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Lesson 10 from: Building Your Family Portrait Business

Tamara Lackey

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Lesson Info

10. Q&A


Class Trailer

I LOVE Photography and I Want to Make Money


From Photographer to Business Owner


Building Your Business To Fit The Life You Want


Business Is Business


Creating a Simple Business Plan - What To Know And What To Skip


Branding And Identity


Significance Of Constantly Marketing


Social Media Marketing


Lesson Info


So, we did a lot on business structure, marketing, the internet. What kind of questions do you guys have from all that? So I know that I should be posting on Facebook every day, but I don't have enough content. So, what do you recommend as getting content to post every day? Great question. So, what do you post every day? It depends. When you say you don't have great content, I think part of why you may feel that way is you've narrowed the scope about what makes great content. And` so, if you kind of back up a little bit and think, what are the things my target market, again, you wanna know who you're reaching, what are they interested in? So it's not just about you posting a photo you shot. It's also maybe you at the very beginning when you're saying I'm not sure what to post about. It's the same things that I would suggest people blog about, which is, what are they interested in as well? Like, what brings people to your site so that when you're reading about this, this, or that, t...

hey're also staying for the part about your business. So one of the things you might wanna talk about is, gosh, this great new salon that just opened up in your area and how cool it is, not just because of the work they do, but also how they're fitting into the market, and you love how they're eco-friendly, and your business is eco-friendly, too, and it means a lot to you, just like you know it means a lot to your clients. Right there, that's one thing. Another thing might be an event that you've gone to recently or a show that's opening in your area, any sort of behind-the-scenes things that you're doing. If you're building out a workspace, taking photos of yourself building out the workspace, having someone else hold a camera and take photos of you actively doing something like that. That's another idea. It's not just about the photos you take. It's the process of you in that environment. It's the things you're thinking about and you wanna share with your clients. It's just like, things that inspire you or you find fascinating, whether it's video clips from documentaries that you think show amazing cinematography, it's quotes that really resonate with you and what your feelings are about them, how they might connect to some of your experiences, some of the photographs you've taken. I mean, if you start kind of writing this down, this is why I think it's so helpful, not just for social media, but for blogging to do a whole brainstorm, well in advance. What on earth am I going to talk about, and really get it all down. So the time that you actually get on Facebook, you're like, how do I narrow this down? That's where you can get to. Can you see how that process would get you there? Wonderful. Great question. I hope that was helpful. Yes. Hi, Tamara. I have a couple questions. The first one is, on SEO, are we gonna delve deeper into that, or... Tell me specifically what you're looking to go into deeper? Well, I don't know really how to manage it, I mean, deeply. Like, we had a friend who just, I've got a little group on Facebook and we talk to each other about our photography stuff. And she's like, had this question about Yelp and how to get her SEO or Yelp not to hide things and stuff, and I'm like, oh, I so don't know what you're talking about. And so I didn't know if there were resources you were going to point us to on that or, or what, and then my other question was, you know, I was in business for about three years in southern California. Then we moved up here in March. And so I've been sort of like, I need a hiatus, because I pretty much ran myself into the ground and felt like I wasn't getting anywhere, and I didn't know if it was just the market down there, if it was oversaturated or if I'm just not that good, or, you know, you just feel like, I need somebody to tell me. Am I good? Should I continue on with this? Should I just do this for fun? I mean, what's going on? Do I not have a personality, or I'm not just putting the money into or my time into the business part of it, or am I putting too much time into the business part of it? Yeah, yeah, great questions. Let's start with the first one. The first one, which is about SEO. So, I would ask of you or anybody else who feels like, gosh, I don't really quite get it, a couple different things. Let me just put a blanket statement over SEO, to be really, really clear. Search engine optimization is basically, you are telling the internet, Google, what Google needs to know to promote you to people who are looking for what you do. That's what SEO is. SEO is how do people find you, but how do they specifically find you when they're looking for what you do. So a lot of people like work on SEO like, I gotta get my name out there, I've gotta get my name out there. Well, they don't know your name from anywhere. They're not searching for your name. They're searching for a portrait photographer in Glenn Lenox, Ohio. I don't think that's a real city. But if that's what they're looking for, how do you make it so that all your descriptors and tags and everything say that about you? So that's one thing to think about, what SEO really is. The second thing in terms of, it just feels complicated. It feels like there's a lot to it. It's not really where my mind goes to naturally. Good, that's great to know. One of the best things you can know is what you don't know, what you don't wanna know, and what you don't wanna do. That's one of the best things you can know, is to narrow it out. What am I good at? What am I not good at? Where do I really shine, and what should I never be doing? My lists of what I should never be doing is significant. We were talking yesterday about, Heather, the producer here, asked me, you know, what is it that you think you'd be terrible at from a career perspective? And my first thought was like, how much time do we have? There are so many things that I'm really bad at. But that's great that I know that, because that means I'm not the one saying I should do it, 'cause I know that I will fail at it. And I want somebody who's great at it to do it. So if you feel like, I just don't know what SEO is. I know I need it. I'm not interested in doing it. That's a fabulous thing to get a consultant to come in and help you, because all you need is someone to get you going and kind of give you the overview and the roles. And that's why I mentioned SEO