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Starting From Scratch - What Matters And What Doesn't

Lesson 12 from: Building Your Family Portrait Business

Tamara Lackey

Starting From Scratch - What Matters And What Doesn't

Lesson 12 from: Building Your Family Portrait Business

Tamara Lackey

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Lesson Info

12. Starting From Scratch - What Matters And What Doesn't


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

Starting From Scratch - What Matters And What Doesn't

So it burns it to my current studio. I mentioned earlier that the space we're in right now, we put a lot, I mean this was by, and we're gonna be here for a while. We signed a five year lease. We sat down and looked through the architecture drawings, 80 times. Like the people own the space were just like the commercial real estate people who are like, just go, now, stop it. But we were so clear, 'cause we're like five year commitment, we know exactly what we need, we know exactly what we don't. We know how to utilize space so we're maximizing everything we do in there, and not using one extra square inch that doesn't make sense. It's very similar to taking a really good photograph. Like you take a very good photograph because you sit there and think, if I'm going to photograph Kenna right now, I'm gonna think about everything in the frame, and what do I not need in this frame, that will only enhance the photograph. The more I take out, the better the portrait. And in this shot I would t...

ake out that thing down there, I'd take out the little cups, I would take out, like I would say, can we move you a little bit farther away from that divider in there. (laughing) Camera's like, thank you, we'll have to back up more and more. But I would be sittin' there constantly thinking what can I take away to make this better? From a workspace, or a studio space, it's the same darn thing. What do I not need here? Let me be really intentional about what makes sense. And if you're somebody whose like, okay, I'm not necessarily there yet, that's great, we're gonna walk through a bunch of different spaces and show you it. Again, I started in a space I can't even show you. It was just imagine a cluttered attic. That was my space. So, we're here right now, and this was the initial build out. And if you can see, there's things that we've put some money into the front area where clients will walk in. Like the glass doors and this and that. We wanted to invest in. But areas like storage units and any extra area that clients weren't touching, was just really bare bones. I didn't need to make everything beautiful. Like I did in my first space. We built this, this is a shooting space, this was in progress, I'll show you kind of exactly where it is right now. But to make this space, we measured out exactly. Step by step across the space and back and forth before we built it. Where can I put the most wide backdrop I want? But no wider than I need? So I've always worked off the 12 foot wide backdrops in my first space and in my second space. By the time I got to this space, I'm like "I don't need 12 feet," that's always a little bit more than I need on either side, I'm not photographing 20 people on this space all the time. And I don't necessarily need all the room for kids to run around, because if they're gonna do that, I'm gonna take 'em on location. So we ended up literally taking a saw, one of those electric saws, and sawing down the backdrops to fit, so it's exactly ends right there. I'll show you that live in a second. But this allowed us to have a shooting space that could immediately transform into a conference room, or a sale's session area, without hardly any breaking of a sweat. Like four minutes, you know? 'Cause time, the time we take to do this became very valuable. Alright, so let me show you exactly this video, it shows you exactly when we started, what it looked like. I did this with Nations Photo Lab, they came in and we outfitted the whole space. Where before it had nothing in it, and then afterwards we had gallery shows everywhere. And these are some of the things I thought about when I bought the space, but also kind of the after where we are now. Hi I'm Tamara Lackey and we're here at my brand new studio space in Chapel Hill North Carolina that we have spent months and months building out and creating really intentional design around, and here with the help of Nation's Photo Lab we're gonna take our wells that are like nothing, and make them awesome. (upbeat music) I think it's pretty important for a photographer to have their own studio space for a variety of reasons. And it doesn't even have to be a commercial leased space. But some area that is very much the place where the photography happens. This is about a 1600 square foot space, and it's only about 500 square feet larger than our last space. But it really acts almost twice as big because everything's being used with a lot of focus and intentions. A big consideration when laying out this studio space was we needed more walls and allow it to not just be what we think of as beautiful, but also functional. (upbeat music) Light was a big consideration, we wanted a lot of natural light, but we also wanted to be able to, again have those private spaces that may not have the natural light, but would be just as bright and just as welcoming. Altogether, it looked very bright and very