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Two words for higher sales…YOU and WHY?



This blog is actually about sales, but it delves into a deeper idea. That idea is this; people don’t buy what you do, they buy WHY you do it and most importantly, they buy YOU!

People buy you first.

The real secret to better sales is not Facebook followers, a job title, talent, experience, education or even the price of a product. The secret and what matters most to a client is you. Getting clients to like you, trust you and buy from you is the goal here.

Nobody likes being sold to! No! They need to feel comfortable with you and know you have good intentions towards them. If there is any deception involved, they will know. I believe, as photographers, we have a built-in love for people which makes us great salespeople as well.

For us, we think of our clients like our cousins. They are family, but not the most intimate family like moms or dads, husbands or wives. Cousins are about the right level of intimacy. We care, we send cards for events, we inquire about their kids, we are involved in their lives, but in the proper way.

Always remember your clients are people, not transactions.

Prospects will judge your worthiness based on how you make them feel. By building a relationship and bonding with them on a person to person basis first, your prospects will more likely become clients.

Most consumers don’t consider price alone when making their buying decisions.

Potential buyers also need to know why you are doing what you do. For most photographers, the answer is passion and love of people. Make sure they know that. The WHY matters to people who want to invest in what you sell. They will consider the value: the difference between what something costs and its worth to the buyer.

When selling a luxury product such as photography, we must build value into our photography. Some of the ways we build value:

*We tell our story of why we do what we do. Everyone has a story about why they started their business and potential clients want to know this information. It can add huge value and impact.

*We tell about the care we take in producing our product. We make sure our clients know how custom our product is, why we do it that way and enough of the details to add value, but not overwhelm.

*We give them an over-the-top customer experience, each and every time they walk through our doors. No exceptions!

*We deliver on every promise.

*We build relationships from the start with every potential client.

*We present ourselves well, from how we dress and talk to our facility and how it looks.

*We put value on our art by presenting each piece with an authenticity certificate. We hand-sign the wall pieces and include care instructions with every order.

Consider the YOU and the WHY when you are examining your sales procedures. Being aware is the first step in the right direction.

Have a great week!


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An alternate approach to pricing…


photo education,portrait,pricing

Awhile back, we decided that instead of listing sizes by the inch on our pricing schedules, we would instead use wording to indicate where our images should hang in a home. How much less confusing it was when a client said they wanted something to hang above their mantle and we listed a Mantle Size on our paperwork. This is an inspired idea!

So, here’s the scoop on each size and where we believe it should hang.

8×10s and smaller are Tabletop Sizes

11×14s are Miniature Size

16×20s are Grouping Size

20×24s are Foyer Size

24×30s are Mantle Size

30×40s are Sofa Size

40×60s are Cathedral Size (indicating a home with cathedral ceilings)

The only time we use the wording of Xsmall, Small, Medium and Large at this juncture is to describe our Beau Visage painted portraits. X-Small is 16×24, Small is 20×30, Medium is 24×36 and Large is 30×44.

When it comes to frames, we love the large and chunky GW Mouldings when we need an ornate frame and Wild Sorbet for “shabby chic” frames that we use in Studio B, our associate-run division. Mark-up on frames is usually 3 times the join price. We love wide and dimensional mouldings, so no frame is too big, but many can be too small, making our work seem unimportant when hung on the wall.

Hopefully, this will cause you to think about your pricing structure and how to utilize it better. Have a great week, everyone!


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Serendipity…it’s a kid thing!



The Serendipity Collection…marketing to the kids

Tim was helping a young child into the studio, making a fast friend, exchanging high fives and such, and after he finished that session, he called us all in for a meeting. What he said birthed the Serendipity Collection. He said, “We need to be “marketing” to the children as well as the adults. When you gain the trust and friendship of the children, you automatically have the adult’s trust”

From that time on, we decided to make each trip a child makes to our studio more fun and colorful with a professional touch. However, we didn’t have the supplies or goods to make it happen, so I sat down and designed the Serendipity Collection which is available now from Marathon Press as part of the Walden Collection.

Definition of the Serendipity Collection: It is an economically designed, fun-filled kit that the photographer puts together for each child to market to them exclusively and make the photographer look GOOD!

What it includes: A sticker page, a coloring/activity book and a note card. From outside vendors, the photographer needs to purchase blank water bottles, blank lip balm, 4-pack crayon boxes and yellow glossy bags.