Yoast. This is a plugin that looks super user-friendly. That whole stoplight analogy, this is a terrible post. This is a pretty good post. This is an amazing post. Yellow, green, red. Yellow... Red, yellow, green. The reason why that's so impactful is 'cause we know those. We know those, and they give you really clear line items. This post is 240 words. It needs to be 300. Add a few more sentences. I mean, that's really clear directions. I really like that. So, that's the reason I use that plugin. That plugin is one of the main points of my whole SEO strategy. What did you say for me to do? Great, I'll do it. What do you think I should do next? Yes, I will do that. I mean, that's my relationship with this plugin. It's very valuable to me. So first and foremost, if you don't know what to do, how can you get some sort of plugin or app or software that will show you what to do. Secondly, if you're like, I still don't wanna do that, I hate the backend of websites, great. You know that. Outsource it. And when I say outsource it, you can look at, gosh, a number of options, but let's just start at the very beginning. There are sites... So, for the longest time, I worked with, I think she's with ShootDotEdit now. There's a couple companies there that now offer blogging service. Imagely, the same website, the same company that does my website and hosting is also connected to people who will do blogging for you. When people say they hate blogging or they hate that whole backend, they hate the internet, I'm like, partner up with someone who does love it. There's a lot of people who, that's their passion. For 10, 15, 20 dollars an hour, whatever your market will bear, you can bring them in and say, three hours a week, I just want you to work on these things. It's off your hands, and the value you get in that, the amount of money you'd spend on an ad to hit that target market, you've saved big-time. Back to the idea of spending more money on things that bring you less versus spending some money upfront... Wait, I said that wrong. When I mentioned the bookkeeper and the accountant, how I wasted my money trying to save money, and once I hired somebody, I saved so much more money. It's the same thing for things like this. If you are putting an ad out that nobody's seeing and you're paying for that ad because you think that's the money you should be spending, I would have you step back and say let me have somebody come in. I will pay them to set this up so it reaches the people it needs to reach. I'm not gonna pay for an ad. I'm gonna just pay for someone to put it out all the organic ways it'll go out as long as it's optimized for that. So you don't have to know how to do it. You just need to know you shouldn't be doing it and hire accordingly. There are also great sources like Fiverr. There's virtual reality sites. There' all kinds of sites that will bid on work to do for you, and you can put in estimates. I wanna spend $15. Who will bid on saying yes to this? People could probably throw some names in, but there's sites. I know Fiverr's one of the big ones, 'cause we use them, that will say, yeah, for your design efforts or for your website efforts or for your SEO efforts. Another company is Brickwork. They're actually based in India. I've used them to do SEO work for me. You set a budget. I want to spend $200. I want to spend $500. There are my clear directives. What do you want from me? I'll tell you that, and then you do it. Those are ways you can handle it, but I would not, based on what you just told me, I absolutely would not try to do it yourself unless one of your life goals is to be an SEO expert. The other part of that question, pause. Before you move onto the other question, it related. Brenda had asked, what about Google AdWords? Is that something that you would use? So, Google AdWords. I used them for a very long time, and over time, I realized I was having a lot more effectiveness by doing more of the Facebook target ads. So really being able to target my market super narrowly. And what I found was that maybe when I put in my thing, so I used Google AdWords. I'd say, okay, spend no more than $200 a month. Here you go. Here's what I want you to say when people search for this. I want you to find me. And it would cap it. It would say, okay, we're at that number, and that's the most we'll spend. But the problem is when other people do that in your market too, you're one of multiple people that are listed. Searching for this? Try these seven or eight people. What do I want? I want to stand out. I'm not standing out that way. I stand out better on social media by being super targeted about my market, 'cause I know I can do that really well. I can utilize my following, maximize the reach, and pay less to reach more people. So, it goes back to kind of what you think is more effective for you. I know the people who swear by Facebook Ads or Google Ads and say, that is how I get people in the door. You just have to know your market. I think if anybody ever stands up in front of a crowded room of people who live in different cities, different states, different countries, and are doing different versions of the same genre and say this is the only way it is, you should really be cautious. Because it's depending on who you're trying to reach and how you do that and where you live. Those factors come into play. So the second part, the second part where you asked about like, you were giving it a while, and you felt like you had to take a hiatus. You were trying this for a while. You felt like something wasn't working, and you weren't sure whether it was because your business wasn't there or the market wasn't there, or maybe you just suck, right? Just to summarize. Those are the questions I ask myself. Like, am I just terrible at this? I don't know. And there's a few ways to answer that. One is you gotta look at what the structure is that you're putting out. Do you feel like you've got a strong branding and identity lined up for yourself and what you do? I have a lot of that in place, but I don't know, I mean, I think I do. But maybe because I don't SEO, I don't, I'm not out there, or... Like, specifically, have you discussed... Have you discussed. Have you discovered words that go with the question, who am I, what do I do, what do I wanna be known for, and like two sentences that actually wrap that up really cleanly? You know, I did that exercise once, and then I put it in my folder and I lost it. So, yeah. I am a little bit disorganized. Guess what? You can do it again. And you should do it again, because now you're in a new market, and you may be rethinking how you wanna go after the market. That, I mean, it seems like a simple, like maybe too simple of a fix, but most people are not doing that. So, being able to better determine that is impactful. The question about, how do you know if your work is any good? I think mentor