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Lesson 32 from: Creative Wedding Photography

Susan Stripling

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Lesson Info

32. Marketing

Next Lesson: Final Q&A

Lesson Info


Today we've already talked about workflow and we talked about efficiency and we've talked about you know, getting through your days and your weeks and the years ahead of you with you know the least amount of pain and suffering correct and then we have talked about taking care of your clients how to take them from the first time that they contact you through to trusting you and liking you and liking your products enough to actually retain you to shoot their weddings talking about managing their expectations talking about taking care of them and handling them even after the wedding and then we've moved on to talk about something that is very, very, very difficult for people to talk about which is pricing I not only pricing but finance how do you manage your money? How do you handle your money? You know, how are you making money or you're not making money what's going on in your financial life and as small business owners the nitty gritty of the actual dollars in sense of making money is ...

a very, very very difficult thing to talk about. And so I just wanted to be very honest with what I was doing with what was working for me with what my numbers were and with what my expectations were for myself not only in the past two days as a photographer but today as a business person what what do I expect from myself? And now, now that we've talked about what I need to keep my financial life going, we need to talk about how we actually get those clients in the door and how we get them to find me. And before we even really begin talking about that, I kind of want to talk to you about how the growth of my business went, so I can show why these things are potentially relevant to you. I did start in florida, I know we've mentioned this, I was a wedding photographer, and then I was a wedding in portrait photographer, and then I was a wedding in portrait photographer and studio owner, and then I had employees, and then I had the opportunity to move to new york, and this is where the marketing section comes in, because when I moved to new york, I think like three brides knew I wass on dh they were previous clients from weddings that I'd already shot, so I'm not going into new york throwing the doors open and saying, hey, guys, here I am, you know, I'm now like available for commissions here in new york, it was, oh, god, here I am in a bigger pool than I've ever been in before, and I don't know what to do, and at that point in my career, I did have photographers who knew who I was, and it was very, very, very humbling and it's always an honor to be recognized by somebody in your own industry, but more than that, I really needed clients tto find me and I had no idea how to go about doing that. So to talk about the steps that I went through then and that I still go through now to get clients to find me, this is what I'm doing. The first thing that I'm doing is actively seeking blawg publications. The reason for this is because most of my clients are finding all of their information on the net, even if they're reaching out called it the net that's so archaic sounding even when they're reaching out to family and they're reaching out to friends and co workers to get recommendations about things they're still hitting the internet to number one, keep looking a number two to kind of validate those referrals that have been sent to them. If my name has been given to a client by someone, they're going to vet me first before they're going to contact me, so they're going to do a little bit more research on me and the number of places that my client's confined me, the more places that I'm at on the internet, the more opportunity they have to run across my name. Part of it is that I'm seeking publication on blog's that people that I think might hire me are going to look at and I know it might come as a bit of a surprise is and people but I don't actually have a target client you know, a lot of you all were just like huh ah lot of these classes that you'll go to him courses that you'll go through will attempt to try to get you teo to nail down your target client on a lot of that involves a lot of generals like generalization so if I'm looking for my target client, my target client is one that loves fashion and shops at neiman marcus and um, you know, likes long walks on the beach and is going to buy jimmy choos at her wedding and goes to the spot the four seasons and you're trying to narrow down this target client well, what I've realised over these years I've been in businesses that might target client is one who values photography because I put a label on it and I said my target client you know is one that gets married at the four seasons and that has a black american express card and drives a maserati that I'm alienating the other half of my client base who are just regular good, everyday, hardworking people who really value photography and are willing to pay a premium for it and the luxury good market is very the luxury goods market is very very interesting because you have people middle class lower upper middle class who are willing to stretch their budgets for something that they deem is worth the expense that they look at as an investment and it's an investment that they're willing to make so when I'm looking for a target client I'm looking for someone who values photography and because my clients over the years they range everything from ceos to students people who live with their parents people who own six companies, other wedding photographers you know everything they're all over the place I realized I was trying to pigeonhole them I was just leaving out an enormous wealth of opportunity so when I'm looking at trying to get my workout there I'm actually trying to put it in front of people who love photography which is why and I'm not saying this because christie is here and she's an owner of june bug but because it's true june bug values beautiful photography and when they're featuring their blawg post and when they're finding photographers to feature and weddings to show and work to show the eye for photography is very it's a very carefully curated collection of work and I really appreciate that and there are other belongs out there that I will not name you know what I'm talking about every single wedding on their blawg looks exactly the same what is getting me published on that block going to do for me when I look exactly like the wedding before in the wedding after the problem that I have when I'm looking for blawg publications is that my style doesn't fit a lot of these blog's nowadays um I don't like mason jars you know, most of my clients don't have vintage weddings in the fields with the beautiful cascading southern california mountains mountains, hills you know what I'm talking about rolling away from you and the beautiful sunlit light