Bokeh Podcast Episode #33: Is Blogging Relevant Anymore? – Carrie Swails

Blogging - Carrie Swails

“You only live life once, so you might as well do it as loud as possible.” So says today’s Bokeh podcast guest, Carrie Swails. A photographer and a blogger, Carrie has not only learned to leverage her personality to attract a unique client, but has created a popular blog (over 8 million unique visitors!) called Photography Awesomesauce. In this Bokeh podcast episode, Carrie discusses the significance of being yourself in business, the value of blogging in 2017, how important Pinterest can be in that process, and how automation can help you create more freedom as a business owner.

You can also subscribe to the Bokeh podcast on the Apple podcast app or add to your playlist on Stitcher.

Read the transcript and show notes

Show Notes:

Introduction to Carrie Swails [00:54]
Being Driven to be Different [05:07]
Being Different as a Brand Position [08:35]
Important Photos vs Pretty Photos [10:46]
The Photography Awesomesauce Blog  [15:13]
The Relevance of Blogging [20:35]
Running a More Effective Blog [24:06]
Using Automation Tools [34:41]
Where to Learn More [42:02]

Shootproof – Online Proofing Galleries for Photographers Use SWAILS25 and to get 25% off any annual plans.
Pixifi –
Edgar –
Schedugram –
Carrie Swails Photography –
Photography Awesomesauce –

Podcast Transcript: 

Nathan – Alright, so as I like to say, we are live. I’m here with my friend, Carrie Swails. And Carrie was gracious enough to come on the podcast with us here kind of last minute. Actually, you sent me an email and reached out and said, “Hey, I’d love to join the conversation.” And I love that and I’m excited about this topic that we’re gonna dive into about blogging. But Carrie tell us a little bit about yourself first before we dive into that topic for the day.

Carrie – Oh, where do I start? I am, I guess I’m what I would call a serial entrepreneur. I just come up with, I love coming up with ideas and starting businesses. I started out as a photographer, thought I was gonna be the world’s greatest gift to newborn photography, turns out I’m not. Moved into weddings.

Nathan – Is this a decision that you made on your own or feedback that you got from clients?

Carrie – Maybe a little bit of both.

Nathan – Okay.

Carrie – And I just think newborn photography is more physically taxing than wedding photography. You’re in a hot room and my back always hurt and I just don’t like babies that much.

Nathan -Well, that would probably kind of automatically take you off the list of good baby photographers then.

Carrie – Yeah, I mean I really, I gave it a really good shot, but it just wasn’t for me. And I ended up shooting weddings. And when I took my business full-time I actually started a blog, Photography Awesomesauce, and thought I would just sort of start writing down things that I learned as I went. ‘Cause I’ve always kind of been into blogging since I was a teenager and we had LiveJournal back then.

Nathan – Yeah.

Carrie – And I just thought if somebody reads it, cool, and it helps them. And if they don’t, they don’t. And now it’s five years later and there have been 8.5 million unique visitors to the website. So it just totally blossomed into a bunch of projects and businesses and different things I never anticipated. So that’s a little bit about me as a business owner.

Nathan – That’s awesome, well and we’re gonna actually get into the blog and this topic of blogging here in just a second, but I actually wanna take a step back. Tell us a little bit about where you’re from and where you’re based. In fact we were just chatting about the fact that you’ve got a blizzard headed your way. Where are you at?

Carrie – I am in a very tiny, remote town in Colorado. We call it the western slope, but I’m actually much further north on the western slope. I’m an hour and a half north of Grand Junction. Live in a town called Rangely. We don’t have a grocery store.

Nathan – Do you grow your own food?

Carrie – Yeah, we actually, we have big plans for gardening or putting together a greenhouse this summer.

Nathan – Oh, wow.

Carrie – That hopefully we can add some solar panels to and heat in winter so that we can have our own produce year round.

Nathan – That’s incredible. Are you from that area originally?

Carrie – No, I was actually born in Salt Lake. And I’ve lived all over the world, I’ve been lucky enough. And I’ve lived all over the U.S. So it’s really hard to say that I’m, I don’t feel like I’m from anywhere, if that makes sense. I’ve moved most of my life every couple of years.

Nathan – I totally get that. I’ve lived, actually grew up in Japan and I’ve lived on both the West coast in Washington state. I’ve lived in Georgia and Tennessee. And course have visited a variety of places internationally as well as nationally. But I can totally relate to that idea of just kind of being from everywhere. Your accents even begin to run together. People don’t know where I’m from based on the way that I speak because it just all kind of runs together.

Carrie – Yeah. Well, I feel, I did some growing up in Virginia and I had a nanny with a thick Southern accent. And so sometimes I think when I’m really tired or maybe I’ve had one too many glasses of wine, I get a little bit Southern, maybe just a tad.

Nathan – It just kind of comes out of nowhere, huh?

Carrie – Yeah.

Nathan – That’s funny. Well, your Facebook profile is one that stands out to me and you began to mention the various businesses that you’re involved in, we’re gonna touch on that here in a second. But, I love your Facebook profile tagline. When you go to just search your name, it says, “Rock your weird.” It says that you’re nerdy and loud and that you photograph less traditional weddings. And you even, you’ve had a site that was called Rock Your Weird. So, you are needless to say, the last thing I mean that anybody would think is that you kind of fit into the typical mold of a photographer, much less an individual. I wanna understand a little bit better where that all comes from, where it is this drive to be different come from.

Carrie – Well, I guess I would first say, I don’t feel like I’m driven to be different. I feel like I am just different and I’m driven to embrace it.

Nathan – Oh, I like that.

Carrie – I think a lot of people, just in general, not necessarily photographers, hold back and we tend to look up to a lot of leaders in industry, we wanna do the same thing as they are doing. But the best thing about being a creative is that there’s so many different solutions to a problem and you can be whoever you wanna be, there’s a million ways to run your business. There’s a million ways to accomplish the same thing. And I just am willing to own that I’m very different. I’ve always been a weirdo since I was a little kid. I just go with it.

Nathan – What is being a weirdo when you’re a little kid look like?

Carrie – Well, I mean, like we talked about, I moved around a lot so I had to go to a lot of new schools, make new friends quickly. I just always felt different. I was often teased, made fun of because I was different and I was into different things. In high school I was that kid playing Dungeons and Dragons with my friends during my lunch hour.

Nathan – Yes.

Carrie – You know, we would spend our weekends going to Renaissance festival, dressing up in costumes even at school for movie releases. That’s just, and I’m willing to be that person I guess because that’s what I love and I think you only live life once, so you might as well do it as loud as possible.

Nathan – Hey absolutely. You even have, is it purple hair right now or you onto a different color?

Carrie -I went from dark purple to pastel to kind of like really bright, fake red to right now it’s actually brown with like a purple streak in it, so.

Nathan – I love it, yeah, why not mix it up. Life’s short, have a little bit of fun.

Carrie – Yeah.

Nathan – Be interesting, right? The metaphor that comes to mind, and this always kind of cracks me up, but it’s also a good reminder for me, you talk about how it’s easy to just kind of follow the so-called leaders in the photography industry or even just your peers and do what they’re doing. The metaphor that comes to mind is how we as just human beings tend to kind of be like sheep even when it comes down to something as simple as coming up to a red light. And let’s say you’re coming up to a red light and you wanna turn left and there are actually two left hand turn lanes, but everybody kind of files into this one turn lane and because the car in front of you is doing it or a few cars in front of you are doing it, you follow suit. And then this line begins to build up while there’s this wide open second turn lane if you just go over one lane, there’s this wide open second turn lane there available for any and everybody to jump in. And yet nobody does because they just assume because everyone else is in that one turn lane that’s the direction that they have to go. And maybe that’s a little bit of a rough metaphor but I think that we have a tendency as human beings to follow what most people are doing, when there’s maybe a very obvious alternative right there in front of us that is kind of wide open for the taking and it’s not as crowded, right? So we have the opportunity to set ourselves apart in that which I think is a great segway then to how being different if you will, has affected the way that you run your business and the clients you attract. How has that given you an opportunity to set yourself apart from other photographers in the industry?

Carrie – That’s a good question and I like that analogy. Sometimes, I heard from a friend of mine, Chip, at BlogStomp, he calls it the zombie analogy in the photography industry, it’s just like a zombie movie.

Nathan – Yes.

Carrie – It’s all these zombies outside of the door clawing their way in, only one or two end up inside because those are ones that figured out they can go through the window.

Nathan -Right. That’s a great analogy, I love it.

Carrie – I love that, that’s why I thought I’d share it. But, yeah, I think what, I guess being different has been easy for me in business because there is a huge group of people who are getting married who, I think, like me when I was younger, didn’t ever see themselves in a bridal magazine. Maybe they don’t see themselves in that white dress. They grew up playing Dungeons and Dragons and wearing costumes and those were the kids in school who I think were maybe the most authentic. And those people when it comes to weddings they’re just, the wedding industry is not made for them. So I think, I tend to attract people that I can be an advocate for with my clients. They want somebody who understands that they’re gonna do something different and that they don’t have to fit into that ad in the Knots magazine on the shelf in the grocery store. But I want my clients to feel like they deserve to feel that way at the same time. So, I really think that’s how it’s affected my business is that I attract these people who are super authentic and they own whatever they’re passionate about. They’re amazing to work with. And by being such a small niche, they really trust me. So working with my clients has always been very easy and I haven’t had a lot of troubles just because they love hanging out, we end up becoming really good friends just because we have so much in common.

Nathan – What have you done to attract that type of client? How do you put yourself out there to rock your weird if you will, in such a way that clients are like, oh, I wanna work with her. Her message or her brand resonates with me. How do you put yourself out there so that you attract that type of client?

Carrie – Oh, I think first it starts on your website. And I think it also comes, you have to not be afraid to just say how you feel. I even felt this way at one point as a photographer. I was afraid to kind of put my beliefs and my thoughts and my morals out there because I wanted, I didn’t want anybody to feel bad about working with me, but what I’ve learned is that I’d rather polarize people and have them go to my website and be like, I don’t want to work with her. Or go my website and feel like, yes, she is exactly what I wanna hire.

Nathan – Right.

Carrie – So it kind of starts on my website for me, that’s where people go, they read about my bio, I took a long time writing a bio that I felt had the kind of vibe that I like. And then adding in small bits here and there. Small nerdy things. If you go to my wedding photography website my logo is Star Wars font. My blog says something about muggles, which is a Harry Potter reference. You can fill out the contact form in Harry Potter mode.

Nathan – No way.

Carrie – Yeah.

Nathan – That’s awesome.

Carrie – They’re just small details that I think resonate with my clients a lot. And I think the second part of that is that you can put your personality out there and connect with people that way, but if you’re not backing it up with quality work, it doesn’t really do a whole lot for you. So it’s really important to me that I’m taking important photos instead of just pretty ones.

Nathan – Interesting, how would you differentiate the two? I mean pretty photos obviously, well certainly from the standpoint of a photographer. A photographer loves to look at pretty photos. I was just chatting with, we’re working right now on hiring somebody to come on board to manage social media for the Photographer’s Edit brand and the commonplace thing to do in the photo industry is to share pretty photos. Photographers like to look at pretty photos. I think the average person likes to look at pretty photos. But how do you differentiate between just simply pretty photos and important photos? What does that mean?

Carrie – I think, when I think of a pretty photo, I think of a bride standing there, maybe she’s posed looking just over her shoulder. She’s wearing a beautiful dress. She’s a beautiful person. But there’s nothing else happening in that image so it’s not telling a story to me. I like, for me important photos are ones that are full of expression and laughter and joy where something is happening. And they’re not perfect. A pretty photo is something where you’ve been posed, at your chin is just right, every finger is perfectly placed.

Nathan – Right.

Carrie – But an important photo is something that just happens and it’s a beautiful moment. And it can tell a story by itself.

Nathan – I love it so yeah, it tells a story, it’s raw and it’s expressive. I used to say I could, and I was a photographer for about 10 years, but I can take a, I can create a beautiful engagement session in a Walmart parking lot if I just have some decent light and an emotive couple, right, where I’m–

Carrie – Yes.

Nathan – Capturing images that are emotive. And if you have decent light and great emotion from these clients, you can get a beautiful image pretty much any and everywhere, whether it’s a Walmart parking lot or in a beautiful field or wherever it might be. But I totally understand what you’re saying there. And I love the differentiation between creating something that is perfect by, I guess, industry standards versus something that actually is going to communicate a story in a way that is going to resonate with people in a emotional level. I think that’s really, really powerful. Now you’re a photographer and how long have you been a photographer?

Carrie – Oh, man, I started in college. Photographed a couple weddings here, there on film and with a point and shoot. I graduated college 2008, so roughly 10 years maybe.

Nathan – So about 10 years, okay.

Carrie – Yeah, the first few years not so good.

Nathan – How long have you been photographing professionally would you say?

Carrie – Full time, I went full time in 2012.

Nathan – Okay, cool, so about five years then.

Carrie – Yeah.

Nathan – Now, you’re a photographer but you mentioned earlier your involvement in this blog or starting this blog called Photography Awesomesauce. Over eight million unique visits or visitors. Tell us the story behind, or a little bit more detailed story, I know you started to get into earlier. But take us through this process of starting this blog, the significance of it to you and then of course to your photography brand.

Carrie – Yeah, so I have my degree in K through 12 art ed. I’m actually a licensed teacher in the state of Colorado.

Nathan – Interesting.

