Doug Weittenhiller is a photographer, self-proclaimed tech geek, and cofounder of Twig & Olive Photography. In just a few short years, Doug, his wife Courtney, and their friend Bobbi, have turned their Wisconsin startup to an internationally recognized brand.
How? For one, each of these photographers isn’t only a great photographer. They each play a specific role in their business. Bobbi is the branding, marketing, business guru. Courtney takes editing, product recognition, and thematic continuity by storm. Doug is their techie keeping their gear and software on the cutting edge. And as they grew, they added Darcy — their brand manager who makes everything work!
I had a chance to talk to Doug to find out how they do it all. Here are the highlights of our great conversation. (You can also listen to the full interview from the Momentum Podcast here.)
So what’s their secret? First, they use their complementary skill sets for the greater good of the business. Then, they depend on the “Trifecta.”
The Trifecta of a Smooth-Operating Photography Business
Doug insists that success in the photography business depends on three essential ingredients.
- Efficient Workflow
- World-Class Client Experience
- Beautiful Images
These aren’t three independent things. It’s like a Venn diagram where the components interplay. How they run their business affects how the product looks AND the client’s experience. The type of image they want affects how they’ll run their business.
That understanding didn’t happen instantly. Here’s how it unfolded with wedding photography:
Doug, Courtney, and Bobbi don’t just show up to the wedding and wait for the bride to give them instructions. They’re actively engaged in the planning process. They even help create the schedule so they can help the client get the experience and the images they want.
Because of that involvement, the client’s experience changes. They don’t pop in on the day of the wedding and ask for the shoes and a fancy hanger. Instead, they actually give each client a “Twig Box” with a list of all the items they need to get the right shots. Then, they drop in, pick up the box, shoot, and go.
That’s just one example of the many things they streamline to have an efficient workflow that gives an amazing experience and creates more beautiful images.
Tips for New Photographers
Cull In, Not Out
One of the trickiest (and most time consuming) aspects of photography is culling photos. How do you select which ones to give the client, which ones to save on a server, and which ones to trash?
Doug recommends culling in — not out. This is more than a new method — it’s a mindset shift.
Here’s how he does it:
Using PhotoMechanic, he chooses what to keep as he imports the photos. Then, he’s only working with his best shots. By culling in, he saves a ton of time by not even considering the pictures that don’t fit the narrative he’s shooting. Doug consistently culls in about 40% of his pictures. So, if he takes 1000 wedding photos, he delivers about 400 to the client.
Choose what to keep from the first import and be confident in it. As beginning photographers, we are often afraid — afraid to reach out, insecure in the value of our product, nervous to meet new people in our city and neighborhoods, afraid to name our prices, and scared we’ll miss something.
Some people struggle between two images that look near identical. Pick one and move on. The difference is negligible. Don’t focus too much on what the client might like. Instead, think about what you link. People hire us for our professional eye. We need to be the professional who delivers a curated package.
More pictures don’t equal more value. More pictures create more work for you AND the client. In photography, less is more.
Separate Your Roles
One of Twig & Olive’s best practices is the division of work. Each person in Twig & Olive has a specialty. If you’re working with multiple photographers, let each person work to their strengths.
If you’re a studio of one person, you can still use this idea of separating roles. You’re in a different brain when you’re doing these different tasks. So, designate time to cull — maybe you cull multiple portrait sessions in one block of time. It may take a while at first, but you’ll become more efficient over time.
Set aside another block of time for editing.
Later, go back and upload.
Be systematic. Pretend you’re multiple people going through a workflow. You’ll create a more consistent product and get better at it over time.
Initiate Relationships… In-Person!
Building face-to-face relationships is the most fundamental thing you can do to boost your business. Step one: talk to other vendors at weddings.
“Hey, Mr. DJ. You rock. Can I get your card? Here’s mine.”
Take it a step further. As you edit pictures, look for pictures of people on the dance floor or of him mixing it up. Then, send him a gallery… for free. This isn’t the opportunity to make money. It’s marketing.
Now, he’ll remember the awesome photos you gave him. Maybe it’ll convert to sales later, maybe it won’t. He may not be the key that unlocks the potential to more weddings in the future, but he’ll remember you and speak positively about you to other clients.
Think about your opportunities at new venues. When you shoot at a different place, talk to the owner about how beautiful it is. Then, send them a curated gallery of their venue…for free.
Want to really up your game? Turn that gallery into an album. It can be something fancy for a few hundred dollars or a simple marketing flip book. Now, at their venue, they have a beautiful cohesive product that showcases their venue — and your name is on it. The amount of referrals we get from this approach is astronomical.
You can also use the StickyAlbums template to your advantage. When you connect with a small business owner— DJ, venue, florist, caterer, or salon — check out their website. If it’s lacking, make them a StickyAlbum using your photos to showcase their small business. Then, send it to them for free. Now they have an online presence they can be proud of — and they’ll never forget that level of thoughtfulness.
Not everything has an immediate return. But over time, these things build your marketing presence. And if you never stop building relationships, you’re business will never stop growing.
Get in the Know
The folks at Twig & Olive share a passion for education as well as photography. Doug and his partners not only run a thriving photography business, but they offer courses for photographers too.
And, as a bonus to our readers and Momentum podcast listeners, Twig & Olive is giving away two free Lightroom presets and 30% off anything in their store. CLICK HERE TO GET THE OFFER (expires one week from publishing)
You can also check out their online and in-person offerings for business skills, marketing and branding, client experiences, and wedding, newborn, infant, and family-focused photography.
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