and everything is pastel and then I you know, poor a yellow tone on top of it and call it a day that's not my style in my cells very dark it's very dramatic it's very honest and I do shoot a lot of weddings that don't have an over abundance of details one of my clients don't care about how many d I y centerpieces did I make they just have beautiful weddings or just lovely and my work is very emotion based. So when I'm looking for things to be published on blog's there aren't a whole lot that are going to pick up and run the type of work that I do and I understand that however I have very closely cultivated relationships with the blog's that do and when I shoot a wedding I know am I going to be able to get this published or am I not I'm not gonna waste my time sending, you know, a beautiful, dark dramatic gothic wedding at the bowery hotel in new york tau a block that specializes in, you know, that sort of whimsical vintage country look it's, that would just be a waste of my time in a waste of their time. So when I'm seeking these publications on these blog's, I'm making very, very, very certain that I'm tailoring what I'm submitting to exactly what they run on their blog's. And when you're going to do these blawg submissions, you need to look at the blog's you need to look at what is their submission process? How do they want to receive the images? It's usually very easy to find, and then taylor your submissions exactly to what they want from you being a size of image but a certain number of images police together and send them out. There is a service called to bright light do any of you? Is that it's a wonderful way for you to put galleries together online and then make editorial sort of submission boards to send out to different magazines? I prefer to send mine in? I don't want to say by hand, but by personal contact like email christie and be like, hey, christy, I got this wedding that I shot. You know, do you think it would be a good fit for you? And sometimes she'll say yes, and sometimes she'll say no, sometimes it's not a good fit for them and that's? Fine, I'll see if I can find it another home. The worst thing that happens to me that makes me extraordinarily uncomfortable is when my clients expect me to be able to get their wedding featured on a blawg that's a very difficult thing on I've had clients getting very, very, very angry with me because they're like, well, I submitted my wedding to start on me pretty, and they wouldn't take it. I'm like, yeah, well, that's not my fault like that's not, but you didn't know it know it just wasn't it wasn't a fit, it would be like me going into anthropology and getting really angry because I can't find a coat that looks like an alexander mcqueen it's, a style mismatch if your wedding doesn't fit the publication that you're looking to have it featured in, don't be mad when it gets turned down. Michelle, I know that for a lot of the block block publications they don't want you to have submitted anywhere else, or even sometimes published on your own block, so like, how much time do you give that holding off? There are a lot of a lot of times if they don't want me to publish it on my own block, it makes me a little uncomfortable because I need to know why there are only a few that hold that exclusive content and if it's something that I really think that by the time it gets featured on a blogger it will be worth the wait I'll be willing tto wait but if some time has gone by and I haven't heard anything back, I will contact back and say, you know where you're gonna take it or you're not gonna take it if you're not gonna take it, I'd love to go ahead and run it you know try to be very careful with that um, art even though I am from so cal like our style doesn't fit that west coast style I love the brighton area than water and chris, every time I attempted, I end up on the darker side and I can't find any block publications really that kind of feature that so I'm a complete mismatch I practically given up on the block publication because of that who have you found other than her e I mean them they are and again I'm not saying this because she's the hostess was actually part of my my thing before even knew she was those they are to me the premiere wedding blawg that puts the beautiful imagery at a premium and I feel like they're they're willing to look at all different types of weddings um it's it's something that I have considered in my own business future something like that so I wouldn't be terrifically too surprised if, you know, I were to think of something I don't know, maybe like that, but that's, neither here nor there, if you can't find a blogger, that isn't, you know, if you can find a block that's the right fit for you, don't burn yourself out on trying to get it featured there, but there are also other blog's that you could consider it like if you shoot a really great vera wang dress, maybe hit up the dress designer and look at their blawg the shoe designer look at their blawg. What about, you know, you shoot a really great wedding and it's not, you know, not something that's going to catch the eye of a wedding blawg viewer? What about the wedding planner? You know, see if she'll put it on her block or even the florist on their blawg or on, you know, your local, you know, town's blawg, right? Like you might want to seek out different avenues for if you shoot a destination wedding and it's not gonna work for like destination weddings and honeymoons magazine. What about a blogger for, you know, a travel agency there or, you know, look a little further than just wedding blog's you might start finding really interesting different channels out which you could put out your work and when I'm done shooting a wedding when I'm completely done when my deliverer bals are all done to my client and I don't mean all done is in like their album is there in their hands but when their wedding is edited when it is on line when it has been delivered to them when they have seen their digital files that's when I then reach back out to the vendors and it's another thing to hearken back a little bit that I you shoot you for in the relationships I don't have just the bride and just the groom I'll put in the wedding planner open in the florist I'll put in the band and a lot of times I don't have these things until I have the actual schedule of the day when it says who all of the vendors are all go plug them into my chute q database so that I could then, you know, go into my relationships and I could look at firefly events and then I could see okay, firefly events has been a contact for all of these different weddings, so maybe after I've shot six weddings with firefly events, they getting albums for a compilation album or flowers? You know what I mean? Like it's helping you stay on top of those things. Or maybe you don't have just one wedding that would really work for, like a vera wang blawg. But all of a sudden you've got, like, ten, and then you pull a compilation and send them all to her. So it's after the wedding, when