On this podcast, Kia and Matt interview Shannon Atchley, who is known for her lighting skills. She teaches lighting at the Modern Senior Imagine Conference and is teaching at SYNC next year. Shannon is a photographer in a very small town and says word of mouth is so important. You have to set, and then exceed, expectations. Shannon is fired up about how good people are in our industry and how willing everyone is to help. Shannon didn’t go to conferences until a couple of years ago, but she did participate in online forums (I Love Photography). Shannon would either save the 1k for a Sigma Art 105mm, or spend it on sales education. Or a Denny’s background. You’ll have to listen in to get that inside joke. Don’t miss the best advice Shannon ever “received” and the advice she has to share.
Resources from Shannon:
Pictocolor (plug in)
Lindsay Adler posing book
[00:01] They said, Shannon, actually from actually photography and you’re listening to from nothing to profit.
[00:06] Welcome to from nothing to profit a photographer’s podcast with Matt and Kayak where each week they talk to photographers about what is working in their business now so you can swipe those ideas and grow your business faster.
[00:22] Hey everybody, welcome to the podcast. So I’m really excited. I have my friend Shannon Ashley on from northern Alabama and we have a really cool story where we met, I mean it was I guess over a year ago now. We met at after dark, um, and we’ve been fast friends ever since. And so we hung out at sink this year and next year we’re speaking together at sync. And in some aspects I think like you’re like my soulmate of a friend because you’re hilarious and you always make my day brighter and make me laugh pretty hard. So thanks so much for being on the podcast.
[00:57] Well thank you for asking me.
[00:59] Yeah. So Shannon, we are, I’m excited to have you too.
[01:03] Oh, you guys are both great. I’m excited to be here.
[01:06] Yeah. So here’s, let me tell you a little bit more. So it’s kind of, this is how, this is how I met Shannon. So I was, I went to after dark and I was doing like this walk about with Marcy, Marcy and Christy and Shannon was there and I hadn’t met her at all, but she wasn’t, she was there and um, I was talking to Marcy and Marcy is like, yeah, you know, like we’re okay, but have you seen Shannon’s work? And I was like, no, I don’t know who Shannon is. So like as we’re walking around downtown in the middle of Wisconsin, I’m like looking at her Instagram and like dialed lighting, you know, like I would say you’re probably one of the better photographers, Shannon. I’ve ever seen it off. Um, off camera lighting for sure.
[01:41] No. Well thank you. Yeah, I didn’t even realize that. Didn’t realize you were looking at me at after dark except, but they are now. Yeah. But I did not realize that. So that’s, that’s really awesome because you’re so good. You’re in Cape Cod is it’s caught. Yes.
[01:58] Hi. Yes it is fine.
[02:00] Okay. You guys are both great. So that is a huge compliment coming from you. Yeah.
[02:06] Well thanks. Um, okay, so let’s just kind of jump into the questions and kind of go from there.
[02:10] Yeah, yeah, for sure. Huh. So Shannon, we’re going to start at the beginning here. And so, um, can you share a little bit of, uh, like your expertise or what you feel like you’re known for?
[02:22] I feel like I’m acting, I am known for lighting. Um, you mean in the photography world or with the Bobbitt yes, yes. In the photography world. Yeah. I would say it’s sliding. I actually teach lighting at the modern senior. Imagine. Um, I, I guess that’s it. I’ve really never asked anybody, but like, you know, that’s the venue noticed my art when you looked at my work. So I would say that that’s it.
[02:47] And then what about like under your photography? I’d like with your clients? Um, what do you think you’re known for?
[02:53] Well, seniors, senior portrait photography. I’m pretty much known for that in my area. I do still do everything. I’m in such a small town, the high school across the road from my studio graduates like 60 to 70 kids a year. So, and I, I will say we have about seven small schools around in the area that graduate the sign number. But nobody, we just don’t have any big schools. So I’m in such a small town that I’m really the only, which our town is not even incorporated. So when I say the, I’m the only photography studio in town, that’s not really saying a lot, but, but I really am. So I still do everything even though I specialize in senior portrait photography.
[03:35] Okay. So I have a question about that because I didn’t realize your town was so small. Cutting jokes didn’t know about that. So how, so how do you, how do you stay like sharpen on top of it? Like where that internal motivation, because if you’re the only game in town, like it’d be really easy for you to get lazy and just not do my, you know what I mean? Like,
[03:54] well, it really all kind of started last year and I had never been to really anything, any conferences. I’ve been to nothing until I went to saint class chair because my kids were home. They were getting ready for college and I knew that they wouldn’t be there that much long. You know, they would be headed to college soon. And so I wouldn’t go to anything. One time I, I wouldn’t even go to imaging when it was in Nashville, which is about two hours for me. So when I went to sync for the first time last year, it was like an entire new world just opened up for me. And you know, I realized that even though I had learned a lot on my own, I had learned through books and Youtube is, there’s something about learning with when you’re with other people, with your payers and at conferences. So I really think that motivates me to stay on top of things now because I realized just how much, how incredible it is to be around your peers and learn from them and pick up things, which since I went to saint last year, I went to lots of things since then and I think that keeps me on top of things. I just, yeah,
[04:56] but, and you’ve been in business for like 13 years, like new game in town?
