From Nothing to Profit

A Photographer's Podcast

Episode 30

Published on:

29th Apr 2019

Nate Peterson – A Photographer Podcast Interview

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Another incredible podcast from SYNC with Matt and Nate Peterson. Nate is a photographer in Wisconsin, with his home, wife, and french bulldog in the same commercial building as his studio. Nate is also a speaker, teaching about business mostly. You don’t want to miss Nate’s hockey reflection trick. Nate tells us about his all inclusive album collection that works so well with his senior clients. You’ll want to hear his story about how life changing what we do can be. He’s optimistic about the level of professionalism coming back. What held Nate back from becoming a full time photographer was not being certain he could make a living. He’s proof that you can and you’ll want to hear what he recommends you spend that money you’re making on. Stay away from the “as seen on TV” products. Nate highly recommends understanding pricing and not undercutting the market or yourself.

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Nate is a Convention Junkie

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Worth Every Penny – Sarah Petty (

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Read Full Transcript

Transcription was done by which means it’s an AI generated transcript. The transcript may contain spelling, grammar and other errors, and is not a substitute for watching the video.


[00:01] This is Nate Peterson and you are listening to from nothing to profit.

[00:04] 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.

[00:21] Hey everybody. So this is Matt with another interview from sync and I’m sitting down with Nate Peterson right now and Nate and I actually met at after dark. I know that was like, I don’t know, a year ago. It wasn’t a year ago, it was like a couple months ago. I don’t know, I can’t remember. It all bleeds in all ways to go. We were in Wisconsin in the middle of nowhere and Nate was speaking at after dark and I sat down with them for awhile and talk to him about what he was doing with his sports and volume and all that stuff. And I was really inspired and he has some really amazing stuff going on. So give us a little introduction about who you are and what you do and all that stuff. So, so I don’t butcher it. All right. Well I’m Nate Peterson. I’m a portrait photographer from new Richmond, Wisconsin.

[01:03] Um, we specialize in high school seniors and their families. And then as you mentioned, I also do volume sports and then some corporate work as well. And my wife Teresa and I live in our studio. It’s kind of a commercial building that we built an apartment with and we have our French bulldog curly there and that’s awesome. I, so I’ve always wanted an English bulldog, but, um, I would take any bulldog right now to be honest with you. So is there anything in particular that you would want us to know about you? You know, it would be maybe just spent not looking at your website or whatever. Sure. With my clients are in my area, I guess I’m known for Edgy sports images, but I think more so what I’m finding out is we’re really known for telling the story of every senior we work with.

[01:47] So we take it to a deep level, not just create pretty pictures of them but kind of put their legacy and do an album. Um, on a business level or on a photographer to photographer level. I’m a big proponent of projection sales and sustainable business practices. So if you’re seeing me speaking somewhere, that’s usually what it’s about. Yeah. That’s awesome. Cause I know you spoke at imaging last year. Well I guess it would whatever a couple of yeah and we can’t keep track of dates now like 14 months ago or whatever. And I heard really good things about that and that’s one of the reasons why I sat down with you. I’m at after dark cause I just want to pick your brain. So I’m going to take you on a tangent real quick cause he does this really cool thing you guys should, maybe the image is on his website.

[02:25] So he does. So you live in, in Minnesota, in new Richmond, Wisconsin. But it’s just across the border from southern Minnesota, north of us, north of North America. It feels like. Yes, you do a lot of hockey players and you show this technique, which probably to hockey photographers is really cool. But um, to get the reflection on the ice, you said like that you wet the ice. Yeah. Shoot two 50 gallon pails of water. Is that what they were? Five Gallon Pail, whatever, whatever the big bucket, that bird seed or stuff that comes in five gallon buckets, five gallon. So you uh, you put put them all there and then you just like spray with water and then it reflects pour, pour out the bucket from each side and you’ve got a nice reflection and it looks so good. And I was just blown away and I was like, this guy is about details.

[03:08] I liked this guy a lot. And so that’s really, really, actually one of the coaches taught me that. So really that was, that isn’t even a photography tip. That’s uh, the coach told me. Yeah. Cause it’s like you’re like your own Zamboni machine for like small portion of the eyes. You can tell those kids a thousand times, don’t skate out in front of the bench and somebody doesn’t hear it, they go cut it up and yeah. But yeah, that’s kind of a little secret sauce. Yeah. That’s awesome. Okay, so kind of the theme of the podcast is what’s working now. So tell us a little bit of story, like what’s working now for you and what you can share with us. Okay. Well, what brought me to imaging and what brought me to sync is kind of a little, I guess it’s my original idea whether there’s other people out there doing it.

[03:48] I, I looked at the wedding industry and came up with, I looked at how they had an all-inclusive album in their package. Like I, I don’t photograph your wedding without giving you an album in the package and therefore my baseline prices are higher to get in the door. Right? So, so we, we took that into the senior market. And so we call that the grand experience. And our base package is every senior gets a three hour session with hair and makeup and then, uh, at minimum 10 spread hardcover album. Yeah, that’s awesome. And so like they’re getting, so I, you’re, they’re getting products are coming to you for that and you know, upfront they’re investing this much was, makes a lot of sense. Yeah. And, and the, the downside, I mean it’s, we call it the grand experience. It’s $1,000. So naturally there’s going to be some phone calls saying how much her senior pictures and when you throw out a number like that, they’re expecting a hundred, 150, something like that.

[04:44] And then they have the option to buy whatever. This is just being pretty straightforward that you’re at least going to spend this. And fact is the people that come through the door at that usually spend two to three times more than that. Sure. That makes it, that makes a lot of sense. And so how long, so how long have you been doing that as well? It seemed like a little while. Yeah, we started it. We morphed or uh, what’s my word for that? We moved up from, we had a session like, I think my senior session was a three hour session with hair and makeup for like two 50 and then our album was a little over a thousand and we made like a precommitment bundle, just made it a pre pre offer. So when we were doing the consultation meeting, we would say if you will commit to an album, we’ll knock this certain price off and knock it down to $1,000 plus we’ll give you 20% off everything else.

[05:33] So everybody was that, that was very little barrier there. Everybody was in on that right away. So that we did about six, six or seven years ago and two years later we made it mandatory because if you had enough clients that we’re doing it, why not just like this is who we are and this is what we do. Cause that’s outside of your building. That’s probably what they were talking about anyways. Right, right. They’re talking about like, hey you can go, you can go to Nate and get this thing for a grant. And it’s awesome. And so why not just like make it part of your branding? Yeah. Yup. That’s awesome. So let’s talk a little bit about the industry. Um, if there, if there’s nothing else that you want to share about what’s working now, I could go back on one story. Go ahead.

[06:10] Go ahead. You one story about this, and this is just kind of where it’s where it was to where it is. Um, a few years ago I had a dad come in with the pre consult meeting. We do, we have the parents and the senior come in and get to know them and we’re going over what we say we’re going to go over goals and pricing and investment and everything. And he picked up the eight inch album and he was shaking it at me yelling at thousand dollars for this. And then he threw it on the coffee table in between us and mom was looking just morbid and angry and she finally, she lashes out at him and says like, you didn’t have a problem spending $1,000 on your speakers or something like that. This is your son. And the message was sent and received. Uh, so we did the whole session.

[06:53] Everything went great. He came back two years later with their second son and he entered, when he came back into the meeting, he said, I don’t know if you remember me, but, uh, I, I kind of treated you a little rough last time we were here and, but I just want to thank you for teaching us about experience as a family together and enjoying things together. And it isn’t all material. Um, that changed our whole life. And so holding the line on what you do when, when I say this, like you just said, this is, you know what you do, this is what you do. And on the outside, people know you do it. When you hold the line on that, people can learn to appreciate that and you get known for it. And, but he actually came back and thanked me for changing the way they go on family vacations.

[07:34] They do all this stuff now that’s experienced based rather than materialistic. So yeah. And what’s so interesting too is I think sometimes he was obviously having a bad day, right? And you don’t know why her, I had nothing to do with you. If I had nothing to do with thousand dollars, it probably had something that we would never understand. And sometimes I think we make decisions in our business just because somebody came to our business on a bad day and they said something that they didn’t even really mean or they, you know, is escalated way past what they thought it should be. And then you just like start making changes in your business. Like, well this one person mentioned this and then you go somewhere and you should just probably hold true to where you are because either that one person is an outlier or they’re just having a bad day, right? If it’s not for them, it’s not for them.

