Featuring Cody and Allison

I first met Cody and Allison as they drove into Memphis from Nashville to shoot a wedding, and we were able to grab some dinner with some other creatives and chat. We had been acquaintances in a few Facebook groups, but this was the first time we had a conversation. Cody and Allison are amazingly driven and talented. Cody’s put together the Forest and Falls workshop coming up this coming April with an amazing line up of speakers.

What made you want to pursue photography as a business? Was there a tipping point for you or was it gradual? To be honest, I sort of fell into it. I bought my first DSLR in November 2014 and started booking small weddings a few months later after shooting a few couples and engagement sessions along side other photographers. Everything else just sort of snowballed from there. I started booking a lot of free and portfolio building shoots that winter as well where I was able to sort of curate what I wanted my work to look like and then booking weddings became a little easier and before I knew it, I dropped everything I was doing at the end of 2015 to pursue wedding photography full time.

Why photography? What drives you to capture images? I think I love the idea of romanticizing real life. From the time I was a child, I always sort of fell for activities that took me away from the real world. I loved all forms of art and the idea of creating excited me. As I said, making photographs that not only capture real life but in a way, enhancing and highlighting the moments we take for granted.

Where do you see your photography going in the future? That’s a tough one. I lean back and forth between editorial and wedding photography but with the two becoming so cohesive in photography culture, it’s easy to do both without feeling torn apart creatively. But above all, I want to educate and inspire. Oddly enough, I was a personal trainer before getting to photography and before that, was going to school to be a music/percussion teacher and taught part time at several different high schools. Both outlets have really pushed me to want to help others succeed and pursue the goals they want to reach.

What personal projects have you done that have resonated the most with people? I am not 100% sure what resonates with people but if I had to choose, I think a lot of my editorial/creative stuff tends to get a decent amount of response from my photography peers. Within that work, I am able to really go into it with no rules, no time limit and no expectations and just simply create. I think that has really helped with a lot of my paid work and helped me to further book the types of clients I want as well.

If you could start your business over, is there anything you’d do differently? Absolutely. I wouldn’t have started shooting weddings as soon as I did or would have assisted those with more knowledge. Granted, I am glad I got that experience and learned a ton from it but I think a lot of us loose sight of how important our jobs really are. Beginning photographers look for pretty and impressive photos and that is totally fine. But experienced photographers understand the depth of what they do and in turn are able to deliver more gripping and important photos. I missed candids at first. I didn’t photograph guests barely at all. I really only lived for the portrait time. I’m glad to have learned that the most important photos aren’t always impressive. Do I still try and deliver incredible portraits? Absolutely. But everything in between takes priority just the same now.

What marketing activities have consistently worked for you to attract new clients? PUTTING OUT CONTENT. More content means more to put out on social media. More social media presence means more credibility to clients and so on. Not only does the idea of putting out more content help my marketing, blogging, SEO etc, but it helps me because I am constantly shooting. I am constantly experimenting. I don’t make money on every shoot and that’s okay. I want to shoot for me and I owe it to my clients to constantly be improving. I want my value and worth to be twice what it is from the time a couple hires me to the time I shoot their wedding.

Who influences you? I am influenced by a wide variety of people but I think I draw inspiration from the most unexpected places and people. Sure, it’s no secret that I came into photography being inspired by guys like Ben Sasso, Jordan Voth and Benj Haisch. But, I almost always go back to my father and step father. My father always pushed me to do what I love and my step father always pushed me to be a man of integrity and to work hard. Both ideas have greatly contributed to any amount of success we have had with our photography business in my opinion.

How do you choose what projects you do? It’s pretty simple and gets more and more simple the more I take on more work. If my logo doesn’t match the photos I am taking or will take, I probably won’t take the project or at least show that project, wedding or shoot to the world. It’s the simple idea of showing what you want to shoot more of and though that idea seems overplayed, it’s truly helped me stay excited about my work.

Follow Cody & Allison on Facebook & Instagram.

