Creating Your Ideal Photography Business

 

Lesson Info

Take A Leap Of Faith

Pulling the plug on this thing was probably the scariest thing we ever did. What we failed to mention was that, earlier in our business, we did start full time, and quit our jobs, and have a baby all in the same year. So, yeah, pretty much. So, we're prone to taking crazy risks like that, but they're calculated, and they're well planned out. But as this whole idea started to unfold, the ideas of what we could see and do if we didn't have to race home to mow the lawn became more and more appealing. And just the idea of all of the adventures on the horizon lit a fire underneath us, and we're like, "Okay, we are going to do this." How was a whole 'nother issue, and so we looked around out there, and we couldn't find any photographers that were running a business from an RV. When we started our business originally, we surrounded ourselves with great people and learned everything that we could from them, but this was a whole 'nother deal. And so, we talked to another family who had raised t...

heir children in an RV, and we got their inputs on whether or not we were gonna screw Abby up in this whole crazy shenanigan. And they assured us she would be fine. Our parents weren't quite sure. And ultimately, what it all came down to was a huge leap of faith. And so, we shored up our business as much as we could. We eliminated any debt that we had. We sold our house so that we didn't have that responsibility, and we tried to foresee every possible scenario that could happen to our business. And the conversations that happened in our office on an hourly basis, probably, over the course of that year of planning involved, "Well, what are clients gonna think of us "if we don't have a sales room? "And not only do we not have a sales room, "we don't even have a house!" You know, talk about unpredictable, right? You don't even have a physical location. And so, we talked about that and we're like, "Oh my gosh, how are we gonna do in-person sales? "We know that they are critical to our business. "People have always come to this "beautiful client theater that we built. "How is that gonna change our sales average "whenever we go into a coffee shop again? "We haven't done that in 10 years, "and our sales averages have changed "so much over time." And so, all of these things, and really, we had no idea what was gonna happen. It was a big leap of faith, but that same year, as we were going back and forth and thinking through all of these scenarios, I turned 40, and I was like, "Whoa, "if we're gonna do something cool, "it's gotta be now. "I gotta go for it, I'm running out of time," which is really funny. And Peter's mom had a stroke, and it changed their life. They had just retired, and we were like, "Oh my gosh, if we wait until we retire to do this, "we might not get the chance." And Abby became an incredible kayaker and was just primed for adventure, and we were like, "All right, we gotta just go for it "and we'll pick up the pieces as they fall "and we'll just charge ahead and make it happen." And it was scary. It's one of the scariest things that we've ever done. But it's turned out to be the most extraordinary thing that we've ever done as well, except for, of course, Abby. She's probably the most extraordinary. And what this leap of faith has done for us, we're now two and a half years into this journey. We only planned to go for a year, and then we thought we'd probably have to come back and reestablish our business in a physical location. Now two and a half years later, there's not an end in sight, and it's given us this incredible freedom that we'd never had before, firstly because it let us say, "Well, we're not gonna lose our house." That's always what you think of as the worst thing that could possibly happen, right? And we're all gonna be together, so our false expectations of success all of a sudden vanished, and it gave us permission to try these crazy dreams that we, you know, were dreaming about in college, and the things that nobody really gets to do in real life, we started pursuing those. And when we pursued them, guess what happened? We put our whole hearts into it and all of a sudden, doors started opening for us, and it was amazing. I mean, the things that happened, Peter would just be like, "What? "They said yes? "Are you kidding me?" And so, it was really exciting things that happened, and we were learning new skills. Peter was tackling personal projects like crazy and we were putting them out to the universe, and it was really a great time of personal growth, and learning, and it was just incredible. It still is. It still is, two and a half years later. The list keeps just getting longer of all the great things we get to do. But the really neat thing is that some professional opportunities opened up for us that never in our wildest dreams did we ever imagine would happen. And it all started with the RV that we bought. We had moved in, it was two, three summers ago, and we bought a Winnebago, and we love it. It's perfect for us. And we went to a trade show where all of the outdoor industry comes together, and we were there to meet potential clients in the kayaking industry and the climbing industry, and we had our long list, and as we were going through the vendors that were there, we noticed that Winnebago was there, and we were like, "Ah, we have the perfect house. "They have made the perfect vehicle for our lives. "We have got to go say hi to them." And so, we wind through the trade show, we finally find their booth, which was a Winnebago, and we march in as a family, and we sit down at the dinette and we're like, "We just bought a Winnebago and it is "the coolest thing ever. "You guys probably don't know this, but they're awesome!" And we sit down, and they're like, "Well, that's great, I'm so glad you love it." And we told them that we lived in it full time, and they looked at us and they're like, "You guys are pretty young to live in a Winnebago." And we said, "You know, this is a dream. "We've always dreamed of traveling full time, "and we just decided to go for it, "and we are using it to explore North America. "We're showing our daughter the most amazing things." And they were like, "Really? "That's pretty interesting. "What do you guys do for a living to make this happen?" We're like, "Oh, we're professional photographers." They're like, "Really?" And so, over the course of several months and several conversations later, they asked us to be part of a new blog that they were starting, WinnebagoLife.com. And they said, "Well, we know you can take great pictures, "but can you write?" And I was like, "Write? "Really?" (laughing) And so, I was like, "Well, I could write "when I was in high school, and I could try it." And so, I started writing about our adventures in the world. If nothing else, I have a great story to give to Abby and her children and future generations. I was like, okay, I'm gonna go for it, I'm gonna give it my best shot. And we turned it in, and they're like, "Perfect, you're hired, and here's what you have to do: "go on adventures, take your family, "photograph it, and write about