I look at all of these vendors, I think, how can I capitalize on my relationship with all of these vendors? You know, what can I send them that will be useful to them and then also turn around and be useful to me and it's? Certain things like making sure I get back in touch with every single one of them that I can. Because every photographer takes the business card and promises to send images. I am the photographer that actually send the images. It helps that it says in folio that I can send them the link and I can say, listen, download what you need, please credit me. Um, if you use them in an ad if you use them on your facebook page, please give the credit to me and then I joke, I'm like, don't make me see my picture in an ad and have to send you a commercial invoice smiley face because, as you know, you know, professional business advice, if you end anything with a smiley face or started with with all due respect, then you know, you just be a nice about something terrible you're about today, so I'm like, oh, no, you know, don't make me send you a commercial invoice just give me a little credit and I've so far, you know, found very few instances with which they've kind of abused the vendor download privilege, so I am reaching back out to them, I'm reaching back out toe all of them, not just the coordinator, not just the venue, not just, you know, the dress designer, but they rented a vintage cab I'm going to reach out to them and see if I can give them some images for their purposes. Every place I conglomerate my images after a wedding, I'm going to do it, which would actually include publication in magazines. I know that magazines aren't necessarily a things so much anymore, but people are still reading them, so I will still look around for the few weddings a year that I think might be a really good fit with a magazine. I will approach the magazine and see if they might be interested in something like that and maybe it's, not necessarily, as I said before, just a wedding magazine maybe it's a you know your local santa barbara you know tourism magazine or you know that the local paper or maybe it's a story about the venue and you can use your wedding images to help illustrate that story you have to think beyond just you know, is the wedding good enough for a wedding blawg who else might be interested in the content of these images above and beyond all of that including blog's, including magazines including websites including any presence on the web who in your relationships on that day can you reach out to and what in the surroundings of the things that you've shot might be interested in looking at those images for something above and beyond? How is the internet feeling about that? I saw a couple of nods and some frantic typing coming from your side of the room I just it's such a topic that's so close to my heart I I wanted was some questions as well and I can but it's not my works up, so we oh no, but I think everything you said was great. We're getting awesome feedback here from the internet as well. One really hot topic that I'm super interested to hear your thoughts on camilla bank binks wants to know do you pin your own work on pinterest and I'd love to know just what do you think of pinterest and general for your work I dupe in my own work on pinteresque and if you go and you find my pinterest you'll see that it's kind of shockingly incomplete but it's been something that I've been working on especially in like the past six weeks as I tried to build a better pin trust library of things but I'm attempting to do it as a resource for my clients so I have like a pinterest board that says weddings at the bowery hotel so then I go in and I pin the images from the bowery hotel that I've shot that I think will be relevant to brides planning their wedding at the bowery hotel hoping that when they hit pinterest hoping that when they hit the web they'll find these things and it will lead them back to me so I don't just pin susan stripling is awesome these are my awesome pictures just into a pinterest board for like no reason whatsoever I'm going I'm attempting to start doing resource boards for clients ideas of what they could wear for their engagement session you know veils that I've shot that I really like and it is a very weak offering that I have out there right now but on my list of things that I'm working on over the next year is to make those more robust as a resource not as ah you know, shameless shiny marketing tool I mean it is but cloaked as a resource and you know why people harp on pinterest all the time and it's very easy to become a pinteresque hater but pinterest is pretty excellent like when you get right down to it it's pretty freaking phenomenal like I use it I have no problems with it it's just people who take it and turn it into you know the dark force of evil for all of the wrong reasons but it it is a incredible resource for what it is and it would be very helpful if I actually sat down and harnessed it for what it could do for me but like I said, if you go look you'll see that my boards are incomplete but they are in construction I could lie to you until you have the best pinterest library ever and you will find out in five seconds that I do not at all any other questions from the internet about publications any or from our friends in the studio audience well, throw one out there did you at any point pay for advertising in like actual print? Certainly okay, I will if I find that it is something that will benefit me and by benefit me I mean maybe not necessarily to go directly to the clients, but sometimes I will pay for listings or advertisement to keep myself in front of the other vendors as well like as a reminder of hey, I'm still here or other vendors know exactly what you've paid for your full page ad it's pretty impressive I do I pay for a listing on style me pretty in the hamptons and in philadelphia it garners me a lot of leads and not that many bookings um but I also keep myself out there because I know that these listings are hard to come by, you know they do on ly feature a couple of people in each region of which there are now like a thousand, but I keep my name on there just to keep myself out there because it is a good it's a place that a lot of people start looking for people at it's it's a good starting point I pay for a listing on june bug I've noticed that on june bug the inquiry's turn into booking is more often than they do with a style me pretty listing um I paid for a few other online listings that after my six months um not only were they not turning into any bookings, they also weren't generating any enquiries whatsoever, so I just sort of had to realize that wasn't really you know, I've made some bad decisions about that used to be with the knot I'm not going with the not anymore that's funny if you look at new york wedding photographers on the not what I would have to pay to stay all the way at the top of that it would be way more money than I would ever see in a return from that advertisement um currently