Strategies to Gain Lifestyle Clients
Strategies to gain lifestyle clients. This is important, because I know a lot of you out there are here right now, trying like, "How are we gonna get new clients?" Shoot your friend's kids for free. Okay, so photograph your friend's kiddos. This is something that needs to be said. Just the other day, I had somebody email me and let me know that my images were being used on their website, on somebody else's website. And I'm like, okay, it's probably a new photographer, a lot of people don't know better. This is a good learning experience, you know, some people get angry and say, oh you need to go after this person, and I would never do that, I just don't. I emailed her, this was actually three days ago. And I said, "Hey, I wasn't sure if you realized, "but it's not right to use somebody else's images "on your website." And she was very apologetic and said she was just building her business, and trying to find some images to use to show the types of photography she wants to shoot. We kno...
w that's a big no-no, and so what I did was I sent her a really nice email back, that's wonderful, I think it's great that you want to show this, tune into Creative Live, 'cause we're gonna be talking about it. So she's probably watching right now. (audience laughs) And she was very appreciative of me giving her advice. You need to remember this as a photographer that's been around for a while. We were all there, okay. Just when you're building your portfolio, don't use other pictures. Call your friends that you think would do well for these types of sessions, and use those people in your portfolio for free. Free. Okay, for free. And they need to know that this is your portfolio building time, because what happens when you start to charge? Everybody's gonna want everything for free. Okay? They're not gonna understand this, it's very important. Shoot what you want to book later. Only shoot things that you want to book later. Do not shoot, if you trying to portfolio build, if you're trying to change your business, I should say, when you're first starting photography, everybody needs to kind of try everything. But if you're in a place now where you just want to shoot lifestyle, you just want to shoot family, that's what you want to put in your portfolio. Okay, and that's going to resonate. Talk about your business in a way that resonates with people, okay. We just launched my new website last night. Thank you, Michael, we're going to go into that in a little bit. I felt like my current website, it was happy and lively, but everything was too formal. "Emily is a newborn photographer from St. Louis." I want it to be like, "Emily loves people!" And I wanted my website to resonate with people, because I want to book those types of clients that want to be my friend, okay? You need to do that on your website. My really dear friend, Laurie, in Chicago, has a gorgeous website, and she's very like pretty and calm, and put-together, and her website's pretty and calm, and those are the clients she attracts, right? So when you're building your website, when you're changing your website, don't feel like you need to put in your portfolio, or in your about us section, "Sally has won numerous awards. "She is cool." You don't need to write all that. And be yourself, be true to yourself. Put all that in your website, resonate with people, and you're gonna bring in the right clients. What to say when they inquire and before they book? You need to know what you're going to say when they inquire and when they book, you need to be ready for that. You need to be yourself. When people inquire, the biggest thing with lifestyle, and Kenny does all of my emailing, is he lets them know, "Hey, just so you know, with lifestyle, it's very organic, "we don't pose, we aim to get the grandma shot," which is what grandparents purchase, right? Everybody looking at the camera. That's what we call it. So, as long as you are upfront with people when they are inquiring with you. We just had an inquiry the other day, two days ago, that said, "I have all these ideas for things "that I want to do with a newborn." And I'm like, "Oh." So, you know, we reply back, and they had all these crocheted outfits, and turtle things. It's not my thing, right? So we politely said, and sometimes people can do them beautifully, you know? It's just not my jam. So we had to let her politely know. And you guys need to be upfront with this, when people inquire with you. Only take the types of clients that you're gonna want to keep photographing later. Okay, does that make sense? And who says yes to everything? Everybody's like this, wave it high, right? We all do that, we say yes to everything because we feel like, what? What do we feel like? We need to make money. But is that our why? No, so are we going to keep saying yes to everything? Yes, we're listening! Okay, that's good, that's not your why, right? Random, remember when we talked about perfection? You know what, guess what drives me absolutely crazy about this picture? Nobody knows. The hand sticking out. It's driving me nuts. And I tried to Photoshop it out, and I'm like, why am I doing that? This is what the baby kept doing, the baby hated its arms down there, so I left it. It's cute, let go of perfection. We're not perfect, okay?
I wonder if we can go back to that slide.
Yeah, actually we're moving kind of quick, I think this is--
Yeah. Let's go back to this slide. And just continue to kind of have this conversation. I think that this is something that people I'm seeing online get really hung up on is gaining those lifestyle clients versus the ones that are posed. So, starting off with the shoot, and raise your hand if you guys have any particular questions to this topic or experiences to share. But shooting your friend's kids for free. So I think that that could be a sort of a, not controversial, but people wondering about the time investment into that for building your portfolio. So when you're recommending doing that, are you also spending as much time for those people with preparing their, doing the Photoshop, and preparing their potential products, and all of those things as well for free? Or are you just doing the session for free?
