From Nothing to Profit

A Photographer's Podcast


Published on:

25th Mar 2019

Model Program Q and A– Episode 025 – A Photographer Podcast Interview

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Matt & Kia discuss high school senior model programs on this episode of the podcast. They compare the way they each do their programs and how they’ve changed the programs over the years. Seniors are busy these days and want to be part of something fun. Kia talks about making it as easy and simple and as stress-free as possible. Kia shoots with a wider lens for her fun mini sessions so the seniors have a different look than their senior pictures. Make sure to listen in to hear the fresh ideas discussed.


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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.

Matt: [00:01] Hey everybody, this is Matt and Kaia and you’re listening to from nothing to profit.

Speaker 2: [00:06] Welcome to from nothing to profit a photographer’s podcast with Matt and Kayak where each week they talk to photographers about what is working in their business now so you can swipe those ideas and grow your business faster.

Matt: [00:22] Hey everybody, welcome to the podcast. So kinda here’s the deal. Okay. I want to ask you some questions and I mean at first I just thought this would be a really good episode for our audience and then I realized that actually a really good episode for me. So in terms of high school, senior model programs, we’ve been doing one for a long time. We’d been doing work for like eight years and I’m, I don’t, I feel like it’s unsuccessful, but here’s the catch. I actually know when I look at my numbers, it’s not unsuccessful. I think I’m just really bored with it. And so I don’t really know what I just want, just like, I don’t know if I even want fresh ideas, but just I kind of want to go through some do’s and don’ts and just to see if I’m actually still doing like what I’m supposed to be doing and I just think it’d be good for our audience to hear us have this conversation. A little bit about model programs.

Kia: [01:09] Okay. So let me ask you a couple questions about yours. Like when you say you’re bored, are you bored? Like you’re like, ah, I don’t want to have to promote it. I feel like I’m saying things that are kind of uninteresting. Like your you board from the promotion side or from the photography side or what? What are you worried about?

Matt: [01:27] I think a little bit of both. Like I just, I’m just like kind of tired of the grind of like launching the model program for another year. And then on top of that I also like, I’m just like, are they even into this? And I just, I, it’s hard for me to realize like, am I not into this? Are they not into this? And I know what I mean, they have been talking about high school kids but they seem to be booking. So I guess they are into it.

Kia: [01:51] So have you started launching it? Yeah. And we’ve got a couple, we’ve got a couple of kids to sign up. Yeah. Okay, great. And so how do you do it? Do you do a, like an application and then you choose from that? Or do you like say you know, send specific invites or,

Matt: [02:06] well yeah, so what we do is we get a list of names from our previous models and seniors and then we send an Instagram DM to them and invite them. And then yeah, they go to our website and they fill out just a, just basically name information, just their contact information. And then they schedule a meeting to sit down with us. And we do individual meetings now. We used to do a group meeting, but we, we’ve, we’ve moved to individual meetings a couple of years ago and then we basically just tell them and their parent about, about the program and I guess kind of hope that they sign up and see like I can just hear myself being bored in this whole

Kia: [02:41] process, like as I’m describing. Do any like what part of it do you do?

Matt: [02:46] Do I personally do?

Kia: [02:47] Yeah. Like do you, do you sit in the meetings, do you

Matt: [02:49] no, so I do, I do like the promotion of it, rebuilding the program every year to see if we need to tweak it and stuff like that and then do the promotion side of it. And then Allison does the meetings with them and yeah. So that’s that.

Kia: [03:01] And then, uh, I know I’m asking a lot of questions. It’s kind of funny. That’s kind of probably not what you were thinking, but it helps to see, because I feel like you could do the model program a hundred different ways.

Matt: [03:12] Right. So I can definitely tell people a little bit about my model program and then you can tell them about yours and then we can kind of compare notes.

Kia: [03:20] Yeah. Yes. Because so well, or I can just ask, I guess, how about this, I’ll answer the questions that I ask too because I had like a list in my head. So is the model program the main way that you book high school seniors?

Matt: [03:33] Uh, I would say yeah, it’s the majority of them. I mean we book probably, I mean half probably half our, our models half are not our models. They come in later but everybody knows about it. And the, the second half of kids that don’t, our models that like just book regular senior sessions, they tend to be, you know, just like over subscribed, you’re busy. So they just don’t have time to commit to it during the summer. And so they’d just like, I’ll just do my senior pictures with you. Yes, maybe they were like, they, they’re like on a club travel team or something like that.

Kia: [04:02] Okay. So I have been in the business for 25 years and for probably the first 15, well probably 12 years, let’s see. No, probably the first, I don’t know, the first 12 years probably we did not do a model program at all. We sent out advertisements, you know, so we sent out catalogs and postcards and three days sales and we would book our whole summer on advertisement. So we never did a model program and then we started doing one because I thought it would be kind of fun to try it. Um, but it was definitely a small portion of our actual high school seniors did it. But now that I’m transitioned into my new studio, the model program is really the basis of my senior portraits. So it’s at least half if not more. Right.

Matt: [04:47] My husband was saying here, I would say the same thing. We see the same thing.

Kia: [04:51] Yeah. So then what do like what do your models get for being models?

Matt: [04:56] Yeah, so they get like some group shoots during the summer. I’m going to generalize cause we actually have like three levels and they get different stuff. But they basically get group, like the at the beginning level is they get droop shoots and then their senior session. Okay. The middle one I think I have to remember how this works. The middle level we add a custom shoots so they basically get like two senior sessions so they can do two different looks. Would you miss a lot with our sports kids and like if they’re into horses or something like that where we, it’s really for us to kind of break up the session into two because two completely different looks and then the very top level they get their senior session group shoots and then they also get like a destination session. So we typically go to Moab, which is about a three hour drive from us and the sand dunes, which is about three hour drive from us and we do like on location kind of destination stuff.

Kia: [05:53] That’s fun. Are those broken, like do they break down pretty or do most of them just do the beginning one or

Matt: [06:01] last year? Like normally we do. We have a lot in the middle and it was kind of like fades off both sides. But then last year we, we had a lot of, a lot of just the entry level.

Kia: [06:13] Okay. One, you know, I, one of the big things that I’ve noticed is that kids are busy and I think that’s hard. So our program has traditionally been based on doing fashion shoots with local boutiques. Yeah. And then being in a fashion show. Okay. So this is the first year that we have, are not doing the fashion show. Uh, my second daughter is a junior this year and she did the fashion show last year and she said she didn’t care if she did it this year. And I think a lot of the girls don’t really want to have to do it. It’s kind of, it’s, it’s just not as big of a draw. So we’ve dropped that and we are just going to be doing fashion shoots with local boutiques.

Matt: [06:58] Okay. And that was about like, like they just get that in addition to their senior session.

Kia: [07:01] Yeah. So, so when you call them group shoots, that’s what they are as the fat. So it was just more of a fashion edge to it.

Matt: [07:07] Yeah. And ours is more like stylized, like we have kind of themes to each one.

Kia: [07:11] Yes. Yeah. Yeah. So it’s, it, what is interesting is I just sat down with the girl. We also used to do group meetings and now we do individual meetings. Uh, because uh, mainly because our individual meetings, we want them to be more about planning their senior portraits. Yes. Yeah. Not necessarily as much about the program, but I sat down with a girl last night who had been painted to, you know, had watched everything, knew about it all, had been paying attention to our social media and was ready to do it. And she didn’t really, she didn’t really know what it was. She just it to be one. And so I think we’ve been doing it the way, like the way we’ve been doing it with our Instagram, it’s called style music magazine for the last maybe four years, I think for probably four years this way.

Kia: [07:58] And I just think that it’s just starting to build more and more the social media and the cache of being apart. So this year has been, is by far going to be our most successful year with it already. We are probably like, you know, we’re mid February right now and we’re probably where we were last year at the end of May. Okay. And so were are just your booking rate is so far up there and it’s just, I think it’s because we’ve, uh, our social media has just been really, really fun. Uh, we’ve been just doing a lot of fun things. I know that sounds funny, but I’m just really fun and really happy and that’s the track that attracts people for sure. Yeah. Yeah. And it’s just mine.

Matt: [08:45] What do you think, like what do you think they were most of the high school seniors are most excited about to be a part of it? Like is there one particular thing that they’re like pumped about?

Kia: [08:55] Yes. So

Matt: [08:57] we, last year during my senior sessions and mainly those sessions were my style muse models. I did a food theme, a happy food theme. And so we did, uh, the, the paper backgrounds, all the different colored paper backgrounds, and then I would brought in food, so cupcakes and pineapples and a coke cans and, uh, lacroix cans and did everyone donuts. I, so I photographed every girl with some sort of food doing like cute, like kissy faces and winky eyes and surprise faces and that type of thing. And I think that like super commercial look has, um, been really attractive to these girls. Okay. That’s good. That’s good to know. Yeah. Yeah, it’s been, it’s just bright, fun commercial and sort of looks like it could be in a magazine. Totally.

