Bokeh Podcast #37: Parenting, Self-Awareness, and Photography – Nathan Siner

Nathan Siner - Parenting

Nathan Siner is nothing if not committed to prioritizing his family, and he and his wife, Ashley, have done an amazing job of creating a photography business that supports that focus. But family life isn’t always easy, and Nathan has faced growing pains in parenting this year. In this episode of the Bokeh podcast, Nathan shares his recent struggles as a parent of two young children, the lessons he’s learned through those struggles, and how those lessons have translated to being a better photography business owner.

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Show Notes:

Bokeh Podcast #36: JPEG vs. RAW: The Debate Continues – Gavin Wade

Gavin Wade - JPEG

From his personal relationships to the way he starts and runs his businesses, Gavin Wade is an all-in kind of guy. Listen in to today’s Bokeh’s podcast as Gavin shares how this hyper-focus not only led to an amazing relationship and partnership with his wife, Erin, but two wonderful businesses, and even a decision to photograph in JPEG instead of RAW. Learn how Gavin made the decision about this controversial format, and how he maintains quality and consistency in his work despite its possible shortcomings!

Podcast:  Bokeh: The Business of Photography by Nathan Holritz
Episode 36: JPEG vs. RAW: The Debate Continues – Gavin Wade

Instagram: @gavinwadephoto
Website: Gavin Wade Photography, CloudSpot

Read the transcript and show notes

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Show Notes:

Introduction to Gavin Wade [00:31]
Brand Position [16:01]
Partnership with Your Spouse [017:41]
JPEG vs. Raw [26:30]
Avoiding Overexposure [32:13]
Cloudspot [37:10]
Contact Gavin [54:53]

Podcast Transcript: 

Nathan – Welcome to Bokeh, the podcast exploring the ever blurring lines between the personal and business lives of professional photographers. This is your host, Nathan Holritz, and I’m so excited to have you join me in connecting with photographers and entrepreneurs in the photography industry as we discuss photography, building a business and still having a life through it all. This podcast is brought to you by Photographer’s Edit, custom post-production for the wedding and portrait photographer. And now let’s dive into conversation. All right, so we are officially live again, take two. I had a little, a few technical difficulties there, but I’m here with Gavin Wade. Thanks so much for making time to jump into this interview with me for the Bokeh podcast listeners, Gavin. It’s great to actually get to know you along with the listeners because we haven’t really had much of a chance to interact. So first of all again, thank you for coming on the show, but I wanna get to know you a little bit. Tell us a little bit about where you’re from, where you live and a bit about your family.

Gavin – Yeah, absolutely, and great to be here, Nathan. Thanks so much. We kind of always cross paths with similar people in our networks, but always just seem to just miss one another, even just a few weeks ago. We were in the same room and just totally didn’t get a chance to connect, so I’m glad. This is a perfect excuse for us to hang and to get to know one another.

Nathan – For sure, yeah. I like the kind of raw element of just hey, I don’t really know you, but let’s have a conversation. I wanna get to know you, and then of course our listeners get to listen in with us. So tell us more about yourself.

Gavin – Sure thing. So my wife and I and now our one-year-old daughter, we live in southern California in Irvine and have been here, actually I was born and raised in Irvine. Went to school in Chicago actually out at Wheaton College, but then came back to SoCal, and we’ve been here ever since.

Nathan – So California life. I’ve spent, I’ve been out there just numerous times, largely for my work in the photography industry as a photographer, and then owning Photographer’s Edit, and I can’t imagine ever getting enough of that weather. Does it ever get old?

Gavin – No, no, it doesn’t. Maybe you’d want me to say yes, it really gets old, but no, it doesn’t. I love being 20 minutes away from the beach and an hour and a half away from the snow at any given point, so we’re lucky.

Nathan – That’s brilliant. So you also have the privilege of photographing weddings out there, and I say privilege. I think back to, actually I attended a workshop with Mike Cologne years ago out there in southern California, and I remember at the time I was kind of new to digital photography, shooting weddings with a Nikon D1X.

Gavin – Oh, wow.

Nathan – Yeah, so less than six megapixels, and the dynamic range was absolutely terrible. But we were out in the middle, this was about three o’clock in the middle of the day. We were out on the beach, and we were photographing this model, and every single exposure, I just had the camera I think in aperture priority, and it was nailing every single exposure. No blown highlights or anything. The light there is just absolutely stunning. So just the simple fact that you get to photograph weddings in California means that you’re privileged. Little side note there, but how did you get into photography in the first place? Tell us that story.

Gavin – Well you know, it’s really funny that you bring up Mike Cologne because he is actually our mentor, and was the person who got us into the photography world.

Nathan – How interesting.

Gavin – Yeah, so I was kind of involved with some of his workshops in the past, but not as a photographer, but more as like helping out. And heck, I even modeled my then girlfriend at the time for one of his workshops there in Newport Beach. And so I had always kind of, you know, seen the photographer world and lifestyle, and really kind of loved everything about it, but you know, I just kind other tucked that off to the side, followed my career path, which was my degree is in kinesiology, and so I was going down the human sciences route. And then about six months after I graduated, and it was back in southern California, I was working actually for Taco Bell. Not like drive-thru wise, but more in like the corporate side of things for their health and wellness, and was just, gosh, like liking my job, but not loving my job. And my girlfriend at the time, my now wife, she kind of had the same feelings about her career. She’s like eh, you know, she owned her own business, but it wasn’t exactly going the way she would want for the next 50 years at least. She just didn’t see herself going that same route. I was kind of the same way, and I looked at her, and I said hey, you know what? If you could do it all over again, what would you do? And granted like that’s a heavy question. We were dating for like three months, right, so we were still getting acquainted.

Nathan – You’re just diving right in.

Gavin – Yeah, you know what? That’s just what we did.

Gavin – And she said well, I would love to either do real estate or photography. And it was 2008, so real estate wasn’t happening for nobody, so I was like hey, like that’s crazy, like I actually love photography, too. And like this guy named Mike, and I was involved with his workshops, and hey like you want me to like call him up? And I remember a couple people that I met there, and like you wanna just like see if it’s something you wanna do? She’s like yeah, let’s do it. And like literally less than two weeks later we had already attended a photography conference, and we had invested our life savings into camera gear, which quite honestly was just like one camera body and one lens each. But it was our life savings, right? And we said hey, you know what? Let’s see if we can do this, and well, I guess the rest is history. Eight years later here we are, oh gosh, almost nine years. Mike took us under his wing in his mentorship program, and it just kind of catapulted us in our first year. Shot like 30 weddings our first year.

Nathan – Whoa.

Gavin – Yeah, and we got married probably two months after that even, and you know just quite our day jobs after we got back from our honeymoon, and we’ve been shooting full time weddings here in SoCal and around the world ever since.

Nathan – Wow, okay so I have multiple questions now. This is fascinating to me, and for the longest time I’ve just been fascinated by relationships, the dynamics of couples in particular. But I want to take a step back first. You said that you were in kinesiology, that’s what you studied. Can you define that for us? What is that about?

Gavin – Sure, so think of like biomechanics, human movement, health and wellness, like physical therapy or some type of rehab or anything related to just the body in motion is what my degree was in. Just started out as a business major, took all of one economics class and said this isn’t for me. And loved my health and wellness class that I was in as just part of my gen eds at school, and said you know what? I’m really interested in this. And I always loved fitness and exercising and such, so I just dove into that and loved it. But coming back into SoCal because I was doing personal training, I was doing fitness consulting and such, I realized there’s kinda gonna be a ceiling. Either I become the next Billy Blanks or something like that for Taebo, or you know, I need to go back to school for an advanced degree or med school or you know, something like that. I just didn’t see the path to something that got me really excited about it. And photography, completely the opposite. I got super excited right out of the gate even though I knew nothing about it, as did my girlfriend at the time, and now wife, saying look, let’s learn this together. So we dove in head first, but really not knowing what we were getting into, just that this was something we were interested in.

Nathan – And was it the creative element of photography that drew you in? What was the big draw?

Gavin – You know what? I’m a techy guy myself, so I loved the, at the time when digital was just starting to really catch on I loved the kind of marriage of technology and creativity, you know, from computers to cameras to all of those various aspects. And then when you added the business element in there as well it just really peaked my curiosity. Wow, okay, I can ideally have the type of schedule that I can set and love, photographing couples and at places that really get me excited, and make a living for myself and my family that still provides that flexibility that I might not have with a nine-to-five.

Nathan – Yeah, there’s so many elements of running a photography business that, well that are really an easy draw. But it’s funny that you mentioned that technical element. If I look back to when I started wedding photography in 2001 or so, that was the initial draw for me. And it’s funny because when I have an opportunity to share with or speak to photographers now, one of the things I talk about is establishing kind of this big overriding set of goals, a big picture view that drives what you do in your business. But I think back to when I actually got started in photography, and I was just excited to buy an expensive camera. At the time it was film, so it was an Nikon F100. And in comparison to this inexpensive Minolta SLR that I had, that we had, it was awesome, right? It was so snappy, and the focus was faster, and even the little motor that wound the film moved quicker. You know, I was just excited about the tech, and I was lucky enough that I learned much more than just the tech side of things, and was able to actually build a business. But it’s funny the things when you talk to different photographers about what actually draws them in in the first place, I can definitely relate on the tech side. But yeah, the creative element, of course the freedom and the flexibility that comes from actually running your own business is really powerful. And I actually wanna get into, we’ll talk here in just a little bit more about your, you have an additional business that you dove into, and we’ll talk about how you got into that. But before we go there, wedding photography, I mean wedding photographers, there are a lot of them, thousands and thousands of them out there these days. What is your brand position that actually sets you apart? Because you’ve got some really stiff competition in southern California. Not only are you in one of the most beautiful locations in the U.S. to be photographing weddings, but there are other photographers out there that realize that as well. You’ve got some pretty stiff competition. What is your kind of distinct brand position? What sets you guys apart?

Gavin – Yeah, I mean you aren’t kidding. When we started in Irvine, I mean literally within a five, maybe seven mile radius we had some of the industry’s biggest trendsetters in our backyard. We had Mike Cologne, we had Jasmine Starr, we had Jessica Claire, we had Becker, we had just a lot of, you know, these people who were out and about and literally kind of controlling the pulse of the wedding world at the time. And so it’s just like okay, like we’re nobodys, like we’re just starting off, like we have one camera, one lens, like how can we differentiate? How can we get a foothold? How can we just make a living, first of all, right? While the tech side and the business side of things was the glitz and glamour that drew us in, like it’s not on the brochure when you become a photographer that hey, you’re probably gonna spend 20% of your time if you’re lucky behind the lens, and the rest is establishing great systems in place to help you succeed on the business side.

Nathan – So true.

Gavin – And so it’s one of those just how do we get rolling, right? And for us I think we had a little bit of an advantage in a couple of ways. One, the wedding photo world here wasn’t as saturated as it is now. I mean, I could chuck a rock from our house right now and probably hit five different wedding photographers, right?

Nathan – I’m sure.

Gavin – It’s just one of those places because as you said, it’s a beautiful location. It’s almost a year round wedding season. But for us when we got started we were in that age range where a lot of our friends were getting married. We were in our early 20s. We either through our own networks knew people who were engaged or getting married, and so we had a lot of subjects around for us to literally just practice on. And our goal wasn’t to become millionaires in our first year. Our goal was to get experience, was to learn, and was to learn as quickly as we possibly could to grow our brand to the place where we knew, hey, in two or three years we wanted to be a full go at this. So setting ourselves apart really just focused first and foremost on what our style was, was just finding our fundamentals, right? I mean, we literally brought our cameras and shot our first wedding within eight weeks.

Nathan – Wow.

Gavin – And I remember not even sleeping at all like for the night before, and just being a nervous wreck the entire day. But you know, it was low pressure. Like they were friends of our. They were getting married in like six weeks or less. Like it was the type of deal where we lost money on the whole thing. We drove eight hours each way. You know, they were totally fine with knowing we were so new, but it was just one of those things where we were like okay, we are literally getting chucked into the deep end right now. How do we swim? And in so many ways I think that was crucial for us at various points us getting started in terms of it just forcing us to learn and adapt and pushing us beyond that comfort zone because that’s what always got us to that kind of next level.

Nathan – That’s interesting that you mention that too, because as much as I was just talking about how my, a big part of my motivation getting into photography was something as simple as just enjoying the tech side of things, and it just simply wasn’t a very calculated approach to doing business. I just kind of started shooting. I photographed with my spouse at the time as well. And this idea of, I’m very much drawn to this idea of just kind of jump and build your wings on the way down approach. I know Mike even actually, we were talking about Mike Cologne, Mike has kind of a very similar approach as well, so maybe we’ve both been influenced by that. But how, do you recommend that to photographers based on your experience now? Would you recommend that they just go for it? As opposed to kind of having at least some type of plan in place before they do?