Featuring Kaitlyn Flint

Kaitlyn Flint is an amazingly talented young photographer. She’s crashed onto the scene and has been making a name for herself right from the start. With an amazing eye for creating captivating imagery, she’s surely going to be around a long time. Her portrait work has a way of capturing a raw intensity, that makes you want to know more about her subjects. I met Kaitlyn last year and we shot some photos and explored parts of Memphis to add to the ever-growing list of great spots for portrait work. She’s as kind as she is talented, get to know her a little bit better below!

What made you want to pursue photography as a business? Was there a tipping point for you or was it gradual? It was VERY gradual. The fact that I was running a business didn’t really resonate with me until a bit later on. I saw myself as an amateur just taking a few people’s pictures and getting some extra pocket money in return, but now it’s so much more than that. It’s my job.

Why photography? What drives you to capture images? I love memories. I’m very nostalgic. When you capture a picture, you’re capturing a moment from this memory. It’s something from the period in time that you can always go back to. It kind of feels like time traveling to me. Without pictures, I’m sure there are a ton of things that I wouldn’t remember as clearly. I want to give people something that they can hold onto forever.
Where do you see your photography going in the future? To be completely honest, I’m not sure. I don’t know what kind of photography will be my specialty, I don’t know if I will be working for someone else, or if I will be self-employed. I don’t know. But I kind of love that. I do have a goal. My goal is to do everything to the best of my ability. To be 100% motivated in whatever it is I’m doing. To believe in myself. Everything else is unpredictable and I love that.
What personal projects have you done that have resonated the most with people? Anytime I travel with some friends, I love taking pictures. I love capturing all the fun moments we have together. I want to structure this better and actually have a blog dedicated to all of my traveling adventures. More personal projects are in the works!

If you could start your business over, is there anything you’d do differently? Hmmmm. I suppose not. I started taking pictures when I was about 16, and I was horrible. And my prices were a complete joke. But without making so many business mistakes, I now know what kind of clients I do not want. I want people to take me seriously and when I was making mistake after mistake, people did not take me seriously. They disrespected me. I still make mistakes all the time, but the more professional I appear, the more people respect me and my work. That’s all I ask for. The way I started my business goes against pretty much every common sensical business rule; however, I learned from personal experience the importance of running a business properly.

What marketing activities have consistently worked for you to attract new clients? FREE PHOTOSHOOT! Whenever I announce a free photoshoot, friends tell friends tell friends about it. Even if they don’t get a free shoot, they are exposing my work to all of their pals. After announcing a free shoot, I still get tons of business inquiries shortly after. I try not to pull this card too often though because instead of hiring me for a shoot, people might just wait for the next free photoshoot announcement to come along.

Who influences you? Vivian Maier and Allister Ann. Both were/are pretty modest when it comes to their work. There is something so charming about that. They don’t do what they do to receive credit or praise. They do what they do because they love it.
How do you choose what projects you do? I choose them based off of my emotions. When I feel super happy, I want to take a picture. When I feel sad, I want to take a picture. And the subject of my picture will be based off of my emotions as well. When I’m happy, I like to take pictures of someone smiling for example. When I’m sad, I’ll take pictures of the rain. I want my work to reflect what I am feeling. Like I said before, there are still some projects that I haven’t fully sorted out. But I am working towards it all the time and I can’t wait to share new things with the ones I love.

Follow Kaitlyn on Facebook or Instagram.

Nobody is booking with me!

You know the story, you’ve put together your website, you’ve updated your portfolio, you’ve written a blog post and posted on your social media and you’re ready for the floodgates to open, this is it… this is the moment that your business is going to take off.

And crickets.

Where are all the people? You’ve had people tell you, that you take great photos, you shot a couple of weddings, you’ve done some portraits for a family friend and everyone loved it.

The fact of the matter is that paid photography service is a premium product, lots of families go years without getting any paid photography. Lots of people have a friend, a family member, or there’s some new photographer doing it for free. How are you supposed to compete with Uncle Bob and his nice camera, or the new girl who is 19 years old and doesn’t have “real bills” and is shooting everyone for basically nothing?

Seems daunting doesn’t it?

If you’re a professional photographer, you have to build brand value. You need to craft your vision and a style that’s unique to you. People aren’t booking you because you fit their price and schedule, people need to book you because they crave your vision. They want your images hanging on their walls because it’s unique.

