Carrie Swails

I'm a serial entrepreneur. Owner at Photography Awesomesauce, Rock Your Weird and Made in the Lab and I photograph offbeat weddings. In other words, I'm crazy. I have a birthmark in my armpit, and am a terrible mathematician. What I lack in understanding of complex theories such as Pi (clearly a food item - apple is my favorite) and invisible numbers (if I can't see them, why should I care?) I make up for in awesomesauce. I believe there is no right way to put the toilet paper on - I'm just happy it's available. I believe there's no such thing as a bad fortune in a fortune cookie. I believe we only live life once so we should wear costumes as often as possible. I believe wine is like the force - it has a light side and a dark side and it holds the universe together. I howl with my basset hound every morning, call my brother to beat video game bosses for me, and love eating fried cheese.

5 Things To Know Before Photographing Your First Wedding

5 THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE PHOTOGRAPHING YOUR FIRST WEDDINGDuring that time as a photographer where I was just delving into the wedding world I would find myself lying awake at night staring at my popcorn ceiling wondering if photographing weddings was a path I truly wanted to follow. Weddings are just so big and incredibly final. What would happen if I messed up? I’ve always been a cautious person so these thoughts are the ones I always found racing through my mind at inopportune times, like the night before I was going to photograph a wedding and really needed the sleep.
Despite the challenges that weddings possessed I took the ups and downs and learned as much as I could from them. I am still learning. I’ll always be learning, but today I hope to pass down a few tips that I wish I’d learned before photographing weddings. It’s easy to see these points written down on a blog post in some far corner of the internet and not take them seriously. In fact, I would venture to guess most people reading this blog post will be nodding and thinking they’ve got all this stuff down. You probably do. Or maybe you’ve heard these things a thousand times before in a Facebook group when some newbie photographer posts asking for tips and all the experienced togs swoop in with world advice and experience and scare off that newbie. My hope is to never scare anyone away from doing something they love, but instead to be here with a few tips to remind you of just how important weddings are before you start documenting the memories of the day.
  1. Study hard and invest well. Never cut corners. Do you hear me? NEVER CUT CORNERS. A wedding is (hopefully) a once in a lifetime event. If you’re cutting corners and just doing the minimum amount of work to get by then you’re doing the clients a disservice. Be an advocate of their wedding day and do the best job you possibly can.
  2. Get that back up gear! When I started photographing weddings I couldn’t afford all the fancy lenses and camera bodies that all the big leaders of the time used. Sometimes it felt as though I could never be a real wedding photographer without all the fancy equipment. We know that’s not true. The talent comes from behind the camera and the equipment is just a tool you use to create. Back up gear is essential to making sure your clients are secure and you’ll always get the shot. Camera drops into a fountain? Falls and breaks? You must have extras! The problem is that we don’t all have the financial ability to run out and buy whatever we want. Make sure you build a budget into your business for renting back up gear until you can afford to buy it. That way you’ll never let your clients down.
  3. Contracts are essential! You’ve probably heard that before. I know legal agreements are daunting. You might be nervous about having clients sign one. Just remember contracts aren’t just for you. You’re not using this tool to hoodwink your clients into submission. This is a tool for both of you. It protects both them and you. It outlines and sets the expectations for the day. A contract makes sure that everyone knows exactly what is happening and precisely what their roles are.
  4. Be prepared! There are so many levels of preparedness that go into weddings. I don’t think it’s even possible to be prepared enough. Anything that you can do to prepare yourself for this big business step of shooting a wedding is something you should do. If you have the opportunity to go to a venue walk through, do it. The wedding rehearsal? Do it. If those aren’t happening schedule a time to visit the venue on your own. Read anything and everything you can find about photographing a wedding. Second shoot as much as possible or be an intern at a wedding. Take every opportunity to learn and you’ll become more prepared.
  5. Timelines are essential. A wedding timeline is something you can work together to create with your clients and their planner (if they have one). This timeline will help you prepare for any major lighting traditions and let you know when you have time for a quick bathroom break. You need a timeline. If nobody has created one, talk to your clients about creating one. Everything seems less stressful and rushed when there is a timeline, even if you deviate from it.
If you’re getting ready to shoot your first wedding don’t be afraid to ask for help and tips. Sometimes you just need someone to commiserate with when you’re nervous. Just remember everyone who was ever successful at photographing weddings was EXACTLY where you are right now asking themselves the same questions. If you want to learn more awesome behind the business stuff like this make sure you subscribe to our weekly newsletter below, where we’ll be giving out extra special discounts and a few free products only for subscribers this Winter. You can also join our Facebook group, follow us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram, and even follow me on Pinterest where I love to pin social media, blogging, business, and photography tips from all over the web! If you subscribe to our newsletter you’ll need to head on over to your email after you hit the submit button here to confirm your subscription. If you don’t see a confirmation check your junk/spam!

