WPPI Session: Content Marketing for the 2015 Photographer

Jared Bauman, the founder of shootdotedit gave an informative talk at WPPI in Vegas on Marketing for the 2015 photographer.  I wanted to take a deeper dive into this subject and discuss what I took away from the talk.  Two elements that make the current marketplace challenging, according to Jared, are 1) low cost of entry for new photographers and 2) social media (if you don't use it or use it incorrectly).  Social media, especially for today’s small business owner, is key.  It can work wonders if you use it well and it can also be overwhelming to keep up with if you don’t have a system in place.

content marketing wppi 2015

The talk on content marketing underlined the importance of first knowing your target audience (i.e., your potential client).  Once you know your audience well, including their demographic profile, and why they'd be in need of your services, do the following:

  1. Develop a marketing and business process 
  2. Develop content that’s relevant and valuable to your client and provide this information in a consistent and timely manner.
  3. Attract and acquire. He referenced a book called Launch by Jeff Walker for more information.  I'm anxious to read the book to learn more.
  4. Create a persona which is basically the process of defining your target client(s) so much so that you actually give them a name and use that in how you market to them.  This can be a very powerful technique.
  5. Determine drivers for profitable customer action.  The example he gave was in the wedding space and how there are various phases of the wedding process (being engaged, then married, moving to a house, kids, etc.). All of these phases have potential marketing and relationship opportunities and they map to different phases of your relationship with them (e.g., when they're engaged it would generally map to them being a potential client, etc.). Making the most of each of these opportunities are critical to success.  One that's often overlooked is after the event occurs.  Following up and nurturing that relationship can turn them into your champions and spawn new business.

Other aspects of the discussion was around blogging, email marketing, Facebook advertising, and tools for automating the whole process.  The tools are a big interest to me.  I’m hyper focused on figuring out tools and processes that will make the process of marketing, advertising, and content delivery easy for me. Well, maybe easier.

I didn't cover all of what Jared spoke about but I appreciate that this session had actionable items and usable information.  Its frustrating when you sit through a session and at the end are left wondering, "now what?" 


WPPI: 2015 - Third time's a charm

This year was my third year making the trek out to Las Vegas for the WPPI (Wedding Portrait Photography) conference at the MGM Grand.  Its always a great time to get out of the Northeast and go from 20 degrees to 70.

My focus at this years conference was on business, marketing, workflow and posing sessions (similar list to last year).  I spent a little time at the Expo to check out the vendors and also managed to get a couple shoots in.  


From the sessions I attended I realized more so how important it is to know the demographics of my clients.  It allows you to provide a better service since you're able to anticipate needs and build a stronger bond.  An area of interest for my business this year is SEO and getting the most out of client relationships.  

Blogging is still an important way to get the word out about your business.  I like to use it as a way to chronicle my activity and give people a sense of who I am.  A repeated theme from last year was to always look for ways to both attract and repel.  You want strong reactions about your work.  That's what creates future champions for your business.

By attending the sessions, each year I find new contacts and inspiration.  I hope to write a little about each session in future posts but one I wanted to call out now was the key note by Joe McNally.  Wow. I thought I knew most of his work but there was so much I wasn't aware of.  He has been everywhere it seems and shot so many iconic images.  So impressive.

Last, I'm a bit of a tech geek and love to use tools and automation where possible to get the business portion of my job done.  Currently, I'm using tools like Buffer to schedule posts to social media (G+, Facebook, and Twitter).  I also use Dropbox for a variety of client facing and organizational reasons and IFTTT to help with some automation with content.

I'll have more information coming on the shoots I did while in Vegas. Stay tuned...

G+ -> http://plus.google.com/+DarrinEstepPhotography/
Facebook -> https://www.facebook.com/DarrinEstepPhotography
Twitter -> https://twitter.com/destep001 

Urban Tour

Ralph reached out to me through Facebook and asked if I could help him put together a set of images that would look different than other classmates with a city setting.  I've recently become more familiar with SOHO and opted for that area to shoot in.  As it turns out, it fits well with Ralph's other interest which is fashion. He has a blog that he keeps on the subject. 

