INTERVIEW WITH MEG BORDERS OF PHOTOGRAPHY BY MEG
Hi Meg! I hope you and your family had a lovely Christmas! Thank you for taking some time to give us some insight on how you operate your successful photography business! I want to start off by asking you how long you have been in business, and how you decided to take on the photography world?
I have been in business for two-and-a-half years, and while that might not seem like a long time, I feel like so much has happened in that span. I have really come into my own with refining my craft, and really figuring out who I am and what I love to capture as a photographer. Even before I started shooting professionally I had an inclination toward photography and was moved by good imagery. I’m the classic mom-turned-photog story. I began capturing my daughter with a starter DSLR, and it wasn’t long before I realized the art was as engaging to me as the images of my daughter.
I just love your imagery, it is always sunny in Meg’s world! You capture that warm & yummy light so well. How did you come to develop your own “defined” style to set you apart from other people in the industry? Also is it important to stick to a consistent style in your work or do you think it matters?
“Finding your style” is my personal mantra. I used to spend hours browsing other photographers’ blogs and trying to figure out how I could replicate their style based on what appeared to be commercially successful. I soon realized that trying to mimic what I admired was not inspiring and that something was missing personally. So, I stopped looking at blogs and went on a journey to find the style that defined me. Through this process I discovered that I needed to shoot for “me.” I want “me” to shine through my work and with every photo fuse a little piece of who I am. In other wards, I realized that I wanted to capture images for other people that I found personally intriguing and consistent with who I am. It seems like a simple thing, but in this industry so many photographers are bending to the tastes of their clients. I’m in the opposite camp—I shoot what I love and what is reflective of who I am, and if you share a passion for that style I want to work for you. If you don’t, there are other talented photographers to choose from.
I won’t compromise on this principle—it’s the only way I stay fresh and continue to love this craft.
How important is the newest & greatest equipment? Did you start off with the top of the line equipment or did you work your way up the line? Do you advise people just starting off in any business to spend lots and get the best equipment for their business right off the bat, or do you advise slowly building & using more of the pay as you go type theory?
I started off with a Nikon D80. It was a great camera to learn on and I did not upgrade until I had mastered it. I was being held back by the low light constraints and in turn was eager to upgrade. Once I had mastered the D80 and knew I wanted to be in business, so I made the leap to the D700 because I knew it was what I would eventually need without another future upgrade. I think the choice to upgrade equipment must involve many factors including experience, budget, and long-term goals. I don’t advocate an amateur purchasing the latest and greatest equipment if they haven’t done diligence in learning the science of photography. Equipment doesn’t make a great photographer. A great photographer makes the equipment.
You are a wife & a momma. How long have you been married? How many kids do you have and what are their ages?
I have been married to my wonderful, supportive, and oh-so-handsome husband for 7.5 years. We met when I was a senior in high school and fell madly in love over a fairy tale summer; we married the next year and have been together ever since. He truly is my soul mate as cheesy as that may sound. We have two beautiful daughters, Eden and Avey, ages 3.5 and 1.5 years. They have us wrapped around their little fingers and filled our hearts with love, beyond what we thought was possible. My family is my world and wouldn’t be who I am today without them. The magic in my daughters is what motivated me to start capturing, and the support of my husband kept me going.
What is your schedule like at home? Do you do most of your work while the children are napping or sleeping in the evening, or do you have a sitter that helps you out at all?
I am first and foremost a mom before a photographer. My kids are #1 and I work while they are napping and sleeping at night. I have also found balance in taking on a limited number of sessions each month. I know my “happy place” as far as sessions per week, where I can still keep my family at the center of my world.
How do you keep yourself from feeling overwhelmed?
I often feel overwhelmed, especially in the spring and summer when volume is high. The key to coping with that stress is balance. There comes a time when you just have to turn off the computer and sit on the couch—otherwise you go nuts. We often trick ourselves into thinking that it “has to be done now” when in reality we should be budgeting adequate time into our business/client policies. If you’re overwhelmed beyond what’s reasonable with your life schedule, it’s simply time to scale back. No professional endeavor is worth you or your family suffering.
Okay lets talk about final sales for a min. Once the session is over & you’re done editing everything how do you show your clients their images? Do you prefer setting up an online gallery or do you prefer meeting for a personal viewing? Do you sell a lot of “specialty products” such as albums, canvases, metal prints, etc.? Do you have any basic advice for others in the business on how to optimize sales from a session?