sessions are huge. Portfolio critiques are huge. I've done international print competition judging for years now, 10-something years, and people will come, you know, the next big one coming up... There's a couple big ones coming up. But the next one I'm judging at is at WPPI in Las Vegas, and it's a week, like, third week of February, I believe, and we hunker down in a room, a dark room, for two days, and there's an audience behind you, and they just reveal print after print after print, and this panel of five judges, who all have varying background and tastes and interests will judge these prints. And they'll say, you know, I think on a score from this to 100, this is where I think this print comes at, and this is why. And they will say. This is what's great about it. These are the issues that need to be fixed. Here's where I think this maker can go from here, the maker of this print. And people have sat in that room for two days while all our eyes are just bleeding at this point from how relentless the judging can be, and they'll say, that is the best education I've ever had, across the board. I now look at my images so much differently. I just finished judging the second half of the print competition for WPPI online like three days ago. I just finished my judging. And I went through 830 images, with like an optimized web resolution. I've got my screen up. I've got the brightness right, and I'm looking from a certain distance to the monitor, and I'm putting in all these comments and judges and points. It's a lot. But by the end of that exercise, I am looking at my images better. Like, even me. I'm sitting there like, I'm judging you, and I'm learning from you. 'Cause it's so easy to make simple, common mistakes, and then once you've seen it x amount of times in a row, you're like, that's what I'm doing wrong. So, those are the ways I would look to say that question, am I good enough? Get a better idea of what you're doing and sit down with somebody you respect and admire for a mentor session or a portfolio session. Someone asked me once if they could do that. I'm like sure, I actually have a whole portfolio critique thing that you can actually purchase and I can work internationally and go through it with you. It's an hour and a half. We'll really dig into everything. And they're like, oh, that's so nice of you to do that for free. I was like, that you can purchase. (audience laughs) Because that's the idea of knowing what your time is worth and where you can spend it. And people will go, right there, they're just like, oh, I'm not going to do that. I'm not going to spend money on an hour and a half. But that hour and a half can change the entire trajectory of how you show your work, how you see your work, and where you go from here. It's worth the investment, I believe. Two questions. What are the most important metrics for you in your business, because we're talking about the vagueness of not knowing if we're doing well, and so what are yours, and then, the second one is, I don't know if it's okay to name-drop other Creative Live educators, but, you know, Jared Platt I believe talks a lot about Adobe Cloud and IPTC, metatext and whatnot. I'm sorry if I'm saying it wrong. How much does it play a part in your business or whoever is managing that for you? Okay, great questions. The first question was... What was the first question? Yes, most significant metrics, okay. I started out this class by talking about how I think it's just smart business to discover for yourself what you think your ideal life is like, and we ran through that exercise point by point by point. Define for yourself what you think is the life of your dreams, and then build a business to fit into that. And so my number-one metric is that. How do I feel every day? I'm not kidding. That's my number-one metric, because that fuels my ability to do my job, to do it well, to be profitable, to stay in business, to manage burnout. Sometimes people think that's like, a fluff thing. Like, discover what you really want in life and create a business to shape with that. That is not fluff. That is smart, hardcore business decision-making, because if you don't have all that in place, if you're wrapping your life around the business, you're gonna be worse at it. You're not going to feel a natural drive to become better at it. You're not going to want to work on your business. You can barely show up for work. You're gonna be tired of all of it. You are not... The idea of being natural, you know, this is gonna come up a lot, but when something comes to you naturally, you are naturally better at it. You're more naturally motivated to do it. You are naturally going to invest more in it, and you're going to naturally find a way for it to succeed. Anything that comes to you naturally, you are better at it. So find out what that is and structure your business that way. So my metrics are, is it working with the life I wanna lead? If that's going really well, then I know I'm doing very well. Margins. What are my profit margins, exactly? Let me get really clear about what my operating expenses are. We're going to dig into money by the end of the day, I'm pretty sure. Let me think about what my profit margins are. That means not like, how much did it cost me to buy an 8x10 print and versus how much I charge you. I need to think about what is my rent? What is the monthly portion that I pay to a studio director? I have a production manager that I pay. I mentioned rent, but I also have bills. I have water, gas, electricity. These are my operating expenses. If you don't have a workspace or a studio, you probably have internet. You have phone bills. You have all those things that maybe you don't factor in. You have gas that you spend on commuting around. These are all costs that can really add up after a while, and I have to figure out, if I'm selling an 8x10 for x amount, are all those costs adding up to give me three times, one-third. I wanna be at a three-times ratio. I want all of those to add up to be at least one-third of what I am charging for. And the amount of times people look at a print and think, gosh, it costs me, let's call it $10 for ease, it costs me $10 so I should charge 30. No, no, no, no, no. You left all of this out. When it all gets added up, you made three dollars on all the work you did on that print. And that gets left out. So I look at margins second. First is like, am I happy? And then second is going to be my profit margins. Third is always the idea of scanning through every expense you have, whether it's part of a package you sell or something you do to your business and saying, is this smart? Should I be paying this? Has anybody ever looked at their Visa bill and realized they've been paying a monthly service for something they stopped using a year ago? That thing happens across the business all the time. Like, why am I still paying for packaging