the newsletter

How to attract your ideal client

 
 

Close your eyes. I want you to imagine your dream client. What are they wearing? What does their home look like? What kind of food do they like? Are they savvy shoppers at Marshall’s, or do they love a splurge at Anthropologie? What kind of art do they enjoy? Are they silly and funny, or serious and passionate?

Construct your ideal client. This is the person (or type of couple) to which you are marketing.

You attract what you put out.

If you’re a bubbly, outgoing football fan who loves grilling and running and has two kids… your friends probably have kids, like football, and run with you in the morning. The same goes for business! If your online presence (and natural personality) is cosmopolitan / city chic, you mention that you love shopping at West Elm, and you have a soft spot for French cuisine, the clients who actually book you would have already connected to your personality and likes, and are more likely to be a potential friend as well as a client.

You can scatter little tidbits about your personality and likes on your about page as well as on your blog to give your potential clients bridges to connect to you.

So how can I get the chance to shoot at my dream venue?

Go through your portfolio and show only what you want to shoot. If you’re done shooting mid-range hotels and want more barn weddings, then take down everything shot at a hotel. Showcase your barn weddings on the home page and throughout your website. Give your website and portfolio a big revamp. If city shoots give you a headache and you love shooting on the beach, remove all city shoots and only showcase beach shoots. Yes… it’s that easy!

My challenge to you:

clean up your website, do a bit of social media marketing, and see how your inquiries change.

 
 

Go With Your Gut: How to Deal with Difficult Clients

 
Photo by Anthony Fusco

Photo by Anthony Fusco

 

Situation #1 - You have a bride that inquires about shooting her wedding. After 25 emails exchanged, she continues to pull apart your packages after you told her that packages are not alterable. She keeps trying to haggle over your non-negotiable prices, and now things are getting uncomfortable. If she really values your work and wants you that much, why is she being so difficult?

Situation #2 - You rock a senior session. The parents and senior are thrilled. Then, the demands begin. Your contract states that you edit for color, exposure + style. First, they ask to edit out stray hairs, and you do that. Then, they tell you to edit out the necklace clasp. And then to take out their tan lines. And then, to mail half the prints directly to their grandma and the other half to them (to avoid mailing it to their family themselves). Now, you are contemplating never shooting seniors again.


As entrepreneurs and artists, it's safe to say that we usually love our jobs. We chose to do what we love all day every day - it's a no brainer.

But let's be real for a second - not every client experience is an ideal one.

One of the most difficult parts of entrepreneurship is dealing with difficult situations, often alone. This can be super stressful! Never fear, however - there are a few tricks to handle the tough stuff like a champ.

1) The power of "NO"

If you have a client that keeps asking or demanding you do more than you were contracted to do, learn to stop saying yes then getting stressed or resentful, and say NO. Breathe. No is okay! If you met with a couple and something isn't clicking right... do both parties a favor and let them know you're not the right fit and refer them to someone better suited for their needs. 

2) Know your worth

If a client is asking for time-consuming retouching, you don't have to say no, you can say, "Retouching of that nature is not included in my standard packages, but it is available for $X/hour. I can usually do X edits of this kind per hour, to give you a rough estimate."

3) If they're not contracted, you're not obligated

Sometimes, you undercharge or quote people at a lower rate for special projects. Maybe you're trying to make nice with a mutual friend's company budget, or cutting a discount for an old friend. However, especially in those situations, running into a nit-picky client can be even worse, because you don't even feel you're being compensated for the trouble. Remember: you run your own business. You do not have to do anything you do not want to do. TRUST YOUR GUT. If they are not contracted, you can always reach out and let them know that their date was filled or that you will not be able to work with them. 

4) Phone a friend

Sometimes the best thing you can do is get an objective perspective. Ideally, call up or message one of your photographer friends to get advice on your dilemma. But sometimes that isn't as option, so call your friend, your mom, anyone! They can provide the perspective of a client versus a photographer, which is super beneficial for you!


Once in a while, you may come across a client that makes you want to pull out your hair. But at the end of the day, it is your business, and your call. Be sure to handle every situation with grace and respect, while remembering that you have every right to say NO to ensure that both you and your client can have a great experience. 

 
 

Why the new Instagram algorithm is old news

 
 

Okay, so everyone has heard the news by now...