[08:13] And a lot of the time it’s just lack of education or appreciation for it and a little massaging, some salesmanship, and you can get people to, you’re not fooling them into believing it. You’re being authentic about it. And I know that 80 to 100 families a year, love what I do. So they’re not wrong. So one every now and then. Yeah, no, of course you can’t please everybody, you know, and some people truly can’t afford $1,000 and other people, you know, just don’t value photography for you. So you never know why, but you should. You say, this is what I want to do for 80 to 100 families a year and you just stick to it. That makes a lot of sense. Yeah. So let’s move on and let’s talk about the industry real quick. So the question is like what does one thing that has you fired up about the industry, but maybe fired up isn’t the best word, but like when you think about industry, what do you think about?

[08:56] Well, I’ve been, this is my 10th year as a professional in the industry. I did it for about five years on the side before that. Um, but I’m, I’m very optimistic, I think. I think the whole, I think more than 50% of the industry is starting to believe this, but I think we’re past the neighbor with a camera era. I think the appreciation for professionals is back even even when somebody owns, I have a lot of clients that do photography on the side, but they say, but I know this is my son’s senior portraits and I’m coming to the professional for this. And I see that more and more. And in the corporate world as well, the giant photography budgets of the past are probably gone, but I have a lot of clients that the 10 years ago we’re doing things themselves or on the side and now they’re, they’re hiring full rate professionals again.

[09:45] Yeah, I think some of it probably is the economy, but also I just think, yeah, our industry has been flattened a little bit and the professional didn’t get pushed out. You know, everybody was worried for a long time as the, as you know, as the industry is getting flattened, all the photographer, the professional’s going to get pushed out and what’s going to be left as these neighbor photographers. And that’s not what happened in the neighborhood. People got pushed out, you know, by professionals and by, you know, iPhone photographers and kind of, um, claps in it. And I just think, yeah, I think it’s back, it feels good. Like peep, peep, images are so relevant in their life now online and stuff like that, that people value what we do again. For sure. Yeah. You know, I think a lot of that too is embracing the new people that are coming into this rather than shunning them away and keeping them as that neighbor photographer, embracing them and helping them rise up to the professional level.

[10:31] Um, what’s the line about all ships and tides rising together, but that’s [inaudible] I’m the president of our local guild and the TCPA and we, that is our stern belief that we, we all, we want to be open armed and help everybody rise to a level so that mediocrity doesn’t become the norm. Yeah, exactly. And I think for a while there we were worried that was going to happen. You know, that media rocker, he was going to be the norm. But it doesn’t seem like that. It seems like a lot of people grew out of it. Everyone’s a lot more people using lighting and doing better in sales and stuff like that. And I just think what the economy is getting better and unemployment being like below 4% or whatever it is now to a lot of people that truly didn’t do it because they want to do it for living.

[11:09] They just did it for to make, to make, to make money. They went back and got jobs now because there’s just so many jobs that are available. So that, I think that helped helped as well. I think. Let me tell you this real quick. One of the bad parts, I think about consolidation in our industry with people going back to work and leaving our industry. As for a while there we had a lot of photographers and the competition was really fierce, but it also, there was a lot of marketing about photography and so somebody may spend $1,000 to market to a group of people and then they may know you or know of you. So they came to you. So you got to benefit from some of those marketing dollars. So I don’t see as many marketing dollars from photographers out. Right. They’re out there now.

[11:46] Um, so I think you’ve got to up up your marketing a little bit, but when people do decide to use photography, it’s nice that there’s not as many people to choose from. Sure. You know, it doesn’t make sense. Awesome. Okay, so the next section is called our lightning round and to just have some quick questions and we can take definitely, you know, a couple of minutes to, uh, um, to talk about these. We don’t have to go through them super fast. So when you were first starting, what was holding you back from being a photographer? Um, I would definitely say because I didn’t come out of school and go into this, I had already had an established career. I worked for a printing company and was kind of the director of technology. So basically an it job, money would be what, what was the belief in what you could make a year in this?

[12:29] Was it a starving artist thing or was it a real thing? And you mentioned after dark in 2009 I went to my first after dark, the very first after dark there was, and I remember seeing a guy, I’ll pull up in his range rover and get out and back then he had the uh, the sparkly genes on that nobody had yet. And that was way before everybody was wearing them. And I thought, wait a second, you’re a photographer, you’re an artist. Hold on. I, my whole conception of her perception of, um, artists was, it was a crafty thing you did on weekends and made a little money. But all of the sudden I started hearing about million dollar studios and that you could actually make some money in this industry. And then through whatever fate plan you want to call it, uh, my, my job started to disintegrate.

[13:14] So the company I worked for had a very narrow mind and they were not advancing with technology. And eventually we got to a point where they were giving 10% paid the deductions and then 10% hours decreases. And I got down to two days, two full days off a week with 20% less pay plus all that lack of hours. Um, so in all my free time, every night, every weekend, and those two days I built my business to the, to a point where it was a small, rather than taking a big leap of faith, it was just a quick step across a little crick into a new career. So yeah, that’s, that’s really awesome. So there was like kind of a transition. I did something similar. Alison ran our business straight out of college and did it for a while, but when I was, I was teaching when we first built it so we could pay our bills and um, and I was able to go from full time to part time teaching, so I wasn’t asked for a 10 for a 10% decrease in pay and hours like I had made the choice.

[14:11] So I actually went from full time and three quarter time to half time, and then I was like, I’m done. And that worked pretty good for us too. So yeah, it’s like, you know, there’s this fear, can you make money? But if

Episode 29

Published on:

22nd Apr 2019

Jessica Robertson – A Photographer Podcast Interview

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Matt interviews Jessica Robertson while at SYNC 2019. Her first career was a high school teacher, which is something Matt and Jessica have in common. They both loved working with that age group and still do. And they both love teaching (and learning), which is why they love to share what they know with the industry. Storytelling and collaborating with clients is what is working for Jessica. Listen in to find out more about how she does that. And don’t miss what she’s excited about in the industry now. You’ll also want to hear how Jessica overcame her fears when she first started… and how she stays in business now. Jessica’s advice on what to spend money on is based on where you are in your career, which is great. The best advice she ever received she uses on a daily basis and you’ll want to too.


Rachel Martin: What to Say

Online Resources: – Shoot it Straight with Jessica Roberton


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Transcription was done by which means it’s an AI generated transcript. The transcript may contain spelling, grammar and other errors, and is not a substitute for watching the video.


[00:01] Hi, this is Jessica Robertson and you’re listening to from nothing to profit.

[00:05] Welcome to from nothing to profit a photographer’s podcast with Matt and Kaia 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.

[00:21] Hey everybody. So Matt here and I’m going to, I’m recording another podcast from sync without Kaia. Maybe next year we can all convince Kaia to come back here. She comes every year, which didn’t come this year. And so go ahead and just send her an email and let her know she has to come next year. Anyways, I’m, my guest today is Jessica Robinson, so I don’t know much about you because we don’t run in the same, I know we don’t, we don’t, we don’t, we don’t run in those same circles. We should. We should. We will. We will from now. But I just saw Jessica speak at sink and I was blown away by what you guys are doing. So I don’t want to steal your flame cause you already liked did your speech and so you can just tell everybody those slides again if you want. But I’m going to do it from start to beginning. Sure. Um, so tell, tell us real quick about your studio, what you guys are doing and all that stuff.

[01:09] Sure. So our studio was in Ashland, Virginia, just outside of Richmond. We photograph about 200 seniors a year in addition to some families and babies and some corporate work that we do. I started out of my home originally or I started on location really and then to my home. And then we opened our retail space in 2005. Um, our first studio was about 1500 square feet and we lived across the street because the street that you want to be on in our small town. And um, now we have a 3000 square foot studio and that’s been since 2011. I have a fabulous team that works with me. I’m very fortunate to have, um, Karen and Robin support me and help me so that I’m able to really do the thing that I love, which is photography. Yeah.

[01:46] Yeah. And then they’re here this week at sync with you as well. They’re really awesome people. So you are, let me just tell you, you are lucky.

[01:52] Oh, I’m so fortunate. I’m so incredibly wishing. Just have this whole podcast and just talk about them as what we should really, really, I mean it’s not really mean, let’s be honest. I just do what I’m told. I, I say that all the time and it’s DDN again, so you can you tell me this, I’m like, ah, I don’t really know. Ask Karen and Robin. I just do what I’m told to do and sometimes that’s way better. That’s what I’m saying is absolutely.

[02:11] Um, so what, what’s one thing that people wouldn’t know know about you, you know, as just like looking at your website and stuff like that? Like what, you know, is there anything, what’s

[02:21] I tell everybody everything about me now. Well, I think one that I started as a, as a teacher. And so I think that that makes me come from a different place. Um, I saw I had taught high school seniors and I really connect with that age. Um, I don’t know if that’s where I had to stop my mental state or something, but I do, I love working with that age bracket and I think that my history and my life previous to being a full time photographer, that really does help. It makes me understand, um, the people that I’m working with a little bit better.