[05:00] Oh No, no. I’ve been in business 13 years, but, and really I look back on the stuff that I was doing five, seven, 13 years ago and it’s, I think the quality is the same as what I’ve been doing in the last year. It’s just more fun, I guess that’s what I should say. It’s more fun when you’re around your peers.
[05:19] Yeah. So you know, five, seven years ago, all you were doing was collecting Denny backgrounds, right? That’s what you,
[05:25] your RV? It’s pretty much Nah.
[05:29] Okay. She has like the complete catalog.
[05:33] Do you shoot for them then? How does that work? Well, it’s just a, you know, if they’ve ever needed anything, if they’ve ever needed a backdrop drop photograph. But I had bought so many from them and you know, I would send them images of the one. So now I don’t know, I don’t work for Dnas, you know, I think they’re a great company. They’re my backdrop company. They’re the only ones I buy back jobs from, but I don’t work for them.
[05:57] Yeah. So you’ve that, that’s really interesting. I just assumed you did. I saw your stuff and I thought, oh well they must just hire her to photograph their backgrounds.
[06:05] No, no. Jordan is the, you know, Danny’s photographer and he’s great, but we’re really good friends and that is just such a great company. They are a family owned company. They, you know, the sisters and Deni still works there. It’s just, it’s just a great family owned company and I just lock them all so much that he bought 305 backgrounds. Call this lady and see what she’s up. I do have a lot of backgrounds. I really do. Yeah.
[06:38] For our listeners, if you go to Shannon’s a Instagram or website that you will see a lot of, uh, backgrounds that you could have similar ones from Denny manufacturing. So that’s what we’re talking about. Um, okay. So Shannon, this is one of my questions for you though, is, you know, you said you had never been to any conferences or things like that until your kids were, you knew your kids were kind of out of the house. Why is that? Did you just like to stay home with them or were you just too busy?
[07:07] Well, I was always busy. My businesses is an APP, been busy for years. I know that sounds crazy, but yeah, there was that, I didn’t want to miss anything that they were doing. I don’t want to miss anything at school, you know, any that were always involved in sports. I always involved in so many things. That was just, it felt like there was no time for that. So once I went off to college, now have tons of free time. So, well, I wouldn’t say no. I’m still busy and I don’t have tons of free time. But I do travel more.
[07:38] Yeah. Yeah. You’re not worried about missing anything. You can make your plans only on your schedule. Really. Exactly. Yeah, that makes sense. Um, okay, so our next question is what do you feel like one of the things you’ve said is you are busy and you’ve been busy all along, so it doesn’t sound like you’ve come up against like a time where you’ve worried about getting business. Is that true? That is true. Okay. So what do you feel like it is the thing that works for you or what do you feel like is really working now for you and your business?
[08:11] I feel like that being in a small town, word of mouth is the most important thing that, that I have going for me and it, it really is. I feel like if you are just good to people and you exceed their expectations and you’re good to them and you take care of them and that’s why I say I love shooting senior portraits and that is mainly what I do. But if somebody needs something else, I’m going to do that too. It may not be my favorite thing to do, but because of it’s almost like a small town doctor, you kind of have to take care of everything. And I do that and because I, I do that, I just feel like the word of mouth and the good customer service is why I’m so busy. And the model program, the model program has really kept busy too. I mean it keeps the model program. I have so many models and of course they are clients. So just right off the bat you’ve got, if I have 25 30 models, that’s 25 or 30 seniors that I’ll shoot that year.
[09:08] Yeah. So do you photograph weddings then?
[09:11] I do not. There is one on my website or on my Facebook page, not on my website, just because it was a friend, a friend that her daughter grew up with my boys and it was just a really, really small wedding. But no, I would never shoot like a, I have no desire. I don’t, I won’t say never, but I have no desire to shoot weddings.
[09:30] Yeah. So you do say no to that you
[09:32] I didn’t say no to that. Weddings are the one that is the only thing I really say no to. I’ll do engagement sessions, but I will say no to weddings.