Kia: [09:56] Yeah. And it was just something that I wanted to do, you know, I was like, I want to try this. And I, and what’s really funny is they created so many fights and a Abra who works with in the orders would say, oh my goodness, these er, these pictures are driving me crazy because the girls want them really the bad. And the moms are like, I’m not buying a picture of you drinking a lacroix. And so, um, so yeah, they just made our social media look really fun.

Matt: [10:24] Yeah. So maybe I need to like do an audit of my social media and make sure like that. Yeah, we’re doing that. Cause I mean that’s really easy to do. That’s just a mind shift, you know?

Kia: [10:34] Yes. Yeah. Because I think that that moody, like the Darker Moody Look is trendy. I just don’t know if it’s attractive to the high school scene,

Matt: [10:44] especially when you’re asking me to be part of a program. They want to be a part of something fun. They don’t want necessarily want to be a part of something dark, you know? Yes. It’s probably very subconscious to them, but that’s probably a reality.

Kia: [10:56] Yeah. So the other thing we did that we changed this year is, uh, we made our buyin cheaper just because, uh, we, we knew we wanted to up the volume, you know, number of sessions.

Matt: [11:09] So we’re doing, this year we did a little bit of a drop to

Kia: [11:12] [inaudible] just because once they see the pictures, they love them and then we’ll order them. So getting them in the door. And then one other thing we did is we, like I said, we took out the fashion show and we’re, our goal with it is just to make it as simple and easy and stress free as possible for them because they’re just so busy. And so, uh, so yeah, so that we’re just sort of like, you don’t have to go to anything except for, we’ll make sure you get to one fashion shoot. We will make sure that happens for you.

Matt: [11:42] Right. So talk a little bit about buy-ins. I’ll just explain how we do it. So we have the three different levels and we did something a little bit different this year with our price drop and I’ll explain in a second. But basically what they’re doing is they’re just basically putting a deposit down for their senior session. Is that what they’re doing for you guys as well or,

Kia: [12:03] yeah, it just pays for, there are entry level session fee.

Matt: [12:06] Okay. So what we did is we, we were going to lower our price to get more people in this year because we had been raising it over the last like three or four years. And we’re starting to get to a number that it was like, well we probably should have a few more people in this. And so what we actually did is we actually dropped our price for them to be a part of it with a deadline. So like if they book in February, they get it at the cheaper price. But if they get, if they book after that then they have to pay them what everybody paid last year. So I think is good because then we actually have some deadlines cause one of the things that we’ve always struggled with in the past, it’s like when we’re not well we don’t have reasons for them to buck.

Matt: [12:47] They just, they can take like three weeks to book somebody in a sense because they’re thinking about it and then they go to do all their sports and their stuff and we just fall off the radar because they’re just trying to do, accomplish everything in life. So we’re like okay we just need some hard deadlines for them to do that. So, so our, our, our pro to get in with what the discount, they can either get into for 500, seven 50 or $1,000. So then af after February it’ll be seven 50, 1,012 50 is what it will be. Okay.

Kia: [13:22] And they pay that at the time.

Matt: [13:23] They pay that at the time and then they’re done. That money goes towards their senior order. Okay. So they basically get their session for free. We went to her session free.

Kia: [13:35] Uh Huh. Yeah. That’s great. Yeah. Ours is $100. Okay.

Matt: [13:39] No. Yeah. And so, yeah, no, there’s not a wrong or right way to do that. Yeah.

Kia: [13:42] Yeah. It makes it simple. Yeah. Yeah. So what we’re doing too, it’s not necessarily to create the urgency, but it is creating the urgency is our different fashion shoots are going to all have. Um, like you said, you do yours themed and I was hoping to make them all, uh, launch related to this year because that’s my word of the year. So, uh, like maybe a hot air balloon for one, you know, walking with a big bunch of balloons in the city for another. So just those type of themes. And so, uh, we’ve been telling the girls about our plans. We don’t have them scheduled yet. Um, but we are telling them that we are letting them sign up in order. So the first people to sign up for the program or the F get first dibs on which fashion shoot they do. Okay.

Matt: [14:32] Do they just do one or can they do more than one?

Kia: [14:34] Well, they do one of the boutique fashion shoots. Okay. And so, um, so they get to choose. So the sooner they sign up, then the sooner they will be able to choose which fashion shoot that they want to do. And so that has been a really great way to, you know, I mean it’s, it’s, it has created urgency. It wasn’t specifically designed for that. Um, but then another thing we just did is, because it’s been, we were just talking before we started the podcast. It’s been a really cold, really a wintery winter here in Kansas. And I was getting tired of not shooting, uh, because I just didn’t have stuff that I could do. Typically. I’m, we’re doing the fashion shoots already, but we just could not get outside and yeah, I want the fashion shoots this year to be outdoors type things. And so, uh, we decided to do these little mini sessions because we used to, when we would have our group meetings, we would also do like a little, we would call it a, um, like an interview shoot.

Kia: [15:34] And we would do something themed according like one year it was like tropical themed and we would do like a little tropical shoot, but a lot of times the girls weren’t ready and they didn’t know if they were signing up yet. When I took the pictures, they would just decide later. And so, uh, then last year we, we switched from doing the shoot at the initial meeting and we had a big party on Cinco de Mayo, which was really fun. And that was kind of our, you know, sign up and you can come to the party. And we photographed them there. But this year we uh, with felt like that was too many things for them to have to go to a, because of the, the boutique shoots in the fashion show, we just wanted to simplify it. So we did away with the party and then like I said, we just added in these little mini shoots and so we did a Valentine’s mini session with whatever girls could...


Published on:

18th Mar 2019

Leslie Kerrigan – Episode 024 – A Photographer Podcast Interview

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Leslie Kerrigan is the creator of Seniorologie and also has her own podcast. Leslie has run her own senior portrait studio for 10 years and started Seniorologie to educate herself and also share what she is learning. Conference 12, put on by Seniorologie, is in Nashville this year. You don’t want to miss this podcast episode! Listen in to hear what is working for Leslie these days in her business and what she’s fired up about in the industry. Leslie gives great social media advice you won’t want to miss. Camera brands, education and business are hot topics in this podcast.

Internet Resources:

Find somebody amazing to learn from in marketing or business, not even in the photography industry.

Seniorologie FB group (


Work Party by Jacelyn Johnson (

Nasty Galaxy by Sophia Amoruso (

Purple Cow by Seth Godin (


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.

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

Speaker 2: [00:06] Welcome to from nothing to profit a photographer’s podcast with Matt and Kayak where each week they talk to photographers about what is working in their business now so you can swipe those ideas and grow your business faster. Hello guys,

Kia: [00:23] we are so excited to have Leslie Kerrigan with us today. As you can hear, she is great on the podcast already. She does her own podcast and she is the founder of see neurology it, which has a great Instagram account. And uh, I think you do, um, conventions and that type of thing. And so we’d love to hear more about you and your history and senior photography. Leslie.

Leslie: [00:46] Yeah, thanks for having me. And Yeah, so I started senior photography and my own personal business, Leslie Kerrigan photography, Gosh, probably about nine or 10 years ago. And right around the same time I was trying to find information and learn about senior photography, um, and it wasn’t really finding what I was looking for. So I created senior urology to help other people as I learned. So I kind of used it as a learning platform for myself, but also to share what I’ve learned with others cause I thought, well maybe they need to learn as well. So I started seeing urology and it started out as just a blog that interviewed other photographers and shared inspiration from other photographers. And then it quickly grew into in person workshops. And then that grew into what we have now, which is a conference once a year called conference 12 yeah, that looks really fun.

Matt: [01:44] And where’s that?

Leslie: [01:46] So the conference conferences in a different city every year. And this year it’s in Nashville, Tennessee.

Matt: [01:52] Oh, awesome. That’s really cool. Yeah, I’ve, I’ve been to Nashville for gungy conferences. It’s a really like conference friendly city. I really liked it. Yeah.

