From Nothing to Profit

A Photographer's Podcast


Published on:

10th Dec 2018

Shalem Kitter – Episode 010 – A Photographer Podcast Interview

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Today’s podcast we talk with Shalem Kitter, who owns The Studio in Anchorage, Alaska. He and his husband, Mitch, also started, and are continuing, the Love is Love Project. Shalem specializes in senior portraits with fashion projects on the side. He tells us about how he doesn’t think he’d still be in business (due to being in year four of a recession) without the strong systems they’ve built. They’ve made desk manuals (they call them the Studio Bible) for their staff to ensure their clients get a consistent and positive experience, every time. They make sure their clients never leave a touch point empty handed – you’ll want to hear about this!

Shalem also tells us about how they made sure to pay themselves first and how important that is. He recommends we stop looking at other photographers work and focus on making our clients evangelists for our studios.

Online Resource: – weekly freebies


Emyth by Michael Gerber –


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.

Shalem: [00:00] This is Shalem Kitter and you’re 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.

Matt: [00:20] Hey everybody. Welcome to back to the podcast. So today we have shamed kitter who was one of my good friends that lives in Anchorage, Alaska on the show. So let me just give a quick introduction if you guys haven’t seen him, seen his work or follow him. So Shalan and his shame and his husband live in Anchorage, Alaska and they do some really, really amazing work. They mostly specialize in senior portraits, but they’ve been in publishing and tons of magazines and like legit magazines like cosmo girl on American Salon and stuff like that. And then they’ve also. They’ve also been featured on the Huffington Post, buzzfeed and advocate because they did this amazing project called the love is love project. I guess it’s still an active project. [inaudible]. You guys still work on it regularly, so it’s called the love is love project. And it was an, it was like a nationwide photo project promoting equal rights and marriage and equality, but Shannon and I have been friends for awhile. We, um, we met years ago speaking together and we’ve kept in touch ever since. We actually text each other quite often. And so I was really excited to have you on the podcast and so you can tell us exactly what’s working now for you guys and what’s going on in Anchorage.

Kia: [01:31] I’m so excited that you’re here and I am assuming we’ll hear a little bit of it, but I feel like you and I’ve always kind of shared a love of like trends and fashion and that type of thing. And so, um, yeah, I’m super excited to hear all of it. I’m excited to be here. Thanks for having me. Very good. So, uh, our first question for you is to share a little bit about what your area of expertise is, what you’re known for, I kind of thing

Shalem: [01:57] then this winding journey for me in the industry, I’ve kind of gone to a lot of different portions of portrait photography, but now I’ve really settled into senior portraits and I kind of differentiate myself by doing some fashion projects as well to kind of build a, a unique brand.

Matt: [02:16] So you and you did a bunch of pro, uh, when you say fashion, you did a bunch of hair stuff for awhile. I don’t know if you’re still doing that, but I know you used some of your fascia stuff was based around here. Is

Shalem: [02:25] that still the case? Yeah, so I started with doing personal projects, really just wanting to have something in photography that was specifically for me and not for clients. Um, and then I started getting noticed and so I ended up working for l’oreal mirror and Redkin and traveling quite a bit with them and working with a lot of hair care companies. And then now I’ve kind of settled into just loving being in Alaska and being home, not being on the road, um, but I still do a fashion projects for fun on the side. So tell me real quick, I mean I know a little because we talk regularly, but tell me kind of what’s working now for you guys up there in Alaska. Like what are you seeing in the senior portrait industry that’s working best for you? Well, I think in Alaska we are in this kind of a tough spot economically in our state.

Shalem: [03:14] So we are in year four of a recession and so that’s been really challenging for us right at the beginning of this we had really changed a lot of our processes, uh, looked at our pricing, really built a strong system and I don’t know if we would be in business now if we hadn’t implemented all those things at the top of this recession. So one of the perspectives that we shifted was we started to think of our studio as a franchise, not in the sense that we would ever sell or we’d ever have franchisees, but we wanted to fine tune our processes, so specifically that it would have value to an outside purchaser. Um, and so this made us look at the production workflows that we have, our client touchpoints and kind of every step through our internal workflow. We started building desk manuals for each position and each step of how we do what we do.

Shalem: [04:14] We basically did all the not sexy things in photography, but they are the things that have really yield a lot of success and I think all of our top competitors over the last few years have had to close their doors while we’ve been able to stay a level and actually see growth. And so you guys are seeing a recession due to due to the oil industry. Is that Kinda what you’re seeing up there? Is that what happens? Yes. So the, there was a big huge drop in the price of oil and Alaska is a more expensive place to produce oil, so when that margin was gone, our um, our industry and really the tax base for what fuels the whole state, the bottom fell out from under it. So we’ve had just a huge decrease over the last four years. And then you have some people working for you as well.

Shalem: [05:04] So when you made those desk manuals and stuff like that, like do you feel like that helped you with your staff and you can, if you want, talk a little bit about your staff and who you have there and what, what they do and stuff like that. Absolutely. So we have three employees. One is a commission employee that does sales, one is a front desk position that also does sales for added commission and then we have a full time production manager. And building those desk manuals has been extremely helpful in the, in the hiring and training of new employees. So I think since we started building what we call our Studio Bible, we have gone through, I think three or four front desk position employees. It tends to be more seasonal for us because we specialize in senior portraits and not many people want to photograph in subzero weather and so when we’re hiring them and we’re bringing them on, the first step that we do is go over that desk manual with them and it’s just really streamlined everything.

Kia: [06:08] So does it match work with you as well?

Shalem: [06:11] So Mitch had worked with us, um, from the beginning, uh, over the last two years. Now he has taken on another position.

Kia: [06:20] Okay. I thought so. I wasn’t sure it both if you were working together right now or how that worked.

Shalem: [06:26] Yeah. So he still helps in the business management portion of that is really what he’s incredible at both the mind for numbers as well as the mind for business. So he still does the financial side of the business as well as um, the high level like employee management.

Kia: [06:45] Okay. So let me just, so to summarize what you’re saying then Shayla, you feel like what’s working for you now is the time and effort that you put into doing the behind the scenes organization for the business, like the actual structure of a. So you see your staff knows what to do and how to do it with. Is that what you would say?

Shalem: [07:08] Yeah, I definitely think that the thing that has yielded the most success for us is the structure of the business. For a long time. We focused on differentiator ourselves in the market. We looked at marketing campaigns and all of that, getting people in the door. Um, and that was quite successful for us. It built a brand that has a lot of notoriety in town, but I think when we started doing studying the touchpoints that when our clients come in contact with us, making sure that every touchpoint is a positive and that they never leave a contact with us. Empty handed. Things like that have really yielded a lot of referral business. Um, which I really think is what a studio survives on, is that word of mouth referral. So can you give us an, can you give us a point of like a touch point that you guys feel like you’re doing really well that maybe other people aren’t doing?

Shalem: [08:02] Absolutely. So first of all, when they call our studio, we want to get them in and meet with them face to face. I do block booking, so on Mondays it’s my day to do consultations. I’m really great in person and I think a lot of photographers that are good and the portrait realm are and so I just want to meet with them and connect with them. In our consultation we have specific questions that we ask every client and I explain everything in a consistent way. And the reason we do this is because at the end of our workflow we have a survey that our clients fill out and if there’s something that consistently gets mentioned that they were unclear on or if there’s something that’s frustrating, then I know I can just change it in my consultation and because I’m applying it consistently, it’s more of a scientific approach.

Shalem: [08:53] And then also I’m asking key questions that trigger things in our workflow. So for instance, I’m asking them what they love to do in their free time. I’m asking kids what their plans are for the future. I’m also asking them if they went to a coffee shop, what would their go to order B for a drink? And so they might say, I mean all of my girls lately, or been obsessed with Italian red bull smoothies, which sounds like diabetes, but they love it and we get the specific flavors for them. So when they walk in the door for their session, we bring them back to the makeup and hair area. Their name is on the front door when they walk in welcoming sophie. And then when she gets back to her makeup counter, there’s a drink that says sophie on it. That is a guava passion fruit, mango Italian, red bull’s soda.

