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“I think it’s really important to remember that consistency is everything when you’re trying to – especially when you’re trying to build in a new city, because sometimes you’re going to be discouraged, sometimes you’re going to be surprised. A bunch of people will write you back and say, “Yes, actually I have a wedding that I would love to have you on right now.”
Today guests are James and Jess of James and Jess Photography; a husband and wife photography team based out of Santa Barbara, California, and New York, New York. If you follow James and Jess, you know they travel quite a bit and they’ve shot weddings all over the place.
In today’s interview, I chat with James and Jess about how they market their business effectively in multiple cities, especially since those cities aren’t exactly close to one another. We discuss some of the challenges they face as they got started in New York City and ultimately, what it was that led to a successful presence there.
James and Jess’s Biography:
We are James and Jess Wittmayer, a pair of best friends who fell in love thanks to photography and reality TV. There was also an important make-out session in a movie theater, but we digress…
We met shortly after James moved to Santa Barbara (Jess’ hometown) to attend Brooks Institute of Photography. Jess was already an established wedding photographer and he noticed Jess while she was taking photos at church. James’ friends told him she was out of his league, which intrigued him all the more and thus began the chase. Fast forward a few months when his roommate officially introduced us and it wasn’t long before James was in hot pursuit and, to be honest, it was a pretty short chase. From the very beginning our ability to make each other laugh has made for a perfect connection, and after a few months of sharing our hearts every night while sitting on a rooftop overlooking the city we became the best of friends and then one kiss changed everything. We began to fall for each other and fell crazy in love and had the most fun learning how to care for each other as every area of our lives melded together. We were married at a private estate in Montecito, CA, and it was one of the the best celebrations on the coldest and most magical nights in living memory.
Since then we have loved everything about working together, finding couples with amazing love stories and having the best time capturing their memories. We come alive when two people fall in love! We are obsessed with couples who are madly in love with each other and know who they are, both individually and as a pair. They have a strong inner beauty that can be felt when they walk into a room and we love to come alongside them as they get married. One of our favorite moments of our job is sitting down to listen to love story over a cup of coffee, or even better, a drink. With us, wedding photography is not just buying a service, it is investing in memories you’ll have for a lifetime. We are here to help you from start to finish, nothing is overlooked. Your details matter to us because we believe in your love and want to contribute to your story.
We spend our free time exploring new places, adventuring, traveling, laughing, quoting the movie, “bridesmaids”, serving at our church and spending as much time possible with the ones we love. We are fueled by each others’ energy (remember, extroverts) and are always going. We do life with our whole hearts and believe that laughter is a must as are times of deep passion.
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“[0:00:05.9] Jess: I think it’s really important to remember that consistency is everything when you’re trying to – especially when you’re trying to build in a new city, because sometimes you’re going to be discouraged, sometimes you’re going to be surprised. A bunch of people will write you back and say, “Yes, actually I have a wedding that I would love to have you on right now.”
[0:00:28.0] DJ: Welcome to the Brands that Book Show, where we help creative service-based businesses build their brands and find more clients. I’m your host, Davey Jones. Today guests are James and Jess of James and Jess Photography; a husband and wife photography team based out of Santa Barbara, California, and New York, New York. If you follow James and Jess, you know they travel quite a bit and they’ve shot weddings all over the place.
In today’s interview, I chat with James and Jess about how they market their business effectively in multiple cities, especially since those cities aren’t exactly close to one another. We discuss some of the challenges they face as they got started in New York City and ultimately, what it was that led to a successful presence there.
Be sure to check out the show notes at daveyandkrista.com for the resources we’ve mentioned during the episode, and I’d like to hear from you about what kind of content you’d like to see on the Brands that Book Podcast as we move forward. I’d also like to know what episodes you’ve enjoyed most so far and why. To leave your feedback, head on over to the Davey and Krista Facebook page and send us a message.
Now, on to the episode.
[0:01:38.3] DJ: All right, James and Jess I am so excited for you to be joining me on the Brands that Book Show. We’ve been trying to put this episode together for months.
[0:01:46.4] James: Yeah. Quite some time.
[0:01:46.5] DJ: Maybe even since we started.
[0:01:48.1] James: Yeah, it’s been a while, and I think we’ve ping-ponged back and forth between you producing a child and us traveling, so we’re finally here.
[0:01:56.6] DJ: That’s right, but not only traveling. I’m going to give you a second to introduce yourself. Part of the reason that we haven’t been able to connect s because I think you guys had nine weddings alone in September?
[0:02:06.6] Jess: Yeah.
[0:02:07.4] James: Yeah, that’s about right.