that I don't ever sell anymore? I never sell those prints anymore. Why am I still buying that packaging? Like, on and on and on. You kind of have to pull back and look at it. So that's another, for me, a key metric. Another thing is the market I'm targeting. Am I staying kind of with that market in terms of how I'm reaching them? And that's something that you only learn when you kind of poll your clients. You've gotta discover where your clients are coming in and how you're finding them and if you're staying on track with where you wanna be from a revenue perspective. My average sale in my portrait business is another major metric for me. If I find that slipping and slipping and slipping, there's something wrong with my sales process right now, or everything I'm doing to set up the client expectation. Yeah. So it's a lot of different things. But it kind of starts with that priority, and there's probably like 10 more things that I'm not gonna list here, 'cause it's gonna go on so long, but those are my key metrics. The second question was about, what was the thing you said? ITPC? The metadata. Yeah. File naming, including the tags, all that. Yes. So the metadata, every time I post a blog post, for instance, or any sort of image, there's a descriptor on it. So if you've ever put a link into social media, you see that preview image from that post pops up and then a description of what the post is. That's the metadata. That's the metadata in terms of SEO. There's also metadata in terms of, and I can see why this is confusing, there's also metadata as it relates to what the settings are on the image you took. So it's kind of different terms for different things, or the same term for different things. But when that pops up, I wanna shape what someone's seeing if they're doing a quick preview. Because if I don't do that, what's going to pop up is some random line from my blog post that doesn't make any sense and doesn't direct people and get people excited about coming in and reading about this. So I wanna like, write in what the metadata is. The other word you said, you said a word that has something to do with ITC. It doesn't even matter, because there are people who are watching this right now who are gonna be like, yeah, Tamara, it's... I have no idea what that word is. I don't know what it stands for. And again, that's awesome. I think sometimes we try to cover up what we don't know. We try to hide it or just kind of play with it, play it off or whatever. The more you embrace what you don't know, the better you're getting at what you do know, because you're going to make sure you get somebody to cover that for you. If it's not something that sounds really enticing to me to learn more about, I'm gonna make sure it covers if it matters. And to this day, I still don't know what that comment was. We'll get back to that. Okay. So, we have a question from Meredith Zinner about when we were talking about referrals. And so the question was, what do you do when clients tend to, as weird as this may sound, keep you to themselves? Does that ever happen? Oh, yes, yes, yes. I know exactly what she means. So what happens when clients keep you to themselves. Basically, they don't give you word-of-mouth referrals. And sometimes, the intention is good. It's a positive thing. They feel like, they may feel... Well, there's a couple reasons why that comes up, and it does come up a lot. I have found that to come up a lot. So what Meredith I believe is referring to is there are clients that you work with who love your work who buy it and come back to you often but never tell anybody else about it. Sometimes it's because they do want to have this private, quiet, you know, supplier of great photography that nobody knows about, 'cause they don't want other people to book you, 'cause then they won't be able to book you when they call. That's, sometimes it is. What I have found that it's even moreso is if you are a busy working photographer and you've got a lot going on and it takes 'em a while to get in and schedule work with you, they may automatically assume that you don't need any more people calling you, 'cause you're already overwhelmed as it is. If you convey to your clients that you are overwhelmed and you are overworked, and even though you'll do this shoot, you can't really talk much 'cause you gotta go to the next thing, they may very naturally have this idea that you don't want them to refer anybody to you. So they'll keep it to themselves. They'll keep you quiet. And sometimes, the easiest fix there is a couple things. Constantly thinking, how am I coming across to my client? Am I giving my client the best experience possible by being there when I'm there? Yeah, I'm busy. I got a ton going on. But I'm with you when I'm with you, and I want you to know that this matters to me, that we have a quality experience, but also, I do want you to tell your friends and family about me, so I'm going to literally ask. Hey, if you have friends and family who would like to do some work, I love this job, and I would love to photograph their family, too. And is that something you are comfortable saying? If it's not and it feels a little like groveling, figure out a way to say it that makes it sound like I'm just telling you how excited I am to do this work, and I love photographing your family, and I know I'll love your friends, and I know I'll love your family. So I really hope you tell them about me too. Whatever way works for you, and if it doesn't come naturally, practice it. Say it a few times. Practice on a friend until when you sit down across from somebody and you say it, it sounds genuine, it is genuine, and you communicate to them that you'd love their referral. Yes. Meredith wrote back and said, and boom. Thank you, brilliant Tamara. Thank you for that comment. Hi, I wanna expand upon Meredith's question. So you use Facebook for a lot of your marketing. Do you ask your clients to tag your business when they share photos, or do you watermark, or do you just trust that you'll get glowing reviews and that they'll actually credit you? 