it." And we're like, "Yes, okay, yes, sign us up." And so, that was the first of many, many, many opportunities that have been unfolded organically, just like that, that if we hadn't happened to purchased a Winnebago RV and hadn't been in the right place at the right time, doing the right thing with the right skills, it never would've happened for us. But life is funny like that. Whenever you charge and you just keep trying and you keep reaching out, extraordinary things happen. And so, this journey is still at its infancy. It's still growing, and it's still really exciting. So, not only do we write for Winnebago Life, we now do a good portion of their lifestyle images for their marketing campaign. And so, I have a behind-the-scenes video that I wanna share with you of a photo shoot that we did for them in Ouray, Colorado in January, way up in the mountains. So, here's a little piece of our new behind-the-scenes photo shoots. (calming music) I tend to go to places that I've been to before that I really enjoy that I know are gonna pull off the type of images that we're trying to create. So, in this case, you know, the Red Mountain Pass is a place that I spend a lot of time, and I just knew with these vehicles it would be a just perfect backdrop for these images that we wanted to create. Light's everything. It's all about the light with photography, so I'm looking for little vignettes where I have beautiful light that's gonna also play into the story that we're trying to tell. So, in this case, you know, it was people having adventures in the mountains and using these vehicles as a gateway to that. And so, I was looking for just beautiful places where we had natural light on the vehicles, and then the background the played into telling that part of the story. I think that's one of the neatest things about being an assistant is you can't see what's going on through the lens, and so you're constantly imagining and trying to predict what's happening, and then to compare that idea to what he actually captures, I've learned to become a photographer myself. When I first started shooting with him, I would be standing right next to him, taking in this amazing scene, and then I would see the images at the end whenever I was working on them, and I would say, "Oh my gosh, where was that?" And I was standing right there whenever he captured it, but I think that's truly the artist in Peter is seeing what can be in a particular location. I do like really thinking about how different lenses are gonna see things, and I think "Oh, you know, that's a 300 shot," or "Oh, that's a 16 millimeter shot." And using those optics to help tell the story that I want, and give that slice of the world, and show it in how I want it to be shown. We've been working together for 20 years now, so I can usually anticipate 80% of what he wants, and then he just has to think about the last little minute adjustments to get exactly the look that he's looking for. We've always traveled around in different vehicles, and I've got this just fetish or whatever of photographing my vehicles in these cool places, 'cause I think that's a big part of the story isn't just that you went there, it's how you got there, and how you continue to spend time in these different environments. And now I'm in a Winnebago View, which is amazing, and I'm always looking to tell that part of the story, just for my own personal history of things that we're doing, because the vehicle is the vehicle that takes you to the things you do in life, and that's really important to me. When it all comes together is when you create a really special image. That's what I'm always trying to do is just make a better image than the last one. All right, so, that's a day in the life of a Winnebago photo shoot. Something we discovered through this whole process was, as the word got out that we were this family traveling around, living this nomadic life in this RV, doing photography and then pursuing all the things that we wanted to do on the side, it got interest. People started asking us, "Hey, let us see your work. "What do you guys do when you're not doing commercial work?" We'd always photographed each other. We'd always made little home videos and whatnot of the things we were doing. But this was the first time that there was actually interest in people seeing those images as far as possible content for marketing campaigns or, you know, social media content, or whatever it might be. And so, it was kind of a shock for a little bit. Like, wow, people really want us to photograph each other doing the things we're doing? And that was really neat, and then the brands that we really use all the time, there's a handful of them, and they started catching word about what we're doing, and they were interested. So, these personal adventures started leading to work in their own right, which was like, I'd never dreamed that would be the case, but I'm actually getting paid to create selfies with my family, and that's really cool, you know? I don't know anybody that's doing that. So, this next video I wanna show you, this is what it's like when we go play, and we happen to photograph a lot in that process. I just can't go anywhere without at least three or four cameras. So, here we are in Zion National Park. We're exploring a slot canyon. This is an amazing place. And here we go. Good job. Yeah. Is it cold? (upbeat music) Oh man, this is awesome. The water's so cold. I'm trying to keep my hands out of it so that they don't freeze. The air seems pretty good. So, this is the big rappel. It is so cool because there are two arches right below me, and I end up in a pool. It's gonna be really neat. It's my favorite part. So, there's ice down in the water. That's pretty cold! Hey, we just finished Pine Creek Canyon in Zion National Park. What a treat that was. Here we go, we're about to walk out of here and go get some food. See you next time. Famagogo out, woo! So, if you've ever seen the bumper sticker that says "My best vacation is your worst nightmare," this might be true for some of you, but this has lead us to the thing that we wanted to do all along that we didn't know what it was is kinda how to make a difference, and maybe this is our way of doing that, and we're calling it Famagogo. Basically, we wanna inspire families to get out and go on adventures. We have a lot of friends who are climbers, and skiers, and paddlers, and all sorts of people, who once they had kids, they kinda quit doing that stuff, and we wanna prove to them that it's possible, you know? You can still get out there with your kids and go and do things, just like you always have. It might be a little different, but you can still do these things. So, that's what Famagogo's all about. It's our, we've got a blog going, and we kinda chronicle a lot of the trips we're on and articles we're writing about that. It's famagogo.com. And then on Instagram, you'll see, those are our handles, you'll see, really, day to day, all these adventures we're going on. There's CreativeLive stuff on there right now, and who knows, next week it'll probably be kayaking and whatever else. So, check those out if you're interested in learning more.