Instagram will be switching over to an algorithm based system to display posts. So, instead of sorting your feed chronologically, it will be sorted by what is calculated to be "most relevant" to your taste. We all remember when Facebook did that... and small business organic reach tanked. On average, 5% of your Facebook fans will see your posts without paying for them to be boosted. Now that Instagram (which is now owned by Facebook, let's not forget) has decided this new route, panic has ensued.

The Titanic may as well be sinking again, by the looks of it. You may have seen posts begging you to "Turn on post notifications" to ensure your favorite Instagrammers will stay in your feed. Which also means, you will get a push notification whenever they post anything. And you may want to scramble to do that, too - but here is why NOT to freak out.

If people already like and comment on your photos, they will continue to see them. The people who never interact with you anyway, will most likely not see your posts at the top of your feed. Notifications are nasty little distractions - don't risk annoying your loving followers by automatically pushing your content in their phones and faces twice a day. Que sera, sera - what will be, will be. Take the change in stride, and keep creating and posting content the same way you did before.

The good news - you don't have to do anything!

Sit back, relax, and take this as a lesson on how to roll with the punches.

 
 

So you want to find your signature style?

We’ve all had that moment when we’re scrolling on Instagram and BAM! We see a “Sam Hurd” or a “Justin & Mary” photograph before we even read the username. How do some people have such iconic styles? And how can I have one, too!?

Unfortunately, like all great things from wine to cheese to dating,

it gets better with age. 

 
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However, you can start the process of discovering your style now. With thousands of photographs being passed through our overwhelmed brains every day, it’s hard to know where to start. The key is - start with yourself. Someone else’s style is not yours, no matter how much you wish it could be. Comparison is the thief of joy, folks… so focus on YOU and how YOUR pictures are unique, and push that!

Shoot all the time.

 

Pick up the camera and shoot, shoot, shoot! As you review your images weekly, monthly, and yearly, trends will begin to emerge. Maybe you highlight architecture more than nature on portrait shoots. Maybe you incorporate props. Maybe you like shooting at golden hour in the sun versus darker, moody images indoors. Shoot what you like, and shoot it often.

 
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The other side of the key is consistency, in shooting and editing. No, this doesn’t mean you have to operate like a factory. Go out and explore! Fail! Push the envelope! Experiment! Fall flat on your face!

Consistency does not equal monotony.

However, if you’re consistent in using a specific type of lighting, and editing with a similar set of presets, your images, regardless of the subject will have your “signature style” on them.

Styles develop slowly over time, and constantly evolve and improve. If you shoot what you love often, and edit your photos in a consistent way, you’re on the fast track to developing your own style! 

 
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10 Things I Love - And how that can help YOU!

Photographers:

Something that is SUPER important in all aspects of business is connecting with your clients - potential, present, and past. When you're having a conversation with a bride and groom to be, you gush over shared interests, laugh over stories, and connect with each other. But, you can actually do that before you've even met them. HOW? By sprinkling hints of things you love throughout your online presence.

Story - I signed with an incredible stock agency after their art buyer found me through Twitter, then read on my website that I loved pretending to cook like a Food Network Pro. She emailed me connecting over that, and the rest was history.

We become friends with people because of common interests - and the BEST thing about being a photographer and meeting so many people is becoming their FRIEND! In the end, your ideal client will have a lot in common with you, so the more you connect with people on a personal level, the more potential friends and clients you attract! So don't be afraid to have a section on your website dedicated to the things you love, or your favorite movies and food, or share little snippets about your life on Facebook on Instagram. It's time to make some friends!

Without further ado, here is my list of

10 Things I Love!

 
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1) Snuggling. I am a cuddle fiend. Like a cat, except human sized.

2) J. Cole. Hip-hop with an important message; rapped and sung by an incredible human.

3) Traveling. Boarding a plane is like second nature to me - have passport, will travel.

4) French manicures. I get my nails done maybe once a year, but a sparkly gel french mani just makes me feel oh so pretty.

5) LUSH. I am obsessed with every Lush product. They have the friendliest and happiest employees, hand make all their products with fresh ingredients + without toxic chemicals, do not test on animals, and are extremely socially and environmentally conscious. Whether it's washing my face at night with Ocean Salt or showering with Honey I Washed The Kids and Curly Wurly, I get a little happy rush whenever I use anything from Lush.

6) Couponing. I’m a bargain hunting, coupon wielding princess. I love sales on sales plus coupons, as well as the high that comes after getting what you need for next to nothing. Every time I return from the grocery store, I call at least two people announcing my steals and deals and how cheap I got chicken breasts per pound.