3 Ways to Increase Your Facebook Reach

3 ways to increase your Facebook reachQuestions fill my inbox on a regular basis asking me what I think about Facebook today compared to the Facebook of 5 or 10 years ago (back to when it’s started). It’s changed so much and you guys have noticed that overall it’s becoming harder and harder to reach your audience with your business page. I love it when you guys email me questions and I can turn them into blog posts and elaborate on things for you. I’ve decided to give a few tips tips on how to increase your Facebook reach, even in today’s world.

However, I definitely want to send any photographer who is only using Facebook as their social media marketing and no other platforms to go check out this blog post about why you shouldn’t limit yourself to Facebook. The best thing to increase your reach overall is to diversify where your audience can find you. So if Facebook isn’t working as great as it used to be, start utilizing new platforms in addition to implementing the tips below.

  1. Provide Beneficial Content – If what you’re writing about on Facebook is only about you, you need to start providing content that makes your Facebook page about your followers instead. Stop posting incessantly about your latest sale or mini-session deal and instead provide content that can help your followers. Tips and tricks for looking better in photos, things they should know to prepare for their session with you, resources for what they can do with their photos afterward and a variety of other bits and pieces of information they might be interested in. Make your page about them instead of all about you.
  2. Post More Often – It’s easy to just not post content when we’re not shooting, right? As photographers we post up our sneak peeks after a session and then, for the most part, we feel done with those images. However, our audiences are constantly changing (and hopefully growing), plus Facebook only shows our posts to a certain amount of people. So, it would make sense to re-post our favorite images from our portfolio to ensure more of our audience gets a chance to see them. When you aren’t out shooting in the Winter, or when you have a few weeks off but you still know your followers want to see your amazing work, share it! I started using a service called meetedgar.com which is all about social media scheduling from a completely different strategy – the strategy of re-using old content. I used it to create a library of around 260 images (enough to post one image a day for 5 days a week for a year) and then Edgar automatically schedules and cycles through those images. As my portfolio grows during busy season I can swap some out, but this gives me new content and interaction with people every day on my page. I have seen photographers just not post at all in between jobs and that’s a quick way to lose interest from your followers. Remember that they originally followed you because they loved what you did in the first place, so make sure you keep on showcasing your photography!
  3. Be Genuine – It’s easy to get wrapped up in the marketing lingo and business when you’re out their trying to hustle. All business owners hustle. Sometimes that starts to come across in our Facebook updates when we start to sound like robots posting the same captions all the time, or not including a bit of a story or quote to go with our images when we share them. Be genuine and let your voice be unique when on Facebook, it’s one of the best ways to stand out. If you sound like all the other business owners and photographers out there because your voice is too “business-y” then you just become one of many, instead of the one standing out!

If you want to learn more awesome behind the business stuff like this make sure you subscribe to our weekly newsletter below, where we’ll be giving out extra special discounts and a few free products only for subscribers this Winter. You can also join our Facebook group, follow us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram, and even follow me on Pinterest where I love to pin social media, blogging, business, and photography tips from all over the web! If you subscribe to our newsletter you’ll need to head on over to your email after you hit the submit button here to confirm your subscription. If you don’t see a confirmation check your junk/spam!

5 Reasons You Need Studio Management Software

photographyawesomesauce.com-2Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means Photography Awesomesauce receives commission if you make a purchase using affiliate links.

What is studio management software? Well it’s usually downloadable software or an online service you can use to manage everything behind the scenes with your photography business. I’m all about simplicity when it comes to business. Work smarter, not harder and all that jazz. Here are some reasons you – YES YOU – may need to invest in studio management software this year.

