Hey! Marggie here! Marki's weekly blogs are definitely a weekly treat that I look forward to, but after these last few crazy weeks at the studio, I have lots to say! So this week, you get me! I hope you'll stick with me through this blog. I promise in the very least, you'll walk away enlightened and maybe a little surprised. Read on, soldier!
First of all, THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART to all of you who gave your support over these last few weeks. From the studio makeover to the ribbon cutting, it was all like walking on a cloud in the midst of my biggest dream come true. I only wish I could put my gratitude into words.
Okay, onward with all the things I need to say this week. Okay, not all, but some important things. I might have to be the blogger next week too, cuz, I mean, we gotta talk more about that studio makeover, amirite?! Okay, here we go with this weeks word vomit! Brace yourselves. Just kidding, nothing to brace for, though, I do hope to blow your mind with what I am about to share!
Shoot and burn? It's a thing of the past, people! It gets it's name from years ago when we used to burn all of our images onto CD's and then deliver them to our clients. The days before online galleries. It still pertains to those of us who shoot and deliver those digital images. But, why am I saying it's a thing of the past? There are still super easy, convenient online galleries! Or are they? Sure, they are! In a sense. It's super convenient for me to upload them all to you online and then push a button and they arrive in your inbox in minutes. Easy for you to open, look at, and download. But then what? (Cue Beethoven's "Dun Dun Dun" Symphony here)
I've come to the realization that I am doing my clients a complete disservice by being a "shoot and burn" style photographer! You have invested hundreds of dollars in me for my time and talent. Hundred of dollars, people! So what, those beautiful images can just sit on a cloud or even worse, a hard drive? Your kids memories stay as pixels and nothing more? Your gorgeous images to get lost in miles of scrolling down on your social media feeds? Medicore prints put in mediocre frames hung somewhat straight on your wall unevenly spaced with that next mediocre frame? Oh and by the way, your image is bubbling up in that frame, ewww. And also, that image would look way better in a hallway and this one should be in a family room. Why? Why, oh why is this happening with gorgeous images that you have invested in? And also cringeworthy, do you "brag" that you got those poorly printed, crooked images on your wall done by BennyAni Photography?! Gahhh! I'm doing myself a disservice too, because friend, that is only part of my work, but I have to take credit for all of it. Yes, I said, "have to". I don't want anything to do with poor printing and crooked hanging and bubbled prints. Oh gosh, that was even hard to type. Show of hands now, how many of you are guilty of ANY of the above? If you raised your hand (or should have), then I have done you a disservice, and for that, I truly apologize.
From here on out, no more. I will never leave you hanging again. That money you invest in me for my time and talent, does not stop once your pictures are edited. Nope, you get more, way more! Keep reading, Seriously, it's interesting, really!
I have taken a lot of time in deep thought, sleepless nights, anxious conversations, education-both in photography and business, uncomfortable conversations with myself, my loved ones, my "business gang", a business coach-he's a super cool, pain in my ass, that I owe my business to, or at least a lot of long islands, podcasts, seminars, audiobooks, blogs, studies, statistics, you name it! After all of that, what it really comes down to is the scary fact, that I have to face my fear and completely change my business model!! GASP!! Say what?!?! "But, Marggie!! You HATE change! Are you crazy? You've been so successful up until this point! Why on earth would you change anything?"
Let me tell you why. First of all, I am not complacent. If I were, I would not be where I am today. Turns out my business model has been changing constantly since I started this journey just over 7 years ago. This change just happens to be the biggest, and most exciting/challenging/scariest one so far! The world is constantly changing and so are the needs of my clients. Change is inevitable, and scary, yet so so necessary. Every time I face the fact that I have to change something, I get clammy hands, increased heart rate, even my face starts to tingle (don't worry, the Google just says that's from my anxiety, phew) and that really annoying voice in my head that tells me I'm going to fail and therefore, my business will close, and therefore my life will end, and therefore, the world will end. I'm not dramatic at all.