7) Asian food and drink. If anyone knows me, they know that they can usually find me in Chinatown. I’m big on Thai and Vietnamese cuisine, Chinese snacks and juices, and the mother of all my loves - bubble tea, which is Taiwanese.

8) Surprises; giving and receiving. I love surprising people (and not in the scare you with a spider and record it way) - and I love when people surprise me, too.

9) Documentaries. I really enjoy learning new things and being introduced to ideas to which I would have never otherwise been exposed.

10) Rainy days. Okay, so for shooting, I need golden sunshine. But I'm actually super productive on rainy/cloudy days - unless I'm outside, then I hate getting my hair wet!

 
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9 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Me

1) I can play the violin and piano - I think I liked the violin better.

2) 85% of my wardrobe is from Abercrombie. They have the best styles and now they’re actually affordable! Why couldn’t they be when Abercrombie was all the rage in the middle school?!

3) I’ll take the city over the beach any day. 65 degrees > 80 degrees and urban fall fashion > summer fashion.

4) I was born a brunette with blue eyes, and evolved into a hazel-eyed redhead. 

5) I’m deathly afraid of water I can’t see the bottom of. Oh, and the ocean in general.

6) I am currently obsessed with barbecue chicken and Mediterranean food. When I love something, I tend to overdo it.

7) I watched Arthur until I was thirteen because we didn’t have cable TV, so I would sneak over my Auntie's to watch Hey Arnold and The Rugrats whenever I got the chance.

8) If I had to listen to only one artist for the rest of my life, it would be a tie between Mac Demarco and J. Cole.

9) I’ve gone through a Disney obsession phase for fifteen years… books, trivia, movies, actors, and all things Walt Disney. I freak out when I see the characters at Disney World. It IS the happiest place on Earth.

This will make you more PROFITABLE!

 
 

Specialization - why do people do it? Let’s think about a restaurant. You’re craving reallllly good Italian food. At first glace, would you choose a restaurant that served Mexican, Italian, Chinese, and American food, or would you select the restaurant that only served Italian? You’d probably pick the exclusively Italian restaurant. Because they’re not juggling seven different cuisines from around the world, they have more time and energy directed on just Italian, and therefore the food's quality is higher. 

The same principal can be applied to photography. 

That being said, there is nothing wrong with wanting to do it all. The one stop, all your needs photographer. The awesome thing about being your own boss, is that nobody can tell you what to do. However, if you dream of targeting more high end clientele and have no idea how to do that, specializing is the way to go. 

When you’re starting out, it makes sense to take every photographic job you can get. You need every bit of business to make a living and to get your name out there. But after a while, it’s time to rethink what you really love to do.

Some love to photograph moms-to-be and newborn babies. For other photographers, weddings and engagements light the fire in their eyes. Pay attention to which kind of shoot gets you the most excited, and think about specializing in that. 

Saying “no” can be really hard at first. Not only are you turning down a super nice person, but money!!! What you’re doing, though, is best for you and your prospective client. You want them to have a photographer who is jazzed about family portraits, not trudging along wishing it was a wedding. By referring them to another photographer who specializes in that field, you are establishing a network of professionals to generate referrals and get business, gaining respect for being honest with your client, and strengthening your brand image all at once. 

People want what they see. If you hate shooting parties, don’t have images of parties in your portfolio. If you would rather shoot a reception at a barn than a hotel ballroom, only post photos from higher end barn weddings. Tailor your website and the content people see to further reinforce what kind of work you do and don’t do. I’m a wedding / portrait kind of girl, and after listing the services I offer and re-structuring my portfolio, I have received two event / party inquiries in three years.

It will help your business and make you happier in the long run. By saying “no” to the things we don’t want, we leave more time to focus and improve upon what we truly love, while catering to more ideal clients in the process. It’s a win-win!

 
 

How to rock a wedding meeting

So you’ve been emailing back and forth with this couple about their wedding, and finally, you agree to meet. You have to talk to these strangers in person?! Oh god - bring the wine.


Don’t panic!

Let’s walk through how to have a successful client meeting that ends in a booking.


First, choose the meeting place. A private studio or somewhere in your home is ideal, but if you don’t have these kinds of spaces (like me), then you have to pick a public location. Choose wisely - sounds, smells, and atmosphere all subconsciously affect the mood of your meeting. Trust me on this - I once agreed to meet a client at a Burger King... never again.