Leslie: [01:59] Right. Yeah, it’s a great city. It’s not too far from me. Uh, but you know, we actually had conference 12 in Denver, which was one of our most popular ones. So Denver was a great place to,

Matt: [02:10] yeah, I think I, that’s where I grew up. I don’t live there anymore, but yeah, Denver so centrally located. And sometimes I think it’s just forgotten about as like a major Midwest city, you know, but it seems like it’s pretty easy to get in and out of Denver for a lot for people from both coasts and stuff like that. So that makes sense that it’s was probably one of the more of the popular ones. And then you guys have guest speakers? Yeah,

Leslie: [02:34] speakers, the conference 12 since 12 is the year, you know, the 12th year in school, they’re seniors. So then the conferences, that’s why it’s called conference 12. And then we have 12 different senior photography speakers who teach 12 different classes. So it’s kind of a well rounded. You get education from a lot of different people with a lot of different styles and, and you know, backgrounds and stuff like that. Yeah, I’ve been your release. I always find it fun to see how you kind of trickle out who all your speakers are. Yeah, we have fun. But then you also do senior photography yourself as well, right? Yes. Yes. So I have my own personal, um, senior photography business. I, um, really that’s all I shoot. I mean, every now and then I’ll shoot some other things. But the majority of my business is high school seniors. In fact, just last night we had our class of 2020 model informational meeting here at my house. So I’m kind of recovering from that today. I saw you had really cute cookies with your logo or is it wasn’t your monogram on it?

Leslie: [03:39] Leslie Kerrigan photography. So it just said it. Okay. P across the front. So, and they were actually really yummy. We’ve actually had um, prettier cookies before that didn’t taste so good, like shaped like cameras and they were so pretty, but then they didn’t taste good. So I went with the tasting good route last night. That’s fun. That’s really fun. Um, so, uh, you can answer are we have a list of questions that we’d like to ask and you can answer them from both what you know about the whole industry or from your business. Personally, we would love to hear any, any sort of expertise. So, okay, so Matt, where are we going now?

Matt: [04:16] Talk about like what’s working now. So when you, when you think of what’s working now in the senior portrait market, what, what comes to mind Leslie?

Leslie: [04:26] Well, for me personally and my personal photography business really showcasing and experience and you know, going back to what I did last night, the model program, those things are working really well. For me personally, I know that across the country it really varies depending on your market. So I’ve learned through senior Ologie and through, you know, meeting a bunch of different photographers all over the country that the senior market is different depending on where you live. So, you know, it may be more popular as in it’s been around for awhile sort of on the west coast where they have to hire a photographer in order to have a photo in the yearbook. But for me it’s kind of a newer thing because here in the south they don’t get to put whatever photo they want, the yearbook, they have to go to the school appointed photographer and have the black drape kind of on the plain backdrop photo. So to have me in addition to that is sort of a newer phenomenon. So it’s, you know, a little bit newer have an industry here, which I love because when I started, nobody even knew what senior photography was other than that traditional yearbook photo. So, um,

Matt: [05:47] I think you’re in, you’re saying like nine years ago, like there wasn’t really a senior market for you. Now you guys have had to kind of just build it.

Leslie: [05:55] Yeah, I totally, what city are you in? So I’m located in Greenville, South Carolina. Um, and again, everything in the south, I like to joke about this, but it’s really true. Uh, all trends, no matter what they are, move from west to east, north to south. So we are absolutely the last people that do anything. Um, so yeah. So when I decided, hey, I think I want to do senior photography, there really wasn’t a market for that in my area. People are like, what are you talking about? What senior photography? Um, so I really had to create sort of a reason why anyone would hire me after they already had the yearbook photo taken.

Matt: [06:38] That’s so interesting. Like, yeah. Cause you know, I feel like when people talk about senior photography, they talk about the way they just described it, the way you just described it. But you always just assume like, yeah, that was like 2,500 years ago. But like you guys are still living it. Like you’re still doing the super traditional yearbook pictures in South Carolina and your, and then this, the model program and this kind of lifestyle senior portrait stuff is kind of still new, which is really interesting.

Leslie: [07:07] Yeah, totally. That’s really neat. So now let’s move on to the next question. Uh, because this fits in perfectly. What is one thing that you are most fired up about in our industry today? Like what makes you really excited about what’s, what’s happening? Oh my gosh. I mean I love seeing how it, to me, what started out as a little more posed portrait style is really big. And then now it’s kind of going into more of a lifestyle, um, style. Um, so I love seeing that because I feel like, you know, it’s great to get a few post photos of course, especially here in the south where we’re, we’re super traditional. Parents loved that, the smiling post photo. But I think the girls and the seniors are really getting a little more excited about more of a fashion blogger lifestyle type photo where you see some movement and you see, you know, um, perfectly post photos.

Leslie: [08:07] So I think that’s exciting. I think the model program is always exciting because for me it changes every year. You know, my program started out with only four girls that I had to beg to be a part of it. Now it’s grown into, you know, I have over a hundred apply every year. So it’s fun to see how that’s changing as well. Those things get me excited. But then in the industry as whole as a whole, I really liked to see the huge movement for education for high school senior photographers and the abundance of, you know, places to learn because I really, I’m a strong believer in no one person has all the answers. So to be able to have choices of where you might learn about this business is exciting.

Matt: [08:53] That’s really awesome. So let me, let me of dig a little bit deeper because I’ve been in this conversation in my own head and maybe you can help me with it. So like you’re talking about how how the industry has changed a little bit and how’s the senior market has changed a little bit. How do you feel like social media has changed in the last couple of years or even in the last year? Have you seen any kind of big changes there?

Leslie: [09:16] Well, I think social media is changing daily. So yeah, I mean, you know, what was once a Facebook ruled world is now gone to hardly any high school senior is on Facebook anymore and they’re all on Instagram and snapchat and all these other avenues for social media. I said that in and of itself has changed. I think, you know, with photographers in general, posting about all sorts of things from education to their own actual work has changed. I think I see a lot more of that people branching into the education world. And posting about that. So that’s exciting. But yeah, I mean it’s one of those things when you’re in a teen, a heavy industry, you gotta keep up with all those trends. So, and of course it’s, it’s a little hard to keep up with every social media aspect. So I always say pick one that you liked the best that teens are using and really hone in on that one. So Instagram for me is that I don’t really snapchat because I feel like I can’t dedicate myself to several channels. I, I feel like I can do one really well. So that’s what I’m doing now. But you know, you have to be able to change if that then changes, cause you never know. Instagram may change just like Facebook did. I mean maybe teens, we’ll leave that sooner or later, who knows?

Matt: [10:36] Yeah, it’s always a, it’s definitely always a moving target that’s for, that’s definitely for sure. Yeah. Okay. So we’ll jump right, we’ll jump into our lightning round real quick. And these are just kind of questions that can, that can kind of happen fast. But at the same time, if we need to spend a few minutes really diving into them, we, we can cause we got, we got plenty of time. Okay. So when you were first starting out, Leslie, what was holding you back from being a full time photographer?

Leslie: [11:04] Probably fear, which I think can hold us back from a lot of things. You know, would I get enough clients? Would I make enough money doing this? So fear holds us back from a lot of different things. I mean, he’s still, to this day, there are many ideas floating through my head, but I don’t always go with them because maybe I’m scared that nobody will like that idea. But I think you have to just put yourself out there and really work your tail off to accomplish it if it’s something you truly believe in and want to do. Um, so I just think overcoming that fear is one of those things that you just, you have to do in order to be successful. You can’t, you can’t do it halfway. You have to do it, you know, with all your intentions and your full attention. So you can be successful.

Matt: [11:54] And was it just like fail of, I can’t even speak about that fail fear of failure or was it like fail? I don’t know. Like what, was there one particular part that you were, you were worried about or was it just general failure that you were worried about?

Leslie: [12:09] Why do you think there’s always a fear of failure? In fact, this week, senior urology podcast is all about fear of failure. Um, so I think in business, no matter what business you are, you are in photography or whatever, there’s always that fear that it might not work out. But I’ve done a ton of stuff that didn’t really work out. I mean, I’ll be honest, I’ve put workshops out there and gotten zero people signed up for it. I have, I try to rep program that first year and really didn’t get referrals out of it. I’ve done, I’ve done all of it. So I’ve failed a million times. So I think the thing that more than failure, fear of failure is to get back up and try again. So I just keep trying and keep putting things out there. And hoping something sticks to be honest. And how did you get into photography?

Leslie: [12:59] W did you go straight into it or were you doing something else before? Oh, no, I actually, um, so I went to college for journalism. So, um, I started my first sort of job I guess was, um, in a hospital PR department. And then from there I went to work at a paper company, which was headquartered in my hometown. Um, so I was like an inside sales person, met my husband, we had cubicles across from each other and then he wanted to go back and get his masters at Purdue, which was in Indiana. And at the time we were in South Carolina. So I went and you know, we got married and we moved to Indiana and I worked in the events department of Purdue’s memorial union. So I planned weddings and things like that at Purdue. And then from there I actually started this crazy kind of how it all works out.