Gavin – Well you know, I think gone are the days, and I wouldn’t recommend that hey, max out their credit cards and just take the leap, right, which was kind of what Mike did in many ways at that time. And that was a different level of risk than maybe some people have. Some people may be more risk averse than that. I’m not one of those people, but we’ll talk about that later. But like it’s, you know, I wouldn’t say that now. I wouldn’t say hey, like decide you’re a wedding photographer, quit your day job and just it’s all gonna work out, right? I mean, I think that’s more of a cavalier approach to how I think a successful photography business is built now, like eight, nine years later, or even you know longer than that in your case.

Nathan – Interesting.

Gavin– So I would say right now in terms of building a photography business, you need to know the fundamentals because I think the mindset at the moment is because it’s so saturated you’re looking for any possible either edge or corner to cut so that you can get there more rapidly, right? Because you wanna kind of rise above this particular pool of people who are in your same space, and you wanna set yourself apart. And I think I many ways it’s not maybe encouraging, but it’s alluring to bypass a lot more of the technical side of things related to photography, right? Hey, I can shoot in this type of mode. Or hey, I can shoot with this type of camera. Or hey, this camera has got 15 stops of dynamic range. If I just get it in the ballpark, I’ll just fix it later, and you know, it’ll all be okay, you know. Some of those types of things, some of those types of approaches I think have changed now versus when Erin and I started it was all about the fundamentals. It was all about color, exposure, composition, all those things because back then, even with those types of cameras, even like with the six megapixels of fantastic clarity, you didn’t have as much margin or error and just various things that you need to kind of have dialed in. So I think that kind of answers your question a little bit. But it was just, I would do it differently now than back then, but it worked for us at that particular point. And I think the underlying principles of which we kind of approached really helped us get to where we are today.

Nathan – Sure sure. So I guess in the end though, just kind of bringing it back around to the original question, what would you say is your brand position? And what is that distinct difference in comparison to the photography businesses around you?

Gavin – Well, we have the husband and wife aspect, so that, you know, is a slight element. There’s a lot of husband and wife teams, which are great, and you don’t need to be a husband and wife team to be successful, but I think that is one element. The other one is truly just our approach. So you know, I think at a certain point and certain level clients can tell the difference between good and bad photos, but maybe not, at least not right away can tell the difference between good and great photos. And it’s our job to kind of allow them to see the difference and to show them the difference, and also to accompany that with an experience that exceeds their expectations in terms of what they have preconceived coming in to saying hey, I need a wedding or a portrait photographer. And so I really feel that the experience, the approach and then the end result is what sets us apart. We capture things a little bit differently. We interact with our clients a little bit differently, but ultimately just our eye and how we view certain events or certain things is just we always like to say we want you to be transported right back to that moment without any distraction of filters or effects or anything. It’s either true to life color or black and white, and it’s you guys being the center point and focal point of all of those images. So kind of telling that story with all distractions removed because, you know, 10, 12 years from now, once the memories fade this is what you’ve got. So we are always shooting with that in mind.

Nathan – Interesting. Well you know, I was thinking as you were talking to as busy or as crowded as that space is that you’re in there in southern California, what’s really fascinating these days is the very fact that we can capitalize on our immediate social network, both literally and figuratively, and focus on marketing to them. So while as you said there are other photography businesses that involve couples photographing together, or there are other photography businesses, photographers who talk about the significance of the quality of their imagery or the difference between theirs and say just kind of the weekend shooter or whatever the case may be, you get to carry that message specifically to your network, and it’s not very difficult at this point then to kind of build a business through that network specifically. And I think that’s kind of a fascinating concept. I know that I get kind of a combination of jaded and overwhelmed when I think about creating content to market my editing company because I look around and I see all of this digital noise, if you will. Everybody’s creating content, but I was at a marketing summit earlier this week. We chatted about that briefly earlier, and one of the things that I took away from that was the significance of focusing on marketing to my network specifically. That our fan base wants to hear from us or wants a service from us, or in your case wants the photography from you, and you have the ability to be able to kind of build on those relationships that already exist in that network, and then ideally do a wonderful job, and then they’re promoting you to their friends, and your network continues to grow. It’s a really exciting time to be in business, and in some ways a much easier time to be involved in businesses. As noisy as the market may be, we also have incredible tools in place that enable us to build a business even pretty quickly, and you guys are a pretty powerful example of that, so kudos to you for that. Now you mentioned working with your spouse, and I know just from personal experience that that can be a challenge at times because you’re two individual people with different ideas, interests, styles. How do you make that work effectively, and then maintain a healthy personal relationship as well?

Gavin – Yeah, we had an interesting dynamic between the two of us even right out of the gate. I mean, I met Erin on eHarmony, and then two and a half weeks later we met in person, and it was a disaster of a first date. But then three months after that–

Nathan – Wait wait wait, you can’t scoot over that. We have to know a little bit more about that. What was such a disaster about the first date?

Gavin – Oh well, you know, the eHarmony thing, we both kind of joined it on a dare because we both owned our own businesses, so we had no way to meet people. And so our various friends just said look, do it. It’s free, try it. It’s not as stigmatized now as it was like then, but even back then you’re kind of like ah, come on man, this is like such a hail Mary type of deal. But we did it because hey, I got 30 days free, why not? Like what the heck. And so you know how they make you fill out this profile thing, and it takes a long stinkin’ time. And then you say okay, pair me up with people who are within X amount of radius, right? And I said well, I’m not driving for nobody, like I’m busy, so I just made it like 20 miles or less, right? Like keep it within SoCal, and she did the same thing. Anyways, long story short, we get matched up together, we start chatting, and then it comes time to schedule our first date. And we realized very quickly that eHarmony, well maybe had screwed up from a technical perspective but maybe not in the big scheme of things because we were actually over a hundred miles away from each other.

Nathan – No way!

Gavin – Yeah, yeah. She was up in like northern Simi Valley area. I was in southern southern California. And she’s like well, I mean we’re kind of into this. We like each other, like you wanna schedule that date? She’s like I’ll come to you. I’m like sure, like no problem. She had never been down in this area. We were gonna go to the beach and hang out.

Nathan – Cool.

Gavin – Anyways she comes down, her car breaks down on the way. It literally like engine block melted as she rolled into my driveway.

Nathan – Whoa.

Gavin – And so there’s, we have a 14-hour long first date, but then she has no way to get home. So she ends up staying the night at my parents house. So she meets my parents on the first date. I then have to take her home and drive her home the next day, and then I meet her parents on the second date, second day, second date. And then we see each other every weekend after that. And anyways, it was just, and then three months after we started our photography business, and we’re now doing this long distance while at the same time trying to learn. And so anyways, we had just a super unique relationship right out of the gate. And we were building a business together while also building a relationship. So for us it worked because we were both passionate about it, and I think what really allowed us to kind of pick up along the photography side of things was because we were learning together for the first time about photography. So we were sitting next to each other learning from the same person, learning the same methodologies, kind of synchronizing our way of doing things. And so when it came time to running the business, we already kind of were just on the same page, which was a huge advantage I think such that we didn’t rip each other’s heads off, and we kind of stayed within our swim lanes of okay, these are the responsibilities you’re gonna be doing, and these are the responsibilities I’m gonna be doing. And thankfully my wife loves editing. She loves designing. I despise it. I’m a perfectionist. It takes me, you know, 30 hours other edit a wedding because everything has to be just right. But then, you know, Erin hates the website side of things. She is slower on the emails and the phone calls and the personal relationship building stuff. I mean, she’s a fantastic people person, but just that type of stuff intimidates her with strangers and people initially.

Nathan – Sure sure.

Gavin – And so I’m like hey, I love doing that. Like okay, I’ll take care of all the things before the wedding and booking, and then you can take care of all the things after, you know, as far as the admin side. And that’s just what we did since day one, and so it allowed us to get really good at those particular things and streamlined it. And then we kind of bounced it off of each other, you know, when we needed some help or when we saw some opportunities to be a bit more efficient. But we literally were in the office together next to each other, shoulder to shoulder every single day. You know, granted sometimes you need a little me time, and you need to get out, but you know, that’s what gym memberships are for. That’s what, you know, SoCal sunshine is for. We take our pup for a walk or whatever it might be, so that was kind of our dynamic, you know, and building the business together. Obviously we had some disagreements and such like everybody does, but look, ultimately our goal was the same. And so oftentimes we would just punt on the subject and say look, okay, let’s try it this way for a couple of meetings, and if it doesn’t work, then let’s try it that way. And so we just kind of A-B tested it, our own guinea pigs, and saw what worked.

Nathan – And some I’m hearing kind of three main principles there that are pretty powerful. One was just the simple fact that you guys grew together. I think that is a, and I’ve learned more and more over even the last two or three years the significance of growth, certainly as individuals, but then as a couple or somebody in a relationship growing can really stimulate a connection, especially if you have the opportunity to grow and learn together. So fascinating that you had the opportunity to do that, and how that actually encouraged and built a healthy working relationship. You also mentioned staying in your own lanes, kind of figuring out what you’re good at. And this is a business principle that really applies across the board, I think it’s really great, but the fact that you figure out what works for you, what doesn’t, what you enjoy, what you don’t, and separating responsibilities that way. That’s really powerful. And then the significance of, and this is also something I’ve learned more about in the last few years, is the significance of independence, still making time to be an individual, even if it’s something as simple like you said as going to the gym or taking the dog for a walk, getting out and having your own space. Being an individual, still maintaining a certain level of independence can ultimately kind of drive you back together, you know. If you’re always in the same space, always doing the same thing, and you don’t have that independence, it can ultimately be a bit frustrating. And so I think those are some really great recommendations and advice, and you guys are making it work in a really beautiful way. I look at the pictures of the two of you online, and there’s a certain, I mean, it’s one thing to look at a pretty picture, and even a picture of a couple, and you’re like wow, that’s a great picture, but it’s another thing to actually see kind of a light that comes alive in your eyes together, and you guys seem to have a really beautiful dynamic. So kudos to you for the way that you’ve made it work. And I love the fact that even, you know we talked about how you just kind of dove right into the photography business. I mean, that’s been a theme apparently for your whole relationship. You just dove right into that relationship, too. It’s pretty great.

Gavin – It is. It all happened pretty fast, and you know the old cliche when you know, you know, and that kind of happened with us, and you know, we’ll still waiting to see if eHarmony wants to pick up us for the Super Bowl commercial spot, but we’ll see about that.

Nathan – That’s really great. Well, I love all of this personal conversation. I think Bokeh should be more about this. I love getting to know you guys on this level, so I really appreciate you sharing that. But in getting ready for this conversation for our Bokeh podcast listeners, one of the things that we talked about was the fact that you photograph in JPEG. Now I though that the RAW versus JPEG conversation had kind of died off a long time ago, but I love that we’re gonna dive back into this because–

Gavin – That’s right.

Nathan – I did start on film, but then ended up moving into digital, and as you pointed out, back then in the kind of early to mid-to-late 2000s the cameras just weren’t as good as they are now. So something like a Nikon D1X with very limited dynamic range, when we were shooting in the Tennessee Valley in Chattanooga area, and you’re trying to shoot in the middle of the day, in stark contrast to what it’s like to do that in southern California, here you got this kind of harsh overhead light, and it’s casting shadows in the subjects eyes, and you’ve got wedding dresses that are getting blown out, and you’re losing shadow detail and all of this kind of thing, shooting in RAW was a much more important element of photographing digitally at that point. Times have changed. The technology has improved pretty significantly. But then, storage is also cheap, and I personally, I mean I’m not actively shooting weddings anymore, but I personally still love the notion of having the freedom and the flexibility after the fact that if for some reason, even if I’m proactively shooting well, very conscientious about the way that I’m approaching exposure and white balance and so forth, that I still have that flexibility on the back end that if I accidentally overexpose a bride’s dress, or if I totally screw up the white balance, or I lose shadow detail, that I can go back to that RAW file and pull that image back to where it needs to be. I like that safety net, but I’m really curious to understand why you’ve chosen to go the JPEG route versus the RAW route. So just kind of tell us a little bit about that, if you don’t mind.

Gavin – Yeah, and I realize this is a very polarizing discussion. I saw something even pop on Facebook a few days ago, you know, within minutes there was a hundred something comments about, you know, shooting JPEG is dot dot dot, whatever, right?