I don't have any ads in magazines right now I used to and it's actually something I've been considering doing again um simply because I just want to put my name right back out there again but it's expensive so I'm doing what I was talking to you before about trying to figure out if something is a worthwhile expenditure or not I'm sort of running the numbers on how many weddings would I have to book to make this ad that I'm considering taking out a worthwhile investment and I'm not entirely comfortable with it just yet but I'm still tinkering with the numbers to see if I want to put something in like new york wedding magazine or philadelphia wedding magazine but I haven't made a decision yet I'm very, very very gun shy and nervous with my advertising money because it sze expensive if I'm going to do an adam and do a full page out I don't want to do a quarter page ad that's like a with the ad I want to do like a big gun ad and so I need to see if the thousands of dollars that it's going to cost me to put in this full page ad or going to give me multiple thousands of dollars in bookings to really justify it so I'm not entirely certain if that's a smart idea or not, how about facebook ad sean wants to know if you what if you pay for them and what images you would put on them and how you manage that? Well, I've run some facebook ads probably over a period of about six to eight months I experimented with facebook ads and they never turned into enquiries or bookings. What I generally do with facebook is all promote my posts if I have a really strong wedding or if I'm doing something like coming on creative live or going somewhere really interesting often anywhere from fifty to a few hundred dollars to promote the post and that's trying to get the word out to photographers instead of clients. However, I have, like seventeen thousand likes on my facebook page and clients find that impressive. So paul, what I'm doing here isn't directly turning into booking brides it's upping my profile in the industry which sort of ups what clients think of me when they get to see my resume, you know it helps that I have longevity, it helps that my peers think that I'm someone worth turning tio and when you see these page like so I'm never going to do anything like by paige likes or anything like that like this easy ads that promise like thousands of likes but I will promote my posts and what that generally does it gets your work out there to people who like your page and their friends so my clients and their friends see it and then photographers and their friends see it michelle um facebook versus blog's so I kind of struggled with us, of course which one do I post first? What do I do? Because I studied the numbers and it seems I've gotta destroy it somewhere I don't even know how much work I should put into my facebook post anymore it's like who do I tag? How much do I tag? How do I talk? You know? So I let see I usually blawg first because it's easiest and if we're being perfectly honest, it's the bookmark before facebook on my bookmarks bar so I hit it first but usually, well, it's true usually I blogged first because when I'm blogging, I'm going to collect all of the names and links to all of my vendors and that's why I'm going to sort of make my list of who's facebook page I'm going to hit with my facebook post when I belong and I know that any of you who have looked at my blog's will notice I don't write about the weddings that I shoot and there there's a very, very, very calculated marketing reason behind why I do that I read a lot of fashion vlogs and there were a lot of fashion bloggers that omg went shopping with my b f f and got the sweater and uh and then there's one that I really like this just like this is what I look like and just post the pictures and is done with it and when I go into those and I read them in the first one I get lost in the o m g and the b f f and in the second one I go straight to the pictures I'm looking at what she's wearing and at the very bottom she has little tags to everything she's wearing and it's about the clothes so when I blogged it's about the work it's not about the fact that david and naomi had a love like no other love that is a love that will transcend the love that no other love has ever loved do you know what I mean and then what do you do when the wedding didn't have a love that transcends you know every other love and it's always awkward when you can read a photographer's blawg post and you're like yeah that was not it good one you know what I mean and there's I don't want to hurt my client's feelings and be like you know this was the best wedding I've ever been to this was the most awesome thing ever and then they're gonna be like that I thought you liked my wedding hmm and I'm a good writer it's not that I'm not a good writer actually in a very good writer, I just choose to not right on my block post at all, so I go to the block post at the very top I have a list of all of the vendors and links to their site I generally blawg anywhere between like fifteen and forty pictures depending on the day on a lot of times it's a direct correlation to how long the day wass or how elaborate the weekend wass toe what I show um from there I go over and I facebook the exact same images that I blawg if I'm friends with the bride, I don't friend my clients if they happen to friend me, I'll tag them in the pictures, but I don't try to get my clients to friend me on facebook that's not really something that I'm wanting to do, and sometimes they kind of have a hard time finding me because my personal last name is different than my business last name I kind of like it that way, but if they have, we have been kind of friendly and they have friended me on facebook, I will tag them when I blogged, I'll list, you know, I'll tag the place that the wedding was in, like when you can choose the location, I'll choose that and then as soon as I'm done facebooking everything, I'll take that facebook album and I'll hit every single one of those vendors that I worked with. It was really great working with you at chiara and peter's weeding wedding in newport, you know, your cake was beautiful. Thank you so much for finding me a piece at the end of the night. You know, I hope to work with you again in the future post a link to the facebook album I like their page, and I move on to the next bender so that way I put that facebook album on every single one of those vendors pages, and that just leaves them all right back to me again. Um lt wants to know if you ever do bridal fairs or wedding shows did you ever in the past? Yes, absolutely. And I think a lot of that is largely a geographic sure sort of where are you? Is that a big thing in your area? New york, new jersey, philadelphia there really isn't a bridal fair that directly correlates tio my clients like my clients, generally tend to don't they tend to not go to bridal fairs and they have so many vendors at them, I don't just want to be one, you know, one other cog in the big wheel, and they're also