Shalem: [09:43] And so we were paying attention. A lot of them don’t even realize that we asked that question because of the way we ask it and they just think that somehow we miraculously new. We also ask them what kind of music they love. And we have a Pandora station in the makeup room that’s already playing their favorite music and again, it’s one of those things that they don’t realize how we got to that conclusion, but they just love the music mix every session right after the session, we write a thank you note and we send it in the mail when they come in for a design consultation, when they’re picking out their Walmart and albums. We already have a five by seven that’s been retouched and printed as a gift so that they don’t walk out the door empty handed. Again, all of these touchpoints have started to create a standard in our market and we’ve had a lot of our colleagues and friends contact us and say, is anybody giving them a five by seven?

Shalem: [10:40] Is anybody giving them something to walk out the door? Because we’ve had clients come in and they expect it. And that was so exciting when we started hearing that because it means the word of mouth of those touchpoints, that there’s enough importance where friends are talking about it to their friends. Yeah. That it’s definitely being noticed. That’s so fun. So did you have like some sort of catalyst that made you want to start thinking about that or was that something that you just noticed and wanted to change for yourself? So we read this book called The e Myth and actually read it I think maybe four or five times since we started reading it. We’ve read it every year and we have really new draws each time. It’s kind of a, a really meaty read, but one of the concepts that he talks about that in that book really is being intentional with those touchpoints. So how much, how much better the experience is when it’s consistent, when expectations are met and exceeded every time. So that’s what we’ve just taken and applied and done the work to make sure that it’s happening for every client. Yeah. That’s so great. It’s funny, I have read that book several times and when you were talking about what

Kia: [11:54] you were doing, I was like, oh, I bet they did the e myth. What makes me mad about that book is I feel like, well I need to do all these things and I don’t want to read another book after and so I think you know, like how you’re doing it, where you kind of revisit and do more each time I think is a good way of looking at that because if you just read it and said I’m going to do everything immediately, it’s, I don’t even know if it’s really possible to implement it all at once. Absolutely. Yeah. That’s great.

Shalem: [12:26] It was really daunting. Like you said when we finished it the first time, we’re like, well how just the logistics are so challenging to implement, but if you take it in bite size pieces and I think it’s a benefit to that. We have a team that works with us so there’s something for you to say, you know, I’m going to do this with every client and there’s something different to say, Hey, I need you to do this for every client.

Kia: [12:52] Yeah, absolutely. I think the consistency from client to client is trick is great too what you’re saying because like this year we put out a sign for our first week of clients that said like, welcome Lindsay, and then I just found that the other day when I was like, well that that really stuck. We didn’t do it with anyone else the rest of the year. So the way that you’ve systematized it really makes a lot of sense.

Shalem: [13:18] Yeah. I think the things that sometimes fall through the cracks are the things that I’m responsible to ensure the consistency on. I take a polaroid, like a little instax mini polaroid at every session. Again, with the same thought that we don’t want a client leaving empty handed and when I forget that my clients will mention it and I’m like, oh shoot.

Kia: [13:42] Yeah. They’ll remind you should put it in your confirmation email or whatever might want to take your polaroid. Absolutely, yes. Please remind me. It’s your responsibility. So what is the thing that you’re most fired up about? What about the Industry today? Is there anything that you were like super excited about or that you feel like people aren’t really realizing as a positive thing about photography right now, so we want to be positive, right? Be fired up about something. I just it for something you’re mad about because we want to hear that too.

Shalem: [14:14] Well, I generally try to choose positivity, but I think I’m most excited that photography seems to be getting back to its roots and all of those things that were important in studio portrait photography back in the late nineties and early thousands are kind of coming back, which I love. I think right now there’s this new place where Polish in photographic work is important. Again, I’m authenticity and the personality of the clients are again the most important things, so I think it’s just such good place for the industry. I think for a long time photography was about the photographers and not about the clients and so I think I’m really excited to see that.

Speaker 5: [15:03] What would be an example of that? Like what would you say would be photography about a client

Shalem: [15:08] versus photography about the photographer? Yeah. I think what I see and have seen for the last few years when I go to conventions is main stage speakers showing work that I don’t see a true client in. They are doing all these amazing composites and lens flares and filters and everything about it is so stylized that it’s kind of lost its heart and what I love right now is that I’m seeing a lot of work where you look at a picture and you can see a real person and that I think is what portraiture is about.

Speaker 5: [15:46] And Are you seeing that? Do you feel like in a the portrait photography world or just in photography in general, like on social media and instagram and that type of thing?

Shalem: [15:57] I think in photography in general, so I’m seeing it on these instagram influencers that for a long time they’ve had this like beautiful stunning work, but it’s photographs of their friends. I’m almost playing characters and then now, like I said, people are are so used to seeing a high quality of artistry that now the thing that is a differentiator is the personality and the authenticity in an image.

Matt: [16:25] And I’m just wondering if some of those reasons we’re not seen as much. Excuse me, we’re not seeing as much of that work is some of those photographers that were doing that, you know, non client work and stuff, they just, they just went and got a job or they’re out of business because you know, they had lots of really amazing work, but it wasn’t necessarily a sustainable on a workflow level or it’s just, you know, or it wasn’t client base so they weren’t necessarily making any money. And so was some consolidation in the industry. I’m wondering if that’s why we’re seeing some of the other stuff pop up more as well.

Shalem: [16:57] Yeah, I think, you know, you have to be...


Published on:

3rd Dec 2018

Darty Hines – Episode 009 – A Photographer Podcast Interview

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This week, we talk to Darty Hines, co-owner of SYNC, Senior & Youth National Conference (See Below for a Discount Code).  Both Kia & Matt attended Darty’s classes back when they were first starting their businesses. Darty has been in the industry for 25 years. 15 years ago, he was known for doing cool sets with high school seniors. In more recent years, he’s known for social media marketing education.  

What’s working right now for Darty, is listening to his clients. He says we’re quick to jump on a trend, without asking if that’s what our clients want. Darty uses Survey monkey to find one or two things to really make the experience better the next time.

Darty and his wife Michelle are fired up about the hope in the industry right now. Listen in to hear the best advice Darty ever got, including “The next person to speak, loses.” and “The last dollar spent is the most important one.” and how he implements this advice.

Darty also talks about not getting on FB first thing in the morning and bookmarking groups so you don’t get distracted by your timeline. Darty says to remember to post something uplifting and positive.

That is just a few of the tips from this interview.  Listen in for all the knowledge that Darty handed out.

Online resources:

Instagram scheduler “Later” (


#struggle by Craig Groeschel (

Content Inc – Joe Pulizzi (


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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.

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

Speaker 2: [00:05] Welcome to from nothing to profit photographers podcast with Matt and Kayak where each week they talk to photographers about what is working in their business now so you can swipe those ideas and grow your business faster. Welcome everybody. We are so excited today

Kia: [00:23] to be interviewing Darty Heinz and Heinz is the co owner of the senior portrait conference sync, which is. Oh Gosh, what is it? Seniors

Darty: [00:37] Senior and Youth national conference. Be original player. Okay.

Kia: [00:40] So sync. And it was originally senior and youth national conference and it is a actually right now my favorite conference to go to every year. Uh, I love photographing high school seniors and spending time with photographers that have been in it for awhile or are very, uh, are new, but they’re very committed to their photography business and Darty and his wife Michelle run that has a social and media marketing expertise with his multiple businesses and he lives in Pennsylvania and I know Darty from when he won. The senior photographers have senior photographer of the year nationally. Um, I don’t know how many years ago that was, but I was very impressed with him and actually I just thought of this, my first class that I ever attended for photographers to you were there and I wasn’t even a photographer yet at the time.

Matt: [01:34] Let me, let me tell my story.

Kia: [01:36] Okay, sorry. Sorry. Okay. Matt, you go.

Matt: [01:38] So the first class I ever attended and the industry was Darty and Coleen’s a three day jumpstart class before imaging like 11 years ago. So we had just gotten to the industry, we’re in there maybe like three months and using like our startup money to figure out what we’re doing. And we’re like well we need to go to imaging. And I was like, well we should do these econ classes so we can go there as long as possible. And so I signed up for three days with you guys and you were the, you were the first real, like you were the fundamental building block of our business because like you set us on a course and those three days to do what we’re doing now, which is really cool.

