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The Importance of Relationships

Lesson 26 from: Family Photography: Creating a Successful Business

Kirsten Lewis

The Importance of Relationships

Lesson 26 from: Family Photography: Creating a Successful Business

Kirsten Lewis

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Lesson Info

26. The Importance of Relationships


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


What Makes a Picture Successful?


Technical Tips: ISO


Technical Tips: Aperture


Technical Tips: Shutter Speed


Technical Tips: Focus


Using Light to Tell a Story


Using Composition to Tell a Story


Lesson Info

The Importance of Relationships

I'm very excited to have Marie here. She's with Fearless and Framed and like I said, she knows a whole lot more about business especially targeting your local market much better than I do. Although I'm trying to get better at it. And with working with students that live and work in the same area, I've become better but you are the all knowing. So I think that having you hear and us talking about it is gonna be really beneficial to everybody. Thank you and I definitely don't think of myself as guru but a contributor of the conversation because there are so many of you that I've worked with and I learn a lot from you guys. Between what's working and what's not and I'm able to filter that back into helping other people. We have a lot of overlapping students. Yes, we do. And we send some students to each other, which is really nice. Yeah, so what I really hope to dive into today is really just bring a refreshing conversation into the topic of marketing. And specifically, using the vo...

ice that you already have inside of your photos into your marketing message as opposed to saying, hi I'm open for business. Want to book a session? Because it seems like that message gets lost as soon as we turn the I'm in business sign on. So yeah, let's talk business. One of the things that I learned about ten years ago from another business that I was in is that marketing and gathering up clients is both a numbers game and a relationship game. Prior to getting that little nugget of knowledge I was just looking at everybody as a potential client and trying to tell them what I do and how I can help and say, what do you think? Want to book a session with me? And I wasn't really establishing relationships. And when you come across as that vibe, that's when you start to feel like a sales person. And I know you guys are probably like, I don't want to feel like I'm trying to sell my services to every person that I'm coming, encountering. And when I heard it's a numbers game and a relationship game, I started focusing on building relationships, accumulating numbers, quantity that way, and then you're turning cold leads into warm leads. And then you position, after you provide value and it doesn't even have to be value, like being all content creating all the time, but just being a genuine, caring, compassionate human and really letting what lights you up lead your conversations, people respond to that. And then you set your self up into this position to where you can sell to them, sell to them the opportunity to book a session with you, or to take a workshop with you, or to buy some awesome products from you. Whether it's your albums or wall gallery or whatever. And so we're literally gonna dive into what that means because I know that's probably not so clear right now. So when you focus on both, you're setting your business model up for success. And I see so many people who come to me and they're like nobody wants a documentary session in my area or I'm too expensive or whatever and they are adjusting their prices and their websites and all the things that you can control like a zillion different times. But if you can get really crystal clear on your marketing message, it does not matter what kind of business model you have because people are buying into you, which is what you really want. So you'll feel not only like you have more clients that you are aligned with, but they're gonna feel more like your best clients. And you know that difference when there's a client that was like meh, that was great to work with. There's something that, if you've heard me speak before, you've heard me say that to be the chef of your business instead of the order taker. And if you approach marketing really well in the beginning with your message, then you can be that chef. And so you'll get more of your best clients. So what I see happening is when people, photographers, are like I'm marketing my business all the time and just, I hear nothing. Nobody is responding. When I ask them what actions they're taking, they are often showing their work on Facebook and Instagram and I hear things, we'll get into buzzwords in a minute, but I hear these consistent sayings all the time, like let me tell your story. Let's preserve these memories right now. And then they have a photo. And I'm gonna give you guys a little bit of tough love but if it's not a super strong photo, you need some stronger words to help people understand that photo and what you can serve them with. So I see people sharing photos online in this like, look what I can do for you, kind of a way. And you're really just telling them with empty words and there's no focus on the number side at all because you're just focused on bookings, bookings, bookings. And when I say numbers, that's accumulating not Facebook fans and vanity metrics, but a network of people who really trust and believe in what you're doing and people who know why you do what you do. So these are different buzzwords. Can you guys identify with some of these things? These are like these trendy words that we see. I say them all the time myself. They're just kind of what goes out of us really easily in our marketing. Let me tell your story, preserve your story. I've also heard, my friends. I remember when I started my journey in documentary photography. I was like, "I wanna do documentary sessions "and I really want to help people preserve this time "in their life." And she's like, "Oh yeah, yeah. "Lifestyle, candid stuff." So people interchange these words. I know we hear that kind of a thing all the time. So I started to realize at one point that how I introduced what I do makes a difference in how the person perceives what I do. So I stopped putting a label on what I do, and rather started telling them why. So I'm gonna show you a couple of photos just as a couple of examples. So this picture here was one that has this whole backstory behind it. My husband had a friend over from out of town for the weekend and we were all hanging out outside. My kids were actually in the back of Dave's friend, Adam's pickup truck because it's so cool to be up in the back of a pickup truck and a thunderstorm rolled in. So instead of just going inside, Dave grabbed Kendall, my daughter, first under the arm and ran her around the house in the pouring rain and then dumped her off. Picked up Levi and ran him around in the pouring rain and so I started to tell that story and tell people that this is what I want pictures of. So I kind of show them the backstory, rather than just saying let me tell your story. Because they can't really read that. But if you can meet them in the middle with a story that is special to you and you can show how it was in a picture, then they can be like, "Oh, okay I get it." and they're hooked. And this picture, I started, I participated in a couple of groups this year that were not in the photography world at all and we were challenged to do a Facebook live to introduce ourselves and tell about our business. And I have this in a print that was like a 12x or something, kind of big. And I started introducing myself online, not as I'm a documentary family photographer, but leading with that story. And I have a small amount of people that I really connected to just from those two groups that have now said, you have shown me how pictures can change your life in such a different way than I ever looked at them before. And they're starting to accumulate more of these iconic, symbolic meaningful pictures for themselves, just by the way I'm presenting myself differently. Does that make sense? Mm-hmm. Okay. And the just one more that's just ... Actually two more, but this one, I mean it's just funny already. What happened was, I was in bed asleep and my husband got up at 4:45 in the morning to get ready for work and he come, all of a sudden I just feel my shoulder shaking. He's like, "Marie, get up. Grab your camera." I'm like, what the heck? And apparently, Kendall, which let me tell you I do have parenting skills and I do have a baby monitor in her bedroom at this time, but in the middle of the night she wandered down the stairs and emptied the refrigerator and dishwasher onto the floor and that's how we found her. Passed out, it's hard to see, but her lovey is there. So that's another one. This is just another one of those pictures that get a reaction out of someone and if you notice the stories that I'm telling, they're very much aligned with the ideal client that I would want. I would want to work with families who want to preserve these little nuances and things that are going on with their kids. When you're doing this, you want to pick pictures that are going to identify with your target client. So just as a side note. And then, and even this one. So it doesn't have to be just all child related. My husband and I met over, well, a concert and I saw him out of the corner of my eye and I went up to him because I was very attracted to his jawline, I thought he was super sexy. And I'm pretty sure the whole world knows this because I tell this story a lot. And this picture here, I grabbed it when the light was coming through the wine glass as you can see and I wanted to remember that feeling of a Sunday afternoon, where just get to stay home. The kids are just kind of doing whatever, we're there. Sunday's just always our day to be able to connect and be together as just a couple. And so I tell this one a lot as well. I've learned throughout all of this, that stories create the initial spark and connection to what you are doing. If you are only going to that end, to the people who are ready to, who are looking for pictures then you're missing out on a really big market. I'm gonna talk about this a little bit more, but if you're only looking for people who are ready to book a session with you now or very close to that, who are actually actively shopping then the people who are just sitting on their couch, going through their phone and they say, "Oh that's a great picture," you're never gonna capture them if you're just trying to sell to them. Does that make sense? Hopefully that ... I think that that was one of the biggest perspective changes for me in marketing, was to think about the client journey of, which I'm gonna get into later and start talking to them sooner but not expecting them to book with me next week because I talked to them and just build a relationship. So unless your words make people stop in their tracks, those words being all those like buzzwords and sayings that we say, then they're just words without influence. So similar to your photos, unless the words clearly communicate what you want your viewer to identify with you need to have a companion. So you want to have these stories and maybe, and they don't even have to be your own personal stories. So I'll be talking a little bit later about client testimonials and you can use your clients as part of these stories and tell their story. The story that you're already learning through shooting with them. It's not really any extra work, it's just a matter of how you present it.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Fearless and Framed Marketing Bundle