[02:49] Yeah. And so I was hoping you’re gonna bring that up cause I used to be a teacher as well, so awesome. So I taught statistics at the high school,

[02:55] Gosh, five years having points and like come on into heaven were a high school teacher

[03:01] and you taught, uh, photography and biology, so that’s awesome. So when do you remember what years you taught and what years? 2000 to 2005. Okay. So I thought 2008 to 12 or something like that. Okay. That’s probably wrong too. Right? It’s so interesting because I’ve been removed from the classroom for so a little, I’m starting to actually like lose touch with our current seniors. You know, enough has changed since I left. When I first left the classroom, Alison was running the business the whole time I was teaching, but when I first lost the classroom I just felt like I had it dialed. Like I knew exactly how to talk to them and where they were and all that stuff they were into. And now I feel like I’ve lost a little bit, but I mean people are still people, so

[03:36] absolutely. Absolutely. I completely understand that. Relate-Ability um, and sometimes it makes it funny and I’ll make fun of myself in that regard. I’m like, I have no idea what you just said. Who’s, who’s the person that’s your favorite musician? Yeah. And then what, can you spell that for me? I really have no idea what you’re saying. Like genre of music are we talking about? Okay. I haven’t heard of that genre either. You know?

[03:53] No. And some of the artists now have like symbols and then it’s like, I really don’t get that when for the first rapper, that’s just all emojis. It’s coming. Hey, that’s a concept. That’s an idea. I think you should pitch that. Well, I saw on the news that that license plates are now in Florida now can have on an Emoji and then there’s like, there’s like six, I saw it when I was here. I think there’s six emojis. Like the Smiley one, the heart eyes won and you can now you can have customized plans with an Emoji at the end and then the cops like what does that symbol, how do I put that on that yet? I’m just going to pull that person ever. I don’t want to do that Emoji. Right. He’s like a w e f heart eyes. I think it’s, I think it’s a Cadillac. Right? So anyways, that’s all I, I think being a teacher also brought a lot of expertise to our business too. So do you miss teaching or not really?

[04:38] Well that’s why I came back to sync and teaching. So yeah, no, me too. I, I have to do some kind of outlet like that for sure. And I feel so fortunate because there’s been so many photographers that I am still so immensely grateful for. Um, and it is kind of a way of giving back, but it’s also, um, it makes me analyze what we’re doing so that I can give, convey that message, but then it also makes me reassess, are we doing the right thing and getting feedback from others that works for them. And so it’s, it’s, it’s kind of a full circle kind of thing as well. So, and I do believe that when you teach, you are also learning and just because someone’s a student, that doesn’t mean that they can’t teach you something. Yeah, absolutely. I really believe that. And sometimes that comes from yourself analysis, but sometimes it comes from the conversations you have with people. And so I, I love it. I do.

[05:23] Yeah. And I did some teaching here at sync this week. And like just some of the, when I was putting my presentation together I was like, I need a dial that part in my business and stuff a little bit. Like I’m like, I do that, but I know I can do that better. I don’t really know for sure. Okay. So let’s talk about the industry real quick. So the question is wash it before we’d go to the industry. There’s a question before that. So kind of the general question of our podcast is like what’s working now? So when you think of your business, like what’s working now and what would you tell our audience?

[05:50] So for me, when I thought about this question, I think that we have always centered our business and and really wanting to hear that person’s story so that we can visually create an image that matches. And I, I did

[06:06] how you need to include elements that are personal to them because that makes the portrait more important to them.

[06:11] Absolutely. And it do you see it as a collaborative effort. So then mom will go, oh well I’ve got an idea, but I don’t, I don’t, I don’t want to mess this up. And I’m absolutely not pleased. You obviously know your child better than I do. Please tell me about her. And that is a question we have on there. If your friends were to describe you, what would they say? And that’s actually really insightful. Um, so on our information sheet, when we have our consultation, that is something that I look at and I think that people are drawn to images that are a true reflection of them. They want to be special, they went to look different. They don’t want what everybody else has already had. And so if you draw out who they are, which is I think part of our job and understanding who they are, then you can create images that are reflection and they’re also unique and authentic and different.

[06:49] And you also talked to that, talked about how when they look at it in the future, they’ll look back and they have different memories than it just being the senior portrait session has some real meaning,

[06:58] experience, experiences, fun about about a time in their life and stuff like that, which I think is really important. So parents are more connected as images too because they’re like, I’ve seen my kid in that leotard on the gymnastics floor her whole entire life and I can’t believe that we now have these images to um, hold for posterity. It’s really beautiful.

[07:17] So tell us a little bit, you, you alluded this a little bit, but you kind of have a questionnaire. So how do you get this information out of them so that you can use it?

[07:25] So, um, when someone calls in and typically we try and bring people to the telephone, which just current generation is not a big fan out and they’d rather text or message. But we typically have a parent call and to us and we make a connection there. We have that relationship. We tell them it’s a no obligation consultation. Just come in, kind of see what we do and we send them an information sheet and it has a ton of questions and it’s so, it is their homework. We send them videos as well so they can get excited and start thinking about what they want. And then that way they’re not coming in completely blank. So when I say, tell me about your vision, what are you thinking you want to do for your senior portraits? It’s not a blank face. They should have thought about it. And if it is a blank face, then it might be a longer consultation

[08:03] cause, but your worksheet or whatever you wanna call your intake form or I don’t know, whatever you wanna call it, it’s open. It has open ended questions on it together. I’m thinking, yeah

[08:11] it does. Absolutely. It should trigger, oh I do want to incorporate that or I don’t want to. So if something, I mean my kids are involved in so many different things, it’s amazing how they’re volunteering involving her schools. And so when you look at those different things that are involved in that they’ve listed, it can’t just be like, ah, that’s just something I do to be a part of my school. Or is it something that’s really important to them is a driving force in their life.

[08:31] Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Okay, so that’s perfect. So what’s working now is getting that information from the including picture and I saw him from your images I saw at sync this week. Like it makes complete sense when you say thank you. Yeah. So you guys definitely look her up on Instagram and see your work. It’s amazing. Okay. So let’s switch gears real quick and talk about the industry. So the question is like what is one thing that has you fired up about in the industry that may be in a little bit over exaggeration, but when you think about the industry, what do you think it’s going or what, what do you think about when you, what were you, what do you hold true to about the industry?

[09:00] Well, technologically I think we’re continuing to see a lot of changes, you know, and for me, I’ve always used off camera flash and I do think that when we think about ways to make our, our imagery look different from others, I think that that’s a very easy way to do that. Now the evolution of that has changed significantly here in the last few years with high speed sync. And that for me is a game changer. I’m having a family wanting to be done every day, at least by five, um, and not wanting to start until eight 15. That’s kind of my schedule and I only work Monday through Friday. That is huge for me so that I can shoot it on a lower f stop and then, um, be able to crank up that shutter speed. So I think that that’s a huge game changer. But I also think that we as off camera flash shooters are kind of unique because there’s so many are just natural light. But because everything now has gotten so much cheaper and easier to use, um, I think that if people are willing to change, it may be more difficult honestly to differentiate yourself if everyone understands how to use lighting. Um, so I think that that’s really important.

[10:02] Yeah, no, that makes complete sense. So while I’ve been thinking about this a little bit too, because I feel like there’s two types of shooters and I haven’t quite identified, maybe there’s probably 1 million bucks. There’s natural light shooters and there’s a lot of like one light off camera flash shooters and I’m trying to figure out like, okay, if almost everybody is that what, what is like the third group or what is the fourth group that I can be a part of that I can push myself on? You know what I mean? Yeah. I just feel like, I’m like, okay that person, I see a group of people locally and they just carry round reflectors. And then I see, I come here and I see everybody has like a beauty, beauty, a beauty dish with like a sleeve on it. You know,

[10:37] that’s what, how you use that light I think is a way to differentiate yourself. So you know, if you’re more of a fashion kind of photographer then you’re gonna put it up high and kind of shoot it down low. Um, if you want it to be more dramatic, what you do at that light I think is as significant as using. Yeah.

[10:49] Got It. That makes something that’s fair because you probably have more versatility, more flexibility with that light versus like a reflector.