cheerful. Because even if you can't always get the natural light, sometimes you can replicate it by just having the right color balance in your lights. When we first decided what kind of products we wanted to offer, we looked at everything to see what made the most sense for our clients. We chose a combination of canvas pieces, canvas's are just an excellent classic product. That move often with our clients. Clearly we do a lot of framed prints. Maybe it's the wood print wraps which have a really unique look. We love how it looks with the landscape pieces and our travel pieces and then there's the metal pieces that we choose because they're just so different. And they're really striking, and we wanna show that to our clients because when we have an image that comes up that we think, "god that would look amazing on a metal print!" We wanna be able to show them what it looks like right there. (upbeat music) my favorite part of designing the studio was actually feeling about the feel of the images and how I'd put that together. For instance we were drawn to making happy images. It's really easy to just only put up smiles everywhere or laughter. And yet, that doesn't convey what my photography is, which is a good combination of emotion. So maybe it's laughter, but it's also a lot of quite moods, it's contemplative and so I love the idea of saying, "okay, I'm gonna have not just this combination of prints "and this combination of sizes, but I want this combination "and variety of emotion, the spectrum of emotion "to come across the entire collection." When it's time to get started in terms of designing the studio walls, the very first thing we did was measure the walls. Just say, what are we talking about here? And then take into consideration, what's not usable space? There's a light switch right there or there's an exit sign you have to pair it down to what's usable space, and then start sketchin' it out. (upbeat music) So a few things we've learned along the way putting pieces together is one. You can put a combination of color and black and whit pieces together and have it look nice. I always find that if I have a grouping together that's black and white and a separate grouping over here that's color, they both tend to be more striking overall pieces in terms of I think of the way that everything lies together as like a piece. The other consideration that I learned, was just because a wall is this big, and this tall, doesn't mean you can use all of it. So where are the furniture pieces gonna be? What is the height of those? And what kind of clearance do you have above that start your gallery wall? Another thing to think about is not to be afraid to go bigger. I think for some reason even though we don't like it when our clients seem a little nervous about bigger sizes, we sometimes are putting that out there by only showing smaller sizes. So, I like showing off bigger pieces because there's all these elements that come into it with the print, that I wouldn't have had otherwise, and unless it's large, I don't get to show the impact of that. (upbeat music) Thanks for joining us, I hope that was helpful. Don't you love her shirt? Kenna's like, it's the same shirt. (laughing) So that's a lot of considerations, but I will tell you that going from a bunch of blank space to actually putting up a gallery wall that you love, so much more effort than I thought it was. Every single time I've done it we've gotten a little bit better we've gotten a little bit more precise, we've been a little bit more intentional about how pieces lay out together, and what we want to sell, what we want clients to see first. Putting that altogether is just, a lot. And the physical hanging, oh I hate hanging huge walls. Does anybody here love that? It's exhausting, 'cause as soon as you have it all done, you hang it up and you're like, "it's two inches off!" It's like that a lot, but when you think about how you're walking into the space, what do you want clients to see first? And for me, it's not family images. Even though I'm selling family images. I want them to come in and see, if you saw that one wall when you walk in, it's just a lot of beautiful landscapes and travel shots. And what that does to me is it's a transition 'cause they're coming in from the front door where the coffee shop is, but any sort of lobby or whatever you have, into your space, where they're not immediately seeing everything to buy, they're just seeing a lovely inviting space. And then they slowly kind of merge into, here are all the options that you might want to consider. And it's just a really natural, comfortable, way to walk through a space and not feel like you're walking into a show room or someones trying to sell you a car suddenly. This whole back space has been perfect for being able to house all my gear. And kinda have everything has a place. I've since added, like, peppered in, you know, different prints and little, I have a box where all my memory cards go. And I have another box where all my chargers go. But everything, every camera, every camera body, and every camera lens, should be assigned to a certain area. After workshops it's totally chaos and I can't find anything, but generally speaking. That way it just saves me on the effort of looking. I hardly ever have to look for anything anymore. I mean, I walk in, I'm like those yellow boxes down there are where the external drives go. This over here is where