Taproot Photography is the name of our photography business. We started Taproot Photography in my hometown, Tifton, GA in the Spring of 2008. Tifton is a small town of only about 15,000 people. It is still very traditional in many ways and almost all of the existing photographers were very traditional as well. You know, indoor photo shoots with strobe lights, generic backgrounds, cheesy props and forced smiles. NOT our style, by a mile.
Take a trip with me down memory lane, back when Shayna and I were just dating, we used to talk about how cool it would be to one day own, our own photography business. You see, we had both always loved photography before we met, photography was one of the things that united us in the early days of our relationship. So, shortly after we married, in the midst of some extremely hard times, and also finding out that we were pregnant, we decided to move from the big city of Nashville, TN to the small town of Tifton, GA. We were in search of “the simple life”, and if that couldn’t be found in Tifton, then it couldn’t be found anywhere. Since part of our struggles were financial, we decided to live with my parents, just until we could get our feet on the ground. I felt deep down within me, that we were supposed to start a photography business in Tifton, but I didn’t have a clue how to go about it. With only a few small paying gigs under my belt, I had my doubts about whether anyone would take us seriously. I knew we had to do something though and going against my moms thoughtful suggestions of trying to get a job at Walmart or Lowes, I decided to print up a few fliers and see if we could drum up some work.
It most definitely helped that my family is from Tifton and that we knew so many people. So, Shayna and I set out to deliver fliers to as many local businesses as we could manage. One of the doors that we knocked on that day just happened to be an old family friend who owned a dance studio.
She told us that she was just in the middle of planning their yearly photos and would love for us to do the photos for her. So, sight unseen, that day she agreed to what would become our first paying gig as a “husband and wife team of professional photographers”. We scheduled the shoot for a few weeks later and we wound up making a profit of about $2000 from the shoot. Talk about an eye opening experience. We went from being dead broke and completely relying on my parents to pay for everything, to having $2000 in our checking account. We were ecstatic to say the least.
We realized however, in the process, that doing “dance photography” was not our passion.
Doing group photos was not our niche. During the process of taking all of the group photos of the different dance classes, there were some individual dancers, whose mothers wanted photos of just their daughters. So, to make things more unique, we decided to do these individual shots outside. The dance studio was located next to an old alley, which had tons of old rusty doors and dilapidated stairwells, not the type of backdrop that the more traditional, local photographers would ever be found taking pictures of. I am all about breaking the rules, and doing things differently. Little did I know just how significant those few photos would wind up being for our photography business.
Not only did they become inspirational in our point of view, they became a story that our clients would tell to their friends. And that story was a story of 2 photographers who did things differently with amazing and unexpected results. That story soon spread like wildfire in the small and tightly knit community. Soon, everyone wanted photos of their children in the places that most people had forgotten even existed, the places that they drove by everyday without even noticing, the places that most local photographers would never dare take their clients; the dingy, dirty alleys of a tiny town.
There was a local photographer who had it made. In my opinion he was less of a photographer and more of an incredible entrepreneur. He bought a house, turned it into a photography studio, bought some lights, some props, and built a system. That system worked very well for him, until we showed up. Our 1st year in business we generated a little over $100,000 in revenue. 90% of our business came from his clientele, who would tell us how thankful they were that we had started our photography business.
“There’s nothing around like you guys”, is what they would say. “We are so tired of our photos looking exactly like everyone else’s.” is probably the most common thing that we heard from our new clients. The thing that this other “photographer” learned the most, I’m sure, is that you can’t just build a photography business around a system. It has to be built around a personality. 1st personality, 2nd system, that’s the way it has to be. Otherwise, there’s no loyalty. People are only loyal to a system, until a new system comes along that’s better than the old system. However, people will be loyal to a person, to authenticity, even if someone comes along offering something “better”.
Stop looking at other photographers websites and portfolios. Start looking at your true inspirations, and build your photography business based around your true passion, your deep desires, and your personal view of the world. You will be much more successful building your business around yourself, your style, your personality, who you are, rather than trying to build your business around a formula.
Now, if you miss this, then you’ll wonder why the heck I’m starting Pro Photo Support and trying to sell you my Photo Biz Workflow. I’m not trying to say that you shouldn’t use a formula. I’m trying to say, that the formula in and of itself is not the way to go. Yes, you need a formula, but before that, you need a story. I can teach you how to be a better photographer, I can teach you how to run a photography business, I can teach you my formula. What I can’t do is give you a story. You have to dig deep, to find your own story. If you can figure out the “why”, then I can show you the “how”.
Your story + Your passion + The skills you will learn from Pro Photo Support = Your success
The best advice that I can give you, is to be yourself and do what you love. If you can do these 2 things, then you’re on the right track. That’s what we did and we found huge success in a short amount of time.