For the past two years I have used online galleries as I did not have a studio or a space to meet with clients. I think it has hurt my sales as I have not been able to “show” product. We just built a new home and I had client viewing space in mind. We have set up a space in our new dining room for clients to view their images, products, and to place their final order. Canvases, prints, and digital files have always been at the heart of my sales, but this year I am expanding my product offerings and am now offering albums, matted prints, and even frames! I will be featuring these products on my blog in the next few weeks. I am excited to start the new year off with fun new product!
Your clients always seem so well put together. Do you work with or offer a makeup & fashion artist for your sessions or do you help stylize them yourself?
I do have a makeup artist and stylist that I work with regularly and always give that option to the client. It’s certainly preferable to me, and sometimes not optional depending on what mood I’m after. When clients decline styling I do my best to stylize myself. I always come to a shoot armed with lots of head pieces, scarves, jewelry etc. Professional styling adds so much to a photo, and are a major part of the overall photography style I’ve developed. An exceptional photo usually requires skilled artisans beyond just the photographer. I want to make sure that every client gets not only the photos they desire, but the full custom photography experience. It’s a component of my brand as well as a necessity for great work.
Are you involved in any online forums specifically for photography or business? If so which ones & have they been beneficial to your business and are they worth the time invested in them?
When I first started out I got involved with a forum called ILP (www.ilovephotography.com). I learned so much from those forums and recommend it to anyone starting out and beyond (they even have pro forums). I more recently got involved with the Clickin’ Moms pro forum, and while I haven’t had much time to get involved, there is incredible value in comparing notes, learning from, and getting to know others in the industry doing what you are doing.
How important is updating your website & blog to you?
It is high up on my list of business to-do’s. I have done a great job staying current in the past, but when faced with the choice between family and blog, my blog has to give. Over this past year my husband and I have been building a house and my blog has taken a back seat over these hectic months of finishing up and moving in. I am excited to get back on task in the new year, because I know a current and relevant blog is key in keeping your readers interested. I believe this industry in particular requires good social networking, as personal contact between you and your audience is especially vital. Photography is very personal and emotional, and it’s important for prospective clients to really understand you as a person, to determine whether you’re a fit—and vice versa.
What is the most successful thing that you have done to improve your business?
In 2010 I nearly doubled my pricing model and changed my brand from high volume, low cost, to low volume boutique. It was the best thing I ever did. My clients are now people who truly value my work and in turn I am honored to serve them. Never be afraid to charge what you’re worth. It takes moving past insecurity and fear, but you reach that crossroad where you recognize you’re good at what you do, and you want the clientele who appreciates that and will invest in it.
I spent months talking to industry leaders and had dozens of colleagues tell me I was underpriced before I took the leap. I’m by nature more of a self-doubter, so I had to get past that fear of judgment and what others might think—most of which I conjured up in my own imagination. The bottom line is that you get what you pay for. It’s so easy in the creative arts to allow ourselves to be viewed as anything less than professionals. When I made the necessary changes to my business model I watched my client volume go down as expected, but it didn’t take long to see that I was now in love with my new client base: people who respect the craft, value my talent, and understand the investment.
How do you find new clients, or how do they find you?
90% of my clients come to me via word of mouth and via social media channels.
Not knowing your profits/expenses in any business is a sure way to failure. How do you keep track of your spending & earnings? Do you use any software such as Quickbooks, or perhaps hire an accountant to keep track?
I have been using Quickbooks this past year and have loved how user friendly it is! However, this next year, I will be hiring an accountant to take care of my financials. I am learning to outsource the tasks that make the most sense to let go of—which allows me to do more of the work I love. To my point in the previous question, when your pricing model is right and you’re paid what you’re worth, the output-to-income balance falls into place.
What do you think other women in the business should definitely NOT do?
They should not lose sight of who they are. Don’t imitate. Don’t discount yourself. Discover the art that truly moves you, and stay there.
And finally, what 3 pieces of wisdom would you give women trying to better their business?
Only shoot what you love, charge what you’re worth, and treat your clients like you’d treat yourself.
Thank you again Meg, it was my pleasure to feature such a talented artist and business woman!
images in this post are (c) Photography By Meg, Richland, Wa.
Did you enjoy this “WOMEN IN BUSINESS” special? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Please leave your comments for Meg & thank her if you enjoyed her words! I know she’d like to hear from you as much as I do! If there is anything else that you’d
like to see discussed in this series, please leave your comments & questions below and I will be sure to incorporate them in future interviews!
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Thanks for stopping in ~Heidi