How to avoid getting burnt from the latest wedding photographer trend

Ding – the email sounds an alert of an incoming message on your client’s computer. A ransom note appears warning 7 days to upgrade their gallery – or else. For less than $30 they can save their photo gallery from expiring. A short few weeks with all those cute pixels but now a strange company has taken them hostage and is demanding money. Pay up or these photos are taking a ride to the river in a beat up Cadillac to go for a swim with cement boots.  And we all know pixels can’t swim.  Especially after they’ve been shared, shot, sprayed and prayed at 11fps.

Thousands of photographers have used the system which boasts sharing freely and giving up on physical products in order to serve clients.  Or does it?

Who does The System really serve?

In the beginning the concept of sharing photos freely sounded good. Sprinkle a little Jesus juice – as Michael Jackson called it – with words like serving and sharing and caring and loving. You’ve got something that sounds like an idyllic hippie community. Sign me up - I’d love to live in rainbowville and ride my unicorn and share photos everywhere. But then I’m reminded of M Night Shyamalan’s “The Village,” a perfect ye olde village living in harmony until it’s elders can’t maintain control. Suddenly, monsters and carcasses of dead animals start appearing everywhere. Spoiler alert. It’s a cult. Don’t mess with the village elder of a hippie commune built on sharing, eating organic food together & caring. Ugh. I digress.  Just. watch. the. movie (or the trailer below)

So back to ransomed pixels. No sensible business model would allow another company to step in and ask for a sale. Sure $30 isn’t that much but it is $30 your business isn’t getting.  So what if a client wants to purchase a real life picture to place in a photo frame? They can buy that at rock bottom prices and you’ll get credit. It’s like those tokens you get from Chuck E. Cheese, you can put those tokens towards…paying off ransom notes for your clients!!! I’m not kidding.

How can we really serve our families?
Although we all love photography and many of us would take photos for free if we could, we all need to make a sustainable living.  We might have a furry pet counting on our income or a spouse or a few bambinos.  The idea that artists must be starving or freely share their art has…well…expired. I mean to earn the distinguished name of “professional photographer” and not hobbyist, you actually have to make $$, right?   Whether you have a high volume studio or luxury brand, each photography business can benefit by serving clients through tangible products.

How can we serve our clients?
The first step is to find out what your client really wants.  The first answer usually will be “high resolution files” or something like that.  Drill deeper and you’ll find out whether they want art for their walls or an album heirloom to pass down.  In 10 years will they really just want those photos on a website?  In 100 years, will finding a hard drive in the attic get the grandchildren excited to look at a spinning harddrive platter on a hunk of metal?  Of course not.  Our clients want more than digital.   Our clients want mementos of love that celebrate milestones on display in their homes!  Our clients already have 2,000 photos on their cellphone and a million websites they can pin, share and tweet.  Give them physical items they can touch, feel, see and smell (I love that new leather album smell)!

So here is a next step…

If you haven’t tried In Person Sales (IPS) or Projection Sales.  I dare you to give it a try.  Shake things up.  Host a viewing party.  The best tool I’ve found has been Salesographer.  Honestly, I’m still new to In Person Sales and Projection Sales and have gone through the material several times.  It taught me the process to get out of the mindset of shoot & burn and into a more profit minded and truly client serving approach.

Let’s start treating our photography businesses like a business (not like a charity) and go back to taking pride in our work and pricing it accordingly.  The best way we can serve our clients is to give them products they will cherish 10, 20…30 years from now.

Until next time, I’ll pass on this new trend and hope that making an honest living comes in vogue.

As for this article, remember…

Sharing is caring :P



Mike AllebachMike Allebach: Founded Brandsmash as a marketing resource for small business owners with his mantra “Your story changes everything.” Communications & Marketing Director turned Photography Business owner he hosted 4 episodes of a failed webisode called brandsmashTV and writes this blog thingie. Hailed by a Rock n Roll Bride as “the Original Tattooed Bride Photographer

This site is sponsored by lots of wonderful companies as shown in the side bar.  Click on the affiliate links. Support them and you support me with $ which is better than credits or Chuck E Cheese coins.  Of course you don’t have to click on a dang thing.  The comments are for hate mail and love notes.  Leave some.

Posted in Photography, Uncategorized

How to be an Artist and an Entreprenuer (Shootdotedit Guestpost)



How would you categorize a professional wedding photographer? As an artist who runs a business or as an entrepreneur who makes art? ShootDotEdit works with professional photographers from all over the world and have found the most successful to be a mix of both artist and entrepreneur. Being able to manage a thriving business doesn’t make you any less of an artist.