'Cause sometimes clients can post photos, fall session, look at my family, so excited about Christmas, and then they might not tag you. So how do you do that? Everything you said, I've experienced done all the ways. So, what we do is for the way we sell, and we'll dig a little bit more into this when we get to pricing, but the way we sell is that it's a la carte, and we really want to move prints and canvases and metal pieces, because genuinely, we're putting all this work into it. Now, if I gave you everything on a USB, it'll probably just sit there. We put all that work in, got beautiful images, and it's sitting there. So I really want to move pieces, heirloom pieces. So from that mentality, for the most part, I wanna sell products. That being said, I do have an option for you to buy the right to reproduce. There's a price tag on that, and we have incentive. If you spend over x amount of dollars on prints, we will give that to you as a gift, so that it's built-in. That gets people thinking about spending more. If they buy something over an 11x14, we will offer them web-optimized images for social media with our watermark. But we have a really simple watermark. It's not like, across the face. It's not across the body. I see that a lot, and I think the intention there is, hey, don't rip off my image. My thought process is, everything out there, I can't control. I don't know what you're going to do with it. I could put an image anywhere, and it's gonna be picked up over there, and I can't actually monitor all of it. I have to go in with the understanding that the internet is a wild place where everything gets lifted and shared. If I can catch it or track it, great. But if I stress over every way I put something out because how someone might use it, I don't wanna put all my energy there. I wanna put my energy on creating things, creating great business, creating great photography, creating a great new client list, and building and building from there. If I'm putting my energy towards worrying about what happens to my images when they go out, I am draining myself of where my energy should be put based on what I love. So I already made the decision years ago that I'm going to give it to you, I'm going to go with the understanding that you're gonna respect that, but what you do with it from here, I'm not gonna chase you down and control it. And by that same token, I have absolutely had people do screenshots from my blog, from my social media, from this, that, print it on paper, like the 8x10, put it on their fridge. I'm like, okay. That's one way to go with it. My mindset, though, is if I keep targeting to the right clients and I have them valuing the work I do, that is less and less likely, that they're going to do that. So that's part of that. The other part is when we hand it over to social media, we do say, we'd love it if you'd credit the studio, yay. We're so proud to be working with you. I can't say that they always do. But I have seen images that come up, and I'm scrolling my feed. I'm like, hey, I shot that. And it's like, 500 comments, and they're like, oh my God, it's amazing! And not one place in there is that I shot it, and what I may do right there is just, oh my God, it was such a joy to photograph your family, as the five-hundred-and-oneth comment. You know? Five-hundred-and-oneth. And then often what they'll do is update and edit the description or the cover profile or whatever and say, and a huge thanks to Tamara Lackey. And I honestly never think that, I really don't think that they're trying to not credit me. I think it's just not something that comes to their mind. This is my family. That's what I'm thinking about. Hey, guys. Look at my family. They're beautiful. So with that mentality, I'll just maybe do a nudge here and there, but I don't, I can't chase people down. We will ask people to share. We are excited when they do. And also there's so much out of our control. Can I ask something sort of on the flip side of that question? The images that you share to promote yourself of other people's families, with family photography dealing with a lot of kids, what do you usually tell parents or how do you work it in to make them a little more comfortable? We know about stripping the geotag information if you were to shoot a session at someone's house kind of a thing. What else do you talk to parents about that make them feel more comfortable, or how do you work that into your strategy? Yeah, that is something that I think is really important to determine how you're going to handle and handle it consistently going forward so it's not something that comes up again and again. What we have done as a rule in terms of posting images is first and foremost, being just respectful of any hesitation anybody has ever. There's nothing I have to post or push, and I wouldn't. But we have a portrait contract that goes out to every single person we photograph, and on that contract, it specifically says, these images will be used for marketing, blog posts, in ads, on the website, in the portfolios. We're listing like five or six ways we use these images. And the client has to read through that to digitally sign it. We do not hand it out like an overwhelming document. It's not like an iTunes agreement where no one's gonna read it. It's gonna be a one-pager, that's pretty simple, and you digitally sign it. And we do not accept the session fee unless it comes returned with the portrait contract. There's three things we really, really wanna make sure is clear upfront. First and foremost, the session fee, nothing gets booked unless we get the session fee. Our session fee is $500, for my shoots. And so $500 session fee books it on the calendar, and it doesn't get booked until that happens. Number two is the portrait agreement has to be reviewed and signed with all that data in it. And the third thing is they have to have seen our prices upfront. We do not wanna go through an entire process and then them be shell-shocked at the end. So once that's all agreed upon, the portrait contract is where we're saying, we told you all this. You know all this. You've agreed to it. We have it in writing. I set the expectation. You know what the expectation is. There's no question here. In that, I would say historically to date, we've had maybe one percent of people say, eh, not this part, and that's it. Like, one percent of people. And in those cases, a million percent, of course, we'll know that out, and I will know very much. We won't post or share that at all. What we get most of the time is like, oh, I love it! I wanna share it everywhere! And we're also very respectful of, I'm not going to share any image that's unflattering or at all questionable. He may even be watching this broadcast, but a photographer friend of mine who, I had photographed his family for years, I have this one image I photographed of his daughter that was just adorable. Like, we're outside. It's on a bench, and I was trying to get her to scooch her skirt down, 'cause little girls' skirts are always nudging up. And instead, she turned over, flipped it backwards, and stuck her booty out at me. And the whole thing was just so perfect. And in any other scenario, you're like, that seems wildly inappropriate. Like, the first thing I said to them is I showed them the back of the camera and we all laughed, 'cause it was, I can't show you this image, and that's the point. It was hilarious. It was just a moment caught. But as we're all like laughing hysterically, I'm like, I promise you I will never share this. Do you even want me to keep it? 