Leslie: [13:56] But then from there I started an invitation company. So it’s kind of always in sort of the events planning. You know, I went from event planning to actually creating invitation for these events, uh, which was kind of my graphic design sort of interest. And then from then I had kids and I wanted photos of them. So I thought, well, I’ve always been interested in photography. I never taken a course or anything like that on it, but I started playing around with it, teaching myself. Um, so yeah, it’s totally self taught. I attended a one or two workshops back in the day that really gave me a foundation. I don’t know if you guys ever heard of Nicole van, but that was one of the very first workshops I attended. And she really kind of gave me the foundation of even how to even take a photo, what exposure was and that sort of thing.

Leslie: [14:48] And then I, you know, kind of dabbled in everything like a lot of people. So I took photos of kids’ families, you know, newborns, weddings, whatever, and just kind of figured out that for me, I related better to high school seniors. I liked the fact that they wanted their photo taken as opposed to babies who maybe don’t or are husbands and families that don’t want to be there at all. So that kind of started the ball rolling and, and again, it was not really done in my area and everything else was being done. Um, and I’m the kind of person that’s like, okay, I want to, I don’t really want to compete, so I want to make myself different enough so I don’t feel like I’m competing with all the other photographers. So that was seniors for me because a lot of people weren’t doing it, so it just kind of fell into place from there. That’s neat. It’s always interesting to see

Kia: [15:42] how our life experiences can make us good photographers, even though we all come from such different backgrounds. So yeah, absolutely. That’s really neat. Hey, on that note, let’s just take a quick break and we’ll be right back.

Leslie: [15:56] Hey everyone, tell me if this sounds familiar. You look at your calendar and notice you need clients now. So you do a little marketing and get some phone calls. You get busy helping those new clients, they scheduled sessions, they place orders and life is good, but once they’re done, your calendar is empty again. The reason is you didn’t have time to market while you were busy. Sometimes your business feels like a rollercoaster, and let me tell you something. It is, and believe me, you’re not alone. Photographers everywhere have the same problem, but I have some great news. Matt’s business, Allison Ragsdale, photography after years of trial and error has cracked the code. It works so well. He’s created a new class all about it....


Published on:

11th Mar 2019

Sam Marvin – Episode 023 – A Photographer Podcast Interview

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Today, Matt interviews Sam Marvin Photography, while in Idaho speaking at their convention. Sam is an amazing high school senior photographer in Boise, Idaho. Sam is all about encouraging self confidence and self worth. You don’t want to miss what is working for Sam in his business and how he uses his model program. Sam talks about change and how senior clients are literally different every year. Listen in about how much social media has changed and is still changing. Matt and Sam talk about snapchat vs instagram. Fear of failing and being in our own way is what holds us back. You don’t want to miss what Sam would and wouldn’t spend $1k on. Sam recommends looking for just one nugget in books and conversations. Sam’s parting guidance includes making sure to find your why

Book Recommendations:

Book: Start with Why, Simon Sinek

Clockwork & The Pumpkin Plan by Mike Michalowicz (

Find Sam Here:

CIC Pro labs – print company



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.

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

Speaker 2: [00:05] Welcome to from nothing to profit a photographer’s podcast with Matt and Kaia where each week they talk to photographers. I wrote what is working in their business now so you can swipe those ideas and grow your business faster.

Matt: [00:22] Hey everybody, Pat Flynn here. Hey, today I have an awesome episode. I’m actually in Boise, Idaho with my friends Sam Marvin. Um, I actually spoke at the PPA Idaho Convention this week and while I was here I was staying with Mark Lewis, Sam and having a really good time seeing what he’s doing in his studio. So we thought while we had a minute before his model meetings has senior model meetings tonight, we would do a quick podcast. So for, if you guys don’t know who Sam Marvin is, he’s obviously in Boise, Idaho and he has an amazing, amazing business up here with high school seniors. Um, does a really good job. So you should definitely check out his, his websites, stuff like that. But we’ll definitely ask him some tough questions today. So, so besides being my friend Sam, what else do we need to know about your studio? Or what is something that people wouldn’t know about you by just looking at your website?

Sam: [01:13] I would guess that the most, the one thing that people wouldn’t get just out of my website is how passionate I am about really encouraging self confidence and individual worth amongst our teenagers. And um, that’s, that’s kind of, I think the one hardest thing that I try really hard to convey. But it may not come across as well.

Matt: [01:36] Yeah, no, and I think that’s why your business is so successful up here. And you know, we didn’t even get a chance to go to grocery stores without be running into clients and people that wanted to stop and talk to you. So obviously you’re doing a good job of making those relationships with your customers. So I want to kind of jump right into it and the, the segment may be a little bit longer than normal, but I want to talk about like kind of what’s working now in your business. Like, what do you think being a high school senior photographer, like what would you tell other photographers that they need to be focused on besides, you know, making those relationships with their clients and building self worth? But besides that, like what do you think working right now really well in your business?

Sam: [02:11] In my business, I think, uh, the thing that really does work is, well, I mean the, the biggest challenge in the senior industry is that you really are trying to please two completely different types of clients at the same time, uh, being the student and the parent. So I mean, as far as really what’s working for me, it’s the interaction on, on social media and our model program is probably the strongest aspect of our business. Um, and again, it just kind of boils down to a, that really devoting a lot of time and effort and attention into doing things that encourage that self confidence and building people up and not, you know, because I’ll tell you the one thing I’ve learned about this industry is girls are meaner than anything.

Matt: [03:05] Yeah, no, I agree. And you may not even see it, but you know what, sub tweets and just the way they treat each other and stuff like that, it, it can be really bad. And so it’s ruthless. Yeah. So I think it’s awesome that you guys are aware of that and actually try to combat that in some way, you know, and bring them together and do really cool things. So for a second to kind of talk about your model program and what you think the most important aspects of it, because you’ll have your, you’ll have your first model meeting tonight and I mean you’ll have a ton of girls here and most of them will sign up and it’s, it’s pretty amazing what you guys are doing up here. But what do you think some of the most important aspects of your model program or what gets people excited about it? I think, let me say this. I think longterm they learn about that self worth and they learn about how to be nice to each other and stuff like that. But why do you think they’re going to be show up tonight and want to be a part of it?

Sam: [03:52] Um, I think because of the exclusivity, um, wanting to be a part of something cool but also wanting to do something that not everybody can do. We do a lot of fun things throughout the year. The, I think really stand out and obviously it’s part of our marketing, but like we, we go to a big summer vacation area, uh, McCall Idaho and spend a day on the lake we boat and just have fun and barbecue, play volleyball, just do stuff to kind of almost in a sense team building. The whole goal is to really give the girls an opportunity to get to know each other. And I think one of the things I love about our model program is I’ve seen so many girls that have built really strong friendships with other girls from this that they never would have bet

Matt: [04:37] cause they went to, they go to different high schools and so they wouldn’t necessarily know each other until you put them on a volleyball court together. You know, at the lake kind of deal. Yeah. That’s cool. I think it’s also, I think in one of the important parts about that is you kind of taking them all to a neutral, like a neutral ground. Right. And taking them away from the areas that they know and stuff like that. And it’s like putting them all in like a strange place, which they probably have been there before, but then it’s like they have to start fresh, you know, they don’t have their stomping ground and stuff like that. So then, you know, they can start to build those relationships and they’d have an experience together. And once I have the experience together, that goes a long way for friendship for sure. Absolutely. Um, kind of what else? So you guys, do you guys do the Lake Day? Um, just tell it, just tell us a little bit more about your,

Sam: [05:22] oh, well, my model program is actually, it really is a hybrid of a bunch of different model programs. I, I try to consider myself always open to education and learning. I, I would hope that, I never feel like I’m so good that I stop, but I do see some tendencies to, to like kind of put it aside because I feel like I just got too much going on. Um, but I, I’ve really, over the years I’ve developed a couple of different model programs I take little pieces from and that’s how I’ve made mine, one of them that I learned a long time ago was the, our fashion show. And despite, it’s a really challenging thing to do, the event itself, the event itself, it’s, it’s honestly, it’s kind of a nightmare. And, but, um, every year I ask our girls, I’m like, what was, what was something that really stood out to you?

Sam: [06:12] And it’s so, I mean, just falling in line with our mission statement, seeing how much the girls, when they get up on stage and they’re just like terrified. They’re shaking and they’re like, oh my gosh, I can’t walk this 60 foot runway. And they walked down that runway and they’re a little bit fumbly and they pose at the end and all of a sudden they come back and they just got the biggest smile on their face and they’re stressed and like they’re supermodels and the next time out there, just like the, the hype is there and they are just rocking it. And I hear it from so many of them and so many of their parents like just the change that comes over them. So despite this as a big hurdle in their confidence properly. Yeah. And despite the fact that every year I’m just like, I don’t ever freaking want to do that again.