Secondly, yes, I admit, I have built an extremely successful business. From the outside it might look like a dream job, all fun and games, easy peasy. A little luck and some talent and boom, the business was born. NOPE! There was a lot of blood, sweat, and tears (quite literally on the latter two) put into this business and quite frankly for the first three years, I didn't see my husband or my kids very much. Even when I was with them, I wasn't present. I was on my phone, checking emails, responding to clients, updating social media, etc...business building. Worth it? Yes. Would I do it that same way again? No! So, without change, I would still be slaying for $65 per mini session. "Here's your CD, come again!" Woof!
I'm going off on a tangent here. I need to get back on track or this blog will be a book before I'm done. Business building is a whole other blog post...or book. Ooh, maybe I should write a book. I had a thought about a children's book the other day...Okay, back to this blog...staying focused...squirrel!!!!! Just kidding, I'm still here, stay with me.
My main point of this blog is to share with you my biggest and scariest and most challenging change that has happened yet in my photography career. I am doing what I said I would never NEVER ever do. I am turning my back on being a "shoot and burn" photographer! Gasp!! Say what?!??!?! What does this mean for you?!!?
Oh, this is good news for you, my friend. As I mentioned before, I was doing you a complete disservice by just sending off your gallery and saying, "see ya next time...hopefully!" See the reasons listed above if you forgot why this was a bad thing. I bolded them for your easy reference convenience. You're welcome. Anyway, sending you a gallery full of gorgeous images for you to download and maybe print is like giving you a whole grocery bag full of delicious produce and scrumptious juicy meats, but then making you cook the meal without so much as a recipe to follow. Not anymore, pal. Now, I'm the chef too! Keep reading, I'm an entrepreneur at heart, but I'm not really going to be a chef.
Ever heard the term "Boutique Photography" or "Boutique Photography Studio"? Well, you have now and now you know one! That's right, I am not just your shoot and burn any more. "But everybody wants digital images!!! This is a digital world!!!" This is what I heard in my head for years, still do. I am not going to take your precious digital images away. I want you to have the security blanket of having them on a cloud too, "just in case". More to come on digital images in future blogs. However, BennyAni is now a FULL SERVICE BOUTIQUE PHOTOGRAPHY STUDIO! Well, that sounds fancy, but what the hell does that mean? I like analogies. Do you? Great, here's another one. Fast food vs. sit down restaurant (geez, what's with all the food analogies? I'm hungry, okay? Moving on). Let's get even more specific. McDonalds (salivating over the thought of some fries right about now) vs Wakame (It's an upscale sushi place in St.Louis Park, it's my fave, insert your fave sit down restaurant here). Now, let's be real, I love me a good value meal from the ol' "Mickie D's" every now and again. Happy Meals truly are happy. But it is what it is. Fast food. You order, you get, you go. Done. That's "shoot and burn". They don't care to ask you if you liked your meal. They don't care to ask you if you'd like dessert or even a refill on your beverage. Deliver the goods and done. Hopefully see ya again next time for our "value" meals is their business model and if you complain, then they might do something more.
For being a photographer who built her business on excellent customer service, I sure was missing a huge piece. How did I miss this for so long? Fear. Fear is how I missed this. I'll get there in a minute. Okay, so you have your "shoot and burn" analogy. Let's talk about our boutique photography analogy. Wakame (again, if you haven't been, do yourself a favor and go. St. Louis Park. There's more than sushi. GO!). You come in, they greet you. They take your drink order, take the time to make suggestions on drinks that maybe pair well with a dish you are thinking about. Give you time to look at the menu, make more suggestions on dishes if you request, present you with a beautiful plate, check on you after the first few bites, make sure all is perfect, come back again, maybe make some small talk, make you laugh, ask if you're there for a special occasion, ask if they can get you more drinks, ask if they can interest you in dessert, give you time to enjoy your company, and maybe another drink, bring your bill, make sure one more time if there is anything else they can do for you and bid you a heart felt fare-thee-well all while asking you to please come back again, so they can SERVE YOU. Much different than the happy meal, eh? Both can be great! Trust me, beginner photogs reading this, shoot and burn is a great place to start and learn! Go for it! BUT, after a lot, A LOT, of soul searching, researching, and education in the recent months, maybe a little over a year even (I told you I hate change, I've been very stubborn to this one), I have learned that my style, my personality, my business, my purpose, is the boutique style photography and that is what I am here to do. So what's changing?