Carrie – Teaching has always been something very, very important to me and I just think access to knowledge and to options and with the internet it’s so important that you be able to find what you need. So, when I started the blog I just thought maybe a couple of people read this, maybe it will help a couple of people. If not, that’s okay. But what happened is that, I think it was, I started it in April 2012 and in June, two months later I had two blog posts I wrote go viral on Pinterest. And I feel like I’ve been learning backwards ever since because I had no knowledge about blogging, I didn’t know what I was doing and my audience went from maybe 15 visits a day to hundreds of thousands overnight. I actually broke the shared server that I was on.

Nathan – Oh, wow.

Carrie – Yeah, it was really crazy and–

Nathan – What were the posts about?

Carrie – One of them is 20 things I wish I knew about photography posing and the other one is 20 things I wish I knew about manual mode. And they still carry the traffic for the website to this day.

Nathan – Wow, that’s amazing. So, what, again how did that go viral on Pinterest? Did somebody find it and share it or did you? And how did that end up turning into something so big?

Carrie – Well, that’s what’s cool about blogging and Pinterest is that they kind of go hand in hand. And you don’t need a big blog audience or a big following on Pinterest to have something go viral. I just was taking what I wrote and pinning it to my own Pinterest account. And I did not have very many followers, maybe 100 or so. And it showed up in search results for a few well-known Pinterest users. They were re-pinning it, they liked the content. And then from there, their accounts were re-pinning, hundreds of thousands of people had pinned these things. And that’s kind of where it went. Then I started doing even more of that. And I guess some people would say I got in Pinterest early because now it’s easy for me and I don’t have to pay for the advertising, but I still think this concept of blogging and pinning your own posts and work on Pinterest can work for anyone, no matter how many followers or how many readers you have.

Nathan – That’s really interesting. I would never have guessed and I guess this shows my lack of knowledge when it comes to, well at least Pinterest anyway. I would never had made the association between Pinterest and blogging. That’s quite interesting.

Carrie – Yeah. Well Pinterest is what I like to call a discovery platform. So it’s just essentially a visual search engine.

Nathan – Right. And that’s, I guess that’s where my assumption lies is it is a place that you go and you scan through a bunch of images and you create these boards that are relevant to whatever your interest is at the time, but it just, the connection between that and blogging is not one that I would’ve made. So that’s really interesting. So this turned into something that has generated over eight million unique visitors, how does that then affect your photography business? Have you actually gained clients from that? Or is it just a whole separate venture?

Carrie – I have gained a few clients here, there. What’s really funny is that I wrote a blog post that also went viral and it was called, it was just like a list, I made it for photographers, 54 must have wedding photos. And it’s just like all those moments ’cause I was teaching wedding photographers, they were like, “I’ve never been to a wedding. “What are the important things to pay attention to?” So it’s a really basic list, like make sure you get a picture of the couple and their parents, you know. It’s so basic that what I didn’t anticipate was that a bunch of brides would go on Pinterest and pin it. So, I actually had clients not realize that I wrote it and they send it to me, “Hey, here’s our shot list.”

Nathan – That’s hilarious.

Carrie – And I’m like, that’s great because I wrote that.

Nathan – That’s really awesome.

Carrie – I’ve gotten a few clients from Photography Awesomesauce but not a lot. I get a lot of my clients though through blogging and Pinterest even on my own personal photography business. Which doesn’t have a huge following on the blog either.

Nathan – So that actually brings, that’s a great segway in fact to my main question as part of this interview. Understanding that you have extensive experience creating a blog that has generated so much traffic. Blogging and how it relates to a photography business. Is blogging relevant in 2017 to running a photography business? Because five years ago let’s say, or even maybe six, seven, eight years ago, blogging was kind of the platform for photographers to share their latest work and that seems to have kind of transitioned to Facebook. Facebook’s an easy platform to post to, both text and image content and people are spending their time, probably most of their time of any platform online on Facebook, on their phones as well as of course on their desktops or their laptops. So is blogging relevant to photographers in 2017? Is there still a benefit to being on a blogging platform as well as Facebook or instead of Facebook? And if so, what is that benefit?

Carrie – So, that’s a good question and I love this question because I kind of agree and disagree with your perspective of it.

Nathan – Okay.

Carrie – Photographers are spending a lot of time on Facebook I think because back five, six years ago we were all using our business pages to reach clients and it was easy for us then because Facebook’s algorithm didn’t kind of punish us for posting content. So what I actually think is happening is that photographers are still posting on Facebook and we’re actually struggling to reach our audience there if we’re not paying to do posts or we’re not using live video, which is what Facebook is really promoting right now. So, I don’t think that people are necessarily switching to Facebook over blogging. I think we’re just kind of behind the times in some ways. But I think our clients are still reading blogs, they’re still doing Google searches. They’re on Instagram, they’re on Pinterest. And it’s up to us to kind of pick and choose which platforms to be on. But I don’t, I definitely wouldn’t say blogging is dying at all. I would say Facebook maybe is dying. But blogging has been around since 1998. And WordPress actually is the basis for 25, I think, percent of the websites on the internet.

Nathan – Yes.

Carrie – So when people are reading Huffington Post and Buzzfeed articles, those are all blogs. So blogging is still this thing, I just think it’s maybe changed to a place for maybe media long form content. People are using it to build cornerstone and evergreen content that you can pull up from your archives and share over and over and over again. But I would encourage photographers to use blogging more because it’s something that you actually own. So when Facebook is kind of dying and we’ve spent all this time building up all these thousands of followers on our business pages and now we don’t have that same access to those followers we worked so hard for, that can happen on any platform. But if you have a blog, you own that. Always gonna be available.

Nathan – And that makes sense. And that makes sense. Now to be clear, Facebook’s not dying in the sense that people aren’t using it. I think they’ve got two billion users, active users on their platform now.

Carrie – Yeah.

Nathan – But when you say it’s dying, it’s the algorithms that you mentioned earlier that are affecting how much–

Carrie – It’s dying for, yeah.

Nathan – Your content’s actually being seen by clients or potential clients, is that right?

Carrie – Yeah, it’s dying for business owners, for being a good place for, photographers especially to use if you’re not willing to do sponsored posts and live video, I don’t think you’re ever gonna be able to get the same kind of engagement that you used to be able to get five years ago.

Nathan – That makes sense, yeah, that organic reach.

Carrie – Yeah.

Nathan – So the fact that you own the blog content, or blog itself, of course, but the content on that and can promote it, share it any way that you choose is extremely powerful. Are there particular ways that you drive traffic to the blog? I mean are you actually sharing that blog content on Facebook or how do you expect for your clients or potential clients to see that content on the blog?

Carrie – So I think my main way of driving traffic to my blog is either with SEO or with Pinterest. And then my goal is that, I don’t wanna just have people go to my blog and read, I need to convert them into something, right? And I don’t necessarily wanna convert them into followers on other social media platforms because then I don’t own those things. Even if I convert them to a follower on Pinterest.

Nathan – Interesting.

Carrie – Or on Instagram. I don’t own those things and you never know what those will look like in five years. So, I think it’s a great idea to develop an email, basically an email list off of your blog, use that to convert your readers into followers. And I would actually urge people to use, maybe blog once a week, put out your, blog a wedding, share their story and then maybe write some useful, resourceful content, tips that can help your potential clients that’s exclusive to an email list. And start gaining followers that way and only send out that content on an email list.

Nathan – That’s interesting, now, so I wouldn’t have assumed that this would be a good approach to marketing to photography clients. When you have a business like Photographer’s Edit for example or any industry specific business that is trying to sell a service or a product, the notion of creating content that’s a value add, to pull someone in that hopefully they’ll either later invest in your service or your product or at least be interested enough to continue to follow you where maybe they’ll make an investment down the line. That makes more sense to me. But you’re actually talking about creating content to build a fan base for your photography business. And that’s really interesting to me. So talk to us a little bit about the type of content that you write and create for your blog readers.

Carrie – Well.

Nathan – And I guess maybe to add to that, I’m sorry to interrupt you. But the email, you’re talking about sending emails out to those readers or to the subscribers, what kind of content would you put in those emails?

Carrie – I think that’s, I think you’re definitely right. It’s something photographers don’t do or haven’t historically taken advantage of. But what’s cool about photographers is that whether you’re a wedding photographer or a newborn photographer, you probably have more experience with weddings and newborns than most of your clients will. If you’ve been a wedding photographer for 10 years, you’ve been to hundreds of weddings. Do you how much great advice and experience that you can provide to clients? And be a resource for them, which I think builds trust. And once you’ve made that connection over trust and somebody sees you as an authority, that’s when they’re gonna book you, refer you, whatever. So for me writing out content as a wedding photographer it’s just using stuff I know from my own experience having been to so many weddings. What can I do, what kind of information can I offer that can help kind of ease the pain of planning a wedding or take some stress off or give them some real life tips from somebody who’s actually gonna be involved in the day. If somebody’s hired you, you’ve already kind of won. And they’re gonna trust you to know more than what they know. I think a lot of wedding photographers can probably say that they’ve had clients email and say, “I’ve never done this before.” Well, yeah most people haven’t planned a wedding before.

Nathan – Right.

Carrie – So I write a lot of articles like how to, top 10 things you should know about wedding dress bustles. My favorite wedding venues in Colorado and I link to them, I link to posts that I’ve done that share my own photos at those venues. So it’s a great way to kind of provide a tool, help somebody out and hopefully get a booking in return. I’ve actually had people who have never booked me but have loved the content on my website, maybe I was out of the price range, but they referred me to friends who they know can book me. And it’s intriguing to receive referrals from people who you’ve never photographed with. But they found that connection with you and they just think that what you’re doing is useful and helpful and that you’d be a great fit for their best friend.

Nathan – Well they see you as an authority, that’s interesting. Now, this is a common thread, I mean it’s something that you hear in the realm of content creation, content that will hopefully add value to, as I mentioned earlier, a potential client which will hopefully translate down the road to converting that person to a client. That means that a lot of people or you’d assume anyway, that a lot of people are doing this out there. But what you’re saying is you’re maybe a bit of a unique case in that not a lot of photographers have taken this approach to establishing themselves as an authority, creating content that adds value to the potential photography clients. And so maybe you’re a bit unique in this or what have you found?

Carrie – I haven’t found a lot of people doing it, but I have been teaching it, so I’ve been seeing more photographers getting into it.

Nathan – Okay.

Carrie – I think a lot of photographers say they wanna start blogging and they automatically think on blog tips and then they just default to kind of what they know which is photography and they start writing tips about photography, gear, business on their blog. Which might be great for getting readers and visitors and numbers from other photographers, but it’s not necessarily bringing in people who are actually gonna book you and pay the bills.

Nathan – Right.

Carrie – I’d love to see more of even newborn, family, high school senior photographers, they can all do this because you interact with that population on a regular basis, you know what’s in, what’s trendy, what questions people have, what they struggle with. As photographers I think we’re naturally very observant, so if you take the time and really sit down and go, what are, what kind of problems are my potential clients having that I can solve for them. Start putting that content out on your blog.

Nathan – That’s incredible. And not only are you helping them out, but then as I mentioned earlier, they see you as an authority on the topic and then it makes sense that somebody who’s never used you or had you as a photographer is referring their friends to you because they see you as that authority and you’ve given something of value to them. So that’s really, really great. So this notion of creating content that’s a value add to the potential client, that’s a major first step for a photographer who’s wanting to develop a blog. Are there any other tips or recommendations that you would make when it comes to creating a blog that’s actually valuable for a photography business?

Carrie – I would say maybe in terms of consistency, try to blog at least once a week. That’s something, I know it’s hard to do. People just hate sitting down and blogging, I hate it too, I don’t feel like a writer. But every time I do it, I get more inquiries and it makes my clients feel really good about, if I’m blogging their wedding or something. I think too, photographers often think that everything we’re blogging is for future clients or when we’re blogging the latest family session we just shot, that’s to put an advertisement out to get future clients, right, to show them our work. But it’s also important to just tell your current client stories as well so when you’re sharing your own work I think in order to be a real storyteller you need to make sure that you’re writing things and not just saying, I’m gonna let the photos speak for themselves and fill up a blog post with 30 images. Clients love to see, I mean, to see themselves through your eyes. They’ve hired you because they love your photography and they love the way you tell a story so if you add words into those kind of posts, your clients are gonna become basically walking, talking billboards. They love hearing how you see their love for each other or their love for their kids, that kind of thing. So I recommend making sure you’re taking the time to write just a couple paragraphs when you do share photos. I see a lot of photographers who just don’t say anything or we talk about the weather or how great the couple was. Or we say that they’re our favorite session. We can’t say that about everybody, right?

Nathan – Right, yeah, there’s those, I mean I was guilty of it too back when I was creating blog posts for our photography business, it was that, it was a great session today, we had so much fun or there’s these kind of stereotypical three or four lines that we all use in our blog posts. And I mean, it just takes a little bit of effort and creativity to kind of break out of that. But–

Carrie – Yeah.

Nathan – Yeah, getting a little bit of creative and actually telling a story, I love that notion of telling a story and it kind of romanticizes the whole process particularly for the client if they get to come back and read that and how you see them and their story, I bet that just makes them that much more excited about what you’ve done for them.

Carrie – Yeah, it actually sort of cements the deal. You’ve delivered the photos, they’ve ordered products. And I always wait quite a long time to post a blog post because I’m slow and I’m busy and I fail. But by the time I do post it, even if it’s six months later, the clients end up re-posting on their Facebook. And if I follow through and kind of look at my stats, I can see that I’ve had 600 posts and it’s because their entire network has shared it because they love the story.

Nathan – Wow.