Sam: [06:53] Right. Like I see it and like I just, it’s hard for me when it, when it false so much in line with our, our real core values that I just couldn’t, I can’t take that away from, unless I can figure something out that really could work better. Right. And know exactly what’s on just, and I think when they’re sitting there about to walk out on stage, it’s like they’re dealing with all their confidence issues. Everything that’s ever been said to them or anything that they’re thinking about themselves. It’s all right there on the surface. And then some of it just completely melts away on their walk back. Like, oh, all those lies I’ve been telling myself, yeah. Are now gone. And that just changes their whole life, I’m sure. Yeah. And it, it really, it’s bizarre because it’s almost like a visible melt when you say it just melts away.

Sam: [07:39] It’s, it’s almost just so visibly obvious that it happens. And it honestly, it just caps everything for me. And um, and, and it’s a great opportunity kind of in the beginning of our model program for them to, to meet each other and then all of a sudden it’s from there. It’s like most guards are down and it’s just really kind of a pickup time from there to get to know each other. So how early in the model program, I mean, I know we’re here in February and how early do you do the lake day and how when you do the, the, the, uh, fashion show? So our fashion show will actually happen the very first part of me. So they’re juniors and they’re walking the runway as a senior model for us. But the end of the school year. Yeah. Yeah. And, and that’s the end of their junior year.

Sam: [08:27] But the idea is obviously to, to generate some buzz about them and about us. And then we do lake day typically right before the 4th of July because we try to make a USA red, white and blue theme. And then we try to drop a video right around 4th of July that has something to do with, you know, happy birthday America or just something, you know, something fun. It’s kind of themed. Yeah. That’s really cool. About how many models we’ll use sign up in a year. Typically sign up the highest year ever had 55 and the lowest year, which was actually this year we had 28 we started out with 32 but we ended up with 28

Matt: [09:03] yeah. And it’s so interesting and we’ve seen the same thing in our business. Not that the model program is getting smaller, but as you refine your business and you start clipping some of the edges, it just naturally gets smaller. But it’s not smaller. Worse. Like you were telling me earlier, like you had a smaller motor model program but you made just as much money, which it’s like you were, you’re not, you’re not, we’re talking about it. Like we kind of value our success on the amount of volume we do. We do. Yeah. So when we’re down in sessions, we’re thinking we’re losing, but the need to look at the numbers and you actually are in the same place. So it’s like a dream come true where you do as much money but less work like glass sessions. But while it’s happening and you’re like, yeah, we’re going down in flames, were going down in flames.

Sam: [09:49] I weigh so heavily. I, I’m a numbers guy. I love numbers. Like it just, it jazzes me. Like I looked through my numbers all year long and I’m like, okay, I got to be right here to be good. You know, when we started out last year with fewer models, I knew we were more qualified models. Like I knew there were more qualified customers. And the, the great thing was is that I knew that we had trimmed certain things to make it better, but the fact we were down, I was just stressed as hell. I was like, oh my gosh, my year has just gone. I’m screwed. I’m finally hit my peak and I’m on the, yeah. Is that the way down? And even into October I was just like, oh my gosh, we’re down. Like we were, we were down 30 seniors from last year, but we did $20,000 more in sales. And I didn’t really see that until the end of the year. I started doing profit and loss and stuff. And I’m like, man, I gotta get my head out of these numbers. Yeah, because

Matt: [10:41] it actually worked out for you. But I can imagine that journey through the year, you’re probably just talking to your wife, Michelle, and just like we’re losing. But we’ve seen some of that in our business as well. And I don’t think it’s a bad thing, but like you said, you and I think our co have a lot in common in the fact that like sessions equals number of sections equals success. And that’s not always dementia. That’s always the most important metric, you know. Okay. So let’s shift gears a little bit and let’s just talk about the industry. It was really cool being that pp a Idaho this week I spoke and Tim Walden spoke. So I think this is kind of a fresh question. Like what is one thing that that like you’re fired up about the industry or that you hold as true with industry. You can talk about how the industry’s changing and whatever you want to do, but like when you think about the industry, what do you think about

Sam: [11:28] change? Yeah, like, um, I think I’ve always tried to embrace change, but I don’t care who you are. Sometimes it’s scary. So, but I think change is really where it’s at. But another thing I’ve, I’ve really noticed is just kind of how the trends happen and when you’re in the senior industry changes literally every year. Yeah. We talked about you guys while we were driving around

Matt: [11:54] that like it feels like every single year you’re reinventing your business. It is.

Sam: [11:58] It literally feels like that. And I think that’s really the wave that people get tired of it and it’s like, you know, cause you just want something to be consistent and it just, it’s never consistent. Like, I mean there’s certain things that can be consistent, but your client, your customer is literally different every single year. And so,

Matt: [12:21] oh and we were talking about this in the car too. I’m sorry to keep saying that to the podcast audience, but when we talked a salmon, I had a lot of conversations this week and I think the class of 2020 is going to be different than the class of 2019 and the reason is is because for 12 years they’ve been following the class of 2019 and so they see what they do and they don’t want to be the same. They want their own identity. They want to see that they see things differently. It’s no different than siblings. Right. The younger brother doesn’t want to be a lot like the older brother, cause he sees him get in trouble a certain way. He sees them act a certain way and he’s like, I’m never gonna act that way because I saw what it did. And it becomes their own personality. Each class becomes their own personality as well because they’re following the previous class. And I joke that they actually have like a phd in how not to be the class before because they’ve been fallen for 12 years. They have, uh, most of their lives, they’ve been looking at that class above and saying, I’m not going to do what they do. So it’s just interesting. But so yeah, so you have to reinvent it because what one class cares about one year, the next class doesn’t care as much about it

Sam: [13:26] and sometimes it can be just like drastically different.

Matt: [13:30] Yeah, I totally agree. So what changes are you seeing right now? I mean, I know it’s going to be unique to your market and unique to your business, but what do you kind of seeing right now?

Sam: [13:39] Right now? Um, I think one of the biggest changes I’ve seen is I, I’ve really watched a crazy roller coaster with social media and how we went from a time where everybody literally put just everything, every part of their day on social media and out there and the food they ate. And now the platforms, the way they’ve kind of rolled out, I’ve noticed that there, it’s almost like it’s the unwritten rules. And I think we were kind of talking about that and trying to figure out the unwritten rules. Like, oh, I can’t, I can’t post a picture more than once every three or four days. And, and it’s got to be a perfect picture and I can’t post a Selfie, which is what’s funny is they even call a picture that I took of them a selfie. And I’m like, like, did you forget what a Selfie is? It’s, it’s actually where you hold up the camera, take a picture of your, and they’re like, well, I can’t post a selfie because I posted one of those like three weeks ago. And so it’s like, it’s bizarre the changes that happened in social media and how they govern the teenage world.

Matt: [14:43] Yeah, no, exactly. Because they, it is their brand and it is their portfolio. It’s their profile online and everything. And it’s, yeah, like they do, they care so much about it.

Sam: [14:54] That’s really interesting that you say that. Cause I never considered, I never really thought about the fact that kids right now are literally becoming brand...


Published on:

4th Mar 2019

Allison Tyler Jones – Episode 022 – A Photographer Podcast Interview

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In this episode, Kia interviews Allison Tyler Jones (, all by herself, while Matt teaches at PPA Idaho. This is Allison’s first podcast, but she’s a veteran speaker and has been a photographer for 14 years. Kia was blown away the first time she heard Allison teach. Allison says her photography business was never just for fun, it has always been to support her family. She shoots exclusively in the studio, specializing in family and kids. Listen in to hear the 3 pillars that are working now in her business. Allison is excited that our industry overall is starting to become more positive. You don’t want to miss what Allison would and wouldn’t spend $1k on. You’ll love Allison’s take on the Oscar Wilde quote about being yourself, as everyone else is taken. You also don’t want to miss Allison’s personal habit that contributes to her success or her parting guidance.


Internet Resource:

Audible (Get two free book here)


Essentialism by Greg Mckeown (

The Pumpkin Plan by Mike Michalowicz (

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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.

Allison: [00:01] This is Alison Tyler John’s and you are listening to from nothing to profit.

Speaker 2: [00:06] Welcome to from nothing to profit a photographer’s podcast with Matt and Kaia. We’re each week they talk to photographers and what is working in their business now so you can swipe those ideas and grow your business faster.

Kia: [00:23] This is Kiah today and I am interviewing Alison Tyler Jones all by myself. Matt is speaking at a convention today and so this is a first for me to do a solo interview and I think it’s at first for you Alison to do a full podcast.

