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Archive for March, 2014

Everything is marketing keyboard

Kim. Not much money but lots of time= get your networking on.

So let’s say you’re a little fish in a big pond.  Or you’re a new fish in a big pond.  Maybe you’ve jump-started your photography business, or moved to a new location,  or added a new service to your photography business that you’ve never done before.  Do you:
A: Go online to photography groups and ask for lots of advice.

B: Get out there and start meeting and greeting new people.


The answer is, a little of both. The net is a great place to start, especially when you have no idea where to start and marketing dollars are a precious commodity.  But those people behind the screen don’t know your business.  They don’t know your personality and they don’t know your market.  It’s YOUR job to figure that out.

If I had a dollar for every post of some photographer whining that they’ve “reached out” to other established photographers  and “no one responded”  and the  resounding choruses of “that’s so terrible, they should remember what it was like when they started” I’d be able to retire.

It doesn’t work that way.  You cannot expect learn to run a for-profit business for free.

In the beginning stages of my business, I put my face in front of people as often as I could in networking situations. Any chance I had to say “Hi, I’m Kim and I’m a photographer” and give them my elevator pitch I did.  It was the only thing I could afford to do. With that, I formed real, in-person, in my town relationships.

Gather round kiddos, because Imma gonna tell you a story.  Right now in my inboxes I have 4 requests from various local photographers that I have never heard of asking to “buy me lunch and pick my brain”.  On average, I get about 5-7 per month.  If I met each of these 7 photographers for a 90 minute lunch that would mean spending 10.5 hours with them.  There would inevitably be follow up emails asking me to look over what changes they implemented, or phone calls or emails.  It easily could turn into another part-time job.

And frankly, I wish it would.  Because I LOVE meeting other photographers and help them strategize their business plans and problems which is why I love blogging.  But guess what?  They very rarely want to pay me for my time and expertise, they’d just like to buy me lunch.  I like lunch a lot, but I can’t make it a part time job.

If your area has networking meetings for photographers or other event professionals  then that’s the best place to start.  Meeting someone face to face is  a group setting is always a better way to begin, then you can ask to meet privately.  If you don’t have anything like that in your town, how about you be the one to start one?  Even a once a month networking lunch at a restaurant is a great idea.

Be an advocate for your business, value other peoples time and realize that there is no ONE magic bullet when it comes to marketing.


Charo: Build your brand but don’t stay married to it when it’s not working.


I built my brand around the wallet scene in Pulp Fiction

Jules: I want you to go in that bag, and find my wallet.

Pumpkin: Which one is it?

Jules: It’s the one that says Bad Motherf****r.

When I started shooting was just when the era of wedding photographers having different styles was emerging.  It was right around the time Denis Reggie popped on the scene and it kind of set the wedding photography field on it’s ear. Suddenly there were “Photojournalists”  and “Fashion Based” and then your plain old traditional photographers.  It was pretty cool, actually.  You could really see a difference in not only in the work but in the branding of the websites.

And because my branding was based on not being like everyone else, it worked.  I attracted clients that I wanted that shoot for, which were not clients who based their weddings on some Style Me Pretty fantasy they had in their head, my clients were badass.  They were Rockabilly, Tattooed, Alternative Lifestyle people, but like me had a soft spot in their heart for weddings and romance. It’s a weird combination, I know.

Then, as all things do, the market changed.  Photographers flooded the market, and suddenly all the template websites looked the same.  Since the majority of my clients are not from my transient area, I meet very few of them before the wedding. All of a sudden I was showing up to weddings with a bride I’d talked to on the phone and who loooooooooooved my work and her wedding would be full of sorority sisters and they’d have a giant Kenney Chesney cut out (Not kidding, this shit really happened) that they wanted photographed with all the guests.

What happened?  Why was I all of a sudden attracting these kinds of clients?  And as you might figure, after the wedding they were not happy with their photos. They  all claimed to love my work, but gave me 19 page shot checklist before the wedding.  They wondered why I didn’t have them do that photo where the groomsmen picked up the bride after they got their photos even though there was nothing remotely like that in my work.  I went through a year of hell and really almost threw in the towels on weddings.  I was pissed.  It was all the damn newbies. It was because no one read anymore.  It wasn’t my fault.