Meet at a place that fits your branding - I like to meet at places that have parking, enough seating, and great food. I rotate between 5 different places depending on my couple's taste. Take it up a notch from Starbucks and opt for a local coffee shop instead, or partner with a florist to use their studio. The possibilities are endless.

Have confidence! Smile and give them a big hug hello. Treat them to anything on the menu as a congratulations on their engagement. Avoid the awkward “Where do we start?” by asking them about their story - how they met, the proposal, and all the goodies you need to know about them. Listen intently and connect with them - swap stories, laugh, and enjoy some coffee.

Ask your couple how they envision their wedding day. Is it intimate or large? Rustic or modern? What sort of wedding are they planning? This helps segway into the business side of things - ask what kind of coverage they’re looking for. Talk about when they may need a second shooter, how many hours of coverage would work for their day, travel, and all that jazz.

Walk them through a wedding day. I craft a timeline knowing only the ceremony time, so they can leave the meeting with a great understanding of the day, and we can figure out the best number of hours of coverage. Tell them what happens before the wedding, during, and after, and you'll be asking question and getting more info about the day, too.

Address their concerns. It is most likely the first and last time they’ll be getting married, so even though this is familiar to you, this is all new to your clients. Be there to give them advice for their timeline, answer their questions about coverage, and reassure their nerves by walking them through your approach to their wedding day. Make sure they feel like they're not just another couple on your checklist. Each and every couple is unique, and they will feel if you genuinely are excited about their day. This meeting is all about connecting and seeing if you both are a good fit. Tell them how to proceed once they decide either way, and also remind them to take their time deciding.

Don’t sign a contract on the spot. This is a big investment for a very important life event - so let your clients have some breathing room to make the final decision. Trust me - if your meeting all goes well, you will hear from them. If not, follow up in one week to see if they need more time deciding.  It’s all about rocking your confidence and personality, and showing your clients that you are the perfect person for their day.

Do you have any tried-and-true methods to seal the deal? Comment below!

5 Things I Would Tell Someone Starting Out

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I get a lot of emails from aspiring photographers asking for advice. In reality, that's a novel worth of material - but I sat down and thought of the top five things that would benefit creatives starting out in their field (or a reminder for seasoned pros!)

1) Shoot all the time. Bring your camera everywhere you go. Shoot everything under the sun, come back, and practice different editing styles until you find one you like. Practice DOES make perfect, friends.

2) Only compare yourself to yourself! Okay, so I would tell anyone this, not just someone starting out. It is so easy to turn green in the face with envy looking through creatives and other photographers' Instagrams and Facebook feeds. Why are their lives so perfect? They just got published in The Knot! They’re speaking at WPPI! On top of that, they live in the Pacific Northwest, which is basically cheating at life. Instead of scrolling through and getting depressed, take a step back and remember that your journey is no one else’s. Pull out an old hard drive and look at your work from a month ago, a year ago, and two years ago. Look at the difference in composition, editing style, artistic vision… I’m willing to bet that there is a significant change. Be proud of that! As Mary Marantz says, “Don’t compare your behind the scenes to someone else’s highlight reel.” It’s hard to practice what we preach, but it’s the simple truth.

3) Put your work out there. I have coffee with lots of “beginners” in the industry, and when I ask to see their work online, most respond that they don't feel “legitimate” enough to start a social media presence. No! Get your work out there. In the 7th grade, I was posting all my (TERRIBLE) photography to DeviantART. No matter what the platform is, start sharing your art. Get feedback and learn from your peers. There is no “kickoff date” when you run your own business, it all just unfolds on its own, so take the plunge and make yourself a Facebook page!

4) Don’t be afraid to reach out to others. If you love a photographer’s work, and have a question about how they got the shot, or their camera, or their editing - ASK! Send them an email, comment on their Instagram… the worst that can happen is that they don’t reply. And we all know, answering non-client emails during busy season is rough. Give them a few days. The best scenario is that you get answers from a professional, or grab coffee and start networking to become stronger! 

5) Study up. If you didn’t go to school for photography, make sure your knowledge reflects that you did. Watch documentaries on the history of photography and the progression of technology. Take out books from your library (yes, books, NOT online) from the greats. Study their work. Know their names, their work, and their legacy. Know how your camera and lenses work inside and out. Learn why there is a “burn” and “dodge” tool in Photoshop (yes, these are real darkroom techniques). Make a goal to have one study session a week where you sit down and watch a documentary on Avedon, or Bresson, or Nan Goldin, or Eggleston. You will become a more intelligent, worldly, well-rounded artist. Know who and what came before you.