'Cause I'll delete it right now. And they're like, no, no, no, send it to us, but of course we're never gonna share it either. In cases like that, that's just common sense. It's cute, it's adorable, but I'm never gonna show stuff like that. That's just not worth it. But in terms of families and stuff, unless they explicitly tell me not to, I do, and I often have that shared pretty generously. And we also tag everybody. Everybody who's in the images, we make sure we tag them so they know immediately that that image has gone up there. Yes. Can I add a small followup question to that? You may. Make sure it's really nice, though. No, yeah. It's a loaded question. You can choose how you answer it, of course. If you had clients that ignored all those steps, how did you deal with the fact that they were ignoring that? Have I had clients ignore what steps? Your expectations that you were obviously trying to set. Oh, like they said uh-huh, uh-huh, but didn't actually, okay, yeah. So, yeah. Yes. And mostly, I don't think they ignored us. You know, part of this is my perception of their intentions. My perception of every single client I work with is they have the best of intentions. Really, 100%. I don't wanna live otherwise. I mean, I don't. Not that I don't wanna live. I don't wanna... I don't wanna live in another way. Oh, my God! I don't wanna live in any other way, 'cause it's just so much of a drain on your spirit. Anybody else in this room or on the interwebs who is somebody who just already knows that you feel everything, you feel every batch of energy and sensitivity that comes your way, you've gotta be really proactive about managing that, if you wanna go in the long haul, and I am that way. So I'm just gonna assume everybody means the best. If something comes back where it's jarringly evident that they are trying to do something super negative, which I don't think we've ever experienced, then we'll address that. But if they have ignored things, once thing that's really helpful is on the spot, asking. So on the portrait agreement, saying, did you get the price list? Did you step through it? Did you have any questions? Okay, so you understand. And that might sound a little pedantic, but sometimes they just, yeah, I saw it. Well, let's walk through it a little bit. That heads a lot of things off at the pass right away. You're gonna hear this a few different ways over the next few days, but unmet expectations are the number-one source of unhappiness. For everything! Certainly, if they had a different expectation, no matter what I do and however good it is, they're not satisfied, and vice versa. If I've kind of laid it all out and they completely ignored it all, I'm like, what, why'd you do, I thought we said... And it's the same thing for relationships. I think that is like one of the major disruptors of a marriage, is I went into this with a totally different set of expectations than what happened. I saw you differently than who you became. Unmet expectations. If you can acknowledge how powerful that is and try to make sure everybody's on the same page about expectations, that nips a lot of these issues in the bud right away. A lot of the issues you're gonna hit later, just melt, they dissolve away, 'cause you addressed it up here. I had a question about forms. So, after you've done the portrait session or after you've completed the sale, do you send out a form asking if they were happy with the session, where they heard about you, all that sort of thing? What was the first part you said? I have a question about forms? Yeah, like, do you send out a questionnaire? Oh, yeah, yeah, I thought you meant forums. I'm like, I don't really ask 'em there. Okay, so do I ask... Well, one of the things we love to do is right when they call and inquire for the first time, if they're not a repeat client, and we're fortunate. We photograph a lot of repeat clients. But if they're brand-new, we're like, well, who do we have to thank for referring you to us? And sometimes it's a very specific name. Other times it's, I don't know, I heard your name and it was on the internet, something. But if we can get as specific a response as possible, that's great, 'cause that definitely informs us of where we need to be marketing, what's working and what's not. If I put up an ad, a print ad in this magazine, which I don't really do at all anymore, but if I did, and not one person ever say they saw that, I'm not going to do it the next time, you know? So that's one of the first questions we ask, because it's so helpful. So yes to that. I think the second part of that is you're saying do we ask how we did? Just with like their level of contentness or how pleased they are with you. Right. So one of the things that's very helpful for securing that feedback is the in-person sale, sitting down right next to them. It's hard to miss how they felt about things when you're there together. Like, you get a really good sense of it, whereas it could be completely missed if you just upload to gallery and go away. There have been times I've uploaded what I thought was an amazing session to a web gallery, and it's like chirp, chirp, and I just have an order come back to me, especially when it's the first in years, and the order just shows up in my inbox, and I'm like, oh, that's it? That's all you want? Okay. You must have hated these. Like, I don't know anything. But that's the assumptions we make. Through our insecurity and our vulnerability, we kind of assume, you know, I can't see you, you can't see me. I just got this order, and you didn't say anything nice. I must have been terrible. So, being able to break that down and be in person and say, you know, let's have this conversation. What'd you think? A lot of times, they'll turn down an image, they won't want an image, because there's something in the image that's so nondescript that doesn't matter at all that you can take out in five seconds that turns 'em off about the whole image. I have sat next to somebody. We've pulled up an image, and I'm like, what do you think of that one? And she's like, no. Okay, well, I love this image. Tell me what it is that didn't resonate with you? What do you not love about this image? She's like, oh. Well, he looks amazing. I love my hair and my expression. But my arm, oh my God, could I hold it any closer to my body? I look like I have 17 football fields in that arm? And I was like, cool. Let's crop it right here. Yes, that's the one. I want that image. I mean, that is super common. That comes up so often. They don't know what we know. They don't know what we can do. If I'm just waiting for an order to come in, I have no way to show them that. When we're sitting right next to each other, everything can come together, 'cause realtime, I can address whatever their objections are. So, that's another way. And then lastly is to say, what you can do is say, I'm so glad this went so well. I can't wait for you to get these images. Maybe you don't clap. Not everybody should be clapping. I'm so glad that you