Photographer: Julie Staley of Old South Studios
Location: Charlotte, North Carolina
Years in Business: 5
Niche/Specialty: Weddings and everything wedding related
Find her: www.oldsouthstudios.com
Level of awesomeness: She made about 50k in two weeks. *mic drop*
How she got started
As a pharmaceutical sales rep, Julie wanted to spend more time with her two small kids. She left her job in 2008 and started doing family photo shoots as a hobby.
Transitioning from Hobbyist to Pro
Pretty quickly, Julie realized her sales background was an advantage—even outweighing her photography chops. She spent a year really dedicated to her craft, studying and practicing. She started second-shooting weddings and fell in love with it on Day One. Julie second-shot about 20-25 weddings before she became confident enough to strike out on her own.
Before she fully niched down on weddings, though, Julie rocked family portraits. She made an exclusive deal with a sunflower farmer to shoot during the two-week bloom period. She averaged $2000 per family and shot 20-30 families during that time.
Julie ran the sunflower field deal five years in a row and killed it each July.
Julie loves that weddings test all of your skills in one day: photographing products, people, action, architecture, posing, not to mention the people skills required.
What is Julie really good at?
Julie is great at qualifying her leads. By the time she gets a bride in her studio, it’s rare that they don’t sign a contract.
It all starts with that first time the bride finds her website. She immediately sends them a questionnaire to ride that excitement high. Julie uses ShootQ management software which pings her phone when she has a new lead.
Through her questionnaire, Julie is able to get a feel for the bride’s budget. It is very direct and the girls often weed themselves out if the pricing is not right for them.
If the bride is a right fit, Julie calls her up and asks a lot of questions. They don’t talk at all about photography at first—the bride gushes away and Julie’s taking notes all the while (all the info is stored in ShootQ). Creating trust is super important, and Julie uses this opportunity to ask some amazing and unique questions that set her apart from other photographers.
Finally, Julie uses her 1,500-square-foot studio to her advantage. From stationery to flowers to champagne, the bride immediately sees the value of Julie’s relationships with vendors and dedication to weddings. She is THE place to go for weddings, and it is evident when you walk into the studio.
How to handle objections
Write out what you anticipate the objections will be and come up with a script. Between the questionnaire and the phone call, most objections are already handled by the in-person consultation. Point out the ways you add value to that day and what sets you apart from the competition.
Lists make things better
It took about three years for Julie and her team to get systems in place for every aspect of the business—not just shooting, but technology management, accounting and bookkeeping, marketing plans. Everything!
Now that she has three lead associates, it is super easy for everyone to be on the same page, thanks to the studio’s operations manual. Having systems in place frees Julie up to do what she does the best—clicking with brides and making that money.
How her wedding photography took off
It’s all thanks to the Carolina Panthers—actually, the cheerleaders.
Just for fun, Julie spent six weeks auditioning to be an NFL cheerleader. (!)It wasn’t planned as a business move, but it launched her visibility in the market. She got to know the girls, who were at the age where they were all getting married. She started shooting everyone’s weddings and getting published everywhere.
“Tune into what makes you happy when you’re behind the camera, and go full force in that one direction—not in 10 different directions.”