How to assemble: Use the labeled stickers on the Sticker page to put a beautiful Serendipity label on the water bottle, the pack of crayons, the lip balm and the yellow bag. Then cut out the 5×7 portion of stickers left over (these are for the child) and include it in the yellow gift bag along with the water bottle, crayons and lip balm. Add the coloring/activity book to the bag, set the bag in your dressing room along with a personal note to the child (not the adults) and voila! You have a professional looking gift bag full of fun and surprises for the child you are getting ready to photograph and all for an economical price! It just takes a little prep time, but everything worth doing takes a little time!

Benefit: With a minimum investment, each child that comes through our door feels so special and it makes many, many “brownie” points with their parents!

So, what are you waiting for? Get on board and treat your kids to a Serendipity day!

Have a great week everyone!


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Lighting the Way…a primer on Lighting…Direction of Light Outdoors


Direction is the control, the shaping or forming of the light, much as we would do in the studio.

The best way to think about how to control direction of light outdoors is to think about a porch, which is the perfect example of the proper light direction. When you think about a porch, it does two things. It subtracts light from overhead, thus eliminating “raccoon eyes” and it subtracts light from one side to create beautiful shadow on the face.


Without highlight and shadow, you lose form, texture and shape and lighting is flat, simply meaning the light is the same intensity from one ear to the other ear. This type of lighting widens the face and is not flattering to the subject. Then when your light is from overhead, the eyes become black holes as in the example below.


Without direction, lighting outdoors can be very flat and unattractive. This is misunderstood in today’s environment where you have so many photographers that love a natural style and simply go out to a field or park and start shooting without thinking about their lighting or use an on-camera flash, which further flattens the lighting.


In the example above on the porch, you can see the vast improvement in the lighting pattern. Look how the eyes open up and the mask of the face has highlight and shadow. Light is being subtracted from above and one side.

With this simple lesson, lighting can be vastly improved. OK, you say, what if you don’t have a porch where you are going to shoot? Then you find the porches that nature provides; a line of trees that can subtract light from overhead or a building that can subtract light from one side and then use a black scrim to help form your light. In the example below, we have simply positioned the subject back just under the edge of the tree line to subtract the light from overhead. To pop more light into the eyes, you may want to use a reflector as well.



This example properly applies all three principles…quantity, quality and direction. It was shot under their front porch.


This example above was shot under an overhang to block overhead light, the gate/building provides shadow to one side of the face and a reflector kicked additional light back into the eyes. This is studio quality lighting outdoors and what your goal should be with any outdoor portrait.

Have a great week!


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Lighting the Way…a primer on lighting…part 1



Photography…the very definition emphasizes LIGHT, which is our topic for the next few blogs. Photography is “the art or process of producing images by the action of radiant energy and especially LIGHT.” With so many new photographers jumping into the profession, I believe there needs to be a refresher taught on what proper lighting is, both in the studio and on location. I can hear the groaning out there now! “Lighting is too hard and I will never understand it!” I know how many of you feel because that is what I said when I first got behind the camera, but I promise you, it is easier than you think and well worth learning.

First of all, studio lighting must be understood even if you never plan on shooting in a studio. Why? Simply because it is the basis of all lighting and once you understand proper studio lighting, you will understand lighting wherever you are. You will learn to look for the proper light outside instead of just setting your camera on Auto and pushing the button. Location shooting is not just selecting a background that is pretty and posing your subject in front of it. NO! To create beautiful lighting outdoors, you must first find the light and then see what the background is that will let you use that light. Sometimes, you find a background you must absolutely use or love. If that is the case, you must then determine possible restraints of the lighting in that particular location.

For example, if you love to shoot in open fields, the only light is from overhead, a poor and unattractive lighting pattern. It causes “raccoon eyes” and squinting and flattens out the face. What I always did was wait for sunset, place the subject with their back to it, and the I shot a profile shot. This allowed the open sky to light the face and a beautiful rim light from the setting sun to gently outline the profile features, the hair and the body along with the tall, feathery grasses or flowers that were in the field.