The policy consultant and author, John Howkins once said,

“Entrepreneurs in the creative economy… use creativity to unlock the wealth that lies within themselves. Like true capitalists, they believe that this creative wealth, if managed right, will engender more wealth.”

ShootDotEdit has compiled some tips to help create success as both an artist and an entrepreneur.


Cultivate your own personal style, your own “signature” look and feel for your images. Find a niche and work within it. This may mean that you make a strategic decision to only work on weddings, passing up other opportunities. Find a balance between what you are best at and what you love most, and then build your brand around it!


Setting up efficient business practices will create time for you to focus on your passions, on personal projects, and on serving and loving your clients. Not only will it allow you to spend more time on being creative, it also helps you make more money. Streamlining your business through efficient business practices will save time and money in the long run. ShootDotEdit has great resources for being efficient. Ultimately, faster delivery to your clients = happier clients.


Entrepreneur and Marketing guru, Seth Godin says,

“Practice alone doesn’t produce work that matters. No, that only comes from caring. From caring enough to leap, to bleed for the art, to go out on the ledge, where it’s dangerous. When we care enough, we raise the bar, not just for ourselves, but for our customer, our audience and our partners.”

Channel your passion into your work and you will always deliver an amazing product.


Georgia O’Keefe stated,

“To create one’s world in any of the arts takes courage.”

Running a business is hard work. There is a lot more than just creating a beautiful image. Stay positive and focused on your business, and keep moving forward. Remember: your business must succeed to provide a platform for your art. The two go hand in hand.

5. SAY NO.

Don’t compromise yourself. Say no to people who want you to work for free. Say no to things that fall outside of your niche. Your time is the most valuable thing that you have, so don’t waste it on anything that doesn’t work towards moving you and your business forward.

Related Article: Just Say No – Why Extreme Focus is Important


Talent alone doesn’t book the next appointment. Understand the basic ideas of how to sell. Listen to your clients and ask solid open ended questions to determine their needs. The most successful photographers know how to get brides and grooms to buy.

Related Article: How Professional Wedding Photographers Can Simplify Sales


There is no better testimony than one from a client who is happy with your work. The beautiful thing about wedding photography is that you can meet clients everywhere. Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals. Go to industry events. Talk to other vendors. Become friendly with venue owners and wedding planners and other people who are a part of your industry.

A professional photographer doesn’t have to be either an artist OR an entrepreneur. To be truly successful, whatever your definition of that may be, embracing both attributes will help generate growth as a person, as a business and as a photographer.

Posted in Branding, Marketing Tagged , , , , |

What’s Keeping You Alive Right Now? | Kristen Kalp

Kristen Kalp
What’s keeping you alive right now?

Mike asked me to write about what gets me out of bed in the morning, but I think the far more interesting and deeper question is: what’s keeping me alive right now?

The answer? My life’s purpose.

The uncompleted projects, the half-met objectives, the goals I’m striving to attain. I came across the following five questions in a TED talk, and they’re actually quite brilliant when it comes to clarifying why you’re on this planet. So let’s talk life purpose — your life purpose.

Here we go:

  • Who are you?
  • Who do you serve?
  • What methods do you use to serve them?
  • What do you help people do?
  • And why are they better for it?

In the answers to those questions lie your life’s purpose, as it stands right now. In this moment. Maybe it will change size or scope. Maybe its proportions will shrink or grow. But for right now, this is it. Let’s tackle these questions together. I’ll even share my answers along the way. ;)

Who are you?

As in, what is your name? You’ve got this, lol!

“I’m Kristen.”

Who do you serve?

Which specific people are you looking to cater to in your business? Who do you want to knock down your doors and buy stuff? Which people do you want calling you to demand more of your services, ’cause they can’t get enough?

“I serve entrepreneurs who are looking to go their own way in business, breaking free from the constraints of doing business as usual.”

What methods do you use to serve those people?

Which practical, tangible tools or products come out of your business? Your answer could be shoes or wallets or beer or socks or images. If it’s tangible, it counts.

“I create books, retreats, and digital programs.”

How do you help people?

If you take photos, you could say you help people preserve their memories for future generations. Or capture the present moment for all of time. Or record the truth of their lives at this moment. Or create touchstones to access memory when the details have faded or become blurred.

“I help people navigate the entrepreneurial wilderness.”

Why are people better for having worked with you?

Those people whose photos you’ve taken are better for having worked with you because they now have tangible evidence of their love. Proof of an enthusiastic welcome into the world. A timeless reminder of their wedding day. Images to show their grandchildren. (The list goes on and on — but again, the more tangible, the better.)

