Wednesday, April 11, 2018

the story of a life changed | part six



You’ve been through most of my getting started story with me at this point. You know the pivotal steps that steered me towards specializing in photographing couples. You’ve been down the long road of my Groupon days, and you’ve been there while I found my voice on the internet and used it to market my skills as they developed. 



By part six, we’re done with the grind. It’s only uphill from here! 

My style really started to evolve around my third season as a wedding photographer. I had been able to snag myself a couple dream clients that allowed my work to be seen all over the country and into the US, with help from blogs like Style Me Pretty and Wedluxe. Compared to 2018, getting on those blogs was incredibly easy, as long as you knew what they were looking for and how to submit it!

Now that the market is so saturated, getting featured on a major blog is a whole different ballgame. Not only does your work need to be EXACTLY what they're looking for, but your submission needs to stand out in a huge way to even be considered. 

Even though my Groupon was over, the referrals from that season gave me enough work to fill my calendar for years to come. I realized pretty quickly that the better I shot "in camera," the easier my editing process would be. I made sure to take those extra few seconds to move a stray hair and fuss with his collar before shooting so that I wouldn't have to edit those things later. Turns out, that's what my clients appreciated most: the attention to detail. They felt that I cared about how they looked in their photos. And I truly did -- I mean, they were the reason I no longer had to spend my days in a cublicle! They would forever have my appreciation.

The combination of shooting better and editing quicker led to a gradual shift towards the light, bright, airy, and colourful style you know me to have today. My favouirte photos were the happiest ones, especially where the frame was filled with sunshine. They were the easiest to edit because my creative soul was on fire, so I chased that type of work as much as possible. 


Soon I found myself outgrowing the more youthful brands I had built in the past and started focusing on clean, sleek, minimal design. 

Ultimately I think it came down to my bright & colourful photos and how they didn’t seem to need the fancy glitter or the busy backgrounds anymore. I wanted my photos to speak for themselves! 


I became super strict with the photos that would appear on both my blog and portfolio, careful to only choose photos that reflected the direction where I wanted to go. No more tiered photos of the wedding party in the National Gallery, no more photos where the Groomsmen held the Bride in their outstretched arms. I knew I was in charge of helping my clients to know exactly what they were looking for. 

Over the next few years I invested in myself as a business owner through a really unique collection of workshops and experiences. My time at the WPPI conference in Las Vegas taught me that my value was within me, not my equipment. Enduring a very painful 2 hour masterclass on lighting gear had me furiously scribbling notes into my “GO GET ‘EM” notepad about how if we all use the same equipment and we all find the “perfect” settings, how can we offer something unique to our customers? Also doodled on the same page: 

I. HATE. LIGHTING. EQUIPMENT. 

Other classes preached about how in-person sales were the way to go. Their argument was fueled with stats about how people are X number of times more likely to spend X number of dollars when they’re afraid of hurting your feelings. OH GOOD, I thought, let’s make our clients feel pressured and force them to spend ridiculous amounts for canvasses and 11x14 prints… I was so angry in that class and it’s the only one I’ve ever walked out on. 

It was then and there that I learned the term “service based photographer,” and I freaking ran with it. 

From that point on I would make sure I wholeheartedly agreed with the people who I would allow to speak directly to my business brain. People like Trevor Dayley, Jacilyn M, and of course my longtime love, Jasmine Star. They didn’t teach me anything incredibly revolutionary about using my camera, but I came away from each of those experiences with a newfound love for serving clients, challenging myself to hone my craft with passion, and growing a purposeful business.

When it came time many years later for me to start offering workshops for pro-photographers and beginners, I realized that they had set the bar so very high for me. I owe a lot to these inspirational teachers. 


Around this time the phrase "shoot-and-share" was being tossed around the internet from the older generation of photographers. They used this term to shame the emerging generation of people who were offering shoots with quick editing and an online gallery where clients could download and print however they'd like. We were told that our "free for all sharing methods" were harming the industry, especially those who were charging $85 for an 8x10 printed on lustrous semi-sheen multi-gloss fancy-schmancy paper that was breathed on by angels for 6 hours before getting windswept into their $24 envelopes. I'm exaggerating. But I still think of an $85 8x10 print as getting packaged up by Mr. Bean in Love Actually...

The Big Shots were charging a relatively small fee for a shoot and holding the product ransom until an in-person sales meeting could be arranged where their clients would spend a pretty penny on canvasses, prints and albums. A service based photographer, on the other hand, would much prefer to charge a lofty session fee that was entirely all-inclusive. We relished in that feeling of being able to shower our clients with as many photos as we could, and wholeheartedly enjoyed seeing what they chose to do with those very photos.

Once I really understood the kind of photographer I was shaping up to be, I focused in on that one word that I now knew to be behind everything: service. I vowed to never again hold my photos hostage over my clients.

Tomorrow I'll be sharing the final installment in the series, 
breaking down some of the biggest lessons I learned in my quest 
for entrepreneurship, as well as my advice for those of you who might be
 on the verge of your own life change. 

Thanks for sticking with me! 
You are all giving me LIFE with your encouragement. 
There are simply no words. 

CONTINUE TO PART SEVEN //