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Your Business Model

Lesson 28 from: Family Photography: Creating a Successful Business

Kirsten Lewis

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Lesson Info

28. Your Business Model

Next Lesson: Stay in Contact!


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

Your Business Model

So let's explore that internal value a little bit more. Let's talk about how to figure this out, and this is where Kirsten yesterday had talked about, actually quite a bit yesterday, I loved it, by the way. (laughs) All about her point of view, and how it's been shifting, and how she's really, she's shooting, how do you say that? You're shooting less, more frequently. Shooting less, more, shooting more less often. Yes, that. And, when you can start identifying these things, it's honestly, like, it's so cool. I have a notebook now, that, once I've started practicing, like, what really I get out of photography, all these stories just come to my mind, and I can just jot them down in a notebook, and, or, wherever, and put them in a, like a bank for later. I don't necessarily need to use them now. And remember, yesterday, she just looked at Kelly's photos, and she narrowed down, very quickly, how she identifies with the rawness of childhood. And that's exactly what I mean. So now Kelly ...

can look at that, and be like, okay, so what experiences in my life, or even, maybe my client's life, or people that I know, what kind of stories and experiences, can help me show, how pictures help serve this emotion. So for me, the one of the pictures where I really started to identify myself, is, my point of view, it was this one, and, I remember, what happened was, we were outside, I had my camera, a plane flew overhead, Kendall was, two here, maybe, I don't even think she was quite two yet, more like, 20-ish months, and, you know how a child just gets so excited about airplanes when they're little, they're oh, look at the airplane, or helicopter, it lights them up, it's the coolest thing. And, I saw her, she had been running around with Dave, and, all of a sudden, just, her whole energy, I mean you can see, like, from the fingertips in the top of the frame, are just limp, her whole energy shifted to that taking in, and processing that airplane. And, I, in that moment, I remember thinking, like, just how cool that is, and the word that I use often is change. Like I feel like I'm hyper-aware of change, and how quickly this moment is going to pass, as cheesy as that sounds, that's where I've tuned into that. And it's all a result of my experiences around, I had an amazing childhood, and experienced quite a bit of grief, and, so I'm very hyper-aware that things are changing, more than, maybe, somebody who doesn't quite have those experiences, so. Your brand voice, really is your photography voice. It's not separate, but, if you can just look inside of yourself, then you can start sharing more, that helps paint that picture. So, going even a little bit deeper, I have learned, that the pictures that I make are a method of healing from grief, and they make me feel secure and present. So, the story that I tell quite often, as one of my personal brand stories, is that, I grew up with just the best grandparents on both sides. I'd go to my grandma's house on my mom's side for one night, and end up staying for four, and we would paint fireworks on sweatshirts, we would crochet, I'd sneak into her cupboards for molasses cookies when she was napping, and on my other grandparents' side, there's just so many little stories that come up, like sleepovers, and, she made Mickey Mouse pancakes in the morning. I'd ride in the backseat of their truck, and I can still smell the smell of their coffee, which smelled revolting as a child. (laughs) And, going up to their property, up in northern Michigan, where I'd wake up, and see, just this flock of turkeys outside, and, so all these things that I lived a lot of in my life, and especially holiday dinners, because I had big holiday dinners, with like, 30-plus people. Well, my grandparents on my mom side passed away in '95. And, in 2008, within eight weeks of each other, my dad's parents passed away, and since then, two of my dad's brothers passed away, so it literally feels like I'm in, like, a foreign place, when it comes to things, when it comes to family. I experienced a Thanksgiving dinner a couple years ago, that my sister had hosted, and, it was at her now-husband and her home with his family, my parents, and my kids, and I looked around, and it was just like I said, totally foreign. Which might just sound like, okay, it's a part of life, but, to me it weighs on me. And when I share these stories with other people, and share how kind of living through that, when I pick up my camera, it's truly my way to keep my stories alive, the things that are happening in the present, because I feel like I'm more tuned in. So the photos that I'm making, really help serve that grief, in a long, roundabout way. And sharing that through my emails, through little blog stories, and offline, when I teach a beginner-level photography workshop, or, just in every day conversations, I was riding on the school bus to a field trip, and told a little bit of that story, a shorter version, to one of the moms that I was sitting by, and she was just like, oh my gosh, I've been going through the same thing, and right there, I'm building a relationship that I can pivot into the photography service conversation later. And at its core, because I have had all these past losses, I believe that I fear more loss, and not just the loss of people, but just the loss of the experiences, and the memories, and the camera really helps with that, I think, it's like, therapeutic for me. So your core beliefs and thoughts are what set you apart. You might not identify with a single thing that I just said, and that's okay, that's actually what makes it really awesome, I mean, you talked so much about the