“After working with me, people feel more enthusiastic, more free, and less stressed about their businesses, as well as more deeply tied to their life’s calling.”

Once you’ve got each question answered, you’re ready to string them all together.

Lemme give you an example: “I’m Kristen, and I serve entrepreneurs like you. I help people navigate the entrepreneurial wilderness through books, retreats, and digital programs designed to help break free from the constraints of ‘business as usual.’ After working with me, you’ll feel more enthusiastic, more free, and less stressed about your business, as well as more deeply tied to your life’s calling.”

Aaaand that’s my reason for being alive right now.

What’s yours?

Please give this little exercise a try in the comments. It’s radically clarifying — and also pretty freaking fun.

I’m Kristen Kalp, the founder of Brand Camp. I write, I teach, and I create awesome stuff to help entrepreneurs make up their own rules for doing business. For a free copy of my latest book, Go Your Own Way, head on over here.

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Posted in Niche, Personal Growth

Pricing Yourself: You Are So Worth It | Elizabeth Atkins

You are so worth it.

That’s what this is all about. You are so worth every penny you charge. You are so worth having great clients, a great business, a great portfolio. You are so worth it.

Owning your own business isn’t easy, especially in a competitive and saturated market. There are good days, and there are awful days. More often than not what we struggle with the most is value, worth, and somehow pricing ourselves to make it all come together. Our biggest challenge is seeing our own worth as it relates to clients and perspective clients.  Some feel guilty about how much things cost, while others struggle with undercharging and feeling under appreciated. Even more feel like they’re competing with businesses that are far less expensive than they are. Pricing yourself can be the pits.

Pricing is one of the most difficult business topics on the entire planet. There’s no shortage of information, calculators, and guides dedicated to teaching you how to price yourself. Sadly, what gets overlooked in these guides is HOW you’re going to start charging to be sustainable. How do you communicate the value and worth of your services to potential customers? Pricing isn’t just a number, like most guides will have you believe. Pricing is a part of your marketing voice, and ultimately your branding. If you charge $XXXX a shoot, and never give anyone a real reason why, (with value that is relevant to them and their needs), they’re a lot more likely to compare you to a competitor based only on price. I’m simplifying, but really; people are a lot less likely to walk away if they feel they are getting something very valuable for the price you’re giving them. It doesn’t matter if that value is actual or perceived. It just has to make sense so that the person can wrap their heads around a number and understand why it is the way it is.

You have to back up, back track, and think like your target demographic. What do they want? Why do they come to you? And if you’re struggling with that question, you need to go back even further and ask why people hire you, what are you offering, what can you capitalize on? You can say you’re $1,000, or $3,000 or $5,000, but pricing yourself doesn’t matter if your client doesn’t understand why you are the way you are. How many times have you set your prices and delivered them to an inquiry only to hear nothing back? Or worse, hear that you’re too expensive? The frustration builds as you feel like you’re doing something wrong. You waffle, feeling like you should just lower your prices or have a flash sale.

Stop. You are so worth it.

you're worth it2
Images courtesy of Kathleen Frank’s video for PostFilm’s Highlight Reel 

If you’re struggling with pricing and completely lost on why you’re not booked solid, now is a perfect time to pause and start evaluating. Grab a piece of paper, and follow the next few steps to help back track from where you are now.

How to Assign Value to Your Prices

The Basics:

  1. Start with the price list you deliver your potential clients.
    First and foremost, make sure your prices are sustainable for your goals. We all have different goals, and therefore, different prices. Take a good look at it. Does it help you meet your goals? If the answer is no, it’s time to tweak your prices until they make sense as a business first. 
  2. Is your price list easy to understand? 
    We don’t want customers to base their decisions entirely on what your services cost, but we do want to make it really easy for them to understand what you’re offering and what you’re charging. Simplify it as much as you can. Make sure there aren’t too many options. Take your most inquired about items and make them your main focus. Don’t worry about all the little extras, just let your clients know they can create add-ons if they want to.