Well, first of all, don't freak out. I've done that enough for the both of us. Secondly, this is a big, but gradual change you will see happening within BennyAni. So many of you have been with me for years, some of you from day 1, (I love you), and like I said, change is scary. So I don't want to pull a rug from under any of you. I don't want to ask more of any of you. This isn't just about money for me. This is about who I am and what my work/talent can and will provide you. I don't want to just give you the "ingredients" anymore. I want to give you the fully cooked, gourmet meal. Those of you who have been with me for a long time, don't painic. I'm here with you. You gave me a chance as a brand new business owner/photographer. Keep your faith in me and I promise I won't let you down.
I know I will lose some clients along the way. That's nothing new. I understand it. Sometimes styles change. Sometimes budgets changes. Whatever the reason, I'm always a little sad when I lose long time clients, but I always understand and send my well wishes. My clients really do mean a lot to me and I cherish my time with all of you and really do value the opportunity to capture these "gone too soon" moments.
With that being said, you'll notice some new changes on our website when you read the "Timeline" of the events that occur for our sessions now. You'll notice that now after your session, you'll come back to the studio again, where we'll fully enjoy being with you when you see your beautiful images for the first time. From there, we'll show you some custom products that we think are perfect for you in accordance with the walls in your home (you'll already have sent us those) and the images we got at your session. Remember when you paid me hundreds of dollars for my time and talent? This is where that extends to! More bang for your buck. Turns out I have an eye for design and products as well! We'll also go through some heirloom pieces you might be interested in, such as our gorgeous albums, as well as some of our unique products, i.e. metals/acrylics, that are sure to be conversation pieces in your home. Your investment is YOUR choice. There is no minimum. There is no pressure. We are doing this for you. The part that is for us is being able to be FULL SERVICE and knowing that when you "brag" about who did the stunning art on your wall, we would be proud to claim every piece of that. Oh, did I mention after you pick your products, we come to your home and professionally install them? Oh yes, I wasn't kidding, when I was appalled earlier as I described crooked and unevenly spaced frames. Please don't do that. Don't invest in beautiful images and then poorly print them and place them in crap frames...one more analogy? Okay, that would be like building a million dollar home and then furnishing it with Ikea furniture. No offense Ikea, I do love you, but you're no Pottery Barn. Oh, and hey, that wasn't a food analogy. Yay me!
Here are a few recent home installations we have done: So many more scheuduled that I can't wait to share with you. Stay tuned. I still can't believe how many people want this done. I mean, duh, who wouldn't? It's amazing, but why was I so afraid to offer it to you? I'm sorry.
You might be wondering about those wedding photos in the images above. Nope, not mine. Another, "Ah ha" moment for me. These guys are my clients, for everything BUT their wedding. As you know, I don't shoot weddings. They recently got married. They had beautiful wedding images taken. Unfortunately, their wedding photographer (no idea who they are ), is much like who I was and is "shoot and burn". They did provide them with a gorgeous album. But, it stopped there. They probably have no idea, just like I didn't with many of my clients, that this family wanted images professionally printed and framed all over their home. We are currently working on numerous walls in their home with both my work and work from other photographers who did shoot and burn, "here's your print release" services for them over the years. I have to wonder, if I hadn't offered to print their wedding photos too, would those gorgeous photos be in cheap frames or still in pixels on a jump drive? Thousands. Of. Dollars. Of. Images. Just sitting there. Blows my mind.
This leads me to my hot topic of why it took me so long to realize I was doing you all a disservice. Fear. For so long I was scared to ask. Scared to offer. Scared to get into the world of professional printing. Scared of the word no. Well, turns out, if you don't ask, the answer is already, no. Lightbulb! However, I couldn't get out of my head. I would think to myself, I don't know if I could afford to invest in prints like this at retail costs or if my husband would get on board with it. I didn't know if I would even be comfortable with the idea at all. First of all, I'm not selling to me. I have the talent of being able to design and frame my own walls, oh and the luxury of products at costs (though still not cheap, definitely a perk). So after realizing that your bank account is none of my concern and neither are your personal choices when in comes to what you prefer to invest in, I was a big step closer to becoming a boutique photographer. I remembered that I am blessed with a talent that you want to invest in. Thank you.
