Skip to main content

photo & video

Portrait Startup

Lesson 2 of 35

The 9 Areas of Mastery

Sue Bryce

Portrait Startup

Sue Bryce

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2000+ more >

Lesson Info

2. The 9 Areas of Mastery
The success of every portrait photography business hinges on some key variables - Sue identifies them.

Lesson Info

The 9 Areas of Mastery

Why is it so hard to teach business? Why? Like I think about it, and I just think there are so many variables in business, so many, so I kinda broke it down, the photography portrait studio. And if you have a wedding studio that also shoots portrait, you could apply this model to any photography business model. I realize that there is nine areas you have to master. So I want to show you what they are. Now, I've taken you in the past through rate your business. Rate your business in these eight areas, how am I selling, how am I Photoshopping, how am I shooting. But this is different when I looked at it, and I'm gonna tell you what they are. Now, straight away, the first nine things that come together, they come together in blocks of you actually taking action and doing it. And I realize when you do a business workshop, you're speaking to artists and graphic designers and photographers, the first two things don't apply. But you could, you know, switch them over to your genre. So let me j...

ust take you through the nine because I need you to write these nine down and start to master them, okay? Also you need to understand, in terms of mastery, there is no level of mastery. I can say I've mastered this level, but there is always more to learn. There is always new technology. There is always evolution and advancement, so you never actually master one of the nine. Also, there's going to be entry points. If you are sitting at home in another job, or if you're sitting at home with no job, the entry point into most of these nine levels is gonna be very low. If you're already two years in, you're shooting, you're struggling with money, you are gonna find your entry point's a little bit higher. So it's really hard to teach a business model when everybody is at a different level. And there are so many questions. But how do I say that? But how do I write that? But what words did you use? But what did your voucher look like? But how did you, and you're answering one question. But for other people, the design and the vouchers just come so easy, so you're gonna find something with these, these nine photographers, as each of them have something extraordinary about them that puts them a little bit further ahead of most people. Some of them have already built businesses, one of them is a graphic designer, two of them are graphic designers, two of them have backgrounds in psychology, so they get people out of their blocks really quickly. One is a corporate salesperson, so one of the mentors sitting here opened her studio with my advanced price list and sold her highest package on her first shoot. Now, you can say that that's lotto, she won lotto, that was lucky, okay. But I find that the more I believe that I'm worth, the more I believe my work is worth, the luckier I get. Now, she opened her business at full price because Sue said, if I can do it, you can too. And that is proof to me that you need to get out of your own way, so let's talk through these areas because you can look at your entry point and then you can look at your mastery. Now, the first thing you're gonna master as an entry point photographer is camera and lighting. I put the camera and the lighting in the same mastery. Do you know why? Because every time you pick up your camera, you learn about your camera and you learn how to light your subject. They are synonymous to me. Now, you can advance your lighting and become a master of light. I mean, who advances their camera settings, you know, John Greengo, that's who. John does, nobody else does. Most people are like, you turn the thing and then you up the thing, and then the thing goes down, and if the thing drops below 40th of a second, you can't hand hold it. You know, let's face it, we don't actually master our cameras, and the people that do, good on you. Go and find clients, you know. That's what's important here. And as for lighting, I can take a v-flat, a $30 v-flat, and I can put it outside with a chiffon fabric over it, and photograph beautiful images, once I learn to diffuse natural light. And then we want to learn strobes, and then we want to learn Kinos, and I know this because after 26 years, I'm learning strobes and Kinos, and I feel like I am mastering them thanks to Felix, because I did a lighting workshop with him. You can teach an old dog new tricks, and it is nothing more exciting than learning something amazingly new, and I'm really enjoying it, but have I mastered natural light, yes, I have. Yes, I have, and I love to teach it because there is nothing more beautiful in this world than natural light portraits. I don't care what anybody says, that is my belief. The next thing you're gonna try and master is Photoshop and Lightroom, remembering I do not use Lightroom, why? I don't believe in upscaling myself to something that I do not need. I do not believe that I should have spent the time and the money to learn Lightroom when Photoshop works perfectly well for me. Now, if evolution forces me to grow, if they take all of my favorite things off Photoshop and put them on Lightroom, 'cause let's face it, Lightroom was designed for photographers and Photoshop wasn't, then I would be forced to learn Lightroom. Until that moment, I do not need to take the time or the money. Now, I'm in