incredibly expensive. When I was in florida I used to go to the bridal fair there every single year it was very reasonably priced and everybody went because there was just one so that's something that you have to look at in your own area where you're at do people go to these things like our bridal fair is a thing where you are and if they are a thing where you are is it something that your clients would go to and even above and beyond that if it's not necessarily something that you're appliance go to is it something that other vendors that we work with going to go to so sometimes maybe your presence at the bridal fair is not necessarily to get clients toe look atyou but to reassert your position in the industry to the other vendors and one thing I would just recommend that you do is if you're not going to take a booth at a bridal fair don't go to a bridal fair and start introducing yourself to the other vendors as a photographer it's just a little tacky and it's not necessarily the best venue to start networking in that sort of way unless you are like a booth display as well kind of frowned upon other questions about relationships and not relationships with the news we haven't gotten there yet but publications and getting your name out there and everything we've talked about thus far we do have another question related to that from sean how important you feel like video is in the marketing do use video yourself video promo tze no, no, no I hot button topic I mean, listen, there are a lot of photographers who have videos of themselves on their site visit about mears about my work, I think it's not my clients don't need to see a video of me if my work isn't enough to get them to pick up the phone and call me or it's not enough to get them to fill out the inquiry form on my website, I don't need a high production video of myself skipping on the beach or walking my dog to get a client to look at me, it's just and it's also my my demographic, my client, my geographical area would look at that and be like, what she's doing like it just it wouldn't work in the region that I'm in, and if I were looking for somebody like that, I would be like, when did you have the time to do this video? You know what I mean? But for a lot of people it works extraordinarily well. For me it would it would sort of reek of inauthenticity and that's, not something that I'm comfortable with it at all, and I think that when you're looking at putting yourself out on the web you're blawg your facebook page, your twitter account, whatever it is that you're using as your social persona on the web, it needs to really be you, because if it's not really, you wired me putting on a face for people. I mean, this is literally exactly what I'm like my husband watching this at home and my parents will attest, I mean, this is how I talk, this is what I'm like if you meet me at a convention, this is what you're going to meet. If you work with me at a wedding, this is what I'm like, so but you have to filter yourself, right? Like, you're not going to see me talk about politics on twitter or facebook because I just I don't necessarily feel like that's really the time or place for it, because so many of my clients look at my social media because so many photographers look at my social media, I don't want to get into my angry political reviews, and I'm not gonna talk to about religion and I applaud you if you have a beautiful faith, it is a wonderful thing to have but that's, not something that I feel comfortable, including in my business, so my clients have no clue what religion I am they don't need to know if I believe in god that's just how I feel. About it, I see people who incorporated beautifully into their marketing, their faith, their politics, their feelings about social event, I take pictures at weddings, that's I mean, that's what I want to show you not, you know, my my belief of all of those things, so she'll notice I'm very quiet around election times, facebook I mean, except, listen, if you lose your mind on facebook, I'm probably going to unfriend you because I just don't I don't need to read that, but I'm very, very careful, and I'm not trying to say that I'm keeping it totally white bread. I just don't want to get out there and start spewing angry political beliefs or things like that on the internet, and I'm very careful if something's going on in the industry that's a little hot button or it's a little scandalous, is that something that I want to put my hands on? Is that something that I want to get my name involved in? I've absolutely no problem saying that spray and pray is the dumbest thing I've ever heard ever, but I'm not going to be that person on twitter who is like yes, so and so's business is stupid or making snotty comments about other people, because it's, disrespectful and it's none of my business um I am a little angry and quick with the retweet button trying to rein myself back in with that because you know, I have I made social gaffes with that I have and I'm a little hotheaded and sometimes all click it to agree on something or click to retweet something that maybe I should have best you know stayed out of that I have no dog in that fight, so you have to think when you're going to put yourself out there on facebook when you're going to put yourself out there on twitter, how are you going to present yourself? Are you going to be authentic to who you are? Are you comfortable sharing how you feel about hot button things like politics and religion to people who may or may not be hiring you? How much of your personal life do you want to share on the internet for me? Not a whole lot like I you know, fortunately and unfortunately my husband is in the same industry that I'm in and he does have a beautiful reputation and a lovely following in the industry that were in and he's an incredible educator you know he speaks, he teaches he does workshops I mean his last workshop sold so beautifully that he actually I had to open up a new workshop in november to fill his waiting list and that's absolutely incredible he's probably the single best hands on instructor I've ever met and I don't just say that because I love somebody, sweetie. Uh, and you know what? Wait, when my wedding rolled around, I did have to think how much of this do I want to show to you? You know? And and I love you in or not, but you're not my friends, you know, you're not if I if I murder someone, I'm not gonna call you to help me bury the body. You know what I mean? Like there's there's your friends and there's your plane tenses and then then then there's your internet friends and I have to be very careful about what I do let kind of close into my heart and I chose to share my wedding images out there because it was very personal to me and I was very humbled by every single person who stepped in to make it happen, and I wanted to share the work that they had done, and also it was there with my friends and it was really fun and we had a hashtag and it was really kind of cool, so yeah, and do I take pictures