The Hard Part: 

  1. Discourage price comparison
    When a customer looks at your prices you don’t want them comparing you to anyone else. So how do you stop them from doing that? By knowing your client and tailoring a message specifically for them. Pricing yourself is no different than marketing yourself. Price is just a number attached to the services and experience you’re going to offer your client. If you know your ideal client very well, (who they are, what they do, what kind of people they are), you’re going to be far more successful offering them something they’ll likely need. 
  2. Create your own marketing message
    Don’t deliver pricing without a marketing message. If you’ve taken the steps to get to know your target audience and understand them, now’s the time to shine with a great message. Tell them why you’re valuable, and help them emotionally and mentally connect to you. Delivering pricing is a great opportunity to help them understand all the wonderful things you’re going to do for them. If you craft a successful message, the price becomes secondary. 
  3. Take every opportunity to communicate your value
    If someone asks you in an email, “How much are you?” don’t be afraid to answer their question. Instead, take this as the perfect opportunity to tell them all the reasons why you are the right choice for them, and then deliver either a starting range of services, or a nicely designed price sheet with a marketing message attached. Show them more of your beautiful work. Include short testimonials. Always encourage them to connect with you. Offer to call them, Skype with them, or Google Hangout with them. Let them know you’re interested in explaining your pricing further, and hearing about them.
  4. Don’t just deliver pricing
    If you’re shelling out price lists without creating a marketing message and communicating your value it’s a lot tougher to get your clients to see you’re worth whatever price you’re charging. Don’t hide what you cost, but don’t expect a client to instantly emotionally connect with a price sheet either.
you're worth it3
Images courtesy of Kathleen Frank’s video for PostFilm’s Highlight Reel 

The Hardest Part Of All: 

  1. Finding your worth
    Finding your worth takes a combination of experience, time, and a lot of experimenting. If you’re brand new at running a business, it’s really easy to get discouraged. Don’t give up. It takes a lot of time, effort, and mistakes to find your business path.
  2. Creating your marketing message
    Creating a marketing message isn’t easy for everyone. It takes research, and knowing who your clients are. If you’re struggling to create a good marketing message, don’t get discouraged. Start at the basics, poll your past clients, start seeing your business from the outside in. If you’re really struggling with the business basics, sit down and make a plan about what’s bothering you. Make a list of questions, then start from there. Putting pen to paper is more powerful than you think.
  3. Re-assess your visual branding and marketing
    Make sure your words, visuals and your marketing match your business model. If your words say Fancy Feast, but your website and your branding look like Meow Mix, you’re not going to get very far very fast. But, keep in mind, branding is a once in a business lifetime thing, and not the same as graphic design. If you’re struggling with whether you’re ready for branding or not, here’s a great article on what branding is: Free Branding 101 Guide

Also, big shout out to the amazing and extremely talented Kathleen Frank Photography for providing me with awesome images for this post from her hard work on PostFilm’s Highlight Reel! She is one talented mama, and I am singing her praises.


Posted in Branding, Small Business

Giving Back | Tony Hoffer

Kenya eduKenya

The prime ages for wanting to change the world are right around 18-25. You’re old enough to do something, but young enough to think it’s possible. For me, I was also too young to know that I had weaknesses. I think I always just pictured that someday I’d be famous enough to make a big speech about all the injustices I cared about and they’d go away. Then I turned 26. Then 27. Then 30.

Somewhere along the road I realized that aside from not having the skills to do the things I’d always thought I would, I mostly lacked the commitment. I was certainly committed to other things in my life, I just wasn’t committed to anything that didn’t benefit myself.

Somewhere around my 30th birthday, I came to a realization: I needed to stop waiting for myself to figure everything out. For all the gifts and skills I lacked, I had developed a few good ones too. That’s when I realized that no one that does great things figures it out first. They’ve just figured out how to go do something.

So instead of trying to get noticed, I just tried to get moving. Amy and I bought tickets to Kenya. We spent 2 weeks taking photos for an organization (eduKenya) that we’re passionate about. We spent a TON of money to do it. We got sick. We were uncomfortable. Sure, we made a few friends and we learned a few new things, but mostly we just worked. That’s the best we could do.

Mail Attachment

When we got back, everybody asked us how the trip was. I think they all expected elation, but the truth was… It was really hard.

Since returning from Kenya 2 years ago, I’ve changed in subtle ways. I’ve started to realize how small the world is. Mostly, I’ve started to realize that if I really want to see things change then I better do something before I ask anyone else to. There’s a lot of people that will tell you everything that bothers them, but not enough that just put their head down and do something about it. For me, that’s meant a few things:

  1. I need to get used to the idea that I won’t keep a lot of the money I make.
  2. I have to make time and sacrifices to make things happen without any potential rewards.
  3. I need to learn that it’s ok if things don’t work out.

In the last two years I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out what my skills are and how I can use them. At first that started as a print sale with our business. Then it turned into a Christmas gift and print sale. Then I started doing a bit of design work for eduKenya. Then I started The Giving Gallery.

The Giving Gallery

The Giving Gallery is a way for photographers to donate an image that they love and for people to buy prints of that image at a good price. All of the money that’s made from sales (about 50%) goes directly to our friends at eduKenya. We do all the admin work ourselves and pay for all the little things involved.