Allison: [00:40] It is. I’m excited.

Kia: [00:43] Yeah, we’re so excited to have you here. Uh, although this is a first for Alison to do a full podcast. She is a veteran speaker and has been a photographer for uh, Gosh, how many years?

Allison: [00:56] Um, I think 1414

Kia: [00:59] years. Okay. I know it’s, it’s hard to know how long when you get our bios. So I first saw Alison at actually the national convention and I had not known who she was and I sat in her program and was blown away by how professional she is by how well she knows how to run a business and by how great her photography is. And what I loved about it is that she had come into photography, not from like a mom’s of the camera, which is, you know, very typical for women and also not from a, uh, like, uh, you know, like a big corporate job or something and wanting to do something else. She came at it from already being in the artistic industry. Uh, and so Alison, do you want to tell us more about yourself and your expertise?

Allison: [01:46] Sure. Am I, as Kaia said, I came into this industry a little bit sideways. I had a, on my own retail store. We were the first scrapbooking store outside of Utah. And I had that business for about 12 years in the late nineties, early two thousands. And, um, when we were selling that business off, I thought, well, I’ll just take six months off and I’ll just do a little bit of photography and tell I decide what it is that I’m going to do. But one thing is for sure I’m not going to make another hobby into a business. And so 14 years later, another hobby was made into a business. But I came from that aspect of when I had my scrapbooking store, the intention always was to make a profit that it had to support my family. And so when I came into a photography, uh, even though I started thinking that I would just do it for a little bit of time, the intention was always that it was going to be a business.

Allison: [02:45] And once I realized that this is what I was going to do, the intention was we’re gonna, uh, make it into a business that’s going to support my family. And so that was from the beginning. It kind of never was. Um, just for fun. Yeah. Well, it seems to me like when you do things, you do them in a really excellent way. And so even fun to you is doing things well? I’m assuming doing them all the way. A constant, uh, constant maximizing I guess you would say or I don’t know. Trying to always improve is something that’s really big for me. It’s also the thing that puts me in the fetal position in many, many aspects of my life. But it is something that I, I’m always striving to do better. So do you still scrapbook? No, that’s so sad because that kind of ruined me scrapbooking for my family.

Allison: [03:42] I always done that ever since I was a little kid. And then once I, once it was a business, I just didn’t really do it for my family anymore. I was doing it as samples for the store and um, so it kind of, it kind of ruined that for me actually. It was really sad. That’s when I have always have this vision of myself as like making these beautiful scrapbooks and creating these amazing moments. And I actually, the only scrapbook I have is a Christmas one and it’s not really even a scrapbook. It’s just like a, a book that you can like ride in. But I cut up all everyone’s Christmas cards and put them in every year and then write on it. And it’s like, well, but I’ve done 20 years and I think my last year. So I’m like, okay, well, wow, that’s awesome. Well, I, you know, with the scrapbooking store, actually, it’s funny because I had always, you know, I like many people, I love photography from when I was young and I was the photo editor of the yearbook when I was in high school.

Allison: [04:44] And so when I started that business, I thought, I really thought it would be more photography. Like I thought we were going to do, uh, have dark room because this was pre digital. I thought we were going to have dark rooms, we’re going to be doing Polaroid transfers and all these cool art journals and this really, really photographically heavy, uh, thing. And then I realized that everybody just wanted stickers and scissors that cut paper into weird shapes, you know? And so, um, but I realized that there was actually a lot of money on that. You know, we did about a million dollars a year on a $20 average sale. So we, we run a lot of volume through that business and it was a good business for a long time, but uh, you know, nobody really wanted to photography until the very tail and as everything was going digital then it was funny because all of our photography classes kind of took off and everybody wanted to do photography at that point.

Allison: [05:34] So you thought it was going to be more like kind of fine arts fucking but you it was more crowd. Totally. Yeah. Nobody, nobody can get Polaroid transfer. What like, I mean we did do a few of those classes but I’m really, everybody just wanted to pile on, you know, 50 stickers and, and, and it was fun. You know, we definitely went, went out and like an archival standpoint in acid, this and that. But you know, it was really, really fun. I look back now and I, I when we first started and we were, you know, putting up all these racks of stickers and all that stuff. I said to my business partner at the time, I said, you know where this is all going, we’re going to end up back where we started with, with like black pages, black photo corners, black and white pictures with like the little, you know, the little late, what is the word I’m looking for, the border around it. And then Hawaii, you know, riding in white pencil, we’re going to all come back from all this like excess back to this streamline. Simple. And it’s like when you look at artifact uprising and a lot of these places now that are, you know, fulfilling. That’s exactly what it is. It’s, I’ll come back to that really simple spare clean. So it’s kind of funny.

Kia: [06:40] Well that is interesting because when I heard you and had a scrapbooking store and then I saw your work, which you really just described your work, black and white, simple, clean. I was wondering where the connection was and it makes more sense that you had assumed it would be more of like an art based and now you’re your APP at. So let’s segue into your, your uh, current photography business because that ad, it sounds to me like your current photography businesses even more successful than your scrap booking business. And so, uh, this, the name of this podcast is from nothing to profit. What’s working now in the photography industry. And so I, we would love to know kind of what, what are you doing and you’re in your studio now with your photography now that you feel is really working well. Okay.

Allison: [07:24] So our studio, I am, I do exclusively studio work. I gotten to the point where I really, we don’t do any location and I specialize in families and kids and my business is basically based on three pillars, which is that it has to have an artistic fields. So it’s our, that at least my tagline is art that happens to be your family. I want our longterm relationship with my clients, so I’m not a one and done. I don’t want to create a marketing arm that’s just going to chat, jam a bunch of people in my funnel. I’m hoping that some, some of them, well we’ll buy and then I don’t care if I ever see him again. So we’re really based on relationship and referral. And then, uh, the other pillar is a finished product. So, uh, we create pieces of art for our client’s home and that’s where we start from.

Allison: [08:18] That’s what we’re speaking from. The second, the very first phone call we’re talking about finished products. We do not sell printable digital files, so are a longterm relationship and a finished product. Those are the three things that my business is based on. So it, it’s working for us and that, um, we’re not competing with the, anybody that’s a shooting share model in our, in our market. Uh, we just, I don’t really, we don’t really see ourselves as is in competition in that respect. It doesn’t mean that we think we’re beyond competition or whether we think we’re so cold. It’s just that that’s, we’re just in a different business. We’re providing fine art for the home. Uh, we’re helping solve those kinds of problems. We’re not so much focused on, oh, what’s this cool. We’re not some, we’re focused on the shooting. We definitely want to create something amazing and fabulous for that, but it is for their home.

Allison: [09:19] And so that’s really what’s working for us is that I’m not, I’m trying not to be distracted by everything else that’s going on because I started out in my home for four years. I, when I saw my scrapbook in store, um, I didn’t, you know, want it to just go into overhead overnight because I didn’t have a business established. And so I have a home that has a basement. And so for four years I shot out of that basement and did a sales sessions in my dining room. And then once it was kind of taking over the house and I could see that I was at a certain level of income and I knew that I could support, uh, that I could still be profitable and have a studio, a rental, you know, be able to pay studio rent. Then we made the leap to s s downtown studio.

Allison: [10:08] And we’ve been there since 2009 and so, um, once, so when I was shooting from home and in the basement I was doing maybe 40% studios, about 60% location. And then as I went into the studio just more and more, the more I, I’ve always loved studio work from, from day one. I’ve loved it and I love the ability to control the light no matter what time of year when no matter what time of day. And I love, uh, I love the relationship with the subject. I love that interaction. And so I just felt like that when I was either introducing props or a lot of background or environment, it was detracting from the, to me, the most interesting part of the image, which was the person. So I just, the more spare and clean I got, the happier I was with what I was doing. And then it also happened to be that as I was not running around, you know, for three hours getting to and from a shoot and breaking it up and putting it up and taking it down, it just was so great. The studio just seemed to really be a great fit for me.

Kia: [11:16] Well, and you, uh, because you do the studio lighting and the really simple images that plays into the three pillars of your business. It’s so funny because I’m like, ah, I should be taking it. But you’re your simple simple images obviously look more like art, but, and then your, you know, the simple images are going to go in any home, but also because you’re doing similar images over time that lets you keep that relationship where you’re not creating one specific look for one specific time. So that’s really interesting. Hear that.