Except, you know, it was.  I was Lazy Marketing.

I had to kick my own lazy ass into gear and re-brand because I could not rely on my old branding to work.  It was really hard, I really loved aspects of my old website and I wanted it to be as easy as it had been to get clients, you know?  But it wasn’t working, and I had to set myself apart in a new way. I had to adjust my branding and my attitude on how to attract the right clients.

Mentally getting my head around HOW to make the changes was way harder than actually making them.  I should have done it earlier but you kind of get paralyzed, right?

Sometimes you have to stop being married to things and rebuild.



If you’re looking for course that will help you learn to network, rebuild and re-brand today is the last day for Marketog before it closes until fall.  When it re-opens it will be at least $300 more for this kick-ass course that will change the course of your business.  We’ve mentioned this before, but we cannot recommend it enough. It’s got a 45 day money back guarantee and if you’re too busy to get to it now, you have lifetime access and you can start the course any time you’d like.

Check out a sample lesson here  but remember, it closes TODAY at midnight.



I’m not generally a big fan of learning from books.  I’m a visual learner (as I think many photographers are) but I also am not a big fan of those “shoot out” style workshops where photographers crowd around a subject jockeying for position while their 70-200’s clang together and their Kelly Moore bags smash into my hips.  Those workshops make me want to sneak out and drink instead….

I was really surprised at how much I got out of Laura Siebert’s  Get Real.  Authentic, Emotional Outdoor Family Portraits workbook.   I figured I’d give it a skim and put it in the “thanks but no thanks” pile for reviewing and affiliating.  In fact, a few weeks ago I received a copy of a pretty well known bloggers book (No, I won’t tell you who it is) and while the content is good, I keep losing interest because the formatting is so hard for me to read.  It’s sounds a little childish and pedantic, but when you dealing with visual people you have to write how they read.

In chunks of sentences.

In memorable sound bites.

With pretty pictures here and there.  Get Real did all of this.

Because the book was so readable for me, I read it cover to cover.  I studied the photos.  She’s not a prolific, flowery writer which I really like. She doesn’t say a lot of words without saying anything.  What she does do is give you clear and concise plan on how to make incredible (seriously, go look at her work) authentic lifestyle family portraits.   From the posing to the games to how she gently guides people into poses that MAKE SENSE to their family she leads you right through how she does it.

We’ve all heard the term “boutique studio” versus  the “JCPenney Portrait Studio” mentality. If you had asked me before I read this book I would have told you the portrait side of my studio was boutique, and  I would have been wrong.  Step by step, from the first contact with the clients through the session itself she explains  how she is able to capture the kind of photos that she does.  It became very clear to me that THIS mentality and this way of capturing clients is why she is boutique and my studio is just a more uppity cousin of  the mall Portrait People.

And here’s another thing Laura gave me in this read: I’ll never, ever ignore hands again.  I had no idea how they can make or break an image.  Mind.  Blown.

A few months ago I had a family portrait session that yielded me one of my favorite family photos I have taken in a long time.  It was a tough shoot, very cold, drizzling rain  and so wet and I couldn’t pile mom and dad on the ground with the kids, so the family shots had to be done standing.   My first attempt was this:

Lame-O.  Boring. If this was the only family shot I got, mom and dad probably would have bought it.  They look good, the kids are smiling…but really is it a fantastic portrait?  No.  It’s a professional snapshot.




Then, I got this one.  This was the MONEY shot.  The photo that mom described as “The photo I know I will hang in my house for the rest of my life”



With apologies to Laura (whom I don’t know and might not be as potty mouthed as me) I believe I Sieberted the shit out of that photo.   This kind of posing is what she teaches.  How to get it, and how to get it consistently.  I dumb-lucked into it.  I believe that I could not have replicated that pose again before reading Get Real, and now I could.

I now understand why this photo is successful and why the other one wasn’t, and how to create more photos like this.