I’d love to sit here and tell you that we’ve donated millions of dollars and that The Giving Gallery is a modern day success story. The truth is that we’ve done OK. It’s been a lot of work and a lot of time trying to get people to donate or to buy. Ultimately, it might be a huge success or just fade away. Either way I’m fine. It’s not that I’ve given up on trying to change the world. Quite the opposite! It’s that I’m learning that the joy comes from both the process and the results. If I truly want to change the world, then I need to be satisfied with just being part of the process without getting credit for the results. I think I’m getting there.


CELL: 717.951.6083


Posted in Brandsmash Stories, Personal Growth Tagged , , , , |

Pickles | Chelley Martinka

The story of the pickles started with a trip to the grocery store where I saw a jar of pickles labeled “midgets”. I was, as a mom to a newly diagnosed with dwarfism daughter, taken aback. I had grown up with Little Person in my high school class so I was made fully aware of the derogatory nature of the once benign word, midget. Now associated with negativity, mockery, fear and hate, it’s a word I hope to never hear or see again… so a pickle jar at my local grocer’s was a place to start eradicating.

Pickles Brandsmash

After making an amateur video, I emailed it to Gedney Foods, who made said pickles. I also posted it on my blog which garnered much support from my community. With one follow-up call a few months after I sent the video, I had my response: the name would be changed! I was so inspired that I again shared this news on the blog. After such an outpouring of support and cheers, the local news picked up the story. It was a whirlwind… one I was not expecting. The response was forceful and plentiful- only it was a response of hate. So. Much. Hate.

Pickles Brandsmash

I was heartbroken. The story broke everywhere. There were blogs and sites picking up the story all over the country, and even a few in Canada, the UK and Australia. Many stories portraying unverified information, like lawsuits, campaigning, harassment, none of those things happened- but people didn’t want to hear it.

Pickles Brandsmash

I learned a lot about how the world works from this event in my life. I learned that no one cares about the facts if the story sells with a few innuendos of untruths. I learned that people are, from behind the anonymity of their IP addresses, cowards, willing to type words and thoughts they would not dare speak to someone’s face. I learned that mothers do not always support mothers- even in the world of special needs children. I learned that the community I am a part of are incredibly supportive. I learned that I am strong and resilient and well spoken. I learned that I can make a difference and impact others. I learned that I can educate and advocate in the face of adversity.

There are over 25,000 hits on the initial video, made in December 2012 and 600 (and counting) on the Thank You video I made this past November… almost a year after the first video- I finally saw a new label on the jars in our local market. I feel the blessings and love of perseverance, courage and a community of people I have chosen to surround me. No one will define me or my successes. Ever.

Pickles Brandsmash


Link to Thank You video:

Pickles Brandsmash

Michelle Martinka

Pickles Brandsmash

Addie on Facebook

Posted in Starting Something Epic

I believe every child can be heard | Jane Ammon

Jane Ammon

I believe every child can be heard.

I really do.

It’s what is at the core of who I am and the core of my business and my brand.

My husband bought me my first camera in 2006 and I spent three years photographing everything I could…I tried weddings (oh no way), I tried engagements (uh, no thanks), I tried newborns (oh goodness NO!) and I had no desire to try boudoir (not my cup of tea!)

I quickly realized this: what made me 100% happy was photographing children.

Jane Ammon

Jane Ammon

Ok. Now what? I mean, that’s great and all Jane, though it’s time to dig a bit deeper. People aren’t going to buy “I love kids.” (Really, cause what kid photographer *doesn’t* love kids?)

I need to know~why did I love photographing children so much and how could I turn that into a profitable brand?

Luckily, I met Jeff Jochum and was introduced to the concept of Specialism.

Through the Specialism process and digging deep into what moves my spirit, I quickly realized that for me, photography is a tool to achieve a greater purpose.

I believe every child can be heard.

It’s my mission to help people listen.

I was born with a bi-lateral hearing loss. I have learned that it is truly a gift. For me communication is whole body dependent. I hear by leaning in, reading lips, interpreting body language and taking my time to process. I communicate with an expressive face, dramatic posture changes and when I speak, I choose my words deliberately.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that what I DO is a result of WHO I am…

I specialize in listening to children.

Oh! And I take pictures, too.

Jane Ammon

Since declaring my own Specialism and my mission, my business is truly successful.  And by that I dont just mean it makes more money.  I mean that it also has made me happy. Truly happy.  I attract clients who are like me and who want to lean into and listen to their children just as much as I do. My work and my art is becoming a direct reflection of who I am.  I am no longer terrified to put what I create out into the world because it’s me and I want it to be heard.

Just like children do.