all the charger cords go. This, we know what slots where the gear is. This is just a bunch of extra caps and lens caps and back caps and all that sort of stuff. I mean, I could tell you what everything is. These are magazines, these are magazines that I wanna read. (laughing) It's really heavy. On and on and on. Down here are just sales prints that I'll pull out when clients wanna see an example of some kind of paper types or this or that. If it's not the sales area, I can go and show some extra things. But I could walk in there and grab what I need and walk right out in five seconds. Where as, in my first space, in my second space, in my third space, no way. It was just, everything went somewhere, wherever I was closest to would I put it down. And I am not a super neat freak by nature. I'm more like, I'm creative! Let's just let it go! I'm gonna shoot and I drop a camera lens, or not lens, lens I'll care about. Cap, lens cap, I lose those all the time. We just them in bulk, again and again. It might as well be on subscription base. Like that's how often I lose them, and that is just my norm. So I am constantly just-- So I have to have a structure of when I put it in there, I can be that much more creative. Have you ever been in a super cluttered space, and felt like, "ah, I'm free and open"? It kinda stresses you out? Some of you? It stresses me out, it does. Even though I don't wanna be the neat freak, it stresses me out. This is at the front what we were building out. We were building out this coffee shop, which we've now expanded quite a bit. And so all of this was shot, right when we first got in there. We first got in there, we first set it up. Let me show you what it looks like now, as a working studio and how all the pieces come together. Because when we first built this, this wall was right here. Since then, we've broke open this wall took the entire space next door and set that up for a lot of uses. Expanded cafe space, more co-working space, a conference room, and another bathroom. So, I'll show you, this is a really raw video. I shot it the other day. There's nothing about it that's well produced, it's just me holding a thing. But it's a pretty honest look at exactly how everything operates. I tried to do it at a time of day where it wasn't so crazy, 'cause normally there's a lot of people, and I didn't want to have to ask everyone if I could video them. But you'll still get a sense of how it all works. Hi I'm Tamara Lackey, and I want to give you a tour of our space. Our space is a combination of things. We have our shooting space, our photography studio where we do the work, client meetings, all of that. And we have a coffee shop and cafe, in addition to that we have co-working space, we share this space with others. Either in the space or even outside of it, but it's all part of the same thing. There's a hub of energy happening here a lot of activity at all times, and when we need to just shut it out, we have separate conference rooms and shooting spaces to do that. So as I walk you through, you'll see what I mean. But let's start with the shooting space. Okay, so, this is it! I'm gonna come on down, this is our shooting space. I'll back up a little bit so I can really show ya. You kinda come in here, and walk through, and what you'll see, is right now it's set up for being a shooting space. So, we just had a shoot recently, You can see right there, obviously we got pretty tall ceilings I think those are 20 something feet. But you can pull down the backdrops. We've got four backdrops on roller, and it completely covers up this television, which looks kinda small right here. But it's actually a 75 inch screen, it's pretty huge. Actually I think you can see the scope, because of me in it. But you pull it out and we go ahead and shoot. And we use this lighting right here. These are our Westscott Flex Lights. What are fabulous about these, is how small they are. You actually pop it out of this frame and it's a sheet of lights. Like this! Which is super cool, and they're constant lights, so you can just kinda dial up and down what you need. And with all these lights you see right here, we have power to light up a group of 20. It's that bright. But then you can take the lights off and stack them up. So it gives us more room in the space. Which was definitely built in as an intention. We've got our frame corners there. So when we want to sell framed pieces, and all bunch of storage back there, for all the things we need. Obviously we have a lot of outdoor light. This whole wall is a window top to bottom, which is great. And we have client viewing options, be able to show them a variety of our products. Mirror for changing, and then here's just some of the things we move into place, we've got other chairs and such stored. That we set up for client meetings. Okay, that was the shooting space. This is the rest of it. Okay, let's keep moving, so we're in this space now. This is our combination of kitchen, there's some more outdoor lighting, prep area, this is our storage room, where we keep a lot of things for the coffee shop actually. This is kinda the walk in that you have into the shooting space. We have client bathroom, we actually have two bathrooms for different things. And this is beautiful photography up there. And let's go down the hallway, so this is the hallway that separates the shooting space from the main working area, which is pretty important