"If you're struggling to figure out the business process of photography, this class is one of the clearest and most concise I've ever seen. If you're experienced but the business side and pricing are eluding you, you will find clarity here. I own at least twenty CreativeLive courses and hands down, this one explains pricing and strategy better than any others I've purchased or watched live." - Julie, CreativeLive Student 
 
Join Kathy Holcombe as she shares techniques and strategies to develop the photography business you desire. Whether you’re making the leap from part-time to full-time or starting your very first business, the amount of work can be overwhelming. From what products to offer, how much to charge, how to pay yourself or the legal considerations - start ups often sink before clients are even booked. Kathy will show you the ways to grow your business from the start. This class will cover: 

  • Defining what product you are selling and how much you should charge to make a living 
  • Photography business basics and how to track your income compared to other businesses 
  • How to write and create your business plan 
Kathy Holcombe and her husband Peter built one of the top wedding portrait studios in Colorado, then jumped in an RV with the entire family and began traveling the country full-time, and added a successful commercial division. Together they have built multiple successful businesses and have honed in on the important factors that every photographer should consider when building a business. 

 
 
 
 

Reviews

  • I started my business a year ago with little formal technical photography education. It's hard to admit but I've been winging it, figuring out each small task that goes with photographing a session, editing one, and working with clients as I go. I may be doing things backwards, but now that I feel like I'm more comfortable in those small, specific parts of business, I need to figure out how to make this business sustainable and profitable. Kathy's class felt perfect for this time in my business to take a step back and look at the bigger picture of what I want to focus on and where I want to go (and how much I want to pay myself!). She uses realistic, specific numbers: something that's SO helpful and I feel like I rarely see in the photography community. And she breaks everything down in an organized and easy to understand way. The classes were easy to follow along with and Kathy's positivity and patient manner is inspiring and motivating. The fact that she used to be a school teacher is clear. Thank you so much Kathy (and the rest of the Holcombes)!
  • I am so glad I was able to attend this course in person and receive all the wonderful and practical information Kathy shared with us. I also really enjoyed the connections with other audience members and side conversations with Creative Live peeps as well as the Holcombe family. What an inspiration this family is--lots of practical info, but also a great pep talk to not sell yourself short and get out there and do what you love, but use sound business practice while doing it. Thanks so much for these incredible two days.
  • Fantastic course! Very helpful instruction and how-to guide for anyone considering starting up a photography business. Kathy was an excellent instructor, with a wealth of knowledge and experience. I gained a good understanding of the practical everyday aspects of running this kind of business, and how to create my own vision.