Darty: [02:15] Oh man, this is a great way to start off my week. Thanks to both of you guys. This is awesome. It’s funny because I was online. They have a big surprise. I was online, I was online on like about a week or so ago and somebody tagged me in a post. They were talking about education and somebody actually said the words that I changed their life forever and I was just like, you know, you don’t really know what kind of impact you have on people when you’re doing, when you’re speaking, when you’re running educational events and you’re doing presentations and things like that. Like you really, you know, you gotta really be careful what you say from a main states because you are really impacting people’s lives and they’re making changes in their businesses that really could impact their life forever. Good or bad.

Kia: [03:01] Yeah. That’s the truth. So I’m a Darty. What we want to know from you after we’ve better do up like that is, um, tell us from your vantage point, what is your of expertise or what are you known for?

Darty: [03:19] Well, I think, um, I think I’m known for two things. If we go back a few years, you know, I’ve been in this industry for about 25 years, so I’ve kind of seen it all. I’ve seen film to digital to iphones, you know, so kind of been around for a long time. So I think if we go back a few years and we go back maybe 15 years. Um, I think I was known for the guy that did all the really cool sets with the high school seniors. We built really elaborate scenes inside of a studio to, you know, do our, our high school senior photography on. So I think at that point I was known for that. And then I would say in more recent years I’ve kind of switched my focus when it comes to what we’re doing educationally. I spoke last year at imaging USA and I’ve done doing some state conventions recently and it’s been doing more social media marketing, which is, you know, when I taught just a few seconds ago about the girl who tagged me in a post on facebook. That’s exactly why she said she goes, I put in place some of the things that you talked about marketing that really changed my business. I think I prefer to be known that way because I read that because that’s really what I love. I love the, I love social media. I love marketing. I mean those are like two of my favorite things to kind of teach about. So I would say that’s currently where my expertise is, is social media marketing.

Kia: [04:35] I forgot you and I just taught a class on social media marketing together. Yeah, exactly. It was a quick, quick little one, but yeah.

Darty: [04:44] Yeah. Okay. So tell us right now kind of what you think is working now in our industry or even in your business with your sink conference and stuff like that. What you think is working now that people can implement in their business. Yeah, I think we’re going to talk a little bit more general because um, if you know me or know what I’m doing recently, I’m not really doing photography full time at this point. So I’ve kind of stepped back from that a little bit. I’m not saying that I’m not doing it ever again or I’m not doing it on occasion, I’m just, it’s just not my full time business right now. So I think for me as we do this podcast today, I want to talk a little bit more. It’s going to be more about small business with photography and mine obviously because like I’ve said, I’ve been doing it for 25 years.

Darty: [05:28] So kind of what’s working right now for us is really sounds kind of simple, but really just listening to our clients, you know, I think that for business owners, we were really quick to jump in on a trend without really checking in with our clients sometimes and asking them, is this a direction that you would like us to go? It’s not that you have to follow their, you, it’s not that you’re going to say, okay, well that client said no. So I’m not going to do that. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m just saying we need to learn to listen to what they want. Um, I see this a lot where people are saying, you know, well, my clients don’t want prints and a lot of times one of the things I want to ask them is, did you ask your clients if they weren’t prints?

Darty: [06:16] You know, my client only wants digital. Does that, what did they tell you they only want digital or have you not educated them to understand what you can do for them as the expertise in your business? You know, a lot of times I think we forget that our clients have hired us because we’re the experts at something and so it’s our job to make sure that as the expert, we’re leading them in the direction that we want a, our clients to go and be. We’re leading them towards our first sales because the bottom line is we’re still trying to get sales from things. So a lot of times we just need to learn to listen a little bit more. Even with sync, you know, we do, we do surveys at the end of the, at the end of the show and all the attendees can give their opinions on things.

Darty: [07:03] And you know, and I can’t do anything that your bed was lumpy at the resort that I can’t do anything about, but I can do something about the fact that maybe the print competition, the shipping is really expensive and it costs a lot to do prints and things like that so I can make changes that the majority of people are asking for, you know, and that’s what we’re looking for. We’re looking for golden nuggets from when you listened to your clients, you’re looking for golden nuggets that will help you create a better experience for them in the long run.

Darty: [07:36] No, that makes complete sense. And I think some of the best years of our best. Yeah, I guess years or quarters in our business is when we had a really good clients that gave us feedback. And so what that tells me is like, okay, if I got really good feedback and that made me a better photographer for, you know, from that point on, I should probably just seek out that advice because not everybody is the personality that’s just going to hand it to you. Correct? Correct. Now as survey, after you do your event and then you read through every response and then think through that or how do you get your feedback that you’re using? Yeah, I actually, I use survey monkey. You can even use that as a small business owner. Like I used the paid version because we get with the free version you can get just um, you can do 100 responses for free, like another word you can get.

Darty: [08:31] You can ask her questions and 100 people can reply to that survey and you can get that for free. If you get up more than 100 responses, then you have to go to a paid version. Um, I did a paid version because we always get more than 100 people that respond and I honestly literally read every single survey that comes in. So 400 surveys come in. I will read all 400 of them. I’m going to be completely honest. The majority of them are obviously they’re complimentary, but what happened at the event? But I’m really looking for that one or two things and those and those 400, if I can find two really good ideas to help make our experience, the clients experience better at sink, that’s what I’m looking for. I’m just looking for those one or two really good things. I go, Oh, you know what, I never thought about that. That is perfect. That’s what we should be doing, you know, and it happens is some, uh, definitely happens and people will see that when they come to the event or when they come to do business with us, Bill see that suggestion that they’ve made implemented. And there’s been times even from the stage I’ve said, you know, what, you see this change. This is because of the survey. We’ve done this change because people have requested that.

Matt: [09:41] That’s really smart. Okay. So real quick, we’re just, while we’re on the subject, so there’s, some of our listeners are not going to know exactly what sync is. I mean we introduced it but basically it’s a big conference. Not a giant conference, but I’ve really healthy sized conference. But. So it’s like, I’m trying to describe it. So in Sandestin, Florida, and it’s

Darty: [09:59] normally like February, March, right? Is when you guys shoot for. Yeah, we were always usually right around that last weekend of February. Sometimes depending on how the year falls, we’d go into that first weekend in March like this for 2019. That will be March one through four. Um, and yeah, it’s a conference. Um, we have classroom education, we do have some small group and some little hands on things that happen in the evenings. I have a really nice trade show. It’s really built to bring together professional portrait photographers who specialize in high school senior portraits. We do have some other programming, whether it’s on other topics or other industry related things like sports or children or teenagers, you know, but the focus of it as high school senior photography people come from all over United States, um, and it’s, you know, three and a half days and you’re in Destin, Florida and it’s really just a really strong community of creative entrepreneurs who have come together that really want to share and help elevate and lift in India the industry. Yet

Matt: [10:56] I started going maybe like three, four years ago. Three, yeah, three or four years ago. And at first I was, I got there and I was like kind of intimidated for the first opening night, like get together thing which was, you know, you guys do a really good job with. And I was like, wow man, everybody knows everybody. And I was like, you know, this is really interesting in like within the next day I felt so included. And then now I totally feel like part of the family, you know, like in the facebook group and stuff like that. Like it’s so cool the community that you’ve built, like conferences or cool and education is cool, but the community that you have built is probably one of the best things we have in our industry. Thanks. Appreciate that.

Kia: [11:31] Yeah, and I feel like one of the things that when I’m there it’s like, like you said, it’s a pretty safe place. And so I communicate with. I feel like I just get a lot like emotionally, mentally for myself and so, you know, just being somewhere warm somewhere peaceful that time of year I feel like I really always come away with some great new things that I’m going to be doing.

Darty: [11:54] Yeah, absolutely. Uh, so Darty. What is one thing that you are most fired up about in the photography industry today? Well, you know, I was talking to Michelle about this the other day. We were out running around and I said, you know, I’m doing a podcast coming up. And she’s like, yeah. She goes, hi, are you ready? I said, I am, but I said that I’m kind of stumped on. One of the questions is what are you fired up about the industry? And she right away said, I think that’s easy. I think what I’m fired up about right now is that the industry has a lot of hopes and when I started thinking about that, I was like, you know what, you are right. You know, that’s the thing a husband should say all the time, right? I say it. And so I, you know, I thought about that a little bit longer and I was like, you know what that is, right?