weird things that kids do, and I'm not as drawn to that as you are. I'm more into these like, moments that represent something that's changing, and is going to be iconic in my life. Like, I've been working for a while now, watching for the opportunity to make this picture of my mom, because she wears this, denim jean jacket with Mickey Mouse on the back, Ebony is laughing, cause she's heard this story, like, a thousand times, and, I picture my mom, showing up on my front porch, in this jacket, with a bottle of Diet Mountain Dew in her hand. And, I'm like, I want a picture that really speaks to these memories that I have, I'm not going to set it up and try to make it happen, I want the organic-ness of it. But, that's just where, that's my point of view. Like that's kind of what I'm drawn to. So that's what I talk about in my messaging. So, like I've said a few times now, they're already reflected in your photos, so, let them breathe life into your communication and your marketing, and I can promise you, once you get started with that, it makes the, okay, what do I say on social media, what do I say to this email list, it makes all of that so much easier, because you can just show up and be you. Makes it a lot more fun. I'm just gonna interject and share that, if any of you guys follow me on Instagram, the majority of the work I share is personal. And, we can talk a little bit more about Instagram, but I think you should only be showing really good photos on Instagram, and I learned that actually, from my friend Elizabeth, years ago, but, I only share, every week or so, maybe, sometimes I'll have a lot of good photos, but, I'm pretty specific about what I put on, but if you notice, I always have a personal story attached to those photos, and those are the ones that people respond to the most, and then, privately message me, about something, including hiring me, so, everything that she's saying, while I didn't realize this was a marketing method, because I don't consider myself very good at marketing, (laughs) I just, some people call me an oversharer, but, I have found that when I share personal photos, good personal photos of my experiences in my life, whether it be with my kids, or a personal experience photographing someone else's kids, but I share a personal story with that, people who really care, will read those stories, and it connects with them more. Yes? Mm-hmm, yeah, and I was just telling your mom, this morning, we were talking about, I think, your grandma, and there's a picture you posted a while ago now, where she was passing off the mashed potatoes. She's feeding the little, my, niece, yeah. And I don't remember that because of the picture, I remember that because of the story. Yeah. Because she would never pass off cheesecake. (laughs) I wouldn't either. She's only gonna pass off mashed potatoes, because she knows that there's dessert after. Yeah. And people, they say, how's your Mor-Mor? Right? How's your daughter? Oh you guys were in Spain, that was so awesome that time that like, the waiter just took the kid. Yeah. Like people are actually reading the stories, right. And so that's making them feel connected to me, and want to hire me, and be in their life, right. Yeah, yeah, for sure. It reminds, so the story about Dave's jawline, that I brought up earlier, I just had a minor pelvic surgery in June, and when I was on my way home, I just, I sat in the backseat of the truck and he was driving, and I just used my iPhone, and grabbed a picture of him driving, and posted something on Facebook about, just how awesome he is, taking care of me. Had nothing to do with his jawline. And I kid you not, three people commented, "I see what you did there." Because it really like, accented his jawline, and, so, stories are memorable, that's what makes you human, connected, and memorable to them, which is what you want. It will set yourself up for success on the numbers side. So, I think I skipped one, but. I have worked with students who believe in, the last line said, grandparent sessions, like, having that, getting photos that represent that connection, and experiences between grandma, grandparents and grandchildren. I worked with students who believe in helping moms, parents feel very validated in their role as a parent, to just show them that they're doing a better job than they may believe in. I have worked with, people who want to spotlight that their everyday is, full of love, and help them feel more abundant. I've worked with people who want to help small businesses communicate their, like, the "why," and tell the story of their business. I've worked with people who want to photograph, just, something important, like, for example, we have a family cabin up north, I would love to have a session there at some point in my life, because it has been in my life since birth, and now I take my kids there, which is really cool. So, I've worked with this one student in Australia who wants to help, like identify that in someone's life, and photograph that. And the reason I'm telling you this, is because, we are all documenting family. That's like the umbrella. The genre is the top of the umbrella, but what lights us up inside is entirely different, and that's our point of view, and our experiences, and how we can uniquely serve them. So if you're like, afraid, like, oh my gosh, now it's, big, documentary family photography is becoming this big thing, you really don't have to worry about that, if you can show up as this unique, and beautiful, and amazing person that you already are. You don't even need to learn, like, how to be that. You just have to show up and be you. So our core beliefs allow us to serve the quote, unquote, right clients in a unique and personal way. So that's like, if you think of like the level of quality of your clients, and those clients that, don't really get what you're about, and the ones that you're like, I wanna work with them every year, if you show up this way, you can get more of them. So the moral