The Start Of June Lion
ShootDotEdit: We have a lot of questions for you but maybe let’s just start with you, your brand (June Lion Photography), how you became June Lion, and maybe where the name comes from too.
Kelly: I wasn’t always June Lion. I was shooting weddings, and June made me feel like it was for weddings without it actually being like precious weddings or some other cheesy name. It was more of a feeling. And then the lion is my power animal; it’s strong, beautiful, brave. So it was kind of like a word diptych. I didn’t want my business name to just be my name because that didn’t really distinguish me from anybody else, and it didn’t really say anything. I wanted something to help me stand out a little bit and to help emote some sort of feeling. The name change really did make me stand out.
ShootDotEdit: And how did you get started in photography? How long ago are we talking, and what did you start with?
Kelly: I would say 23 years ago. I am actually one of those rare breeds that went to school for photography at Southern Illinois University. So I feel like that got me a good start. And then I moved to Savannah, Georgia, and there are just so many weddings being shot there. It’s such a beautiful city and has such a long wedding season. I was working under another photographer in Savannah, and we probably shot 50 weddings a year there. But we were film photographers at the time, so there wasn’t all the post-production work. So yeah, my journey started with film and shooting weddings. That really helps you hone your technical skills. And then, I started my own business when I moved to Portland 14 years ago. I continued to shoot weddings once moving to Portland but started to face a little bit of burnout. So at that point, all my brides and grooms started getting pregnant and having babies, and they thought of me and reached out. So I started doing maternity photos, and then newborn photos, and then my portfolio built in those areas, and those clients started to refer me to their friends… and so that’s kind of how I transitioned naturally to portraits, it’s really all from my wedding clients.
ShootDotEdit: Are you doing more portraits than weddings now?
Kelly: I’d say probably the last 2-3 years is when I’ve been doing more portraits. The pandemic definitely helped that transition because all my weddings were rescheduled. Those reschedules gave me an opportunity to spend more of my weekends photographing families and building that part of my business up. Now I do about 7 weddings a year or so and then fill all the rest of my time with lots of family sessions.
I still get a lot of inquiries for weddings, but now I can be a little particular about them and only do the ones I want!
ShootDotEdit: So when you are marketing now, do you still market to past brides, or is it now directed more towards people who have families or both?
Kelly: Definitely both. I have a newsletter that all my prior clients receive. And then, when I post on Instagram, I am strategic about what I share. I still post images of couples, but not as many of weddings because I want to continue to phase down on those. But I still enjoy photographing couples. I also photograph boudoir, interior design, and headshots. After 23 years of being a photographer, I feel like variety really is the spice of life. And it keeps me from being too burned out. If I were just a newborn photographer or just a wedding photographer, I think I would get burned out a lot quicker. I recently did a newborn shoot, a branding shoot, I have an interior design shoot next week, I have a family this weekend. I love it! I have heard many times that as a photographer, I “should hone in and specialize more” and I get why that advice is out there. But also, I feel like branching off into so many different things creates a lot of overlapping ways in which people find out about me. One of the interior designers I shot for was actually a family session client of mine. And she asked me if I would be up for shooting interiors. It’s kind of symbiotic.
Suggested Read: Wedding Photography Burnout: Signs, Prevention, & Recovery
Using IPS and Creative Collections To Maximize Profits
ShootDotEdit: That sounds great. That repeat customer cycle is powerful for sure. So tell a bit about the in-person sales side of the business. When did you start doing it and how do you do it?
Kelly: When I first moved to Portland, I actually worked for a company called Campbell Salgado that did a lot of in-person sales. I was their retoucher at the time. That was my side gig while I was building my business. And I’d see $5,000-$10,000 sales come through every day. So it was always there in the back of my mind, like, “Okay, I need to start doing this”. But also it was intimidating because they had this big glorious studio. And so I thought that that’s what you needed to get into IPS.
I think I just realized at some point that it doesn’t have to be that way. I don’t have to be a studio photographer to do IPS. I think she’s a studio photographer too, but one of the educators that I took a course from was Julia Kellerher. That course was a good jumping-off point for me for creating my pricing guide, and once that guide was out it was just like, “Okay, I guess I’m now a full-service studio, and I’m doing this”.
I always offered albums and prints and stuff like that, but not wall art. And people didn’t really go for it. And I did a print survey recently asking my digital file clients if they actually ever printed their photographs. And maybe half of them did. And all the people that did get those prints said that they got more joy from the prints than they would’ve from just the digital files.
