Nazi and Mark will be getting married later this year at Hummingbird Nest Ranch. Naturally, we wanted to choose a location for their Engagement Session that felt consistent with the Tuscan inspired details of their venue. From the textured walls to the gorgeous light, Mission San Juan Capistrano felt like the perfect fit for this elegant pair.
Kristen and Rigo are one of those couples I feel so lucky I get to work with! They are both total sweethearts and trusted me completely to capture the love they share. I can't wait for their wedding next year!
Julie and Kyle both love adventure and the outdoors and will be getting married in Yosemite this October. It seemed like the most obvious choice to shoot their Engagement Session in the gorgeous mountains near Mammoth, California. We planned for everything from wardrobe to various locations. When we saw rain in the forecast, we decided to plan to shoot as scheduled and hope for the best. When I met them at our first planned location at Convict Lake, it was literally pouring rain. I pulled up to their car, rolled down my window, and said, "Well, it's raining." The look on their faces was full of worry and disappointment. I knew I had to come up with a plan, fast.
Luckily, I had come from an area where it hadn't been raining so we decided to drive in that direction and chase the light. You can see that our first stop was still a bit drizzly. If you look closely you can see the raindrops falling on Julie and Kyle. They were so great and just went with the flow, laughing it off and continuing to smile.
As we continued to our next location, I could see the clouds start to part and the sun started shining. Off in the distance, I saw an open field with a beam of radiant light shining down on it. I have driven by this area probably 100's of times (I've been to Mammoth a lot in my lifetime) and I've never thought to explore there. So, in photographer's fashion, I pulled off onto a random road and started driving towards that light. What we discovered was so much better than any location we could have planned for. Roadways with epic trees arching over them, fields of irises, a rope swing...a rope swing for crying out loud! When I met with the couple at our consultation, Julie had mentioned to me that she and Kyle had been working on their "frolicing" skills in preparation for their Engagement Session. I'm so glad we found the perfect grassy field for you two to frolic in.
This experience was such a reflection of life for me. Sometimes you can plan for things, but, ultimately, you just have to let go and let the Universe deliver gifts that are so much better than you could have ever imagined.
"Ask Me Anything..." is a weekly blog segment where I answer your questions about photography, me, or...anything. Check back next Monday on my Instagram and Facebook pages where I'll be taking all of your questions. 1-What is your marketing strategy to reach your ideal clientele?
I'm a very lucky photographer because I truly LOVE all of my clients! Not all photographers can say this and I'll tell you why...they don't brand themselves in a way that helps them to attract their ideal client.
In order to do this, you have to have a clear and concise image of who your ideal client is. Where do they shop? Do they drink beer or wine? What kind of car do they drive? Do they like to travel?
Sit down and make a list that is as detailed as possible of what traits your ideal client would possess. This way, you will have a strong outline for what kind of content you should be creating for your social media platforms. As a very simple example, if your ideal client is a dog person, don't post cat photos. If your ideal client has an excellent fashion sense, keep your content fashion forward.
I have also attracted my ideal client, while setting myself apart in a saturated market, by choosing to remain very open about my personal life. Not a lot of photographers or business owners would agree with this approach but I have found there are a lot of benefits to this technique. First of all, choosing to remain vulnerable with what kind of content I put out helps me to remain approachable and relatable. I'm a person just like everyone else. Pretending to be perfect for the sake of upholding an image doesn't connect with my ideal client. I want my clients to feel like they know me before they work with me so we can establish an intimate exchange of trust and friendship right from the beginning. I also share personal stories and thoughts because I hope that, by doing so, my own experiences can potentially help or inspire others. I've found that, more than anything, people want to feel inspired.
Overall, as simple as this may sound, I attract my ideal client by choosing to remain authentic. I share my mistakes, my adventures, and my passions so that I may attract clients who are like minded.
2-What are your thoughts on including digital images for your clients? I personally do not include them but allow them to be purchased separately. I know lots of photographers include a disc or digital copies with all of the pictures. Wondering which way you advise.