[0:02:08.8] DJ: Yeah. You’ve had just a crazy season. Could you take a second and just introduce yourselves and tell us a little bit about what you do?
[0:02:16.0] Jess: Yeah. We are James and Jess. We are a husband-wife team, photography team and we are based out of Santa Barbara and New York City.
[0:02:24.3] James: We’ve been doing this for, I think this is Jess’s 12th. We’re about to end Jess’s 12th season and my 8th or 9th season. We met when I was in college and Jess had already been shooting full-time for years and we hit it off eventually after a hot pursuit. We decided to join forces when we got married and officially do the James and Jess brand, and with that came a lot of really fun ideas and a lot of work behind. I guess, a lot of what we’re talking about today in New York and Santa Barbara and everything in between.
[0:02:54.8] DJ: Yeah. I’m excited to dig into what really the topic of today’s episode is, which is marketing in multiple cities. You all are bicoastal too. I would say, Santa Barbara is not even the easiest airport to get really in and out of, in terms of cheaper flights in LA, right?
[0:03:10.1] James: It is super [inaudible 0:03:10.2] in LA. Santa Barbara’s getting there, but it is – that is definitely one of the caveats of traveling every other week or so.
[0:03:20.2] DJ: I definitely want to – we’re going to dig into all of that and there’s so many other things that we could talk about, just in terms of longevity. I mean, 12 seasons is incredible. We just talked about this a little bit, but a crazy end of season here. Nine weddings alone in September, but James something that he said right before we jumped on the recording here was that you all don’t even feel – you’re not really necessarily stressed about it, right? I think that just speaks to one, experience, two, having systems in place to make all of that manageable. That could be a whole another episode. We both spend a ton of time there, but again, I think it’s just – if you’re looking for somebody to follow, whether you’re a wedding photographer or not, but looking for an example of somebody who has longevity in the business and has really put together systems to make things work, you all are definitely people that come to mind.
We’re going to move on. We’re not going to let that distract us from the topic of today’s conversation, which is marketing in both Santa Barbara and New York City. You all actively mark in both places. You travel a bunch in both places. I feel like you could almost live in New York City if you wanted to. Then I also want to talk about a fun trip that you guys are taking this offseason as well. First, tell us – you gave us a little bit of backstory about how you all got started and when James decided to join the business, but tell us a little bit more about how you ended up being on both coasts shooting.
[0:04:48.1] James: Yeah, absolutely. I think there was a lot of intentionality to start. I think a lot of people think of multiple cities. We dived into it a little bit deeper. We talked about the intention of it. Jess used to live in Manhattan full-time when she was in college. She was there for a season and then she brought me out when we were dating. Personally for New York, it’s been instilled in me.
I just think growing up in a coastal town on the west coast, the idea of something greater of a city of almost like a metropolis was such a grand idea. She took me when we were dating and I think I stepped out of the cab for the first time ever and just felt more at home than anywhere I have, except for Santa Barbara. It was the only time I’ve ever felt that again was when I moved to Santa Barbara.
Along the lines of working with when we were rebranding as James and Jess, we threw out this idea of what if we reach for two coasts? That’s how that started. I don’t think you can get a greater contrast between Santa Barbara, which is 80,000 people, tiny little beach town and New York City. It’s hilarious, the contrast between them. I think choosing those two has inspired us constantly.
[0:06:05.0] DJ: I think that there’s probably a number of different ways going about trying to market yourself in two different cities. For us, we are between Baltimore and Washington DC. That makes sense, right? Both those are driving distance. It’s not going to cost us really anything extra to market in DC than it would for us to market in Annapolis, or Baltimore. For New York City though, you’re literally – you’re on the other side of the country. You have to deal with flights and all of that stuff. How did you all even approach – so you decided you wanted to market in New York City, what was the next step?
[0:06:42.9] James: Yeah. I’m just thinking back on how funny it was. To be honest, like a tame in the ass, it was – it’s a start. It was great, like no regrets. It’s a decision and it’s very intentional and it is a grind.
[0:06:54.2] Jess: I think a lot of it comes down to other people can’t read your mind and don’t know what you want to do, so you have to put it out there. You have to be posting about it, you have to be telling other people. When we did a full rebrand on our website, we marketed Santa Barbara and New York City, and that was before we were shooting a lot in New York City, but we knew that is where we wanted to be working, and so we put it out there for people to see that. A lot of it is the first couple trips that we took out there, we paid for everything.