I feel like it was a disservice to not offer that stuff before, but I think they needed a little encouragement too, you know. Just offering it isn’t going to do as much as saying, “All right, we’re having a Zoom meeting, and we’re going to see your photos, and we’re going to talk about what we’re going to do with your photos”.
ShootDotEdit: Can you walk us through the process of how you work with your clients from start to finish?
Kelly: I have a full studio guide that we send to people when they first inquire. And then, we will email them to give a little overview of the process that also takes them step-by-step through to make sure they know what they’re getting into. We send these things initially, and then, only after they look over everything on the email do we send the booking link.
We just want to make sure that they don’t have any questions about anything before we book. Then, we email the booking link. Once they book, they also get info from us on our favorite places to shoot and, they have information in the guide about what to wear and there’s also a link to a styling service that they can use that we’ve paid for for them to use. So there’s a lot of initial prep stuff. But most importantly, we also schedule a planning session. So somewhere around two weeks before the session, we jump on a phone call and talk more about things like, “Okay, where do you want the artwork in your house? What’s the vibe of your house? What colors are in your house?” And then we fine-tune what they’re going to wear, lock down a location of where we’re going to shoot, what time, and other things like that.
Suggested Read: Top 6 Ways To Boost Your Wedding Photography Sales
ShootDotEdit: So when you send that guide to them, initially, does it also include pricing, location, clothing?
Kelly: Yeah, but I know they’re not always going to pay attention to that. So that’s why we have the planning session.
ShootDotEdit: And in that guide, do you also plant the seed about selling products?
Kelly: A lot of times, whenever you just say, “Okay, here’s collection 1, 2, and 3”, people are going to want to swap things out. They will want to negotiate, “Oh wait, can we just take this out? It’s too much. People want to customize. I mean, some people might just like something simple, but I think a lot of my clients want a little bit more creative control over what they get. So I do something that’s called Creative Collection, wherein you basically have to follow steps 1, 2, and 3. So if you want to get the full set of digitals, you have to either choose at least one piece of wall art or an album, then you also have a choice of small or large resolution digital files, and then you also have to pick something from my gifts and keepsakes section.
Alternatively, so I can appeal to more budget-friendly clients, I offer digital images a la carte, but only in limited numbers – like a set of 10 or 20 – and because most people want them all, they eventually just choose the Creative Collection option. So what that means is that the client, yes, pays more but gets all the digital files they want, and they also walk away with a couple pieces of printed art or an album and something printed. And then, during the reveal session, I show them more possibilities for printed products that they can always add on.
ShootDotEdit: Are you using a client management system or anything to do all this?
Kelly: We do use Táve for client management, but we don’t have very much automation built into it yet. That’s the next thing that we are working on.
Suggested Read: 5 Automation Strategies For Wedding Photographers
ShootDotEdit: So they get the guide, they review the guide, theoretically, they at least look at the baseline and understand the basics. So when it’s time to book, do you take a deposit? How do you lock them in?
Kelly: So it’s a $250 session fee for a standard lifestyle session. That’s about an hour and a half. That’s all they have to pay to start. And then products and digitals and everything else they can decide on after they’ve seen the photos.
ShootDotEdit: You mentioned that you finalize clothing and location during the planning session. You also talk about wall art and decor. So what else is included in that planning session? Do you guide your clients about what time of day you need to meet or when you should be doing the session?
Kelly: Yeah, we do. And I am not one of those that insist that “We can only shoot at sunset at golden hour. We can only shoot in this beautiful field or whatever.” I get it. I love a beautiful field at sunset too, but sometimes we get some really cranky kids when I try to shoot at sunset. I don’t care how magical the place is – when it’s their bedtime, it’s their bedtime. So I shoot at all times of day. I avoid 11 to 2, but that’s about it. I usually book either in the morning or in the evening. We do talk about time of day, but it’s usually working around naps more than anything. I would rather have a happy kid and challenging light to just strategize as a professional than to have a kid that misses a nap. A crying face is not something I can help with.
ShootDotEdit: So then, after the shoot, how do you set them up for the next step?