Carrie – People who were unable to attend the wedding or something, or something personal. And I struggle too with not talking about the weather and I’m always trying to do a better job making sure I get to know my clients really well so that I can tell their story. I think it makes taking photos easier if you really get to know them. But, yeah, it just helps build a really good sense of wellbeing, love for you, and when that blog post spreads like wildfire after they share it on their Facebook, then you’ve got a bunch more people knocking down your door and saying, “We just love the way you told Susan’s story. “And we wanna book you.”

Nathan – Absolutely, it’s so powerful and what great recommendations and advice. I’m learning from this myself, so I really appreciate this information. Before we close out this conversation though I’m really curious, and this is kind of a theme for us here at the Bokeh podcast, we certainly dive into photography as a business and how to run our photography businesses more effectively in various areas of the business. But how do you create freedom for yourself as a business owner? I know this is something I’ve said so many times before but I see running our own business, being an entrepreneur, being a business owner, probably the primary benefit, or at least what I think should be the primary benefit is the freedom, the flexibility that we can have as business owners, and yet it’s so easy to get caught up, and I’ve certainly been guilty of it, to get caught up in the process of running a business and then not really capitalize on that. So how do you create some of that freedom, that time for yourself, for your husband. The time to do things besides photography. How do you create that freedom for yourself?

Carrie – Well, a lot of it’s come from automation. So I own four separate businesses, which makes it really tough. I could be totally bogged down with social media, content creation, blogging, et cetera. But I automate a lot of processes behind the scenes. So emails, social media, all kinds of stuff. So that really the only kind of stuff I have to do on a day to day basis is edit photos, write blog posts and maybe create videos or courses for my other businesses. Which are the things that I like to do the most. So I actually work maybe on average 30 hours a week on a busy week and–

Nathan – That’s awesome.

Carrie – Just because I really value time for myself. I’m very introverted. Maybe you wouldn’t believe that from my website. I am. And I just love having alone time. But I take guitar lessons once a week, even though I’m so bad at playing the guitar. And I make sure that I read every day. My husband, he just got this job up here recently and he’s come from a place where he was working 70 hours a week.

Nathan – Wow.

Carrie – Never having any days off. So we’re really excited to be in this little town with no grocery store just because it means that now when I have the free time, he actually has it and we can spend that time together.

Nathan – That’s incredible, so.

Carrie – So that’s, I mean. Yeah, that’s how I make it.

Nathan – So when you talk about, when you talk about automation, are you using other particular tools that you would recommend photographers take a look at that you’ve seen a lot of benefit from?

Carrie – Yeah, I use a pretty good handful. I automate as much as possible. I use Pixafy to automate email communications with clients. And I actually tie it into blogging so all these resourceful blog posts I will link to and send out in emails periodically to my clients to help them out along the way. Kind of anticipate when they’re gonna have a question about timelines and already have sent them an email that has five links to timeline tools.

Nathan – Oh, that’s brilliant.

Carrie – So I do that because then instead of having to remember to email them and send them content, they just reply. And that’s been amazing for me. And Pixafy’s automation email system is great. And then I use ShootProof, they are actually, I think, the only online gallery system that has an automated email system where once the online gallery is delivered, I have a year’s worth of email automations going through there to help to sell product. And then I use for social media, I actually use a tool called Schedugram.

Nathan – Okay.

Carrie – Which is the only thing that fully automates Instagram. So it doesn’t just send a reminder to your phone, you make it go live, it actually just does it all for you. And then I use Meet Edgar as, for Facebook and Twitter, what I love about Meet Edgar is that it’s a queuing tool and a lot of these other companies have come out with tools for creating a queue. But Edgar lets you create a library of updates, however big you want, and then it just alternates through them repeatedly. So I actually have just loaded up my whole portfolio in there and it posts one photo a day, seven days a week.

Nathan – Wow.

Carrie – And then I copy that over onto my Schedugram and that way even when I’m not busy, I’m putting out content regularly at least. And then I can add more spontaneous posts and feel kind of the freedom to add whatever I want versus going, oh my gosh, what should I post today? ‘Cause I think we don’t realize that a lot of photographers post one sneak peek after a wedding. Maybe they follow it up in the next couple weeks with a couple more, but they don’t ever post those photos again. And our work is awesome, right? If you love what you do, you can reshare that. There’s always gonna be somebody who hasn’t seen it yet.

Nathan – For sure.

Carrie – So that’s what I do.

Nathan – And when you’re creating that content for, or I guess importing that content into Meet Edgar, and you post that or automate the posting process, do you, are you writing text to go along with that? Or is it usually just an image on its own?

Carrie – I do have text that goes along with it. Just the nice thing about Edgar is that you go and you create a library, you assign your updates to categories and then you assign those categories to a schedule. So I have mine, just for an example, Sundays it posts a wedding prep photo. Mondays, ceremony. Tuesdays, a couple. Wednesdays, wedding party or detail shot. Thursdays a couple. Fridays a reception photo. And Saturdays an engagement photo. And then within each category I have a library of at minimum 52 photos.

Nathan – Wow.

Carrie – So that it cycles once a year.

Nathan – That’s incredible, wow. This is, you’ve just offered enough resources for photographers to be busy for the next couple of weeks I think. This is–

Carrie – Well, the nice thing is it just takes so much energy out of deciding what to put on social media.

Nathan – Right.

Carrie – ‘Cause I think you’ve probably heard people talk about decision making energy.

Nathan – For sure.

Carrie – And I don’t wanna sit down and have to decide what to post every day. I want it to just happen and then use that energy for creating content, helping my clients, the important stuff.

Nathan – Wow, that’s really incredible. I do have one last question about this though and this is actually something I was reading recently and doing some research about creating and posting social media content, but that is using a third party tool to post to Facebook. Does that affect its natural ranking in the Facebook feed to use a third party tool or do you know anything about that?

Carrie – I don’t know a ton about it. To be honest at this point I’m kind of at the mindset that I don’t care.

Nathan – Sure.

Carrie – I just post to Facebook as sort of a courtesy in case anybody wants to see it. But other than that I pretty much ignore Facebook.

Nathan – Well, I guess the key there is consistency and content and sharing of content.

Carrie – Yep.

Nathan – It just makes such a big difference that somebody can go to that, whether it’s a Facebook platform or Instagram or, I’m not sure if you’re using Twitter or not, but your blog certainly, the fact that you’re consistently posting to those platforms, that there is always fresh content, that’s the key here. And back to the original question, the fact that you’ve automated this has created freedom for yourself, so maybe the trade off, if there is any trade off there, the trade off is certainly worth it because you’ve saved so much time as a result. So that’s, wow, what a–

Carrie – Yeah.

Nathan – What a great, what a great piece or pieces of information, just a load of information. I really appreciate you sharing that.

Carrie – I would just add to that that people who are looking into this, a lot of people go to and they see sticker shock, it’s pretty expensive. But people are often asking in Facebook groups, I wanna hire somebody to help me out with my social media. It’s cheaper to automate it than it is to hire somebody. You can automate all your social media for less than $100 a month.

Nathan – Wow. That’s a great resource and a great tool and we’ll certainly link that and the other resources that you mentioned in our show notes. I can’t thank you enough for coming on and sharing this wealth of information with our Bokeh podcast listeners. Where can listeners find you online and certainly your companies, the projects that you’re involved with online as well?

Carrie – Well you can check out my photography at You can go to to learn more about how to shoot weddings, how to run your photography business a little bit differently. At Rock Your Weird, I’m actually building out a course on confidence and learning to be confident being yourself, so that’s just gonna be a place, not necessarily for photographers. But if you go there, I’m about to release sort of a new website revamp in the next couple weeks with a lot of information, content about that. And then you can also find me at Made in the Lab., I’m a third of the ownership but I don’t do any of the graphic design.

Nathan – Yeah and tell the photographers a little bit more about what Made in the Lab is about. I had the opportunity to be a part of that just recently.

Carrie – Yeah, we’re all about creating affordable website design options on Showit5 and we’re hoping to branch out to other online platforms for website building in the future. But we really love what Showit5 does and it’s easy system to build on. So we’ve created a yearly subscription for $199 and you can get access to all of our templates and we have lots of extra tools, icons, buttons, arrows, and basically take bits and pieces from multiple templates to create a totally custom website. So, that’s what we’re all about is helping kind of the DIY photographer build their website.

Nathan – Perfect, and then lastly tell us where the photographers, our listeners can find you on Instagram because I know they’re gonna wanna check out your work.

Carrie – I’m Carrie Swails on Instagram.

Nathan – Perfect, perfect. Carrie thank you so much for setting time aside in your relatively busy work week to make time to chat with our listeners, for sharing all this wonderful information. Can’t thank you enough.

Carrie – Thank you for having me.

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Bokeh Podcast Episode #32: Working on Your Own Terms – Matt Grazier

Working - Matt Grazier

The primary benefit of running your own business is being your own boss, and yet so many photographers let their business run their lives. In this Bokeh podcast episode, Matt Grazier shares how he and his wife, Enna, have been proactive in creating a photography business that enables the life they want as they prioritize time with family, working, and time building community in the photography industry.

You can also subscribe to the Bokeh podcast on the Apple podcast app or add to your playlist on Stitcher.

Read the transcript and show notes

Show Notes:

Introduction to Matt Grazier [00:55]
Working on Your Own Terms [02:02]
Creating the Inspire Community [06:17]
The Problems of Being a Destination Wedding Photographer with Family [14:53]
Change Your Brand Position [17:47]
Networking with Wedding Planners [20:27]
Prioritizing Family [22:54]
Creating Tintypes [26:15]
Where to Learn More [29:00]
@ennachocolate @graizerphoto @mattion

Podcast Transcript: 

Nathan – All right, we’re live officially. Or as live as we can be as we’re recording into a microphone and an audio recorder. But I’m here with my friend Matt Grazier and we are here at the Inspire Photo Conference, February 2017. We were just chatting about the conference itself, but it’s a privilege to be here, to be part of something that you and your wife created, how many years ago now?

Matt – This is our eighth season.

Nathan – Eighth season, that is so obviously community-driven. So I wanna get into that here in just a second, but tell us just a little bit about, or us, I say us, the listeners of the Bokeh podcast, a little bit about who you and your wife are and what you guys do.

Matt – Yeah yeah, well Enna and I we met in college in art school literally in photo class. One of our first dates was she came to second shoot a wedding with me.

Nathan – Okay.

Matt – Which was kinda funny.

Nathan – Yeah but that had to give kinda interesting insight into the potential of the relationship too.

Matt – It really did, it really did, and then you know from there she I had to sell hard on getting her to convince her to move to Boston with me.

Nathan – Okay.

Matt – As we had only been dating for a couple of months when I was moving.

Nathan – Wow.

Matt – So I sold her on that fortunately and we moved to Boston and I finished my schooling and we started the studio right when I finished school. And, it’s just been you know a very idealistic driven journey for us and lifestyle.

Nathan – And what is that ideal? What is the idea that–

Matt – The ideal is to really work on our own terms.

Nathan – Okay.

Matt – You know, we wanna be creative and we wanna have a home where we work. You know we don’t wanna be in the lifestyle where we’re commuting to a job.

Nathan – Sure.

Matt – Working for somebody that’s not you know that doesn’t care about us as people if you will just working for somebody who’s on the bottom line.

Nathan – Yeah, well and the simple idea of creating kind of an overlying mission almost or what I refer to as a big picture view. I was chatting with a few photographers during the mentoring sessions last night and we were talking about this idea of establishing a big picture view it drives what you do and your kind of big picture view if you will is this notion of creating a business that enables you to work on your own terms and I think that’s one of the primary benefits of running your own business or it can be, the problem is a lot of times photographers get lost in the minutia the busy work of just trying to keep up without having that overlying goal in mind. So I think that’s really powerful.

Matt – Yeah and you know actually the last time you and I saw each other was at Partner Con 2009.

Nathan – 2009 wow okay, all right.

Matt – That’s the last time we saw each other. And when I was there, Enna and I did the presentation with John and Kim Sanderson from Lancaster, and the presentation was on being married and working together and working from home. And during the talk I actually had the revelation that I never thought about before was that I’m kind of living out the same lifestyle my parents lived. And subconsciously I think I kind of built that lifestyle without even planning for it. And now it just kind of organically happened because in the back of my mind that’s what I wanted and by that I mean I work with my spouse.

Nathan – Right.

Matt – And we work from home.

Nathan – Okay.

Matt – And like you said earlier we just kinda of set our own terms my parents are just like that.

Nathan – What type of business do they run?

Matt – Well my father’s a chiropractor.

Nathan – Oh okay.

Matt – And my mom manages his office and is the X-ray technician.

Nathan – Wow, how many years have they been doing that?

Matt – Oh, 50.

Nathan – Wow that’s incredible.

Matt – About 50 years now, yeah. So a little under that. Probably maybe 48, 49. But yeah they’ve been at it for a long time and they’re in their original office still with our house above it.

Nathan – That’s amazing. Did they ever speak to I don’t know two or three principles that have enabled them to have this kind of success over a long-term? Or have you been able to see what drives that?

Matt – Yeah patience.

Nathan – Okay.

Matt – Patience, seriously my mom and my dad are two of the most patient people you’d ever meet. And I really think that’s their key. They just when things go bad they step back and take a breath and look at it from a distance and then go back and tackle it.

Nathan – And would you say the patience is shown both in the way that they engage with their business and clients as well as with each other or where does it stand out particularly?

Matt – Oh it’s universal.

Nathan – Everywhere okay.