We started with a colorful setting in front of a door and wall that has graffiti and some kind of paper mâché. 


To add to the NYC feel, I had him head down the subway stairs and then stop for a break in the Vive la crepe for something to drink. 


We finished with a stroll down the cobble stone street and then to some more formal shots.


Thanks Ralph for letting me show you around SOHO.  We definitely captured the urban vibe of NYC. 

A Great Designer

I worked with Prerak for about 9 months and he was one of those few (for me, anyway) that I really connected with.  He's a great designer and we got to know each other  through a mutual interest in gadgets, great design, and photography.  

Prerak has helped me with a couple projects now that were beyond my Photoshop knowledge and I look forward to future collaboration.

A few days before his last day, I had my camera in the office and we went out for about 30 minutes to grab some shots for him personally and for his website.  We went out to a place in midtown that I've shot at before and here are some of my favorites...


WPPI 2013 Recap


This past week I attended, for the first time, an annual photography conference called WPPI which stands for Wedding & Portrait Photography (not sure what the I is for) in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand Hotel. The conference and classes run just over a week long and I was there for about 3 1/2 days.

The conference offers a variety of classes and an expo area that allows for vendors big and small to come and show their stuff.  The expo filled two halls and has big names like Nikon, Canon, etc. and the other hall had smaller vendors with a lot of gadgets and equipment to drool over.   

Four takeaways from WPPI: 

  1. Work hard.  You get out what you put into your business.
  2. Network like crazy.  This is a referral-based industry.
  3. Use your time efficiently. Automate what you can and redirect the new time to building your business.
  4. Believe you can do it.  

Here's a recap of how I spent my time at WPPI: 
Going to Market: Maximizing Portrait and Wedding Profits, Dane Sanders
Dane is a family portrait photographer out of Orange County, CA.  He's also a teacher, author and founder of a Facebook group I've become pretty active in called "Better Together".  The premise being that we're better together as photographers vs. trying to go it alone.  

In his talk, he went over the sales process from campaign to connection to the client and walked through step-by-step how he handles the end-to-end workflow.  He also talked about a popular topic among photographers which is, how to exploit what's unique about you when everyone seems to have a camera these days.  This should allow you to attract the clients you want and repel the ones you don't. Very nice session and a good way to kick off the conference for me.  

From Start to Finish: The Contemporary Portrait Shoot, Tamara Lackey
Tamara focuses mostly on children and families.  Similar structure to Dane's class but very different sessions.  Tamara has a great energy about her and gave a really nice walk through of a day in the life on a shoot with children.  On the business side of things, these are points I noted:  

  1. Who are you?
  2. What do you do?
  3. Why does it matter?

How to Avoid What Most Small Businesses Do - Fail, Zach & Jody Gray
Zach & Jody are a couple that I've known about for a few years now.  They are a married couple that focuses on the wedding market.  I first saw them on a DVD where they were talking about lighting, posing and editing techniques they use in their business. They are fun to watch, listen to and learn from.  They seem to actually practice what they preach. Novel idea, right?

For this session, they gave an overview of how they structure their business.  Here's an outline of their framework: 

  1. Purpose - What is your vision, mission, values and goals?
  2. Brand - All aspects of your business (visual and otherwise) should resonate a consistent experience for your client that support your purpose.  Its more than just marketing.
  3. Sales - Qualify the client, build rapport, educate and close the deal.
  4. Systems - Set up processes and environments that allow you to be consistent and efficient.
  5. Momentum - Focused intensity + Time = Momentum
  6. Belief - Our only limitations are the ones you set on yourself.  Believe you can do it and you will!

For me, Sunday was about: 

  1. Figure out the purpose of your business
  2. Exploit what's unique about you throughout the business
  3. Believe you can do it and don't let anything stop you

Get Lit "Live", Dixie Dixon 
Dixie is out of Dallas (I think) and shoots fashion and commercial work.  I feel more and more like this is the type of work I want to shoot more of.  Since I had a shoot planned for later in the day, I was only able to stay for a short time.  One take-away was that I heard her say she makes sure to set a nice atmosphere for everyone on set and builds a connection with the model and other crew which helps her produce the type of images she's enjoys.