Location Lighting:

The best way to learn location lighting is to think of it in three ways: quantity, quality and direction. Most photographers understand quantity or if there is enough light to get an exposure. That simply means taking a meter reading and setting your camera. Your subject may require you to make certain decisions on this. If you have an active 2 year old, you may not be able to shoot at sunset without getting movement although the ISOs with the digital cameras are much higher than we had with film. We always back up our time to around 1 1/2 to 2 hours before sunset for these types of sessions and shoot at the lowest ISO possible to retain the most quality we can in our file capture.

Many, but not all photographers understand quality of light or what is between your subject and the light source. It also means being aware of things that may influence the color of your light such as light bouncing off of grass or a yellow building-two totally different outcomes. Grass is not attractive as it reflects green into the skin tones, however, a yellow building would be fine as it would bounce warm light onto the subject. When you shoot at the right time of day, either sunrise or sunset, when the sun is the closest to the horizon,it allows you to get beautiful backlighting from the sun and soft, gentle light on the face. Shooting with overcast skies so the light is filtered is also good, although it can cause the skin to take on a lifeless color that may need to be corrected later. You can also shoot in open shade, letting a building create shade from the sun if you are out in the bright sunlight. See Example below. By simply moving the subject from the sunny side of the building to the open shade, you will drastically improve the facial lighting, eliminate the “raccoon eyes” and the squinting.


The third element, direction of lighting, will be the topic of next week’s blog, so stay tuned.

Have a great week, everyone.

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J. Peterman…a unique man and story


J. Peterman holds a special place in our hearts here in Lexington, Kentucky, as he is a Kentuckian who sparked (and still sparks) the imagination of millions with his unique catalog selling merchandise gathered from around the world. He is Ripley’s Believe It or Not and Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones all rolled into one! I have been reading his book called, “J. Peterman Rides Again” and it is a tale of romance and caution, risk and reward, highs and lows, riches and failure, past and present.

It reminds me again of what life should be, even in the midst of hardship. Life should be imaginative, passionate, romantic, thrilling, full of memorable experiences, and most of all, fulfilling the thirst inside of each of us to accomplish our unique mission in life.

I cannot quite put into words the feeling I get reading his book or thumb through his catalogs…they take you back to Casablanca, Arabian Knights, cowboys singing to cattle and a sky full of endless stars, a glass of wine in a Paris cafe, beautiful and mysterious women with red lips…you get the picture! His gift it to transport you back to times when life was golden and glamourous and it is so fun!

What does this have to do with our studio? He has greatly influenced how we market and has given us a much more emotional voice as we prepare our marketing pieces. Whenever we get stale or run out of ideas, we just flip through one of the J. Peterman catalogs to get revived. He helps us feel the romance of photography. We glean creativity and a new way to see from this man and his ideas. His catalogs are actually used in many college courses to teach marketing and show how an unusual approach can have great impact. The quirky size of his catalog and the fact that he uses watercolor illustrations instead of photographs to show his wares were stumbling blocks for some of his initial investors, but he believed in what he was doing so strongly that he prevailed in the end.

We still get his catalogs and never tire of them, even after many years of receiving them. In fact, Tim just purchased a beautiful leather computer/messenger bag to go with his hat, wallet, shirt, toiletries bag, cologne, etc, etc, etc!

To get on his mailing list, simply go to It’s free. You will become a fan too, I promise. Now, I gotta go read my new catalog!

Have a great week, everyone!

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5 Poisonous Behaviors (and the antidotes)


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Poisonous Behavior #5-Letting FEAR make its own plans (for you)

When I say FEAR, I think of it as “FALSE EVIDENCE ALTERING REALITY.” For the last few years, we have been in a turbulent and unsure time, but is that really new for photographers? If you have been in this business for awhile and think back, turbulence has always been around at different levels of intensity.

I remember back in the late 80’s, we were nervous when scanners started to pop up in Walmart, Kmart and other low-cost stores (even grocery stores). We felt that customers would buy a few small prints, take them to these places and scan our work. That’s when we actually sat down and created our Relationship Black and White portrait brand. The idea behind it was that if we attracted the right client, they would not scan our work, just as you wouldn’t buy a Monet painting and scan it for copies. Looking back, I am proud that we didn’t let FEAR get hold of us and change our course of action, but we looked at the situation and found a solution.

