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Why I’m *NOT* a “High-End” Photographer

One commonly accepted concept in the wedding photography industry is that in order to be successful, you MUST aspire to be a high-end photographer, pushing your prices higher and catering to an affluent clientele. There’s a definite distaste for photographers who don’t charge “enough” and who don’t aspire to serve affluent clients.

Our chosen business model is shoot more to make more. Instead of targeting high-end weddings and affluent clients, we target mass-market brides with average budgets. Instead of projecting exclusivity, we aim to be the company that event planners see every weekend and that brides see on every vendor list.

How Our Studio Shoots More to Make More:
Life Long Studios was a standard husband-and-wife company, photographing about 40 weddings per year. My wife and I took a long, hard look at where we wanted to be and what we wanted our studio to become. We knew we wanted a company that could outlive us. At some point we wanted a family and we would need to provide for them.

We decided to split into two photography teams and hire second shooters when needed. Our theory was that we could NOT raise our prices and increase profit and market presence by shooting more.

Dramatically increasing the number of events we shot meant everything else dramatically increased too – the number of phone calls and emails, the hours editing and burning discs, etc! It was a logistical nightmare that we were severely unprepared to face. It crippled us. After the first spring season functioning as two teams, we were so behind.

Realizing we needed help, we hired someone to do basic image adjustments and office work. This freed us up to be photographers again. More growth happened during the Fall and we dedicated one staff member to editing and another to office work. We weren’t paying much back then, maybe $1 over minimum wage. We waded through a ton of applicants, but when we found one with the personality we were after we did as much training as necessary to make them amazing!

Fast forward a few years…

Life Long Studios shoots more than 300 weddings every year. We have four shooting teams, plus a fifth team ready to be released in the second quarter of this year. We have two editors for weddings, an editor for engagement and portrait sessions, and an office manager who handles daily operations and workflow management.

Each lead photographer is responsible for shooting the engagement session and the wedding for their assigned clients. That specific photographer picks their clients’ images to be edited. Our editors get paid as we get shoots. Their responsibilities include cropping and moderate Lightroom adjustments. My wife, Buffy, and I manage marketing, pricing, sales and vendor relations.

Life Long Studios Team

The principles behind being successful are the same if you are “high-end” or “mass-market.” You must run a business efficiently and you must know your numbers.

When your business model is “shoot more to make more,” efficiency is especially important.
Here’s a tip for photographers hoping to outsource:

You Can’t Shoot More to Make More All Alone!
How many hours do you spend from the initial email to shipping the wedding disc for each client?

What takes you the most time? What do you love doing? What do you hate doing?

I realized that outsourcing Lightroom was essential for me to have time to meet with clients and vendors. A friend realized that for her it was uploading proofing and reprint orders. Another friend got a mental block every time she tried to design an album and realized that it was important to outsource that process.

When you identify what energizes you, do that as much as you can! Now that you’re focusing on what you love, work on outsourcing the rest!

I’m most effective when I’m meeting clients, shooting and leading the company. So, that’s what I do and I focus ONLY on those things. Of course, I’m tempted to jump in and control every aspect of the office, but that’s NOT good for my business.

The hardest part is giving your team control of areas of your business. They’ll never do it better than you think you can do it – get over it! Sure, letting a third-party handle album workflow is scary, but it frees you up to focus on making more money.

What parts of your business can you outsource?
To answer that for your business, start by creating a workflow that fits your clients and your company. Then, examine each piece of your workflow and decide whether it can be handed off to someone else.

Sample Workflow Tasks:
• Pricing inquiries
• Email string leading to consultation
• Online proposal & contracts
• Client Bookkeeping – collecting payment
• Thank you emails / Letter with ‘What’s Next’ information
• Scheduling engagement session
• Shooting engagement session
• Picking & editing images
• Burning & shipping
• Uploading to online proofing
• Email client link to proofing site

The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!
The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!