You need to have a Unique Selling Proposition (USP). If you’re shooting weddings, you should craft a USP that elevates it past 6 hours of coverage and a USB with a copy of the High-Res imagery. You need to package it and make it fit cohesively into your brand. You’re a photographer because you’re a creative right? Build something that suits your brand, your personality and craft your business around those pillars. You’ll be satisfied and you’ll stop competing based on price, you’re never gonna win that battle, there’s always someone willing to do it for free and there’s always new professionals joining the scene every year.

It’s time to elevate your brand into something that’s desired, something that’s unique, something that’s you. If you need help defining your brand and looking for new opportunities within your market, you should contact me today. Let’s talk.

Featuring Elizabeth Hoard

Elizabeth Hoard is a Memphis wedding photographer that I believe is one of the hardest working photographers I’ve ever met. I met Elizabeth in a local photographer’s group and she has been focused on making her business as successful as she possibly can. She takes a great approach and believe in community over competition. Her passion for photography can be seen in every image she takes. Get to know Lizz in her own words below.

What made you want to pursue photography as a business? Was there a tipping point for you or was it gradual?

Fate? Wind? Desire? I am not really sure why I picked up my first camera. It wasn’t one event or another that I could pin point but rather, it was a series of small events that ultimately lead me to it. I never new I was going to be a photographer. Looking back I see how several things shaped me into this being my dream job. I was born right outside Washington, D.C where my dad was a practicing architect and my mom, also a architect graduate, had opened up her own computer consulting business in Crystal City. Everywhere we went I always heard my parents use phases like ‘leading lines’ and ‘see how that draws your eye in’. I started seeing perfect composition before I even started grade school. I feel like I basically lived in the museums. Art and creativity always surrounded me. Even when we moved to Memphis, we would travel to all the great museums and historical monuments around the states where I learned that art was more than just something beautiful. It was something that told a story.

In college I majored in Marketing Management and minored in Real Estate. I had some incredible professors throughout my time at the University of Memphis that taught me business and marketing principles from the ground up. Fast forward to fall of 2013. Fate? Wind? Desire? All three? I picked up my rebel with kit lenses and started calling my friends to model for me. I shoot around for about a month and opened my business beginning of November. I know that seems fast. But before I was a Hoard I was a Crowson. And us Crowsons go all in whenever we set our mind to it and from the moment I started shooting I knew my mind was set. I found my passion.

Why photography? What drives you to capture images? 

A lot of the passion comes from an internal belief that every single person has a beautiful something God given that is unique to only them and its my desire to show people just how beautiful that thing is. In today’s time we don’t view ourselves the way others see us. We are SO hard on how we look. You have no idea how incredible of a feeling it is to show the back of my camera to my clients during a session and to hear ‘Oh my gosh, I look really pretty!’ Yeah! You do!! That’s why I love being hands on with directing during my shoots because I want to draw that beauty out!

Its more than just beauty. For every single couple they have a unique love story. I actually don’t believe that the bride’s hand on her groom’s chest both smiling at the camera is a true representation of love. It is a part of it. But not the complete story. Like Memphis, my couples have grit and they have grind. It isn’t always all smiles and bliss. Its REAL LIFE, y’all. In fact, I always like to prove that point to my clients during our consults. I like to point out that they both while planning the most important moment in their life aren’t giggling at each other nonstop or even looking at each other. That’s not fully what love is. Love is going about the daily but picking them to go along it with you. That means it isn’t always happy. It isn’t always good. It will be hard and painful at times. But its always them in the end. Always. That is the story I want to tell through my pictures. Real love. All aspects of that love.

Where do you see your photography going in the future?

Up, up, and away. I recently shot a wedding where my couple had their first look in front of a waterfall. I came up from that wedding like a Junior high girl coming home from summer camp: depressed and questioning everything in my life. That touched a spot in my creative soul that I have to continue to scratch. Memphis is my home but I want to travel more for weddings. My goal is to start booking several destination weddings a year.

What personal projects have you done that have resonated the most with people?