Photo Shoot in the desert
As soon as I knew I was going to this show, I started to put together concepts for a shoot and scouting for models and make-up artists (MUA).  The day didn't exactly go as planned but what day ever does.  

I rented a car because it seemed that I was the only one with transportation.  I arranged for Enterprise to "pick me up" but they were running late and it seemed to be how the whole day went for me.  I got to the model, Meli, about an hour later than I hoped.  We then drove to the MUA, Summer, but her place was in the opposite direction of where we were shooting.  By the time we left Summer's place, it was close to the original time I thought we would be finishing the whole shoot.

On the upside, once we arrived on set, it was exactly what I was hoping for.  We got there around 1:30 and shot until close to 4pm. This unfortunately, meant that I was going to miss a class I thought I'd have time for in the afternoon back at the conference.  

I dropped the model and her husband off at their place, grabbed something to eat, drove to return the lens I rented from a local shop, got the car washed since it was pretty dirty from being in the desert and then dropped the car off.   Well, almost.  One thing I forgot to mention was that I brought the car USB charger for the phone from home but forgot to bring it out with me that day.  So, because I was using navigation on the phone, it takes up more battery than normal use.  By the end of the day, I was out of battery.  I was completely out of battery just before I returned the car.  I ended up returning it to the airport with about 15 minutes to spare before I would have been charged for another car rental day.  I caught a cab back to the hotel at a few minutes after 6.  Here's one image from the day.  More to come soon. 

Dinner at Diego's mexican restaurant
Someone was nice enough to arrange for a dinner for a large group and part of why I was at this conference was to network.  I was running late from dropping off the car but was determined to get to this dinner.  There were about 15 people there.  We had a nice time chatting it up about the work we do and getting to know each other.

Retouching & Enhancing Techniques: Instant, Easy and Useful, Jack Davis
I attended two retouching/editing classes.  This one was great.  The other one, not so much.  Jack's tools of choice are Lightroom & Photoshop.  I've mainly used Aperture for my editing to date but have been curious about Lightroom since many use it.  He switched between the two and had such a great, quick way of explaining and demonstrating technique.  Something he emphasized throughout the session was to create presets and automate as much as possible.  I'm a big fan of this as well and I need to do more of it.  It also goes with a common emphasis of finding ways to be efficient.

Visit the expo
I had a few goals in walking through the expo.  First, I wanted to just take it all in.  I also wanted to spend some time at the Nikon booth and talk a bit about video.  I had a nice conversation with a rep at Nikon that was helpful.  I also wanted to visit a friend of mine, Mike S., that I've shot with before.  He was exhibiting with his wife on a photo booth and software they've built.  This has been an area of interest for me as well.  It seemed like they had some good activity at the booth and they had Elvis with them as well.  I hope they got some good traffic.


I also sat in on a couple sessions in the Expo.  I hadn't heard Kevin Kabota speak before but he had some interesting work to shot and lots of simple and inexpensive ways to be successful on set.  One funny example that comes to mind was to use a battery charged leaf blower to create the wind-blown look for a model.  That's thinking out of the box.  I love when behind the scene's shots are shared.  It gives you a sense of how different you can make something look with light and some simple tools.

Finally, I attended an expo talk by Vanessa & Rob on their "Same Day Edit Workflow".  Pretty impressive the amount of stuff she gets done on the night of the wedding thanks mostly to an efficient system and help from an assistant.  There are a bunch of practical take-away's from this session for me.

Bridal Show 101 for Photographers, Dawn Shields
The last session I sat in on before heading to the airport was about how to be successful at Bridal Shows.  She had done lots of interviews with brides as they walked through a bridal show and then interviewed them for feedback on the photographers booth, what they liked, or didn't like about the overall experience. She also had lots of statistics that really helped if you were going to dive into this world.  Very informative.

