Film came to me at a really good point in my career. I was starting to burn out as a wedding photographer, shooting over 40 weddings a year, and I just wanted to get back to my original passion—the art of photography. I saw film as that catalyst. And the best part? It worked. I had shot 35mm in the past, but never medium format. And I just fell in love with it. Film is honest and it helps keep you honest. Film requires you to be intentional and it has a nearly 3-D quality I love. Returning to film definitely reignited my passion for the art of photography and my business.
@sarahkatephoto Takeover Day 1: My first photography hero was #AnselAdams. As a young girl, I remember my mom driving me 2.5 hours away to see his prints in person. My mom always had a nice camera and lens she used to document our family. I probably became a photographer because of her. I always saw a difference between her pictures and my friends’ moms’ pictures, and it led me to realize if you have a discernable eye and solid equipment, you can better control the outcome. Growing up, my dad ran his own business. Watching him made me the kind of business owner I am—client-focused and hardworking. I’m passionate about caring for my clients. I’ll unpack just how I do this over the next few days.
I am consistently inspired by my friend, @erichmcvey. Erich inspires me not only with his work, but with his humility and attitude toward business. One thing that he and I agree on is that if someone is willing to pay your price, be willing to give them your time and respect, even if it’s not your dream wedding aesthetic. You never know what may come from it. I have built a strong business just by taking the opportunities I’ve been given. Yes, consider what’s right for your family and finances, but you may miss wonderful opportunities that help you grow professionally and artistically if you pass up a job simply because it does not match your “aesthetic” or your perceived “timeline” or what you “think” you deserve as a professional photographer.
@sarahkatephoto Takeover Day 1: My goal as a photographer is to provide my clients with a premier experience with my brand. Not necessarily with gifts and cards, although those are very nice, but old fashioned customer service. Exceeding your client’s expectations is the easiest way to grow a business. It seems so simple, but it’s so true. The client’s experience is vital because if they feel cared for, they will remember you and tell their friends and family about you and the wonderful service you provided. In my experience, the most powerful referrals a bride gets are the ones from her friends who have been happy with their wedding vendors.
A wedding is like a huge puzzle. And you, as a photographer, have to realize you are just one part of that puzzle. Although you are a VERY important part, it’s important to remember that it takes a team to pull off a wedding. You are ultimately all working for the couple and a cohesive team gives them a better experience overall. Be humble, try to do a great job and have respect for all of the creative partners involved. This will help you become a business owner who is respected, trusted and referred over and over.
I love to give vendors photos before they ask. Seriously. This is huge! I’ll do this by creating a Highlights folder on the #PixieSet gallery and sending the folder to the wedding coordinator, florist, HMUA, the venue and other key people. Why? Because they deserve these images just as much as I do. They worked just as hard at making that wedding happen. It’s really frustrating for vendors to have to hunt you down for images. I had one wedding coordinator tell me that in all her 20 years of business, I was the only photographer who ever gave her images before she asked. It shows you care, it shows you respect and appreciate them. Give good customer service to the bride, but also to the vendors who work so hard. Surprise them and they will remember you. I promise.
I’ve booked weddings purely on the fact that I answered a client’s inquiry before any other photographer. Being a successful photographer is not just about being a good artist, it’s about being a good businessperson. You can send your clients a beautiful, curated gift in the mail or a handwritten note, but if you don’t answer their emails or phone calls in a timely manner, they’re not going to feel taken care of. Be smart and thoughtful about your customer service. For example, I don’t charge to retouch one photo that only takes me 1-2 minutes. While you should set clear expectations for larger edits and not give your time away, being helpful and efficient goes a long way.
If you can develop a reputation of having great work and great business practices, your business can grow simply by word of mouth. I keep my clients and other vendors happy, and word travels fast. This shoot was for @GirlandaSeriousDream’s 2017 lookbook. Anita of #GirlandaSeriousDream originally saw my work because I photographed one of her first “real” brides. I contacted her to put together a styled shoot just for fun, and Anita sent all her luxury robes, cover ups and veils to use because she loved the work she saw from the real wedding. I shot in my all white, minimal home studio @thebelmontstudio and Anita loved the outcome so much, she asked me to shoot her lookbook.
Being married to another wedding photographer (shout out to my hubby, @joshua_aull) has allowed us to travel the world together. I could not imagine a better life. We were both in Thailand for a wedding and decided to visit Cambodia and Vietnam as well. At Angkor Wat in Cambodia, we came upon this monk, standing in this hallway. He spoke no English, so I asked our guide if it would be appropriate to ask him if I could take his picture. The guide said yes, and through gestures only, I learned the monk was up for it. He allowed time for one frame before he walked away, excited and smiling (I guess he wasn’t up for a full photoshoot, ha!). I love the look on his face. He looks so content. And I love the way the orange reflects onto one of the columns. Great business opportunities can lead to even better personal opportunities!
Always be a student of photography. Your experience + knowledge can save your clients’ photos if you find yourself in a tricky situation . . . ahem, such as forgetting your light meter at home when you’re shooting in crazy light! This engagement session is an all-time favorite, but I had to shoot it without a meter. Because I’ve been shooting manually for so long, I just relied on my experience and trusted myself. It came out amazing!
Comparing yourself to others is detrimental, although it’s hard not to do when Instagram and Facebook are so easily accessible. There was a long period of time as a photographer that I didn't look at anyone’s work (before @Instagram, ha). I just did what I did and developed my own style that was natural to me. I saw other photographers’ work, but I didn’t try to emulate them. Early on, I was determined to focus on my market in Dallas and the style I liked. Try not to focus on others and avoid the spiral of self-doubt and insecurity. Instead of trying to copy the people you admire, try to figure out what it is that you like about their work (i.e. lighting, posing, film stock, etc.) and use that as inspiration to set yourself apart.
You have to work really hard to become a successful photographer. It doesn’t always come easy. I’ve worked extremely hard to build what I have. Don’t be anxious to make a big name for yourself, it’s a process! Ultimately, this is a business. This is how I pay my mortgage. This is my livelihood. I set expectations for my clients, and I deliver on those expectations with a smile. Work hard. Appreciate every client, even if they are a pain in the butt. This image reminds me of #RaffaeloMonti’s “Veiled Lady” sculpture and others like it I have seen in Paris and Florence. Although my images may not be in the Louvre, I do hope to leave a legacy of quality, honesty and good ol’ hard work!