Kelly: We do the IPS over Zoom. I don’t have a studio. I can theoretically do it in my house, and we have considered converting our dining room to a viewing room at some point, but right now, it’s working pretty well over Zoom. I feel like to not have people get childcare is great too because if they’re coming to a studio for two hours, there’s no way their child is going to be happy. So we can schedule a Zoom review for any time – after the child goes to sleep or when their child is in childcare. That way, it works pretty nice over Zoom. I like people in their comfy clothes, being able to have a glass of wine or whatever while they view their photos.
I just share a screen and go through a slideshow of images. I then show them proposals of things that they have expressed interest in. Some people are just albums, some people are wall art, some people are both. So I do a pre-design of all those things. Then we go through the images and we see what their favorites are and then we decide. Sometimes, we make a second pass, like, “Okay, what are the tippy top ones? You love these images, but can you imagine them on your wall?” And then we just start playing around with images. Because some people can have 4 favorite images, but they might not look awesome together. So we sit there and we play with images to see what looks good together, what designs they like. They can send me photos of their house and we can actually put the images virtually on the walls of their house, which is really great. It’s amazing for people who are like, “Oh, I don’t know if this is going to go in that space.” And I can literally show them that it can and will work. Fundy Designer has been great for the IPS that way.
ShootDotEdit: So then, what do you often find yourself selling when it comes to wall art? Is it framed prints? Canvas? Metal? Acrylic?
Kelly: I only offer framed prints and canvases, I don’t do metal or acrylic or anything like that. I just don’t feel like it matches the style of my photography or the clients that I tend to attract. I do offer framed canvases too. I really like the look of that. But mostly, it’s framed prints.
ShootDotEdit: Do you have any favorite labs that you work with?
ShootDotEdit: So then once you’ve done the reveal session with them over Zoom, do they check out then? Or do you let them have time to think about it?
Kelly: I usually do it right away because I usually just take credit cards online because I would much rather just get it done and move on to the next step. And then I can release the gallery that same night if they pay for it.
ShootDotEdit: So, how long do the Zoom sessions usually take?
Kelly: The average is 1 to 1 ½ hours. It depends upon how quick they are making a decision and if they want an album and wall art. We show a lot of images in the session, and I am not the best at narrowing down photos. I think some of it has to do with the fact that I like to show both black and white and color and I’m not showing the exact same images, you know? I mean, there might be similar images and I’ll show one in black and white and one in color, so that adds to the number. It’s usually about 150 images. After 23 years of being a photographer, narrowing it down usually becomes a little painful when I want them to have it all. I could narrow it down, but if they’re getting the full set of images, I want them to have them all.
ShootDotEdit: And how many would you say percentage-wise end up going with the packages or the collections that include all the digitals in the end?
Kelly: I think everybody that I’ve done so far has bought all the digitals. My average sale is probably around $2000.
Related Read: How To Price Photography Prints
ShootDotEdit: Sounds like that two hour sales session is worth it! So then when it comes to product delivery, do they come to you? Do you drop it to them? How are you doing the delivery?
Kelly: My husband actually works for me now. So he quit his job in August since IPS was going pretty well and he wasn’t very happy at his job. He actually does the deliveries and he does a lot of my technical side and he’s working on streamlining things and automations and all kinds of things. So he’s a helpful asset. I needed somebody else. He also does a lot of my correspondence too, which is very helpful, because just getting through the emails can take me half a day.
Related Read: How To Deliver Photos To Clients
The Creative Process
ShootDotEdit: And do all the sessions have the same process? Are the headshots different from the interiors?
Kelly: Yeah, those are different because I know most of the people that are getting headshots don’t want a portrait of themselves on the wall. So we’re just doing digitals in those cases. And we don’t have the whole planning session for that. All details are usually streamlined over email.
ShootDotEdit: In terms of your shooting process, since you’re working during all times of day, are you shooting with just natural light or do you use off-camera light as well?
Kelly: For weddings, I use off-camera light when I am in reception halls or dance halls. I know how to use it, I just don’t necessarily love the look of it, so I mostly am using natural light. So whenever we’re doing our planning session, if we’re shooting in their house, we talk about what the light is like in their house or what the light is going to be like in a canopy if we’re shooting in the forest.
ShootDotEdit: And do you shoot solo or do you have an assistant usually or both?
Kelly: When it’s weddings, I almost always have a second shooter, but during portraits, it’s just me.
ShootDotEdit: And what’s your go-to gear that you can’t live without?