of my kids and put them on instagram? I do, but I'm not sharing the intimate details of my children's life on the web that's not my place for my business so I'm very careful in letting people in a little being very honest and often like authentic about it, but at the same time, when the business day is over and I go home and I close my doors, you can't come home with me. You know, my relationship with my husband is three percent photography and ninety seven percent my marriage, and you don't get to be a part of that. So I'm very, very careful about putting enough out there to be relatable and personable and honest let people feel like they're in a little bit, but, you know, they're not going to bed with me at night, right? Like there's there's definitely a very careful segment between those two things I feel very strongly about that there is moving to a new location, and then they're surviving when you're in the new location and we'll talk about moving to the new location first, I'll tell you what I did when I moved to new york when I first moved to new york and I saw it coming, I had a several month lead time before I actually moved, and what I did in that lead time was I reached out to my clients who had been clients in florida who had been client, sort of throughout the u s who lived in new york. And I said, hey, you know it's you know a long time no see, I just want to let you know I'm actually moving to new york and the next couple of months you it's been a while since I've seen you and I'd love to catch up you know, I saw you had a baby yeah, you know, if you need some family pictures, you know ha ha you know, I'm your girl, that sort of thing and I also just want to let you know that I'm here in case any of your friends are getting married locally I know it would have been really hard to refer me when I was in florida I would love it if you kept me in mind if any of your friends air headed down the aisle anytime soon so I did that second of all, I reached out to photographers and this is where a lot of people when I tell this story or like, yeah, well, of course you reached out the photographers photographers would love to refer to you like, who wouldn't love to refer to you who in the world would want to refer to someone who can't refer back? I don't care who I am when I moved to new york and I have weddings in new york what am I gonna refer to you? None of my dates are booked so I had to reach out to photographers that I knew casually and even photographers that I had never met before and say, listen hi, I'm susan stripling you know, maybe I've met you if either maybe I met you at a convention or our paths of crossed or you don't know me at all, but I really love your work you know, I'm we get these emails like I get thes e mails now and I have to remember that five years ago I was in that place and I said, you know, I'm coming to new york I'm moving there I would really appreciate it if you would give me some consideration when you're booked for weddings if you would consider referring something to my is something my way that would be really wonderful I'm going to be completely honest with you I'm new to the area I don't have a very heavy calendar, but if you take a look at my work if you are able to refer to me, I promise you that I will be able to work. I will refer back to you as soon as I am able. A lot of people never emailed me that never who are three people emailed me back and we're like, you know, if the people that we normally refer aren't they aren't available, you know? Yeah, we'll toss some your way and that helped me get my foot in the door too. You know, maybe two, maybe three clients. I am fortunate that I'm married to someone who is in the same industry that I'm in and that we can help each other back and forth. That's a blessing that I definitely, you know, don't take for granted in any way, shape or form, but I had to start reaching out to people. Luckily, I had a portfolio that I was able to say listen, look at this portfolio. I'm I'm going to book weddings here. I promise. And I promised to give them back to you if you could help give them to me. But a lot of people I said no. Are you? No, no, thanks, but we already have people that we refer to and I was like that's cool that's no big deal that's. Fine. So as I was moving on and I started moving to new york, I was very fortunate that my current clients were like, oh, my god, you're here, thank god my best friend's getting married I can refer you your local and that helped me get through my very first year there, but my first year was very painful because I was still having to pay on my own dime to fly back to florida and shoot all of the weddings that I had booked in florida before I knew about my move because there's no way my clients are going to pay my travel fees if I was living in florida when they booked me so I had to eat all of that so the very first year that I was in new york of the twenty six, two, twenty eight weddings that I had while I was there like eight of them were in new york and I had to bring myself back home for the rest of them and those eight we're literally following other photographers and my current clients around like a puppy saying do you know anybody who's getting married you know, anybody who's getting married and I haven't felt like that since the first year that I was in business and a feeling sucked was not a good feeling it was creepy was also two thousand eight so like thie economy was phenomenal and I thought I don't know if I'm gonna be able to do this and luckily those eight clients that I shot in new york I was able to really take you know, take good care of them get my foot in the door to some of those venues and start going back however ifyou're absolutely totally and completely brand new in an area and you don't know anybody you have to start building yourself from the absolute ground up what I would do if I moved to an area and I did not know a single photographer is I would start going to venues and volunteering for them hi um ritz carlton sarasota I am you know my name susan stripling I'm a new photographer in town like I know you get thes e mails all the time I just want to let you know if you're having any in house events that you need any photography for it all you know I've been to your hotel I've eaten dinner there it's absolutely beautiful I would love to work with you guys if you've got anything going on that you need pictures for at all you know I would love to come in and just do this for you as a courtesy getting your foot in the door so let's say they ignore that okay well then I'm going to go to model may him and I'm going to try to find somebody that I might be able to shoot I'm gonna get a really pretty girl in a really cute guy who will be willing to get dressed up in wedding clothes for me and I'm gonna go back to the rich girl and I'm gonna say hey guys I've got some clients they're not getting married here but they really want to do a portrait session here can you let me know what your policies are about you