Matt – Everywhere yeah, and they’re very you know they were also very community driven people. So, you know I grew up coming home from school and my dad on Thursdays all the chiropractors would take the day off in our town. But they would all come over to my dad’s office and hang out and talk about how to help each other. Yeah so they wouldn’t compete, they would help each other and one of ’em were to go on vacation they’d all pick up the patients, but they wouldn’t steal patients they’d all come back to the other office you know what I mean?

Nathan – That’s fascinating.

Matt – And they would do things to help each other out. So that you know.

Nathan – And is that the norm for that particular industry? Or is it normally pretty competitive.

Matt – I honestly don’t know. I mean, I don’t know every chiropractor I’ve ever met has been friends with my father that I’ve met in an intimate setting. And I’ve met them throughout the entire country and they’re always the same style type personality but of course you’re gonna hang out with people that have similar personalities as yourself.

Nathan – Sure sure.

Matt – So I can’t really judge on that chiropractic community in general just the people he surrounds himself with.

Nathan – But that’s fascinating because now you’ve been a part of creating you and Enna started Inspire how many years ago?

Matt – This is our eighth year.

Nathan – This is the eighth year so you had not only had this example in your parents of business owners who created a life for themselves the business that enabled them to work under their own terms I love that the way you sum that up. But you also had an example about somebody who prioritized community which is a great segue related talking about what Inspire seems to be all about.

Matt – Right.

Nathan – There’s an incredible opportunity for photographers to come and learn. A variety of classes a variety of topics that by the way isn’t really centered around kind of the so-called celebrities in the industry it’s more about the education the value of the education and the connection. There’s certainly opportunity for vendors such as myself, photographers edit they come in and be able to share our services with the attendees but ultimately everything seemed very much geared toward community.

Matt – Yeah.

Nathan – So you had this wonderful example in your parents talk about how that translated then to creating Inspire and what was the inspiration behind–

Matt – Yeah well when Enna and I started our photo studio one of the big keys for Enna convincing me to be a full-time wedding photographer was the discovery of Pictage.

Nathan – Yes, and you and I are both members of Pictage back in the day.

Matt – We’re alumni. And what I loved about Pictage was the simplicity, the availability of people to buy images, prints online, and that just simplified the whole ’cause I didn’t wanna open up the traditional wedding studio and film, you know and we were shooting film at the time and so up until the discovery of Pictage being a wedding photographer was very much just a couple a year for people that I knew or word of mouth for somebody. And then as soon as Pictage came out we were in and then Pictage had the pugs. You know, the monthly meetups. And, there’s this Pamela Price was the pug leader in the Boston area and she was wonderful and we’d go to her pugs at her house and she was a great guest. I mean a great host and she called us up one day and said I’m stepping down from the pug leader I just have too much on my plate. And she asked us if we’d take it over and we said sure.

Nathan – Really okay. So I was a pug leader as well so we have that in common, that’s cool.

Matt – So Enna and I were pug leaders for I don’t know eight or so years. And that was kinda the start in us building community in Boston. So we had a really great pug Lens Pro To Go hosted it, Paul has always been a key part of the foundation of the Boston community. Without him it doesn’t exist.

Nathan – And I had a chance to meet him really really great guy.

Matt – Amazing guy.

Nathan – Very committed to the Inspire conference as well sounds like he’d been here most if not all the years that you guys have been doing it.

Matt – He’s been very loyal, good friend. Very supportive, and but you know the community in Boston was one of those interesting communities where you had key players where if one of ’em stepped out you’d almost feel like the community would collapse. We needed everybody in the leadership role. You know you’re talking about probably like eight key people that really held it all together. And they’re still involved today but in different ways.

Nathan – Wow.

Matt – Yeah and so from that we were going so we became the pug leaders and then we were going to conferences we’d go to WPPI we’d go the Partner Con and on a flight home Enna and I were just talking about what we liked and disliked of all the different conferences.

Nathan – Okay.

Matt – And then we took out a piece of paper and Enna just started cherry picking like okay if I could build my dream conference I would want this, I’d want this, I’d want this, I’d want this.

Nathan – I love it.

Matt – And I was just like all right that’s cool. And then when you know every Saturday morning we’d get in the car and we’d drive to a wedding. And Enna and I don’t shoot local weddings. So most of our weddings involve at least a two hour one way trip to the wedding with a hotel room or something for the night.

Nathan – Sure.

Matt – So we get a lot of time to talk and dream while we’re driving. And she wouldn’t shut up about this conference dream that she had. She just wouldn’t stop talking about it and it just kept going and going and that’s how Enna is, she gets something in her head and she can’t let it go. And you have to let her make it happen, you know? So one day in the car I just said listen we’re either gonna do this or you’re gonna shut up about it. I mean literally I think that was the exact quote. And she just looked at me she was like well do you wanna do it and I was like yeah. Let’s give it a shot. What do we got to lose? So from that week we sent out an email, Paul at Lens Pro hosted a little meeting. It was about 10 photographers all the key members of the community and people like Carla and whatnot they all drove up from Connecticut and we sat down in a circle and Enna and I pitched ’em Inspire. And I kid you not 12 weeks later we had Inspire with 90 photographers attending. It was insane.

Nathan – 12 weeks.

Matt – 12 weeks, we pulled it off.

Nathan – Most conferences are planning a year in advance right?

Matt – It was just one of those things where Enna and I just said if we’re gonna do it we’re just gonna do it. We’re not gonna mess around. We didn’t have anybody who was speaking on a national level really. The one exception to that was Melissa Guyonas, she came and spoke which was phenomenal. She was a Boston photographer and she’s a sweetheart and she came in and chipped she was all in, supporting us and yeah it was great. And but besides that it was really a lot of trust from the community to come in and listen to these speakers that they really didn’t know that well. They didn’t hear much about ’em. They just weren’t photographers who were putting themselves out on a speaking circuit. These were just very experienced photographers who had great information to share and were willing to share it. And the community bought into that.

Nathan – Yes.

Matt – And that is still the core of Inspire. We’re not, you know, I say we I’m not in the board anymore it’s Enna, Mark, and Eric. So when they’re looking for speakers their number one priorities are two things one how well do they know what they wanna teach, and two are they willing to just come and give it all. Like you know be part of the community for those three days minimum, you know and if we’re lucky enough they’re part of that community for the entire year afterwards.

Nathan – And I think so you met the first requirement that you mentioned was knowing their topic it’s funny how many photographers, talented photographers, that we have in the industry who are presenting speaking but don’t necessarily know the topic well enough to communicate it or maybe communication’s just not a strength of theirs. And so it’s tough to sit and listen so that is an absolutely vital requirement for speakers. Not only do they know their topic well but do they know how to present the information effectively. But then the fact that you asked the photographers to be involved that their so called celebrity that you see in our industry sometimes doesn’t get in the way of connection with people relationships with the people. Being on their level with them and engaging in that community I think that’s so absolutely important and I have to say again that was the vibe that I got being here this is my first time at Inspire. Certainly as a sponsor but also just as an attendee in general and community I mean community rang through the whole conference and it’s really really powerful. So I can’t say enough about that. Kudos to you guys for creating something that’s that powerful, but for those listening who are looking for a conference to go to and need a break from the kind of commercially driven celebrity driven conferences that you see sometimes, this is an incredible opportunity. And you guys already announced the dates for this next year it was February 26th to 28 is that right?

Matt – Yep.

Nathan – For 2018.

Matt – Yep in Newburg Port.

Nathan – By the way we’re literally on an island. I’m looking out the window of my bedroom and I saw a lighthouse I mean that’s the kind of beautiful location that we’re in. So it’s absolutely amazing. Can’t recommend enough, so thank you again for hosting that now just to get back a little bit to your photography business wedding photography is your brand correct that is what you guys do.

Matt – That’s my specialty.

Nathan – And we had a conversation I think it was yesterday you started talking a little about the fact that you used to be more involved in I guess even further destinations. Destination wedding photography was an even bigger deal for your business that was driving some pretty significant revenue. But one of the things that you said yesterday that I don’t know really caught my attention because it’s certainly important to me as a father of two. And then creating and focusing on a brand whether photographers edit that is ultimately about freeing up photographers to spend more time with the important relationships in your life. You said you had kind of a turning point where you realize this business focused on destination wedding photography and being able to go to these beautiful locations and photograph some incredible events it was interfering with family life.

Matt – That’s yeah.

Nathan – So talk to me a little bit about that share with the listeners kind of what that was like to go through that realization and what changes you made.

Matt – Yeah we had lucked out by fortune on having one of our favorite planners refer us to this couple who was getting married at this gorgeous venue down in the Caribbean that was really starting to go after the wedding market. A new ownership of the venue he saw where the money was he wanted to bring in weddings and we were one of the first weddings there after the remodel with new ownership and because of that, we started getting a lot of weddings there and then we started getting a lot of weddings elsewhere. We were going to Mexico, we were going to the Virgin Islands we went as far as Moricious which is 600 miles off the southern tip of South Africa.

Nathan – Oh wow, I’ve never heard of it before.

Matt – I hadn’t either but I got the inquiry I was like Moricious where the hell you know I had to look it up and I was like this can’t be real. And it was this really awesome two lawyers from New York who love to travel and play golf and they had a great golf course at the Four Seasons there and they found us just on an internet search and brought us down and it was awesome but you know right around that time, that was kind of the peak of our destination career if you will, international destination.

Nathan – Okay.

Matt – That winter I was gone a lot and Enna was gone with me a lot. There were a few weddings I shot without her but almost all of ’em she was with me.

Nathan – Okay.

Matt – And you know her mom is a sweetheart and she would come and stay with the boys while we were gone and what happened was we came home and our older son Ollie who was young at the time started having a really bad attitude. I mean and not being mean to other people but just to myself and Enna in the sense of who are you to tell me what to do.

Nathan – Interesting.

Matt – And I don’t think he realized it and he was a long way from being a teenager. But he had that attitude of you know I don’t wanna go to bed right now and you can’t make me. I don’t wanna eat my dinner and you can’t make me. And there were a lot of tears from him a lot of fighting, and Enna and I got talking about it and I said we’re the problem. Number one I was like think about it we just sent four months flying all over the world coming home for a couple of days and then packing up and then going again. And that was how that winter went for us. And I said you know the kid just feels neglected and he doesn’t even know that but he’s just mad at us, you know. And I said this just isn’t worth it. You know we sat down we talked about it and we decided to change our marketing and we said you know what we’re gonna take a lot of emphasis off the travel and just put it back into the local region and if we pick up one destination wedding a year that’s cool. But we decided we’d rather just spend time with our kids more and just be gone one maybe two days a week on the weekends through the summer. But still be home five days a week for them. And it was a lesson, and one that I’m very glad we caught onto early you know?

Nathan – And how did you see that effect your family I mean did you see an immediate result did it take a little bit of time?

Matt – No no no it was pretty immediate. As soon as we stopped traveling a lot, we kind of the summer was like every other summer where we were home if you will five days a week with the boys and we’d gone on the weekends shooting. But then when the next winter came and this is the key when school started up again and we had to get back in the routine of homework and dinner on time and all of that I was very being very observant of it. And to make sure that Ollie was being happy. And he was it was great. He immediately just it was nice, it was just a back to seeing the kid being happy so.

Nathan – But yet again this is a great example of how you there’s a big idea driving the direction of your business right, rather than you kind of functioning haphazardly now the priority is my family. Connection with my family, time for my family, and that drove what you did. How did you change just so some of the photographers listening in they may be kind of curious how do we make that transition in our marketing message? How did you make that change for yourself? Was it on the website, communication with local vendors or how did that work?

Matt – Yeah it wasn’t too drastic.

Nathan – Okay.

Matt – The networking with the local wedding planners was key.

Nathan – Okay.

Matt – I prefer to network with wedding planners than venues.

Nathan – Yes.

Matt – More because I love shooting at different locations as often as I can. I find that exciting, I find it cool, you never know who you’re gonna meet. You never know where you’re gonna end up. And so we love working with event planners that also kind of have that same mentality of like let’s do something exciting. You know, they could know the ballroom downtown inside and out and book a wedding there every weekend and be whatever. I love the event planners who are like that’ll be really difficult to do, let’s make it happen. You know and then put a tent up in a crazy place or something you know or build a deck out in the field so they can put a tent out there. I mean just awesome stuff and I love that.

Nathan – And I think it’s really important too that the wedding coordinator I know I found when I was in wedding photography myself that the wedding coordinator that’s kinda where it all starts in many cases. And the cool thing is even if you decide to change your price point for example. As you change your price point you go from let’s say 3,000 to 4,000 or 4,000 to five whatever the case may be, if you’re simply reliant on word of mouth referral from previous clients who may no longer be in that market segment or income bracket, you can’t rely on referrals from those clients. You’ve got this wedding coordinator who is quite aware of where your brand is, what it stands for, the price point and they can refer accordingly which is really really powerful.

Matt – It’s so true and you know what I really love about working with the event planners are that almost you know every year they always ask me for my updated price list because they expect your prices to go up. And I love that, I love that about my planners we work with. And they encourage it if you will they’re like yeah we should all be doing well. And instead of being the type of event planner who’s like will you give my client a discount? No as soon as they do that I don’t wanna work with ’em again because I’m just like no I got a family to support. I’m not a wealthy person.

Nathan – Well and the fact that they’re enabling you to grow your business in that way is really powerful I know that we worked with a coordinator who would literally come to our office and sit.

Matt – Yeah.

Nathan – Right here in our office, I didn’t have to say a thing. She was so excited about our business and promoting our business that she would do the selling for me and they’d book and on we’d go.

Matt – Yeah.