business, so I have a very limited amount of time to achieve anything that is actionable, and what I do is I decide what is most important to my business. Marketing myself and selling myself is more important than me learning Lightroom. So today's telling off is gonna come up a lot. I'm gonna constantly ask you do you need to buy that. Do you need to learn that? Because unless you need to, you're sitting at home, hiding behind something when you should be out selling your work, okay. This is gonna be a big wake-up call these next two days because everybody says the same thing. You, as mentors, know this, people get in big reserve on Facebook. I need more marketing. I need more marketing. I need more marketing. I need more marketing. You don't need more marketing. You need more selling. You need to sell yourself. Okay, so today is pricing, tomorrow is selling. And that's not selling work, that is selling yourself first. Okay, because we all know it's all about the sell. And how do you do it? With enthusiasm and know hard sell. All right, now, in terms of camera and lighting at Photoshop Lightroom, I've done enough on creative life, on my own catalog to get you through my genre in those two areas. So I'm not gonna teach those two things today. You probably own 28 Days already which is my greatest foundation course, that is where you wanna go for those. And if not me, choose another creative live instructor that matches your style and your brand and go to them for camera and lighting in Photoshop. I'm here today to take you to the next nine areas which is business, all right, getting paid. Because I can teach camera and lighting over and over again and the truth is, you know I've done it. Secondly, I'm not gonna take you through the history of how I built my business. Go back to Glamour Workshop One and watch that, go back to 28 Days and watch that. I'm not gonna waste teaching time talking about how I got here. I want you to hear how they got here, how they got here. All right, now the third thing that you're gonna learn to master and these all tide in together is studio and location. So one of the hardest things for us to transition, all of the people following through in Glamour is where do I shoot when I don't have a studio. How do I set up a home studio when I have a family, how do I set up a home studio when I live in a dark area that has no light? How do I set up a home studio when I have two cats, five dogs, three parakeets, (audience laughing) seven children at my house when my husband won't look after them? That is a real question, okay, I might have embellished on the cats. (audience laughs) it was like two cats and three children under five but anyway, the truth is I can't help you look after your children and I can't help you get your mother-in-law to come and look after your children. I can only teach you photography. I can't teach you time management. There is no master your time management. If you work out time management, you come and tell me how. (audience laughs) Okay, 'cause I tell you now, work life balance, there isn't any. I suffer from being an extremely passionate woman. I suffer from this, passion means to suffer, okay, it means to suffer. It is not to find joy. There is no joy in passion. Passion is obsessive and I don't know what keeps me working on social media till 11 o'clock at night so I can speak to you all. Because I hate it when somebody says, they're so or whoever is running their social media. I'm running my social media. You're talking to me. I'm sitting up till 11 o'clock at night. I'm getting up at 5 a.m. to talk to you. This means everything to me, mastering photography, mastering posing, mastering Photoshop means everything to me. When I wanted to stand out, I won awards, you know that's what I did. So if you want to stand out, go and win awards, join WPPI, do an AIPP, join the ends of IPP, win something, get put up in a pedestal. Don't start a business, don't sell anything and then start doing workshops 12 months later, that's not how you get notice, that's how you get bought down. All right, so these three things here are gonna be the hardest things. When I talk to the mentors about studio and location, I said to the mentors, I can't teach this. I can only offer solutions, this is how I did it, this is how each of them did it. But you know what, each of these nine photographers sitting in front of me, found a way. They found a way. You said that yesterday Shona, they weren't sitting at home making excuses anymore. My first four years, I shot on location. I did not have a studio. I have sold a $3,800 package on my Microsoft laptop which you can actually hear the wheels turning out. (whirring) It was about two inches thick at Starbucks. Okay, you do it because you don't want to do anything else. So I'm gonna confront how much of these areas you really want to master. Because I'm telling you right now this entire sections like Photoshop, if you don't want to master Photoshop, outsource it. But you're gonna have to master sales, selling and money management or you can't pay that person. And if you can't master sales, selling, price product to money management, you're not getting paid either, you suck. So that's it, you're stuck. I'm telling you right now, this is about business. Now, you're gonna find out today if you really wanna be a business. Because if you don't want this, don't do it. It's okay, go and get a job, shoot fine art, shoot on the weekends but don't tell me you're tortured in your day job and you can't transition. Tammy did, so don't tell me you can't do it because that is not your truth. You're just saying that and I don't