Featuring Tracy Autem
Written by Sabrina Sabbagh
Becoming a small business owner isn’t necessarily a goal for all photographers. Industry statistics show that there are plenty of talented wedding and portrait photographers who are perfectly happy working for someone else. And that’s something Tracy Autem is grateful for.
When Tracy created Lightly Photography almost 15 years ago, she had no idea her business would grow to the point of maintaining full-time staff members, associate shooters, and a sought-after internship program.
“We’ve definitely created a company that fosters longevity with our staff.”
Tracy doesn’t see rotation very often in her staff, and that’s how she likes it. “Some of my shooters started as interns so I was able to mentor and train them.” Having multiple photographers can lead to branding issues and continuity problems, but Tracy has managed to bypass those growing pains in her business. “Of course everyone has their own style, but since I trained them, my photographers have a very similar aesthetic to mine.”
Uniformity in Photo Editing
Cohesiveness is important to Tracy, and that means having a uniform look from shooting to editing. “Having five photographers and five different sets of eyes was resulting in some inconsistencies in what we were delivering to clients.”
Even though Tracy owns Lightly Photography, she includes her staff when making big changes—like the decision to outsource. “I asked my staff if they wanted to either have more rigorous editing standards or if they wanted to outsource.” Even though upping the editing standards would mean a raise in pay per wedding, Tracy says they unanimously voted to use ShootDotEdit for color correction. “They’d rather be able to shoot more and work less at their computers.” The Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas-based business owner says it wasn’t hard to show her staff the value of outsourcing. “They’d seen how much better my life has been since I gave up editing.”
Along with Lightly Photography, Tracy has a solo brand where she shoots weddings under her name, Tracy Autem Photography. “They’d already seen how outsourcing the weddings I was shooting positively impacted my personal life and how I felt more balanced.”
Outsourcing for Consistency
Tracy says the added bonus of using ShootDotEdit for her staff’s work is that it keeps everything looking similar across the board, regardless of who photographed the wedding. When it comes to the overall experience Tracy has cultivated for her clients of both brands, she believes a consistent clear voice is just as important as delivering a beautiful print. That’s why along with outsourcing the editing, Tracy has a full-time studio manager.
“If a client calls asking a question, having a studio manager means they won’t be getting four different answers from four different photographers.”
Tracy knows most small businesses don’t have the resources to bring on full-time staff members, but neither could she a few years ago. “We brought her on part-time at first, so she worked 20 to 30 hours a week for almost four years.” Tracy suggests taking things slow when it comes to adding staff. “We need a full-time studio manager because the company has grown to five full-time photographers.” Adding another full-time staff member to the payroll meant Tracy had to give up her ability to get a raise for the last two years. “The hours I’ve gained back as a mom and a wife are worth so much more than money.”
Having a big staff also means a more robust social media presence. “All of my associates take turns handling the social media. Everyone gets one week and then they rotate.” Tracy implemented the rotating system as a way to show off the diversity in her staff and their images. “I want them to have more of a voice and a connection with the audience.” Tracy hopes the exposure will help her associates hone their social media presence and have clients ask for them specifically by name.
If you’d like to check out more of Tracy’s work, check out her website or follow her on Instagram @tracyautemphotography. And make sure to stop by Lightly Photography as well! Tracy and her team have a history of putting out stunning work and you won’t be left disappointed!