know onsite portrait sessions if they're not getting married here is there, of, you know, a rental fee, you know, do we have to pay any sort of permit to shoot here? Then I'm gonna take my clients there. I'm going to shoot on the grounds of the ritz carlton and then to go back to the ritz carlton and say, oh my gosh, my client's love the space. It was beautiful, we were able to get some really incredible images here. I would love to give them to you for your marketing purposes if you need them because of venue is going to see straight through your desperate plea to get onto their vendor list, you have to show them that you can be an asset to them. You have to show them that what you will give to them, we'll get them something, right? Be it an album or their files or maybe a pre shoot here and there for something the vendors that are very good to me. I am very good too. I will shoot styled shoots for them for free. I will photograph the opening of their store for free. I'm about to go to a bridal shop that's um, coordinators that I really love opened up in philadelphia and shoot a model in a dress in their shop, and I'm not going to charge them for it because I know that they're going to take those images and they're going to put them everywhere in those images are going to have my name on them. So it's it's kind of like kind of liking started in acting when you have, when you don't have an agent, you don't have a job, and you're just going to audition after audition and call back after call back, and you just go, go, go, go, go! You have to keep putting yourself out there and maybe it's going to that bridal fair, maybe it's looking at your prices and backing off on them a little bit so that you could get a foot in the door. When I went to new york, I did not raise my prices, even though I was going into a market that really could have taken a price raise. I can't. My price is exactly what they were like in florida it's kind of hurt, but it helped me get my foot in the door. I would start looking at things other van, necessarily wedding things. I would join the local small business. I would join the local chamber of commerce. I would join a frigging book group at the library, I would I I mean, you laugh, but I would do anything that would get me into a group of people what do you do when you move to a town for the first time and you don't have any friends? You go out and you find ways to make friends how do you put yourself in front of other small business owners? I feel like if you're really just looking for wedding stuff like you're trying to push yourself in front of wedding people the whole time again like we're talking about publications, you're really limiting yourself there's a hole set of other people out there that you could meet you know, maybe you go to a small business thing with your local chamber of commerce and you meet a web designer that knows somebody who's getting married or maybe you meet a boat web designer and you become friends and a year later they get engaged like maybe the guy you sit next to on the plane going home is getting married next year you never know when you're going to meet your next client. So for me right now I'm having a real struggle with the fact that I need to get out there in new york a little bit more and making pretty good headway throughout philadelphia working weddings there the vendors are very friendly getting to know them getting products to them there have been vendors who have really risen to the top as people who are going to get jobs to me now if they were refer a job to me, they know that I'm going to do a beautiful job for their clients let them use the images which will then let them promote their work that will get them the next client that I can shoot images for it it becomes a wonderful beneficial circle for both of us, but if I don't have that, all I'm doing is chipping away and chipping away and chipping away until that cream starts to rise up to the top and it's very, very, very frustrating I've been in new york for we're going on five, five and a half years now and I've only barely started to scratch the top of the surface I know that I could be doing a whole lot better but that's when you have to figure out well going out and aggressively networking myself either be inauthentic to me or is it going toe dramatically infringe upon my personal life? That's the big one for me is that I have my daughter's monday afternoon to friday morning and that's not enough time. I wish I had my daughters every day well, maybe not every day I mean they're little let's be real no, but I would love my children in my life and in my home every single day of the week um preferably during the school year but every single day of the week how much of that am I willing to give up to go out and network with other vendors? You know, if I've only got them four nights a week um I'm going to give up one of those precious four nights to go to a party for a vendor or to go to a networking event I'm not comfortable with that, so I'm desperately trying to chip my way through this very difficult market without going toe all of those things without oh, are you going to come to the big, not party? No, I'm not like I no pun intended like I'm going to stay at home with my daughters, so I'm frantically trying to cram in networking and shooting weddings friday through sunday as best I can, so I'm not losing any time with them that's not to say that I'm not going to take a coordinator out to lunch during the middle of the day or go do a venue visit in the middle of the day, but I am really desperate to not lose any of the time that I have with my kids they're only little ones and like I said, my family comes first, so I'm not, you know, not so thrilled with the idea of getting a baby sitter for a night and going all the way into the city to network I don't know how does the internet feel about that there's a couple of questions do you water mark your copyright on the images that you give to venues or vendors? No now yes and no, I lied the ones that go on their facebook page and if they want images for their blog's I will put a watermark on them I don't ask that they respectfully not remove them, but if they're going to run them in an ad if they're going to put them in a magazine if they're going to go in a publication I just want credit and I'm not saying you know that you should bend unfold and do whatever the vendor wants you to but sometimes you also have to consider your relationship with them and how much of that control are you willing to give up for a relationship? That's you know beneficial excuse me, um, have you ever used a consultant to help you with your marketing or any of your branding efforts? Um, yes and no my marketing efforts no, I haven't ever hired you an advertising firm, our consultant to help me with that way back very early on in like probably years five to seven of my business, I did work with someone who used to help kind of aggressively pursue publication in magazines for me and I would pay her when she