believe you. Now, there are a lot of these areas that I resisted mastering a lot. Second one, so your lighting, camera lighting, Photoshop and Lightroom, studio and location is when you're ready to get a studio, you must at least have a consistent folio or consistent sales coming into your studio. Do not go and sign a lease on a property, paint it and buy a whole lot of props and tell me it's not working. You are not ready to do it. Now there's two areas that are very gray in this master eight, when am I ready to have a studio and when am I ready to up the price of my work, when is my work good enough to sell. So the third segment today is pricing and sales. Now, not many instructors in this world are brave enough to put up an international standard of pricing. This is what we should be charging and I want you to work towards this level. I am, I'm gonna tell you right now, I'm also gonna be the first one to tell you, your work is not ready to sell at this level. So upscale and make sure the work is ready to sell at the evolution of pricing, that is gonna be a very gray area to teach, that is when you need a mentor. That is when you can choose one of these skills who has a similar story to you and they can help you through that process. Because there are so many variables in those two gray areas and I can't personally mentor you, I just don't have the time. The next step is Website and Folio. I can't teach you how to build a website. And people all the time asking me, which website shall I use, how should I do this, here's the deal, I have never spent more than $1,200 building a website. I have been the most budget hack on websites. Does my website works, yes it does. This new website that I launched a week ago is the first time I've spent money on a custom build out. Now I have never spent more than $1,200 on a website and I did not need to, okay. You don't need to, this just represents an online portfolio. People need to be able to find you, find your information and see your work and then connect with you, that's all the website is. Your entry level of a website is usually amazing and yet, everybody hates their website, right? Everybody hates it. The second you design it, you hate it. You just hate it straight away. And you're always gonna hate your website 'cause you're sick at looking at your own work. I need you to create your website based on one thing, service to your client. Now, I can't teach you how to build websites 'cause I don't know how. But I've found that every new photographer I've ever had has a camera and a website. I've never met anybody without a website. If they're that entry-level, then they're starting right from the beginning. (audience coughs) And I can't help you with a startup, build out of a website, that's not what I know. These three areas and the nine levels of mastery are Marketing and Design. This is interesting, Shona and I talked about this, Shona and Emily are both graphic designers. And the first thing I said to them was I have put marketing and design in the same category and they both nodded. In fact, all the mentors nodded. Why, why is marketing and design in the same category? I'll tell you why, it is not anything to do with selling. Okay, marketing and design are the way you look online. It's the way you design your cards. It's the way you present your brand which is your photography, all right. But, you can be the best designer in the world and you can have an amazing, amazing website, and amazing cards and fold out cards and care to leave the cards and vouchers and you can't give them to a single person. You can't connect to a single person outside of your studio. Right, you are crippled by the idea that you now actually have to show someone. So I'm telling you right now, you may have actually designed the most beautiful card you can thinking it's gonna sell itself. You actually think that that business card is gonna get legs, go out and connect you to the world and tell everyone you're a great photographer. In fact, that's why you spent so much God damn money mastering level one 'cause you think if my photography is just a bit of an everybody else is, then I'll stand out. I know some of the best photographers in this world that can't make money. They don't know how. And this here, down here, this bottom tier, if that's you, that's gonna scare the crap out of you. Those three levels are going to scare you today because they're meant to. You are nothing if you can't sell it. So marketing and design do not belong in marketing and sales. And all the mentors agreed with me straight away. They realized right now, this has nothing to do with marketing and everything to do with sales. So why are you all telling me you need more marketing, not you guys, you guys. (audience laughs) Why are you all telling me, over and over again, I just need more marketing. I just need to make marketing right. I just need more marketing. I just need more marketing. Here clearly, I need to market myself. No, you need to sell yourself. And I need to teach you how. And again, that's such a gray area but the truth is, these nine different personalities here and they're all selling themselves. So we're 10 different personalities all selling ourselves, some introverts, some extroverts, you know, some, some shy people, some people that overcame big blocks to be able to make money, some show-offs, we're a mixed, right, we're a mixed bag, that's gonna be neat to watch. And then the third one, 'cause this is what you're shooting and then this one is how you look, all right. This level here is how you look as a brand. The third, the third one on level two is social media