  1. You’re unorganized. Let’s face it, business is hard. You probably became a photographer because you loved taking photos and not because you loved handing all the paperwork and crap behind the scenes, right? You have stacks of receipts, paper contracts, and stuff scattered all over your office and files and it would be super nice to streamline things and not have to deal with all this behind the scenes stuff in the unorganized way you’ve been attempting to deal with it for a long time. Studio management software can take all that unorganization and organize it for you online.
  2. Go Paperless. If you’ve been printing out and sending contracts to your clients through the mail, or sending them a PDF to send back to you in the mail, you could go paperless using studio management software. Snail mail is for snails. If you want to get your bookings, contracts and payments much faster and make the experience much easier on your customers, then studio management software is the way to go. You can just send a contract online that can be signed digitally and connect it to an invoice – so your clients aren’t really booked until they’ve both signed and paid – and you get paid faster! Plus there’s less error for double booking clients!
  3. Automate Emails! AUTOMATE! Have you ever thought about all the information you need to send clients after they’ve booked (or before) about the booking process, what to wear for their session, other tips and information? Or had clients ask you incessantly for photos and you keep having to answer repeated questions for them over and over again? Wouldn’t it be awesome if all that information was sent to them and right at their fingertips and you didn’t have to remember to send it? One of my favorite features of studio management software is the ability to send a series of automated emails to clients based on the date they’ve booked. I use this tool to send clients links to my favorite wedding vendors and resources, reminders about when they’ll receive their photos, tips for their wedding day, reminders about engagement session and in general – to just provide useful information and resources for them. For a long time I was kind of against the automated email idea. I mean, it just seems really impersonal, but the truth is that I don’t have the time or memory to remember to send out these emails and rewrite them for each individual customer on time. My clients know there’s an email system to send them info and reminders and I’ve received nothing but compliments on it over the last year. Plus, if they want more info they can just hit reply and we can have a personal conversation about whatever the email topic is. Clients have loved the additional resources and have felt like I was more attentive and helpful than they initially expected. With weddings especially, I never want my clients to feel like the dead time in between booking and their wedding (which can be months or even a year or more) is time that I’m not attentive to them. I want them to know I’m thinking about them even when we’re not doing the actual work and automated emails definitely provide me the tool to level up my customer service.
  4. Let clients book automatically. Have you ever though it would be super cool to have a section of your website where clients could pick their session date and time from a calendar and then automatically book with you online? They could book everything and sign their contract and pay their invoice, without you having to do much work on your end? Studio management systems have that – specifically, Pixifi, the best studio management system out there, has this option perfected!
  5. Track some accounting. Accounting is the bane of any creative’s existence. I mean, who wants to punch numbers? You did not become a photographer to punch numbers! Lots of studio management programs have some accounting tools to help you manage this behind the scenes!

Now, the question might be, where can you find an awesome service that will help you with these tasks? My first recommendation is Pixifi. There may be other companies out there can do one or all of these things, but Pixifi is THE BEST. There’s simply no question. Of all the options out there, Pixifi is the one that truly cares and invests time back into its customers and creating tools and options you ask for. You literally can’t beat their customer service. In fact, you can read about how I feel about their customer service in this blog post about How to Win at Customer Service. Pixifi has a 60-day free trial which gives you more than enough time to set it up, test it out and start utilizing all of its tools. Setting up a management software can be tough and it tends to be one of the reasons why people shy away from these programs more often than not. However, there’s tons of resources out there to get you set up on Pixifi. First, when you sign up there’s a wizard built in that will walk you through a lot of the initial set up. Second, you can join the Pixifi Facebook group once you’ve signed up where there’s a great community to ask questions and get help from other users. Third, you can also pay someone to set it up for you too. Our very own blogger, Lisa Otto, offers this service and can make it quick and easy if it’s too overwhelming for you. That said, I’ve now gone through Pixifi set up twice, and I have to say the current Pixifi is so much easier to set up. In fact, the automated email system in particular is incredibly easy.

If you’re interested in trying out Pixifi, you can use my referral link. Please know that I may make a commission if you use my link to sign up and decide Pixifi is right for you! I’d recommend Pixifi with or without a referral system though. 😉

If you want to learn more awesome behind the business stuff like this make sure you subscribe to our weekly newsletter below, where we’ll be giving out extra special discounts and a few free products only for subscribers this Winter. You can also join our Facebook group, follow us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram, and even follow me on Pinterest where I love to pin social media, blogging, business, and photography tips from all over the web! If you subscribe to our newsletter you’ll need to head on over to your email after you hit the submit button here to confirm your subscription. If you don’t see a confirmation check your junk/spam!

How to Actually Schedule Instagram Posts in Advance

photographyawesomesauce.comIf you know anything about me, you know that automation is my jam. Anything I can automate in business gives me my life back and is worth the money spent. Even though I’m running four businesses, I’d still want to automate as much as possible with just one business so I could spend less time working and more time having freedom. That’s part of why we started businesses anyway, right? More freedom? More time?