[10:55] Right? Absolutely. And I like being in control and light using an off camera flash allows me to be in more control than if a cloud comes over and I’m using a reflector like, well that,

[11:04] yeah, it doesn’t work. Right. Yeah. Right, exactly. Okay, so that’s really good. So let’s go jump into the lightening round a little bit. These, we have plenty of time, so don’t feel like we have to do these fasteners. Okay. Call the lighting round email. Maybe I’ll just change the name after your son will be the last wow. More lightening round. Just get dropped the mic on that you’ll be the last lightning round ever. Cause I don’t think it fits but, so what was holding you back from becoming a full time photographer when you first started money? So like you were worried that you were worried that like you weren’t met, you wouldn’t make money or

[11:34] there’s a lot of fear as well. So I have a degree in art with a concentration in photography. So I felt very secure in my craft. I knew that I looked young and so that was a difficult aspect from changing from I’m learning this craft and then how do I make that an actual business that can be lucrative and that can pay my bills. And there was fear as well that I didn’t understand this whole part of my career that I had no education on. And so a lot of it was intuitive in terms of this is how I would want to be treated or this makes sense. But there’s a lot of education that kind of went into that. And so I think that it was fortunate actually that I had that time to kind of figure that out. And you talked about under under your sink.

[12:14] I don’t want to keep referencing. That’s great. Everybody’s going to think it’s amazing. Yeah. Awesome. You talked about how your dad helped you a little bit. Absolutely no side of it as well. Right. And asking me those questions, like if you’re going to eat, want to get paid, like how are you going to pay yourself and how much is this going to cost? And, and he talked about a business plan, which I had absolutely no idea about. You know, and I find a really good way of saying what a business plan is to cause even to me as a business person, a business plan. Scary. Yeah. But you said it’s basically just like, uh, I don’t remember how to describe it. Like a roadmap of where you’re going or something like that is, yeah. And I think we want to start with the end and we want

Episode 28

Published on:

15th Apr 2019

Dan Frievalt – A Photographer Podcast Interview

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Another awesome podcast from SYNC! Matt interviews Dan Frievalt, of Frievalt Photography. He photographs 40 seniors a year these days to make sure he and his clients are getting to do what they want. Listen in to hear how Dan found his sweet spot in terms of session fees, average order, and number of clients. He sat down and really hashed out who he really wanted to work with, down to what movies they like and what athletic endeavors they’re into. Dan is so excited about how many new people are coming into the industry and that it pushes and challenges him. Matt and Dan talk about changing hair/makeup trends and how hs seniors are experts themselves now from YouTube. Don’t miss what Dan recommends you should and shouldn’t spend 1k on. The best advice Dan ever received is “believe in yourself”. Know your client hired you, for you. Your client believes in you. Dan gives great advice about what to do with your “no’s” so make sure you listen til the very end!

Internet Resource:

Movies/Netflix for creativity

Seniors Unlocked FB page (

Dan does webinars to help people just starting like people did for him

PPA state organizations




The Purple Cow – Seth Godin (

Contact Info:


Read Full Transcript

Transcription was done by which means it’s an AI generated transcript. The transcript may contain spelling, grammar and other errors, and is not a substitute for watching the video.

[00:01] Hello, this is Dan free vault and you are listening to the podcast from nothing to profit.

[00:06] Welcome to from nothing to profit a photographer’s podcast with Matt and Kayak. We’re 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.

[00:23] Hey everybody. So Man Hoagland here, I’m recording another podcast while I’m here at sync and I’m with Dan unfree vault here. And this’ll be a fun podcast cause I was just looking at his website. Dan and I don’t know each other well. I mean we’ve ran in circles and been at sink a couple of times with each other, but I wouldn’t say, you know, we’ve had a lot of beers together. So all this’ll be as informative for me as it is for the audience, which will be really cool. So, um, thanks so much for being, being on here.

[00:48] Absolutely. Thanks for having me. We should be cracking beers and we probably should.

[00:52] So this, so let me tell you what I do know about you and then you’re going to tell me the real story of what I should know about you. So I know you’re in Wisconsin and I know that you used to be a graphic designer and now you do a lot of senior work and it seems like you kind of blend that graphic design and senior element together.

[01:11] Is that say absolutely. Yeah. You hit the nail on the head. I was a graphic designer for 12 years and you know, always did photography but never felt like the visions in my head kind of matched what I could do on film. So then when digital started to get more up and rolling, I already had known Photoshop. It just kind of was a perfect timeframe me to merge the two and take the leap.

[01:35] So when you were doing like Photoshop work and to graphic design world, where are you doing stuff on photos or was it more like like layouts for magazines and stuff like that?

[01:44] Yeah, that’s a good question. It was, it was completely different. I actually, I called myself a graphic artist, which is like a cool name, right. But really is a, I took a lot of other people’s work and got it ready for printing and it was an offset printing, which is what are cool things like magazines and stuff. Yeah. It where I’m in the Midwest, it was a lot of like a, it’s called flexographic printing, which was like carton design labels for Ketchup and paper plates and things like that. So what was really cool as I knew the tools of Photoshop, but then when I, but I didn’t really work on that many fatigue photographs. Right. So it’s cool to see how Photoshop can be used and like the cm, why k world and then the photography world, it’s two completely different worlds in one software.

[02:33] Yeah, it is pretty amazing. And it’s really interesting because you talked to some people and they work, they work in InDesign and different things like that. But it seems like Photoshop is just, it’s so wide spanning that a lot. You can do full design work. I mean, obviously we all do that in our studio as well, but, but then you can actually retouch skin as well. You know, it’s pretty amazing stuff

[02:50] and video now. I

[02:52] yeah, exactly. It’s all in there. That’s pretty amazing. Um, so yeah. So anything else we need to know? I mean w how’s Wisconsin? It’s

[03:00] cold. It’s um, yeah, I talked to him, my wife on the phone this morning. I’m like, well it’s raining but it’s not snowing and I’m in a tee shirt and things are green, so all is good. Awesome. That’s awesome. So I have one question for you about your website and um, and then we’ll jump into some of these questions about like what’s working now in the industry and stuff like that. But on your website, when you click on your session page, let me just click on it real quick and see what it says. It says only accepting 40 seniors to provide the most creative and unique senior session for you. So do you want to talk about that? So, I mean 40 seniors, you know, I mean I was wondering first of all how you did it because your, your work is so amazing. So it’s obviously time intensive and then it’s, I think it’s interesting you to say like, Hey, there’s, I can do 40 so it builds that scarcity and stuff like that.

[03:44] And talk a little bit about that. Yeah, absolutely. Part of its scarcity and the other part of it is for many years I photographed everything like we all do when we start off, until we kind of get burnt out or find what are our key focus is and what we really enjoy. And you know, I was photographing hundreds of seniors and it became a production line and that’s kind of why I got out of the graphic design because I was basically, I wasn’t doing creative anymore. It was kind of a production. Like every day I had deadlines, three deadlines a day and this has to get to the printer and this has to be done and this has to be done. And then when I got into photography, as I got busy, it started to be the same feel and I got burnt out. It was just doing so I decided like, okay, I need to change something, so I need to raise my prices.

[04:32] I need to add scarcity and like only get the people who really want to invest in it. Yeah. I mean cause I was looking at your session, one of your sessions is $450 and it has a $300 add on. You know, so you’re just session fee wise, you’re looking at $750 so like obviously nobody, not everyone’s just going to jump in and get amazing artwork by you. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I, you know, took me years to kind of figure that out too because uh, I used to have a lower session fee. Like let’s get them in because once they see everything, you know, hopefully you’ll be rewarded on the backend what higher sales and in theory that kind of works. But it’s also a business based off of hope as well. It is. Yeah. And that works great for the, for the beginning. But once I became more established, I realized that okay, I needed to start doing minimum orders.

[05:20] What? The minute I put minimum orders up, I found my sessions, people weren’t booking me for for whatever reason, that large minimum. And it wasn’t large. It was like $800 minimum. Yeah. And my average at the time was like 1500 so to me it all, it was the same math but they looked at it around at $200 session fee and a $800 minimum and it scared them off. So instead what I found is actually what I did is it started slowly rising. My raising my session fee throughout the year. So you know, June when I want to fill my schedule in a session fee was lower. And then as my schedule started to fill, I started to just naturally raise it cause I’m like I’m getting too many seniors. I can’t keep up. And, and then people just kept booking and it kept booking. So all of a sudden I round up my only have four 50 was my sweet spot. You know, so it wasn’t like one day I just said I’m going to do four or 50 it was like I played with that number and tell people, you know, kind of what I tell people is like, you know, if every person calls in books with you, that’s not necessarily a good yeah.

[06:23] Right. Because I know, yeah, yeah. You may want to look at that a little bit. Yeah, it’s a good thing. But you will be very tired at the end of the year.

[06:29] Right. So I like, well I’ll just keep raising it until like every third call says no and you know, and, and as long as I’m making enough and booking enough and then that’s my sweets.