[0:07:24.1] James: Fully fronted at least the four trips, the intentional four trips. We’re not like, “Oh, let’s visit New York.” When we decided we’re doing New York, I think the first at least four trips we took, which were probably within six months of each other, we just kept fronting the money and it cost a lot – it did cost a lot on the front-end and we were savvy about it, but we knew unless we – I think the pros and cons of social media is anyone can say they’re anything and that’s a brilliant thing. I think I love that.
It’s not enough. You have to show it. No show, pun intended right there. We definitely fronted the money and then we can – I think we should talk a little bit more about what we did in those four, or five trips.
[0:08:06.5] DJ: Yeah, and that’s definitely what I want to hear. You decided that you were going to make the investment, so that you could actually get out there and produce some work in New York. What plan did you put together to determine – I mean, did you just say you’re going to be there on certain dates, or did you line up? Walk us through the process here.
[0:08:25.2] James: Sure. I guess step one, choosing New York, being intentional about it, knowing that we have projected this six months whatever you want to take these trips to really sing some routes in, for a lack of better word, waters the soil. One, we put it out there on our social media platforms. Then two, we did our research. We figured out where the people out there that we have maybe worked with before, or have seen their work online, or maybe not shooting for the top right now, but like hey, who are some people that I’ve never heard of that are maybe on my level that we can find on social media and reach out to?
Then understanding that the greatest tool we use is relationships and knowing that if I have industry acquaintances and become industry friends in New York City, that’s how you work with people. We all work with – want to work with the people we love, and they are not going to know you, unless you invest into a relationship with them.
[0:09:22.7] DJ: As you as you reach out through social media scene who is already out there in New York City that you could work with, were these mostly past clients? Were they other photographers that you reached out to and just said, “Hey, can we take photos of you and your loved one?” How did that work? How did you actually – who were the people that you were reaching out to, say offering sessions to?
[0:09:42.9] Jess: It was a mix of all of those.
[0:09:44.3] James: Yeah. It was anything we could get. Anything and everything, right?
[0:09:48.1] Jess: Yeah. A lot of it was planners, or florists, or other wedding vendors that we had either seen online, or heard from other people reaching out to them, but offering to them what we can do to help them. Asking them if they need headshots, or if they – I think we even offered family sessions. We don’t really do family sessions, but we’re like, “How can we help you?” Offering that first, because in any type of relationship when you’re able to offer that before you’re asking – we weren’t asking them for anything for ourselves. We just said, “Hey, how can we help you and how can we be there for you during your season?” Not everyone writes back.
[0:10:27.3] James: Yeah. I was going to say, what it looks like on the backend is a list. Like you said, who did we reach out to? One, you start and then physically mapped it out. Okay, these are the people that I know live out that are at least connected to our industry. We happen to have one or two friends that lived in New York. Well, actually one of them now we just did an engagement session in New York last week, which was awesome. Other times you just –
[0:10:48.9] DJ: Those photos were beautiful too, by the way. I saw them on the – yeah.
[0:10:52.9] James: Yeah, that was a good time. We reached out and she had just moved. She started working in fashion in LA, got recruited to go to New York City and we’re like, “Hey, we’re trying this too. Can we run around New York to take photos of you?” Of course, she’s in fashion so she was all dolled up. Then we kept finding every avenue we could, so that we could actually prove we do shoot in New York. We do frequent New York and then eventually it becomes we do split our time between Santa Barbara and New York. I think going in it with a pretty thick shell, you can start with a list of 10 people. These are 10 people I want to write back. 10 people might not write you back.
[0:11:31.1] Jess: One might.
[0:11:31.9] James: Totally fine. One might write you back. I think that boils down to how badly do I want to do this. I didn’t choose New York cause it was trendy, or a lot of people liked it. It happens to be those things at times, but I choose New York because it inspired me and it was an intentional decision, so I knew even if it’s a 100 people down this list and I finally get one bite, I’m going to do this.
[0:11:52.9] Jess: Yeah. Not be discouraged when things don’t work out exactly so you thought that they would.
[0:11:57.3] DJ: Sure, sure. I think that’s great advice to people, because I think sometimes people – we have these dreams we get really excited about them and then we send these cold e-mails. We finally summon up the courage to do so. Don’t hear back from the vast majority of people, or maybe even the first time around and not hearing back from anybody. I think it’s great that you all including that bit. Even during the research phase, did you target even a specific vendor? Was it mostly planners and florists? Were there certain things you were looking for?
[0:12:26.1] James: Yeah, absolutely. When it boils down to objectively, like what’s our objective? To get business in New York City, just plain and simple. It’s what I tell anyone who asks how do I just book in general more. When you follow your own advice was like, “Okay, well where are the hubs so to speak of where do weddings come from?” Well, if we’re going cold call, they come from coordinators, venues, sometimes florists and past clients.