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7 Things Your Business Can't Live Without

 
 

We all love amenities that make our lives easier, whether it be the Drive-Thru at Dunks, online bill pay, or the E-Z Pass lane on the highway. In my business, there are services I use that I love so much because they ultimately save time and increase productivity.

Here are some life hacks they don't teach you in art school.

1) Squarespace

Squarespace is a website platform It. Is. Incredible. After being unhappy with Wordpress and its clunkiness, I found Squarespace almost two years ago now. Their designs are clean, modern, and simple. There is so much room for customization, it's straightforward, you don’t need to know HTML or CSS to create a beautiful website. They automatically incorporate analytics, SEO, mobile optimization, storefronts and shopping carts, and blogging is something you can do in your sleep. At the end of the day, you get a gorgeous home base for my business and brand, for a really affordable price. Oh, did I mention they have the nicest support staff who answer all your questions within the hour, 24 hours a day? Yep!

2) Pixieset

Pixieset is my wonderful gallery host. Every single client shoot gets uploaded to Pixieset as a modern grid with a customized and branded header. Clients can “favorite” pictures, download their favorites, send album notes to me, purchase prints, products, and digital files (that you can custom fulfill through your own lab or choose one of theirs). It has custom domain mapping, so your client’s page can be clients.yourphotography.com/smith. You pay by data storage amount. This last step in my workflow is so easy: Pixieset sends my clients who have purchased the digitals a link to download the photos instantly without me lifting a finger. This is great for when you're on the go or traveling and don’t want your clients to wait!

3) Facebook Post Scheduler

Do you have a life? Obviously. Forget to post your Facebook updates at peak traffic times? No problem! On your Facebook business page, you can schedule posts to be published automatically. You can queue up a photo, write a caption, and add a link to your blog, and schedule to be published on Thursday at 5pm. Once a week, I’ll queue up the next seven days and don't even need to think about it!

4) PhotoMechanic

Want to save hours culling? PhotoMechanic. I admit - Justin & Mary recommended this to me during a workshop in January 2014 and it took me at least a year to buy it. Best $150 with free updates for life. You know that little lag time in Lightroom when your RAW file is loading? Eliminated. In PhotoMechanic, it processes the RAWs like JPGs, so culling is instant. You can use a star rating system or just delete. It cut my culling time in half. On average, I spend 20 minutes culling a portrait session and 60 minutes culling an entire wedding. They have a free trial - so stop procrastinating like I did and your newfound time will thank you.

5) Mint

My significant other often calls me “Lena Mintisola” now. He introduced me to Mint this summer, which is a money management website. Sounds scary - but it’s actually so much fun! It’s free, and easily connects to your bank accounts and credit cards. You can track and analyze your spending, categorize your purchases, set BUDGETS by category every month, set bill reminders, goals, and rename expenses. You can take a quick peek at your phone on the Mint app, too, and see pie and bar graphs to moniter your monthly grocery budget to see how much you have left to spend, or if one more martini is really a good financial decision. It’s a great way to figure out, “What did I spend on my business this month,” as well as truly learn what's going in and what's going out. 

6) Notes

In business, as in life - organization is key. I keep Notes on my Macbook called “Shoot Schedule” and “To Do”. On my To Do list is a daily “win the day” list, weekly goals and blog calendar, miscellaneous work, orders coming in, and deadline reminders. On my Shoot Schedule is a list of ordered dates by month of 2015 + 2016 weddings and shoots, containing location, client name, and outstanding balances still owed. I keep these days marked off in my calendar as well, but I like having a double system so I don’t overbook a day or forget to log a shoot. Notes also auto-sync to your phone so you can have all the info about you upcoming day, month, and year wherever you go!

7) GSuite

Formerly Google for Business - My old mail server was through my domain host, which was great, but actually only archived the latest 250 emails… I found out the hard way. I migrated everything over to Google for Business, which is basically a Gmail account ending with @website.com name. Everything is archived forever and connects to my calendar, drive, spreadsheets, and presentations. I love using the color flagging system and folders to separate clients from brides, vendors, and everyone in between.

 
 

I’d like to shout out Bank of America Mobile Deposit as a runner up to this list, because who has time to go to the bank when they can take a picture of a check and deposit it in bed?

What things in your life or business make everything run smoother? Love a service so much you just need to SHOUT!? Comment below to share!