Darty: [12:40] I mean, it is a lot of hope. I think there’s so much doom and gloom and especially when you get into facebook and you get on those facebook groups and there’s a lot of doom and gloom about the industry and people complaining that the business isn’t what it used to be on etc. Etc. And thEy know what you’re right. It’s not the plane and honest truth is that the industry is not what it used to be. It’s completely different. Um, I think that, um, I think it was last. YeAh. Last year, Jason Williams was speaking and he actually put that up on a screen. He said the industry is not dead, the industry is just different and it’s such a simple but kind of a profound statement because he’s right, you know, you’ve got to start thinking a little bit different. And what I am seeing, I mean, what bring me back to my thing that I’m fired up about is hope I’m, I’m seeing that especially in our community a little bit.

Darty: [13:31] I don’t. The cool thing, I don’t want it to be a sink, you know, advertisement because that’s definitely not what it is. But the cool thing about it is at stake, I feel like there’s not that doom and gloom. I feel like it’s an uplifting thing and I feel like that people do have hope. I mean even I was talking to david drum from h and h color lab and he was kinda saying the same thing a couple years ago. He was like, you know, one of the things I really enjoy about being here is that people, there’s not that doom and gloom. There is the people that are actually kind of uplifting each other and coming up with new ideas, you know? And that’s the thing too, you know, right now if you want to survive, and especially in the high school portrait industry, if you want to survive and the high school portrait in the industry, you’ve got to be a disruptive, right?

Darty: [14:14] Disruptive, right now you’ve got to do something different. You know, when I think about my own social media habits and I scroll down through instagram, you know, I like same picture, same picture, same picture, same picture. It’s like I just feel like it’s the same stuff over and over and every once in awhile you grabbed, you see something completely different and you stop and you take notice of that. And I think for me when I stop, it’s usually because it’s not the same girl laying in a fall leaves with natural light. It’s something, not that there’s nothing wrong, there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s different. You know what I’m saying is different. It’s because somebody has done something that I hadn’t seen. And that’s what makes me stop. And I...


Published on:

26th Nov 2018

Vicki Taufer – Episode 008 – A Photographer Podcast Interview

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Today Vicki Taufer tells about what is working now in her business. Vicki has been in the industry almost 20 years now. She focuses on artistic portraiture, located in Morton, Illinois (pumpkin capital of the world). Vicki teaches internationally and values work life balance. Work life balance constantly changes and just being aware of trying to be balanced is important. She went from 300 sessions/year, 9 employees, to Vicki being the only full time employee and being more hands on. Now Vicki goes into the client’s home and does design work, producing some of their highest sales over the past 20 years.

“I’m working smarter, not harder”

Vicki is hopeful about our industry as she’s getting higher sales than ever, offering full service experiences clients aren’t getting elsewhere. Doing things you can’t duplicate with snapshots on phones gives clients things they are willing to pay for.

Vicki tells us about what it was like starting their business 20 years ago, and what to do and not do. She received the advice “hire slowly, fire quickly” and highly recommends following that advice. She also talks about how much more profitable in person sales are than online sales and not leaving money on the table as the client doesn’t know what their images will look like large on their walls if you don’t show them.


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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.

Vicki: [00:00] Hey, this is Vicki Taufer 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 Kia 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. Good morning everyone.

Kia: [00:22] We are so excited that you are here. It may not be morning where you are, but it is where we are and we are interviewing one of my favorite people in the world today. Her name is Vicky topher and she has been involved in the photography industry for almost 20 years now. She focuses on artistic portraiture and loves to photograph people, pets and she does a lot of commercial shoots as well. She is located in Morton, Illinois right now, although she shoots all over the country and she has a passion for people. Her camera journey has taken her all over the world and if you follow her you’ll see that she’s taught internationally, traveled internationally, and her goal right now is a healthy work life balance and I bet you that that’s something that we’re going to talk quite a bit about.

Matt: [01:14] Well, awesome. Welcome Vicky. So tell me a little bit more. So where do you live in Illinois is like more like central Illinois. It’s a suburb of Chicago.

Vicki: [01:21] Tell me more. Yeah, yeah, we are in central Illinois and the small or smaller town that both my husband and I grew up in. You know, we’ve moved around a little bit but have ended up back here. It’s about 17,000 people a couple of hours south of Chicago, a couple of hours north of St Louis.

Matt: [01:39] Awesome. Yeah, I, when I was in college, my buddy, his parents moved to decatur and so we every break we have, we would drive out to the cater like and like 16 hours on had all the way out there. It was, it was actually a lot of fun, but I probably wouldn’t move to decatur, but it was, it was a cool experience to have in common.

Vicki: [01:57] Right. And that’s about an hour from us, but yeah, I mean the communities all in central Illinois there, it’s similar in that it’s a lot of smaller, you know, industry farming communities and then we have the bigger towns have um, like Peoria, Bloomington that I guess you would call us a suburb of. Awesome.

Kia: [02:14] Yeah. And you, uh, I think about you during this time of year with Thanksgiving and Halloween with your pumpkin festival too.

Vicki: [02:21] Oh yes. We are the, we claim to be the pumpkin capital of the world, so yeah, in September or whole town Kinda gets turned upside down with the festival and parades and pumpkin patches and all kinds of fun stuff.

Matt: [02:35] That’s really awesome. Yeah, I think every small town has like a little festival in Durango where I am, we have like a, like a cabin fever festival that’s like in February after it’s been snowing all winter and it’s like this wild week that nobody ever works and it’s just, it’s actually way too much fun.

Kia: [02:50] Mardi gras.

Matt: [02:51] Alright. Alright. So yeah, let’s, let’s talk, let’s talk about photography. We don’t need to go down too many tangents because we’re, we will be talking about like high memories before we know it.

Vicki: [03:00] Oh No, I will not be.

Matt: [03:02] Okay. So, um, so I’m just going to jump right into it. So Vicky, one of our main questions we always ask on our podcast is like what’s working now or what’s the story of working? What’s working right now in the industry or for you personally that you could share with our audience?

Vicki: [03:16] Yeah, um, I would say, you know, you kind of need to know a little bit of our journey for this to probably make sense, but um, our business being 20 years old, we have run the gamut of, you know, studio in the house, studio in a building, renting a space, buying a building. Um, we’re currently in our studio that we originally rented and bought. Um, we’ve moved back into which is an old bowling alley that we renovated years ago and we’ve had nine employees at times and now we’re down to very scaled back where I’m the only full time employee photographer and then we have a couple part time and contract employees. Um, and the thing that we’re finding that super interesting now is that I am way more hands on with the clients. So before I was more of a volume shooter, maybe I was shooting 300 sessions in a year, but I would shoot.

Vicki: [04:11] But then I had employees selling, you know, a lot more overhead, a lot more employees doing a lot of the work, selling and doing everything else. Whereas now the business is smaller, which actually is purposeful. And fits where we are in our life and with our little kids, um, and where I want to be, but I’m way more hands on with the clients start to finish in the consultations in the session, in the ordering appointment. And what I’ve implemented this year is I’m actually going into the client’s homes, maybe not a new concept but not really something I had done a lot of myself. So, um, you know, taking pictures and measurements and giving them suggestions and doing design work of being able to actually digitally show them what wall groupings would look like in their house. And we have actually to date had multiple of our largest sales to date this year, which is really exciting to me because I’m honestly since the adoption of our daughter eight years ago, I really had gone down pretty part time and I feel like put the business we were doing the business, but it was more kind of on hold that kind of just stayed stable.

Vicki: [05:14] Did the work that came in. Whereas this year we’ve really tried to amp it up again, um, with our move back from Minnesota to Illinois. Both kids are in school full time, so I have a little more time. So, you know, we, we tried to go about it this way and it’s been really interesting just because I didn’t know, I honestly, I feel like I hadn’t been involved as involved in the industry and I wondered like, man, there’s so many more photographers are people going to value, you know, this extra time I’m spending with them, you know, are we going to have the big sales that we used to have? And like I said, we’ve had multiple sales that have actually surpassed our biggest sales to date in the last 20 years. So that was really exciting for me. That gave me a lot of hope for the industry and where the industry’s headed.

