If I could impart any wisdom on any client, it’s this: “treat your business like a business“. While of course I typically tackle this from a legal angle, today, I wanted to have a little fun by approaching it from a different angle: treating your business like a business in a wholesome approach; specifically, the visuals. If you want to lead with your best foot forward, what does that look like?
And as anything in business, so much more occurred behind the scenes with this shoot that meets the eye- it’s a little comical to look back on now.
To begin, through a series of conversations with my friend Katie Selvidge in the fall of 2018, we realized that our businesses were in similar phases, and that there was a clear tactical strategy available to elevate our brand imagery. So, we embarked on this endeavor together.
Aside from the fact that it’s always interesting to see the behind the scenes of visual work, there are a few takeaways I want to impart:
All photos in this post are by our brand photographer, Christine Gosch.
To begin with, Katie and I officially decided on this shoot in late November of 2018, if I remember correctly. The shoot occurred in mid January, which meant that we had roughly over a month (holidays aside) to find our “people”, and make this happen. We had to act fast (and we had extreme extraneous life circumstances arise), which meant:
So with that in mind, we not only had to rely heavily on the professionals we had hired (and thank goodness they were professionals) to execute the shoot; we had to rely on them even more than expected on the day of the shoot. I could barely walk that day, we were both physically exhausted, and at a bit more of a physical disadvantage than either anticipated. How did we know who was a professional, who could handle a long day without time to dilly dally; and who could make this vision happen?
First, to host a double-brand shoot in one day is a pretty incredible feat…one that I was admittedly naive about. Luckily, Katie was not. Having executed multiple shoots for the internationally-distributed Cottage Hill (now B.E Publishing), she knew exactly what it would take to pull this off. In a word: professionals.
Bluntly, we didn’t have time or space to work with anyone who didn’t know what they were doing. And of course, we would only work with professionals who had contracts prepared, covering every aspect of the scope of their work.
We relied heavily on word of mouth referrals (the forever #1 method of networking). I can’t speak highly enough of the professionals we worked with:
A few words about them each (I’ll speak more to our photographer, Christine, below): first, Kim Rico (Drops Of Honey Designs) was an absolute dream to work with. Not only was she able to work with an amateur (when it came to myself); not only was she was able to execute two entirely distinctive brand shoots in one day; she was able to do so the day following a family emergency, and always had a smile on her face. I adore working with Kim, and want to shout her name from the rooftops. She made an abstract idea a reality.
Second, Erica of Stay Co. was an absolutely incredible wealth of knowledge and efficiency when it came to wardrobe styling. Again, going off of our direction for what we anticipated our brand “looking” like, she was able to source outfits that we could order directly, cutting out a huge amount of our workflow. In my naivety, I had no idea a service like this existed, and I don’t know what I would’ve done without her. Have you ever wondered what you looked like before heading out to a party, and wished you had someone to run your choice by? That is what a branding shoot felt like for me, except I knew these images would live on in film for awhile, and Erica was that person who could provide professional feedback every step of the way, from clothes and jewelry to hair and makeup styles.
I’m intentionally skipping Christine for now, and want to jump to:
Hair and Makeup: This was my first of (thankfully, multiple times!) working with Ash and Starla, and not only are they the kindest people in the world, they are actual artists. Speaking for Katie and myself, you don’t quite feel like you’re at the top of your game when you’re 7 months pregnant, or have a broken back. These two were able to take command and make us feel our best.
On-Site Assistance: Francesca Barger. Oh my goodness, Francesca was an absolute godsend throughout the day. Anticipating needs before they arose, helping in every way possible; this day wouldn’t have happened without her. Francesca doesn’t just work on on-site projects; she does the same within businesses.