[06:39] And that’s really good insight because I think a lot of people like, I mean I’m certain we’ll talk to you here at sink and you’ll say, yeah, I just charged $450 for a session and I have a $300 out on. So, and they’ll be like, wow. And they won’t understand that like that that’s market driven. You know, like you figured that out. Like you did less, you did more. He tweaked it until it was like, oh, that for 50 I book is about as many seniors I want and it’s the right type of senior that I want. You know, and that’s the, so they, they, they shouldn’t just w the advice would be that they shouldn’t just go home and charge it for 50, for the session. They should start working. There’s up until they find their sweet spot too.

[07:13] Yeah, absolutely. And I think a lot of people, you know, they feel self conscious like, oh, it’s in print or this is what I have to do. And um, but it’s like, no, you can kind of ebb and flow like maybe a comparison as a restaurant, like when things are in demand or like lobster is market price. So it’s like, okay, certain times a year this is the session fee because it’s, you know, I’m not as busy. I can do a lower session fee or um, you know, as I get more busy, this is prime time. The session fee is going to be more and don’t be so caught up in like, okay, I set my session fee for the year. I have to stick with it because if anyone calls, it’s just like, well that, you know, they had a deal in that month. You know, it’s not like I feel like I’m ripping anyone off by adjusting.

[07:58] That makes complete sense. I mean I, it makes me think about the whole idea where like when we book airline tickets, like we’re always like, you know, our days are flexible and then we like sat there and we scan and we were like, okay, we’re going to leave on this day and come back to this day because it saves us a hundred bucks or whatever. So there would be people, you know, that would say, oh, okay, well I want to get my pictures done by you. And they were like, well let’s do it in June. It because it doesn’t matter if we do it in June, July or August, but let’s do in June because it’s a little bit cheaper and we’ll save 100 bucks. You know what I mean? And like, then they get to choose whether they want to save money, but then there’s, you know, it’s just a different mentality. Like they’re saving money but they’re not cheaping out on your services. You know what I mean? Yeah, absolutely. They’re making a choice. So that’s really awesome. Okay, so let’s jump into the questions that we normally do for the podcast. So the first one is just a general question, like what’s working now for you in your business? It can be around your photography or your brand, your business, but what’s working now that you would want to tell our audience about that you think is awesome?

[08:56] I just think being unique is like standing out. We’re trying to do something that’s different because like if, if there’s more photographers in the market, you hear that a lot. Like, oh, everyone’s a photographer, everyone’s a photographer. And that may be the case. And sometimes I feel that too, but I feel like, well there’s only one of me and there’s only, I, I’m trying to do things unique and different so that I stand out and like the, again, the, those 40 people who value that and see that, I think that’s why my averages are high as well because there’s somewhat prequalified by this session for your style and my style. Yeah. Instead of, you know, if I’m, if I’m doing the same thing as everyone else, well then I’m just going to go to the cheapest person race to the bottom and it’s becomes a commodity. Yeah. It comes to come out of. Yeah. Yeah. So I think that’s, that’s what’s worked for me always. And I’ve just keep pushing that further and further.

[09:48] So do you see like I typically see like, I don’t know, I want to call it composite stuff cause I wouldn’t even say it’s positive. Like you guys should just look at his work online so you can see what I’m talking about. But do you feel like you attract like sports and athletes more? Cause that’s the type of work I see in the industry. That reminds me of a little bit yours or are you attracting all kinds of seniors as well? Cause I look at your website and they’re not all just like hockey players, you know, so like who all is coming to you for your style?

[10:16] Yeah, that’s a great question. And um, well one year I sat down in the, in the middle of cold, cold winter month, what I was feeling depressed and started making lists and really like identifying who do I want as my client. Who would that ideal client be? That 40. Yeah. Yeah. And I wrote notes and I just, I guess that things like what movies they would watch, what music they would listen to, like, uh, where they would shop. And because I had already been doing photography at that point, like five, six years, I had a pretty good idea. Um, cause I knew which things I didn’t like to do. Right. Yeah, that was clear. That one pretty easy. If you make this list, there’ll be easy. But yeah. Um, and then the ones like, oh, these sessions were fun and this is what I enjoy doing.

[11:02] And so I realize, okay, seniors is really what I, what I enjoy doing. And not only senior, it’s like I realized I didn’t want like the, the, the beautiful drama queen. It could be drama queen and you know, whatever. It’s like I want an athletic female who likes to maybe get clammed up shows and get glammed up that often, but she’s more like a tomboy athlete that can also transition into a cool look. And, and the same thing with guys. I want someone, you know, that one that is, has a hobby or a sport because they are into the session and they’re not just like, okay, mom said I want, you got to get senior pictures done. So I think identifying that really clear. For me it was an athletic, sporty type person.

[11:49] Right. And in the end, so interesting because in the marketing world, you know, you hear all the time, got to like really niche down and do something unique and all this stuff and you hear it all the time. And I don’t see a lot of people doing it. And I just feel like you’re really succeeding at those principles that just like we’re marketing, we’ll take care of itself. You know, you just keep putting out the work that you love to do and working with the people that you, that you want to work with and it just builds the next person, you know? So like, you know, when I look at your work, I can’t imagine that you’re probably like running tons of paid ads and stuff like that. And a sense because it just seems like it’s self fulfilling itself. You know, you’re attracting the right person and they love it.

[12:23] Yeah. Because they were friends would tell their friends and, and, and, and they’re within the same value or have the same value of towards photography, you know, it’s not just like, oh, they have a lot of money, so come here. No, because as you know, money doesn’t equate, you know, I have people pull up in a, you know, a rusty truck and, and they’re, you know, paying just as much as someone who pulls up in a fancy vehicle. Yeah, exactly.

[12:49] About how, how they value it. Um, we talk a lot on this podcast about how our industry, you know, just like you start in photography and you market to your friends and then you run out of friends and family to photograph and then, uh, you, you’re like, well, I guess I just have to go over after rich people. And it’s just so interesting because I don’t think that’s the answer. You know, you just don’t need to chase. I mean, chase affluent people, like that’s not the only answer. Like you can just find people that value work and speak to them and they’ll, they’ll, you know, they’ll reward your art for sure if they value it. So. Absolutely. Okay, cool. So let’s talk about the industry real quick. So the question is, what is one thing that has you fired up about in the, has you fired up about the industry? It could be something that you’re excited about, something that you hold true about the industry. Just when I, when, when we talk about the industry, what do you think about?

[13:35] Well. Yeah, and I, that was a tough question and I thought when I, when I read it and I think the what, what really then pop to mind is, and some people might think this isn’t cool, but I love how the technology and the, you know, of course I’m into the composites and the effects and stuff. So I, I enjoy that. But...


Published on:

8th Apr 2019

David Beckham – Episode 027 – A Photographer Podcast Interview

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On this episode, Matt interviews David Beckham, while they attend and teach at SYNC. David talks about his senior focus and how he wants people to look at his work and ask, how did he light that? David talks about posting his best work, always. David gets fired up and is excited about new photographers wanting to give and meet new people and how fast they’re growing their social media following. Listen in to hear about David wanting to “be good enough” when he was first starting his business. Don’t miss what David would and wouldn’t spend 1k on. And you definitely want to hear what David thinks about his Sony equipment. David also spills about what he’s up to next and you want to be in on that!

Askdavid education site – on FB too:


Read Full Transcript

David: [00:01] Hey, this is David Beckham and you’re listening to from nothing to profit.

Speaker 2: [00:05] Welcome to from nothing to profit of photographers 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.

Matt: [00:22] Hey everybody. Matt here. Uh, I have a really awesome guest today, David Beckham. I’m actually here at sync in Florida and we’re actually sitting in my condo and David and I message back and forth and I was like, you got to come over and record a podcast cause if you guys don’t follow him online, you need to, his senior photography is probably some of the best in the industry. And David, we met probably I’d say five years ago, five, six years ago at sea at seniors ignite and we’ve been following each other ever since. So, um, obviously I know you for your senior photography, but share with the audience, you know, kind of what they wouldn’t know about you by following you or you know, where you’re from and stuff like that as well.

David: [01:02] I’ve got a studio that I opened in 2009 in Pickerington, Ohio, which is right outside of Columbus, Ohio. Go Bucks. I had to say that when I opened it, I was doing every kind of photography possible cause I was trying to eat. Now I do just seniors and I say Jess seniors and I do some other things, but seniors is all I market. My website, my, my, uh, social media is all seniors. I focus on a fashion styled of senior photography. So it’s kind of cutting edge as far as that goes. And I found that that separated me from the locals and allowed me to be profitable in and have a good time doing it.

Matt: [01:46] Yeah. So when I look at your photography, what I think of as I see, uh, like just good lighting. You know, I think your lighting stands out and I think that’s what pushes you above the market. You know, like you said, you know, it may be like a little edgy, I don’t even know if the word the word is edgy or not, but um, you know, definitely the lighting. So that looks, it looks modern and current. Um, and definitely doesn’t look like a mom talk type.