Nathan – Yeah, yeah.

Gavin – You just kind of filled in the blanks. Some people said, you know, shooting JPEG is lazy. Shooting JPEG is unnecessary, you know, blah blah blah. You know, I think honestly just like when it comes down to any business practice, there is no two thoughts alike, but also there’s no two, you know, ways to skin the cat as far as what works for you. And so Erin and I learned that way. We learned to be, as you said, very conscientious about color, exposure, everything like that, and I think we really just kind of found it to work the best for us, for our business, for our post-processing, for our turnaround times, for our style. It just all led us to that, and we always, you know, with our business, it was always kind of like hey, you know what? We’re not going to just change something just because we feel like we need to change something. We’re gonna change something because we see we need to change something, but we’re not going to, because you know if you always kind of chase shiny things in business, not saying you know this is necessarily one of those cases, but you know you can constantly always feel hey, you know I need to change my website. Why? Because everyone else is, or oh, it’s been a year, and so I just need to change it. I don’t know why, I just feel like I need to, right? I need to sink thousands of dollars into this, that or the other. So for us, you know, when it comes down to shooting in JPEG, two things have kept us shooting in JPEG. One has been just the post-processing time for us, and for what works for our various swim lines. You know, Erin’s got a wedding out the door in less than, literally a whole wedding out the door delivered to our clients in less than three days, and that’s with having a one-year old now, who just naps twice a day. So the wedding is culled, edited and delivered inside of that time period, so super, super fast. And then also the second thing is that we learned very early on to, you know, pick places, pick environments, pick spots where we photograph that allow us to succeed. So it’s not forcing a square peg into a round hole for us. In some cases yes, with the spontaneity that wedding days sometimes incur, you know, we can’t always pick and choose. But for really the parts of the day that truly, truly matter we have learned to know exactly where we can be, what we can do, what lighting scenarios, you know, what various foreground, midground, background types of stuff, what things we can do that will allow our images to obviously not be overexposed or constantly adjusting our kelvin white balance all the livelong day. Communicating with each other such that it’s very sync’d up, looking at skin tones, blinking highlights, our red and green channels and our histograms. Just constantly, you know, making a hundred different assessments at every given moment just to make sure that when it comes time to that post-processing we’re able to rock it out. And so with the type of in camera stuff that JPEG can do with us manually adjusting all those other things, it just became to the point where we were never needing to have that extra latitude. I mean, maybe once every 10 weddings or something there was maybe something where we were like ah, I wish I could have pulled that back a bit, but not to the point–

Nathan – Gotta convert it to black and white now, right?

Gavin – There you go, there you go. When it’s out, just black and white. But no, for us it just never was a necessity. And maybe I’ll eat my hat in a year when we figure out you know what? We need to make a change, but thus far there hasn’t been anything that’s driven us to do that. And never once have we, you know, knock on wood, not delivered an image to a client or missed a moment or anything like that in shooting JPEG that RAW would have prevented.

Nathan – Wow, well that’s impressive, and that speaks very highly for your case. Now a couple of questions or a couple of notes there. First of all, the point that you made about not chasing whatever the latest shiny object is as you put it, I love that. And again going back to this idea of kind of a big picture view, I think it’s really important that photographers are clear in their business about what it is that they are working toward. And actually you’ve made a point about this in discussing you and Erin’s relationship earlier, the fact that you were working toward the same thing. And I think that’s really great, but to actually have a clear goal in mind of what your business is about and what you’re working toward, that helps minimize the potential distraction, we’ve got a lot of them these days. Technology is constantly changing and improving, and you know, there’s the latest gear and the latest software and the latest light room presets. It’s easy to get distracted as a business owner if you don’t have that overriding kind of big picture view of the long-term big picture goals that drive what you do on a day-to-day basis. So beautiful point, I’m so glad that you made that. But the other thing that you mention, and this kind of has me curious, you mentioned all of the different elements of those settings. Everything from simply adjusting kelvin white balance constantly on the fly to looking at the histograms and so forth. How do you have time, or how do you find time to do that while simutaneously photographing a wedding day and not get distracted I guess in the process? How does that work for you?

Gavin – Sure, sure. Well you know, as the husband and wife aspect that’s kind of great because you always have two eyes on a given scenario at one time. So one can be positioning our couple, and the other one can be dialing in those settings, right? And so when the other one comes back and we’re ready to photograph, it’s just a quick hey, I’m at X-Y-Z, and we’re off and running. And so you know, we’re able to adjust those settings based on the location that we’re at, right? And very rarely on a wedding day does something change so quickly that you can’t sight up, with experience sight up and know hey, this is what my white balance is gonna be, this is what my exposure is gonna be, you know, during the ceremony let’s say. Like they don’t move, right? They’re coming down the aisle, that’s a certain exposure and temperature. They’re down the aisle and at the altar, that’s a different exposure and temperature, and it’s really not going to change much. You just have to be cognizant of if a cloud comes over, and you know what that adjusts and does. But you know, but with just practicing that you know 400 and 500 times, you know, you kind of get to the point where you know, you can recognize those shifts and adjust very, very quickly. We shoot Nikons as well, and so I love that the white balance controls are very much, you know, a button and a toggle. So that allows us also to, you know, kind of quickly adjust those things versus dive into menus. But you know, that is we’re adjusting aperture, shutter, color, composition, ISO, like we just learned straight out from the gate. We had never shot in program mode or aperture or anything like that even from day one.

Nathan – Wow.

Gavin – So I don’t know if we were gluttons for punishment or not, but it’s just what we’ve done, so it’s what we’ve forced ourselves to hone, I guess, that skill over time.

Nathan – That makes sense, and wow, what discipline though to start out that way. And like you said, you then develop experience over time that enables you to almost kind of do it automatically, which is pretty great. What would you say to photographers who are curious about getting into that shooting style? That they want the simplicity of JPEG. They don’t wanna have to worry about conversion later. What are maybe the top two or three things that they should keep in mind if they wanna go down that road?

Gavin – I would say like, I would say the big thing that we have taken away from it is know what types of lighting situations you can achieve the look and feel that you want for your brand. So for us that’s very much a certain look. For others that might not be. Some people say hey look, I love super like bright contrasty photos. Like I love direct sun with dark, dark shadows, right? Well, if that’s the case then perhaps maybe JPEG’s not right for you because, you know, pulling back really, really dark shadows you don’t have as much leeway to do that, so maybe that’s not a good decision for you. For us we are very much backlit, you know, high contrast type of situations where, you know, there’s very clear differentiation, but we’re shooting usually wide open almost all the time with a longer lens so the compression is there. We’re not really shooting a ton of primes. Like there’s just various things of our style that makes sense from a JPEG perspective in terms of how we kind of approach wedding days and for portraits. So I would definitely say if you’re, you know, I definitely say JPEG and RAW is not the first decision you need to make when kind of picking your style I’d say find what types of things you are drawn to creatively, and then let that kind of guide what format really works for your workflow. So if we change things up, and if our style changes and we need to do RAW, of course we’re gonna do it, but we’re, you know, one doesn’t necessarily dictate the other as far as JPEG RAW.

Nathan – I love that, and yet again we’re back to that very poignant point, which is be clear about what you want, and let that determine what you then do. As opposed to kind of the other way around where you’re just haphazardly trying this thing and trying that thing, and letting whatever the popular culture momentum drive you. You’re actually making decisions based on what it is that in this case your business, your brand is about. And I think that’s just a beautiful, beautiful lesson for all of our photography business owners, so thank you for that. Speaking of business owners, kinda wanna segue here to this idea of entrepreneurship. I know personally as I guess a self-proclaimed entrepreneur, I was a wedding photographer for about 10 years, and in that timeframe ended up starting an editing company, Photographer’s Edit. Now we’ve been in business almost 10 years as well, but I have a strong desire for, an interest in, a passion for seeing business opportunities and going after them. And you had the opportunity to start a company called Cloud Spot. Tell us a little bit about that back story, kind of what inspired that. You already had a wedding photography business. What inspired you diving into something on top of the wedding photography business? What drove that? And I guess just kind of the back story as a whole. I’d be curious to hear your take on that.

Gavin – Absolutely, and it is quite a story, but I’ll give you the Readers’ Digest version.

Nathan – That’s a throwback reference for sure.

Gavin – Yeah, right. But you know, I’ll definitely say that Cloud Spot started out of just a sheer need in my own business, right? Maybe that’s a cliche, maybe not, but I had an itch. I needed to scratch it, and there wasn’t a big enough scratching post out there that worked for us, and so I just went out and created it. And I just, you know, it was one night. Again, it always go back to this impulsiveness I guess, but like I was at dinner with Erin one night, and I said look, I am like, you know, this is an aspect of our business that I’m responsible for. I’m pulling out my hair over this. It’s taking me so stinkin’ long. I hate the way it looks. You know we’re delivering images to our clients digitally, but our brand isn’t following along with it, and it’s taking me forever to do, and it doesn’t really come across in a way that looks like we’re this high end brand. It just looks like a here’s your link, have a nice life like peace out type of thing, and it just doesn’t feel like it’s conducive to growing our business. And yet I’m still spending a junk load of time just doing it. And so I was just venting pretty much at dinner, and you know the question was well then, what would you want? Like what would be something, what would be a tool that fulfills all of the needs that you have for, you know, our brand, for our delivery needs, etc? And I said well, here they are. And you know, I pulled out a legal pad the next day and started jotting things down. You know it went from a napkin scribble to a legal pad to lots and lots of notes to full wire frames to then finding a developer and then multiple developers and then, you know, saying hey Erin, do you mind if I, you know, dip into the savings a little bit for us to tackle this? And you know, didn’t know what we were getting into, but it truly started out with a means to, you know, streamline our business a lot more. And here we are, gosh, almost four years alter, and you know with a lot of twists and turns and such, but ultimately stemmed from trying to solve a very, very specific problem in our business related to digital delivery.

Nathan – That makes sense. And just to be, for the sake of context of the conversation because I wanna kind of dive back into that process, but tell our listeners what Cloud Spot, what the brand position of Cloud Spot is.

Gavin – Absolutely. Cloud Spot was built to be the fastest, most customizable way for photographers to deliver, share and sell their photos. And really it’s kind of like the kiss Dropbox goodbye type of thing to where Cloud Spot is completely invisible to your clients, and it allows the photographer’s brand to shine. And so their logo, their branding is injected in every way, shape, form, as far as the end client is concerned, but it still streamlines the photographer’s ability to deliver images not just to clients, but also to vendors and to market their work out there because I was personally just so trapped in this eh, it just takes me forever to get my images to my images to my clients, or I make them jump through a bunch of hoops to go and request the download link to get something from somewhere else. It just was still looping back and more work for me, and because of that I wasn’t, you know, keeping in mind the long play when it comes to marketing your photo business, which is especially in the wedding world, hooking up your vendors that you work with every single weekend. And so they are at your mercy. They are at all photographers’ mercy to show the fruits of their labor, and I just wasn’t getting it to them because I just straight up didn’t have the time. And clients were higher priority over our vendors, which is a short-sighted view in my point from a marketing perspective, but it just look, it was reality. I didn’t have a chance to do it. So you know, I was spending 80, 90, 100 hours just in digitally delivering to clients every year, and not even my vendors. And with Cloud Spot it allowed me to share images with clients and with vendors, and have the experience be way better, and I was spending less than five hours combined.