Nathan – But those kinds of relationships are really powerful and focusing our effort and time it’s easy to get distracted by a lot of busy work again running a photography business there’s so many moving parts but focusing much of our effort on those relationships that drive business such a valuable move so that’s really cool to hear. Just to kinda close out this focus that you’ve put out or the conversation about the focus that you put out, put on connection with family what does a week look like for you guys? How do you prioritize family and balance that with work?

Matt – I mean for us we always try to find adventure time. And it’s not something we do a lot of but we try to three or four good adventures here and by that I mean packing up the car, hitting the road, going someplace and seeing something you know whether it’s a road trip down to DC or going up to the mountains to hike or something or a ski trip you know. We try to always find a cool ski house for the boys and do stuff like that. So those are really big moments for us as a family because that’s where the stories really develop you know?

Nathan – Yeah the experiences, yeah.

Matt – The experiences and the things we always laugh about. But on a weekly basis we’re pretty much the boys are now at an age where they’re fairly independent. They get themselves up in the morning and off to school on their own which is just amazing for us you know. After any parent who’s raised kids knows that’s a milestone.

Nathan – And school starts so early these days it blows my mind yeah.

Matt – It does yeah so they’ll go to school come home and then the after schools are pretty busy we have Ollie and Enna both do Aikido so they practice together.

Nathan – That’s so cool she was telling me about that.

Matt – Without each other sometimes they go together, but they do Aikido a couple times a week. Our younger son Will is a hardcore soccer guy. He’s on two teams, just insane.

Nathan – It is the best sport just by the way FYI.

Matt – I’m learning it, I’m learning it.

Nathan – I played all the way into college so yeah that’s cool.

Matt – You know and then I’ve got just my own stuff going on. Enna’s making chocolate in the house we have a commercial license that’s been a new passion for her.

Nathan – I got to sample that last night and it was absolutely amazing.

Matt – It’s great.

Nathan – Incredible, what is the website so people can find her online?

Matt – It’s just her name Enna, E-N-N-A Chocolate.

Nathan – Dot com.

Matt – Yeah.

Nathan – Perfect you guys absolutely have to check it out if you have any interest in chocolate.

Matt – You can mail order it.

Nathan – And we’re not just talking about some run of the mill chocolate I mean there’s a back story to this that’s incredible so I’m sure they can find that information on the website.

Matt – Oh yeah and she’s got some of the top chefs in the area ordering her chocolate for their restaurants and it’s just flattering yeah.

Nathan – That’s amazing.

Matt – Yeah so we’ve got that and the boys are our older boy Ollie is naturally into the arts. Without being pushed. So he loves to draw and take pictures and do video. So a lot of the time in the week is Ollie actually hanging out with us. So he’ll actually if I set up the tintype stuff he’ll make tintypes with me. Which is awesome, you know he’ll put on the goggles and the gloves and the apron and he can make a tintype and I mean he’s 12 years old. And he knows the digital cameras inside and out so he’s got his little a really nice laptop that he can edit on. He’ll bring it in and hang out and it’s really funny, you know it’s cool.

Nathan – Well the fact that you have that space to I don’t know you’re getting a little bit of work done but also connecting with your son is really powerful. That’s really neat. And you’re enabling him too to explore that artistic side. The tintypes you were sharing a little bit of your experience with creating tintypes and I think you showed me a few examples of them as well. Working with even something as big as a 16 by 20 camera is mind blowing to me.

Matt – Yeah well you know I did for my birthday Enna got me a workshop with John Coffer who’s really huge in the world of tintypes.

Nathan – Right.

Matt – Very interesting gentleman. Nice guy and I spent three days with him out at his farm, and he makes 20 by 20 four inch tintypes.

Nathan – Wow.

Matt – They call ’em mammoth plates and I hadn’t made one in person and I still haven’t made one but this other fella John who was there retired Vietnam vet really sweet guy. He made some 20 by 20 for us and I documented that for them. I had my camera out and took some photos so it was his first time.

Nathan – That’s amazing.

Matt – Yeah yeah I really wanted to do one but I was like it’s a big investment and I was like I’m gonna wait, I’ll come back another time when I have more of an idea of what I want to hang on my wall that’s 20 by 24 inches.

Nathan – Sure yeah yeah.

Matt – You know, which is what the other guy did actually. He had been to the workshop once before and decided I’m gonna wait, think about it, and then come back and do it you know? And he made gorgeous plates it was awesome.

Nathan – But it’s a fascinating artistic outlet that you have. So you’ve got a business to run and there’s again a lot of moving parts to running a business but to have an artistic outlet like that where you’re doing something that’s a bit unique, actually extremely unique in fact, it gives you that outlet. Kinda take a break from what can seem like the mundane day to day activities of running a business, that’s really really great.

Matt – I need it because I was a dark room photographer. Starting out, I loved the dark room. And I’ve always dreamed of having a dark room at my house. The house that we ended up purchasing is a little too small for a dark room unless I sacrifice space for the kids. And, so I can’t remember how it came about but one day I was just like you know I don’t need a dark room to do tintypes.

Nathan – Okay.

Matt – You know you can work out you do need a dark room if you will but it can be pretty you know I use an ice fishing tent.

Nathan – And you were showing me this mobile setup it’s small enough you can put in the back of your car right?

Matt – Yeah yeah it all folds. I mean on the back of a Mazda 3 hatchback.

Nathan – Wow wow.

Matt – So I got my dark room if you will the ice fishing tent packs in there. And all my gear chemicals and everything I can hit the road and just make tintypes anywhere literally it’s awesome.

Nathan – That’s amazing. Well I have to thank you for making time for sitting down and sharing, certainly what you’re doing with the photography business but it captured my attention yesterday when you started sharing about the priority that you’ve put on family and putting that over running a business and certainly being able to do just fancy destination weddings is incredible it looks great in your portfolio. There’s some financial benefit to it but the fact that you prioritize family and relationships in the end over that, it speaks so powerfully to well you your character, and the priority that you and Enna put on community and connection which is also reflected in this retreat which has been really incredible so thank you for taking time to share a little bit about that.

Matt – Awesome.

Nathan – Talk to our listeners about where they can find first of all information about the Inspire retreat.

Matt – Yeah.

Nathan – And then also your photography work.

Matt – Yeah well is the website, has all the information there. Has videos from past years and such and you can really get a good sense of the conference.

Nathan – And it’s the same thing on Instagram yes? Inspire Photo Retreat.

Matt – Correct, yep, with an S at the end.

Nathan – Okay retreats.

Matt – Inspire Photo Retreats yep and then our work is at it’s like Fraizer with a G.

Nathan – Simple enough, and how about on Instagram you guys on Instagram?

Matt – Yep, Enna has her Enna Chocolate one. We have Grazier Photo and then my personal one is Mattion M-A-T-T-I-O-N.

Nathan – Perfect.

Matt – I just put a if you’re a Star Wars nerd you might get that.

Nathan – No yes. I love it that’s great. Well you guys make sure to go online take a look at what Inspire has to offer. Make sure that you take a look at Matt and his work including Enna’s chocolate. Again I can’t recommend it enough. I was just telling Enna that I’m gonna be ordering it to give as gifts to people so it’s absolutely amazing. Thanks again for sitting down Matt. We appreciate your time, thank you.

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Bokeh Podcast Episode #31: Creating a Clear Brand Position – Petronella Lugemwa

Brand Position - Petronella

Knowing who your clients are is half the job of marketing, and part of attracting that client is establishing a clear brand position. In today’s Bokeh podcast episode, Petronella Lugemwa recounts her fascinating journey from Uganda, to getting an MBA, to becoming a wedding photographer, and shares how her unique story enabled her to clearly establish her brand position as a photographer.

You can also subscribe to the Bokeh podcast on the Apple podcast app or add to your playlist on Stitcher.

Read the transcript and show notes

Show Notes:

A Childhood That Spanned the Globe [01:18]
From Chemical Engineering to Photography [04:58]
Keeping a Clear and Specific Brand Position [08:36]
Focusing on Multicultural Weddings [10:18]
Going with the Flow [12:20]


Podcast Transcript:

Nathan – I’m here with my friend, and I’m excited to call you friend. We haven’t actually, I don’t think, met in person before today–

Petronella – No, we haven’t.

Nathan – But with my friend, Petronella, and tell us how to pronounce your last name. I was in your workshop yesterday, and you walked everybody through how to pronounce your last name.

Petronella – Great question. It’s pretty phonetic. It’s Lu-gem-wa, Lugemwa.

Nathan – Perfect. I normally talk about this in the very end, but how can we find your Instagram account online, because I know our listeners are gonna wanna see your work? We’re gonna dive into what you do here in just a little bit, but what is your Instagram account?

Petronella – Instagram, really simple, @bypetronella, B-Y P-E-T-R-O-N-E-L-L-A.

Nathan – Perfect, so, as they’re listening along to our conversation they’re gonna be able to scroll through and look at some of this work, this beautiful work, by the way–

Petronella – Thank you.

Nathan – That you’ve created, but you had a really interesting childhood, fascinating. When I was looking through and reading your story, I was really fascinated about it. I actually grew up overseas, myself. I know what it’s like to move around a good bit, but tell us a little bit about your childhood. What did that look like?

Petronella – That is great question. I was born in Uganda, which is a small country in East Africa, and there was an evil dictator, lots of turmoil going on. My family moved to Zimbabwe–

Nathan – It almost sounds like a movie storyline, an evil dictator, but this was real life for you.

Petronella – Exactly, yeah totally. There’s even a movie about it, The Last King of Scotland, but my family moved over to Zimbabwe where I spent a lot of my childhood, and my dad wanted better opportunity, so he went to Maine, got his PhD, and then my sister and I arrived in Birmingham, Alabama to join him on his new job.

Nathan – Wow, he spent time in Maine before you all moved, the rest of the family, moved to the states?

Petronella – Exactly, exactly, yeah.

Nathan – You were born in Uganda, you lived in Zimbabwe, and then you moved to all the places, Alabama. How did you end up in Alabama?

Petronella – I know, right? My dad got a job there. You go where the opportunities are.

Nathan – Right.

Petronella – We were immigrants, landed with two suitcases, and I was 10 years old at that time. That’s a really challenging time, I’m becoming a teenager, I’m trying to figure out my voice. I’m in Alabama, which wasn’t very diverse at the time–

Nathan – Certainly.

Petronella – Very black and white, and a lot of people were like, “Who is this person? What is going on”.

Nathan – Right.

Petronella – I’m trying to figure out who I am. My parents are very Ugandan. They wanted me to hold on to my heritage, and then I’m at school and all the kids are doing fun things. My parents were like, “No dating, no drugs, no this. “No, no, no. Get an engineering degree, a doctor, “become a lawyer, and work hard,” but that wasn’t what I saw at school, and I really wanted to assimilate and feel closer to my classmates, so very challenging.

Nathan – And especially as a kid. You said 10 years old when you moved to Alabama, correct?

Petronella – Yeah, yeah.

Nathan – And you’re beginning to hit that phase in life where you’re trying to figure yourself out a little bit, and there’s that tug from home to be Ugandan, essentially, and then you’re going to school and you’re trying to be like your friends, and what ended up winning out? Did you become more like your friends, or did you lean more towards your original culture?

Petronella – That’s a great question. Ah, who got it? I abandoned who I was. I didn’t really tell anyone my last name. I changed the way I looked. As you can hear, my voice sounds not very Ugandan. It sounds, you know, it is what it is, but I assimilated. I became very Americanized. I didn’t really tell people who I am. My goal was to make people feel comfortable and not feel afraid of my heritage.

Nathan – Interesting.

Petronella – So, I abandoned it, yeah.

Nathan – And, when you talk about people being afraid of your heritage, I mean, your heritage sounds like a fascinating one, but, in that particular culture, it was actually intimidating to people?

Petronella – It was. It was a time when a lot of people were losing their jobs, and they felt that they were going towards foreigners, and anything foreign was kind of scary–

Nathan – A challenge, yeah, yeah, or a threat.

Petronella – Yeah, exactly.

Nathan – Interesting. You talked about the face that your family, maybe your dad in particular, wanted you in the corporate, the professional world, going after a particular type of degree or degrees, and you actually ended up going that direction initially, right?

Petronella – Yeah, yeah.

Nathan – You’ve got a couple of degrees. What are those?

Petronella – Yes, I have a chemical engineering degree. My dad has a chemistry background, always talks chemistry, so it’s very natural to do that for me, and then–

Nathan – Sure, do you still find that interesting?

Petronella – I do. I’m a geek at heart.

Nathan – That’s awesome. You’re diverse. What fascinates me about people, one of the things that fascinates me about people the most, is contrast. It’s very easy to be single-focused, right? Only focused on one thing, or only good at one thing, but people bring multiple talents or tendencies to the table. They may like to go out and experience a really exciting adventure, high octane adventure, and then, at the same time, they might also wanna curl up with a book at the end of the day. Those types of contrast. In your case, you’re an artist, but you also have a chemical engineering degree, and then an MBA as well, correct?

Petronella – Yeah, I do, yep.

Nathan – You’re quite diverse in that sense, and I think that’s really truly fascinating. How then did you end up with these degrees and then somehow transition to–

Petronella – I know, right?|

Nathan – Photography? How did that happen?

Petronella – Yeah, that was big, big, big. Honestly, only recently did my parents finally acknowledge. They’ve always been like, “How’s that hobby of yours coming? “When are you gonna get a real job”.

Nathan – I totally know what you mean, yes.

Petronella – I was working corporate America, in marketing, and one of my coworkers saw my work. I’m a really quiet person, and photography’s a way to communicate my thoughts, and she saw it–

Nathan – Love it, yes.