David: [02:09] I hate, I hate, uh, too much flash. So I developed even before the high speed sync and the cool technology they have now, I was using alien bees and using them at the lowest power possible with filters on my soft boxes so that I could control the light as low as possible so that I could shoot with a great depth of field a long time ago. And now that the new technologies out there, it makes it even easier. But I want to make all of my photos look like perfect ambient light, not like flat.

Matt: [02:45] Yeah. And I can see the flash and your photography because I see the catch light. I see some of the shadows, you know, and how you’re lighting, you’re using loupe light and stuff like that. But I wouldn’t say it looks super flashy at all.

David: [02:56] That’s my goal. I don’t, I want people to, how was he doing that? That’s what I want people to think. Yeah. And that’s my number one question from other photographers. How are you doing that? And I always say, just come to my workshop

Matt: [03:08] then I’ll show you. Right. Yeah, to the train. I can definitely see it, but it looks really, really good. All right, so let’s jump into the main part of the podcast and what I want you to do is kind of tell the audience what’s working now for you in your business. I mean we talked about how strong your lighting technique is and stuff like that, but when you think about your business or you think about your photography, what does working in now for you? I think,

David: [03:31] and I’m, and I’m saying this from my perspective because I know it works. I post great photos on all my social media. I don’t post goofy memes, I don’t post a lot of personal stuff. I post great photos and I think that helps separate me from everyone else. They don’t come to my site and see what my grandkids are doing or what my dogs do and they come to my site and see what I’m doing and who I’m photographing. I think I have a good handle on having my models cause most of the people I post are my reps. So I’ve got 40 people that I post. Mostly I post everyone, all my clients, but mostly I’m posting my reps. So it’s a very fashion forward. It’s different, it’s good lighting. It’s cool. I’ll experiment. Um, on my, especially on Instagram and, and, and my website now my story, I’ll get a little more personal, a little goofy, goofy, but on my main stuff where people are going to see my work, I want to put the best that I got out there every time.

Matt: [04:39] And so I think that’s just a really good lesson in terms of branding and general because you’re, you’re making a conscious decision to use Instagram as a, you know, as a place to brand yourself and you’re like, I’m not going to brand myself as a dog owner. I’m not going to brag on myself as the, all these other things. I’m going to brand myself as a good photographer. That Ha that photographs amazing people. And like you said, experiment and stuff like that with so that you’re putting not average stuff out there cause you’re not just posting like average session stuff. Right. I don’t do a lot of behind it.

David: [05:11] The scenes, I don’t do that kind of stuff. People can get to know me through other ways, but I’m focusing on my work as my primary primary way of attracting people.

Matt: [05:23] That’s awesome. All right, so I love that. So let’s talk, let’s kind of switch gears real quick and just talk about where you kind of see the industry going in general are not necessarily where you see it going, but like what are you fired up about in the industry right now

David: [05:37] I, I work with a lot of young photographers that I meet and I go out of my way to meet them. They speak in terms of community, the word community. They use the word community now they’re building their empires through growth, through social media in a way that I’m just learning from them. I like the way that they’re eager to give back and meet other people and do things. I think it’s fresh from the old, how do I get a $4,000 sale? How do I get a $3,000 sale? Now I understand we have to get the $3,000 sales to make a living. But I like, I like the, the new way of approaching photography. Um, I talked to people that have no clue about lighting and they’re producing great things and they’re doing it through post-processing versus getting it right in the camera. Both are equally powerful in the finished image. And, and I like, I like that.

Matt: [06:38] Yeah, no, that’s a, that’s refreshing for me. And we taught Kaia and I talk a lot on this podcast about how, where, you know, the industry holds certain things true. And I liked how you said like it can be done multiple ways in different ways because you hear some of these people that have been in the industry for a long time and they’re like, it has to be right out of the camera. It has to be, this has to be that. And I sometimes I just think that’s not necessarily true as long as it’s right for the customer.

David: [07:02] I hear people my age complaining about how you know, it’s so hard to do things with all these young people that don’t know what they’re doing. They’re putting out bad product, blah, blah, blah. I’ve had the best year ever this last year. Every single year I’ve been in business I’ve had growth because I’m not listening to the negative. I’m looking at new ways to do new things, to reach new people and if we fall behind because we’re trying to sit on what we’ve done for the last 10 years, they used to be successful. We’re going to keep falling behind.

Matt: [07:33] Yeah, and so what I, what I don’t hear a lot of people talking about in our, in our industry then I think you’re, you’re, you’re talking about that I hear a lot like in the marketing industry is when the marketing industry, we talk a lot about how you like the market dictates what is good, what’s bad, what’s successful, what’s not successful. You don’t hear a lot of people in our industry saying that successful because the market says so. They, a lot of people say, yes, that’s good. Yes, that’s bad. Not from the customer standpoint, but from like the industry in like norms. Does that make sense? Like that’s good lighting. That’s bad lighting. That’s good sales. That’s bad sales. That’s a good business model. It’s a bad business model where the truth is good in some aspects. Good lighting is dictated by the market. Like if people are buying that are not bad, lighting is dictated by the market. If if it looks bad to the consumer, then that’s bad. In a sense. It’s bad. We know as professionals what good and bad lighting is, so the light, he may not be the best example, but

David: [08:34] let me, let me get her up there. Lighting’s a great example because when kids started taking selfies 10 years ago, they took selfies. Now they all know what lighting is. They all know and they know in my studio, the window lights amazing. So if they’re going to take a Selfie, it’s not going to be in the back. It’s going to be up where they can get the gray window late. They know how to park their car in the right direction to get wind. The right lighting. Lighting matters to kids now and and good lighting in the finished product matters to them now to where 10 years ago when everybody was a photographer shooting and burning or or doing whatever they were doing, lighting didn’t. Now it does. And, and even now with the new iPhone x with their, did you just Boca out my kid or kind of person focus out of focus out a kid, you know, so they all know what Boca means. Yes. You know this, that the 16 and 17 year olds do. Their parents don’t really don’t have a clue and the photographers all do because we all think it’s funny when the ad came out, but, but they get it now. They come into my studio and they see it and they see, I’ve been mastering that for the last 10 years already. Now I’m popular now. I’m what they want because I can get that look with real photos that they can print on the wall or do whatever else they want to.

Matt: [09:59] All right. You ready for my million or a million dollar idea? You’re welcome to take this and run with it cause you actually Mike, cause here’s such a go getter. If anybody out there is listening and they still this idea, all I ask is that when you name the product you put like mh like in the, the the name of the product or something like that. So you know, I know it was from me. I don’t need any money unless you make a billion then send me 100,000 but I want to make a backdrop that attaches behind the, you’re like behind you in the car so it just stretches in front of your seats. Like just a black thing that’s just fills in your car. It’s kind of dome shape. It goes right to your shoulders. So that when they, when you do a Selfie, it can be a black or gray or white background and that you don’t see the back of the

David: [10:38] calling. You would have to be what, what’s that 17% gray or something. Exactly.

Matt: [10:42] Yeah. But I think if you could find one just like the Velcros in the car though, that that would be awesome. So anyways, that’s my, that’s my million idea, that million dollar idea I’ll never execute on. Okay. So, um, let’s jump into the lightning round real quick. I mean, we’re way ahead of time, so we’ve got plenty of time to talk about these. We don’t have to go faster. Um, so tell me again, how long have you been a full time photographer?

David: [11:03] Full time since 2009 started my first senior. I did in 2001 but I was doing other things. Okay.

Matt: [11:10] So when you think back to those that time, what, what was holding you back from being in a full time photographer?

David: [11:16] When I first started, I wanted to be good enough. So that was my goal was to be good enough. So the getting over the hump that I’m good enough was probably holding me back more than anything. Um,

Matt: [11:31] and what does that mean for you? When you say good enough? Was it like photography skills or business skills or all the above?

David: [11:38] Well, definitely, well first was the photography skills, the business skills. I’m intelligent. I took business classes as I was an engineer before I was anything and I was a youth pastor after that. So I had the people skills, I had business skills. The photography skills is what I needed to learn on. So for me it was making sure I had the photography and then figuring out how to run the business before I went full time.

Matt: [12:03] That makes sense. And I, what’s interesting to me and I, I guess just because I’m on the business side and my wife Alison is on the photography side. Like I didn’t have to go through a lot of that. Like are we good in like photography skills are good enough? I just always thought she was good enough. So I pushed her into owning her own business. But yeah, I can see why that would really hold people back. I mean, because yeah, if you, if your confidence is so important in everything in life, but especially in business,

David: [12:28] but not just confidence, I had to be able to sell it to make enough money to live off of where when I was an engineer it was easy money, you know, to make a ton of money. It was easy. But then I became a youth pastor, so I learned how to be poor and after being poor, it was easy to go into a visit, learn how to run a business and be poor for a little.

