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.
Nate is a Convention Junkie
Pro Edu: https://proedu.com/
Front Row (https://learn.watchfrontrow.com/)
Worth Every Penny – Sarah Petty (https://amzn.to/2X5f2X0)
Transcription was done by Temi.com 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