To help you get back more of your life today I’m going to blog and share about how you can really schedule Instagram posts in advance. If you have ever tried to schedule Instagram posts in advance you’ll know that you can’t do it in the Instagram app, and you can’t do it when you log into Instagram from your desktop browser. One of the easiest solutions for business owners is Latergram. Here’s the problem with services like Latergram, while they allow you to schedule photos and captions in advance, all they really do is send a reminder to your phone at the time you wanted the post to go live and you still have to go in and actually make the post go live. It can definitely help you save time by not having to make decisions on the run with what you want to post, but wouldn’t it be better if the entire scheduling process was completely automated? Wouldn’t it be better if instead of having to still go in and make the post live, if something just did that for you?

Enter, Schedugram, my new favorite service. I’ve been with Schedugram since it was relatively new, so it’s actually not my new favorite thing, it’s been one of my favorite services for awhile. Schedugram allows you to log into a desktop internet browser, schedule your Instagram photos, captions and a first comment, and then completely automates the post going live from there, so you don’t have to drop what you’re doing at 3pm to make that post go live – they make it live for you.

Right now Schedugram is the only service of its kind and they do have a free 7-day trial if you want to try it out. I’m not writing this blog post because I get any kind of kickback from them. I, in fact, get nothing. I’m writing about Schedugram because it’s been such an incredible time saving tool for me in business, and because since using it seriously and taking advantage of all it has to offer, I’ve more than tripled my Instagram following.

Schedugram helps me be consistent with my presence on Instagram and consistency is one of the keys to booking more clients and connecting with new people. It also lets me manage social media and be more productive during my work hours because I don’t have to drop whatever I’m doing to think about, decide, and then post something on Instagram. I can create my plan of attack in advance, schedule it for however far in advance I’d like and voila my work is done.

To top it off, Schedugram has also provided a really good customer service experience for me. They’re very responsive when you email, and if their server is having issues they’re prompt at notifying you and making sure you are still happy and getting what you need out of the company. That kind of incident is incredibly rare though, but I appreciate their efforts to be great at communicating anything that may be going on that will affect my experience as a user.

So, if you want to take back some of your life in 2016, increase your presence on Instagram, and start having some consistency to your online presence – jump on the Schedugram wagon with me and hopefully it can be another tool in your arsenal that will help you take your business to new heights.

If you want to learn more awesome behind the business stuff like this make sure you subscribe to our weekly newsletter below, where we’ll be giving out extra special discounts and a few free products only for subscribers this Winter. You can also join our Facebook group, follow us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram, and even follow me on Pinterest where I love to pin social media, blogging, business, and photography tips from all over the web! If you subscribe to our newsletter you’ll need to head on over to your email after you hit the submit button here to confirm your subscription. If you don’t see a confirmation check your junk/spam!

 

How Shootproof’s Automated Email System Can Help You Sell More Prints

photographyawesomesauce.com-3Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means Photography Awesomesauce receives commission if you make a purchase using affiliate links.

Whether you’re a print based photographer or a digital files types of photographer, who doesn’t want to sell more prints? Selling more prints = more income, so I’m assuming everyone is on board with this idea. There are tons of ways to structure your business to increase sales, increase bookings and sell more prints, but I think one of the most underutilized tools that I’d like to hear more about in the photography industry is Shootproof’s automated email system. In general, I feel the power of automated emails is underutilized, but if you’re a Shootproof user, or just someone who uses online galleries this tool can definitely help you sell more prints.

Automated emails are basically a system of pre-written email templates that you can schedule to go to anyone who has entered their email in the gallery based on when the gallery’s expiration date is or another date. There are tons of great ways you can utilize an automated email workflow in your business, but Shootproof’s tool is the one we’re specifically talking about today. If you’re not familiar with what Shootproof is, they’re an online gallery system for photographers that allows you to connect with a professional print lab to offer prints to your clients, or self fulfill print orders, or sell/allow digital file downloads to your clients. There are tons of other great features they offer and I recommend reading about them in this blog post if you’re new to the online gallery world or are thinking about making the switch.

Below are a few ways you can use Shootproof’s automated email system to help you sell more prints. If you decide you’re interested in using Shootproof, use the code: SWAILS25 to take 25% off any annual plan when you sign up!