Nathan – Wow, that’s a significant value add to your business, and then certainly to those that are now using your service. That’s really, really powerful. I also love the fact that you were so clear and simple in your so-called elevator pitch, if you will. I think kind of traditionally the elevator pitch has been anywhere from like 30 seconds to 60 seconds, but that first section or segment of your explanation of what Cloud Spot is about only took about five seconds. And I think it’s really important, I mean I know I asked you about your brand position for your photography business earlier, and now about Cloud Spot, but I think it’s absolutely vital for photographers in starting a business, again especially in this day and age where there are so many out there, that you have to establish a really, really clear, ideally even a niche brand position that clearly sets you apart from the so-called competition. Otherwise you can just be another photographer. And I’ve told the story before, and I think it’s a very poignant one. As a wedding photographer I would go to wedding vendor networking meetings in the local area, and there might be five, six, seven photographers there that would attend these networking meetings. And it came time for introductions, and we’d go around, introduce ourselves, and the average photographer there would just say hey, I’m so and so photographer or photography, and I shoot weddings, portraits, babies, families, commercials, sports, and they’d go down this long list, but they’d say that I specialize in, and then they’d make that long list. Well, the reality is it’s tough certainly to specialize in a long list of types of photography. Certainly it can be done, but the idea of specialization is ultimately a big part of what helps set you apart. And I just remember, you know, these photographers, they’re communicating or trying to communicate what their business is about to these vendors who are looking kind of tired eyed at them or listening to them as they’re explaining this, and really all they take away from that is oh, there’s just another photographer. And so I think it’s so important to have a, not only a clear but easy to understand brand position, and you did that so well in communicating what your brand position is about at Cloud Spot. It’s really exciting to hear too that it’s saving you so much time, and I know that translates to your users. That’s really, really powerful. That’s what the Photographer’s Edit brand is ultimately about. We’re about saving photographers time because hey, yeah, sometimes we have to throw a lot of extra time into running a photography business. It takes work, but in the end part of the major benefit of running a photography business, being a business owner is at least potentially anyway the freedom, the flexibility, the time that we can have to focus on other things. So any tools that we can utilize that will save us time so it frees us up to focus on certainly doing things that will actually build our business, but then also in the relationships in our lives, the important people in our lives, man, the more of those, we certainly need more of those in our lives, and that’s really, really vital. So exciting to hear what you’re doing with Cloud Spot, but just to kind of take a step back real quick, especially for photographers who are like, you know what? I have this business idea. I’m curious to explore that. What would you, what are two or three things that you would recommend that photographers who have an idea, that they should consider if they’re toying with this idea of going after starting an additional business on top of their photography business? How would you recommend they approach that?

Gavin – Oh gosh, I think you and I both could write a book probably on that now in hindsight, and you know, it’s a couple of things because, you know, thankfully in my situation, and you know, it was a big, big leap, you know, especially in software development, right? It always, I didn’t realize it at the time, but it always takes longer, it always costs more, and there’s always more things kind of hidden under the surface than you can possibly imagine just because it’s the nature of the beast, right?

Nathan – For sure, for sure.

Gavin – And I think that applies to any type of new business that you’re thinking of doing, right? Unless you’ve already done it before, or have somebody who’s done it before who can help you navigate some of the pitfalls of just going into a brand new realm of things. You just gotta be able to cut yourself some slack, but also give yourself some buffer to know that you’re gonna be learning either on your own dime or on somebody else’s or whatever it might be, there’s going to be an additional cost associated in some way with your getting, you know, your feet wet in what you wanna be doing. And for me I had never been the CEO of a company before. I had never known anything about software development. I have really never known anything at all going into what I wanted to do. I just knew that I had a problem, I wanted to solve it, and this is how it looked in my head to bring it to fruition.

Nathan – And you knew what it meant to just kind of dive in. It seems like again we’re continuing with that theme, right?

Gavin – Yeah, exactly. And I think, you know, it’s very important, you know, something that I didn’t do that I wish I had done was take a very analytical and data driven approach towards measuring early milestones in bringing this idea to life.

Nathan – So so true, yeah.

Gavin – And then there were books that I should have read that I read after the fact. There are people that I realized I should have and networks that I should have reached out to and learned from before diving in, but hey look, I was just this, you know, kid, this guy in an office with his wife who had an idea and thought I just had to do it all on my own. So I would say go out there. First of all, do your research, right? Get as much information about what it is that you’re wanting to do for your side hustle or for your new hustle or for whatever it’s going to be, for your new passion or for the next stage of your business. Get as much information as you can because sometimes just diving straight in and doing is a recipe for disaster. And so get as much info as you can. Lay out as much as you possibly can lay out in terms of planning and timing and milestones and goals. And then just do a straight up business analysis of hey look, is the juice worth the squeeze? When it comes down to it, in the early days, in the mid days and in the later days, you know, where is my exit here? What is the end game? And also I think it’s important to say hey, when X-Y-Z red flag pops up, I have to be, you know, to the point where I can say look, this is just not worth it, right? Because a lot of times you can invest a lot of time and passion into something, but you can just hold onto it for the sake of holding onto it, right? But you know, like the writing’s on the wall, it’s not happening, it’s not going to work, it is a money pit, it is, you know, just going to drag you down ultimately, but it’s that pride element that just says look, I’m gonna make this work even if it kills me type of thing. So it’s important to be invested, but also disconnected enough to analyze it from a business perspective of saying look, is this a worthwhile endeavor? Is this an idea that actually fits a need? Or is this, you know, a solution first, and I’ll find the problem later, right?

Nathan – Yeah, so true. And again it brings us back to this, the importance of that kind of big picture view, the long term goals. And you said what is my end game? And I think that’s a great way to sum that up. And so whatever it is that you’re doing in that business or any business that we start and dive into for that matter, if what we’re doing doesn’t ultimately live up to the end game, and certainly there are going to be end games as far as our businesses are concerned. Hopefully we’re actually setting goals and we’re working towards something. But ultimately these are businesses, and so there’s again hopefully a personal end game. And if the business isn’t ultimately serving that personal end game, then that would probably be good indication, certainly not without putting some effort and time into it, but it would be good indication that hey, maybe this wasn’t quite the right fit for what I want in my life, and then you know to get out at that point. But on a more positive note, that also helps then drive what you’re doing in the business, and I think that’s really, really important. It can’t be emphasized enough because I see way too many photographers just again running haphazardly. And I’ve been guilty of it myself. Running a business haphazardly, just a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and you know trying to make a little bit of money without having a clear set of goals that are driving what they do, and that just makes all the difference in the world. And then the other thing that you mentioned that I think is extremely poignant as well is the importance of data, numbers you know. I can certainly speak, if anybody were to ask me as a photography business owner what I would have corrected if I had it to do over again, it would certainly have been to have been more proactive in the way that I managed my numbers, the finances. And that certainly hurt me, the fact that I didn’t do that. I should have gotten, begun working with a bookkeeper and an accountant to begin with. And not just for the sake of paying taxes, but to also look at the numbers intelligently, to make intelligent business decisions based on those numbers. And of course that then translates to a kind of a bigger, a larger scale business like Cloud Spot or something like Photographer’s Edit where we’re working with so many different people, so many different photographers, and we’re trying to gauge how to best build the business, and certainly in the more immediate future how to best serve our clients, and data is the answer. I’ve had some hard reminders. Or I should say I have learned the hard way the significance of that. And fortunately I have a really great business partner with Photographer’s Edit who has continued to kind of shine the light on that very fact and remind me because I tend to be kind of big picture and lofty goals and dreams, and let’s shoot for this thing and that thing. But he’ll bring it back to hey, what do the numbers say? And it’s been such a great reminder, and I still feel like I’m such a rookie in business, even after all this time, but it’s been a great reminder, and I think that’s a great reminder for our listeners to pay attention to the data. Even if you’re a sole proprietor, you’re running a photography business, shooting 15, 20, maybe even 30 weddings a year and a few portrait sessions here and there, you can act on data. And that can start with the finances. You can make intelligent decisions based on where the numbers lie. And if you simply make the effort, take the time to call up an accountant, set up a QuickBooks online account and start plugging those numbers in regularly and consistenly, again not only will you paying taxes and dealing with that aspect of the business be so much easier and simpler, but now you can actually look at the numbers and make intelligent decisions about whether or not to continue this element of your business, or whether or not to buy this piece of equipment, or really any element of your business can be driven by those numbers, by the data. Yeah, we’re artists. Yeah, it’s gonna be driven at some time, at some point in time by kind of our gut or intuition, but at the end of the day we are business owners. We need to act like that, and it’s driven by data. So that’s a really, really great reminder for our listeners. And I think a great way to kind of close our conversation here, I’m really stoked about this. This has been fun. It’s been great to get to know you on a personal level. I hate that we didn’t get to actually do it in person, but I know we’ll get a chance to do that here in the near future. It’s been exciting to learn about your photography business and to dive into as you say kind of a polarizing conversation about JPEG versus RAW. I love going there. I’m gonna do more polarizing conversations. And then to learn about Cloud Spot as well. And guys, anything that you can do to take advantage of a tool like Cloud Spot that is going to save you time, that keeps things simpler, you’ve gotta take advantage of it. We are business owners. We’re artists, yes, but in the end the reason that we got into, I hope that the reason that you got into business, or one of the main reasons that you got into business was to have time. You know, we can argue about philosophy and religion and world view and politics and all these other things all day long. We’re gonna have differences in those, but at the end of the day what we have is relationships. And if for some reason you’re running your business in a way that is keeping you from having the time to focus on those important relationships in your life, you’re just, you’re missing out, and that’s just objective truth. And so I love that you created a tool that enables photographers to have more time, Gavin, and I really appreciate you sharing that with us. Whereabouts can our listeners find you guys online? Your company’s websites, your social media accounts, where can they look for you?

Gavin – Absolutely. Our photography website is @gavinwadephoto on Instagram to follow us and stalk us around there. And then Cloud Spot is And if anyone wants to kind of see hey, this is how much time I really can save, you’re able to schedule an appointment, and you can just chat either with myself or someone on the team, and we can show you exactly all of the cool ways where you can save time and get more of that back on a daily, weekly, yearly basis to spend time building relationships and not just being stuck behind your computer.

Nathan – Awesome. Gavin, this has been great. I can’t thank you enough. Thanks for making time. Hello to Erin and your beautiful daughter, Lexy, and hope you have an absolutely wonderful day.

Gavin – The pleasure is all mine, Nathan. Good to connect with you and get to know one another better, and I look forward to the next chance.

Nathan – Thanks so much for listening to the Bokeh Podcast. If you’d like to hear a particular photographer or entrepreneur in a future episode, don’t hesitate to email me, The Bokeh Podcast is brought to you by Photographer’s Edit, custom post-production for the wedding and portrait photographer.

Bokeh Podcast Episode #35: The Most Important Relationship In A Wedding Photography Business – Morgan Holland

Relationship - Morgan Holland

Morgan Holland has a bubbly, energetic personality paired with a sense for business that you can’t help but love and admire! She’s been an event planner in Chattanooga, TN for over 10 years, and the owner of Soirees for almost as long. In this endearing episode of the Bokeh podcast, Morgan shares how to best approach what is the most important business relationship a wedding photographer can develop, their relationship with wedding planners. You’ll love Morgan’s stories of not only some of the horrors of working with wedding photographers, but also about some of her best experiences, and bonus: you’ll learn what made the difference!

Wedding Photographer Business Survival Guide:

  1. Outsource things that get in the way of running your business!
  2. Create a contrast between proactive and reactive tasks.
  3. Build relationships with affiliate business professionals.
  4. Referrals – they work both ways.
  5. How to get “in” on a personal level.
  6. Be willing to do give business materials.
  7. Act like the PRO you are.

What NOT to do:

  1. Don’t be a diva.
  2. You selfied who?!
  3. I can’t believe you wore that.

Gain an in-depth perspective on why Morgan is so good at what she does, and how you can be that rock star you know you can be. Hosted by Nathan Holritz of Photographer’s Edit, the Bokeh podcast is one of our best yet!

Find out more about the 10 tips above by downloading the podcast from iTunes or on your phone.

Podcast:  Bokeh: The Business of Photography by Nathan Holritz
Episode 35: The Most Important Relationship In A Wedding Photography Business

Instagram: @soireeseventplanning

Read the transcript and show notes

Show Notes:

Introduction to Morgan Holland [00:31]
Outsource things that get in the way of running your business! [06:13]
Create a contrast between proactive and reactive tasks. [08:40]
Build relationships with affiliate business professionals. [12:56]
Referrals – they work both ways. [18:17]
How to get “in” on a personal level. [19:44]
Be willing to do give business materials. [26:56]
Don’t be a diva. [28:43]
Act like the PRO you are. [29:58]
You selfied who?! [30:12]
I can’t believe you wore that. [31:28]
Where to learn more [38:41]

Instagram: @soireeseventplanning

Podcast Transcript: 

Nathan – Welcome to Bokeh, a podcast exploring the ever-blurring lines between the personal and business lives of professional photographers. This is your host, Nathan Holritz, and I’m excited to have you join me in connecting with photographers and entrepreneurs in the photography industry as we dive into real conversation about photography, business, and that sometimes messy thing we call life. This podcast is brought to you by Photographer’s Edit, custom post-production for the wedding and portrait photographer. Visit And now, let’s dive into conversation. Alright, we’re live. I’m sitting here with my friend, long-time friend actually, Morgan Holland, how long have we known each other? Has it been like 10 years?

Morgan – It’s been almost 10 years.

Nathan – Maybe even more than that?

Morgan – Yeah.