loved these images. Could you mind if I just share a little bit about your feedback on this? Invite a testimonial. Even better, flip out your phone and say, can I tape you? Can I just tape you doing like just a one-liner? Do you mind? It's amazing how often people say yeah, sure. Are you gonna post it? Yeah, yeah. That'd be great. Or they'll be like, oh, let's just do my voice, 'cause this isn't working for me today. Great, your voice is awesome. I'll upload a photo with an audio clip of your voice. Brilliant. Yeah. There's multiple ways that you can not only get the feedback you're hoping to get. You can be at a point where you can even access it. You can get the feedback you're hoping to get, but then you can maximize the value of that feedback for future marketing. This is question that we see a lot, Tamara. This is from Lindsay Cohen, who is part of a husband and wife photography team. They specialize in weddings, but they have recently been toying around with the idea of actually creating their own portrait brands. Brian loves shooting young, trendy millennials, and Lindsay really enjoys photographing kids and families. And she's wondering, is that too much to try to pursue? Just to make sure I'm getting the question correctly, what I think they're saying is they are currently photographing weddings. They would like to, in addition, have a portrait studio, or transition completely to portraits? It sounds like in addition, each of them kind of focusing on a different niche if you will in addition to the wedding business. Okay. So, yeah. That question is fantastic for me, because I lived it. When I first started out, I was doing portraits and weddings, and they were two completely different operations that basically just utilize all the efficiency of being under one umbrella. That's how I set it up. So I marketed my portrait business very different than I marketed my wedding business. In fact, I had two different websites, and when you went into my main site for Tamara Lackey, you had two options, go to the portrait website and go to the wedding business website. They both looked differently. They were branded differently. I was trying to reach different people. And one of the things I, and this is a kind of note of caution for them. One of the things I found out relatively soon was some of the people who knew me through my wedding work were looking for a good portrait photographer, but had no idea I did that. I'd give the photos back, and they're like, oh, we love 'em so much. Our niece is about to have a baby, and gosh, she's looking for a great family photographer. Do you know anybody? I'm one. (audience laughs) And the same thing, vice versa. These family portraits are so good. I wish you shot weddings. My cousin's about to get married. I do. I wasn't sharing that. So I think, I think, from a marketing perspective and for a client-gaining perspective, being very transparent about what you're doing is to your benefit, because my concern was, if they think I do this and this, they're not going to think I'm good at either. But if you have a couple people doing it, if it's just me, if you have a couple people doing it and there's targeted focuses, foci, if you will, you can pull that together in a way that'll be more effective. What I would do at that point from just a branding and marketing perspective is find your niche as it relates to what connects it all. How do you continue to market this one specific thing because something connects it all? For me, it was a strong focus on authentic, genuine expression. It didn't matter if you were a couple in a church or if you were three kids and a couch. That's what I was going for, and that's what I marketed, and that made a big impact, because I wasn't saying, I do all these things, you know? I was still doing multiple things, but I had this one line of branding and marketing that still remained consistent. It was still a way for people to have me stand out. The other thing from a monetary perspective is there's a lot of different considerations. It's photography business and photography business, but they're run kind of differently. In my experience, having done both of them, I made a point, like I said. I shot weddings for seven years, and I think it was over 200 weddings when it was all said and done, and I made a decision from a life perspective. I loved the people I met and how much it fed into my portrait business. That's something that's gonna be an amazing bonus in doing both. The weddings feed into your portrait business tremendously so in a beautiful way. That's a great upside of doing both. And then eventually, weddings again, based on those family connections and everything. But one of the things I discovered, I transitioned out of weddings 'cause it was crushing my weekends, because my kids were getting to the point where they were going to activities and doing things, and I felt like I was missing too much. So that's the only reason I moved out of weddings. Otherwise, it was a great business structure. I loved it. So I moved out of weddings of that reason. I mean, it was stressful. I didn't mind losing that part. But then I had to be really cognizant of how my portrait business was built up to maximize the profit so I didn't lose all those dollars. And so what I would advise them to do is make sure that if they are the two people who are the producers on both of these things, to allot the amount of time that it's going to take to promote and run a portrait business studio, and that may mean shooting a little bit less weddings or outsourcing more of the wedding work. So if they love doing the weddings, they wanna do a number of them, I would say, become really, really targeted in what you outsource. Because you can shoot an eight-hour wedding and spend 40 hours producing it. Make sure someone else is doing that so you can take on two portrait sessions. Like, yeah, it's doable, but just make sure you revamp your structure. Yeah, looking at the right questions. That's awesome, thank you. So, part of how I got into photography and what I'm still doing is I do nonprofit work for nonprofits, and I'm wondering, the person I help with that, I've been there for a couple years now, and she really appreciates it and she wants to help me, and she's offered to promote my business some through hers, and I'm just wondering, when you're working with a nonprofit, ways to use the nonprofit as part of the, you know, not getting money from them, but working the interior business as a way to promote your work. So what kind of nonprofit is it? I do animal rescue. So, for adoption photos and also just humane treatment of animals and things like that. Yeah, I am for that. (audience laughs) So, what kind of photography are you interested in doing? Family photography, children, pets? I do pets. 