The Lin & Jirsa Journey
This is the only time that I wanna talk through our journey, because I wanna set you guys up for what your potential journey can be. So, The Lin and Jirsa Journey. So, so. My partners, family first, partners second. Justin, he's our CEO. Justin's been my best friend since I was 19 years old. Chris is his little brother. We became family a long, long time ago, and we all became CPAs, and we all left Ernst & Young to start up a business, a couple different ones, actually. In 2006, we were in Ernst & Young audit. 2008, we'd completed our CPAs. And I did my first engagement shoot with my dad and my mom. (laughs) That's disturbing. Nobody should ever have to take those photographs. (audience quietly laughs) Makin' out, there. Ah, these are just a random family that I thought was cute. I had my camera, and I was like, "Oh, that's like a postcard." They never got the photograph. They didn't even know, I probably, that's really creepy actually. (audience member laughs) That's super cre...
epy. Just a random family with their kid. Okay, so, I got a camera, and I was like, "I'm takin' pictures. "This is kinda fun." In February, Chris got his helicopter shoot with a rebel. And then, this is the funny part, we were hired by the Compton Unified School District to go up into a helicopter to take pictures of the city. And then after I got these pictures, and Chris on the day that he was going out the door, he's like, "I don't even know how to use this thing." I'm like, "Just, put in green and shoot raw. "It's fine." Green is auto. Put it in green, shoot raw. Okay, so he goes up in the camera, up in the-- Let me start from a little bit of the beginning here. The Compton Unified School District called us, 'cause we did another gig for them. And they're on the phone with me, and they go, "The website that you guys are helping us to consult with, "do you guys do photography?" And we were starting up our own thing on the side, and I was budgeting $2 per meal for food, so I was like, "Absolutely, we do photography! "Hold on one second, "let me transfer you to the photography division." In my apartment, I put my phone, my iPhone, on hold, go, "Justin, you're in the photographer division. "Sell them on photography. We need money." Justin sells them on photography, and he's like, "Oh yeah, I have the perfect photographer, Chris." So, there's a little bit of fake it till you make it at the beginning of this. Chris goes, and this is helicopter shoot. I tell Chris, "Look, I'm good with design, "I'm good with that kind of stuff. "I can handle that. I can handle everything, just go up and take the pictures. "Put it in raw." He comes back with, like, 1,500 photographs. Do you know what it's like to be in an airplane, like in a helicopter over a city with a kit lens and a rebel, and he has 1,500 pictures. Can you imagine how they looked? Identical. It's 1,500 of the exact same shoots. And so I call up the Compton Unified School, and I'm like, "What did you guys wanna do with this?" And they go, "Oh, well, we wanted to create this poster "with the picture of a school and the different monuments "of Gardena, and that kind of stuff, "and wanna have a teacher teaching a classroom." "Well, why did we go up in a helicopter?" "Oh, that's gonna be one of the smaller pictures "that we're gonna use." "Well, okay, we need to come back down "and shoot the other things, right?" They're like, "Yeah." I'm like, "Okay, we'll put together a proposal for that." So we put together another proposal and did that. And this was the final campaign that came out of both of these. Is the imagery great? No. They didn't pay a lot either. It wasn't too expensive. It was within their budget. We provided a service that they wanted. They got something they liked. It went up onto this specific one. If you were in Compton or Gardena, about nine years ago, you will have seen it on buses and billboards. A picture off a rebel on billboards. That should clue you into something about this whole megapixel, and technology, and marketing ploys that are being used. (laughs) In 2008, I go to WPPI and then I send Chris, says right here, "Hey dude, here's some of the pics "that I took." Chris responds, "Wow, Pye, your skills are gettin' crazy." He was serious. (audience laughing) Just to give you an idea. These were the images that I sent him in that email. The statue, some dude fishin' out money from a fountain, some dude I'm just creepin' on. Ah, here's an attempt at some weird engagement photo that really is framed poorly. Yeah, they're havin' a good-- Oh, someone else's child. I don't know who that is. (audience laughing) That was my skills were gettin' crazy. Alright, (laughs) my mom joins the Red Hat Society and I'm playin' with flash, so I'm like, "Let me just test this thing out." This is my mom on the right side. She's adorable. This is her friend on the left side in the Red Hat Society. It's some, don't worry about it. 2008, we shot 19 weddings our very first year. We'll talk about setting up price points and making sure that you're delivering a product that's good based on the price points that you're at. If you always deliver something that's better what they expect, you're good. And 2008, SLR Lounge was born roughly. That was one of our early logos. 2009, we shot 57 weddings. We actually started learning some stuff. We were getting better. This was in New York. 2009, our first hire. This is my apartment. This is where I used to edit. Right there. And he worked right next to me. Then we started developing a style, in 2010. It started becoming our thing. It took us a good year, year and a half to start developing a signature style, and look it'll take time. Some of you guys will be really quick. You'll know what you want. I didn't know anything about photography, so it took me time. 2011, we moved into a new studio. And we had one little front room section, here, that was presentable in a whole bunch of not presentable space. It was all warehouses that we worked inside of. It was full start-up. This was our team in 2011. We shot 119 weddings. Yes, the apartment. So, can you imagine your employee sitting right here, you're sitting right here, your two partners? And we're booking $3,000, $4,000 weddings, and nobody knows. Were not meeting them there. Okay, so this is the warehouse. We don't take clients back there, but we, all