was able to find me a space in a magazine but then when it really turned overto online content and she wanted to be paid for finding me balog features it wasn't really necessarily the best financial decision for me so I stopped working with her I d'oh I did rebrand and I hired a team to rebrand me, but the vision behind the brie brand was all my own I pulled everything together I knew exactly what I wanted I knew what I wanted to portray with it and when it comes down to that it was simply a matter of finding a team that was able to execute the vision and I've been working with infinite design way back since oh five I think they've done every rebrand, every sight, every blawg site for me um and they just get me so part of that when you're looking for someone, whether you're branding for the first time where you're rebranding, you need to decide do I have enough of a vision to tell the designer that I'm going to work with what I want? And once I find night that designer that I want to work with is that designer going to even understand my vision? And if you're having a really hard time branding yourself there's absolutely nothing wrong with reaching out to a consulting firm to a design firm to someone that specializes in that help you I really feel like are really nailed it with my most recent rebrand and that was something that wass eleven years in the making and once we started the project when we finish the project was like a year, you know, it was me going back and forth with them of this is what I wanted to feel like and gathering I used pinteresque to gather an inspiration board of colors and feels and textures and designs and if you are working with any designer worth their salt they'll know what to ask you to provide to them, you know, going to a designer and saying, you know, I mean, I just kind of wanted to feel like anthropology like that doesn't really leave you a whole lot to go on we were very specific with what we wanted my sight to feel like and I was providing inspiration and then they were providing feedback and it was going hand in hand but that's after eleven years of being in business, so if you're really struggling with you don't know which way to go you don't know what the best vision for you is and that's something that you're having a hard time with by all means look for a professional that can help you with that I think that's fantastic to have that fourth ought to do something like that cool and when you're looking for referrals with other photographers cm photo wants to know if you look for people who are like you style are similar to your style or I'm looking for people who are in my price range more often than not and sometimes it's actually very, very helpful toe have someone on your referral list that isn't your style like if a client or or an enquiry will come to me and say, you know what? We've really looked at your work, but I don't know I think we just really want something a little lighter maybe a little softer a little more romantic you know it is there anyone that you could refer that's what I'm gonna pull out like a ho xavier or elizabeth messina referral? I'm not going to send someone who wants a style like mind to jose or elizabeth how I'm going to refer over to them because they would be a very good style match, but in my area, the photographers I refer to the most my husband jen jeff mosher, todd laugh lor danny weiss we're all heather were rocks, but we're all in about the same price range, so I know that I am not referring to somebody who's going to be like astronomically out of their budget and it's a really hard thing to find photographers to refer to you if you don't know anybody or if you're new in business, I would recommend if you want someone to refer to you maybe throw some referrals their way first you know hey, I'm I'm so sorry I'm booked on september twenty fourth I would really love it if you checked out todd laugh lawyers work it's really interesting his reception work is really extraordinary you know I think that you'd be a really good fit and you know by all means tell him that I sent you and then you might get a really interesting email from todd laugh lor that says I don't know who you are but thank you for the wedding I mean todd never emailed me that but I'm just saying you know, I've had photographers that I don't know where for weddings to me and it's wonderful like that's a really great thing and it makes me say wow like what can I do to help you next time around so you know if you go after a photographer if you're going after a venue or a vendor and you just have that cheap perfume reek of desperation right? Yeah right you know what I'm talking about they're going to smell it on you and I mean if you think of think of a high end wedding decorator someone like like a preston bailey how many times a day does preston bailey you know, get all of these people emailing him over and over and over again and wanting and wanting and wanting from him if you want preston bailey tow want you, you have to give him something that will start a mutually beneficial relationship with him. And just look at this. You know what I did. You look like you're under ofay, but preston bailey is a genius, desperately name dropping president daily, hoping that he will call. I worked with his team before once, a very long time ago, and he is, I mean, he's, brilliant he's, one of those people that are such a figurehead in the industry, and then you work with them, like a david tutera working with him. He is a glorious human being who is right in there with his team, you know, putting the flower arrangements on the tables and climbing the ladders and doing their jobs. And, you know if if, if you get a chance to work with someone who really blows you away, cultivating that relationship is going to be beneficial for both of you.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Gear List.pdf
Susan Stripling Presentation Slides

Ratings and Reviews


Outstanding, one of the best courses on Creative Live. Wow! The delivery is sharp, on point, and focused. I've learned tons. There are so many gems I've watched this video many times and have now purchased more videos from Susan Stripling. Outstanding presenter. My photography has already improved greatly by implementing some of the techniques shown.

a Creativelive Student

The content of the course was perfectly taught at a "real" level. Susan's work clearly, speaks for itself, but her willingness to be so generous with her knowledge is fantastic. She has become an instant favorite of mine and her style is truly special and unique. The course was reasonably priced and I am beyond thrilled that I have taken the time to learn from one of the best in the industry. INCREDIBLE course in every way!!


I Loved this course. I would definitely take another course by Susan Stripling. Her images are beautiful. She has the posing, timing, lighting, mood, etc. all down perfectly and makes amazing, beautiful pictures. She is an excellent communicator as a teacher too.

Student Work