Vicki: [05:54] Um, so for me it was more about quality, not quantity. So it’s not that I’m working harder doing more sessions, but I am spending more time giving an experience to those clients that they’re not going to get from most other photographers. You know, like that’s not the same as someone shooting and burning and giving them a disk, you know, like there’s a place for that, but that’s not what I’m offering, so they’re going to spend a lot more money, but they’re also, I’m going to kind of hold their hand throughout that whole process and give them a full experience and guarantee and make sure that the finished product on their wall is exactly what they wanted. You know, when you, when you say that Vicky, it makes me think about you saying other times, like, you know what, what I would do if I wasn’t a photographer I would love to work with like interiors and design.

Vicki: [06:39] Do you feel like it’s kind of scratching that itch where you’re kind of doing both for people? Absolutely. I mean it’s funny. I can think back 15 years ago and all the clients who would say to me, just because we put so much effort into redoing our studio, I do have a passion and a love for, you know, decorating and that I’m sort of a thing. So it just naturally happened that my clients even 15 years ago would say, can you just come to my house and tell me what to get or Redo my walls while I was not in a place for that back then? I actually would have loved to, but it’s like, holy cow, no, I’m shooting 300 sessions. I know, have time to go into every client’s home and help them do all these things. And so it is funny to think back now, you know, 15, 20 years later that I’m, I’m actually doing that and it, it is something that I’ve always loved.

Vicki: [07:26] I’ve had a passion for not trained in or anything, but I’ve just always, you know, whatever house we’ve lived in and whatever we’ve done, I just, I have a knack for that and, and, and I love it. So it’s fun to be able to do that for my clients. Yeah, you’re so good at creating a space that feels homey but also has like an artistic design to it. Well, ambulant, it’s been funny. I mean, this year what’s happened is, you know, I’m implementing things that aren’t my photography in the work I’m doing with them as well. So I go into their home and honestly by the time I get home, I usually I’m getting texts from clients, hey, you know what? I already got online and ordered those ledges from pottery barn that you told me about this from Ikea or I ran to hobby lobby and picked up this cool sign that we’re going to incorporate with this wall grouping.

Vicki: [08:13] Uh, so it’s pretty cool to see, you know, like people just really need that help for me to be able to show them, hey, this is what it would look like. Or giving them that suggestion or making them feel confident in those decisions. You know, people get kind of stuck and worried and not sure what it’s gonna look like or is this the right choice? And so to have somebody that, you know, they’ve hired me as a professional, they want, you know, you get the professional’s opinion and then you just feel more confident making those decisions.

Matt: [08:38] And I feel like, you know, a lot of people just don’t know how to shop photography, so that’s really what you’re helping them with. You know, I tell a lot of people like, you know, photography is equivalent of buying a car, but the auto industry spends billions of dollars a year to educate you on how to buy a car. But it’s the same for photography, but they just don’t really have helped. So to have somebody actually hold their hand and give them confidence in their decision I think is huge. A one on one other question. Do you feel like you’ve, you’ve downsized a little bit and obviously I’ve lost overhead. I mean, do you feel like you’re making as much money now? Because I hear a lot of people say, oh, I’m making as much money now as I was when I had nine employees. Or do you know, do you feel like you’re making less money but it’s better choices for you and your family?

Vicki: [09:18] I would say right now, I mean you’re, you’re catching me at a time where we haven’t even finished our first season being back home. So. So it’s hard to say, I even honestly, my husband, he’s not as involved in the business anymore. He’ll even ask me that question. I’m like asked me in December, I still have so many, so many clients that we’re still working on their orders that it’s such a big swing between now and the next two months where we’ll end up. But um, for the amount of time being spent and I making more, I’m working smarter, not harder. Does that make sense? So shirt? No, it’s not the same as when I was shooting know 300 sessions because even in those days I was high dollar high volume. It wasn’t low dollar, high volume, but I wasn’t having typically as high, um, of orders as I’m having some of them now, but it’s way less, you know, I might do this year, I’m thinking, you know, I might be on track of shooting 60, 70 sessions now next year. You know, maybe that’ll double. I mean we just moved back last Christmas and spent basically the first half of the year redoing this space and we actually moved into the studio space. We rezoned it and it’s about a 7,000 square foot building. We live in half of it as our home and then we have a couple of renters and then we have the studio has about 2,500 square feet. So we had major things. We were redoing that. We weren’t even really like up and running and shooting again until almost summer.

Matt: [10:50] Are you guys going to put a bowling lane back in? What you live there?

Vicki: [10:53] No, I’m p. everybody asks what would be so awesome? Wouldn’t be. We do have the lanes and a couple of the pins and stuff that we use as tables, but I’m not actually functioning. No, you guys do a lot of fun things. I don’t know if you have to. You could put in like a bocce ball court or something like that. Uh, we’ve played, we’ve played bags inside my kids roller blade throughout the space. Hey, you know, their friends come up and they do like gymnastics and flips and I mean it’s, you know, the main living space has really tall ceilings. So if they’re having fun with their kids are five and nine and they think it’s great. I’m living here. I mean at some point we might outgrow it a little bit, but it’s working really well right now. So Vicki, our next question for you is, now that you’re really back in with both feet and the photography industry, what are you most fired up or excited about with the photography industry?

Vicki: [11:47] Because you said just, uh, you know, recently you said you feel a lot more hope for the industry. So what makes you have that hope? You know, I mean, I think that’s multifaceted. Um, you know, because there are some things that I feel like the industry has definitely changed and it’s shifted. We all know that, you know, there’s a lot more people shooting and burning, which definitely, um, we do sell digital files actually, but they’re at a high dollar price after the clients have placed an order for portraits. So, um, you know, I feel like that’s one of the things that I was nervous about, you know, that made me like, Oh, do I have hope? You know, where this industry’s going, but it’s been cool because I’ve actually feel like what I’ve experienced and coming back, I shot more seniors this year without even trying.

Vicki: [12:34] Then I’ve shot in years and it was very shocking to me because I would have always put myself out there as definitely more like children and family photographer and I didn’t see. I’m really a ton of children’s photography, but I definitely it to you and I had a conversation a couple weeks back that this really like a light bulb went off for me. You know, this really came from you confirming what I was seeing, which is, um, I’ve seen tons of value and great orders with my family sessions and I’ve an actual increase with my senior sessions and what I think is interesting about that. And that gives me a lot of hope. Now I need to, I would like to figure out a way to kind of up my game with children sessions because I really do love to do that. But I’ve found that, you know, per our conversation, Kai, and I think you’re correct, is that, you know, it’s a lot easier for people to daily capture images of their children on their phone.

Vicki: [13:27] Um, you know, it’s not a replacement of what we do, but that is something that people definitely have lots of images of their kids, but there’s still this like big thing when you’re in high school, senior and like that whole experience that we do with them and all the outfits and going on location that you can’t really duplicate on your phone, um, that people are still willing to come in and do that and do albums, all these things. And then of course we all know what the families, that’s just a whole nother ballgame, you know, like there’s a whole experience on posing and how you’re interacting with people and bringing them together that you cannot just duplicate that with a snapshot on your phone. So I think that embracing the things that you see that you enjoy, but that also you see the industry can still support and there’s a need for and people are willing to pay for.

Vicki: [14:13] That’s what I feel like kind of gives me that hope as well as what I mentioned with just being more hands on, like I think that it’s become more important than ever to improve and give an amazing experience to your...


Published on:

19th Nov 2018

Heather Bookout – Episode 007 – A Photographer Podcast Interview

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In this episode, we talk to Heather Bookout.  She specializes in story themed session experiences.  You may have heard about the Santa experience but she does something similar to it all year long and at a whole other level.  She has a really unique way of making sure she has quality clients as well as quantity, don’t miss it. She also has the most amazing way of dealing with the stories we tell ourselves.  If you have ever told yourself that you are not good enough or struggle with self-doubt when you are not busy, listen up because Heather has got it figured out.

She also teaches photographers how to get organized.  Here is a link to a free resources that will get you started:  Top 10 ways to optimize your photography business

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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.

Heather: [00:00] This is heather bookout and you’re 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. Welcome to from nothing

Kia: [00:21] profit. We are so excited today because we are talking with heather bookout from Huntsville, Alabama and she and her husband Ben Own bookout studios and they have been in business for the past 17 years. What I’m so excited about with heather is she’s probably one of the most creative photographers I know and whenever you look on like social media and Instagram, I feel like it’s just like regurgitation over and over and over of the same thing and whenever I see what heather’s doing, it’s just out of the box. Totally different but still so connected to what’s in style and really works with her clients. And so we’re excited to hear what heather has to say about being profitable and I hope that she’ll add in about being creative as well.