Ratings and Reviews


I own Kirsten's 3 classes. And they are ALL amazing, inspiring and refreshing. She is not only a super talented photographer but an amazing teacher and person as well. I have learned so much from each one of her classes. I have never met a photographer so willing to share and see their students succeed. I highly recommend people not only to buy this class, but all 3! I would not be the photographer I am today if it wasn’t for her. After following her advise for the last 3 years I am finally engaging with the audience I want and I feel true to myself in the way I shoot. This makes a huge difference in my everyday. I am am truly grateful to this photo wizard lady. ps: warning, make sure you are on birth control. These classes might make you want to have children, just to get amazing images like the ones she takes LOL (joking) #not

Carrie Littauer

This workshop was by far the best photography workshop I have ever been a part of. Kirsten's work, her humor, her authenticity, her expertise and perspective will forever change the way I work with families and go about documentary photography. I am so motivated and inspired to dig deeper into my role as a photographer, and as a person, to make a real difference in the lives of those that I photograph and with my art. I'm thrilled to have been in the LIVE studio and am so grateful for Creative Live for giving phenomenal artists like Kirsten this exposure and opportunity to teach other creatives like myself! Thank you.

Johanne Lila

In the very minutes Kirsten Lewis' first class (first of three) for cL aired, I realized I needed in on this awesomeness. I became a 1 Year Mentorship student with her right away, and now I have been so incredibly fortunate to be in the studio audience for the live taping of her final class (or the third of the three, who knows what the future might hold!). For me as a 'Kirsten Lewis alumni' taking this class was perfect. I was reminded of things I knew, but had forgotten. I learned a ton of new stuff. But most of all, I remembered why we do this work in the first place: The love that is right there in the reality of life. How much this work matters to real families out there. And how much it matters to keep getting better at this, to give our families better work. I will be forever greatful that I chose the best mentor, Kirsten is such a gift to all of us. And if you're still in doubt: This class is AMAZING! If you're new, if you've at it for a while, if you're alumni: Gold is HERE!

Student Work