because it gets loud with all the things that we've got going on. Obviously we've got quite a number of shots and different products, canvas's, couture boards, framed pieces, prints, metals. That's my office, which I'll show you in a second. And then you come out here into the main area. There's Sarah, say "hi" Sarah! Hi! This is our display wall. We've got the track lighting and the chandeliers, big fans of the chandeliers. And you come in, here's working desks. We can move these desks out and about. Based on what we need. Office. Amy, say "hi". (laughing) That's my office, and this one is set up with a pretty fair amount of intention. The idea was to use a pretty small space, but be able to store a lot with it. So that's where I work in terms of my desk set up. There's a whole kinda yellow and gold combo going on here. I can store so much gear in here, it's ridiculous. Everything's hidden by boxes and set away, and everything's got a place and I know it. And then, including everything that's on hooks. And then we come out here, and oh and that's a space too. And that's the other office. Maria say, "hi"! Hi! (laughing) And then, we come out of this room, into the Coco. And I use the door right here to tell these people where to go. I'll move back all the way up so you can kinda see this. This is kinda, I'm walking in, so that's the studio back there. And these are the main doors, and if I keep going, you see Coco Bean, Coco Bean! And all our outdoor space. So, I'll come in here, comin' in! And this is Coco shop. Here we go. Go through, sorry! (laughing) A little awkward with clients here and customers here. Penny, say "hi"! Say "hi" Penny! Penny runs this space, just have our decorations up. Bench and chairs and that, little crazy in here, but that's kinda what that looks like. Let's walk back here. This is an office, which is probably locked right now. But that's a whole co-working office in there. Come here, we've got a space that people can rent and do for meetings. Which is really neat. Some of these drawings are from our kids story hours we do. And another bathroom! This is a customer bathroom, so, which means for clients or our clients whatever we need. And you may want to note, by the way, one of my favorites, our door. We made this from scratch. All are welcome here, and that includes men, women, pirates, aliens, ninjas, gamers, gangstas, invisible men, zombies, but of course, only vegan zombies. Alright, and so we'll come back out here. (humming) Ice cream treats, lots of stuff. And then coming back in, to this! I'm there! Okay, and then lastly, is the walk back. This takes a while, I'm kind of almost out of breath. So come over here and then this is our outside space. Which has a, it's really pretty back here. You'll see the sphere. Some outside seating, this is for a Coco Bean awning, and this is for Tamara Lackey Photography! And that, that'll do it! That's the whole tour. Oh my god, I'm such a dork! (laughing) I didn't actually, I told you it was rough, I didn't know I was singing in it. You may address this later on, but I'm wondering what your digital workspace is like. 'Cause I love just all the space that you have to put your lenses and-- What do you mean digital workspace? Like when you open your computer and you have 100,000 raw files, how do you organize, because what you're selling is products that come from digital images, Yes. How do you organize all of your digital images? So that office you saw of mine, which apparently I showed you three times in a row, I'm so excited about it. I was like, "didn't I just go over this?" I will see at my desk-- this has changed dramatically. 'Cause I used to have a large monitor, and a second monitor next to it. And I had a closed room where the lights didn't come in much so they wouldn't effect my monitor, and I'd recalibrate it every couple we-- I don't do any of that anymore. I don't do any of that anymore! I have a Mac Book, 15 inch Mac Book Retina Display. It's probably somewhere here in this room. And it is set up, it is calibrated, I do care about that, I make sure that remains calibrated. But I've calibrated it so that my print lab, what I send them digitally comes back as prints so I don't have this disconnect between what I sent them and the colors and toning and brightness and contrast that come back. So that is aligned, and when I have an actual shoot, I'll process the shoot, I'll take the photographs, I'll back it up to my external drive. So that's why I had all those external drives, those boxes, I think in those boxes alone, are something like 20 drives. And then I have more as backup outside of the studio. That's another thing. I used to keep everything in the studio. We have a storage unit, that we pay for monthly, with all the stuff that we only need to access here or there. I don't need it all cluttered up my space. So, think about that math for a second. Think about the volume of this. If I had one additional storage room, of all the things I might need to get to, like my external drives or this one light that I might need to further my lighting options, or this one chair that I wanna use every so often on a shoot when I have a bigger group. If I have a space that's just storing that, and I think about my square footage rent, versus to put all that in an external space. So I'm paying maybe 130 dollars for a storage unit, where all that goes, and when I need it, we can swing out and get