Is it possible to make as much from a portrait session as you can from photographing a wedding?
Today, my student, Kaycee Joubert, is joining me to talk about just that.
Kaycee is a 16-year wedding photographer who loves weddings.
She recently had a 40-minute portrait session that generated more income than her largest wedding collection!!!
If you’re a photographer who does weddings and portraits, and you’re trying to hit the six-figure mark but burning yourself out in the process, you’re going to want to listen today.
What I love about you is that you love weddings, and I know there are a lot of wedding photographers out there who dislike weddings and are trying badly to get out of them.
But what’s your view on that?
I mean, I love love.
I think even when you’re photographing in the same location, every couple, and every relationship brings its own flavor or spice to the venue.
I think that’s kept me coming back year after year.
I love that.
And then I love that you had the large portrait order that was bigger than a wedding, but let’s start by going back to your journey as a photographer because you’re not a new photographer.
Share where you were and sort of walk me through the adventure of the growth of your business.
I feel like I’ve tried everything and flailed at a lot of different things.
I started my business right out of photography school.
It wasn’t even my first degree!
I went back because I always wanted to be a photographer and I wanted to learn lighting.
I went to the Art Institute of Seattle and graduated with a commercial photography degree, knew nothing about business, and jumped right in.
My 8X10 starting off was like $25.
I saw the value in print, but I just didn’t know how to price myself profitably.
So it’s been a long journey.
I learned nothing about how to actually run a business in school.
In fact, my instructors encouraged me NOT to get into weddings because they said if you ruin someone’s wedding day, that would ruin your business!
I didn’t listen to them.
I did my first wedding and was hooked after that.
It was everything I had learned in photography school: architecture, product, food photography, fashion, and portraiture, all wrapped up in one day full of emotion.
I love it.
How many hours does it take on the back end, after you have photographed the actual wedding day?
If I’m honest, in the beginning, it was probably 40 to 60 hours.
Now it’s a little better, but it’s still a lot of time!
A lot of time, which is interesting.
And I see portrait photographers spending that much time editing and retouching too.
It’s crazy because it doesn’t have to be that way if you’re focused and you know how to serve your clients in a way that isn’t just giving them hundreds of retouched and edited beautiful digital files.
Because I personally don’t think that serves them.
No, not at all.
The ah-ha moment for me this last year was that in a portrait session, I’m only editing 25-40 images, whereas, in a wedding, it can be hundreds.
A lot of light bulbs have been going off for me.
Did you always have portraits in the mix while you were doing the weddings and raising a family?
Yes, I photographed families, high school seniors, and all the milestones of life.
It’s what I enjoyed doing.
They’ve always been a part of the mix, but I wasn’t priced profitably with my prints and I sold my digitals.
So when digital came out, you were giving digitals to people.
What were you charging?
I was charging $750 for all the digitals, and I was still pushing prints.
But not artwork.
I was a big advocate for albums just because my parents eloped and the roll of film got ruined so they never had a wedding album!!
So I make an album for my wedding clients.
But with families, it was different.
I had online galleries and I was very passive.
I didn’t want to be pushy, so I gave them their gallery and told them they could order prints if they wanted.
I just wasn’t serving them, I was actually overwhelming them.
I was giving them a gallery of 50-60 images and they didn’t know what to do with that.
So you were doing weddings and charging $750 for your families for the digital files.
What was the problem back then?
I realized the only way I could make more money was if I took on more sessions.
Over time I found myself just burning the midnight oil, working myself to death, and not having a lot of time for the people I love the most… which is the whole reason why we own a business!!
I remember how I was when I was doing that, it wasn’t bringing out my best self.
So when did you realize that you couldn’t do that anymore?
What did that look like?
When we have a problem, we hire someone to help us.
My personal life kind of came to a halt.
My marriage dissolved eight or nine years ago and I took a deep dive into therapy.
I hired a therapist.
My business plateaued for 6-7 years, so I hired a business coach.
That is why I joined Peak Performers because I wanted to learn from someone who was doing it and had a profitable business.
I started my own business so I could have TIME.
My parents owned a small business growing up and they were at every single athletic event.
I wanted to be able to do that with my kids too.
So when you found our program, were you looking for a coach or did you just happen upon something?
I happened upon something.
Personal development has always been really big for me.
I attended Go Boutique Live and I was so inspired!
I actually didn’t sign up right away.
I waited a couple of days and each day that I waited, this voice in the back of my head was like, what are you doing?!!
I spoke with someone on your team and she asked me, “What is it going to cost if you don’t do it?” And those words hit me right in the gut.
And the next day I contacted your team and jumped in.
So has six figures in your business been a goal?
Tell me about what your financial goals were for your business.
And how long did it take you to reach them?
I think hitting six figures was a goal.
In my first year in your program, I was in for eight months and I came close.
I came to $96,000 or $97,000.
Which is crazy.
So that gave me confidence for the next year.
I knew I was going to hit it, but what I didn’t realize was how much time I was going to have with my family!!
Looking back over my year, I did a lot of traveling and was able to visit every single person in my family.
We’re kind of spread out, and I hadn’t done that since before COVID.
So that was super cool and it meant so much to me to be able to do that.
That just gives me chills all over because everybody thinks, “If I work harder, I’ll make more money”, and that’s not always the case.
My dad always said, “You need to work smarter, not harder.” And I always thought I was, but I felt like this year I actually worked smarter.
And you are serving harder as well.
How do you feel about yourself as a business person?
I love serving my clients.
Just being able to design someone’s wall space… when they see their images on their own walls and it comes to life, that’s enough right there.
How about your workflow?
Are you protecting your nights and weekends or do you still photograph weddings on weekends?
Right now, I only have five weddings booked for the year, and I think I’m okay with that number.
I might take on a couple more if they’re the right fit.
But every Monday when I meet up with my small group, one of my big wins is, I took the weekend off and that feels so good.
That is so cool.
I appreciate you being here and your story is so inspiring.
I hope that everybody listening sees that they can build the life that they want!!
It doesn’t just have to be working harder.
You did that for 16 years, Kaycee Joubert, and now look at you.
I’m just so proud of you and I love having you in our family.
Do you have any final words to share on the effect of the community that we’ve created and how it has supported you and helped you get where you are?
If I could give one piece of advice to my fellow photographers it would be to find a mentor or a group of people who are doing it better than you and who have what you want.
Surround yourself with them, share your successes, and find the people who will lift you up.
It will make all the difference.
It really does.
What I love about Kaycee’s story is that she’s been working as a photographer since 2006, which is 17 years!!
Yet this year she finally found the combination of wedding and portrait work that led her to plowing past six figures.
A number that had been so elusive.
Kaycee had tried everything to get there: digital files, prints, working weekends…
Yet the way it finally came together was by her going all in on the boutique model.
Just jumping in with two feet and photographing fewer, right-fit clients.
It’s not magic, it’s math.
It’s getting the right fit clients and THRILLING them so they order more.