Matt: [01:10] Yeah and heather, I didn’t know much about you before, you know, Kinda brought you to my attention and you do some really, really amazing stuff. I mean on instagram and stuff like that. And then I, as you and I were talking leading up to this, we’ve talked over the last couple of weeks and I realized like how much of an operation you really have going, like when you guys are doing huge amounts of sales and it’s, it seems like it’s very planned but it’s very high in volume. I don’t even know how to describe it so I’m going to let you describe it, but it seems like you got really an amazing business in Alabama for sure.

Heather: [01:41] Thank you so much. We are, I’m so excited to be here. Um, that is something that I love, that I’m super passionate about is being creative and being profitable. So I am excited to talk about both of those things. I think it’s gonna be great.

Matt: [01:53] All right. But before we jump, go too far, tell us about your new puppy.

Heather: [01:57] Okay. So we just adapted a Beagle, uh, this weekend.

Matt: [02:02] So they have a southern, doesn’t have a southern accent yet.

Heather: [02:04] Well possibly. And we did name her rosie and we already have another dog that’s a Jack Russel Beagle mix and her name is barley. So we have a barley and rosie now and, and they are just so adorable, like we’re getting our cuteness overload every day. So I don’t know, I think it’s pretty great. We love it.

Matt: [02:21] That’s awesome. Alright, so I’m going to jump right in and kind of tell us about your expertise. I mean I, I kind of mentioned it a little bit, but tell us about your expertise and about your stylized and themes, shoots and all that stuff, kind of what you’re known for and what your business looks like.

Heather: [02:34] Well, uh, we just love creating really cool story inspired type sessions, so that might be like a mermaid and a pirate. Um, and then so what we try to do is create experiences that will work for both boys and girls and then we create a creek. My husband writes this amazing, beautiful story for it. And then, um, we create like a Disney ride type experience where we take the client that the child through this type of set with a story in mind and our goal is to hopefully sell them that storybook at the end. And it’s been really, really good. People really connected to that in the kids love it really well too because it’s kind of, it’s exciting and it’s fun for them because they’re acting out, pretend it’s like, you know, Hey, I’m a mermaid and this pirates trying to rescue me or, and stuff like that.

Heather: [03:19] It’s, it’s really fun. And then, um, another thing we do is we deal a lot of high end designer type sessions for families, um, and that’s where we kind of meet with them like an interior designer and this is so cool because we get to sit down and talk with them and create something custom just for them, which I love. Um, and the clients seem to really love it too, you know, just to kind of get something different that no one else has. And I don’t know, that’s what we do for our photography clients. And then for photographers, we really like to create organized results where we can kind of put together a specialized plans for each photographer so their business thrives according to what they do. So it’s not like replicating my business but it’s specific to what you’re passionate about and we make that a good plan together to support it. So it’s going to work really well and be successful.

Matt: [04:09] Awesome. So tell me, tell me a little bit more about the stylist theme session because when I had to do some research about what you guys are doing, my first impression was it was something different but you guys are actually doing like, so you’re, you’re building a plan and then you’re running a bunch of people through it and getting pretty high end sales. Like the one I. The one I think that’s really popular right now is like the Santa Experience, but you guys are like over and over and over all year long.

Heather: [04:33] Yes. We do like a fairy tale type experience when we’re not doing Santa. So we just had one called the enchanted oasis and it’s not terribly complicated the set, but the different things that they do in a set up in the, in the experience make it really interesting. So we try to create experiences that no one else would have a we are, you know, when I started the business there was like five photographers in my town and now there’s hundreds. So we’re always trying to think of ways that we can differentiate ourselves from others in our strengths. So my favorite thing in the world to do is design things, whether that be, you know, how the scene’s going to look in a portrait setting or like clothing or like how their hair and makeup is going to be. I just like all of that. And so I just, we try to really work on that and make that happen.

Heather: [05:18] So during the session then you coach them through an actual like experience. So rather than sit here on Santa’s lap and look at me and smile, you’re kind of telling a story that they’re living in, is that what you’re saying? Yes, kind of. So there’s the story really comes into play when they get the book and that’s where it all comes together and into life, but it’s super fun. So we have like these little mini vignettes where they’re like, okay, you look like for instance there’s a, there’s a scene that I do where Santa is looking in a book and they’re all looking in the book together and I have a light source coming from that. So we have Santa in the real life say watch what happens when I say your name, and then it’s really fun for the kids and then the light will go off and so. But that’s obviously not in the story. So we try to kind of create a really fun experience in real life. But then when they are, when they get the actual book, then that’s when the story comes to life a little bit more like that. So whatever we do in real life, we tried to make it fun, but sometimes it’s not exactly the same as what the story would be.

Matt: [06:23] That’s really interesting. And the way you described it to me is you kind of described it, it’s like a, like a ride at Disney world. So you guys, this is all planned and it’s Ah, that’s so cool. And so how many people do you guys bring through?

Heather: [06:38] So experience? So right now for our standard experience that we’re doing right now since it’s November is we have 73 sessions booked so and then we’ll do 10 in one day. We kind of group everything together in one day. So we’re really optimized and you know when you do, I like to group my specific types of appointments at the same time, the same day so I can really get in a really good flow. And we hire hair and makeup team. We hire a greeter to come in just that day. We have, of course Santa and we have a whole kind of well oiled machine from a group of people that we hire just specifically for that type of session. So it’s not something I’m carrying out a big burden for it with a huge staff all year long. But just for when we do those special sessions like this

Matt: [07:26] and you guys aren’t getting it, there’s just so people understand this isn’t like the $30 Santa experience

Heather: [07:31] as you’re making thousands of dollars per client. Last year our average was 2,204 Santa we’d look course with. We try every year we try to improve. So I’d like to, um, you know, over 73 sessions if we just improve it by 2000 or $200, that’s a lot of money. So just small little increments increasing or averages. I’m really help in doing that. That’s so fun. I love hearing about that. So I know we’ve talked about it a little bit, you know, with the question that we’ve just asked, but can you expand on, like what would you say is the thing that’s working now in your business? Okay. So I think the hardest thing for photographers is getting people in the door that are qualified. You know, we all know about the model calls and that tends to put people in the wrong mindset where they’re like, what can you give me for free?

Heather: [08:20] Or they say this horrible phrase and I’m sure you guys have heard it, oh, it’s not what I want, you know, I’m doing this for you. Like they’re almost like they’re doing a favor. Um, and so we tried to create that same sort of way. It works so great about the model calls as people are super interested in doing them. So we tried to think of a way that we could create that same sort of like mass amounts of people interested in it but also be qualified. So we switched to what we call an application process, but we never used the word model that’s super important. And um, what we do is we give them a really good incentive. Like we’ll do something like we’ll waive the session fee. So our session fee is $200, includes hair and, and we have a wide closet full of clothing.

Heather: [08:57] Um, so that’s normally what they would pay for, for 200. We waive that. And we also give them a free one image, five by seven. And then what we require of them to do is to pay their minimum order upfront, which is also $200. And in doing that it qualifies them and we had the whole application process that we do. It takes them through, hey, are you okay with paying for your $200 up front? And we have like bulleted questions where they can answer yes I am. Please pick me. No, I don’t want to pay for my pictures or see, I’d love to pay for them, but I don’t have the funds right now. And getting them in that mindset of going, okay, well if I can’t pay for it, I probably can’t do. It. Helps us really weed through people, you know, if they stay any of those two second options, we don’t choose them.

Heather: [09:43] And we choose all the people that said yes, I’ll pay for it. And that’s who we call and connect with. Do you have people that fill the whole thing out and say, no, I don’t want to pay for the pictures. Yes. Every now and then. But not normally. Usually the way the process works. Um, so right now I think we got a hundred and 40. No, no, excuse me, 120 applications, um, and for Santa and we booked about half of them. Um, you know, because we did get them from other sources, not just this one promotion that we ran. So, and what were, what were you do is we are always testing, like how can we improve, what can we do to improve our closing ratio on the phone? And one of the key things that we found is to really paint a picture following, like bullet points on a piece of paper and not necessarily a script because you don’t want to sound like a boring person.