Ahhh the age old question: Digital files vs. Product Sales. I'll just start by saying that I offer the digital files in my package. I explain to my clients that I will select the best images from their session or wedding day to be delivered through an online gallery called Pixieset. I do this for two reasons: 1) I am a straight forward person and I want a straight forward delivery method. Delivering images through Pixieset is simple, it looks elegant, and it's very straight forward. 2) My clients want the digital images. Yes, I could structure my packages in a way that upsells products and includes the digital files at a premium cost. Yes, I could make a lot more money by doing it this way. At the end of the day though, this approach just. isn't. right. for. me. This approach to business is not who I am as a person and it doesn't feel genuine for me. My main goal is to provide a "what you see is what you get"' exchange of services that leaves my clients feeling happy.
This is not to say offering products to your clients is taking advantage of them! Clients are coming to you because they want quality service and by offering beautiful products, you are delivering a great experience. I still offer the option for my clients to purchase products and albums, I just don't structure my packages in a way that makes the digital files more expensive.
At the end of the day, the approach with which you choose to structure your business model is a complete reflection of what feels right to you as a business person. If "In Person Sales" feels more natural to you, you should do that! If your ideal client is interested in a studio that offers premium products, then you should offer that! Stay true to what feels right.
3-What advice do you have for someone who's just starting out on the adventure of creating their own photography business?
First of all, CONGRATULATIONS! You are about to embark on the biggest adventure/challenge of your life! I originally started my business with the idea of "I want to take pretty pictures for a living." But, they don't tell you about the bookkeeping, the taxes, the emails, the marketing, the blogging, the learning, the self doubt, the expenses, the interpersonal communication skills, etc and so forth. Owning my own business has taught me so many wonderful things about myself while bringing me on some pretty amazing adventures. There hasn't been a day that I'm not grateful for discovering this passion and starting a business, but DAMN, it's hard work. Here are some tips for your journey:
1- EAT, SLEEP, and BREATHE YOUR BUSINESS.
Starting and owning any successful business will require 100% of your time, focus, and, well, life. While I fully believe in the concept of finding "balance," it can be a difficult thing to juggle building a successful business, having a family, maintaining a relationship, etc. It may get easier once your business is a bit more established, but in the beginning, my business was all I thought about. I sometimes joke that "my business is my boyfriend." With a job that requires me to work on the weekends and edit at home alone during the week, it's hard to meet people that understand this kind of schedule, let alone finding the time to go on dates.
Owning your own business is not a 9a-5p job. This is your all day everyday life. It is also my biggest sense of pride, joy, and love and I have never once regretted the decision to start my own business.
2- BUILD YOUR TRIBE.
If you work from home and don't have any employees, like me, being a business owner can be kind of lonely sometimes. There are many times when I need encouragement, company, ideas, or just someone who understands my frustrations. This is why it's so important to build your tribe. By "tribe" I mean, a network of like minded people (probably fellow entrepreneurs and photographers) who you can get together with to vent, talk about ideas, or just get out of the house. Yes, I have other really close friends that I can talk to but, unless they own their own business or are photographers, they just can't fully grasp what you're going through. Having a close group of friends who I feel supported by has helped me tremendously on my journey.
3- DON'T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS.
As creatives, we strive to attain the same level of greatness as those who have inspired us. We are constantly growing, learning, and improving...while constantly making ourselves feel like we're not good enough by comparing our journey to others. STOP IT! Just stop it right now! (Reaches through the screen to slap you). You are an individual with rare and brilliant creative vision...why would you compare your talents to those of others? You are at a stage in your journey that is specific to only you...why would you compare your journey to someone else's?
While it's important to strive to improve, to practice your skills, and to enhance your creative eye...it's also important to truly own who you are and what your voice is as an artist. Comparing your path to someone else's is the firs step to self-destruction and the number one killer of creativity. I know this because I constantly struggle with it. Blaze your own trail and own what you have to say to the world.
4- BUILD A TEAM.
When I started my business it didn't take me long to realize that I am only as strong as the people I surround myself with. As hard as I may try, I cannot do everything nor can I be everyone. I have a designated group of vendors that I choose to work with on styled shoots and always recommend to clients. These hair and make up artists, coordinators, florists, photographers, and graphic designers are all AMAZINGLY talented. Why wouldn't I want to surround myself with super talented people? It inspires me and, together, we create beautiful things.
5- SET YOUR INTENTIONS.