So here's how I did it. When I first started shooting in general, and there's two thought processes in here, remember this is just my thought. When I first started photography, I taught myself everything. I took a class from Amy Tripple, she's wonderful, taught me how to use my camera in aperture mode. Then I went off, and I started shooting manual mode, and then I taught myself Photoshop. These were the days, this was back in about 2009, 2010. Creative Live was just getting going. I used to watch Kenna. Those years ago. And I was trying to immerse myself in workshops and stuff online, but they just didn't have them. Crave Photography, do you know who that is? She was teaching Photoshop tutorials, she was wonderful, and I learned how to use curves through her. And I would spend hours and hours and hours learning Photoshop on my friend's kids, and I'd edit 300 photos, you know. But I was doing that when I was still a speech pathologist, so it wasn't at a time where I was doing this to support my family. I was just doing it because I loved it, and I wanted to know how to do it well to be different than everybody, right? You wanted to do your thing. If you're at a point where you're transitioning from one style of photography, and you're wanting to get into lifestyle photography, you tell your clients, or your friends, we're gonna do this photo shoot, I'm gonna edit what I think are the best photos. Okay, you don't need to edit 100 photos for them. Maybe pick your top 10. If you want to practice in your editing skills, spend as much time as you feel comfortable spending. But, you know, at this point in your career, if you're portfolio building like this, you know, people say time is money, but it's not. You're investing in the learning process. And you need to invest time in order to progress your, to progress your skill level, to progress your business. Okay, so, I don't see time being wasted in this, I actually see it as a benefit because you're actually growing. I think we live in a time where, especially right now in the photography world, there are so many workshops, everybody's teaching a workshop, and everybody's becoming a photographer because they have a really good DSLR camera. The new mirrorless cameras have come out, and there's some wonderful cameras out there, and everybody feels like now they want to be a photographer. But nobody wants to take the time to learn how to do it correctly, okay? Everybody wants to be the best immediately, right? And some people get good really quickly. I think people have an eye for it, or they don't. When I first started, it took me about six months before I started charging, okay. I started, I think I started at $ and then I was charging $900 in six months. Because I had the eye, right? Not everybody has that. Some things can be taught, I think having an eye is tricky to teach. We can help people look what to look for, right, with composition, we can teach compositional techniques. We can teach people how to edit. Especially with lifestyle photography, you're gonna run into a lot of lighting situations that won't be ideal, and you will need to make some adjustments in Lightroom, I use Lightroom primarily now, to make your photos pop, and that's fine. If you're shooting film, it naturally looks cool, it's like shooting with an Instagram filter, right? So I think, back to this topic, I think investing the time that you have, as long as it's time invested well towards growing your business, is not wasting your time. Does that answer that?
It does, because I think it's that, like you said, that we think that we are educated, and then we go straight to, like, totally knocking everything out of the park, but the real education happens when you're doing. So I love that you shift that perspective to investing in your business, even with those types of things.
When you're doing a model call for your friends, what do you offer them? Do you offer them images, do you say I'll give you five? Do you say I'll give you all of them?
It is whatever you're comfortable with, honestly. So when I do them, and I still do some sometimes, if I'm looking for a specific thing that I want to advertise, for like a mini session weekend or something, I give them all the edited digital files. I never promise a certain amount, ever. But I always say you must share these on social media, you must tag my photography page, not my personal page, 'cause then everybody's my friend. Which happens all the time. I'll be all your friends, but you know, it just happens. So you just need to, you know, be like hey, you need to be okay with me putting your kids on my website, you need to be okay with social media, because not everybody's okay with social media. And isn't it the truth that your best shoot's the families that don't want them on social media? (audience laughs) Right, always! So you need to be okay with that when you're doing your model call. Social media's fine, website's fine, using them for any advertisement's fine. Don't, you know, promise a lot, just say I'll give you whatever I edit. And then whatever you get that you think is wonderful. And don't feel like, when you do these shoots, you need to post every single picture from that shoot. Post two, you know? Post your two best. You don't need to post big, huge, massive shoots when you're portfolio building. Shoot, if you had one amazing shot, use that one, you know? Then do another model call, and do it again.
I definitely think a model call's a super great investment. My biggest struggle is separating that model call from people's expectations for what your real sessions are like. Do you have any thoughts on how to do that? I feel like when I do that, you want it to be fast, you wanna do what you do, get it done. And I feel like that's completely different from the whole experience that my clients get.
Yes, it is.
So I'm wondering if you have any advice on that?