of our desks and everything are set up back there. This is Emily, one of our first employees, who is now one of our lead shooters. Me passed out. Oh yeah, this is that one time where I took my shirt off and took a picture with Chris. And then the team photoshopped on all the viking stuff. This is the, if you were working in a photography studio, it happens. Everybody knows Photoshop. You take a picture, you know what's gonna happen. (chuckles) Our studio manager, Joe our very first employee, this guy is ridiculous. He was our studio manager up until 2012. He is that goofy and that weird, and he managed our studio, but people liked him. In 2012, we shot 153 weddings. We started getting serious about SLR Lounge and the education. We built out a room for that. I got serious about it from the top, from the center up, and then I really stayed unserious about from the waste down. That's just the way I roll. In 2013, we did 191 weddings. I also got my Prius stuck in the sand. Prii are not designed to go in the sand. (audience laughing) In 2014, I shot my first commercial shoot for a Nissan. We did 281 weddings. 300 weddings in 2016. Towards the end we did 325. Anywhere between here, between 325 to 375, so we say, usually, 350. We bought our building. 10,000 square feet, full shooting space, cyc wall, everything, has what we want. It's our dream location. And in 2017, 350 plus, 50 team members. 2018, we'll probably do somewhere around 400. This is kind of our sweet spot, that 350 mark we really like a lot. It keeps us at a place where we can deliver good quality without having to expand the team so large that it becomes inefficient. So, it's a nice sweet spot for us. So, 10 short years later, apartment two, our own building. This is one of my favorite quotes. Most people overestimate what they can do in one year, and they underestimate what they can do in 10. It's so powerful. Because, every one of you are in this place, if you choose to go down this road where your first couple years are gonna be difficult. Just stick with it. Stick with it and watch it progress. Just don't walk away because of something that you hear. If this is what you want to do. Jump two feet in and go. A brief visual history, oh yes, fooled Justin and Yvette to go on an engagement session. This is me and Chris shooting. Ah, so beautiful. Look at the cohesive black and white to this. It looks great. These are terrible. These are some of our very first. This was our second engagement shoot. Ah yeah, you wanna sepia tone one, and then some fine art ones with textures over them? We're probably one of the reasons that photographers aren't allowed in the Getty Museum anymore, because of the climbing that was done. These are another friends that we roped into going with us. Yeah, let me stare at you through this eyepiece. And then, again, with the weird toning. Oh yeah, and birds. I had birds in my portfolio when we booked $3,000 weddings. What does that tell you about, do your-- Does it need to be perfect? No. No. Justin and I argue to this day about who took this photograph. I took it. I took it. Oh yeah, we had this post production manual. I'm like, "Hey, do you want fine art post production?" We would give this out to clients. They could order additional post production. Can you guess how many people took us up on that? (audience laughing) Okay, my high school art teacher said, "You should quit. You just aren't good enough." this is true. And this isn't a bash. I know he did it out of love. But that was actually something that he said to me when it was a class on drawing. This is today. I had the chance to go all over the world, document, educate, shoot for celebrity couples, go to crazy places. This out in Cancun. This is actually two of our friends. They're SLR Lounge premium members. And they hired us to shoot their wedding. It was really fun. So we took this extra day and went and found ridiculous things to take pictures of. This is out in Hawaii, Kauai. This is in Mordor, Lord of the Rings. (audience member laughing) Surprised you guys haven't been there. This is actually in Malibu. Dubai, Chris just got back from Dubai shooting a couple out there. We started a new business, Line & Roots for maternity, newborn, family, which will be spinning up over the next couple of years. So, we now do maternity. We now do family. We added newborns. What's cuter than a newborn next to a fuzzy teddy bear? That's adorable. We also now do commercial. So we're doing a commercial cinema arm as well, where we're breaking into working with more companies like Toyota and Nissan, local Orangetheory Fitness, that kind of stuff. American gym boxing. So, you should quit. You just aren't good enough. You're gonna hear it. You're gonna hear the doubts from everybody around you. This is where 10 years can take you. Imagine 20. Imagine 30. I feel like we're just now hitting our stride and we're here. Tune them out, if it's possible. And understand this, they love you, so they speak out of fear. Your family, your friends, my high school art teacher. They want the best for you. That's why they say these things. They speak out of their own fears, out of their own history, out of their own attempts and failures. That's what you're hearing when you hear that kind of stuff. So, stop talking. This is a big thing. If you read entrepreneurial books, they'll encourage you, that if you're writing a book, if you are starting a business, if you're doing anything that's at all risky, don't talk about it. Because one of the biggest reasons that things never get off the ground is because you talk about it. Somebody convinces you to stop and so you do. So, stop talking, let your actions speak for themselves. Smile, walk away, double down. Once you have your direction you must muster the courage to lose sight of the shore. I don't know if you guys ever heard this quote by Andre Gide, but it's one of my favorite quotes, in terms of, if you imagine yourself as a captain of a ship, to get to some other land that you're going to, you have to have the courage to just look out to this open sea that's rough with waters and to actually go far enough that you lose sight of your own shore. That has to be a terrifying feeling. It is, it should be. It's gonna be less terrifying though as we go through the course, and we help to define out our strategy, and how we're gonna do it.