  • Discount Codes – There’s a concept that photographers talk about where when you initially deliver a gallery to clients you also provide them with a discount code for ordering prints. The discount can start out at whatever percentage or amount you want, and over time you can actually lessen the discount to give clients incentive to purchase prints sooner rather than later. Shootproof’s automated email system can be a great way to utilize this type of selling tool. You can have automated emails go out reminding them of the discount, or that the discount will go down on a regular basis after the gallery is delivered. It’s so much easier than trying to remember to email your clients yourself. The best part is that you can attach the gallery link to these automated emails so clients don’t have to go back and look for it in past emails or somewhere else.
  • Gallery Expiration Reminders – You can’t keep your client’s photos up forever, okay well you probably can, but one way to encourage print sales is to set a gallery expiration date after your clients photos are delivered and send out emails to remind them to order prints before the gallery expires. You can set the date whenever it best suits your business model, but using Shootproof’s automated email system you can send out those expiration reminders on a regular basis so your clients know exactly how much time they have left to order prints. A lot of times after you deliver an online gallery, especially if you’re a digital files kind of photographer, your clients will download the files and forget that they wanted to order prints or they will plan on doing it later. Gallery expiration reminders let them know that it is “later” and they should order their prints soon through you before they lose their chance.
  • Send Out More Info – I’m a really big fan of diversifying your income and at the same time providing extra resources for your clients. One of the things I do in business is become an affiliate for companies I like. When you’re an affiliate for a business you get a custom link and can provide it to other people. When they purchase something through your link, you get a small percentage of the sale. A great way to diversify your income streams as a small business owner is through affiliate opportunities. I used to really love creating my own newborn announcements, or save the dates for my clients, but when I really focused on what I loved to do in business I found those things weren’t one of my favorite tasks to do. Often clients ordered their own anyway, so now I’ve taken advantage of that and become an affiliate for Wedding Paper Divas (wedding save the dates, invites and thank you cards). You can even become an affiliate for Minted or Tiny Prints. If you’re not interested in selling and designing your own card or press products, and you’re already referring clients to services like these, you might as well become an affiliate and get a little kickback for sending your clients their way. I use Shootproof’s automated email system to provide clients with links to these kind of resources. I’m open and honest that I’m an affiliate and I get a commission when they use the links, but I’m happy to ask for the sale and let them know that if they appreciated working with me and are going to order through these services anyway that I always appreciate the kickback. Clients love it and so do I. There are also other sources you can include in automated emails, like links back to blog posts you’ve written about why clients should order prints through you and not through Costco or Walgreens, or blog posts about the difference between professional and consumer print labs. You could also link back to blog posts you’ve written that showcase your wedding albums, or canvases or talk about any other products you sell. Write a blog post about cropping ratios and how they work when ordering prints so your clients have that resource when choosing sizes, and then include a link to that blog post in an email to clients, or just write an email about it and work it into your automated workflow. There are so many great ways to use this resource. I also know that there are going to be a few naysayers out there reading this bullet point and thinking I’m nuts for sending my clients to places like Wedding Paper Divas to order press products when I could do it myself and make more money or provide a higher quality product. I know this and I’m not advocating my way is the right way or that everyone should do that, but it is what works best for my business and my workflow and it makes me happy. I always advocate that you do what works best for you and your business, I’m just here with ideas that have worked for me and you can take them or leave them. 😉
  • TemplatesShootproof’s automated email system lets you create templates in advance and then assign those templates to a timeline of when they will send the email. Instead of always writing something brand new, you can work off templates when you deliver the gallery and you can always go in and personalize it a little bit before you send the email (if you’re not automating it and just using a template to manually send it through Shootproof). Templates can help you cut down on time too!

This option on Shootproof is one of my favorite tools they have. We all know I’m a fan of automation, and why not do as much as you can to increase print sales and provide resources and information to your clients? One thing about these emails in Shootproof is that they send to everyone who has downloaded a photo in the gallery – so that means the emails will go out to anyone in there and not just the client. At first I wasn’t so sure about how I felt about that, and I’d love an option to send an email to just the assigned client in the workflow, but I figure sending it to everyone the clients shared the photo with (and specifically those who have downloaded or ordered photos before) is a good way to maximize print sales and profits. These people always have the option to unsubscribe to the emails if they don’t like them.

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The links to Shootproof in this blog post are my referral link and I do get a commission if you sign up with them, but I wouldn’t send you somewhere I didn’t love and I really truly love Shootproof and everything they have to offer the photography industry. They’re an amazing company that really loves on their customers, so if you’re looking for an online gallery who is as invested in you as you are in them, these guys are the place to go!

If you want to learn more awesome behind the business stuff like this make sure you subscribe to our weekly newsletter below, where we’ll be giving out extra special discounts and a few free products only for subscribers this Winter. You can also join our Facebook group, follow us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram, and even follow me on Pinterest where I love to pin social media, blogging, business, and photography tips from all over the web! If you subscribe to our newsletter you’ll need to head on over to your email after you hit the submit button here to confirm your subscription. If you don’t see a confirmation check your junk/spam!