I do. So-- (audience laughs) (chuckles) I feel like I've known her forever, she's in like, one of my groups, it's fun she's here. I love seeing you guys in person. Preparation and filling the parents in ahead of time is key. And, this is a good segue, with lifestyle, as long as the parents know going into it, hey we're just, you know what I really want to do, I want to shoot a bathtub shoot, I want bubbles, and I want toes sticking out of the tub, which we did, but we're just doing this bathtub shoot, and then I'm gonna go home, and I'm gonna edit, and I'm gonna give you these bathtub shots. We're not gonna be doing anything in the family room, we're not gonna be doing anything in the kid's rooms, right? Tell them, we're just doing the bathtub shoot today, and that's what I want to do. So as long as you preface that, going into it, they're not gonna have any expectations. And that goes into lifestyle shoots. Every, I talk to my clients on the phone, and I know a lot of people are scared of the phone, I always talk on the phone. Kenny schedules me a phone call ahead of time, they fill out their questionnaire, and we're kind of jumping ahead, I don't want to do that, but I want to touch on this, because I talk to everybody on the phone, just so you know I'm gonna get to your house, I'm gonna look around, I'm gonna hug your kids, I'm gonna pet your dog, and things are gonna be crazy and nothing's gonna go smoothly, and that's normal. And so all of this preparation, and it takes the weight off of your shoulders, too, you know? 'Cause you don't feel like they're expecting anything, you know? And they're not expecting perfect. You know, with the siblings, we just, we aim to get them in the same room sometimes, right? (audience laughs) I mean, this, we had with the live shoot that you guys are gonna see in a little bit, he was pretty abnormally good. Which is tricky, because typically with newborns, if there's a sibling, they tend to be how old? Two. Yeah, see, it's just the progression of life, right? So it's a very common thing, so that's what I would do. Is preparation.
I actually have two questions.
So you talk about finding your why. I've always known that my why, very much like me, is ADHD, and all over the place, I love a lot of different things, I do a lot of different things.
You need to be a planner.
See, and I actually work, it's a long story, I have worked (mumbles), long story, but yeah. So I started off as a travel photographer, 'cause I was doing all these amazing traveling, I wanted to document it, and then I did, I did my first shoot for a friend, and they came out amazing, and she was so happy, and that made me happy, kind of like your why. Then I did another shoot, and I'm, you know, being the engineering person I am, I had this contract, and everything was like, hey, I'm gonna use your stuff on social media, and that was cool, yeah totally fine. And then the shoot came out, she was like, "I love 'em, but, you know what, my daughter is naked "from the waist up, and I don't feel "comfortable with that on social media." Do you ever run into that--
As a photographer, you clearly set the expectation that I'm going to use these on social media, but then the person kind of gets squeamish, or--
Now I prepare really, really well. So during the session, to prevent that, hey, how old was the little girl?
She's one, so when you say, hey are you gonna be okay with naked baby pictures? Because I, and she should've said yes or no then--
She was totally cool with it.
Well then, that's just-- (audience laughs) That's a model issue, that's not, I mean, if you did everything to prepare, there's nothing you can do, you're always gonna run into stuff like that. And you know you have to respect her wishes, obviously. We do a lot of naked babies in the studio, four-month-old babies pushing up, you know those milestone packages, and I always ask, are you okay with this on social media? Some people say yes, some people say no. You just have to respect their wishes, you just use the other images. It's gonna happen, it's life, you know. I wish I had a really good answer, but people are people. (laughs)
So Jennifer Ruprecht had asked, we were talking about doing a model call, and offering say, you were just offering five images or what have you, just quickly, would you let people purchase more? Or purchase products from you?
People have purchased products. I never charge for more edited files. I tell people, people really know the expectation that these are what I'm gonna edit, these are all I'm gonna edit, and that's what comes with a free shoot. People have purchased images from my professional labs before, so yes, I do let them do that. But I never over-edit, you know. I have had a few people say, oh, did you get another one of me where I was standing better? You know, I was telling the film crew when I was here, I'm like, make sure you're filming me at the selfie stick angle, you know. (audience laughs) So it's just, you know, you just have to really-- It is hard to say no, it is, you know, you have to decide what's right. If it's your best friend in the whole wide world, are you gonna give her more? Sure. Depends on the person.
We're real, right?
Great, thank you for that. Because, when we're starting, it is all these little, like, do I do this, do I not?
Stress out over a lot of these decisions, and often there's not a one right answer, right?
Well, my philosophy is you're gonna hear a lot of people saying this is how you have to price, you have to do in-person sales, you have to do this. No you don't, who made those rules? Seriously, who made the rules? Somebody who decided that they were rules. So why do you need to follow them? Right? You don't. Just be yourself, you know. If it doesn't feel right, don't do it. If it feels right, and you have time, do it, you know. I don't follow rules. (audience laughs)
Which is why we love you.
Okay this question came in from Caroline Anne Walgren, and as we're talking about building that portfolio, how do I know when I'm good enough to start charging for my photography?
If you have people saying, oh my gosh, can you take pictures of my kids, consistently, you know, you just kind of know, you know? If nobody's asking you to take their picture, probably not good. (audience laughs) So, you know. It's just, I'm being honest, I'm being brutally honest, if you don't have people asking you to take your picture. It's gonna organically happen, if you're posting photos on social media, people will ask you, where do you get your pictures done? I did it. You know, and then you can be like, I'll take your kid's pictures. And, or you know, if they don't want you to, then it's probably not a good time to charge. But if you do, then you're ready.