Allison: [11:53] Uh, so my next question for you is what are you most fired up about in our industry? Um, what is something that you’re excited about? Something that you’re worried about? Just uh, you know, you, I know you just spoke at the, again, didn’t choose speak this year emerging. Yeah. At the national convention. And so I’m assuming you saw trends and kind of thought about it a bit. So what are, tell us what you’re most fired up about the photography industry now. The thing that I’m most excited about as I really feel like, you know, 2003 was when it was the first year that more people shot digital then found. And so, you know, exponentially that’s just grown. And here we are. And I think that we had that a ton of people coming into the industry kind of churning around down at the bottom, editing 24 hours a day, not seeing their kids.

Allison: [12:46] A lot of women, a lot of women not valued and not valuing what it was that they were doing. Like, oh well it doesn’t take me that much time so I shouldn’t charge that much or whatever, you know, fill in the problem here. You know, and I, it’s interesting to me to see people that have, uh, you know, and our trade organization would say that they’re the, at the bottom, there are a lot of photographers that are new that are coming in and they kind of churn around the bottom at about the two year mark. And usually they wash out at about two years. They’ve just had it. They, they’ve, they’re editing themselves blind. They’re tired. They’re not making any money. It’s horrible. And it’s taking away from their family. They have no life. But if they can get, if they can get some education, some point in that two year period and realize, oh wait, I actually have to charge it.

Allison: [13:34] You know what I’m worth. I actually have to, you know, make this into a business and take this a little bit more seriously. Um, they can do really, really well. And so I, I saw a lot of that when I was at imaging this year. There are people that are just out there doing really, really well. And I’ve, um, I belong to a group of photographers. Um, it’s a group called XXV. Um, and it’s just, uh, you know, some of the really great portrait photographers and a commercial photographers and we s we all sat in a room in spring of last year and every single person that stood up said, this isn’t my best year yet. And so I think that’s pretty amazing when you hear the dire or if you get online, like, I mean, my gosh, if you go on to any Facebook group, it’s a doom and gloom, oh my gosh, everything’s going to hell in a handbasket.

Allison: [14:28] There’s so much competition. All these mommy, mommy know moms with the camera or just ruining, you know, ruining the whole industry. And it’s not true. It’s not true. So the, you know, the, the, um, the recession’s over people are spending and that they’re not going to just spend on just anything. There’s a specific thing and it’s going to be a specific thing for, you know, Kai, you’re going to have a different thing that people are spending with you then they would spend with me. But I think those who are willing to really figure out what their secret sauce is and how they want to do business and what the value of that is, um, are going to do really, really well. And that’s true of any industry and any time in history, uh, but this is the best time in history. It’s the baby boomers have them the largest amount of disposable income and the history of the world.

Allison: [15:18] And there, those are definitely my clients because that’s that older mom, um, that the millennials are hitting their stride in their careers and they’re starting to, I’m starting to see a little trickle of millennials, Coleen saying, um, you know, I just want a real photographer. And I’m like, well, what does that mean to you? And they’re like, well, you know, I mean, we’ve been going with my luck. Sister in law has a nice camera or somebody in my neighborhood, you know, and we just want somebody that is just like knows what they’re doing that can tell us how to dress, can tell us what to do and that we’ve heard that y’all, you know, printed out and come and hang it on our wall. And that’s what we want. I just don’t want to have to deal with it anymore. So, uh, you know, we’re not catering to a DIY clients how we’re catering to people that want to have something done for them.

Allison: [16:04] So that I think that those things are, I see more and more of that and I think that there’s enough business out there for everybody. And I feel like that the, our industry as a whole is starting to become a little more positive. You’re always going to have the negative naysayers out there who are going to, you know, just say that it’s all going bad and it’s never going to be good. But usually those are people that are either scared or what. There are people that, um, maybe they had it good at one time and never really evolved their business.

Kia: [16:36] Yeah, I think that’s definitely true because I’ve been in the business long enough to see you the transition from film to digital to see the...


Published on:

25th Feb 2019

Gary Box – Episode 021 – A Photographer Podcast Interview

Read Show Notes

This is an episode you do not want to miss. Gary Box is on the podcast today. Kia has known Gary since the first conference she attended. Gary is starting his 30th year of being a full time professional photographer. Matt says Gary’s Facebook group (link?) is the best photographer FB group. Gary thinks basic lighting fundamentals is missing from the education world. Gary is excited about the new technology like hi speed sync. Listen in to hear how Gary got into photography. Hear what Gary suggests you do and do not spend your $1000 on. Make sure you pay close attention to the best advice Gary received. Gary’s personal habits that lead to his success include being a recovering workaholic. He works hard and is hard on his work.


Texas School PPA-

Godox lighting

FB group link:

Inside the box hacks (Kia recommended)

Books – Audible

The Storybrand by Donald Miller (

Seth Godin (


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.


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

Speaker 2: [00:05] 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.

Kia: [00:21] Hello everyone. We are so excited to have our friend Gary box here today on the podcast. And I have to tell you that I have known Gary probably from actually the very first photography conference I attended. Gary was there. I brought pictures of a high school senior doing ballet or dance or something in a CPA background. And we talked about it. He was speaking at it and for some reason, Gary, you wore, you had some teeth, like some, some, uh, like main mangy nasty teeth that you put on as a joke. Billy Billy Bob Teeth. Yeah. And so, uh, so I have known, yeah, over 20 years. And Gary, you have been such an amazing influence to the photography industry as a whole. And then just, you know, seeing what you do as a photographer over the years with high school, senior photography and then sharing and how much you shared. So I’m super excited to have you on here today because I think you’re a great example of creating profit in the photography industry over all kinds of changes. And so I think you have a lot to add to us today.

Gary: [01:35] Thank you, Kai. I’m really glad to be here. I have been in the industry for quite a while. I’m starting my 30th year professional full time and you know, I’ve run the gamut of things. I’ve gone from high volume. We were doing 1100 sessions a year at one point with nine employees to medium volume and mid priced and you know, now I’m doing a lower volume and a higher price. So I’ve Kinda got a little bit of a experience with, with all three business models.

Matt: [02:03] That’s awesome. So here’s Gary, here’s how I know you. So years and years ago I was in the pro form and you were really active in that. And uh, I didn’t really know you at the time and I, it’s interesting, we’ve gone circles wrench on them, we don’t really know each other that well even today. And then I kinda lost track of you and then about a year ago someone was like, you need to be in Gary Boxes, facebook group. And I was like, okay. So I just was like, request and you approve me. And it is like the best I. and I’ve said this before, not when you were here, I said this on a previous podcast. It is the best facebook group for photographers by far.

Gary: [02:37] Well thank you. I’ve put a lot of time into it and you know, one of the things that I’ve tried to do is keep out some of the negativity and, and bad attitudes so that, you know, the creatives can, can thrive in that environment. And I try to mix a both business and artistic elements, both of them into that group.

Matt: [02:59] That’s awesome. Um, okay. So yeah, so I don’t. So tell me where you’re located because I don’t even know where your studio is.

Gary: [03:03] Okay. My studio is right on route 66 highway in Sapulpa, Oklahoma. That’s just a little ways outside of Tulsa, kind of. I’m really a blue collar town. Most of my business comes in from other areas and uh, it’s just a great place to be. We have really low cost of living and great friendly people here.

Matt: [03:23] Awesome. Awesome. Okay, so I’m going to jump into the first question and because you kind of already talked about your expertise and I mean I think 30 years speaks for itself, so we’ll just jump into kind of what you think is working now. So you know, tell us a story of what you think is working in your business or what you think is working in the industry right now.

Gary: [03:40] Well, one of the things that I’ve always stood by is there has been a lot of change in our industry and I’ve watched, and I’ve gone through it. I was one of the early pioneers in the digital world and helped a lot of people make that transition. As the digital world has come down in cost, obviously the market has become flooded and there’s been so many people out there teaching and so much, but one of the things that I see is something that’s lacking now in today’s teaching or just core fundamentals, you know, just basic lighting fundamentals and honestly that’s, that’s how I have, how I’ve done my photography for years. I try to be current and up to date, but I still try to hold those fundamental things, you know, close to me like, you know, simply where does the light go and you know, good exposure and things like that. And I think that’s something that’s really missing in our industry right now is people teaching good, wholesome fundamentals. They all want to know the cool stuff, but not something as basic as where does the light go?

Matt: [04:43] Well, and sometimes I think they want to fix some funding with a pre for the pre-sentence. They’re just lighting it correctly at the beginning, you know?

Kia: [04:49] Exactly. Yeah. I’ve been seeing some APP just like editors on instagram and they’re just absolutely beautiful images, but what they start with could have been so much better if they just would have done the work in camera. It’s crazy. Yeah. And you definitely can teach lighting. I saw on your facebook group the other day, your video of your, uh, all your equipment, your equipment, a hallway with all of it. I don’t know how many you, you’d like tripods and nightstands, you had. And I was like, oh my goodness. Gary knows this stuff. Definitely.