Better photos=more monies.

So count me as a fan, and I’ll be investing in her other workbooks too.  I might even consider a workshop with her, if she promises beverages on site.

Click here to visit Laura Siebert.

Advertising and marketing creative concept

Not too long ago Charo and I posted about the Things that sucked about being a Self Employed Photographer.    Because it seems that most of our readers are as as dark and cynical as we are, it was one of our most popular posts.  Y’all are very aware that this blog is not an airy-fairy-you-can-do-it blog, you can find plenty of that information anywhere on the internet.  And while the woo woo might pump you up for awhile, guess what the woo woo don’t do?

The woo woo does not help you focus on changes that have to be made. While it may “pump you up”  the woo woo is poo poo unless it gives you  plans for CHANGE.

The age of photography Rockstars is over.  The new Rockstars are sharing hardcore business advice and you know what?  They don’t like being called Rockstars.  They like to be called “Photographers”

So, on to marketing mistakes.  We’ve complied a list of the top things we did collectively and individually.

1. Not having a realistic marketing budget: You know that diamond advertisement/commercial  that tells people that a engagement ring should be 3 months salary?  The one that the DIAMOND industry came up with? Your marketing budget should be in proportion with your INCOME.  And yes, conventional wisdom will tell you that 10% of your income is right and proper for marketing.  But that means nothing if your income is 10K and you need 20K to pay your bills.   That percentage comes AFTER you are profitable, not before. Before you are profitable, you get out there and hustle your ass off to promote yourself in ways that don’t take money off your table.

2. Offering products and services that you think you should  because someone else has done well with it:  This is huge with photographers and we’ve both been guilty of this. You go to seminar and you get revved up.   The beach portrait buisness (Charo), the Boudoir sessions (Kim) that were something we saw someone else do (Damn you and your accent, Sue Bryce)  and thought “Hey, I could do that”  and quickly found out that A.  We hated doing them and B. We were really not very good at them.  It’s find to dabble in other areas of photography to see if you are interested, but please…please don’t make a big showy launch until you have spent some time really exploring the craft and you know you want to pursue it.

3. Thinking that paying for advertising is marketing: “I gave The Knot 2K and I never got a single inquiry!”.   Truth: we all advertise with a dud now and again. But the more often  the truth is you didn’t do your homework on who you were paying. You seriously thought spending big money would mean big clients. It doesn’t, and welcome to one of the most expensive lessons you will ever learn in your business.

4.  Ignoring SEO: It makes a difference.  I hate it, you hate it , we all hate it. I hate it like those timed multiplication tables in third grade that have scarred me for life.  But the truth is, it is important.  So you have two choices: learn it, or pay someone to do it for you.  Even the most rudimentary amount makes a difference. It’s boring monkey work, but it’s an important part of workflow. You need to stop ignoring it. Period.

 5. We had to make peace with the fact that it wasn’t all about the photos:  Yes, people do hire your for your work, but mostly….they hire you  for the experience that they want to have.  The feelings  your photos will evoke.  If you are a creepy jerk, it does not matter how beautiful your photos are, because all they will see when they look at those beautiful photos is what a creepy jerk they worked with.

Now let’s be clear, we all need a little woo woo.  I like my woo woo in the form of pedicures, massages, photos of bunnies on the internet and vodka.   Charo is way less girly than me and likes geeky things like…I don’t know because it’s  geeky and there are games and things that bore me when she talks about them  and she prefers whiskey.  She can’t think of anything worse than a pedicure than maybe…maybe a tickle fight, and lip gloss.  But she’ll woo woo all day over some band that I have never heard of and a craft IPA.  We all have our escapes, right?

Stay tuned for the next post where we talk about the things that (shockingly) we have done right over the years marketing.

And it bears mentioning, if you need a serious kick in your ass about marketing, you need to check out Marketog. It’s all the marketing stuff you ever needed to know and it’s…intense.  There is nothing woo woo about this course, and it’s not for everyone, that is for sure. Want to check out a sample lesson to see if you can handle the truth?