'Cause pets is a brilliant transition. Yeah, I do pets. That's where I focus. Family photography to the extent of, I'm willing to include people. You know, I like photographing children with the pets. People own the pets, so you're still working with families. Yeah, the dang people are everywhere. I feel that way, too. Like, for the longest time, I just wanted to photograph children. I'm like, I don't wanna photograph the humans that come with them. But eventually, I started having a whole different realization about family photography, and now I love it. But initially, I didn't. And for you, working in that genre, in terms of a nonprofit, I think that combination, what work are you doing with the nonprofit exactly? Most of what I do is I do their adoption photos so we can promote them on Petfinder, on Facebook, and get them new homes, but I also work with an organization called HeartsSpeak, and they, it's for artists helping animals. And so I do some licensing and stuff with them. Okay. So one of the things I think would be a very natural transition for you and actually be a revenue creator is to not only take those photos for the adoption but see if you can work with a nonprofit to track where these pets go to, and then offer them a complimentary session. So build it in so that when they do the adoption, they're gonna also get this complimentary session where there's a waved session fee. and let me be specific. When I say complimentary session, I mean you wave the session fee. You don't give everything to them from the session. It's still a complimentary session, because you're just charging for a session fee, but they're going to buy the prints at whatever pricing structure you've set up, and I think that matters too. But have it set up where you're basically going to do good with the best of intentions, and you're going to have a revenue feeder that's coming in from that organization that you can then keep going with. So if the person adopts the pet, you do the complimentary session, which is a gift to them with the adoption. It's another way of helping to do good. Then you do the session, and then you offer the sale and have that relationship, but you also say, I love photographing pets. Would you mind referring me to your friends or family or let me, you know, everything I just said a minute ago. Every single time you get in the door, you have an opportunity to prove how good you are, how passionate you are about this, what kind of relationship you wanna build with that client long-term, and the opportunity to have word-of-mouth referrals and them directly introduce you to their friends and family. It's always worth it, and that's a great transition in, and then you can almost bring that back out. So now as you do more and more and you build up this wonderful pro portrait pet photography business, you become more and more valuable to the nonprofits that you work with as well, and you build a name. And just one more question that's related to that. In getting out who I am to the people who are adopting the animals, she's stressed I knew, you know, having like a packet. She'll hand it to them. I'm not gonna be there when it happens. and so what kind of material would you include when you're working with another business for them to hand them? Yeah, I would do, if I were asking somebody else to offer that package, I wasn't the one who was there, I would do two things. One, have some great-looking packet, and don't feel like you've gotta be a designer. Go to some place like, where you can go and get really great templates that are ready, designed, and done, and I just plug in your name. If you don't wanna be a graphic designer, get great graphic design and just plug your stuff in. There's so many ways to customize existing templates that it almost looks unrecognizable from the original template. Do not do graphic design work if you don't wanna be a graphic designer. Get great templates. I was a graphic designer before. In that case, you're fine. Right. The one person I'm talking to. So, so then design your awesome things. Have a print run of things, but I would not invest a ton of money in the print quality of these. I would do moderate print quality, because it's gonna be expensive, if hopefully it's moving at the volume you want it to move at. But make sure it's very, very clear that they link somewhere where you can have tons more detail on a website, including an invite, maybe a little video of what it's like to work with you, some of your portraits and photographs, and ideally, you have them hand over the paper and a USB so they can plug it right in and go, and they don't have to think about a link or click through, something like that. So what you're thinking about isn't just, I want you to spread my name, but let me make sure I address every obstacle to you actually reaching out to me by proactively creating something where you're gonna go right to me, no matter what. Let me think about it from the perspective of a very busy person who just adopted a pet, now has to clean their apartment a lot, while falling in love with the animal, and is probably not going to pick up that one sheet of paper that came in with all the adoption papers. How do I reach that person in a way that they're going to naturally come to me? And ideally, if you can make it so, they can also give you the name of the person who adopted the pet, and then you can reach out. That's something we try to do for charity auctions, too. I don't want really necessarily something going out to a random nether space and I don't hear from that person. If you can give me their contact information, we can go ahead and reach out. Congratulations! I heard you won the bid. Can't wait to set something up. Night and day right there, in terms of where you can take it.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Tamara Lackey Posing Book Discount
Nations Photo Lab Discount

Ratings and Reviews

a Creativelive Student

This course was fantastic. I learned more on what I need to improve and change in my business. I especially liked learning how she balances all the things in her life. She is a fantastic teacher who keeps you engaged throughout the course. Thank you creativelive and Tamara for producing such a great course!


I thoroughly enjoyed this class, Tamara Lackey is an amazing individual and trainer! I loved what she said about not letting ourselves be diminished by someone else's narrow view... This class touches on many business related topics, I had many "aha" moments and feel excited and committed to tackle various aspects of my business in small steps!! Thanks for sharing so much of you!!!

a Creativelive Student

This was a fantastic class. Tamara is a fantastic teacher and really cares about conveying all the information that she is so passionate about. I found myself hanging off her every word and being so inspired to put her lessons into action. Buy this course - it will pay dividends in your business.

Student Work