every wedding and knowing no matter what your situation is you need to do your best and giving everyone that effort in that care constantly and consistently has really been what's helped us build our business, build such a strong business.

Braedon:   Well that is an amazing, I would say piece of advice for anyone who is out there either in business or looking to build their business, is that giving that sort of experience to customers and I would say good job on you guys.

Anna:   Thank you.

Daniel:   I think you also have this personality but Anna is just a light on a wedding day when the moment we get there, she's just you know I feed off of her energy for sure. She brings me up from that perspective but you know she's so just friendly and outgoing. You know being like she mentioned you know interacting with everyone in the wedding party. Getting everyone's names and making the bride just feel unbelievably gorgeous and you know just making everyone feel so warm and cared for around her and I think that that consistency of that every single wedding. You know, it's not something you can put your hands on obviously it's just you know they leave that interaction that wedding day they'd go on their honeymoon and I think that they just feel so taken care of and they feel so just like cared for and I think that just come so naturally for her and she does it was such a smile and just a beauty that it's hard and it's not an easy thing to learn.

Anna:   I will say too, that I think that a lot of times whenever mistakes happen and when there are issues that need to be resolved. I think a lot of photographers shy away from those things and a shutdown immediately if there is a customer service issue but I find that as an opportunity to excel and to serve them better. So, when we've had issues in the past I just think you should take every experience as an opportunity to learn and grow and so if bad things have happened we know how to deal with them and we know how to like face that head-on and I think that's really important just like talking with your client and understanding what happened and how you can be better and how you can resolve issues with them. Again, like I said I think people shy away from it when it's really a great opportunity to learn. So, I think that's been good too.

Braedon:   That's another really good piece of advice, is for sure. I think I think what's so hard about being like an artist or a photographer in business is that being able to like wear all those hats of being that creative person but then also be good with emails and be good with finances and you know as like then also be good with marketing and then discipline and you know it's like there's so many different things that you need to have, to be able to actually run a good successful business but it sounds like you guys are doing a great job.

Anna:   There's always room to grow, for sure.

Braedon:   Yes, there is. Else it would be boring. But hey so if people want to check out your work and see more of what you do maybe what's your website and then what's your Instagram handle that they can go follow?

Anna:   Yeah, so our website is AnnaShackleford.com and that's a-n-n-a-s-h-a-c-k-l-e-f-o-r-d but that's also our Instagram handle is just AnnaShackelford as well so you can see our work in our recent life happenings in our cute little boy and all that good stuff