And, most amazingly, I didn’t have to change a single thing to achieve this happy success.  I simply had to embrace who I am, why I do it and design my business message and brand to reflect it.  I’ve become a bigger version of the Jane I always knew I was.

Jane Ammon

Let’s hang out and be friends!

You can find Jane at

On Facebook here:

Jane is also a coach where she is helping others learn how leveraging the power of Specialism can make your business extraordinary, devastate your  competition, and teach you to Work Happily Ever-after®.  She’d love to help you too!

Posted in Niche, Personal Growth, Photography, Uncategorized

Entrepreneurs, Where Did We Lose Our Hearts? | Jason Spencer


The lemonade and snicker-doodles stand.

The yard sale tables full of “our stuff” (not Mom and Dads) marked with little price tags we worked on for hours the night before.  

The baseball card trades, and hanging out with the regulars at the sportscard shop or at the weekend show.

Checking the value of our Beanie Babies in the most recent price guide on the magazine rack.

Even better… the hunt. The search for that one rare autograph card in the pack, or the Princess Diana purple bear coming in on a fresh shipment, ready for purchase at $5.99 on the Hallmark store rack.

Do you remember the magic you felt?

Your heart was young, but it was fully alive.

There was so much hope, imagination, niavity, innocence, and beauty in our childhood dreams about business.

We knew inside we were built for entrepreneurship.

We were wired to blaze our own path.

We didn’t believe anything could get in our way. Our energy, enthusiasm, and fresh ideas would carry us forward to heights that none have gone to before.

Breathe deeply. Close your eyes. Picture it. Go there again.

Wouldn’t it be great to go back? To preserve the magic, the innocence, and to find ourselves fully alive, uninhibited baring our souls as wildly free and ready to create something new.

The War for Our Hearts

As we head out into the “real world” of business, it’s not long before we find disappointment.

We are met head-on with the harsh realities of a cut-throat dog eat dog world.

There’s the first time someone decides not to pay us for services we provided.

The first time someone beats us up over our prices.


The first month there is nothing leftover to pay ourselves with.

Partnerships gone bad.

Theft. Taxes. Same difference.

Buyers that want the highest value possible for the lowest price possible. Sellers that want the highest price possible for the lowest value and least amount of effort possible.

And we wonder… exactly what is my place in all of this? How did I get here?

The business we created? It begins to feel more like a prison. Just another job, except we work harder, put in more hours, for less pay.

But… at least it’s our own. Right?

As we look around, it seems everyone else has it together.

Why me? Why am I such a failure? Why can’t I just get my shit together?

Sure, maybe we just need to pull up our big boy and big girl pants and allow the callouses and scar tissue to set in. We could just become numb to the reality of the limitations of the economic systems we have to work within. We could bite our lips, hold back the tears, and allow our hearts to retreat.

We just need to work smarter… harder… better… faster.
We just need more will-power.
We just need …
We need.

We’re just a machine. Who cares about our needs?

Is there anyone out there who cares?

The depth of the darkest, loneliest place that entrepreneurs can find themselves in. We allow the self-hatred to sink in, and penetrate our soul.

In 2008, I walked away from my “dream”… my business.  I divorced it in a fit of rage, and I never went back.

How close have you gotten to that breaking point? Did you break… like me?

Our Hearts Point Us Toward Meaning and Purpose

There is much to be said for the resiliency, the mystery, and the beauty of the human heart.

It can be trapped, imprisoned, and tied up in chains for years, but it refuses to die. It contains a self-fueling light, parallel to the energy potential within the nucleus of the atom itself. An atom bomb that
is both uniquely you and connected to all synergistic-ally.

Your heart needs to be free.
Your heart must be alive.
Your heart can be broken, but it can also heal and become stronger.

Business has its way of beating your heart down, and its in this place where you meet the crossroads, a fork in road, the big decision point for the rest of your life.

Will you unleash your heart, and embrace everything that you are, and everything that you must respond to and be? Or will you accept the scar tissue and numbness as normal and just the way things are, and become one more coldhearted business person contributing to heart-less economics?

One path is heavy… dark… lonely… and meaningless.
The other is light… beautiful… connected… and purposeful.
Only you can decide.

I believe our planet as a whole is in the midst of a shift into heart-centered, purpose-filled, collaborative-based world of business. This shift is opening up more spaces and conversations where you can be more free to be the most beautiful you, even in business, without judgment and fear, and where it is safe to let go of the things that have hurt us, and are now holding us back.