[09:42] So I have a question. You say, you were saying word of mouth on exceeding expectations is the secret to your business. So I think, tell me if I’m right or wrong answer if you even think about this, but part of exceeding expectations is like setting expectations from the beginning. Right? Cause like I’ll give you an example. I’m not going to go too far down on this tangent Kaia but like I have my house, I’m getting some repair work done in my house. I was giant hole in my living room from my roof. It’s a mess. And at first it was okay, but now like the contractor is like out, you know, I’ll text you guys on Monday and then it’ll be like four o’clock on Monday. We still haven’t heard from him. So then it’s like she set an expectation and then didn’t meet it. And so then it doesn’t feel like very good service, even if in the end result’s the same. So do you think about how you set expectations for people to, to exceed them or do you just naturally kind of do it or what goes through your head with that? Actually
[10:36] thank, I just naturally do it because I’m very worried about, you know, I’ll always want to make sure that my customer service is good. So I don’t, I don’t really set, I mean of course I tell them what to expect, but I pretty much try to, you know, live up to those expectations and then I do, I try to go above with everything. Yeah,
[10:56] that makes sense. So it’s like no matter what you tell them, you’re like, okay, I told them I’m going to do this and now what’s the little bit of extra I could go on it?
[11:02] Well, yes. And if, if Cya tell somebody I would have their gallery up the on a certain day and for some reason I didn’t, then I usually will message you on. I’ll be apologizing and explaining or I don’t know. I always try to make things right if I slip up. So, um, yeah. And I do, I think that’s just good customer service.
[11:23] Yeah, definitely. Yeah. Very good. Um, okay, so now that you’ve really gotten involved in kind of the bigger, uh, photography world, what is the one thing that you’re most fired up about in the industry today?
[11:38] Well, uh, you know, technical things I’m so fired up about, or of course the hospitals, saint flashes, mirrorless camera, you know, all that. But really what I’m fired up about the industry is all of the educational opportunities that are out there. All of the people that are just willing help you. Pretty much the people I’m fired up about the paypal and how good people are in our industry. I mean, do you guys not think that it’s just so incredible when you go to any of these conferences or anything like that? People are just so willing to help you all the time? Eh, you know, if you need anything, they are education or they’re always willing to just reach out and they want you to succeed. I feel like that everybody I’ve run into is trying know, they really seem to be invested in your success. I don’t. Does that make sense?
[12:28] And here’s another way I think about it too, and I, this just came to me the other day, like sometimes you meet like a salty photographer, you know, that’s just like grumpy or burnout or whatever it is. And I think they stick out like a sore thumb, not because they’re more grumpy than anybody else in the world, but because our industry is so good and so willing to help that they’re in a sharp contrast to the average person in the industry. You know what I mean? So when someone is burnout or not willing to help or jaded like you’re like, that’s not normal because the normal in our industry is like, how can I help you? You know, what can I show you? You know, who can I connect you with so that you know, you have the thing that you need to improve your business this week kind of thing. Cause that’s,
[13:12] that is exactly right. And exactly how I fail. Just every age. If you give people the chance, I feel like a lot of people don’t really give people the chance to help them if you’re standoffish. And if you don’t really get in there and interact with people, of course people don’t, are not usually going to go out of their way to just track you down. But if you’re just trying just a little bit, the people that will help you is, it’s just, it’s amazing to me. And I never realized it until I started going to things. And you know, even though I was successful in my bed, in my business was good before I ever went to anything. I’ve already just, just in the past year I have changed so much and it just so much better and it’s better because I’ve had so many people that are just out there willing to help me.
[13:58] Yeah. So, so here’s a question for you. So like when I met you at after dark, you know, you’re, you’re hanging out with all the fancy people, you know, and, uh, and that’s true. Like it’s thinking stuff too. And, I mean, did you just approach those people and just say like, Hey, I’m Shannon. Like, just talk to him. Like, I mean, how did you become fast friends with so many people?
[14:18] Well, you know Marcy, Marcy and Christy know everybody and I was friends with them. We met actually years ago on a photography for them. So even though I didn’t go, you know, out of my little comfort or out of my little studio area, I knew people online, you know, there was so many photography groups. Uh, it was back when pro forum, the one I was on was, I love photography. Y’all probably don’t. I don’t know. Do y’all remember that one? Okay. Yes, I’ll pay. Well what was true mouth? She did. She come up out of that one. I don’t think did she met with a different one for her? There were so, so many at the time. But I love photography was like my main one and I was really a frequent poster, you know. So when you would do the forums, you know, you had your people that posted a lot.
[15:05] So I was a pretty good poster. And so I probably, I knew a lot of people, I knew Marcy from there actually we still have, you know, we still have connections through that group. There are so many ways that you can have connections in the industry even if you’d never go anywhere. And because with online now, I mean, you know, you can thank you. You can know so many people without actually ever meeting them personally. So even though, but I had met Marci in person, Marcy increase the, in our little group from that I had met and the reason we went to, you know, she was speaking at same class...