Ever Something and Spain Ranch: t two of my favorite Tulsa businesses. I’ve known the Spains for most of my life, and cannot speak higher of their operation at Spain Ranch. More so, Bronwyn Spain herself was one more godsend throughout the day: opening up the doors to us all, and then helping as a model in my own shots:
Finally, some of the faces you’ll find throughout the photos that should absolutely be mentioned: due to the extenuating circumstances mentioned, all of my requests for “models” came much later than I planned, to three very, very busy individuals…who all dropped everything they had going on. Why? Simply put, because (in their words), they believe in true community and supporting other business owners. I would be reticent to mention this shoot without also publicly thanking Alex Bray, of Prairie Letter Shop, and Jeffrey Metcalf, of Goose & Gander Creative, for showing up (literally). I can’t say enough about these business owners (and of course, the aforementioned Bronwyn Spain!).
From the beginning, Katie and I had to have a clear strategy. This is where Katie’s expertise really shone: not just because she’s implemented incredible shoots in the past, but because I’ve encountered few people, if any, with her level of natural skill for strategy.
Nearly immediately after we decided to go ahead with this idea, Katie knew exactly what we needed to make this shoot worth our investment of time, and resources. When Katie approaches me with a clear plan, I trust her nearly implicitly.
“Strategy” doesn’t just mean “knowing your why”. It means knowing your what, why and when. As mentioned, we had to set a clear budget quickly. We didn’t have time to waffle with what we wanted to spend or needed. We had to sit down, decide exactly how many shots we would need, how far this shoot could take us (content-wise), and then not mess around with second-guessing ourselves. Katie was the brainpower behind these decisions, and the absolutely linchpin behind making this happen. If you’re trying to execute something different, hold yourself to a different level. It doesn’t need to be as extreme as a late-stage pregnancy and broken back, but those the cards we were dealt, but it forced us to make decisions without second guessing ourselves for questioning’s sake, and it didn’t leave us with room for slack (and therefore resulted in exactly what we needed).
As the strategist, Katie sourced and secured many of our professionals. As the lawyer, I did bring one thing to the table: negotiation.
I could write a full-length legal argument on this topic, but what I really want to remain as the takeaway: this shoot was an example of why you MUST be willing and ABLE to negotiate as a professional. To be honest, it took a few surprising negotiations to secure on our final professionals for the shoot. What Katie and I had decided to execute, via Katie’s strategic parameters mentioned above, was different than a standard shoot. In addition, nothing about our shoot was arbitrary, meaning, we knew exactly how many shots we needed, how many hours we had to execute, etc.
Therefore, we had no time, nor would it have served any purpose whatsoever to negotiate with any of the professionals who came to the table uneducated, and quite simply botched their approach to negotiations. We dealt with a few who saw this as a way enhance their portfolio, and attempted to negotiate exorbitant terms, yet they failed to thoroughly examine the logistics before presenting their proposals. We were told that this was impossible, we were naive to think we could do this, etc. Clearly, they were incorrect.
The takeaway: I’m sharing all of this as a lesson in negotiation: the person who arrives at the table less educated, relying on opinion rather than fact, will not be successful. And won’t get the job. I can’t stress how critical it was that we based our logistics on well thought-out, detailed planning, again, based on strategy. This is particularly important when presented with a unique or “out-of-the-box” project, such as this one.
I want to take a moment and applaud our photographer, Christine Gosch for being able to do just this. Christine was presented with a somewhat daunting task: two full shoots, in one day, shot all on film, during the winter (meaning, less available light in a project relying entirely on light). Christine knew that this shoot would require an exceptional amount of foresight, and not only did she rise to the task, but she negotiated professionally and prudently, which made Katie and I confident in working with her.
In closing, again, a key to success in business is actually treating your business as a business. This means choosing professionalism, in every way. This shoot was a wonderful reminder for myself, challenging the way that I could approach that concept from a visual perspective.
And finally, experiencing the inside of executing a shoot like this was such a appreciated glimpse into what so many of my clients do on a daily basis. I was blown away by the amount of work involved, but at the same time, so very grateful for the professionals who help us with this shoot! If you are looking to hire anyone in the aforementioned fields, I cannot recommend them enough.