Gary: [05:24] Well, you know, I have a large studio. It’s about 6,000 square feet. I’ve got several shooting areas and, and I liked to work real efficiently, so I just keep equipment setup and all these different areas.

Kia: [05:34] Yeah. That’s so fun. Yeah. People should definitely go to your facebook group and watch some of the videos of your ad laced, the latest ones where you’re hacks a inside the box hacks. And I thought that was really fun to see. So yeah. Yeah, it looked like it. So, uh, what is the one thing that you are most fired up about? In our industry, like whether you’re excited about it, whether you’re about it, just,

Gary: [05:58] you know, what, what are you thinking about these days? Well, for me personally, one of the thing that really excites me is as I’ve slowed down in volume, I am finding more time to be creative and to uh, you know, to flex my creative wings and do stuff that’s different and no pun intended out of the box and I’m really, really enjoying that. For years I was just so focused on making money, making money and I, and I did that well, but I didn’t really get to enjoy what I do well enough. So that’s more my personal view than industry wide, industry wide. I mean we continue to see technology changes that makes it easier for us to do our jobs really well. And that is just incredibly exciting. A new lighting, um, you know, that the high speed sync and all the things that are available now are just absolutely incredible tools for us to use.

Matt: [06:50] Because Gary, and here’s my question for you. Like when you started photography, were you still like lighting a match for the flash? And it was like a flash bomb,

Gary: [06:59] 30 white that far back. But a funny thing about lighting is, you know, whenever I was 19 years old and that was what, maybe 20 years ago.

Matt: [07:10] Right, right.

Gary: [07:11] Yeah. I actually bought a set of Novotron lights at the camera store in Tulsa. I financed him. It was a thousand dollars for Novotron pack and three heads and, and that was my start into lighting whenever I was 19 years old. Did you know I still use that Novotron set every single day. It’s the hair light over my main shooting area.

Matt: [07:33] That’s awesome. Yeah. Like some, like some stuff just never dies, you know what I mean? Like when it’s built well it just lasts forever.

Gary: [07:40] Yeah, I think it’s been repaired twice, but I mean it just keeps going. So. Okay, not joking about the numbers. That thing has been in use for a 35 years.

Matt: [07:50] That’s awesome. That’s a good use of your money I think. I think I broke even on that. When you’re, when you’re 19 and you spend a thousand dollars, like that’s a big deal. And so you gotTa make sure you get your money’s worth for sure. So absolutely. Um, okay. So let’s, I mean this is going fast, which is good, but let’s, let’s jump into lightning round. We can definitely take some more time. You know, lightening round implies that they’re fast answer but we can definitely take some more time. So when you were first becoming like a full time photographer, what do you think was holding you back from becoming full time photography? Or did you just kind of jump into it?

Gary: [08:23] Well that was kind of back in the stone age. Um, but you know, one of the things at that point in my life as I was still young, I was starting a young family and you know, income was it. So whenever I had opened my studio I was actually working for a camera store and I spent three days a week working in the camera store, three days a week working in the studio in five nights a week in the dark room, printing for people. So that’s how I got my start. And that helped me transition the earning gap between leaving a comfortable fulltime job and being a solely dependent upon my photography. So I was able to over the period of about nine months kind of ease my way into it. And I think that’s a big challenge for a lot of people is how do they make that change? How do they walk away from knowing they’re going to have that paycheck every two weeks to, oh my God, I hope I booked something so I make some money today. And I think that’s probably one of the greatest challenges.

Kia: [09:23] Did you always know you were wanting to be a photographer, like out of high school and that type of thing?

Gary: [09:28] Oh God, no. I changed my mind like four times while I was going to college and photography wasn’t even one of them. I ended up studying marketing and photography was a hobby. I got started in high school and I actually had thought, hey, it’d be great to work for an ad agency because I’m creative and I can do some photography and all this. And the, what happened was, um, I was working in the camera store and the studio that had been in my town for 22 years, the old guy decided to shut down and retire and it’s like, wow, okay, there’s opportunity staring me in the face. So it was perceived as I bought out his studio, but I really didn’t. He shut down and moved out and I basically went in and leased the space the next day and took over his space. So that story. Yeah, the perception was that I bought out, it was a, it was, his name was ray sledge, sledge hammer. And um, he had was, he was retiring and getting out and that’s how I got my start is I just jumped in and took over this space and started. In fact, the funny thing is initially people would come in and they would sometimes write me a check and make it out to sledge photography. That’s where they had used to be going and yeah. And the bank always took the bank, took them no big deal.

Kia: [10:50] Okay. So if you had a thousand dollars right now, what would you buy? That’s photo related.

Gary: [10:57] Oh, that’s Kinda hard for me because I’m one of those people that whenever I see something I just run out and buy it without delay. So, which is why I have so much equipment. So

Kia: [11:08] let me, let me word it this way. Like if you were giving advice to somebody new in photography and they, they had a thousand dollars, what would you tell? Where would you tell them to put their money?

Gary: [11:17] I think I would tell them to go with education, a really good comprehensive education plan a. and I don’t know if that’s the answer you’re looking for. If you’re looking for just a piece of gear education is it, you know, and take a comprehensive education, you know, sign up for a Texas school class or you know, one of my in studio workshops or something. When you go to short programs, you get little bits and pieces, but when you go to a comprehensive program like like a Texas school class, whether it’s mine or one of the other 42 amazing instructors there, you’re going to find that you’re going to get all these little pieces, but you’re also going to get how these pieces work together and that’s really essential because if you take a piece from me, a piece from you, a piece from Kaya, you know, they might not all fit together and Mesh perfectly well, so you know, how I sell albums is directly related to how I shoot for albums and that’s the importance of a comprehensive education from. From a great instructor.

Matt: [12:17] Yeah, because sometimes it’s about. It’s about the nuances, right? Like, like you said, like I’m able to do albums this way because of all these things behind the scenes.

Gary: [12:26] Absolutely. All those pieces have to work together like a puzzle.

Kia: [12:29] And so the Texas school you’re referring to is the professional photographers of America as a school in Texas. That’s a week long and so the instructors there are really there to teach something that the whole gamut of whatever their subject is, so you learn a lot and that type of a situation or in a workshop and someone studio,

Gary: [12:51] you really do. Texas school is the Texas School of professional photography. It is by far the largest affiliated PPA school and you can find them at Texas school dot Org online. They just opened registration that’s coming up the end of March, beginning of April. And you’ll find classes. They’re from, you know, pure artistic, how you do painting in Photoshop to pure business to uh, and my, my particular program encompasses a full range. I talk about marketing and pricing and sales. I talk about photography, lighting and posing backgrounds and locations. I talk about efficient workflow so you can get it done and get home to your families faster.

Kia: [13:38] Yeah, that’s great.

Matt: [13:39] Yeah. And it’s cool to like Texas schools format is so long because it’s not like you get, you know, we’re going to give Gary 30 minutes on stage to tell to tell you about his whole business in 30 years career, you know, and then you’re done. Like you actually get time to like sit with people and really work with them, which is awesome.

Gary: [13:56] That’s right. It’s like reading the complete novel instead of the cliff notes.

Matt: [13:59] Yeah.

Kia: [13:59] Perfect. Yes. Okay. So you’ve got a thousand dollars. Number one you would buy, you would do some sort of comprehensive education if you weren’t doing education. Like what’s, what’s the piece of equipment that you think is like the best new thing out there that’s really like you’re excited about whether you have it or whether, whether you would want to buy it.

Gary: [14:18] Well one of the things I’ve been fired up about the past couple of years is the. I’m a big fan of the [inaudible] sliding. They have brought really high performance lighting down to an incredibly affordable price and it just does an amazing job. And so, you know, that’s one of the places that I tell people there’s a lot of people that are so weak on lighting and so light investing in that lighting and learning the difference, getting out of that, I’m a natural light photographer, a mode because you don’t understand lighting, you know, learn and let it separate you from the masses of people out there with just point and shoot cameras.

Kia: [14:57] Well, I think natural light. What’s funny about natural light photography is when I started doing natural light photography, most people only did flash and they didn’t, couldn’t really even see the light. And so I really think if you have, like you said, both sides of it, you know, both understanding how to work a flash, how to create the light that you want and how to see it and get it, then you’re going to be a fully rounded photographer too.

Gary: [15:23] Absolutely. I, you know, I pride myself on being able to lie down, handle pretty much anything that throws my way to studio lighting, lighting up a whole cathedral. I have lit up football stadiums that night. Just can you throw at me, you know, I can handle it


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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