Nathan – Okay. So Morgan is actually the first person to come on the Bokeh podcast who is not a photographer, not technically from the photography industry, and I’m really excited about it, I wanted to do something different. Morgan actually owns Soirees, which is a local event-planning service and that’s putting it lightly, I think they’re the best in town and I actually had the opportunity as a wedding photographer to work directly with them, we’ll talk about that here in just a little bit, but I wanted to let Morgan share her perspective about what it means to work, for a photographer, what it means to work with an event planner and how the photographer should best approach that relationship because we found a lot of value from that relationship when I was involved in wedding photography, but I want the honest opinion directly from your mouth about how photographers should best approach that relationship, so we’re gonna get to that place, but first of all, let’s talk a little bit about you, where are you from? We’re actually in Chattanooga right now, are you from Chattanooga originally?

Morgan – I was raised in Chattanooga, so born in Knoxville, raised in Chattanooga, so not too far off the map.

Nathan – Okay.

Morgan – Went to college back in Knoxville at UTK, so my blood runs orange.

Nathan – Yes, go Tennessee.

Morgan – But actually decided right after I was finishing up my senior year in college that nothing was holding back and I’d always wanted to be in L.A. so I took off for a year and lived out in L.A.

Nathan – What did you do out there?

Morgan – So it was so crazy, ’cause I went out there with the idea of like, I wanted to get into casting, it always interested me over my college career, I’d gone back and forth to L.A. and done a bunch of intensives with different casting directors and so I just knew that that’s what I wanted to do. Well I went out there and L.A.’s just a hard place to live, it’s just different.

Nathan – There’s a a little bit of competition, too.

Morgan – There is, yeah, it’s not something that a bright-eyed southern 21-year-old is gonna just dive right into.

Nathan – Right.

Morgan – So ended up, after four months of just playing around and having some fun, thinking I should probably get a job. So ended up working at a five-star five-diamond hotel in Beverly Hills which, just luck of the draw, they needed a southern girl to work the front desk to play all of those roles that they have.

Nathan – Did you mean any celebrities while you were there?

Morgan – All of them.

Nathan – All of them, really?

Morgan – Everybody humanly possible, so I was out there in like 2004, 2005, which is when all the HBO shows were getting big, so Sex and the City and Sopranos and all of that, so I know too much dirt on a lot of rappers.

Nathan – We could have a whole podcast just dedicated to that.

Morgan – Exactly, if you wanna veer off that way. So yeah, I know all kinds of dirt.

Nathan – That’s awesome.

Morgan – It was amazing, but I also got to see really fun event sides of that so I majored in public relations and communications so I knew that I wanted to do some sort of event type stuff but could never see myself sitting behind a desk and writing press releases my entire life, so out in L.A., just had a little bit of fun and then eventually decided, probably can’t raise the family here, so if I’m gonna meet someone, I should probably go back to the south. So I ended up back here in Chattanooga, just kinda seeing what was going on.

Nathan – And what year was that when you came back?

Morgan – That would have been 2006, so I was out there for about a year and a half, so 2006, came back and was like, “Okay, what am I gonna do now?” So I just started looking at local event planning jobs that were available and happened to stumble upon Soirees, it had been in business for maybe six months at that point. Met the owner at a Starbucks, she didn’t even have an office location yet, she was like, “You’re hired!” and I was like, “Oh, okay cool!”

Nathan – And I can see, this is Taylor that we’re talking about.

Morgan – Yeah.

Nathan – And I worked with Taylor directly for quite a long time but I can totally see her doing that, “You’re hired.”

Morgan – You’re hired, like awesome, come on, we’ll see you on Monday, kinda thing. And so, started out just working events and part-time with them and after her career and her husband’s career started to kinda take off at that point, she decided that Soirees was something that she couldn’t keep on the side, so she offered me the opportunity to purchase the company. So by the time I purchased the company, I’d only been with them for a year and a half.

Nathan – That’s amazing.

Morgan – I was 24 years old. I was 24 years old when I purchased the company from her and it was just so interesting because I was like, “Okay, I think I have a really great grasp “on event planning and things like that,” I had done numerous events at that point in time and led many of them, but then all of a sudden, I was like, “Oh, do I have to pay, these are taxes.” What do I do with that, what’s a property tax?

Nathan – So true, yes.

Morgan – I don’t own property, I don’t understand.

Nathan – This is the very thing that photographers run into too. I mean, I didn’t get into photography thinking about being a business owner.

Morgan – No.

Nathan – I just thought, “Hey, this is some really cool, “expensive camera equipment that I get to buy “and I get to go take some pictures with it.”

Morgan – Really good at that part, but.

Nathan – Gotta pay those taxes.

Morgan – Exactly.

Nathan – And we actually, there have been photographers that have gone too, and I think the school is closing down now but quite a well-known photography school that was based in Santa Barbara. They’d spend $100,000 or more to get a degree in photography and they might come out an okay photographer but they didn’t have a clue about running a business. It’s a really tough reality that business owners have to face.

Morgan – It is, and I think in the wedding industry especially back in that day, it was just now evolving so people didn’t realize what you were buying or selling or how to get into that business side of things so I think it’s really evolved over the years, but yeah, that was kind of a shocker for me at 24 years old. Being like, what?

Nathan – So how did you learn it, was it just googling, were you reading?

Morgan – It was one of those things where I immediately, I’m not good with numbers, I tell people all the time I can’t add on a calculator, so I immediately just deferred everything to my accountant and was like, I told her, I sat her down and was like, “Look, you’re gonna have to talk to me “like I’m a kindergartener and I will not get offended, “tell me what I need to pay and when I need to pay it “and we’re gonna have the best relationship “if you’ll just tell me what to do.” So I really relied on others in terms of just telling me what I needed to do for a long time, and that was people in the advertising agency, tell me how often I need to run an ad or if I even need to be in this publication or if I don’t, help me out, help me with determining my target markets. I know whose weddings I want to do and whose events I want to do, but I’m not really sure how to reach those people so deferring to other professionals and other small businesses was huge for me.

Nathan – And by the way, for all those listening in, I did not set Morgan up for this conversation to promote the idea of delegating or outsourcing but of course, as the owner of an editing company, Photographer’s Edit, we encourage photographers to do just that, but it’s not just about outsourcing or delegating editing, it’s anything that is getting in the way of you being able to focus running your business and certainly those things that you’re not that great at or that you don’t know much about, it’s absolutely vital to be an effective, it’s not, when you’re running a business, you aren’t, it’s easy, especially as a photographer to just think about being a photographer and it’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae, the day to day running a business, but you have to be a manager to be an effective business owner, to oversee things and so this idea of delegating or outsourcing work to other professionals who, this is what they do, this is what they’re good at, they can educate you, you have to go that direction or likely your business at least is not gonna be as successful as it could be.

Morgan – Absolutely, and even bringing it to this day and age with the social media aspect of everything, that’s another thing that I’m just not good at. The girls that are graduating from college right now had classes specifically designed around these social media topics and how to navigate all of those correctly and when I came out of college, that was not a thing, I was still writing paper press releases and having to walk them over to people and be like, “Here, I’d like for you to publish this.” And so now everything’s just so much more fast-paced and it’s awesome to be able to bring them in and rely on them for those portions because if I spent all day paying taxes and posting on social media and doing all these sort of things, I would never have time to plan events or to meet with my clientele.

Nathan – Which is ultimately about growing your business, and I talk about this with photographers creating a contrast between tasks or activities that are proactive in nature, those things that are actually gonna grow the business moving forward and those tasks that, sure, they have to happen but aren’t really tied to increasing your bottom line and kind of reactive in nature, so again, delegating that work to people to focus so that you can focus on the proactive stuff, absolutely vital. That’s really great, wow. So that’s a cool story, so this was 2007.

Morgan – Yes.

 Nathan – And here we are 10 years later.

Morgan– I know!

 Nathan – And you just moved into this new space, we’re sitting in a new space that is absolutely beautiful.

Morgan – Yes.

 Nathan – And you’re overseeing weddings as well as other events, correct?

Morgan – Correct. So I would say our bread and butter, 90% of what we do is weddings, which is hilarious for me personally just because, again, sitting in those college courses, all these girls sitting around the table being like, “I wanna be a wedding planner.” And I’m like, “Ew, who would ever want to do that?” My first job when I was 16 years old was actually working at a wedding gown store, so I was selling formal wear and wedding gowns and things like that and I would just see the dynamics of mothers and brides and the bridal party and just all of that stuff that happens, all the stress and all the emotion and I was like, “Oh my gosh, I don’t ever want to be a part of this. “This is not something I could ever “see me doing in the future.” Fast forward.

Nathan – And here you are.

Morgan – Fast forward 15 years.

Nathan – Little bit of irony there.

Morgan – Yeah, so it’s just really interesting. So weddings are a lot of what we do but we also have a handle of non-profits that we work with and are very passionate about, a handful of corporate clients that we have continually, year after year, which are so fun, lots of private parties, birthday parties, baby showers, all that fun stuff, and all of those, just because we get to go outside the box and come up with fun themes and all of that stuff, so those are different and I love to use a creative outlet there, but yeah, weddings, we’re in it, we’re all about it.

Nathan – But here, again, 10 years later, congrats to you for making it this far.

Morgan – Isn’t that strange? I think about that all the time ’cause even when I started on this, I was like, “I can’t see myself doing this “in 10 years, I can’t see it being relevant in 10 years,” I guess is what I thought maybe. But it’s just over the years, the industry has changed so much and the way that I describe it to most people is that before it was a luxury item and through the evolution of TV shows about finding the dress and creating these amazing receptions and all of this stuff revolving around weddings, it’s become more of a necessity now, so instead of it being this luxury item of like, “Oh I have a really huge budget, I of course need “a wedding planner because that’s part of the package” kind of deal, it’s more of everybody needs one and is seeing more of the need for the actual planning and the logistics part of it because they do wanna enjoy their day so yeah, so the market has just grown for us in general, so it’s the first time that there’s ever been multiple in Chattanooga, there used to be one or two, and now there’s probably 10, there’s probably 20 that just keep popping up, who knows, everybody that plans their own wedding decides that it’s the best thing ever.

Nathan – It’s their thing to do.

Morgan – Yeah, they’re like, “I had a great time planning “my wedding, I’m gonna plan other people’s.”

Nathan – Now speaking of, you’re engaged.

Morgan – I am.

Nathan – Congratulations to you.

Morgan – Thank you so much.

Nathan – So how does that work for a wedding planner, an event planner, engaged, are you doing your own work or are you delegating that elsewhere?

Morgan – So we are delegating that elsewhere. The great thing about that is we decided, just because we have so many friends in the industry and so many choices here in Chattanooga, we’re running away, so we’re going to Mexico to an all-inclusive, and we are just, we’re taking some of our closest friends with us, it’s gonna be an amazing time for us to just all relax and enjoy. A lot of the people that are going are wedding professionals which is amazing too, ’cause it was one of the things we decided, if we were gonna stay in town, then obviously we would want our friends involved and our friends are gonna end up having to work on our day instead of enjoying it with us, and so we were like, “Let’s just take the question mark out of all of that, “and let’s just go, let’s just go somewhere.” So yeah, so we’re going to Mexico in July.

Nathan – Oh man, I love it.

Morgan – Taking our friends with us.

Nathan – That’s cool, congratulations to you.

Morgan – Thank you, we’re so excited.

Nathan – So this is, I mentioned earlier that this is kind of a different format for us because we’re actually bringing you in, not a photographer, somebody from kinda outside of the industry, if you will, but I’m really excited to get your perspective on this idea of developing a relationship with an event planner, a wedding planner. And I’ve told this story so many times before but we had the opportunity to work with Soirees years ago, I did as a wedding photographer who was hosting meetings with potential clients, we’d have a client come over, we’d sit down, show them albums, engagement session images, talk about the whole process, how much it cost, et cetera, but we developed such a relationship with Soirees, Taylor and yourself at the time, that Taylor would literally come over and sit down in our office and I would just sit on the couch quietly, she’d bring a client over, the client sitting there across from me, they’re looking at albums, Taylor’s sitting on the couch next to me and I’m sitting here, and literally, I’d just sit and I’d listen and we had such a cool relationship that Taylor would literally do the selling for us, she’d just go on and on and on about how great it was to work with Holritz Photography and the client’s looking through the images and listening in and I really didn’t have to do the work. And that’s kind of the ideal scenario, but I’m really curious to get your take, your perspective, having now been in business for quite some time, about what it takes for, or what you would hope, for in a relationship with a photographer, the photographer is saying, “Hey, I want to develop “a relationship with an event planner “because I know this is ultimately a really important “component of me growing my business.” How should they best approach that relationship with you?