Petronella – And loved it, and was like, “Come to Mexico “and shoot our wedding”–

Nathan – Oh, wow.

Petronella – I know, right?

Nathan – That was your first wedding?

Petronella – Right?

Nathan – Oh my word, that’s awesome.

Petronella – Yeah, and I loved it. I loved it, loved it, loved it, and was like, “I need to figure out how to make this part of who I am”. I got lucky. I think it’s lucky I got laid off and made a decision that no one would ever have that kind of control over how I, like I gave my heart and soul to a company, and it didn’t really–

Nathan – Yes.

Petronella – I decided to make the transition into full time wedding photography.

Nathan – How did that first wedding go, by the way? I mean, you get to go shoot your–

Petronella – It was fabulous!

Nathan – Really, okay.

Petronella – Yes, I’m so quiet in person, but, on the wedding day, something lights up and I’m just different. It just–

Nathan – You go into a mode?

Petronella – Yeah, yeah.

Nathan – And what does that look like? You’re just a lot more outgoing?

Petronella – Borderline bossy. Keeping it real.

Nathan – Yeah, absolutely, but one of the things that I’ve found, as a wedding photographer, is that you’re playing in it, playing multiple roles, right?

Petronella – Yeah, you’re a counselor, you’re, yeah.

Nathan – Exactly. Go ahead, yeah. Counselor.

Petronella – Counselor, planner, you’re managing time, you’re managing people’s emotions, you’re trying to get the shot, there’s, you know–

Nathan – And then, as a photographer too, the other thing that’s interesting to me is that you end up playing multiple photographers almost, right? You’re an architectural photographer, you’re a portrait photographer, you’re an event photographer.

Petronella – Yep.

Nathan – I think a really good wedding photographer is probably one of the most talented photographers around, because you’re responsible for capturing all these different facets of a particular day that include these different elements: architecture and relationships, and portraits, and so forth. There’s a lot there to capture.

Petronella – Yeah, there’s a lot. Yeah, exactly.

Nathan – That’s really interesting. Did it go really smoothly, that first wedding? ‘Cause I think back to my first wedding, and I actually missed capturing the kiss. Of all things to miss.

Petronella – Totally been there.

Nathan – I missed it, but how did that first wedding go for you?

Petronella – It was–

Nathan – Smooth as can be.

Petronella – Honestly, it was chaotic. There was a lot of things which didn’t go, but I loved it. I was like, “I love this chaos”. I thrive. I loved it.

Nathan – It was your game.

Petronella – Yeah, it was my jam, whatever, game, yeah.

Nathan – That’s really cool. That’s really cool. Side note, for everybody listening, I missed the first kiss on that first wedding that I photographed, but the couple was gracious enough. I went to them and I said, “I missed the kiss. “Do you care if we set that up, like stage it again,” and they were really, really kind, so we set it up, we got the shot, and going through the album, the proof album later, you’d never know that we had to set up the kiss shot, but to start a wedding in Mexico, and for it to go so smoothly, that had to have been really encouraging and a boost to the beginning of this new career that you were delving into. That’s pretty fascinating. Now, one of the things that I love about, I love contrast. We talked about the idea of contrast a second ago, but for someone, as an individual and then as a business owner, to have a really clear position, or a really clear vision about who they want to be in the world, and then, as a business owner, what their business is about, what their brand position, what it stands for in the industry: I have a lot of respect for that. I also understand, from personal experience as well as seeing other photographers in our industry and how they’re running their businesses, I understand the significance of having a very clear position. It makes it a lot easier. If nothing else, it makes it a lot easier to market, and it certainly makes it a lot easier on a day to day basis ’cause I teach workflow a lot, to have a much cleaner, simpler workflow, because you have a goal in mind, right? This is what my brand is about.

Petronella – Exactly.

Nathan – It makes running a business, I think, a lot easier overall but you have a really distinct and very clear position as a wedding photography brand. Tell us what that is.

Petronella – Yeah, I help multicultural couples celebrate their love in a modern way.

Nathan – What does that mean?

Petronella – I know, right?

Nathan – Break it down for us.

Petronella – Multicultural: what does that mean? It means anyone who is constantly navigating two different cultural heritages. Does that, yeah?

Nathan – Absolutely, yeah, and talk about what that looks like, because I know during your workshop yesterday, you pulled up a picture at one point that you had, I think, a Muslim groom and a Jewish bride–

Petronella – Yeah, Jewish, yeah. Nigerian–

Nathan – Or vice versa?

Petronella – Muslim, Jewish, so it’s all kinds of thing. It’s not like exactly what you said. It’s interfaith, it’s interracial, it’s multiracial: anyone who’s inherently has different cultures, anyone who might live somewhere else for a long time, grew up there, and then comes back, but identifies themselves as the other country. You can be American, but you lived somewhere else and you identify yourself as that other, the culture of the other country that you lived in.

Nathan – Sure, sure, and what initially drew you to this focus? Because it’s very easy, especially when you’re getting into starting a photography business. You’re just happy to have any kind of business, right? Was that how it worked for you initially, or did you–

Petronella – Yeah, yeah, of course. In the beginning you’re just like–

Nathan – Just give me a job.

Petronella – Oh my gosh!

Nathan – Yeah, absolutely.

Petronella – Whatever, I will do it.

Nathan – Yeah, yeah, yeah, but what lead you to this place where you wanted to focus on this particular genre of weddings?

Petronella – Yeah, it’s very, very personal because I am an immigrant, and for a long time I hid who I was and didn’t really celebrate that until I met the Reichman’s in Atlanta. They did a sexy business workshop, and they did not know I was Ugandan. I came in there and was very, I’ll keep it real, very Caucasian looking, feeling, talking–

Nathan – Sure.

Petronella – And they were like, “What is this, Petronella? “We had no idea you had this part of yourself,” and they believe that you’re paralyzed in your secret, and my secret was I was hiding the multicultural part of myself, so–

Nathan – Wow, and this is just stemmed from your experience as a child, at school trying to fit in.

Petronella – Exactly.

Nathan – And you just maintained that?

Petronella – And now I see a lot of people struggle with that, and I just wanna help them celebrate who they are.

Nathan – That’s really beautiful. What is a day, when you’re talking about photographing a multicultural wedding, you’re having to keep up with a lot of different traditions coming from all different directions. What does that look like? Is that pretty difficult to do?

Petronella – I love it.

Nathan – Do you?

Petronella – I love challenges. I love new things, adventures, seeing new things, doing new things.

Nathan – Do you have to do research going into a particular style of wedding that you’ve never photographed before?

Petronella – Absolutely, absolutely.

Nathan – How do you go about that?

Petronella – I talk to the couple. I ask them, “Tell me a little bit about your heritage. “What are you incorporating,” and then I do some research. I Google, I talk to friends of similar heritages or backgrounds, and, yeah.

Nathan – Would you say the biggest challenge, then, of photographing a multicultural wedding would be understanding the culture that drives that particular day?

Petronella – Absolutely, yeah, absolutely.

Nathan – Are there any other particular challenges that come along with that?

Petronella – Family is big.

Nathan – Really?

Petronella – A lot of multicultural couples, family is like this underlying current which can affect the whole day, can literally change the whole day, the flow, the what happens. I don’t even know, yeah, how to explain it. It’s like timing, workflow, the mom can come in and be like, “This is what we’re doing,” and everything can change–

Nathan – Shift at the last minute, yeah.

Petronella – And it’s acceptable.

Nathan – And you mentioned this yesterday, I think. We’re used to your kinda typical Caucasian wedding and Western culture, where everything is extremely structured, and it goes a particular way at every wedding, right? I mean, there may be a little bit of delays here and there, but in a multicultural wedding, you were talking about in your workshop yesterday, that, as you were just discussing as well, it can change at the last minute, and that’s acceptable.

Petronella – Exactly.

Nathan – You just have to be ready to go with the flow and not really–

Petronella – And manage the relationships or understand, hey, one of my last weddings… Wow. I don’t wanna call out the couple, but it was just two different cultures, and one culture didn’t understand that the parents in the family have a very strong input into how things go.

Nathan – Sure, yeah.

Petronella – I had to provide that perspective and, “Hey, we have to get ready like five hours in advance “versus, if it was a different kind of wedding, “three hours in advance”.

Nathan – That makes sense. That makes sense.

Petronella – I had to manage, ’cause I knew that other, big element was coming in.

Nathan – With my experience as a wedding photographer, I was able to usually work with a couple ahead of time. We were going over a list of portraits, for example, or a list of shots that they wanted, and we planned a specific amount of time for prior to the ceremony we would do this, and then after the ceremony we’re gonna do that. That doesn’t really happen in a multicultural wedding as you’re describing it?

Petronella – It’s a little more free-flowing. You may have 10 more portraits to do. You may get pulled aside–

Nathan – How do you make that happen then?

Petronella – We talk about who’s important to you, the different factors. Luckily I’m very familiar with a lot of different cultures, so I kinda know what’s coming and I may say, “Hey, let’s build in an hour or two buffer time,” because I know that might go towards mom wanting portraits of every family member, cousins, sisters, or something else coming up.

Nathan – But that flexibility is really key, and I think that’s interesting. I mean, honestly, I think that’s applicable to all photographers. It’s easy, as so-called artist types, and we were talking about this a little bit earlier. It’s easy for our egos, to let our egos get in the way, and a lot of photographers, I hear them talking about how the couple didn’t do this, or the wedding planner didn’t do this for them, and they make it about them.

Petronella – That was me early on, yep.

Nathan – I think it’s really important, really for all photographers, particularly photographing multicultural weddings, to set ego aside, figure out how to, well certainly, let loose of any notion of control, right? Learn how to go with the flow and focus on just being there for that couple and for that family. I think you’re gonna have a lot, photographers as a whole are gonna have a lot, better experience and be able to offer much better finished product as a result. That’s really–

Petronella – Capture some unexpected moments, yeah.

Nathan – That’s really powerful, wow. Well, I know that, in addition to Instagram, photographers are gonna want to learn more about your story, and I’d love to point them in the direction of your website. Share your website with us.

Petronella – Yeah, it’s by Petronella, but I also have Petronella Photography, so both of those–

Nathan – Perfect.

Petronella – Lead into the same thing.

Nathan – Awesome, and they can go learn a little bit more about your story there. I know you go into it in some detail, which is really awesome, see some more of your work. Thank you so much for sitting down with us–

Petronella – Thank you for having me, yeah.

Nathan – And having a conversation, sharing your story a little bit and talking about what you do. Thank you so much for making time for that.

Petronella – Yeah, it’s been great. Thank you so much, Nathan.

Nathan – Awesome.


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Bokeh Podcast Episode #30: Using Instagram to Build Your Business – Lacey Oltman

Instagram - Lacey Oltman

You’re probably on Instagram, but do you know how to effectively use the social media platform to build your photography business? In this episode, Lacey Oltman walks us through how to build a purpose-driven Instagram account, and then how to create more compelling Instagram posts – both for the purpose of attracting the right client for your business!

You can also subscribe to the Bokeh podcast on the Apple podcast app or add to your playlist on Stitcher.

Read the transcript and show notes

Show Notes:

What is a Purpose-Driven Instagram Account [00:39]
Defining the Perfect Client [02:43]
The Informative Instagram Account [04:26]
The Lifestyle Instagram Account [06:35]
The Specialty Instagram Account [08:40]
The Aesthetic Instagram Account [09:16]
Writing Compelling Captions [12:33]
Tell Stories, Don’t Push Sales [14:44]
Add Value to Your Content [17:48]
Mixing the Long and Short [18:50]
Hashtags Further Your Reach [22:09]
Localize Your Hashtags [24:08]
Use 10-20 Less Popular Hashtags [26:07]
Get Reposted and Gain Followers [28:38]
Post Content Consistently [30:32]
Use Holidays to Your Advantage [32:49]
Take Advantage of Marketing Solutions [34:44]
More Likes, More Comments, More Followers [36:41] tagomatic @Laceyophotography


Podcast Transcript:


Nathan – All right, so I’m here again with my friend, Lacey Altman, Lacey, thanks for joining us again here on the Bokeh podcast.

Lacey – Hey, I’m excited to be here again.

Nathan – Yeah, and you are actually our first repeat guest so you hold a special honor and title. But you were with us back on episode number eight talking about finding your ideal client, today we’re gonna dive into a pretty loaded topic, really, and that is how to use Instagram as a marketing platform more effectively and originally we were gonna break this into two episodes, today we’re gonna actually go ahead and just try to push all of it into one, and so we’re gonna be flying through lots of information, if you guys are listening to this episode, get out your notebooks or your computers, your phones, get ready to take some notes, Lacey’s got a lot of great information to share with you and we’re breaking this really into two different segments, right, Lacey, the first is, how to create a purpose driven Instagram account, so let’s dive into that first segment, what does it mean to have a purpose-driven Instagram account?

Lacey – What it means is that we’re going to be creating such a distinct idea of who we’re speaking to that every time we’re ready to post a photo on Instagram, we know it’s going to be the perfect fit for your client, your ideal client.

Nathan – And I really like that, I’ve laughed about this multiple times over now, you and I have kind of joked about it, but I was personally and professionally using Instagram in a bit of a random manner and you called me on that, in fact, you called me on it multiple times, throwing tips and tricks at me, which have been so helpful, I can’t thank you enough for that, kind of pushed myself personally again and our brand in the right direction, but this simple notion of starting with a specific purpose in mind to drive everything that you do, it’s so simple, yet it’s so powerful, so this is really, really important, how then do we go about creating that purpose-driven Instagram account?

