Q: When you think of yourself as a photographer, do you feel like you’re more business-minded or more art/creativity-minded? Or are you a mix?
We are definitely a mix. Graham is more art/creative minded and Ashley is more business-minded. It's been such an awesome gift to us both because when our priorities feel skewed or the business slants a little too artsy (or starts to feel a bit too business-y) we can sense it and course correct.
Q: What do you think is one of the biggest challenges photographers are faced with right now?We are inundated with input.
Everywhere we look there are dozens of people telling us what to do, when to do it, and how. It makes it incredibly difficult to find our own unique voice amidst all of the very loud noise.
Q: What’s been one of the biggest hurdles you’ve had to overcome in your business in order for it to continue to thrive and be successful?
Comparison and self doubt. And here's the thing - those are both products of pride. So we've found that, for us, the quickest way to silence comparison and self doubt it to cheer other people on. We always want to be the people who hear others, not shout to be noticed. We want to be the dumbest people in the room - because that allows us to grow. The World is full of people who are scared to fail, and so they fight to be seen as important and successful. Over time (and a lot of practice) we've learned that pride is a horrible horrible monster to feed, and our relationships and self-worth are a lot healthier when we just let it take a back seat.
Q: How do you maintain your own, unique voice in your work in a world where you’re constantly bombarded with other artists’ images?
We think it's really important for our creativity to turn down the noise. We don't spend a lot of time "following" other peoples' work, and we find that it puts our minds and hearts in a more creative place. That way, when we go out and create, it is with fresh eyes.
Q: If you could go back in time and tell your photographer newbie self one thing, what would that be?
"You're doing just fine." At every stage in our business there have been worries that we were doing this right or that right. There's no manual for running a photography business, and creative businesses are very personal things, so we run into self doubt at almost every turn. As it turns out, that's a really important part of the process - walking through self doubt and learning how to trust your instinct is how you grow. And you're doing just fine.
Q: What is one of your best tips for running a successful business?
Be a good person. Love others and put them first. The trickle down effect of this is phenomenal. People get excited to work with you, your clients feel well cared for, peers know they can come to you for advice and encouragement, and you can feel good knowing that - at the end of the day - you maintained integrity.
Q: What’s the best part about being a photographer and doing the work that you do?
So many things!! Honestly! We get to travel, spend time with incredibly happy people, and have a lot of flexibility in our schedules. If we had to pick one thing, we love that being a photographer gives us the flexibility to spend a lot of time adventuring as a family.
Q: How do you keep yourself an artist- but not a starving artist?
Systems. Super consistent, scalable, un-sexy systems. We systematize every single non-creative thing that we do. Importing images? It happens the same way every time. Delivery? Lead management? Client experience? It's all a part of a system. This helps us do the "grunt work" as quickly and effectively as possible. When the business stuff is a refined process, things don't slip through the cracks more and your business becomes a life-raft that supports your creativity.
Q: How did you find your style? (editing, mood, lighting, etc)?
It's changed SO many times and it will probably continue to. We started our business when selective color was still a thing (shhhhh!), so part of style comes from what's relevant and serves our clients well while the other part is refining our voice. We are definitely more dark and moody in our shooting style, and the way that we edit enhances that.
Q: What is your favorite part about teaching and connecting with students?
Watching the lightbulbs go off for people who are ready to step out from under the weight of running heavy, clunky, unsustainable businesses. It's amazing to watch creatives connect the dots and see the road to freedom.
Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
With kiddos getting ready to go to college :-/ Whoa! We hope that we will still be shooting Weddings and teaching - mentoring a new generation of photographers to help them avoid some of the same mistakes we've made. It would be easy to say that things might be very similar to how they are now, but life always has a way of surprising us.
Q: If you are a parent, what’s one tip you have for juggling a super crazy photographer’s work schedule with parenthood?
Shared calendars are a life-saver in our family. Be super clear on what your non-negotiables are, and make those a priority over your business (i.e. put them on your calendar and treat them like a meeting - guard that time and honor it). For us, family dinners and dates nights are non-negotiables. Those things come before business, and they feed our souls. Also, give yourself a lot of grace and understand that your kids aren't a distraction from work, they are some of the most important work you'll ever do.