Lots of stuff going on and so much to see and do.  A friend of mine that I used to work with, Gary Cirlin, was also there and since it was my first time, he warned me over dinner that I will likely leave with a mixed set of emotions that would be a little anxious, excited, inspired and frustrated all at the same time.  He was right.

Many things about the conference were great but there are a few things I would do differently next time.

  1. Stay closer.  I was staying in the MGM but it was a 15 minute walk from my room to the classes.  There are rooms that were much closer but I didn't realize that until I was there.
  2. Get a roommate.  Not sure about this one but I would consider it to save money. Vegas is more expensive than NYC for some things. 
  3. Stay longer.  I think one more day would have been useful for me.
  4. More networking!

Can't wait to go back again next year.

Update: I just came across this video that was done by StillMotion last year that gives a good sense of what its like to be at WPPI from the exhibiter's perspective. -> http://vimeo.com/37354985

A new [p]interest

Okay, a little corney on my title.  More to the point, something I enjoy is finding new, exciting, and photographically - is that a word? - relavant things on the web.  I've been hearing lots of great buzz about this site called Pinterest.  I created an account and so far, so good.

What I like about it is that its a different way to discover images.  I like the concept of being able to create boards which you could think of like a folder or a category.  Within that board, you can post images that you want to group together.  I'm using it for two things so far.  The first is to use it to put some ideas for my next shoot.  The second is to start to work on a new idea I have that I'd like to call "Pleasing my senses".  More to come on that. In the meantime... 

Follow Me on Pinterest

Website Changes

At the moment, I have two jobs.  My "day job" focuses on optimizing product teams to be as self-guiding and self-sufficient as possible.  We build customer experiences that help people discover and license photos and videos for any creative project they're working on.  For photos, we're targeting designers, marketers, and other creatives.  On the video side, we're helping producers, editors and others that are usually involved with putting together commercials, documentaries or the like.  The site is called Shutterstock.  Check it out when you get a chance.  

My other "job" is photography.  Actually, it doesn't feel right to call it a job.  It's a passion.  It's my creative outlet.  Its the first thing in my life, outside of family, that I'm focused on making sure that I spend time on and on improving each day, week, month, etc.  The reason I brought up the "day job" is that I learn a lot about user experience, design, marketing, etc. from my day job and once in a while I need to remind myself to apply those learnings to my photography business.  Case in point, my website.

I've made some changes to the site.  Nothing too dramatic but I've added some features that keep me current with things I learn about by being in both the web/internet and photography industry.  First, I've updated the design template.  I tend to like a very clean interface with light, thin typeface and not too much happening on a given page.  I think it helps you focus on the task at hand instead of being too distracted.  Second, I've added some insight to other ways I produce material through a flickr module on the right side of the Journal.

There will be more changes to come so stay tuned.

8 Down, 358 To Go

I've tried this before (and failed) but I'm trying it again...an attempt to shoot an image a day and post it.  Some self-imposed rules are things like: 1) I must post something everyday. 2) The image posted must be shot on that day and 3) Whenever possible, include some details about the context of where or why I chose this image or even how it was shot.

Here are the first 8.  Wish me luck on making it through the whole year.  All of these, by the way, are posted each day on Flickr so follow along and hold me to the 1 image per day goal.

A little piece of [photography] history

There's so much information to consume these days that you have to be selective about what you choose to spend time keeping up with.  For photography, there are only a handful of photographers I follow on a regular basis.  One of those photographers is Chase Jarvis.  He's a commercial photographer that has done a lot to bring a sense of community to photographers around the world and oh, by the way, he take some pretty great pictures too.

A recent project was of interest to me to check out, especially since it's being displayed in NYC and now that I'm working again in the city, its pretty easy for me to get to. Yesterday at lunch, I made the trek to the Ace Hotel to check out the "Dasein: an invitation to hang" display.  Its a collection of snap shots from around the world, hand picked by Chase and placed in this gallery space for people to take it all in and contribute either in person or virtually.  To some extent, it takes on the next step to a "Best Camera" app his team also developed.  Fun stuff.

Here's a couple pictures I took of what the display looked like...