Lacey – Well, we want to have more interactions and engagements on our posts and we wanna create compelling content to attract that interactivity and therefore those two will attract your ideal client.

Nathan – That makes sense, so then in order to kind of get started with creating this purpose-driven Instagram account, what’s the first thing that you’re gonna wanna do?

Lacey – Well, what I have done personally, and I’ve found it very useful, is I created a story, first, about my ideal client, the reason why I did that is Instagram is, picture it as, like, a love language. Or, like, when you’re meeting a new friend or you’re on a date, and you are wanting to engage with them and find out more about them, you utilize it to speak to that ideal client, so what I did with that was first create a story of my ideal client, so where she lives, of course, I even gave her a name, her name is Charlotte.

Nathan -That’s awesome.

Lacey – Her age, her types of friends she hangs out with, her goals, where she likes to shop, where she likes to eat, her fears, just really created this person, and then that taught me how to speak better when posting content on Instagram.

Nathan – That makes sense, now when you talked to me about this before, I think you actually even described a scenario where you sat down with, like, a notebook or a journal or something and really took the time to completely imagine it and then you wrote out these details, is that right?

Lacey – Yes, I did, it was just really really helpful, now granted, Charlotte isn’t the only client, we do attract a lot of different types of clients, but overall, me making her as if she was a real person, I would always try to resonate, would Charlotte like this post, would Charlotte relate to this caption?

Nathan – That’s right, and by being that specific, that then drives the type of content that you’re creating because let’s be real, there is an incredible amount of noise in the social media spectrum, right, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, et cetera, so in order to rise above that noise even a little bit, that’s probably the simplest way to go about at least beginning to do that, is to have a very specific purpose for your account and the way that you’re gonna do that, the first really effective step to creating that purpose-driven account, then, is to very very specifically and definitely imagine this person that you’re trying to speak to so I think that’s really, really powerful. The next step that you, and you and I have discussed this topic at length at this point, but one of the things that you talked about after then establishing who this person is, who your target client is that you’re going to be communicating to with your Instagram account, you then define a type or a style of Instagram account, I think you mentioned that there are four different types of accounts, is that right?

Lacey – Yeah, there is, there’s informative, lifestyle, specialty, and aesthetic.

Nathan – Okay.

Lacey – Informative is you like statistics and progress reports, you like when people go to you for questions, you want to be or you’re striving to be the leader expert in your industry or trade, you have a strong opinion and you love sharing information.

Nathan – That’s great, and you might even, maybe a synonym to that would be educational, are you educating people, does that follow the same idea?

Lacey – Yeah, absolutely, because if you really think about it, when a potential client or a human being in general approaches your Instagram account, we always determine do I wanna follow this person or not, so we have to give them a reason to want to follow us, so anything that you do should probably be educational, inspirational, and the aesthetics should just flow, the content that you post, the photos that you post, it will have a common factor to make them flow from left to right as you would reading.

Nathan – Sure, that makes sense, okay, but let’s jump back to the four specific types of accounts, the first one that you mentioned was the informative account so I’m sharing information, relative to a particular topic, I want to establish myself as the expert, so that’s the first type, and then what’s the second type?

Lacey – Lifestyle, lifestyle is actually the account that I utilize, that’s my love language, and that’s basically you have no problem sharing personal info, now granted, keep it professional, don’t go too deep into your personal life, for example, I will post a picture about a date my husband and I went on or a walk in the park with my children, I’m confident in my personal style, I don’t mind being in photos, people compliment you on your looks, your taste, your decor, you’re outgoing, and I like to connect with people, that would be a lifestyle account.

Nathan – And why would you choose a lifestyle account, for example, over an informative account when we’re talking about a photography business, what is the benefit for you and your photography business in doing that?

Lacey – Oh, that’s a fantastic question. The reason why I do that is because I believe in authenticity and personalization, so I want my clients to see who I am, I want them to get to know me that way, that way they feel comfortable engaging with me with, let’s say, you know, a family portrait session.

Nathan – Sure, and then by clearly establishing who you are, you’re naturally gonna draw in a client who is similar to you, which naturally means, or hopefully anyway, naturally means that you’re gonna be creating an experience for this client that is even better, they’re connecting with you on a personal level now, they just like who you are as an individual, so it makes sense that they hire you as a photographer.

Lacey – Exactly, to me, that’s a beautiful thing because, you know what, not everybody’s gonna like me, they’re not, and that’s just how life goes, and so that’s okay, you know, send them on their way but that’s not even my ideal client to begin with so it kind of does the work for you by weeding out the less than ideal client.

Nathan – That’s perfect, okay, so, four types of accounts, the first one’s informative, second one is lifestyle, what’s the third type of account?

Lacey – Specialty, and this one you prefer to be more so behind the scenes, you’re complimented often for your services and products, you have a unique product and it makes you special, you prefer a business brand rather than sharing your personal brand and clients basically consider you an expert.

Nathan – Okay, and in some ways there’s some similarities there to informative, but this is more about representing a brand versus trying to educate clients on a particular topic.

Lacey – Absolutely.

Nathan – That makes sense, all right, so we’re to the last, the fourth type of account, what is that?

Lacey – Aesthetic, and this one is partially another one that I do, and you can combine, you know, a few of these in your Instagram, so, like, for example, I do lifestyle and a bit of aesthetic, and what aesthetic is, extremely detail oriented, you’re a planner, you love to style everything from your food, your stationary supplies, clothing, decor, you notice everything, misspellings, you know, you name it, you prefer communicating mostly through pictures.

Nathan – Okay perfect, and you mentioned earlier when you were talking about the idea of aesthetic, this notion of flow to your imagery, that you’re posting to your Instagram account, this is something you’ve discussed with me before, I know it’s not a strength of mine at this moment and I’ve kind of sort of trying to figure out how to do that best both on a personal level and with my business brand as well, but talk to us a little bit about what that looks like, how you would set that up.

Lacey – So an aesthetic, that would, you would decide, basically, let’s say a color scheme, we’ll start there, ’cause that’s something we all can easily identify with, so let’s say you post one photo of white peonies and then you post a second photo of a white mug of coffee and your Apple laptop, and then a third post you would, or picture that you would post would be a pair of white Converse chucks, pretend to see these images, what was the main color in those three images?

Nathan – Certainly white.

Lacey – Yes, and so that would be the aesthetic of it, you are doing a light Instagram, white is going to be the predominant color in your Instagram and it gives your Instagram a very tailored, customized look.

Nathan – I know that I’ve personally experienced accounts that are that way, I naturally, and I think you alluded to this before in conversation with me, it’s this idea of creating an account that it makes people want to keep looking and when there is that consistency, it’s so much easier to do that, you’re just, before I even dive into looking at an individual image, it’s just nice to scroll through the thumbnails because it just looks pretty, and as photographers and of course photographers are trying to draw in a potential client who also, at least, to an extent, anyways, is gonna be kind of visually focused it’s important to create an aesthetic that is consistent on multiple levels, but ultimately hopefully it accurately represents your brand and consistently represents your brand, so that’s a really great recommendation, that’s perfect, so for those of you listening in, this first section, we’ve talked about a few ideas on how to effectively create a purpose-driven Instagram account, if you’re taking notes, get ready to continue, or I should say, you’re gonna continue writing here, taking notes, we’re gonna jump into the second section, and we’re moving now from kind of the larger overview of what is my Instagram account about and what is the big idea and ultimately the aesthetic as well that is gonna drive what I post, we’re moving now into creating individual posts and yet again, it can be so easy to just throw content out there, hey, this seems funny to me right now or this seems interesting to me right now, or this seems pretty to me right now and I’m just gonna kind of randomly post that, but there are more effective ways to create a post that is actually going to grab the attention of our potential client or existing clients and I know that you’re gonna dive into that, I think we’ve got kind of three main ideas to dive into here with a lot of notes, so Lacey, take it away, what’s the first step to creating a more compelling Instagram post?

Lacey – I think captions should focus on your brand category so that would be the four that we discussed previously, informative, aesthetic, specialty, lifestyle, and to basically further the experience of the photo.

Nathan – Okay, that makes sense, so when we’re talking about a caption it should reflect, how would that be applicable for example if you have a lifestyle account like yours, what would the caption say in a scenario like that?

Lacey – So instead of just posting a picture right, so let’s just say you posted a picture and you’re in LA, and you’re standing on a rooftop of this cool hotel and you have a glass of wine in your hand you could say, In LA and that’s it, right, but that doesn’t really tell us the story, that just says, okay, well, we know she’s in LA, but you’ve got to write more to draw, you’ve got to write in a way that attracts your ideal client, but also tells a story, so giving you an example, you’re on the rooftop of the cool hotel, you’re in LA and you have a glass of wine, okay, for example, me being in LA recently when I was with my creative director going through my rebranding process, I said something like, here in LA with my creative director enjoying the rooftop view of Hollywood, you know, and then go on from there, explaining a little bit more.

Nathan – But you’re telling, you talked about a story earlier, more specifically you’re telling a personal story, when our brand, our Instagram account, is a lifestyle account, then the focus there is on a personal story, communicating a personal story, so that makes sense, instead of just kind of posting bland, kind of factual information, like you said, you wanna make it interesting, but you wanna make it personal in this case as well, so that makes sense.

Lacey – And some things, like, since I’m standing on top of the rooftop, right, so to stay something catching, like, in the epic center of it all, the view up here looks good, you know, things like that, that it gave your viewers, they knew the where, the when, and the why, and it drew it all together.

Nathan – That’s perfect, the where, the when and the why, okay, you guys are taking notes, make sure to write that down, that’s really great, okay, continue to walk us through this process of creating a compelling caption.

Lacey – So the next one is I would say stay away from always using a caption to push a sale.

Nathan – Yes.

Lacey – And so going back to again, my Instagram, I post personal and authentic content so that my ideal client or my potential client or my followers feel like they can get to know me, they know who Lacey is, and if we always push sales first, you know, it’s a turn off, why would I want you to, you know, take pictures of my family, you know, why would I want to bring you aboard on my personal little nucleus? So if you always do, like, a sales pitch, it’s just kind of like that annoying car salesman guy, you know.

Nathan – That’s a great way to put it, and I know that I tend to lean the direction of being, I don’t know, coming across too professional or worrying about being too professional or being too structured, not being personal and kind of open enough, so this is definitely something that I have to work on and this actually reminds me of something I’ve been listening to in the last day or so, you may know and certainly some of our listeners may know a guy named Gary Vaynerchuck, he’s become quite popular in the last couple of years, maybe a little bit more, he’s written a number of books on the topic of marketing and he talks a lot about how to go about the process of using these social media platforms for marketing, but one of the things he says, in fact, actually he wrote a whole book about the idea, that’s titled, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook and it’s a metaphor that represents this notion of sharing, adding value, sharing or adding value, doing that multiple times over and then every once in a while, and just every once in a while, not selling as much as making an ask, so then it’s personal, too, right, like you said, you’re not that annoying car salesperson who’s just up in your face and trying to sell you something, you’re just asking for something and that’s the right hook.

Lacey – That’s awesome, yes.

Nathan – Yeah, and so I think this is a really important point, the notion of staying away from being too pushy sales-wise, share some type of value add or share something personal, draw those people in, and then occasionally maybe ask them for something or sell them something, I think that’s a really effective way to use that account.

Lacey – Or even give them something, like a free PDF, a checklist, like, I created a PDF that, I posted a picture on my Instagram telling that it was, for example, five wedding shoes that won’t sink into the grass ’cause as we all know, us ladies, when we wear heels at a wedding and it so happens to be on, you know, a grassy lawn or whatever, our spikes of our heels sink into the grass, it’s really annoying.

Nathan – I can’t say that I have personally had that experience, so yes, I will defer to your expertise.

Lacey – Oh, you should have that experience, heels are fabulous, and you need a pair.

Nathan – All right, and then when it comes to writing a compelling caption, the last point that you had shared with me was the idea of mixing short and long, talk to me a little bit about that.

Lacey – Yeah, so sometimes our attention spans, especially nowadays, ’cause we have so much technology that we utilize, we’re not trying to, we stay on a subject or a topic or a photo, whatever, for more than, like, six seconds at the most, three if we’re just really not interested, like, what is this, nah, and you keep scrolling, so not every caption should be long and not every caption should be short, it should be a mix of the two, so for example, a short caption would be, you posted a photo of a glass of rose and you said something like today is National Drink Wine Day, yes way to that rose, you know, it told you what the day we’re celebrating and it’s short and catchy and straight to the point, and we knew what was going on in the photo, a long one would be, let’s say, you had a photo of a recent blog post and you went on sharing basically a portion of your blog post was your caption and then you left the link, you know, in your bio, so they would go click on that, of course, and it draws traffic to your website, that would be something that you would do for, let’s say, a long caption, or even something personal that you’re talking about, let’s say, you know, you had this pivotal moment in business and the struggle was real to get to this point so it would be a caption that you would kind of share about and obviously, the process wasn’t just one little thing, otherwise it wouldn’t be called a process, so you would share a bit longer caption of that process to educate, and more than likely to inspire fellow entrepreneurs, because, you know, this journey is intense sometimes.