Morgan – Right, so there’s so many different ways to initiate that relationship. A lot of people, again, it’s the same in all the different facets of the industry, but people are getting nice equipment and thinking, “Oh I’m just gonna “dive right into this,” so we have a lot of people cold call us and just say, “Hey, I shoot weddings, “can I send you my pricing and you can “recommend me to your clients?” Well no, that’s not exactly how we work. We have extremely close relationships with the majority of vendors that we use. And the reason that we do that is because we can honestly trust people, I tell people, with our packages specifically and the way that we work, we don’t take any of our kickback fees, referral fees, anything like that, so our clients know that if we’re recommending someone, it’s because we’ve worked with them, we understand how they work.

Nathan – It’s a genuine relationship.

Morgan – It is, it is, and we can tell them the ups and downs of what we’ve experienced and even give them referrals from other clients that have used them as well. Being in our clientele and using these same people, it’s a very honest relationship, it’s very open. So that’s one of the things where I feel like we do need to get to know each other, but also it’s one of those where I need to see you in action because everybody can put their 10 best pictures on a website, everybody can hand me a piece of paper that has pricing that’s comparable to other industry standards.

Nathan – Or even look like a nice person for five minutes, right?

Morgan – Absolutely, absolutely, but if I don’t see you on an actual eight- to 10-hour, sometimes 12-hour wedding day, and see how we’re interacting and how we’re jiving and how you’re working with my clients and things like that, then it’s very difficult for me to just recommend someone off the bat. So a lot of times what it is, is coming in and it’s being willing to spend a little time and sometimes money by developing that relationship, so whether it’s a stout shoot that you guys wanna get together on or whether it’s sitting down and just being like, “Okay, hey, I have a wedding, “if you are available, if you’d like to come “and just kind of see me in action,” that would be fantastic, we’re so open to do that because we’re always looking to grow our recommendation base so it’s interesting to me that so many people will just shoot me a website link and say, “Hey I do weddings,” because I feel like photography in general is way more of a personal relationship, it’s the closest vendor that you’re gonna have other than your event planner because you spend so much time with them and you have to be, it’s a really intimate relationship, which is strange to say.

Nathan – No that’s so true, absolutely. I can remember interacting with some of the clients that we had, I mean, you’re spending as much as 12, 14 hours a day with these people and on certainly one of the most important and intimate days of their lives, they’re letting you in and ideally you have that relationship where you’re almost, they would treat us like family. And it was just a really incredible experience, even looking back in hindsight, I’m not shooting anymore but I shot for about 10 years and I consider what an opportunity it was to be let in the way that I was, so absolutely, that personal relationship, not only with the client is important, but then the relationship with the event planner because I remember how closely I worked with you guys on that day and you almost kind of have to, to the extent that you almost learn to read each other, looking for each other across the room, you’re looking for that head nod, that, “Hey we’re getting to start cutting the cake,” or whatever it might be, but that close relationship is really important.

Morgan – Yeah, and it’s important for photographers too to encourage their clients to outsource the event planning because as a photographer, you know, if there’s not an event planner, then it’s you that it falls on, you eventually become the event planner, telling people what to do, when to do it, and you’re not being able to focus on your craft at that point, which is so difficult.

Nathan – I’m hearing a theme through this whole conversation, the importance of delegation, right?

Morgan – It’s crazy, I mean, that’s just, again, in this industry, as it’s evolving, a lot of people are trying to come up and do this one-stop shop kinda deal where they’re trying to have everything in house so you’re gonna walk into a space and they’re gonna provide you with all of these people that are ideally cut from the same cloth, and I’m just really different, I have a different take on it where I think that each piece should be very individual so that that person is focusing on exactly what they’re best at and are able to bring their best quality work instead of the event planner also trying to do your makeup, that’s not something that you can do well at both. And so same thing for the photographer, I don’t think that they can do their job well if they’re running to this side of the room and having to corral the bridal party over here but then also having to run to the other side of the room, find the mother of the bride and then queue the deejay to announce the cake cutting, it just doesn’t work out, we need you there for the organic moments and for those special in-betweens that aren’t those posed shots of, okay, they cut the cake, that’s great, you got that, but did you get all the stuff before and after when you were running back and forth. So it’s huge for us to be able to have that relationship because that’s what we ultimately want from our photographers on the day of, when I need you, I want to know where you are, I want to be able to come over to you, tell you exactly what’s gonna happen, and you’re just doing your job, you’re not doing anybody else’s job, so it’s so nice to be able to have that relationship with someone.

Nathan – How would you say the photographer should approach developing that relationship in the first place because like you said, just sending a website, that’s not gonna do the trick, how would they begin that process with you?

Morgan – Absolutely.

Nathan – And to be clear, I know you talked about the idea of inviting you, for example, to a wedding, to come see, but I’m thinking more on a personal level. One of the things that I’ll recommend to photographers is hey, you know what, first of all, start with just inviting them to coffee or to lunch and have a real conversation with them. Be upfront with them about the fact that you’re in this to do business together, I hate fake relationships and so if there is that honesty and transparency upfront, it seems like it would be really important.

Morgan – It is, and that’s exactly how I explained it to my clients as well, you can look at their websites, you can look at their pricing, everything could be comparable at that point in time, but what I’ll do is I’ll have them narrow down that 10 that’s all comparable to two or three that they wanna meet in person and I sit them down over coffee or here in my conference room and I want them to meet in person, I tell them all, we’ve already looked at all the details, you already know the specifics, this is not a business conversation. This is you guys getting to know each other. I was like, they’re gonna ask you weird questions about how he proposed and things that might make you feel uncomfortable because you don’t necessarily think that you would be talking about that with a vendor for a wedding, but that is so important that they understand how the two of you all operate in relation to how they’re gonna photograph you. And every single time, it happens just as I say it will, they know who they click with immediately and that becomes their wedding photographer. So yeah, those personal relationships are very, very important to us, but in terms of meeting with us as an event planning company, I think sitting down, going to coffee, explaining to us about how they work on the day of but then also being willing to hear how we work as well is very very important.

Nathan – You have to kind of set ego aside.

Morgan – You do.

Nathan – I’m amazed sometimes at some of the things I read from photographers, there is such an ego where they kinda expect the world to revolve around them, the photographer, on the day of the wedding, and that’s just not what we’re there for.

Morgan – It’s so hard for event planners and myself and even other vendors to deal with that kind of personality because ultimately, that person is not there to benefit the greater good because I feel like with a strong wedding team, all the vendors are working together to make sure everything is flawless and when you have that one person that’s setting themselves aside instead of being available and being open to doing this, that, or the other, they are demanding their vendor meal and they wanna go and they wanna sit at a reserved seat for them with the bridal party, so there are so many things that I feel like the flexibility of it needs to come into play, so let’s talk about how you do business, but let’s talk about how I do business and how can we make this work together? And so a lot of times when people do sit down and hear how we operate and how we like for that personal relationship to be above anything else, above the logistics and the timelines and all of that, they really start to think about it and be like, “Oh, that actually could work for us.” So it’s fun to kinda see that evolve as well.

Nathan – You’re educating them.

Morgan – Yeah it’s kinda fun to see, especially when they’re new to the industry, they just don’t know and it goes from A to Z and so they can be the ones that are too concerned about the logistics and the payments and only this many hours for certain things and then it can go to the polar opposite of them just being too creative and all over the place and you can’t reign them in, so I think that understanding of being able to work off of a timeline and having a certain set amount of time for certain creative aspects is very important. But yeah, so sitting down and being able to chat through all those details beforehand, lets me know a ton about how you operate on the day of, what client that I could place with you, because that’s another thing, I’m not gonna sit there, say Holritz Photography, I’m not gonna bring all 40 of my wedding clients every year to Holritz Photography. Just not all of them are going to be in that, whether it’s a budget situation, whether it’s a style situation, whether it’s just a personality situation. So it’s really important for me to know a lot about my client before I’m able to even recommend the photographer.

Nathan – And I’m client you mentioned something about the budget too because one of the big value ads in our relationship with Soirees was the fact that we went from shooting weddings, we started, I think, well the first wedding I shot was like 250 or 350 bucks, but the first time we started putting price lists together, I think the base wedding package was like six or 800 bucks and it went from that to literally $10,000 for a wedding and you can’t, as you’re increasing your prices, the idea of getting referrals from this past client that you shot a wedding for $1500 for when your prices are now $3000, it just doesn’t work because more than likely, their friends are in the same income bracket, so working with a wedding coordinator who can refer you, just like you said, to the appropriate budget, makes so much sense and that was where we found a big part of the value in the relationship that we had with Soirees.

Morgan – Yeah, it’s fantastic though because your clients in general don’t understand necessarily what photographers do and especially in relation to an actual event day, so they’re gonna come in and they’re either gonna be, one of a few things, budget-minded, so they’re gonna come in and they’re gonna look at your price sheet and they’re gonna say, I can afford package A, B, or C, which unfortunately is not always what’s gonna be best for them, but it’s what they can afford, so that’s what they’re gonna focus on. Or it’s gonna be the idealistic one that’s like, “I want all of these things, I have to have all of them,” but here’s how much money I have to work within. And so you have to figure out how customize that package and make that work for them, so I think that that is a huge thing, where the budget comes into play, is figuring out where they come into play in terms of the income bracket, but also what we need to create for that specific person because there’s plenty of people that you could sit down and sell an album too that is never gonna open it up or that you’re giving your digital files to that’s never gonna print them. So being able to know what and how flexible our photographers are and being able to have that conversation candidly with our clients is very important. I tell all of our photography vendors that it’s something where, I get that you have it all printed out, but if I can come to you, if you’re willing for me to be able to come to you and say, “Okay look, I have this client that I think is going to be “the best style match for you, you guys are gonna get along “so well, you’re gonna gain a best friend out of this, “you’re welcome, but also they only have x amount of dollars “and this is what I need to happen for our timeline,” so can I have an extra hour, can you gift me an engagement shoot, help me out here because it’s gonna be beneficial for you in the long run but maybe they’re just not reaching that income bracket. And so by having those really cool personal relationships that I can come to a client candidly and then come back to a vendor candidly and say, “Okay, work with me here, how do we do this?” It is a huge benefit to everyone, I think. So that’s definitely something to take into consideration.

Nathan – You’re talking about bringing a significant amount of value to the photographer and one of the things that I’ve talked about with photographers is the importance of, in developing a relationship with a wedding coordinator or wedding planner, to figure out ways to add value to that relationship, how can photographers best do that from your perspective?

Morgan – In terms of adding value to our relationship, it’s again being willing to do those things that also highlight our business, so as we’re sitting at the conference table right here, you see all these books piled up, I know that it costs money to create those books, these beautiful canvases on the wall, I know that there is time and effort and money that goes into those, but by being willing to do that, it only helps me be able to sell you even better because even if a client comes in and isn’t even thinking about photography yet because their first stop was the venue and the next stop, the event planner, but they’re sitting there and they’re looking through all these books that we’re talking about, “Oh, this wedding happened here at the venue “you’re interested in, and this so happened to be “photographed by so and so,” and they’re like, “Oh, I love the look of that,” it’s the easiest sell in the entire world, so I turn around, I have pricing already printed out and I say, “We can talk about this, “but it can be flexible with your budget “once we kind of dive into that.” So I think the product side of things and the availability of being able to step outside the box and do fun things like styled shoots with us, again, those things, they do, they cost time and money and resources and we recognize that, but that’s what helps us as a vendor be able to promote you even further. So being willing to do that I think is a huge portion that photographers don’t necessarily, there’s a lot that get it, but there’s a lot that don’t get it.

Nathan – Which I think is a brilliant segue, actually, what are some of the craziest things that you’ve seen from photographers at events, just name one or two things that come to mind, of course we’re not gonna name names but.

Morgan – We will remain nameless. So some of the things, unfortunately, that I have seen, again, I mention the vendor meals which I always think is hilarious, I get that you have to eat, I’m on site probably for at least, whatever your hours are, add five to mine and I tell my staff, bring snacks, you’re not eating all day. You can come in the morning and you can bring your breakfast, you can go to late-night Crystals at two a.m., but you’re not eating all day unless you bring your own snacks because we’re on the go the entire time so I understand that vendors have to eat, I totally get that part, but when you’re standing there, when I’m in the middle of coordinating something or if I’m loading gifts in, taking them out to the car and you’re demanding, “Where is my vendor meal?” Or if I know that the caterer is going to bite your head off if you walk into the kitchen at that point in time when she’s plating up a meal for 350, if I tell you just to hold on a second, don’t pull the diva move on me and just be like, “I demand to eat, it’s in my contract and I have to eat!” That’s happened more often, I have a power bar in my bag, I will bring it to you if you just wait.