Heather: [10:30] But just having, I’m like, hey, we need to cover this. And remember when you applied, we said this, that you’re going to have to pay for it upfront after we tell about how awesome it is. So it just doesn’t. You just want to take away all uncertainty. Anything that feels shady or not cool and replace it with excitement. And I cannot wait to do this. I want to come and pay for these pictures and get this awesome experience that’s so fun and different, but I think what you’re doing really works with what people want right now. They’re, they want to be special, they want to be chosen, they want to be famous. So yeah, that’s fantastic. And it’s one of those ideas and sales about pushing back a little bit and not appearing so desperate. When you push back a little bit that you may not be chosen, it tends to create that emotional desire and clients to want to be chosen and it makes them come to you a little bit more. It makes it easier to close the deal in and book the session.

Heather: [11:27] So this application live on your website. So no, no. We do this through facebook ads, so we spend every time we put an ad together, usually do one a week and will spend between 300 to $500 on our ad and we boost. It’s a boosted ad. So I know there’s a lot of different ways you can do it, but we do a post on our facebook business page and then we boost it and we boost it to a specific demographic we like to get that are between the ages of 28 and 45. And then there’s a, you know, facebook is always changing how they do things. But what we currently are doing is there’s a place for income and you can do the top 25 percent of people income. So they used to do it like how you can use to be able to do it by their house, which was awesome.

Heather: [12:12] But then they took that demographic away. So now we do it by the top income and then we also, when we’re doing Santa sessions or we do a children under 12, so they need to have children under 12. So we do all of those little breakdowns, you know, all the way down to a baby. And that’s Kinda how we really target our ads. And so a lot of people are confused when they first start doing facebook ads. And like, I don’t have a big facebook following, like I only have 500 people that like my page and so you’re putting it on your page but you’re boosting it to others. And so that’s confusing. And that’s one thing I’d love to clear out because I think that that’s something that could be really helpful for people just starting out as you don’t need to have a big following.

Heather: [12:50] You can put that money down and show it to thousands of people beyond your actual facebook reach on your normal page. So you’re doing like three to 500 per ad, is that what you’re saying? Yes, yes. Yeah. Well that makes sense. You’re not messing around, you’re making this. Oh yeah. Yeah. And so yeah, and we’re definitely get that we’re getting that return on our investment because this specific um, one, you know, we, you know, we booked, I believe it was 49 sessions in two weeks doing this in the last two weeks with Santa. So, um, you know, 49 times to you $200 is a huge deal. So you know, that’s can definitely can afford it even before you gotten them in for the actual session.

Kia: [13:34] Very Fun. All right, so tell us what you’re most fired up about in the industry. What do I mean? It doesn’t. What are you most excited about or what do you think? Yeah, I mean just when you think of the industry in general, what do you think of?

Heather: [13:45] So I love the fact that we all can be individuals and like if you want to just take pictures of pets, I feel like that you could do that and you could create a business plan that, that would create success in ut, thrive in it, and you do really well doing that. And then someone else could be super passionate of, you know, taking high school seniors and you could create the same sort of plan. I think what I love the most about our business is that you can really hone on your strengths and your values and what you really love to do and create something that is very successful. That’s fantastic.

Kia: [14:16] So our next question for you. It’s so funny, Heather. I knew this was gonna happen to me with your voice, you just sounds so finished your notes and I do this even when we’re just visiting on the phone, but I’ll forget that I’m actually doing the interview and I’m like, oh, this is such a fantastic podcast. And I’m like, it’s my turn. Okay. So Heather, what was holding you back from becoming a photographer when you. Very much

Heather: [14:44] so I think that, um, I think all of us struggle with this fear of failure. It’s, um, I sometimes you just, you know, anytime you do something new, if...


Published on:

12th Nov 2018

Lori Nordstrom – Episode 006 – A Photographer Podcast Interview

Read Show Notes

In this episode, we talk to Lori Nordstrom. Lori started her first business at 16 years old. She’s been a photographer for over 20 years and recently intentionally began to downsize her photography business and start teaching/coaching more. However, she discovered a hole that needed to be filled, which is personal brand photography. Awesome to have her perspective on this niche in addition to Scott’s last week.

You’ll love this episode because Lori is fired up about the widening gap between “everybody is a photographer” and the “luxury photographer” and talks about how to step up and serve.

She also has some amazing tips on how to stay business focused and talks how important planning is. She says,  “You do have to wear that business hat a lot of the time, 80/20 rule. 80 percent of the time you have to think like a business owner, not an artist.”

She talks about her morning routine and how the people she watches and learns from all have morning routines. Kia and Matt add some comedy and good advice.


Resources from Lori Nordstrom: – freebie download

Lori’s FB group – Simply Blessed Life – live on Wednesday’s

Fundy Designer – album & wall designer

First Five App (5 minutes bible study)


Books that Lori Recommends:

Miracle Morning – Hal Elrod (

Millionaire Habits (

Millionaire Morning (

Other Resources

Additional Free Resources at

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.

Lori: [00:00] Hi, this is Lori Nordstrom 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.

Matt: [00:20] [inaudible] everybody. Welcome to from nothing to profit. So on today’s show we have Lori Nordstrom and I’m really excited to have Laura on the show because Laura has been in the photo industry for more than 20 years and recently she’s actually made a pretty big pivot in her business and she’s moved on to some coaching stuff and sold her business. And I just think it’s a real, it’s gonna be a really interesting conversation to see what her business has become because 10 years ago when I got another business, Laura was really big in the industry. She was onstage all the time. Allison, I learned a lot from her in the law, you know, last five years we’ve worked with Laurie more on a personal basis and really got some great nuggets of information from her. Um, but it’ll be interesting to see where she thinks the industry is going, see where her journey’s taken her, see how her coaching stuff is going and I’m just super excited. So welcome Lorrie.

Lori: [01:09] Thanks. Thanks for having me. And Hi Kai.

Kia: [01:13] We’re excited that you’re here, Lori, you, I think the wonderful thing about you is that you’ve been in kind of all parts of the photography business and I think you can speak to people on all levels and so I think this is really going to be fun to hear what you have to say. So I think, Matt, where are you going to ask Laura to share with us just a little bit more about herself and her areas of expertise?

Matt: [01:36] Yeah, I think I just, I want to know more about what’s going on in your journey right now, Laurie, because I know stuff is changing pretty fast for you and you can kind of give us an update on what’s going on.

Lori: [01:45] Yeah, well definitely things have changed as we all know and the industry thinks have been a roller coaster ride over the last 10 years at least. But, um, I have had my own business since I was 16 years old, so I’ve never worked for anyone else and becoming an entrepreneur in the photography industry wasn’t anything that was a scary thing for me. But I do know it’s scary for most photographers who are on the artists end instead of the business end. And so it has been an interesting journey for me along the way. Um, I did start into photography in the late, late nineties. I was in my late twenties. So that gives you an idea of how old I am. But I did start at that time and apprentice for a year in a, in another studio in Texas and worked for him for a year.

Lori: [02:36] And then at the end of that year I moved from Texas to Iowa and that was really my launch. I decided when I moved I was done with my other business, which was a hair salon. And when I moved I just said I’m a photographer and this is it. And just kind of started out with a bang, just did it. Did I meet you like right after you moved to Iowa? Yeah, I think met, I was thinking about this today, Kira, and I think we had to have met in 2000. Okay. Yeah, that makes sense from the very beginning, which. Yeah, I know it is crazy. So we’ve known each other for almost 20 years. Yeah,

Matt: [03:12] in 2000 I was in third grade. I’m not joking, I’m totally, totally lying. I’m much older than that, but I just had to take that opportunity to, to um, so, so what are you doing now? Laurie will tell us what kind of, what’s going on now?

Lori: [03:30] Well, you know, over the years I have had different goals I guess over the years and even into different genres of photography. I think when I started it was all about kids and then I started photographing newborns and kind of became known for a newborn and maternity and then after that I was missing out on the kids and so I went back and started really building my kids business and that turn into families and they got older and became high school seniors. And so it all kind of evolved as my time and the industry went on as far as what I was photographing and what I was excited about. And then five years ago, I actually, it’s been, well almost six years now, but yeah, five years ago I got married again and at the time I got married, uh, it doesn’t feel like congratulations are in order anymore because it’s yours.