Matt: [12:46] All right. That, that makes a lot of sense. That’s hilarious. Um, I could totally see like, yeah, it’s just like a different perspective and you’re like, well, there’s not much more room down than here. You know, I’m, I’m are, I’m already eating saltine crackers. So like if my business doesn’t work out, I’m right where I am. That makes a lot of sense. Okay. So if you had $1,000 right now and so, so we’re at the sink in Florida and you’ve got $1,000 and you were going maybe to the trade show or anything, what would you buy that’s photography later? Like what do you think’s important to buy? So this is kind of advice for other people that may be, you know, spending money or what, what do you think is important for you?

David: [13:23] Marketing. Okay, I’ve got all the equipment I need and, and I could get by with good photography for, could shoot with anything. I keep hearing that as I preached Sony and these people that are afraid to, to actually try this new technology. You know, their first comment is, you know, a good photographer can shoot with anything. You must not be a good photographer if it took you Sony to be one or something like that. So for me, I don’t need the equipment. Um, the marketing is what I need to spend my money on because I know the way I marketed it brings me a new client.

Matt: [14:04] Yeah. One of the goals, right? You, you spend $1,000 on marketing and it brings you back $10,000 you know, that’s kind of, that’s the ultimate goal. So, um, people can reference it back. I’ll tell you the story. I don’t know if you heard the, the episode that we recorded with Jeff Richardson, but he actually sold all of his Nikon equipment and a switch to Sony and then like shot it for like three weeks. So like imagine this, he sells all of his Nikon equipment for pennies on the dollar switches disowning pays full price for it. She was a for a couple of weeks, couldn’t stand the digital view finder cause you know, he’s been shooting for so long, he couldn’t stand it, sold all of his sone stuff then for pennies on the dollar, went back and bought all new Nikon equipment again. And uh, he’s the only one I’ve ever heard of the actually like made the switch and just could not handle it, you know, and it’s real answers, but everybody else had, seems like they made the switch to Sony. Really loves it. So what were you shooting before, by the way? I shot cannon five d three was my yeah.

Matt: [15:14] And everybody says, I said we should not gone. So I don’t know whether, but everybody I talked to that is thinking about leaving Canada to go to Sony talks about just the miss focusing. Yeah. Well and and an icon people. It’s the same. What I’ve heard, what I like about the Sony was I’m a zero right. Cause cause you have eye auto focus. Right. And so it just nails it every tenuous and it’s to the point where I don’t, I took a three, a three step ladder, a three step step ladder everywhere. So if I wanted to change my point of view, I would just climb on that ladder to shoot down at him. Now I just have to raise it up and point it down Adam and flip the little monitor so I can see what I’m shooting. I see the little green square on there.

Matt: [15:59] I know I’m going to nail the shot. Yeah. That’s so interesting. It almost like they almost removed a whole element. Like that wasn’t that important to us. And photography, like having a sharp image was important. But it wasn’t part of the creative process. It was like something


Published on:

1st Apr 2019

True Moua – Episode 026 – A Photographer Podcast Interview

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This is a podcast episode you definitely want to hear! Matt and Kia interview True Moua, who is a photographer and educator, based in Wisconsin. She shoots only natural light and has a love for Iceland. You don’t want to miss True’s “all seasons session” and how she does that. You also want to listen in to why she doesn’t do a model program anymore and still does a destination session every year. True talks about how to do Instagram stories. She also talks about how she structured her pricing when she first started out and how to do what she says, not what she did. Listen in to hear how True would and wouldn’t spend $1k – you’ll be surprised! Curious which lens is True’s go to? You might want one too! True says, “Dig deep to find what makes you different and stop following every trend”. Keep hustling.

Online Resources – Google, YouTube, CreativeLive, Sue Bryce, Instagram TV

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Transcription was done by which means it’s an AI generated transcript. The transcript may contain spelling, grammar and other errors, and is not a substitute for watching the video.

[00:01] This is true and you are listening to from nothing to profit.

[00:04] 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

[00:21] from everyone. We are super excited to have true. And how do you say your last name? So it’s [inaudible]. Okay. True. Moolah here today and uh, I have seen her work online for the last couple of years and she is a phenomenal photographer and I’ve seen that she’s does a lot of education and so we’re super excited to have her here today to share with us about her business. And I’ve only seen you’re shooting in natural light. Um, she’s based in western Wisconsin and specializes in creative fine arts senior portraits. And you have a love for Iceland to, is that correct? I do, yes. Well thank you guys. Thanks so much for having me here. I’m super excited to be here, but yes, I am just, I just shoot natural light. I do have like studio equipment, but it’s just isn’t a demand, at least in my area. Uh, so yeah, everything I do is as natural light.

[01:18] That’s awesome. Yeah. I’m excited to have you on here because you’re one of the, one of the first interviews were Kaia and I both didn’t really know you’d be helped before this podcast. You know, typically I’m like, you know, people that we, I say Chi, we should in a reasons person kind of like, I don’t know that person. I’m like, well I do and it’s perfect, you know? But you’re my first people that like both of us are going to be learning from you right now while you’re doing your interview, which I’m really excited about.

[01:40] Oh good. Well, I hope you learn something. I don’t know. I don’t know how much help I’ll be, but I’m excited to be here.

[01:46] So anything else that you want to share? I mean, so, so I kind of said you’re from Wisconsin. Natural light photographer. Okay. Any other things that you would want to share, your family, anything like that?

[01:57] Well, you know, I, I’m actually before photography, I worked in dental for actually 16 years and was actually not looking for, you know, a new career or anything like that. And our son was approaching his senior year actually. And so I kind of fell into this kind of fell into photography. Really. I just, you know, we purchased this camera and I’m Craig’s lists and like, you know, everybody else, it doesn’t really understand photography. He was saying like, you’re going to buy this amazing camera and it’s just going to take amazing pictures for you. Um, and so, yeah, I mean that’s kind of what we thought. I’m like, well, just buy this camera and we’ll take great pictures and we’ll have, you know, amazing pictures for our scrapbook and, and whatnot. And of course, I quickly found out that that is not true. Um, if you don’t know how to shoot manual camera does not focus, then take great pictures at night during football games, then, you know, in basketball courts and whatnot.

[02:52] So I, um, started googling, you know, how to use this camera and was finding that I needed to learn how to shoot manual. And so I’m kind of from there. It basically, it just kind of took off. I, I took a little class on how to shoot manual and really just was falling in love with the whole process and, and one thing led to the next and all of a sudden, you know, in a year I was shooting clients full time and then launched my business about a year and a half after. So it just kind of all happened really quickly. But yeah, I mean I have, we’ve got three kids, um, obviously our son now, so I’ve been doing this for a start. I picked up my camera in 2012 and kind of started playing around then and I’m shooting clients, um, towards the end of 2012 and 2013 really?

[03:42] And then launched in 2014 so a few years now. And yeah, I mean, I, uh, you know, dabbled a little bit in everything in the beginning. I think like most photographers probably do and found that my passion was really with um, teens and that’s kind of what I focus on. I mainly shoot, majority of my clients are girls. Um, but I do shoot boys as well. I just don’t get a ton of um, you know, bookings with, um, with boys. But yeah, that’s basically, yeah, you’re answering questions that I’ve always had. I was like, okay, so w I think because you kind of came out of the womb being an actual artist and not, I know, I’m sure you can look back and go, oh, that was terrible. I felt like the very person images I saw of yours were, you know, just showed a lot of mastery and a lot of intention.

[04:38] Like it looks to me like you kind of, you know what you want, you know what you’re going for, you have really high standards. And so that makes sense. Cause I was like, where have I been? I haven’t seen, you wouldn’t see your work before 2014 and that may be why there, yeah. So how many, like do you shoot a lot of seniors or how, how, how does your business look? You know, in the beginning, um, I think this is probably true with everybody to you. You kind of just do everything and you do as much as you can. And I quickly learned that that was not manageable. So I, every year I feel like I cut back a little bit more. Um, and this year, this past year now I shot 42 seniors and my goal really is 35. Um, and I kind of in the Midwest here, it seems to be true with majority of the Midwest, but at least in my area, I have a really short time to shoot high school seniors really.

[05:34] So, you know, we have deadlines and our kids get to use their senior portraits for the yearbook. And so most of our deadlines our September and October, and so, and most kids don’t want to start having senior portraits done until they’re actually going to be a senior. So most of my bookings are June through September, October. Um, and that’s kind of it. I mean after that it’s, you know, there’s not much of a demand for senior portraits and plus it’s cold here. So, you know, nobody’s really, November is not that pretty, it’s usually pretty, everything’s dead and wet and, um, and then winter of course is beautiful but really hard to shoot in. So I kind of, um, you know, mainly just shoot from June to October. Okay. And then do you, do I’ve, I’ve noticed that you do like multi-season sessions. Is that a lot of what you do or is that just, okay.