Nathan – Sure, and you know, something else, and I’ll just kind of throw Gary in here again ’cause he also spoke to this in the last day or two as I was listening to his podcast, but one of the things he said was, sure it’s probably pretty accurate that the people’s attention span these days is not as long or it doesn’t tend to be as long, it takes a lot more effort to capture their attention for longer than a few seconds, the flip side to that, though, if you are creating content that’s interesting enough, they’ll spend the time watching it, they’ll watch the long-form video or they’ll read the extensive text, so maybe in this case, when we’re talking about Instagram specifically, if you’ve got an image that is captivating or compelling enough, you may be able to drive more attention to that longer form text that you’ve posted on occasion and it would enable you to be able to do that. It has to be interesting enough though, and that’s on us certainly to, I think you’ve mentioned, studying or you mentioned here, actually, in the notes that you’ve shared with me, the idea of studying the analytics, kind of watching and seeing how your audience responds, you can figure out what type of images capture their attention and they respond to most effectively and then you can use that then to drive them to some of those longer posts.

Lacey – Absolutely.

Nathan – But I love the idea of variety, I think that’s really important for keeping all of our attention, I think that’s a really great idea, so good recommendation there, so let’s move on now to the second point, the idea of how to effectively use hashtags, this is something else that you really pushed me on personally and I’ve begun doing a little bit more, how do we effectively use hashtags in our Instagram posts, and actually before we even get into how, talk to us about why, what is the significance of using those hashtags?

Lacey – It stretches your reach.

Nathan – Okay.

Lacey – With people across the world, you know, certain hashtags people do look up, like let’s say a bride was looking up, wedding shoes, again, we’ll go back to using that example, so she would find the hashtag wedding shoes and then it would draw her to a feed where the most recent posts of, let’s say, that hashtag.

Nathan – That makes sense, and I like the simplicity of the way that you explained that, it furthers your reach so not only will individuals, brides or otherwise, who are searching for content relevant to your Instagram account, will they be able to more effectively or easily find you, they’re gonna search a particular hashtag, I would assume, maybe, correct me if I’m wrong here, but I would assume that Instagram also will make suggestions in that, I don’t know what they actually call it, the little search feed, if you click on the magnifying glass, you see all these different images.

Lacey – Yeah, related hashtags.

Nathan – Yeah, so they’ll actually put images in that feed that are relevant to their interests. If they’ve searched that particular hashtag before, they’ve liked posts with that hashtag before, then it’ll fill in that feed with hopefully some of your images as well.

Lacey – Absolutely.

Nathan – That makes sense, okay, so talk to us a little bit more about this process of hashtags, then. How do we go about effectively utilizing them?

Lacey – So I would, let’s say you are a photographer in Tennessee and you want to utilize, let’s say, local hashtags that your clients would be searching for in your area, so a mom was looking for a family photographer so you would be, hashtag Tennessee photographer, for example and basically it’s just an industry-related hashtag on your location, another thing to do is use variations of that local hashtag, so let’s say you’re in Tennessee and you’re a makeup artist so you would say Tennessee MUA, so Tennessee make up artist or Tennessee, actually, using the phrase makeup artist.

Nathan – And that’s such a 2017 thing to do, to shorten the phrase as much as possible or make it as easy to search or to type out as possible but you would actually suggest that, shorten it up, use the initials for that particular phrase.

Lacey – Yeah, absolutely. And I believe in using hashtags for your dream client, ideal customer ’cause they search for inspiration, pretend that you’re them and think about who he or she follows, so for example, let’s say you’re a girl in your 20s, a woman in your 20s, and you’re, like, ridiculously into fashion, you would do hashtag designers, for example in a stylized shoot that you did, right, the woman in her 20s is attracted to hashtag designers. And that would then again draw that person back to your account.

Nathan – That makes sense, now I know that, and I’m looking at again the notes that you shared with me, this hashtag designers for example, is a prime example of a hashtag that is gonna be extremely, extremely popular, right, there are gonna be a lot of posts with that particular hashtag associated with it, the next point that you made here, and I’d love for you to elaborate on this, is the idea of using hashtags that have less than 300 thousand photos already tagged in it, talk about what that means or why you should do that and maybe what you could do to kind of modify that hashtag designer to use a hashtag that’s a little bit less popular, less used, I should say.

Lacey – Yeah, these are the hashtags you wanna use the most because they mean your photos will get the most exposure, hashtags with more than 300 thousand get pushed down because so many people are utilizing that hashtag and you want to be listed in the top post section, now that, going back to with what I said in using the hashtag, like, Tennessee makeup artist, so what you would do instead of hashtag designer, like you were saying, it’s probably a very popular hashtag, you could say Tennessee fashion designer.

Nathan – Okay, that makes sense.

Lacey – That is a more specific and condensed hashtag that will probably have 300 thousand on down posts.

Nathan – Right, and then in that case, as you mentioned, if it has fewer posts, then it naturally gets pushed to the top.

Lacey – Yes.

Nathan – Okay, continue to walk us through, I think the next point you were talking about is the idea of using 10 to 20 hashtags, now that’s a lot of hashtags, why would you use so many?

Lacey – It stretches your reach, and there’s a lot of sometimes variables to the image that you’re posting, so let’s say you posted, okay, going back to an earlier example, the picture of a glass of rose, so yeah, you would hashtag what’s related to it, so hashtag rose, and you would hashtag drink national wine day because that’s the little catchy trend for the day, but you would also target things such as, let’s say, hashtag wedding photographer, hashtag weddings, different things like that because you can actually utilize, because we all drink champagne or wine at weddings, and that furthers your reach, again, the more hashtags you use, which you can use up to 30, that stretches your reach and broadens the audience and draws more traffic to that post.

Nathan – Got it, perfect, and then the last point, take us to that last point about how to use hashtags to gain more followers.

Lacey – So use five big hashtags that may get you featured by other Instagram-ers, bloggers, and brands, so for example, you posted you’re remodeling your house and you posted a picture of the design team that decorated the house and it was all Martha Stewart inspired, Martha Stewart is a great popular hashtag, if the photography looks amazing, that might actually get you reposted or featured on, let’s say, Martha Stewart’s Instagram, you know, they may reach out to and connect and say, hey, we loved that photo, we would love to feature you in, let’s say, our spring design home decor line, and that hashtag, too, let’s say Martha Stewart, since it is such a popular one, those that do look that up again, they will see your photo and will draw traffic to your account.

Nathan – That makes sense, now how do we, how do I understand this last point of using five bigger hashtags at the same time minimizing the number of hashtags that are so popular because something like Martha Stewart would be really popular, hopefully it would get seen, but then we also want our post to go up further, or to the top, by using hashtags that aren’t used so much, so how do you, is that the reason why you say only to use five, the rest of them we want to use slightly more obscure hashtags?

Lacey – Right, yeah, and you have to think in terms of cross-promotion as well, so if I hashtag, you know, Martha Stewart with that, you know, my newly designed living room decor, and then they want to feature it ’cause they like the picture, they kind of cross promoted me and it grew my exposure.

Nathan – Sure, sure, okay, all right, well perfect, so this is a great head start into utilizing hashtags more effectively, again, thanks to Lacey’s recommendations and advice, I’ve begun doing this more consistently and certainly in a more targeted fashion, I think a theme thus far has been specificity, throughout this conversation and I think it’s important not only that we have a specific purpose in mind, but then the posts that we’re creating, they’re very specifically geared toward a target client, and due to that effort that we’re using very specific hashtags that again, are hopefully not too or overly popular and getting lost in the mix, we want to find some unique hashtags that are relevant, again, to the target client or potential client that we’re going after so this is really great, we’re down to the last point about creating more compelling Instagram posts, and this has to do with post strategy and scheduling, so kind of take us through this process.

Lacey – So I feel that if you’re not consistent and if you do not produce a regular schedule of content, your account will not be as beneficial for your viewers because they approach accounts with what’s in it for me.

Nathan – So I can’t post just, you know, like once a month and then a couple of times here, and a few times there, I have to actually be consistent with it, okay.

Lacey – Consistency is key, you know, with anything in life, really, if you think about it. And a disciplined schedule above it all, you know what I mean.

Nathan – But that actually is a great segue then to the next point because this idea, I know certainly for me being busy with multiple moving parts, certainly, both my personal life, but then even more so really in my business, there’s a lot to keep up with and I personally enjoy approaching business and the way that I manage my workflow in an efficient manner, the idea of posting on a daily basis, as little time as it may even take, you know, in some cases, it only takes, like, what, 30 seconds to do that, if even less, but it can still seem like just yet again another item in my to-do list for the day, so the notion of having some time of structure in approaching this or more specifically a schedule will help us be more consistent, so how would you go about scheduling your posts?

Lacey – So me personally, I take about one day a month to plan out on a calendar the content that I wanna post and first where I start off, like, completely first, is I pay attention to all the holidays, the fun national days ’cause those are always, you know, great trends or, like, you know, little fun quirky days like Taco Tuesday.

Nathan – Sure.

Lacey – I don’t know, it’s a crazy trend, tacos, you know, it draws attention to your account.

Nathan – And it seems like there are always National Donut Day, National Laptop Day, there’s some day for everything, so I think that’s a great recommendation to pay attention to those quirky little days.

Lacey – Yeah, and see, why I like those days, it gives you fillers, you know, ’cause let’s face it, it’s not always the easiest to come up with inspiring, educational and fun looking fabulous content, you know.

Nathan – Right.

Lacey – Especially when you’re, like busy with life, you have children, you know, you have other factors to your personal life, it’s not always easy and I get that, but I start with those days because those are the easy fillers that you can create content for, and then I do what’s closest that’s happening within the week, so that would be, let’s say, okay, I know that on Friday I have an engagement session at Balboa Park in San Diego, so I am going to on two days later or three days later, after one of my favorite images is edited, I’m going to post that photo as, let’s say, a sneak peek, and that gives you other content that shows people your photography work, it shows them where you are at, it shows a gorgeous couple that’s all stylized and in love, and that will draw of course your ideal client.

Nathan – Now you mentioned scheduling this post for example from this session, this particular portrait session.

Lacey – Uh-huh.

Nathan – I know Instagram’s API, not to get overly technical, but doesn’t allow for, they’re very closed off, just to put it very simply, so, you know, there are lots of different pieces of software out there that allow you to manage and plan social media posts but you can’t actually upload an image and fully schedule that post, you have to come back and add the image and I know you mentioned using a particular piece of software, web-based software, I believe, to handle your posting schedule, what is that piece of software and how does that work?

Lacey – Planoly, I absolutely love it, you can actually upload photos from your PC, you can schedule your Instagram post from your PC. You upload a photo, you write the caption, it allows you to schedule the time, there’s the app too, so what will happen on your phone, your phone’ll give you a notification saying, hey, you said that you wanted to post this photo and so you just click on yes, you post the photo, copy and paste, it’s super easy and it’s right there for you and you can do, again, a year’s in advance scheduling content.

Nathan – That’s great, so it’s a bit of a roundabout way, but it gives you the notification, it just kind of feeds it all to you, reminds you, enables you to be able to copy that over and then you can post it very easily to Instagram, that’s a really great tool, we’re actually in the process right now of, matter of fact, we have just hired somebody to come on board and manage our social media for us, and they’re going to more than likely be using this particular tool to plan out our posting schedule, so that’s a great recommendation, take us to the last point in this post strategy and scheduling process.

Lacey – So if you dedicate a series of concentrated efforts to cultivating engagement with your ideal clients, and it extends your reach, you’ll see the increase in interactivity, basically, more likes, more comments, even more followers.

Nathan – So we’re right back to that notion of consistency again.

Lacey – Yeah, absolutely.

Nathan – We certainly have to be creating content, well, again, first of all, if we go back to the very beginning, we need to have a very simple expressed, very specific purpose in mind for the Instagram account, then we’re posting content that is relevant to and attractive to our target client but we have to be consistent with that, it’s not good enough to post two or three really great posts and then wait for a week or two and then come back to it, we’ve gotta actually be consistent, but if we’re consistent, we’ll see those results.

Lacey – Yes, but one thing I wanna stress too, is, don’t get overwhelmed by it, when I feel like I constantly have to post on social media, you can sometimes get burnt out, so I do take, if I’m starting to feel a little overwhelmed or burnt out with stuff, I do take, like, a day or two hiatus, maybe even three days from social media period, just to refresh myself, because like I said earlier, it’s fun, it’s exciting, you meet new people through utilizing the world of Instagram, but it can be tiring, it can be, you know, a lot to always think of the next creative post that you’re gonna make.

Nathan – For sure.

Lacey – So taking a break, just to recharge yourself, there’s nothing wrong with that, and it’s not going to interfere with connecting with your ideal client or, you know, sales, or whatever your goal is, utilizing your Instagram.

Nathan – Sure, that makes sense, the cool thing, though, about using something like Planoly is that you can hand over that app to a partner, a business partner, friend, family member, whatever the case, and they can actually manage just copying and pasting those posts that you already created in Planoly for you while you’re taking those few days off, I totally get the idea of taking a day or two or three off, I think it’s important on multiple levels, but even applicable to this effort in social media, but again, being able to utilize some of those tools will allow you to fill in those spaces even while you’re taking a break, so I think that’s really, really great.

Lacey – It saves you a lot of time, and another great time saving app is called Tag o’ Matic, you type in a hashtag and it will list the 29 best related hashtags. And you basically, all it does is you copy it and you paste it and it goes straight into the comments section of your Instagram.

Nathan – Tag O’ Matic, and is that a IOS app, or is that a web-based app or?

Lacey – It is an IOS app.

Nathan – Perfect, all right, this is a lot of interesting information and certainly helpful information, Lacey, I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to go through all of this with us, because we are talking about Instagram, where can everyone find you on Instagram?

Lacey – Oh, you guys can find me @Laceyophotography.

Nathan – Lacey O, and that’s just all one word, Lacey, L-A-C-E-Y, O, photograph on Instagram, is that right?

Lacey – Yeah, absolutely.

Nathan – Perfect, again, thank you so much for your time.

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