What would it look like to embrace an economy of…
Gifts over currencies?
Relationships, shared beliefs, communities and missions over contracts and
Purpose over market demand or salary?
A business environment where you could set your heart free, unleash the gifts and the strengths that you bring, and serve the unmet needs of the world?
It’s upside down.
It’s subversive.
And it’s exciting.

Join us in the revolution we call the tribe.
At , we are pushing the edge of heart, purpose and collaboration in business and ushering in a the conscious shift that the new economy demands.
We’d love to hear your story, get to know your perspectives, gifts and strengths and welcome you to participate in open conversation.
Jason Spencer
We Build and Connect TRIBES

Posted in Personal Growth Tagged |

Branding 101 for Photographers: A 3 Step Guide | Design Aglow

You’ve got a logo. It’s on your website, your business card, your marketing materials. You’ve also chosen some colors to represent Your Studio Photography: perhaps they’re peacock blue and flecked gold, or classic black and white.

Branding 101

But do you have a brand?

A brand is the vision that you project outward to the world. A brand is the cluster of expectations and values you bring to each client experience. A brand is aspirational–we deal in hopes and dreams!–and also authentic, true to the personality and essence of your business.

In short, a brand is much more than Your Studio Photography written in peacock blue and gold.

Do potential clients get a feeling when they view your portfolio and marketing collateral, or does your business register as Just Another Photography Studio? Can potential clients describe what differentiates you from the other 842 photographers in your market? Do they stick around long enough to even know?

Branding 101 Anna Powers

Branding 101 Anna Powers

Here’s a test: ask three intelligent people to review your current brand. Corner your most honest friend, a helpful fellow photographer, or the mom of your kid’s best bud. Take them out for coffee. Show them your logo, your website, your marketing materials.

Then ask them what they feel.

Hopefully they feel something. Ask them for specific adjectives, about each specific aspect of your branding (website, logo, etc). Ask them what they would expect their experience to be if they hired Your Studio Photography. Fun? Laid back? Glamourous? Playful? Wild?

Now take that information back to your own Brand Laboratory, and ask yourself this: what do you want your potential clients to feel? What do you want their experience to be? If your answers don’t match the feedback from your friends, then you have an issue of brand disconnect.

If your brand is, ahem, not very well branded, you’re potentially losing hundreds of clients. Unfortunately, you can’t quantify how many engaged couples or young families or seniors click over to your website, then immediately click away, confused by muddled brand messages, or worse, no brand message at all.

So if your brand is indeed a black hole, what exactly can you do about it? Read Design Aglow’s three step guide to brand analysis to find out.

Branding 101 Anna Powers

1) Determine what style and feelings your brand should convey. Many contemporary photography businesses are named after the photographer. But describing your brand as yourself–“but my brand is me!”– is a cop out. To actually brand your business, you need to figure out what you are, and what you represent. Analyze both your personal preferences and the style of your images. so that you can make sure that your style of photography matches up with the brand you’re trying to portray. Whimsical, stylized photography probably doesn’t mesh with a brand that conveys its message with masculine graphics and darker colors.

Branding 101 Anna Powers

Think about this: are you preppy? Indie? Sparkly and pink or graphic and grey? Inspiration boards can really help with this process. And they’re so easy to make: use Pinterest to collect swatches of ideas and images that you like. Once you have pulled together a board, sit down with a friend to tease out repeating motifs, colors, styles, and sentiments.

Another set of issues to consider: what do you want your clients to feel as they engage with Your Studio Photography? Do you want them to have the sense that they are pampered, or that they’re collaborating with a trusted friend? From their first encounter with Your Studio Photography through the final email, write down what a client should experience–and what they should feel throughout the process.

2) Determine whether the elements of your current brand portray this feeling and style. Does that flower or that squiggly line in your logo make clients feel good? Not so much. Here’s when you need to return to the feedback your friends offered. Figure out what you can keep, and what needs to be reconfigured. Your branding needs to be consistent in every client interaction, from print to web, so assess accordingly.

3) Rebrand! Design templates are a great place to start, as they are customizable, affordable, and accessible. You can also get a sense of your style (the all-important step #1) by perusing different designs and taking note of what you like. Design Aglow’s templates coordinate across platforms–see our Marketing Suites, Welcome Packets, and ProPhoto Blog Templates–to instabrand your identity. The included layered PSD files means that all templates are instantly tweakable, so that you can use them as a starting point for your own brand vision. And we just launched the Design Aglow Logo Shop offering unlimited options to help get those brand feelings across. Happy branding!

Branding 101 Anna Powers

Branding 101 Anna Powers Branding 101 Anna Powers

Anna Powers

Design Aglow

Have more questions about branding? Want to show off your brand? Design Aglow would love to hear from you on our Facebook page!