So I took the plunge and have gradually been making the shift from "shoot and burn" to boutique studio photography. You will continue to see the changes happening at the studio. All you have to do is prepare yourselves for full service. We're not stopping at a digital gallery. That's doing no-one any favors.
Just this week I had two incredible moments that my heart (not my head) told me I was doing the right thing and heading in the right direction. When my heart speaks to me, that's when I feel the most alignment with where I am supposed to be in my life. It brings me the most joy. I am not doing this to become a "sales woman". I am truly invested in seeing my work through to the very end. After all, you chose me for my work and I'm not a "half-assed" type of gal. I hope you've noticed!
Okay, back to my "heart moments" just this week: 1. I had a client that I hadn't heard from in about a year reach out to me. We had done a full year worth of milestones. I was shoot and burn with her. Hope to see you again. *Sigh*. She reached out to me out of the blue. I was elated to see her name in my inbox, fully expecting she was writing to tell me she was expecting #2 and wanted to book another Watch Me Grow package. Though, that wouldn't have sucked, I was pleasantly surprised when she said, she wanted to know if she could order professional printing from their full first year with me!! Ummm, of course you can!! I'm sorry I didn't offer! They came in for a print appointment a few days later. We had a blast going through all those captured moments and how much their baby has changed even just a year later. They sent me some walls prior to the appointment, I designed them, they loved them, we chose images, and bam. I am fully looking forward to going to their home to install these beautiful images that we have now brought to life for them. A year ago, I didn't ask. And wouldn't you know, their images were still just pixels on a cloud and they WANTED THEM PRINTED. I was convinced that you all just wanted digital files and you wanted to deal with the rest on your own. I forgot that my talent went further than my camera!
Here's the second thing that happened this week. I have had this sweet family for four years. They started with me when they were pregnant with their first, who is now almost four. Maternity images, followed by newborn, then onto a platinum package, so every three months of the first year of her life and at least once a year there after until this next baby came along and we started again with maternity, and so on. The night before the newborn shoot, I was wide awake at 3am (I told you, I've been having a lot of sleepless nights about this change, mostly the excitement, but I'd be lying if I said some of it wasn't the fear too). I was going over in my head how on earth I was going to tell this family, that I had grown so fond of over the four years, that my business model has completely changed from that first year of their first newborn's watch me grow package. How was I going to tell them that I will not just be sending them a gallery of images? How was I going to tell them that they had to come back for yet another appointment to see their images? Cue the clammy hands and increased heart rate and weird tingling face that I previously mentioned.
We finished the session and I begin to explain to them about the changes. I'm sure I was talking really fast, 1. because I'm Asian and that's what we do and 2. because I was so nervous. Much to my surprise, they seemed extremely excited to come back to see their images and see what I could do with their walls both with their new and their previous images!! Say what?!?! My heart exploded. Four years!!! Four years I never offered professional printing to them. Four years I let them pay me hundreds of dollars for my services/time/talent and I cut them off before I gave them all I had to offer all because I was too scared to ask. I know this mama didn't keep her images as pixels. I know she has printed them. But we also had a conversation about how she printed too many of one milestone, so felt she couldn't print many of another. Enter Marggie. This is where my services and talent continue. I'm here to guide you so you make the perfect investment for exactly what you NEED. Nothing extra. Nothing pressured. Never a regret and that is my sincerest promise to you.
If you have made it this far, you deserve a reward. If you are a past or current client and you are reading this and I have done you a disservice by not offering you my further services of designing and printing and you are now ready for me to provide you with the rest of my talent that you paid me for, contact me to make a print appointment and just for making it all the way to the end, I'll be throwing in a special printed gift for you at that appointment.
I'll stop for now. I could go on and on. I really do think I'll start a book on all the ups and down of buisness owning. And maybe that kids book too. And maybe I will look into some cooking classes and see about that chef gig...squirrel.....
Until next time,