Class Introduction & My story - Don't Do It
How to use live content to market your business, with Mr. Ben Hartley. If you're not familiar with Ben, he runs a wedding photography studio out of Columbus, Ohio. He comes from a diverse and talented background, one of the most talented guys that I've talked to, here at CreativeLive. We're lucky to have him back. He runs a podcast called The Six Figure Photography Podcast, so be sure to check that out too, in case he doesn't talk about it. Would you help me welcome to the CreativeLive stage Mr. Ben Hartley. (applause)
Thank you guys, thank you so much Drew. I really appreciate it man. As Drew said, I'm from Columbus, Ohio. I'm a photographer. I have a studio there, a wedding photography studio, called Style and Story Creative. I run with a couple of my other guys over that way. As well as I host The Six Figure Photography Podcast, and, of course, accompany live videos that I do to help you guys grow your business. As we get started into all of this stuff, I need to introduce you to ...
my family because it's my world. It's like, why I do what I do, right? And so, this is my gorgeous wife, Leslie, here. This is super girl, Bee, right by her side. Bee is three years old, so we had her on 2014, right? And so then, fast forward, 2016, we find out we are gonna have another child, right? And so, I did what any photographer does, and I created these nice classic, timeless black-and-white portraits of my wife, maternity pictures, and my daughter Bee. She's like two at this point, right? She wanted her own, and so you can tell she is a photographer's child, right? 'Cause I was like, nose towards the light, and she did it, and I was like this and she did it. She's two years old and she pulled this move off, hilarious! And so, that's when we found out it wasn't just one baby. We found out it wasn't one baby that we're having. We are having twins, right? And so now I got my hands full. There's Alex Gold, Colton Fox, they're like, five months old. My poor sweet wife is at home, just holding down the fort right now, while I'm away. This is the announcement video, by the way. I'm sorry, the announcement photo that we made when we found out we were having twins. My wife, she's painting the pink walls blue. I'm doing a high kick over some old school Jurassic Park toys. Bee's shooting a Nerf gun. I'm holding a football? I say it like that because it's not a natural thing. I never held a football, but here I am holding the football in this picture. But here we you go, you guys. I wanted to introduce you to them because it's so important to me, and now I want to go back even further. I want to go back further and set the stage, set the stage for when I decided to open up a photography business, right? So let's do this, let's set the stage. So, for some of you guys this was like 10 years ago, right? You're like the veterans, you've been at this for a long time. I've got so much respect for you. Others of you watching today, it's been like four years, three years, a year? There's people watching right now, maybe here, like in the audience, maybe watching, that it was like this year, like a month ago, a week ago even, that you decided to start your photography business. For me, this was six years ago, okay. So, six years ago, 2011, I decided I'm going to be a photographer, I'm gonna start my photography business. I had just graduated from Bowling Green State University. Bowling Green's a small town, by the way, Bowling Green, Ohio. It's where the national tractor pulling competition is held. That's a thing, right? You pull tractors, I don't know. That's a thing. Further context, population of about 30,000, all right? There's obviously smaller towns, but it is, admittingly, a small town. So here's the deal, let me kind of explain everything. So, I was an art student, I was an oil painting major in the Midwest, I then graduated college and actually went into full-time ministry for a couple years. So I'm raising support for a non-profit. And then to top it all off, my wife, right? My wife graduates, and I gotta lock it down. And so she graduates, and the week she's out of college, we get married, okay? To do the math, it's like, oil painting major art kid in the Midwest, like, ministry and then student loans, debt, right? And so money is tight. Money's tight, and we're sitting there, we're trying to figure it out. And so, we're in our one bedroom apartment, our first home together, and we're sitting there, and we're just brainstorming. My wife and I are literally brainstorming, what do we do? How do we make ends meet, what's gonna happen? And so my wife looks over to me, and she just kind of breathes it out, she speaks it out into the air, she says, "What if you were a photographer?" It's just this idea that came from my wife, "What if you were a photographer?" And she goes on to argue the point, she's like, "You love people, like wedding photography. "Wedding photography's a very people-oriented thing. "And on top of it, you've always been decent "at making things look good." It's like, gimme a little bit more credit than that, like, (laughter) "You've been decent at making things look good." And so, I did, I did what we all probably did, right? You're thinking to yourself, "I'm gonna start a photography studio, "I'm gonna start a photography business," right? And so what do you do? You call somebody up, you bounce this idea off of someone. You call up mom, or dad, or your brother or sister, a peer, a friend, or maybe another photographer, right? Someone who you've admired, they're doing it, and you're like, "I'm gonna reach out to them, "get a lay of the land, "see what I'm about to step into," right? "What's this whole photography world gonna be like? "Do I really wanna do this?" So that's what I did. I reached out to a photographer. I picked up the phone, and that night I called him, okay? Now here's the thing, you guys. We're here at CreativeLive, it's like Photo Week, right? How cool is this? We get to hear from all these amazing educators. Man, I've heard so many amazing presenters, speakers, I've attended so many stunning workshops and conferences, listened to a podcast and read so many books, and even had late night conversations with individuals. And yet, to this day, the words that this photographer spoke to me over the phone that night, had been the most inspiring words that I've ever heard. Out of everything in my career, the most inspiring words that I've ever heard. I wouldn't be where I am today, I wouldn't be on this stage today, if it wasn't for this conversation that I had that night, right? Who wants to hear? Does anyone wanna hear what he told me? Right? Like, who wants to hear what he told me? Do you guys want some of that inspiration, to take you and your career and send it off? I'm gonna tell you exactly what he told me. He said this, he said, "Don't do it." Literally, this is word-for-word, 'cause I'll never forget it. "Don't