Kelly: I would say those might be my prime lenses and my Canon R6. I know people love their zooms like the 24-70 mm and I get it. But to me an L series prime is where it’s at. I feel like when you use zoom, you stay in one place and you just move your wrist back and forth. But when it’s a prime lens, you have to move physically and you’re being forced to explore more angles. It really gives me a different perspective each time, and every time I change a lens, it gives me a chance to take a breath, clear my head a little bit and rethink what we’re going to be doing. Every time I use a different prime lens, it just helps me change my perspective.
ShootDotEdit: What do you love most and least about being a photographer?
Kelly: I think what I love the most is being able to see people’s reactions to their photographs. Before, whenever I would just send a gallery, I might get an email shortly after with a couple of exclamation marks that said , “Oh my god we love our photos!!” or it might not be until I see them in their next session two years later that I hear, “Oh my God, we loved our photos so much”. It really feeds the soul to be able to see grown men cry, and I have these big, tough burly construction men with tears in their eyes looking away while their slideshow is going. There’s nothing that tops that. Or when someone tells me that I really captured the essence of who they are – that is beautiful. I would say that’s what has been the most rewarding about IPS – beyond the being able to make more money for my family.
What I love the least would be bookkeeping. I hate anything math-y. I want to outsource that someday, but we have not gotten there yet, but I’m definitely delegating more of that to my husband now.
Getting Time Back Through Outsourcing
ShootDotEdit: So tell us about outsourcing. You mentioned Táve and Fundy. What else or where else do you outsource?
Kelly: Can I say ShootDotEdit? Being able to pass on my color correction to somebody else is fantastic. I still do my cull even though I am on the free cull program. But I love the idea that if some day I don’t want to cull my group shots or something, I could let you do that for me. Working with ShootDotEdit allows more time for me to spend with my family or to work on those things that were neglected for years before I started outsourcing. So yeah, I can shoot more because I am editing less. I still do my pass and make sure it’s exactly how I would do it, but to be able to have someone do the bulk of the editing is amazing. And I use it for my portraits too, so it’s great.
ShootDotEdit: We love a good shout-out! Thanks for that. And tell us about any people who inspire you. People who keep your creative juices flowing.
Kelly: For weddings, I really do love Sean Flanigan. I think he is just a fantastic wedding photographer. Didi von Boch is someone who I really admire for families. Both of them have the same kind of tone in that they shoot this fine art meets documentary style. It feels very raw, even though I know there’s a lot of control that is happening. And they’re both experimental. They always seem to be pushing themselves. They’re not afraid to get weird. They’re really brave with their photography. And that’s something that I always want to do – keep experimenting, keep being brave.
I also follow some business podcasts that I feel like I have received a free business education from. I listen to Ben Hartley’s Six Figure Photography, Luci Dumas, she’s kind of an older lady who is kind of funny and a little old school, but I also learn a lot from her. She has a podcast called The Profitable Photographer. Luci does IPS too so she’s a really great resource for learning more about IPS.
ShootDotEdit: And lastly, what is something interesting or fun that no one knows about you generally that you are willing to share?
Kelly: I was in the military for many years actually and I was a Sergeant and I was a vegan. So that combination is kind of surprising to a lot of people.
The Power Of Upselling
People might be surprised at the Sergeant and vegan combination, but the digital and prints AND wall art combination sounds like the recipe to success, at least for June Lion Photography. In a world that’s constantly moving towards digital, it’s people like Kelly that are able to successfully show clients the significance of prints and how that wall art of your wedding or family portrait is what your living room needs to make it feel like home. At ShootDotEdit, we are constantly inspired by what our customers are doing to keep up with the growing competition in the industry – besides, you know, taking awesome photos. And Kelly is no different. Most photographers cringe or find the process of selling daunting and miss out on the money it can funnel into their businesses, but Kelly stands out when it comes to IPS – she makes it an integral part of her workflow. And if her average sale (just in case you forgot, it’s $2000) isn’t a sign that you should perhaps be thinking about being the best salesperson of the month every month for your photography business, we would recommend that you read the blog again till you say, “I gotta get my IPS game on”.
Kelly, thank you so much for giving us the opportunity to speak to you and helping us understand what goes on at June Lion. It was a pleasure to talk to you and get this quick guide on sales 101! To explore more of what Kelly does, check out her website, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.
Further Read: Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories
At ShootDotEdit, we are committed to helping you grow your wedding photography business. And to help you with that, we lessen your post-production workload with our professional photo editing services that match your style. To learn more about how we can help, check out our pricing plans.