and connection. Why did I put connection and social media together? You're ability to connect with the outside world starts at home on a computer, on Facebook, and then I hear, all the time, in big reserve, I'm filled with objections. By the way, my whole life is opening my Facebook group and hearing everything you can't do. Okay, people tell me what they can't do way before they tell me what they can. Nobody's liking my page, I'm not getting any attention on Facebook, it's the Facebook algorithm, it's not me. Nobody's seeing my stuff, here it is, when you turn on Facebook, there's a chance that 90% of your friends list on your private page is unfollowed. Be honest, I've unfollowed a few people. I'm still friends with them but you just hit that little right top arrow and says unfollow. So I no longer receive their posts, any of it. So here we are criticizing that nobody is seeing our work and we've unfollowed other people. Now, unless they tag Sue Bryce in a post, I will not see the fade, unless I go to their page, I won't see it. And you're all guilty of unfollowing people. So maybe a whole lot of people liked you and then unfollowed you, why would they do that? Because social media is your first connection to brand. It's the fastest way to tell people what you're doing personally and the fastest way to tell people what you're doing in business. Whenever I hear people, winging and moaning that they're not getting their needs met, you know, when they're not getting their needs met on social media, the first thing I do is go to their page. The mentors and I talked about this last night, we decided that not only are they not showing work, not only are that they are not sharing with enthusiasm, their pages are often filled with negativity, bitching and moaning and bad photographs. And then you go to their business page, 'cause I think, okay, if you wanna keep your personal life clear of your business, although I have a struggle doing that because every part of my business life is my personal life. So I thought, okay, if you have trouble sharing that, maybe I'll go to your business page and maybe I find something different, and guess what, I don't. You've all seen it, right, same thing, bitching, moaning, sell, sell, sell, sell, sell, sell but no share. Okay, and here I've told you a thousand times, your social media, your social media ingredients are 40% positive opinion, 40% knowledge, 10% personality, 10% sell. So, then somebody in the chat room writes but she just told us we need to sell, sell, sell. Okay, and here it is, this is the kicker, you need to sell without selling. And the fastest way to sell without selling is sharing the beauty in experience of what you create. This is where it gets gray again. This is why teaching business has been so hard. But a lot, the bottom line there to me and the first thing I'm gonna teach you around connection and that's connecting to other people is I'm gonna teach you this afternoon about ownership. I'm gonna teach you how to be confident about what you've decided to be. I'm gonna teach you how to stand up into your role, lock two feet to the ground and own it. My name is Sue Bryce and I am glamour portrait photographer. I specialize in photographing women. It is my greatest calling in life. It took me years to own that. I couldn't even to say it because I don't want people to think that glamour photography is a bad, oh my God, everything gets in the way from the moment that was gonna come out of my mouth. The day that I stood up and owned it, the day that I stood up and said, my name is Sue Bryce and I'm a glamour photographer and I'm not only good at what I do and I'm not only in love with what I do, I'm gonna bring glamour photography back to the world. I was like, that was pretty bold and the day I decided that, everything changed. I locked two feet on the ground. I stood up and I took ownership. I'm gonna finish the day with ownership because each of these photographers here need to own something and they're gonna own something today. They're gonna own their next path because they're already through the fight. But now, they've got to make money and grow and they need to own themselves as business owners and photographers and they need to own it and go forward owning it. You've gotta stand that and own what you want. And most people are not telling me what they want so I'll finish the day with that. The bottom three lines are possibly the most terrifying things you will experience. So I called each of these nine areas, one through nine and I sent it out to the mentors first and I said, on a scale of one to 10, 10 being terrible, which ones did you find the easiest. Just about all the mentors come back with one, two, three, four, five, six, easy, seven, eight, hardest. Most of them came back with the same thing. So then I sent it out to the public and I said, where are struggling the most. One, two, three, four, five, six, I'm working on well, seven, eight is where I'm struggling and I'm like, seven, eight. So after we meet the mentors, we're gonna do pricing and product because until you have something to sell, you have nothing to sell. Now, everybody's suck on that, should I charge $ or 201 and $80, should I do 190 and then upsell one, should I upsell one day 280 and then get $ or should I just go 1,200, I can't do 1, because nobody in my area would spend $1,200. We could do $1,200 and then what I'll do is I'll sell these special gift bags and then I'll put all the stuff in which will cost me about $200 but I'm a gift giver, it's my love language. And then that my portraits better (audience laughs) because I'll feel like people