Nathan – Be practical, you’re doing a job.

Morgan – Exactly, exactly, so there’s been some diva moments. Other moments have included things like using your personal cameras, iPhones, things like that, to take pictures of your own self.

Nathan – Interesting.

Morgan– I’m not a huge of fan of, hey I’m gonna take a selfie of me in the middle of the dance floor or a video of me on the dance floor, dancing with the guests.

Nathan – So tell me your perspective on this because I think this has become kind of a popular thing to do, at least based on what I’ve seen online.

Morgan – Yeah, it’s different when there’s that personal relationship of like, “Oh we’re gonna step aside “and we’re gonna take a picture to document, “hey I was your wedding photographer, this was so fun, “I love to take selfies,” those are awesome. But when you are physically in the middle of the dance floor, not photographing anybody else on the dance floor but you’re dancing along with the guests or you’re at the bar grabbing a drink, for whatever reason, that just crawls all over me, I just think it has an air of unprofessionalism, I think that it’s taking you, especially for drinking, it’s taking you out of the game, you’re just not as aware of what’s going on around you, so if you’re in the middle of the dance floor, enjoying the party, or if you’re at the bar, enjoying the party, I just don’t think that you are doing the professional job that you were hired for, so I’ve seen a lot of that and it’s unfortunate that it has to go that way and those are the people that I can’t recommend, I can’t trust my clients to them because at what point does that line get drawn.

Nathan – And again, it’s making it about them versus the client focusing on their job there are the photographer.

Morgan – Right, that’s huge for me, attire is another thing.

Nathan – Okay, yeah, talk about that.

Morgan – My girls and I, we’ve always just worn standard black, a lot of the professional photographers I know where standard black, again, it’s a nice outfit, I get that you have to move and bend just like we do, I can’t tell you how many times I’m in a dress but I’m still on my hands and knees underneath somebody’s dress, fixing something, so it happens. But I just think that you’re more neutral colors, you’re blacks, fade into the background, plan on fading into the background. But when you have brightly-colored hair or when you are wearing some ridiculously bright red shirt, to come and photograph somebody’s day, I just think that that really distracts from what’s going on, I think as vendors in general, we should all fade into the background because ultimately, I want my clients to be able to take credit for what happened, I want the mother of the bride to be like, “Oh, thank you so much for complimenting me “on my daughter’s wedding day,” I don’t want it to have to defer to me that it was my event or anything like that.

Nathan – Interesting, I love that.

Morgan – But yeah, so I think that’s really important for photographers to take that into consideration too, ’cause it goes a lot with that professional appearance, I came prepared for the day, it’s not about me, I’m here to service you and let’s do this together. So yeah, I think that’s huge, but I’ve seen a lot of different outfits.

Nathan – I can only imagine. Okay, so let’s kinda flip that and go to the opposite extreme, what are some of the things that you get really excited about, that you see from photographers, that you’re like, “Oh man, we’re tracking together, “this is good,” talk about some of those things.

Morgan – The timeline portion of things is huge for me. So, and that begins even in the pre-planning stages, that’s not even just on the day of, it’s all leading up to it, so a photographer that’s willing to sit down and be flexible with us in creating that timeline is so important because again, your client, if you don’t have an event planner, your client doesn’t necessarily understand how many minutes need to go into a posed family shoot or how many minutes need to go into your bridal party shot and they’re willing to tell you things that might be untruths, “My family’s not that big, “it’s not that big of a deal, we’ll just knock out “maybe 15 minutes for that,” so you as a photographer are going in and thinking, “Okay, so we’ve got 15 minutes “scheduled for posed photography, post-ceremony,” and all of a sudden you see these people crawling out of the woodworks for these giant family pictures, you’re like, okay, 45 minutes later. So I think coming together and making that realistic timeline beforehand and that even goes into your posed shot list which I place so much value on and it wasn’t until probably four or five years ago that I really sat down with some of my local photographers and was like, “Talk to me about this posed shot list, “because a lot of you include it in your information “on the front end that you want them to,” but they don’t really know how to create these posed shot list and they’re getting online and then they’re sending you really irrelevant pieces of material that say things like, “Dress draped over back of chair.” “Bride gazing at groom.” It’s totally irrelevant, they’re gonna get those pictures, it’s like wedding rings, we’re gonna get a picture of your wedding rings, not a problem, but your photographer might not know that your grandmother’s wedding gown lace is embroidered on the inside of your dress or that you have a special piece of something hanging from your bouquet or your groom’s gonna give you a gift of some sort, these are the things that we need to talk about. Also, they don’t know who your Aunt Susan is, so I need to know if Aunt Susan is really important to you, I need to know that she needs to be in a photograph and at what time, pre-ceremony, post-ceremony, how close is she to you? So it was awesome when photographers sat down and explained to me how much time was allotted for things, what was ideal, and then also how to really create and help them create that posed shot list, so I would encourage photographers as well, your client has no idea, they’re just so, “Oh no, we’re gonna hurry to the reception, “we wanna get to the party, my family’s small.” Is it really small, because you’re the one that needs to determine whether it’s large or small for you. Do you have one shooter, do you have three shooters, because that helps you determine that timeline as well. So a photographer that’s gonna come in, be willing to have those conversations with me on the front end and then ultimately sit down with the client and say, “This is what’s realistic.” It is gonna take us 30 minutes to get through all of your bridal party because you want this, that, and the other, or you guys aren’t gonna see each other so it is gonna take this amount of time. And then alternately, on the day of, just letting us kind of corral people and bringing people in is so helpful because it’s a team effort.

Nathan – It’s so helpful to us too, makes it so much easier.

Morgan – Such a team effort at that point in time, so letting us even hold that posed photography shot list and start calling out the names, Johnson family, up here, Smith family, up here, it just makes it go so much smoother on the day of, so I think a lot of those are pre-planning conversations and so remembering to have those and being willing to be flexible on those, we have so many photographers that are like, “Oh no, I’ll just talk to the client about it.” You can, but the client also has zero realistic expectation of what that looks like, so from our perspective and the hundreds of weddings that we’ve done, it’s important that you realize how the day’s gonna go because we’re trying to help you, ultimately, we don’t wanna be tapping you on the shoulder and saying, “You have four minutes, you have three minutes, “you have two more shots, let’s go,” we’re not trying to cut into the creative process necessarily, but at the same time, we got places to be. So I think that that’s where a lot of the discord comes between event planners and photographers, is there’s not that realistic timeline of figuring out, the photographer knows that the sunset is gonna be so incredible at this time but if you don’t communicate that to the event planner and say, “I need to sneak them out “for five minutes from 7:40 to eight,” then there’s this shock of “Okay no, that messes everything “up because that’s cake-cutting,” so talk to us about being flexible, just as event planners are extremely flexible, there are times that are on a timeline, but it’s just a guideline of how the day’s gonna go, but we like to know those specific things and kinda what your likes are and what your special things, ’cause each photographer has this special little thing that they like to do, so here in Chattanooga, if it’s running from the Hunter Art Museum over to the Blue Walking Bridge to get that iconic shot, I know that that’s gonna take you 18 minutes to do, so you need to tell me that so that I can make time and so that your guests aren’t turning around and wondering, “Where’d the couple go? “What’s supposed to be happening?” So that’s huge for me, so that works really well when we’ve pre-planned all of those things.

Nathan – Communication.

Morgan – It’s huge.

Nathan – I think you can really just sum it up with communication.

Morgan – Exactly, it’s so huge, but it might take you an extra meeting or an extra hour or a phone call with your event planner to sit down and discuss all those things, but you being realistic in what you want and them being realistic in what their client needs and coming together with that happy medium is huge.

Nathan – And it only further bolsters the relationship, which can only be good for both businesses, so that’s really awesome. This has been an incredible conversation, such a massive value add to the wedding photographers listening in, I really can’t thank you enough for making time to sit down and do this, this is awesome. Where can everybody find out more, for the brides to be as well as the photographers, where can they find out more about your business online?

Morgan – Absolutely, head over to our website, which is, it’s got a link there directly to where you can send us messages with any questions that you have, we have active social media accounts as well, so Facebook, Instagram, at Soirees Event Planning, so yeah, come check us out.

Nathan – This is so great, thank you so much, Morgan, for doing this, I can’t thank you enough, this has been awesome. Thanks so much for listening to the Bokeh podcast. Please let us know what you thought by leaving us a review in iTunes. If you’d like to hear a particular photographer or entrepreneur in a future episode, don’t hesitate to email me, The Bokeh podcast is brought to you by Photographer’s Edit, custom post-production for the wedding and portrait photographer. Visit



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Bokeh Podcast Episode #34: Define Your Values, Define Your Business – The Harris Company

Values - The Harris Company

Makayla and David Harris are the epitome of a photography power couple. They met by way of a simple photobomb, and have been inseparable since. Growing The Harris Company into a business successful in photography and cinematography, Makayla and David offer powerful advice on what it means to stay true to yourself and your business.

In this episode, Nathan Holritz of Photographer’s Edit discusses just what it means to stay true to yourself while running a successful business.

“Find yourself, and be like that” – a quote borrowed from Makayla Harris. The world is full of so many options today that it’s easy to lose perspective. Goals, values, daily tasks, our inner selves – they all get lost in the complicated hustle and bustle of this thing called life. So how do we dial it back and reconnect with who we are and what we represent?

Makayla, David, and Nathan tackle this with one key step: decide what your values are and define yourself with them. When you’re building a business, it’s important to decide what’s important to you and let that shine through in your work – especially in something so personal as photography.

“Your brand doesn’t always have to be perfectly polished. You can sprinkle in a little personality in there as well.” – Makayla Harris

Find out more about encompassing your personal values in your business by listening to the full interview. You can download the podcast from iTunes or on your phone.

Podcast: Bokeh: The Business of Photography by Nathan Holritz

Episode 34: Define Your Values, Define Your Business

Instagram: @hcophotocinema

Read the transcript and show notes

Show Notes:

Introduction to Makayla and David Harris [00:31]
Maintaining Authenticity [05:12]
“Find Yourself and Be That” [07:04]
Defining Values [14:30]
Setting Goals  [18:06]
Where to Learn More [20:01]

The Harris Company –
Instagram – @hcophotocinema

Podcast Transcript: 

Nathan – All right, well, as I like to say, we are officially live. I’m live here with my friends David and Makayla Harris. Guys, thanks so much for coming back on the Bokeh Podcast with me.

David – Any time, we love hangin’ out with ya.

Makayla – Thanks for having us, Nathan.

Nathan – It’s absolutely my privilege, and we actually had you on the podcast before, but for those listeners who aren’t familiar with you guys, with your brands, can you fill us in a little bit? Tell us a little about yourself and what your brands are about.

Makayla – We are wedding photographers and filmmakers. We focus the majority of our business in the wedding industry, be we also tend to end up shooting portraits and family portraits, and some intimate photography as well for other clients that come across our path with regards to getting married. So we do that for both photography and cinematography.

Nathan – And, David, are you doing primarily film or are you also shooting weddings with Makayla? How does the business break down?

David – Yeah, we love, obviously, to shoot together. We do shoot separately, so I will book just cinema clients, but we really try to make sure that we’re working together, ’cause that’s what being married’s all about.

Nathan – That’s cool, and I’m reminded, as you say cinema, I have to say cinema because these days film has a whole different connotation. So many people are shooting film in still photography. So yeah, cinema and then still photography. That’s really great. How long have you guys been in business, in photography and in cinema?

David – Jeez, six, going on six years or six years?

Makayla – Yeah, just over five, going on six years.

Nathan – Yeah, that’s right, and I actually remember our conversation, our previous podcast conversation, we talked about how quickly your business has grown. That’s really, really exciting, and speaking of which, you’ve gained a little bit of notoriety in the photography industry as of late. You’ve had some speaking opportunities, I think. What kind of things do you have going on, and what do you have coming up?

Makayla – Well, I myself just accepted a spot at Mystic Seminars, coming in January of 2018, so I’m excited to be a part of that community, because it’s kind of a closer-knit community, and the style of the conference is really exciting. And then we have a few other workshops coming up soon that we’re not exactly able to announce just yet, but hopefully all of that will be out there soon.

Nathan – Ooh, top secret, huh?

Makayla -I guess so.

David – Everything about us is very top secret, you know?

Nathan – Where did this so-called notoriety come about? How did you guys start to get exposure to the industry and begin to have these opportunities to speak and share and teach?

David – Networking, really.