I have done a couple. What seems like years ago, I was the photographer behind the trash the dress story that went crazy internationally viral featuring Shelby Swink. My pictures, while not perfect technically speaking, spoke of how strong Shelby was after being left at the alter and a lot of people related to that. I still get messages to this day over that shoot.

While I specialize in weddings, my passion is documenting people’s love. Even if that means on their deadbed. So, I also got to photograph Londyn. Oh Londyn. One month shy of 2 years old, I got to take the last professional pictures of her before she passed away from her cancer. I also got to share her story. A story that my followers read and shared and after she passed they raised over $1200 for Londyn’s family. That was an incredible spark that I got to help flame. St. Jude used her name and story for their teddy bear last year. That broke my heart all over. Her teddy bear sits on my bedstand next to me and every night I get to see her and am reminded why I do what I do.

If you could start your business over, is there anything you’d do differently?

Honestly? No. I knew that if I was going to do this I was going to do this right. That meant getting my proper licenses and paying my taxes the moment I started. I have been networking since day one in this field and will continue to do so till I pass my business on to my kids if they want to carry it on.

What marketing activities have consistently worked for you to attract new clients? 

This will sound dumb, but doing what is right and going above and beyond in EVERYTHING I do in this business is what has paid off for me the most. My word of mouth continues from some of my first clients when I honestly sucked and carries down to my clients now. Focus more on your old client and that will get you new ones. Networking with other professionals also has been huge for me. Posting on facebook brings in many of my clients. I do use some facebook ad’s which did book one wedding for me. I also have done some bridal shows which booked a couple weddings each. Finally, a solid SEO is VERY important. I get inquires all time due the fact I stay on either the first or second page of google with my website.

Who influences you?

I actually don’t look up the chain as much as I look down it to photographer’s who are younger and newer than me. That may seem backwards but my business is weddings and its the photographers that are closer to the next generation coming up that offer the most insight into what the next round of brides want and need. For editing, I am inspired by anyone that shoots weird and edits weirder. Make me stop and stare. Nessa Kessinger is the one who does that the most for me recently.

How do you choose what projects you do? 

Will this satisfy my soul? If yes, then I do it. If no, then I pass. Notice it has nothing to do with ease or hardness. Some of my favorite shoots and clients and free events I have done have been the hardest to do. Notice I always didn’t say which ones bring me the most money. My business is successful largely in part because of my passion for it. The way I see it is lose that passion and you lose the business. Keep the passion, even if that means shooting a wedding for someone in need completely for free, and well, business will make up for it tenfold.

Follow Lizz on Facebook here! 

Follow Lizz on Instagram here! 

Are you signed up for a free Google Analytics account? If you have a website but you’re not tracking your results, how are you supposed to know anything? How do you know if your new product offering is effective? How do you know if people are leaving your site without looking around?

Every photographer who’s running their own website to host their portfolio, run their blog, and give clients a place to contact you should be familiar with the most basic of Analytics. You should know what works for your business and what doesn’t. If you’re not able to measure your efforts, how are you going to know if you’re growing your business or throwing your money into a hole in the ground?

There are more reports and statistics that Google can provide than you’ll ever know what to do with, so for the rookie’s at Web Analytics, let me provide for you the Top 5 Google Analytics KPI’s that you should know.

1. Audience – You should know a few key things about your audience. How many sessions is your website getting, how many unique users are on your site, and the how many are new visitors vs returning visitors? Run this report weekly and keep an eye on it. You should know if a new blog post about a specific shoot brought in a lot of new visitors or if it’s your returning audience. You should know how many times someone came to your site in a week. Following this, will let you know if your content is being seen. And if that’s something you already worry about, wouldn’t it be nice to know what the benchmark is, so you can see when you’ve done something that helps grow your web traffic?

2. Traffic Sources – How people find your website is extremely important. Visitors can come from different “sources” including: Organic Search (google, yahoo, bing) Paid Search (Google Adwords), Referral (Visitors that came from a direct link on another site), Social (Facebook, Twitter), and direct traffic! You should always know how people are coming to your site!