of this story is, your core beliefs and experiences, plus, sharing that in a story, comes across as value to someone else, even if they don't necessarily really realize, oh, I just learned something. That makes you memorable. Like you said, it forges memorable relationships, both online and off, you can maintain relationships with ease, so that's what I was saying, I get the question all the time, like, all right, I'm getting people on to my email list, now what the heck do I say to them? You just show up and be yourself. Tell more of these stories, share, like, the "why" behind the pictures, or just, an experience from your life, or your client's life, and, you can, it's just, it makes it so much easier, because you're not just showing up in their life to promote to them. Marketing and promoting are two different things, and I feel like a lot of times, those words are used very interchangeably. So, you can also drive your marketing calendar, with repeatable, timeless content. How many of you actually create a marketing calendar? Nobody. (audience laughs) So, a little bit. Just cause you've heard me talk about it. (laughs) So, if you think, like, if you're a little bit worried, like, okay, if what I'm about, or like, some of the first things that come up, is that going to limit me? I get that a lot, like does that mean I'm niche-ing into something, and I'm boxing myself in? And the answer is, absolutely not. So, say you really want to focus on, in-home sessions throughout the winter months. You can set up your marketing calendar, and it very much follows, like, if you have ever watched anybody launch an online course, or watched the online course business, you can do the exact same thing with your service-based business, where you can start, say, in, well you guys, if you guys watch, you'll see, pretty soon I'm going to launch Mastery Moment Seekers, so I'm gonna start creating all of these content pieces that talk, like, a lot about what you're hearing me say today, I'm planting seeds. And then, in a couple more weeks, I will probably do a webinar, or something that's a little bit more high interaction, and then on that webinar, I'm gonna invite you to work with me on more of an intimate level. So, I'm not saying you guys have to do webinars, but, when, just on your email list. Lara, is a photographer student of mine, who, has this program that I have called Profitable Photography Workshops, and she just shared in there, that, she has an email list of only 149 people. Not a massive list. And they are just people who she had driven to her website, through promoting past workshops that she's ran, I think, and, anyway, she's accumulated that amount of people. And within seven hours of just letting them know that she had a workshop coming up, she sold out her next workshop. And that is because she hit them on the relationship side, and then, she can circle back, and hit her numbers, because she has this amount of people there. Hopefully that makes sense. Whether, and this goes for any of your income streams, like, basically create like a theme, each month, or every quarter, if that makes it easier to start off with, and make it a theme of whatever you're talking about. Maybe it's grandparent sessions, maybe it's a beginner-level photography workshop, if you're doing those, or, maybe it's in-home sessions, maybe it's vacation sessions, but make that the theme of what you're talking about, and then, when you are accumulating all these people that are really digging what you're talking about, then you can present yourself up, to, or set yourself up to promote them. So then, when you're serving, from a shared belief or value, your clients are more emotionally invested, and that means they're going to be more willing to invest higher dollars. So, like I was saying in the beginning, your business model is your choice. It shouldn't be something where, you're like, okay, what's everybody else charging? What do I think that they want? Oh, nobody's booking with me, so maybe I should, like, lower my prices, or run this booking special. You, and I'm gonna go through a few things to, how you can sort of, gauge, where you want your business model to be, just if you're a little unsure of that. But, I would start with what lights you up? And who do you want to serve? So, I've worked with students, who, like, love what Kirsten does, with overnight sessions, and they want to have something very similar to that, and then I get people that are like, oh no, I don't want to do that, I want to do something a lot shorter. So, it starts with you. And why, beyond pictures, how are you serving your clients, and that goes back to, like, the role that the pictures play. And of course, factor in, the time and expenses to, to run your kitchen, being that chef. How hands-on of an experience you want the order, experience to be, whether that's IPS, or, an online gallery. And then, look at the lifetime value of each client. Do you want them to be a one and done client, or do you want them to be, someone who's more repetitive? And, I've seen a lot of success with photographers, we were just talking about this last night, with the creating an experience for them. So, a lot of people I've found, come with a background similar to mine, where they started a family photography business, taking people to parks, and doing mini-sessions, and, then, they have been able to make that, as a stepping stone, into a full-on documentary session. Do you wanna say how you said, having the extra hour? Yes, so there's two things. First of all, wedding photographers, they have such a good pool, for continuing a relationship later on. Because, at least 50% of them are gonna have kids at some point, and if you maintain a good relationship with them, with the wedding, I have a lot of clients that were wedding clients of mine, even though I don't shoot weddings anymore, that are really loyal, clients that keep coming back to me. Mm-hmm. The other thing that I talk about with my