will really value spending 1,200, nobody's gonna spend $1,200 with. I've already talked to my husband and he told me I can't because I'm not worth it. And then my mother-in-law said what, $1,200 for photographs, how do you sleep at night. (audience laughs) And then I'm just like, and I paid for a lease at a studio and now I don't know what to do, (grunts) I'm like, what. Okay, come on back, let's all take a deep breath and come back to here because I'm hearing this over, and over and over again. You're gonna own today the price of what you are. I'm gonna teach you about value of product. I'm gonna teach you about value of self. I'm gonna teach you to stand as a human being with two feet solidly on the ground and declare yourself as a portrait photographer or whatever you wanna be. Okay, because you can be whatever you wanna be so let's just own whatever we wanna be. Then I'm going to show you how to price it and how to create products that is congruent with what you want to get paid. And then after you want to get paid, you then look at somebody and you do two things, I own who I am, I value who I am, I value what I sell and I cost this much, there's four things. Okay, I own who I am. I own what I sell and how much I charge and then you're going to tell people in your full power. Instead of being like the, well, I could show you with a free voucher and then hopefully upsell you or trade for prints and then, you know, we're gonna divide folio building from actual business, getting paid. But can you understand, like when I say you're gonna stand in your own power, you're gonna own your path, you're gonna decide what your price is, you're gonna decide to own it and value it and then you're gonna tell people confidently, does that make you feel empowered? They do think is it that easy, I can do that. I'm going to give you those four tools. I do not have business degree, I leave school when I was 15. Most people, you know, absolutely taken the key out of both my grandma and, you know, my ability to blog, one rolling scene have sent just shoot me now apparently, it's okay, I'm not that smart. I don't care. You don't need to be smart to be in business. You need common sense, all right, you need to stop spending money. You need to value yourself and what you do and what you sell so that you can actually do that. Because if you're not doing it, you're not selling it, you don't value it, you're not going to. Sales 101 right, Timmy, if you're afraid of what you're selling, never gonna move it. You're going to stink of fear. I can address your fear but fear is just projected anxiety. What is anxiety, it's that thing that keeps you safe when they say, we've been humiliated before, we've been shut down before, we've been put down before, don't put me in that position again. So I can address your fear but it's not going to make you still do that phone call tomorrow to put yourself out there. What I need to address is your ownership of what you want, who you are and what you wanna sell because it is that easy. I used to sell ala carte, I know I'm gonna do pricing and third, I used to sell ala carte but when I went to packages, it became very easy for me to get over my block. My name is Sue Bryce. I shoot glamour. I have a small, medium, large package, this is what it is. Can I upsell those packages, yes I can but that's not what I tell my client because I don't want to confuse them. Then I watch Nicki start her business in Seattle and Nicki was already doing really well with winning photography and then she came at us at entry-level and so I've got her journey. I've got Tammy's journey. I've got Shona's journey. And all of them have a very unique block around and taking in money. And it is extraordinary because they're gonna be proof to you that you can shift it 'cause they all did. Now, sales and selling, sales and selling for me is, we're gonna do this tomorrow, selling yourself. This is so important to me, this is selling yourself, business relationships, business partnerships. Do you know how many people are telling me online, it's not working and they're struggling and I'll ask them what their blocks are and they tell me they're doing everything right, they believe in themselves, they believe in their products and then they love their photography. And then I go to their website and nothing about what they said rings true. And then I ask them, who are you speaking to? Who are you connecting with? Who are you putting yourself out there to? Oh, nobody, I don't wanna come across like my salesy or that I'm horty torty or that I'm too good for anybody else, I'm like, okay, we've got a block here. All right, the last one is money management. I'm not gonna talk about money management today in terms of how you, I'll talk about how you receive and value money because anybody can actually draw money to them and anybody can create a product and get comfortable with their product and start selling it. Everybody has different entry point into where they feel comfortable about receiving money. So everybody has a very different entry point into getting themselves out of it. Because if you feel comfortable at 400, your sales are gonna up to 400 after today and stay there for a long time until your ready to move again. If you're comfortable at 1,200, you're gonna go up to 1,200 today and stay there until you're ready to go again. When you are ready to go to 1,800, et cetera, et cetera, it's gonna be, you know, what it is, it's the other's way. It's the same, same view, different altitude. So as you go through and hit a glass ceiling on your next sales, you realize it's just glass and it's just yours.