3. Page Tracking –  Bounce Rate and Average Session Duration. Bounce rate refers to the percentage of single page visits. You want to make sure that site visitors are engaged and are looking at multiple pages if you want to convert them into clients! Average Session Duration is the average time users spend on your site. By knowing your bounce rate and average session duration, you can identify where customers are coming from, what they are looking for, and whether they found what they wanted from your site.

4. Conversion rate – As a photographer, your site is your store. The conversion rate tells you how effective is your store at closing deals. The basic calculation is (Number of Inquiries) / (Number of Visits) = Conversion Rate. If you’re getting a lot of visits but not many inquiries, you need to look at your site usability and design, pricing, copy or a multitude of other factors. This is a good metric to keep an eye on when you launch new products, to see if you can convert more people into clients, or at least inquiries.

5. Cost Per Acquisition – Cost per Acquisition is a critical marketing metric. If can tell you which campaigns can drive your sales and which will become a costly pile. CPA tells you how much you need to spend to get a paying customer. Why is it so important? Because it helps you determine the true return on investment. If a campaign brings you only clicks but no inquiries, it’s not successful.

If you want to learn more about Marketing your photography business or just want some help building your brand or providing SEO recommendations for your site, learn more about what I do.

Or just contact me, and we’ll talk about how I can help you grow your brand.

Featuring Lisa Mac

What made you want to pursue photography as a business? Was there a tipping point for you or was it gradual?  I began to pursue photography as a business because when I first started, I was taking lots of photos for friends and getting a good response.  Soon after, I started getting inquiries from people who wanted to pay me for photos.  That’s when I decided to go for it.

Why photography? What drives you to capture images?  I was an art major in college and  I have always loved visual arts, so when I picked up a camera about 8 years ago, I found myself creating art through photography and I felt at home.  I love telling stories and evoking emotion from still images.

Where do you see your photography going in the future?  After starting with photographing families, babies, and couples, I’ve finally come to a place in my career where I’m ready to step out of that type of work.  I see myself working more with musicians, brands and businesses to help them look more legit and stand out against their competitors.

What personal projects have you done that have resonated the most with people?  My musician work has become a hit over the past year.  I’ve been told that I can capture the emotion and personality of musicians without looking cheesy or trying to hard.  I think the main reason why that works so well is because I’m a musician myself and I understand that way of life.

What marketing activities have consistently worked for you to attract new clients?  80% of my business has come from social media.  The rest is word of mouth.  But without social media, I don’t know that I would have the client base that I do now.  I post my work and tag the subjects so that as many eyes can see it as possible.

Who influences you?  Jeremy Cowart is my favorite photographer.  I found him online about 7-8 years ago, and his work spoke to me.  I would stare at his work for hours and try to figure out his lighting techniques and all the little details that made his work so powerful.  I always set goals to be more like him.  I finally got to meet him this year and it was awesome!

How do you choose what projects you do?  Musician work is my favorite since it hits so close to home.  I mainly like to with artists with good music who are looking to grow and reach more of an audience.  Nothing satisfies me more than seeing clients feel more confident after having good photos taken.

So here I go

I’ve made it my mission to share my ten years of experience and expertise to help shine some light on the mysterious world that is Marketing. It’s not just SEO optimization, or posting on social media. Sure, these are a part of the marketing machine, but they are just tools, that still need a cohesive strategy to ensure that they’re all working towards the same goals.

Who am I? Why should you even care? I guess, I should share some credentials, since I’m the new guy on the block.

My name is Michael Cardwell, and I’ve spent the last ten years of my life obsessed with two things. Photography and Marketing. I’m a digital Marketing specialist and a film photographer. I received my Bachelor’s in Marketing in 2006 from the University of Memphis, where I also received my MBA in Marketing in 2009.

One of my more interesting jobs which sets me apart from other marketing specialists, is that I spent 4 years working at a then small company called LensRentals.com where I worked with their marketing strategy, as well as, I looked at over 250,000 customer orders and visited just about every photographer’s website in existence at the time.

So follow me along, I’m going to interview photographers, but we’re not going to talk about the usual. I’m going to ask them about their marketing, what worked for them, what didn’t, and everything in between. I’m also going to share what I know about marketing for photography and maybe you’ll learn a thing or two.

I look forward to the ride.