it and come back. But if I were to do it in my studio space and have that, I'm paying 750 dollars. Just for the square footage to have storage. So that's what I mean by intentionality. Think about everything you touch in that whole space, what brings you revenue and what doesn't? In that coffee shop, there's a lot going on there. You know, it's a pretty big space now. But every single thing makes sense monetarily. If shelf space is being taken up by a bunch of products that I love, and are cool but sell averagely, and I don't bring in another product that's gonna have a much higher return, much higher margins, because I feel like it's full, that's a really poor business decision. And its the same thing with my studio. If I feel like I don't wanna buy one more piece of gear 'cause I already have three cameras, but this other piece of gear is going to make me have that much more revenue return, because I'm doing so much better and have that much more confidence. But I think shelf space wise I'm full, that's very short sited. So, digitally speaking, I have external drives there, but I have a lot off site too, because I don't wanna clutter up the space, and it's way more expensive for me to have it in that space. And then anything that needs to be mass edited, we send out, we send out all our mass edits. I don't do mass edits, I can't stand doing mass editing. But I like the final proofing. So it comes back in and I do the fine art editing. I use like On1 Software, Photoshop, Lightroom. I'll do all the final edits, and then it goes up to Animoto, make an Anima slide show, and then everything is stored on a third party server that we have, we use Amazon Business for our extra storage on the cloud. And then I have all those external drives, and then we have one more shared wireless server in the studio. So everything's backed up three times before it ever leaves a memory card. But our production space is my laptop. And a couple boxes behind me. That's my production space. Does that make sense? 'Cause I know you're gonna get into legal stuff later, are you legally bound as a business owner to hold files for certain amount of time for families? I am not legally bound, I am not personally bound, because my contract would set that up. If my contract that I have with my client, we all agree to the fact that what we're doing, and what we're not doing, that idea of setting expectations, if I put in my contract I will save your images for 10 years, crap, I'm now legally bound. That doesn't get touched, I don't even say that. What we tell clients is we try to hold on to them for five years but I can't guarantee it past the sales cycle. That's what I say. And then we try to hold on to everything forever. We absolutely had people come back 10 years later. But, I won't guarantee it. Yeah, it's just too difficult, especially with the mass amount of storage we use now. Yes, Kenna. So, just wanted to clarify, the question was, this is from Wendy, thank you Wendy. What is the first thing that people see when they come in, are they coming in through the back door, and seeing the studio? That's a great question. Or are they coming in through that front entrance? And what's the intentionality behind that? So the intentionality, when we first looked at the blue prints for the space and decided, 'cause we started out with a boutique, it was a clothing boutique, and we gutted the whole space and moved everything around. We had to move a bathroom from over here to here, to open up the conference room, etcetera. And we wanted to think about the client experience walking in. So initially, everything was gonna be in that back space. Come in that way, there's a nice little sidewalk there, you can park, go across, come around. And then initially, it was like the studio's here, and the coffee shops here. And never the two shall meet. And that was just a crazy thought! Because people love the coffee shop. And it's really cool and we market in the coffee shop the studio. And everybody who comes in to the studio buys from the coffee shop. So it's kind of cool. And then so if we have something, and we've had this before where a company's coming in, they're bringing 12 people with them, it's disruptive to come in that way, and come in that way, we'll just, you know, kind of suggest they come in through that way. That room is available for rent. So if you live in North Carolina area, we rent out the shooting space and the conference room. Again, the idea of maximizing the opportunity. So people, if they want to have a private thing, can come in that way. But as it's set up, right now, most everybody comes in to the coffee shop, and every time we communicate what we do, we let them know that. There's a sign on the door when you first come in, Offices of Tamara Lackey Photography, Sport Often, Beautiful Together, etcetera, and then there's another sign on that door when you come back. Did you also notice, I mean, granted it was crappy audio, but did you notice the massive difference in sound? That's on purpose too. We wanted to block out the noise when you come through. And by the time you get to that back studio space, it's whisper quite. When the doors are shut. So we do a lot of video filming. And we set it up so it's really quite back there. But it's crazy loud when you go into the coffee shop.

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.

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