[06:26] Um, so that’s something that I kind of started and the really, you know, kind of in the beginning, just trying to find other ways to really create art, um, in a time that obviously like I’m not at a huge demand, you know, for bookings and also was looking for a way to, um, you know, stay active and relevant on my Instagram or social media at the time when I started with just Facebook. Um, I don’t think I got on to Instagram until 2016 or 2016. But, um, so I was finding that, you know, I was trying to be creative and still like, you know, wanting to play with my camera and these off seasons that were not really a demand. And then that just kinda quickly led to people actually wanting to shoot those seasons. And so I thought, well, if I can offer something where my clients could potentially have a shoot every season, you know, that fills my schedule.

[07:22] I’m still making money on those off months. And so I launched this, um, in 2015 was this what I call I’ll season session. Um, and it’s an hour shoot per season. The shoots are shorter, so they are about an hour shoot. Um, and the girls only get two outfits because in the end like they’re going to have plenty to choose from. So, and the kids and the parents love it. They love it because, um, it gives them a chance to be able to like capture their child kind of throughout their senior year because I hear so many times from parents, like it’s amazing how much she’s changed just from her very first session with you to the very last session. So that kind of, you know, started to be a big thing and, uh, and parents were really then marketing, you know, it that way for me. And, uh, so it is, it’s, it’s become a really popular session of mine and I love it because I love shorter sessions.

[08:16] You know, I love just shooting right before sunset, so to be able to like, just go with that, you know, hour and a half before sunset and get everything that I want in that beautiful light, that’s like, that’s like everything I want. So it’s perfect. You know, I was, I think, you know, with my longer sessions, it’s like I can, I can definitely can shoot at anytime of the day. I mean, I’ve trained myself to do that, but I don’t, I don’t love it. Um, so I find a lot of times like I’m just not feeling really inspired and I’m just trying to get through the first hour of the shoot until that beautiful light comes. And then I’m like, okay, now let’s do this. So, so it’s, yeah, it’s been great. I’ve really enjoyed it. That’s awesome. I’m looking at your Instagram because the very first that I pulled up I saw like

[08:56] I saw all these winter shoots and I was like, oh, that’s really interesting. But that makes sense if you’re doing multiple seasons, why you have so many, like all the seasons. And then I was looking, I was just scrolling through and the image that you posted on February 3rd this girl in a yellow dress with, with the hat with us, like Straw hat thing. That hat is amazing.

[09:15] It was like $9 and some websites. So very cheap though.

[09:21] Cool. So everyone should to check out her, her Instagram and go, you know, scroll through it because it’s all amazing hat thing is as wild, right?

[09:29] Nursing. Yeah. You know, it’s, it’s, it’s something, you know, it’s something fun. And just to be able to add like a tiny little piece of her to, to a piece, you know, like a dress or an outfit that they have. I mean, it really can pull things together. So I enjoy all of that. I mean, styling is probably my next favorite thing to do besides, you know, shooting. So that’s great.

[09:50] And so are you shooting, you know, outside of west constant a lot as well or mostly,

[09:54] no, I, so once a year I try to offer a destination shoot for my seniors and the, initially it started out with, um, offering it just to my senior model of team. Um, and I currently do not have a senior medical team anymore and I don’t have any plans of, you know, having one in the future. And there’s many different reasons for that. I mean, I think for me, just because I have such a short time to shoot my, you know, bookings are usually filled by about spring. And so it, my, my girls just weren’t really benefiting from what they could benefit from if they were referring clients. Cause by the time I, I photograph them and they had their images, my schedule was already full. So I, it felt like it was kind of a disadvantage to them. And which is the reason why I’ve taken it, you know, a way.

[10:40] But I still do, you know, find like creative shoots and now I’ll pick models from like my actual clients. Um, cause it’s great. Like they already chose me. I know they love my work and I know they’re going to, you know, market for me. So what about model to, to choose on your own paying clients, but the kids really love it and they look forward to like where I’m going to go the next year or so. I’ve, I’ve gotten just a ton of dms in the last probably few weeks. Just like I wonder are you going to release, you know, your, your next destination. Like we’re ready to sign up. Um, and so, yeah, I try to, I try to offer one destination a year and then I do a lot of, um, workshops, um, during my off season as well. Um, and I love, I mean, I love to teach. I love to help people grow.

[11:23] And so to be able to do those in areas where it’s not like we were negative 35, you guys, like a month ago, it was so literally that gets cold, literally like that’s not even including with a windshield. I believe it was negative 69 or something. Yeah, insane. And it’s like frostbite and a minute, right? Luckily I was stuck in California at the time, but to be able to, you know, be, you know, and just to be able to shoot in a different area to it, we’re just really helps, um, re inspire me. So I try to, um, I try to, you know, set a workshops up in areas, not Wisconsin and that allows me to travel and explore new backdrops and whatnot. And, um, and then, you know, I been fortunate to, you know, have opportunities to speak on different platforms as well that usually they pick beautiful sunny places as well. So that allows me to add some, some of that to my portfolio.

[12:20] That’s awesome. Okay. So the first question we have is, um, like what’s working now? So like, you know, our podcasts is always just trying to give photographers, you know, like maybe just like a little piece of information of something that they could explore. So what do you think’s working now or tell a story of what’s working now in your business that you’d want to share with our audience?

[12:39] It’s working, um, as in like booking clients or,

[12:43] yes, sure. Yeah. Anything. Yeah. Like, or what you think? Yeah, I mean it could be about booking clients or something that you’re doing right now, you know, as simple as, you know, not doing a model program or you just think like, yeah, this is actually helping me succeed or helping me stay sane or whatever.

[12:57] Okay. Well, you know, I recently spoke at a conference put on by clicking moms, but a big topic while I was there with some of the attendees was Instagram story and how, you know, they were not posting because they were trying to kind of get like that. Perfect. I mean I was sitting at a table with six other ladies that had attended the workshop or the conference and um, you know, they were trying to post on Instagram, but they’re editing the image and they’re trying to get it perfect and they’re trying to think of the perfect caption. And I had to just stop them because Instagram story, I think if you’re not using it, you need to cause all of our kids, that’s probably, at least in my area, I don’t know about you guys, but in my area, the number one platform for my kids is Instagram.

[13:44] That’s the one that everybody says they’re on. So you know, parents are still on Facebook. Kids are definitely still on snapchat. But the reach on snapchat is basically, I mean, virtually nothing. So if you’re not using Instagram stories, like you need to use Instagram stories. But what the kids want to see, and this is so every now and then I pull kids that I’ve, I’m photograph and I do just kind of a little focus group. So we just go grab coffee or lunch or whatever. We just kind of talk about things. And one thing they told me is like they love Instagram stories. They’re on it all the time. I mean they’re, you know, they’re posting all the time. They’re watching other stories all the time, but they want to see like real things. They want to see like who you are. So Instagram stories is, you know, I mean it’s there for you to market it to tell your potential clients like who, who you are and what you have to offer, but they want to see real things.

[14:35] Kids are not, you know, they know a lot more than we think. They know and they can, they definitely, you know, sent, they know when something is fake and when something is almost like two curated, like your Instagram, you can definitely it. I think, you know, Instagram is there to, to be pretty and, and probably should be curated to a certain point. But your story is, is it’s like reality TV, right? I mean we’re all caught up in reality TV because it’s, well most of it is real and for some reason, even though it’s silly, like we just are drawn to it and then we just get almost addicted to it and we want to just keep watching because we want to know what’s going to happen next. And Instagram stories is kind of the same way. So I, you know, it just had to stop them and tell them like this, they’re not looking for you to post perfect pictures on Instagram stories.

[15:26] I mean, they’re going to click out of there because they know it’s not real. You know? And when your picture is already perfectly edited and you know, you’re in this amazing light and everything, like they know it’s not real. They want to see who you really are. It’s their way of connecting with you and being able to feel like, you know, they, like, they know who you are. And I think that that for sure, like has been working for me. I mean my kids when they show up, they know exactly. Not exactly, but they already have an idea of who I am. Um, and because Instagram stories, like I use it so big for every, I mean all the behind the scenes, like the reality of it all having a, you know, I show the girls coming in the way, they are kind of the whole process to behind the scene, straight out of camera and just like just...

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About the Podcast

From Nothing to Profit
From Nothing to Profit join Matt and Kia as they interview professional photographers and found out what is working now for their photography business
A Photographers Podcast with Matt Hoaglin and Kia Bondurant