do it, you will only bring the industry down. "Ben, don't do it. "Just because you have a camera, "doesn't mean you can be a photographer," right? "Not everyone's a photographer. "Not everyone's going to step out. "You just keep ruining the client experience. "You're bringing the prices down, down down. "Don't do it. "You're just going to bring the industry down," right. I can guarantee like honestly, I can guarantee the majority of you have had a "don't do it" moment in your career, a "don't do it" moment in your life. Perhaps it was a family member like mom or dad like, "What? You're gonna be a photographer? "You just got college and now "you're gonna start a photography business?" Maybe it was a friend, a family member, like your brother or sister just looking out for you, "Hey, pump the breaks. Don't do that, I don't know." Maybe it was another photographer. Maybe it was. But my guess is, at the very least, it was probably yourself, questioning whether or not you got what it takes. Like, can I really pull this off? Can I really go into business for myself? Can I really make a living doing what I love, taking photographs, can I do that? Don't do it Ben, don't do it. Hey, pump the brakes Ben, don't do that. This talking to ourselves, we do this all the time. And yet here you are. Here you are, here I am. Here you guys are watching, taking in, learning. You stepped out in a moment of excitement and a moment of anticipation, and fear, tremendous fear. You looked it all in the face, and at some point-- again maybe this was was 10 years ago, six, five, one, this month, you looked it all in the face, and you said, "Nah, I got this. I got this." How many of you remember that moment in your life, the moment in your story when you pressed enter on the keyboard. You're like, "I just started a photography business." Can you remember that, can you recall who was around you, who were you surrounded with? I want to pause on this moment for a second. I want you guys to recall this, to remember it, to journal it. Think back on it, who was with you, where were you standing? What was going on during that time? Because something really incredible took place during this moment. I remember that moment for me. I've already begun to explain it, but I remember that phone call, and I remember how I was pacing back and forth on the linoleum floor of my one bedroom apartment, the linoleum that just kept going into the living room and it was kind of awkward. And so this sticky linoleum floor, that's always so sticky, I don't know why, and I remember stopping, and freezing right by the oven when he said the words, "Don't do it." I'm not expecting "Don't do it," I'm expecting, "Hey Ben, make sure you like 24 to "when you shoot your first wedding. "Hey Ben, make sure you get liability insurance." I'm not expecting "Don't do it, "you can't just be a photographer." I remember freezing up. I remember my wife Leslie pretending that she wasn't listening in on the conversation, and scurrying back to her room. And when I went in there, her being like, "How'd it go?" Like I know she knew. I also remember telling her, "Nah I got this, we got this. Will you do it with me?" Do you guys remember that part of the story? Please recall it. It's so important that you do. It's so important that you write it down. It's so important that you never forget what you overcame in that moment. In the midst of everything that we should be doing why are we talking about live content? This whole thing that we're talking about what you overcame in that moment, it has so much value in regards to live content. We're gonna bring that back together, because you did overcome something kind of terrifying. Fear and unknown, and you said, "I got this." Why are we talking about live content? There's so much for us to be doing. Like photographers, and business owners, with marketing and social media, like so many things, and now we're gonna stack live on top of it? Why are we talking about this? I'm gonna lay it out there super clear for you guys. Some of you aren't going to like the answer right away, but I'm just gonna be blunt. The reason that we need to talk about live content is because your gear, the new camera that just came out, the new camera that will come out next year, the 200 millimeter F2. Your IQ, your knowledge of pixels, your knowledge of focus speeds, the inverse square law, camera specs. Your images won't look, beautiful images, magnificent pieces of artwork. It's not gonna be enough. It's not gonna be enough. We're talking about marketing and how to do a successful business, it's not gonna be enough. To be frank, it's the cost of entry. In 2017-- a lot of stuff's changing. In 2017 it's expected that you have great gear. It's expected that you know what you're talking about. It's expected that your work's amazing, it's the cost of entry. And it's changed because of this. Everyone's got their cell phone, and the Internet on their phone. It's changed everything. Especially, again, as we're talking about marketing, putting us out there, you take beautiful pictures and nobody sees them, they're beautiful pictures but you're not getting business. It's not enough. But the bad news is also the good news. The bad news is the good news. This may sound kind of defeating right now. Like your IQ is not enough, your gear is not enough, your work isn't enough, this whole "everyone's a photographer" mentality, the quality of work needs to be higher and higher, and the barrier to entry lower and lower. This may seem kind of defeating until you realize the one thing that you do have to separate yourself from everybody else, you. You are enough. You are enough. The world, your clients, your leads, they want more of you. Your brand needs more of you in it. This is what will separate you from everyone else and this is why live content has immense value. I find this really fun, I find this really interesting, that we have come full circle. We've come full circle, and what I mean is this. The last two decades we have been practicing, we have been trained, to hide our true selves as often as possible while communicating. The last two decades. This began in the mid-90s with AOL, with messaging and email. AOL is just 100 PS by the way. Finally, it took them long enough. Hoped that happened years ago. And then in the last decade, in 2007 we were introduced to the iPhone. 2007. So the last decade we've been inundated with social media and our social feed. And the kind of deception that social media gives us that we are putting ourselves out there, but you know you're not. We've come full circle. Prior to this, prior to 20 years ago, business was done with a handshake, eye contact, face to face communication. You look someone in the eyes and you have a dialogue. You pick up the phone. And we've come full circle because where 20 years prior it was all about connecting, and relationships, interaction, and trust, live content allows you to do that.