students, is, if you, if you are not offering free sessions to build your portfolio, because you can't, you don't have enough time with the clients that you're serving right now, with the work, that, you don't love making, like, the more lifestyle portrait stuff, but you want to migrate, or transition into more, clean, pure documentary sessions, my suggestion, is when someone hires you, you say, great, I'm so excited to work with you again. And, the only way I'm going to, is if you let me come back to your house, for an hour for free. So you're still getting paid for what they want to hire you for, and then you are giving them the experience of what it's like when you go home with them for an hour or two, and just photograph their real life. Because, you're letting them experience that, right. You can tell them, just like Marie said, over and over again what you want to create for them, but a lot of times, they have to experience it. And if they haven't experienced your photos, then they're gonna be less inclined to be interested in hiring you for that. So what I tell my students to do, is just add, an extra hour or two onto the shoot they've already booked with you. So, you're not losing any money, and you're not losing time away from your family, if you have this consistent business. Mm-hmm. Does that make sense? Absolutely. And then, the final thing that I would look at in this, is, and going back to the lifetime value of each client, one thing that I talk about often, is, re-servicing, and putting them on, basically a three-month plan. You could use like, a binder, I'm sure you can use technology, but I'm old school, and basically make sure that you reach out to them, every three months, just to say, hey, how you doing. And that would be a way for you to turn them into a long-term client, because sometimes people would love to work with you again, but they just put it off, it's at the bottom of their to-do list, and, then you show up, and they're like, oh, thank you, for reaching out to me. So, but I would also look at your own limiting beliefs, because, I get a lot of people who are like, nobody wants a documentary session. And that's just not true. But it might feel like that, if you get a few no's, here and there, you might believe that, nobody's ever going to pay for this, or, whatever like, blocks that you may have, look for that, and, I'm not the best one to help how to overcome that, but I would look at why you believe that, and really challenge yourself. Like, is that really everybody's perception? Because, like, I know that, these blocks, paralyze us in our marketing actions. And, like, Susan Ferraro, and Denise Duffield-Thomas are really great people to work with, in overcoming blocks that are, things that hold you back in business, better than I can. So for the shooting portion, it goes, as you're like, how much time do you want to spend with your clients? How much time is needed to achieve your mission, which goes back to that purpose, and, what's the level of direction and interaction do you wanna have? Maybe you want to be more of a lifestyle photographer. Maybe you want to be more of a pure documentary photographer. Just really answer those questions, into your business model for yourself. Same thing with the post-shooting portion. Do you want it to be all-inclusive, or, do you want to have, like an a la carte model, or do you want to have, different packages? There's no right or wrong. There, photographers are doing it differently, all the time, but, it's just a matter of how you want to set up your business. Do you want to do in-person sales, or an online gallery? Do you want to do, I've seen this startup, subscription model, for a photographer to come back in, like, once a month or once a quarter as well. And, with products. Again, what role will the pictures play in your client's life? Start there, to identify what products you want to sell. Because it's what you believe in, is what you're going to be able to sell. Your answer is going to vary, dependent on, the type of sessions that you're offering, in that purpose. Like a grandparent session, there's going to be more than one book that's going to be made for that, most likely. In a family session, that could be true too, but, you just really want to identify, like, what types of products, where are these products going to live, who's going to get them? So that way you can create your product lineup to match, to really align with that. And, paint the picture in your marketing, before they book with you, of what their life's going to look like, after the session, once they have these pictures. So, and it's kind of buzzword-y, but I love to just say, how I've breathed life into my walls, I've put stories on my walls, you walk around my home, and it looks like, you're just looking at all of my memories, which is really cool, and a lot of people that want that, will, they identify with that. And so, then, they're like, oh okay, I could see why I would want a canvas in something, whereas, I actually worked with a photographer, who is a newborn photographer, and she was like, I love what, I didn't really, she wasn't my client, but we just teamed up for something, and she was like, I love what you do, but, I wouldn't know like, what to do with the pictures. Like, I wouldn't know, like, I'm like, you could put them on your walls. Like, it was mind-blowing to me, and it just goes back to perception, and what people believe in. Speaking of perception, I love this quote. "To effectively communicate, we must realize "that we are all different in the way we perceive "the world, and use this understanding as a guide "to our communication with others." Tony Robbins. So, that's like, how some people, interchange a lot of those different buzzwords, when you understand that their perception could be different.

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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!

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