Posted in Branding, Marketing

Shared Studio Space | Laura Eaton

All Together Now…  What I Learned from Starting a Shared Space

Soiree Studio Laura Eaton

As a wedding photographer, I learned a lot from collaborating with other professionals.  I always found that the best ideas came out of conversations with people I loved to work with – we always shared the same goals of wanting to share and improve, not just our own business, but make things better for the industry as well.

With this in mind, in January of 2010, I started a shared space for wedding, event & style professionals called Soirée Philadelphia.

A very good friend, Mark Kingsdorf, formerly of Queen of Hearts Wedding Consultants, suggested I get a small space in the city.  He was referring clients, but very few were booking consultations, and he suspected it was because we were located in New Jersey.  While we were only 35-40 minutes outside the city, it was enough to make busy couples think twice about traveling out to meet with us.  Mark was right – our bookings jumped from 14 weddings the previous year to 29 the year we got the studio in Philadelphia.

Things were going well for the photography business, but the studio seemed wasteful.  We were only using the space for client meetings and as a sort of home-base for engagement sessions that took place in Old City – we were only there a few days a month, a couple hours at a time.  I thought, this studio did so much for me, why not open this up to other professionals?

So I called Mark and offered him the first opening.  He was interested, but concerned that people might feel pressured to book both of us if we were sharing a space – time to re-brand….

I rented a small space on Arch Street, which is where I created the branding for Soirée Philadelphia.  The shared space needed to have its own identity outside of my studio to provide separation from my business.  In terms of the space itself, I was careful to make the Soirée brand as minimal as possible.  I wanted members to occupy the space as their own, so then palette is neutral and there is only a small sign on the door.  Members can use the space however they like in the time they reserve.  We have planners, photographers, videographers, stylists, designers and more.  We do limit membership to no more than 5 members in each category, just to keep things balanced.

In a strange turn of events, we ended up moving (twice!) and wound up back in the original studio space, but as Soirée Philadelphia.  We are now settled into this space, an it couldn’t have worked out better.  We have a great location with plenty of convenient parking and wonderful members who have stayed the course through some interesting transitions (thank you guys!).

What’s in the future?  I’m still a photographer, but Soirée Philadelphia is now my main focus.  We are always looking for more members and we love collaborating.  We have hosted seminars, pop-up shops, trunk shows, networking parties and the space is available for events & workshops.

4 Things I Learn from running a shared space:

  1.  Dollars and sense… It just makes sense to share.  If your main focus is weddings, you meet with clients, shoot engagement sessions and weddings on the weekends, but the rest of the time, you are likely working from home.  Or if you are a makeup artist or other professional, you have one to two appointments with each client, maybe an hour or two each.  Financially does it make sense to rent an entire space for yourself?  I’ve seen so many photographers and other service based professionals jump into a retail space or studio, only to find out that they can’t handle the rent, insurance and other expenses. In this region, we have “slow seasons” – but the rent and utility bills don’t take any breaks.
  2.  Location counts… Having a physical address where you want to do business can really have an impact.  Not only are you making yourself convenient & available to your clients, but the SEO is hugely valuable.  If someone searches “Philadelphia wedding planner” and you don’t have a Philadelphia street address on your site (nope, PO boxes don’t cut it), you won’t rank nearly as high on Google as those who do (you may not show up at all).  This doesn’t just apply to cities – it works regionally too, Trilogy Event Design serves the Bucks/Montgomery County area.  The key is to find a group that is centered in your target market.  Co-working spaces are also a great option if you need a place to maintain a desk space.
  3.  Its not a race with a finish line…  I was fortunate that my wedding business grew quickly, so I was naively expecting the same for Soirée.  It’s been a slow journey finding the right people, but that was a blessing in disguise.  The majority of our new members were referred by an existing member, so Soiree’s growth was built on trust and natural connections.  Soiree is constantly evolving, which allows us to consider new and different ways to grow and connect more professionals with each other and new clients.
  4. Collectives & shared spaces are generally made up of awesome people… Soiree Philadelphia works because, by its very nature of being a shared space, it attracts the right people.  If you aren’t into collaborating, networking and sharing – you aren’t going to want to join.  I may have started this collective, but its the members who have built this community and have kept us going strong for the last four years.

Soiree Studio Laura Eaton

Laura Eaton Photography

View our latest news on our blog at
Voted by our fabulous clients to “The Knot’s Best of Weddings 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011!”

Also selected as “The Knot Editor’s Pick” for 2011.
Selected by Grace Ormonde “Wedding Style” Magazine for their 2008/2009 Platinum List

Posted in Small Business Tagged |