The next huge wave that caused turbulence was the digital revolution which brought with it an enormous group of new photographers, mostly women. WOW! We had a few home studios in our area before this happened, but now, there were so many that we lost count. Again, we sat down and thought about what to do to preserve our brand and our clients. What we realized was that the only competition we should have was with ourselves and not others. We should strive to be better each day and look within, not without. In doing that, we continued to focus on building Walden’s Photography and our brand was even more deeply implanted in our community.

We are still in the toughest wave; the economy! Many ask us if we have been affected and the answer is yes. However, we have deep roots and just like the huge trees that grow and flourish in our area even during a drought, we continue to grow. The greatest threat to us right now is our attitude if we let FEAR through the door, which will make its own plans, often in “panic mode.” The result of listening to FEAR whisper in your ear and acting on it is always a mistake.

Instead, what we have decided to do is to keep on marketing, keep on improving our skills to create a gap between us and other studios, listen to the marketplace and the changes it is demanding and then make decisions based on a whole bunch of data! We have been careful with our spending, but it is critical during these times to keep in touch with your clients and not cut back on reaching out to them and connecting. Aim for discipline in your core business balanced with a willingness to try new things and create new markets. You may have to re-package yourself to stay relevant, but that is much better than the alternative.

FEAR…False Evidence Altering Reality…do you really want FEAR to be in charge?

Have a great week everyone!

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5 Poisonous Behaviors (and the antidotes)


Poisonous Behavior #4-Not being consistent

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Consistency is underrated! It is probably one of the most vital behaviors in this series that you need to understand and correct. Think about experiences you have had in your own life.

For example, you go to a new hair stylist and they immediately usher you in, get you a refreshment, start your appointment on time and do an excellent job of listening to how you want your hair to be cut. They finish the cut and do a magnificent job of styling, allowing you to go for the next day or two without having to work on re-fixing your hair. You are very pleased and make the next appointment with great expectations!

Six weeks pass and it’s time to go back to your hair stylist and you are excited. However, this time, nobody greets you and you have to wander through the shop, looking for someone to check you in. “Oh, your stylist is running late today” you are told. That makes you wonder how long you are going to be there and you start to get uneasy. So even before your appointment starts, you have experienced two disappointments and now wonder is this is the right place for you.

At this point, even if everything else goes as you expect, two of your expectations have been violated and it makes you think twice about making the next appointment. This is the great value of consistency. People feel comfortable when your operating procedures are consistent. That is why we train our staff very diligently about handling clients and the process that MUST be repeated over and over again, each and every time. It is actually better to do less “grand” things and do what is repeatable than to try to do too much that cannot be repeated.

I believe people will give you two chances to get things right, and if their experience is not consistent, they will leave your business and not come back. The most frightening thing is that they will not tell you, but just silently slink away!

Take the time to sit down and write out your SOP (Standard Operating Procedures) in order to stay consistent-it is really important.

“Customers want you to be reliable, and you can achieve that by ensuring that they can get the same quality every time they come to your business. If you’re a restaurant, you should strive to avoid serving an incredibly delicious chicken cordon bleu one day, and a dry and tasteless version the week after. Consistency makes it easy for customers previously satisfied with your business to come back again and again, and even refer you to their friends.” From the website

Have a great week, everyone!

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5 Poisonous Behaviors (and the antidotes)



Poisonous Behavior #3-Badmouthing our (bad) clients

When we teach this one, we usually hear groans in the audience! Why? Because we’ve all been there!

Isn’t it true that we remember our worst clients and the “pain” they caused us much more than we remember our great clients? And isn’t it true that we want to tell the world how bad these clients are and all the details of our horrible experience with them?

A few years ago, we were sitting around at lunch with our staff and doing just that and suddenly realized that what we were doing was wrong. It seemed to permeate the room with such negative feelings that it brought us all down. As we talked about it, we realized that it was hurting us more than that client and it was, on a base level, disrespectable. What if those clients came through our door again? How would we feel and how would we treat them?

What we decided on that day was to put a policy in place that stated we would never say a negative comment about ANY of our clients, ever! You’ve heard the saying, “If you don’t have anything good to say, just don’t say anything.” That is what we started doing and an amazing thing happened. We felt better about ourselves and some of those “bad” clients that we had written off started to come back and not only that, they were no longer “bad.” WOW!

It became a win-win situation for all of us, so now, no matter what happens, we take the higher ground with all of our clients and they are family. We love them, respect them and only speak good about them. It has made a huge difference in our staff and in us.

Have a great week everyone!

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