Kristin Sweeting has been photographing weddings and celebrations around the world for over 11 years and her photography work has taken her to more than 20 different countries. With a deep love of travel, experiences, and people, she captures wedding days in a way that feels like the viewer stepped back in time. But with modern vibrance, expression, and light. She dives in deep with her clients to capture them with authenticity, revealing their connection with each other, their friends, and their family. She’s had work featured in top wedding magazines and blogs, was voted one of the top wedding photographers in the South by Southern Weddings Magazine and gives back to photographers and creatives who want to grow their businesses through retreats, workshops, speaking, and coaching. Her clients love the energy and calm presence she brings to her work and the understanding and depth that she captures during each celebration.
In order to run a business that is aligned with you, you must make your own magic. Start making the moves to have the business that you want. And start working with the people you dream of working with.
It is important for you to make time for rest, family, and friends. But you also need to spend time refilling your creative stores. Managing this starts with being honest about the personal time you need.
In this episode, we talk about how to create a niche business based on your interests and values. This brand approach lets you easily shift in your business when life inevitably changes. You can also set the stage for more free time and fewer, higher-quality bookings.
Seasons of business as seasons of life change
How do you choose a brand that makes sense even when your photography interests shift? Kristin says to try crafting it around your values. Maybe you started out shooting elopements but want to switch to large weddings. That works if you use your personality to brand your business. Switching your niche becomes just a new road on your journey.
She thinks Taylor Swift is a great example. Each of her albums is very different from the last. Yet they always feel cohesive. That’s because they’re all an expression of who she is. Fans are attracted to Taylor as a person. And her different albums are pieces of an interesting life journey. You can be like Taylor, too. Curate your brand to tell a story about you. Then you’ll never need to worry when you decide to switch things up.
How do you design your brand for growth? Start by thinking about who you are and what you care about. Write down some words that describe you.
Don’t stop there. Your value brand is all about what you project to the client. Your portfolio is your biggest marketing tool. Make sure that it strongly reflects the type of experience a client could expect.
How to build a portfolio that reflects your values:
- When you book a new client, ask them what attracted them to you.
- Collect reviews. How did working with you make the client feel?
- Make a list of words after engaging with the clients.
- Finally, get a photographer you admire to review your portfolio.
Ask your colleague if the work in your portfolio evokes the right kinds of feelings. Did clients describe you as nurturing or attentive? Your portfolio should tell that story. An outside perspective can be a great help when deciding which of your images project your values.
Run a business that supports your life
Kristin started out thinking that a sustainable business was all about regular bookings. But after 11 years of experience, and life’s ups and downs, her ideas have evolved. She now says, your business and your life are interconnected. As a complete human, you need to work in a way that fully supports you. Life should allow for rest, relationships, and fun. Because without these everything can get out of balance.
A sustainable photography business is one that makes space for living. And life can be unpredictable. Big events like having a child or a loved one getting sick can really limit your time and energy. It’s perfectly normal for life to ebb and flow – that’s why being able to check in with yourself is so important.
Kristin says you should journal. Whether you do it every day, once a week, or once a month it is a great way to check-in. Mind, body, and spirit. Ask yourself, what does life look like right now? And how do you want to show up for different parts of your life? Do a deep dive and be very realistic.
You might want more time to bake or go hiking. Or you have a young child who loves to play with you. Think of all the things that will sustain you, keep you healthy, and keep you whole. Then decide how much time you really have. To be the partner, mother, or creative that you want to be, you might realize you need to work less. But working less means booking less. To have the life you want, you may need to charge more.
Letting connection drive your creative business
Have you ever photographed for a friend? Kristin says that being a photographer for a friend’s wedding gave her an epiphany. The experience was so deeply positive for her and the bride that she wondered – what made this wedding so different? The connection to her client elevated the experience.
You can help make a special day run smoothly by being an attentive photographer. When you take the time to build trust with the client. When you know the guests who are most special to them. And when you’ve taken time to plan important details. The client becomes calmer and happier. And they can be sure the moments that are most important to them are beautifully captured. When you book less, you can make these deeper connections. And because the client’s experience is really high quality, they are happy to pay more.
The best part about the connection is how it promotes sustainability. Kristin says you only need 3 loyal clients to maintain enough bookings. When you nurture personal connection and quality experience, clients keep coming back. And they’ll bring you plenty of referrals!
Creating space to create
Putting too much on your plate is a recipe for burnout. And it will cause a creative drought. If you keep pouring out that creativity without filling yourself back up, you soon won’t have any more to give. Kristin says to take meaningful breaks from your work. Go to an art gallery. Visit the new coffee shop around the corner. You might not want to eat, sleep and breathe photography every day. Try to make space for variety.
She calls this creative “cross-training”. It’s like how a marathon runner trains to stay fit. They may practice running most days. But they also lift weights or go to yoga. They make time to recover from the intense cardio, stretch, and introduce new ways of moving. Cross-training helps a runner stay limber and avoid too much exertion. It helps them become stronger in different ways. And it improves performance. In the same way, your creativity will benefit from visiting new places or trying different outlets.
What can you do when your creativity runs dry? Kristin has some fun ideas. Try taking a new risk, and get a friend on board! If there’s an artsy theme you’ve been dreaming about, ask them to do a little dress-up. Feeling especially bold? Try asking that person you’ve always admired to let you shoot them. You could even chat up an interesting stranger. The point is to try new themes, new models, and step out of your comfort zone.
Kristin wants you to know that you can build a sustainable business and live a more satisfying life. Curating a brand based on values to attract clients with the connection. Knowing how you want to live your life makes working fewer hours possible. And spacing out your bookings helps cultivate a loyal client base, giving you more time to feed your creativity.
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This podcast is all about education and inspiration for photographers. A sustainable business is profitable and lasting. Instead of short-term wins you want to make sure you’re doing things that matter. Both to yourself, and to create the business you want. The goal of this podcast is that it will help you build and structure your business around your life, instead of the other way around.
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