Makayla – Yeah, we’ve always been a part of WPPI and expanded upon that the past few years just a little bit, trying to get an idea of what other kinds of workshops and conferences were out there. And we just love the community that we’ve been finding. Because we do this together, it’s nice to kind of connect with other photographers and filmmakers in that sense. I guess just as we’ve been checking out new places and new things, we’ve learned that maybe we do have something to offer other photographers as well. And because the speakers and the conferences heads have provided us with so much in our career, we want to give back and do the same thing for other photographers as well.

David – Yeah, and I think just to add, real quick, it’s amazing what happens when you kind of reach out to the companies that you work with day-in and day-out and introduce yourself and let them know what you’re all about. It just opens up so many doors when you do that.

Nathan – Absolutely. Well, there’s something to be said, first of all, for relationships. You talked about networking, the significance of relationships, I mean, it’s almost a cliche thing to say, to talk about, but this has become more and more real for me. As a single person, I spend a good bit of time working alone, and so the opportunity to be able to connect with other people, and more specifically, our wonderful photography community, is just so extremely fulfilling. I’ve had the opportunity to go to some smaller conferences recently as well, and there is so much to be said for that very tight-knit, as you were talking about, Makayla, in regards to Mystic, that tight-knit community, where you can sit down and have real conversation and then certainly learn from the various speakers that are there. But then, the opportunity to be able to add value to those relationships by sharing what you’ve learned. I think that’s an incredible opportunity, and I’m certain that you’ll see wonderful things come back in return. Now, I have a question about this, because this is something that I’ve struggled with a little bit, how do you guys maintain authenticity as individuals and as a couple and a business as you begin to get a little bit more exposure to the industry? Because I know, personally, owning a company and then having been a photographer as well, and had a little bit of opportunity to speak and have some exposure to the industry, it’s easy to go into professional mode and almost put on a show for the sake of the brand and maintaining a particular appearance. How do you maintain authenticity through all of that?

David – Oh, that’s a great question. It’s funny, and we don’t necessarily practice this, but in just you asking that, I think that if you go and write down the core, key values and philosophies of your business, and have that as a constant reminder to go back to, that might be a really good way to do that. So maybe we have some homework now.

Nathan – No, I think that’s actually a really great point. And in fact, this is a really great segue into what I wanted to have you guys onto the podcast for, which is a conversation that has a bit more of a personal slant. But to your point, before we move to that, David, I think the idea that we have established as individuals a set of values that we’re always striving for, and living by those, using those as kind of a guideline, our core guideline for how we do our personal life and our business life, I think that’s a really, really great idea. And I can’t recommend that enough to everyone listening. Now, let’s dive into really the meat of this conversation. I was really excited to have you guys back on to dive into, as I mentioned, a more personal conversation. That’s really what I was hoping this podcast would become. We’re certainly going to talk about photography and about running a business, but, ultimately, we’re all doing life, and I think there’s something to be said for being a bit more open and honest, and we use the word authentic a lot these days, but authentic about what we’re going through, what we’re learning, what we’re struggling with. And Makayla, you posted something on Facebook the other day, and it was just a very simple quote, and it says, “Find yourself and be that.” And before we dive into what all of our perspectives, our opinions, on what that can mean, I’d be curious to hear what that quote meant to you and why you posted it.

Makyala – I think as an entrepreneur and a business owner, it’s really hard to find yourself in your business. Sometimes you get caught up in the branding and this perfect curation of content and what you want your viewers to see you as. And I think sometimes your personality gets lost in that. In this stage, I feel like there’s so many options out there for couples and people, in terms of finding a photographer, that what really we like to strive for is making a connection with our couples. I feel like we were losing that a little bit when we were trying to put on this very polished approach to our brand. We want our business to be that way, but we also want to have an authentic connection with our couples as well as our industry peers. I feel like, for me, a lot of that came out when we segued into the education circuit. We wanted to be relatable. We wanted people to understand that we went through a lot of the same things that they’re currently going through in their business. That was our goal was to help them. But by having this perfect impression of being this business powerhouse isn’t relatable. It’s not authentic, and it’s not how it went. I mean, behind the scenes, it’s usually a hot mess over here. I think it was just kind of an inner struggle for me where I just wanted people to know that your brand doesn’t always have to be perfectly polished. You can sprinkle in a little bit of personality in there as well.

Nathan – And then I think that a perfect, it speaks very well to what we were just discussing a second ago, this idea of being authentic versus trying to put on a show, if you will. It’s so easy, and I’ll just speak for myself. It’s so easy for me to get caught up in maintaining a particular appearance for the sake of my brand, and ultimately, for the sake of my own presentation, my personal presentation to the world, because we all have that now. We’re on social media and different platforms. But this notion of coming back to our core principles, our core values, and ultimately who we are, and we’re gonna talk about what that might mean here in a second, but I think that’s absolutely vital just for the sake of authenticity. And I know personally, I feel much better about myself as an individual when I’m being, quote, myself. Maybe you guys have found that, and maybe that’s what you’re speaking to, Makayla. You were talking about trying to get back to that.

Makyala – Yeah, exactly. I think we’ve been trying to figure out what our education brand is going to be, and what we really want is for it to be us. For it to feel real. For people to be able to relate to the same struggles that we’ve gone through and hopefully join us on different workshops or things like that that we could help improve their business.

Nathan – That’s wonderful. I actually wanna read the comment that I made on that Facebook post. You posted that quote, and I love a good conversation and kinda dive deep into conversation about something that goes beyond the surface, if you will. And I just said, “This is an interesting conversation. “Do you think you find yourself or choose “who you want to be?” And then, David, you actually jumped on and commented. You said, “Personally, I think we find ourselves, “but with the caveat that yourself, quote, unquote, “yourself, evolves through time based on our “internal and external experiences. “Maybe at the subconscious level, we are choosing “based on those internal/external experiences.” And it was kind of a question mark and really a good beginning to a discussion that I find really fascinating, because there’s a lot of conversation these days about this notion of authenticity and, ultimately, being ourselves. But I’m not sure what that actually means. I think it means different things to different people. What does it mean to find ourself, and do we actually truly find ourself or do we have the opportunity to choose who we want to be? What do you guys think? I’d love both of your opinions on this.

David – Yeah, I mean, every time I think about this, I’m on like both sides of the perspectives. I do think that you find yourself, but I think it’s just this constant, evolving thing. So you’re choosing who you want to be, but then it evolves, right, like me five years ago, I would not be happy with myself five years ago. But I’ve evolved, and I’ve changed. But I was happy with who I was five years ago. I don’t know, it’s just this constant, evolving, perspective, I guess.

Nathan – Yeah, I like that word perspective. Makayla, what do you think?

Makayla – I think the process of finding yourself has to do with a lot of decisions, and I think that’s kind of where the choosing comes in. And I think that when you start to make decisions about who you wanna be or what your goals are, that’s ultimately the process of finding yourself, because you’re seeing a lot of your personality and your traits or your goals come out in that decision-making process.

Nathan – So are we actually talking about a balance, here?

Nathan – Could it be that it’s not one or the other? I tend to be kind of an extremist, and I go one direction or another direction. I tend to function in the best way possible in those kinds of extremes, but I’m continually reminded of the reality, which is that the world is a great place, and there is, in the end, most things, probably, require a balance for, well in this case, we’re talking about a healthy personal existence. So maybe, in this case, this notion of finding ourselves, there’s a balance between understanding who we are, or more specifically, when we were talking about the idea of who we are, what are strengths are, what are weaknesses are, what are goals are, and then, ultimately, exerting our ability to choose on our life. Choosing to become this person who we want to be. And I was talking about the idea of values earlier. I took some time, it’s probably been a year maybe two years ago at least, now, I had the opportunity to read a book called Awaken the Giant Within. And Tony Robbins is somebody that I talk about a lot. I’m a huge fan of what he does and what he’s about. But in that book, he talks about the importance of establishing values. So I actually took the time to do just that, six or seven big ideas that I live by, that I strive to be. And it’s not necessarily that I am those things currently, but I know, based on what makes me happy, at least at this stage of my life, and to your point earlier, David, at least at this stage, I know that these particular things make me happy. And so I strive for them, and I choose to be them. I do that within the context of understanding, again, this idea of what makes me happy. What makes me feel fulfilled. Do you guys have a list of values or ideas, kind of big ideas that represent who you are? Have you taken the time to think through those things?

Makayla – When we set up our business plan, we kind of did an elementary version of this. Because it’s both of us that are involved, we wanted to make sure we set, we took the time to talk about what are values were as a family and as a couple and as a business, so that way, we didn’t get lost in our business and jeopardize the other areas of our life together. But I think it’s definitely something that’s worth revisiting often because as time progresses, it becomes back-of-mind. And I think it’s one of those things that you have to be constantly reminding yourself of, because it’s easy to get lost in that.

Nathan – Yeah, for sure, and this is something, and I don’t do it consistently enough, but this is something that I try to do on a regular basis, which is to remind myself of these values. It might kind of seem odd to some people, the idea that you have to remind yourself of what you want to be, but I’ve taken so much time over the last three or four years kind of hashing these things out, and I’ve come up with this list, seven different items. In fact, I’ll just go ahead and read them off here, just for the sake of perspective and context of this conversation. One is the idea of being healthy. And just to be clear, these are personal values, being healthy, and I have that at the top of the list for obvious reasons, ’cause that, of course, translates to literally everything else that I do. Then being kind. Anytime I’ve been able to show someone kindness in word or deed, particularly through empathy. And then the idea of being proactive is the next one. Anytime I’m moving forward or thinking ahead. Another one is growing. I find so much fulfillment in constantly learning, and by this word I’ve put the definition anytime I’ve learned something new or always ask how and why. Another one is connected, anytime I’ve been able to engage with someone on an emotional level, consistent connection with a community of people. And we talked about the importance of that earlier. We all find some type of fulfillment in that. The next one if consistent, anytime I’ve been consistent in my values and/or emotional state. And then the last one is simple. I find a lot of fulfillment in simplicity. If you come to my apartment, we were talking about owning homes, and I’m currently in an apartment. if you were to look in my apartment, you’d almost think that I was a college student or something. There’s minimal decoration. But I enjoy living that way, because it’s fewer moving parts, less to keep up with, less to clean, and I can focus on other things. But simple, anytime I’ve been able to reduce an idea or process to its absolute minimum and most important parts, the 80-20 principle. So those are the values that I can outline for myself, and, again, it’s not that I am those things, necessarily, or not consistently those things, but certainly those are my goals. And we were talking about this idea of finding ourselves versus choosing who we want to be. That list of values for me, personally, it is my effort to choose. These are the things that I strive to be, and it kinda gives me a guideline to work toward. I like the idea, though, that you were talking about, which is that balance. You mentioned, kinda you separated, you contrasted between personal values and business values. When you talk to other photographers in the industry, and you’re speaking, how do you recommend to them to establish these values? Or, ultimately, I guess what we’re really talking about is the brand position, right? What the brand actually represents. How do you teach other photographers to most effectively establish that position?

Makayla – I think it’s something that begins when you start doing some goal setting and essentially your mission and how you want to position yourself, position your business. And I think a lot of it is reflected in your personal values, because it’s such a personal business, especially as a creative entrepreneur, a lot of your personality comes through in your work and your passion. So just in the beginning of the process, or anytime you’re looking to refresh and reset, I think it’s important to sit down and think about those values and establish that as you’re kind of setting your goals for your business so that you can keep all that in mind and be realistic about how much effort you’re going to put into which areas.

Nathan – For sure, and that very beautifully kind of brings us back to the original pointed conversation, which is this quote that you posted, the idea of finding yourself and be that. And it’s not just in your personal life, but you can let that then translate to your business life, and your business, your brand. And I think that’s a beautiful thing. We’re already in a field, in an industry, that we want to be in, because we enjoy photography or we enjoy cinematography, but then to let our personality shine through our business, I think that just naturally kind of ups the ante, enabling an even greater sense of fulfillment. So I think this has been a wonderful reminder both for me and for our listeners. Makayla, I can’t thank you enough for posting that the other day–

Makayla – Of course.

Nathan – And both of you for being willing to dive into a bit more personal conversation. I love these types of conversations. Where can everybody find you online? Talk to us about where your Instagram accounts are, your websites, et cetera.

Makayla – Yeah, so our business is The Harris Company. You can find us at or at hcophotocinema on Instagram, and you can also find some of our educational content on

Nathan – Perfect, that’s awesome. Thank you guys so much, and I’m sure many of our listeners are going to have to go check out those websites, your educational website in particular, to find out about these secret workshops coming Thank you guys so much for making time to sit down and chat again today, and we’ll talk to you more soon.

David – Thanks for havin’ us, Nate, definitely.

Makayla – Sounds good, Nathan, thank you.



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