Class Description

When Sue Bryce taught her first CreativeLive class in 2012, she reinvented the category of glamour photography. That workshop inspired thousands of photographers to create a new kind of portrait photography business.

During this special event, you’ll hear from Sue again and meet nine photographers who changed the trajectory of their business and their lives thanks to inspiration they found in Sue’s CreativeLive classes.

In Portrait Startup, you’ll find out exactly what these photographers did to transform their fledgling photography operations into sophisticated, profitable businesses. You’ll learn about what it takes to build a profitable photography business and Sue will detail the Areas of Mastery required to run and sustain it. 

You’ll learn about:  

  • Cameras & Lighting
  • Studio or Location
  • Website & Portfolio
  • Marketing & Design
  • Social Media & Connection
  • Price & Product
  • Sales & Selling
  • Money Management
Sue will discuss the essential elements for building a successful glamour photography studio and you’ll get specific, tactical insights for doing it yourself.

Each of the guest photographers will share their own unique story of following Sue's business model and they’ll provide intimate details on what they've discovered and what worked (or didn't) for them. Sue will share the secrets behind her wildly effective Reveal Wall and share strategies that guarantee sales while keeping clients happy and eager to refer you to their friends.

If you want to build a photography business that celebrates the beauty inherent in all women, while running a business that provides for you and your family, join Sue Bryce and guests for Portrait Startup and learn how to build a business and life that you love.

Click here for the Complete Sue Bryce collection.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials


Mentors Solutions Workbook


Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes


Sandra Sal

How glad I am that I have purchased this course! Sue is just wonderful woman, photographer, business person and life coach. This course is so informative, inspiring, educating and just AMAZING!! Simply a must have! Don't even think "should I get it" just buy it and you will be blown away! I loved every second of it and will keep re watching it many times more! Thank you to Sue, wonderful mentours and Creative Live!!

Laura Captain Photography

As a person that is new to portrait photography and to starting a portrait business, this class has been extremely valuable to me and well worth my time. It is also very helpful to hear from the mentors. I have a lot of respect for Sue, her work and her wisdom. She is genuine, has a passion for her work and has a wealth of information to share. I believe this class will actually allow a person to achieve their goals and build a business. I now feel more knowledgeable and more confident about pursuing a photography business. Thanks so much Sue and thanks to CreativeLive for providing wonderful online education.

Janice S.

i just finished watching this workshop. though i'd seen sue's name on the list of creative live workshops, this is the first one i've done. to me, she is effectively partnering life coaching with photography education. which is awesome. between being an ER nurse for almost 20 years, as well as arriving at my late 40s not unscathed, i can relate to much of what sue has said and would like to think that i'm in a better position to tackle the business of business ownership than i would have been 20 or 30 years ago. the other thing i noticed was hints of rhonda byrne. this may or may not actually be the case, but it seems like it. the power of positive thinking essentially. i loved the whole thing. though i'm not really close to implementing the business practices taught here, i wanted to watch the whole thing before moving on to her glamour photography workshop. i wanted to understand what i would be moving toward as i go through my technical education. i believe i will be adding 28 days to my class list too. thank you sue!