How will you know how to get somewhere if you don't know where you're going? Manifesting success into your life and making all your dreams come true is 100% a result of setting your intentions. Where do you want to be with your business in 6 months? Sit down and write out your specific goals. Maybe you want to have a website up and running by the end of the month. Write it down. Maybe you want to set your profits at 6 figures by 2017. Write it down. Now, how will you get there? Make a plan for yourself and stick to it. Write it out in big, bold letters and hang it somewhere you can look at it everyday. Setting goals for yourself is crucial to success.
Want to know more about me? Do you have photography or business related question? Are you curious about my shooting techniques? "Ask Me Anything..."
1-Who or what inspired you to become a photographer? Who or what inspires you today?
I think I gravitated more towards portrait photography when I was first starting out because I am most inspired by human connection. My ultimate goal as a photographer is to tell a story... I strive to capture the awakening of love between my couples, the vulnerability in someone's eyes, the moments rarely shown to others. It is my goal to use my camera to tear down the walls of the person I am photographing until they trust me enough to reveal the inner most corners of their heart. The story, the love, the heartbreak, the living...This is what inspires me the most. This is what I find most beautiful.
2-How do you continually grow your Instagram following?
I would say, when trying to build your Instagram following, the most important thing is CONSISTENCY. This applies not only to how often you're posting, but also to the tone, theme, and style of your images. Your feed should have a cohesive flow of colors so that it almost looks like one big painting.
It is also important to remember that the content you post to your Instagram should be one of three things: Educational, Inspiring, Entertaining. Also, everything you post should be a reflection of your brand. You may be into cooking. Is you ideal client a foodie? Post a beautiful, styled photo of a delicious meal or dessert you love. Some really great examples of Instagram accounts that follow these rules are: designlovefest, amberfillerup, janawilliamsphotos_, jeshderox, changphoto, and steal_9.
3-What is the nastiest thing you have ever eaten?
I was going through a phase once where I was watching a lot of the show, "Chopped." The premise of the show is that these chefs are given super random ingredients and challenged to make something creative and delicious with them. One night, I was going through my pantry and realized it had been awhile since I'd made a trip to the grocery story and there weren't a lot of options. In my infinite laziness, I decided that, instead of just going to the store or ordering food, I would challenge myself to a "Chopped" style competition. I searched through the scraps of my fridge and pantry and pulled out a can of tuna, crackers, a left over tomato, and mustard. The ultimate result was the most depressing plate of tuna topped crackers anyone has ever seen. And it tasted a lot like dirty feet. Needless to say, I went out for dinner that night.
I've known Matt since high school and when I was introduced to Ciella, I knew he had met someone very special. One of the first times I was able to get to know Ciella was when she had booked me for a surprise Portrait Session for Matt and his beloved dog, Jack. At the time, Jack had been diagnosed with cancer and they weren't sure if he was going to live much longer. (Side note: Jack is still going strong!) I thought it was one of the most thoughtful acts of love and I was so happy Matt had found someone to love him that way. Last summer, we played on the same Kickball league and it was so cute to watch them cheer each other on. To me, one of the most beautiful things about love is knowing you've found a teammate who will support you and, sometimes literally, cheer you on from the sidelines.
For our session, Ciella had her grandmother's dress from the 1940's altered into a beautiful, long flowing skirt. I was almost afraid to touch the fabric for fear that it would rip or tear between my fingertips. I thought it was such a beautiful way to honor her grandmother while also continuing the legacy of love in her family for generations.
For Chris and Erica's Engagement Session, I wanted to evoke the feeling of coziness and warmth. Erica is a talented Interior Designer, so naturally, we had to shoot some lifestyle images in their home in Santa Clarita, CA. I love the intimate feel of the images so much! There's something so beautiful about the simplicity of cuddling at home with the person you love. The two really wanted to shoot in Big Bear, CA to take advantage of the beautiful snowy landscapes. We put on our snow boots and ventured out into the wild. These two were such champs when it came to me asking them to walk into knee deep snow to get the perfect light. I think I laughed for two hours straight. Erica is just a bundle of light and I loved watching how Chris let's her shine. Chris and Erica, I had so much fun getting to know you at our shoot and I absolutely can't wait to share your big day with you!