Lori: [04:23] But at, at that time I was also down to kids out of the house, had one more child at home. He was going to be graduating in 2016. And so at that time I decided that I was going to very intentionally start downsizing my business. And I will say that as somebody who always goes into things with goals and a plan and more of a business hat than the artist’s hat for sure, it was very eye opening to me to start downsizing. And at that time, but I started downsizing. I kind of started hand selecting the clients that I was going to be continuing to work with. And really what it comes down to is every single year, digging into my top 20 percent or so, that 80 20 rule and what happened at that time was, I mean, I’ve always believed in the 80 slash 20 rule, but when I literally started taking action on this and choosing those top 20 percenters, my profit didn’t change very much.

Lori: [05:23] And that just shows you how true and valuable that concept is if you really believe in dig into that, um, you know, and it just, it was there on paper for me as I started downsizing that each year as I downsize, it was like, yeah, you know, profits not really moving too much. And of course downsizing didn’t mean just the number of clients, but it also meant the number of employees, what I was outsourcing. It also eventually led to my overhead as I sold my giant studio. Which Chi, you’ve been to that studio. Um, but I had, you know, a big 8,000 square foot studio that was of course a lot of overhead. And I sold that two years ago. And so just each year downsizing, downsizing. And really as I started coaching more and being in that part of the industry, getting out there, speaking, coaching, teaching, um, I really thought that that was going to be my future. I really saw photography kind of completely phasing out for me. But what happened was as I continue to look for holes in the market, I started saying a big one as I was working with other creative entrepreneurs in business. And so I’m excited to share that with you and kind of the whole that I saw.

Matt: [06:40] Next question we’re going to go to. I mean we’re definitely going through the less fast so you have not talked about this a couple of days ago so I’m able to kind of lead us in this a little bit, but you know, we’re talking about what’s working now and you were super excited when you were talking about doing some of this branding stuff. So we’ve got. Just dive right into it. What did you see is working right now in the photography business or photography industry?

Lori: [07:00] Yeah. Well, and I will say that this is for me and I think there are so many great things happening in our industry right now and I’m excited to talk about that, but what happened for me is, and I think um, you know, Kayak can probably attest to this too, even watching her mom and then herself having been in the industry for so long because as we grow and change and as our kids go through seasons, our interest in what we’re photographing kind of changes as well. And so I would say that, yeah, when you were saying I did my babies and then I did my children, I was like, it sounds like it was following right along with where your family was at the time. Absolutely. And I know it’s not that way for everyone, but I do see that a lot as kids get older, you, you know, your interest just shift.

Lori: [07:47] And so you get really excited about photographing different ages and stages as you know, as things change in your own life. But, um, I really did see. And part of this comes for me, I, I work with a lot of photographers who have to photograph, like they love shooting so much. It’s such a passion of theirs and this sounds terrible, but it just never has been my passion. My passion has been running a business and I went into the photography industry in that way that I’m a business owner that happens to have a camera in my hand. I’ve never had this. Like I got to shoot, I got to shoot. Like this is what drives me. And so I didn’t have a problem feeling like I was going to phase out of that part of my life. But then as I, you know, my kids are now out of the house.

Lori: [08:31] I have three grandkids. And as I started working with more and more businesses, what I started seeing was bright. Now in the, in the industry, a lot of photographers are doing headshot sessions and so there’s not really a whole lot that special about them anymore. Just like most John Rose that we photograph. It cannot be just about the pretty pictures anymore. You’ve got to have something in the experience, in something in the, in the product and you know, the whole entire package and I do call it a full experience, you know, session even when I’m doing family sessions now, but what I found with these businesses that I was working with was that they’ve got opportunities all around them for quote unquote headshot sessions. But as I was working with them and asking them questions about who they are and what their purpose is, and I’m really digging deep into them as a person, which we all know personal branding is where it is right now.

Lori: [09:31] Even large corporations. It is a personal brand and that’s why subway had jared and uh, you know, Wendy’s had little windy, you know what I mean? Like where it’s personal branding, it’s what is all about. And so with these small businesses, being able to take the idea of the headshot session and turn it into a complete branding experience, a branding session makes. I mean it’s so different and I think people will start picking up on this more and more, but right now there’s a huge hole in the market for this and people are just hungry for somebody who will listen and hear who they are, what their purpose is, and even ask them questions around that and then be able to capture that and photograph it for them. Okay. Laurie, that was awesome. I love hearing about personal branding and where you think things are going.

Lori: [10:21] You’re doing the personal branding for people and you’re excited about working with them. Are you selling them like a package or are you doing like a session fee and then something later? Like how? How does that work? The process itself? Yeah, so this is the fun and the beauty of doing something that’s a little bit different. It’s just a twist on something and a lot of it’s just language and communication and then taking the time to sit down and go through questions with them and kind of dig some things out, letting them talk. I’m like, you know, doing things a little bit differently in this way. You really get to charge whatever you want because I don’t have anything to compare it to. And that’s a beautiful thing. And another thing that has happened with this is I have been a preacher around, you know, wall concepts and albums and something that they get to see and enjoy every day when we’re talking about family portraits in high school seniors.

Lori: [11:17] But with branding, they do need, they actually need the digital files and so it becomes a different kind of session because that’s what it’s all about. And so, um, do you want to talk actual numbers? Sure. Yeah. Um, so I charge $3,000 and they get 30 files with that. So that’s quite a lot of files, but it’s also a lot of value. And what I tell them is we’re going to capture three types of images during these sessions and one of them is going to be head shots and I do want to come up with a different name for that. Maybe you can help me die. Uh, but uh, I’ve tried business portraits and that works sometimes, but a lot of people that I’m working with are there creative entrepreneurs so it might be a restaurant owner or a jewelry designer or a fitness expert and so business portraits doesn’t sound exciting, sexy, so, but those are the three things that I’m photographing our headshots lifestyle shots and so that’s going to be them doing what they do.

Lori: [12:20] And then we do actual social media branding images like lifelabs, so branded images. Okay. So that’s going to bring in their product or their service or elements of their branding and we’re photographing them for them, those for them. And so I’m tick typically ending up with about a hundred images and they’re seeing them right after I shoot them. And so I’m, I’m doing this obsession. I treat it like a commercial shoot. Lots of planning around it. But then we, we photograph and then they see all their images and so I, they can narrow it down to 30 and that’s great. But I charge $100 per additional image and they typically do add on. So it really ends up being a nice, you know, a really nice profit points and it is digital files and while while I like to preach on the products, let’s face it, if we can charge $3,000 for a digital session that doesn’t have product included, our profit margin is much higher.

Lori: [13:22] Yes. Well, and these are, you know, they’re not things that are going to be on the wall for 25, 34 years. There are things that they need for a certain time period and so it makes sense for it to be a digital product. Yeah, I think that it’s an interesting, I think the word portrait, you know, if you say you’re doing portrait lifestyle and branded images or something like that, like just one single word to describe each one or personality or because I feel like that that image needs to connect with them. Uh, you know, he needs to show who they are to the people and not necessarily just what they do. Yeah, for sure. And that’s part of one of the questions that I ask everyone that I work with and as we’re kind of narrowing in to their brand is, you know, tell me three to five words that describe your personality and that’s really going to dictate where the session goes because, and I, and I talked to them about this, is that, you know, you’re a personality should show up in your marketing and your branding and even in the end and your product and your service and the experience that you offer your client.

Lori: [14:28] And so that’s what I want to show off. And that’s why a lot of times the quote on quote headshot doesn’t really work. But I like the personality portrait, you know, something like that. Yeah. And then so who are the clients for this? Because when I think about it, I have people that have big businesses that I’ve worked with and I’ve done honestly this type of

Kia: [14:52] thing for them for years. And they are like a very specific client that I don’t really even try to go find or I’ve done this for people and I do it pro bono to help women grow their businesses. That type of thing. So who like if you were going to go out and find, you know, 20 of these clients, what, where would you look?

Lori: [15:11] Well, for me, I really love working with small business owners and as a coach, one of my specialties is systems to six figures and so I’m typically my, my target market are women in business who are working to take the thing they love, create a business of it and reach that first six figures. So that is also my branding, a shoots that is my target client. However, I’ve also done these with complete hr teams and brandon that hr and what the culture looks like for that company. And so that can go into large corporations. You can do this for the c suite team, you know, the executives of any company. So, you know, this comes into play for really whatever your,...

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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