What research can I do there? Oh, well there’s these venues, maybe – you go – you have your Manhattan. You’re like, “Okay, vaguely is there something in Brooklyn? Is there something in New Jersey, or something in Queens? Is there something around there that I can – is there some low-hanging fruit? Is there a new venue, or is there refurbish venue?” That’s easy to find. You just start researching it.
Or is there something that I could add value to that eventually might book me a wedding? We started reaching out to venues and like, “Hey, looks like you have this. Can we put a team together and do a styled shoot there?” All of a sudden, you find people’s whose dreams are in sync with you and you’ll have beautiful photos out of venue that books weddings, with coordinators that book weddings, with photographer that books weddings. That’s it. I think we’ve all heard this before and it sounds so juvenile when I say it, because go add value, go find the people and build it. Actually do it, and things start to happen.
[0:13:46.9] Jess: I think it’s really important to remember that consistency is everything when you’re trying to – especially when you’re trying to build in a new city, because sometimes you’re going to be discouraged, sometimes you’re going to be surprised. A bunch of people wrote you back and say, “Yes, actually I have a wedding that I would love to have you on right now.” Consistency meaning every day. You have your things that you’re working on, whether that’s posting on Instagram strategically with images that you took and making sure you use the right hashtags and stuff like that, but you have to be consistent in the game because there’s going to be all sorts of ups and downs.
[0:14:21.6] James: We always like to say consistency is greater than, I guess you could say height. Type of when we first were like, “Are we doing this holy crap, or doing this? We’re going to do New York.” That excitement was fantastic. Standing that the first e-mail of a, “No, I got back,” took that away completely. Understanding that, “Okay, I can’t base this decision off my emotional excitement. I’m basing it off of me consistently compounding every result I can get until it comes to a tipping point.” I hope that only takes a few months. Realistically, before we started really jamming out there and consistently took over a year.
[0:14:58.8] DJ: Yeah, and I would think anything faster than a year would be really, really fast, because relationships take time.
[0:15:04.5] James: I personal have never seen it. Yeah.
[0:15:07.5] DJ: With that said too, you weren’t living out there. I think even just over a year is also – that’s also pretty quick. I think it speaks to the effectiveness of really building relationships and being intentional about who you’re building relationships with. You mentioned something in your last answer that I want to ask you about styled shoots, specifically what sessions you were setting up?
It sounds like you were doing pretty much whatever it was that that person needed. Were you intentional though about something like a styled shoot, or something that would get you closer to working with more vendors at a time, or creating the images that you wanted to create out in New York?
[0:15:43.7] James: Yeah. It’s so funny, because there’s so many things like, well is that the images you need, or is that the relationships you need? It’s all those things. I think when you go into a understanding, my priority, and my overarching priority of business in New York needs to be I’m approached with a lot of humility.
If we for instance like, okay we want to work, we need some coordinators. Hey, is there a designer or coordinator here that wants to put together a shoot, or even help put your name on a little shoot we do. Even if it’s not an absurd venue shoot, what can we do here? If their vision isn’t in sync with ours, give it to them. Honor that, because they’re taking the time to add the value to you. Then once they get – you give them theirs, you can turn and take a few for yourself.
Objectively for me, it was a relationships over photographs. Our work does and speak for itself and it should and that’s great, and the more you do that, the more photos you can take. Once you have the baseline of at least a few photos in the area you want to prove, people want to know that you are a good person to work with.
[0:16:46.4] DJ: Sure, sure. I guess, speaking of those relationships, what are some of the things that you did to continue to develop those relationships? We’ve gone to different places and done styled shoots and things like that. I think one of the challenges though – and it’s not even necessarily, I’m not saying it’s easy to line those up, because like you said, you can e-mail 10, 20 people and hear back. One response would be – would probably be pretty good. However, it’s I think also difficult after you deliver the images to those planners. It’s not like the relation ends there. What do you –
[0:17:18.2] James: It shouldn’t. It shouldn’t end there.
[0:17:19.6] DJ: Sure, sure. What are you all doing to continue those relationships, or stay top of mind for these people?
[0:17:25.9] James: There’s a few things you can do. One, I mean, the best way possible you can milk that shoot for as much as its worth, like sending that in your regimen of what you’re going to show. Great, in a month from now, I’m going to post another one of those photos. Consistently understanding that quite literally top of mind, it’s going to be on top of your feed, you’re going to keep tagging them and reminding them what you guys did together.
Like you said, relationships shouldn’t end there. I wouldn’t consider that a relationship if it’s end there. It is a very intentional, whether it be e-mails if your relationship gets deeper, or for instance, there’s a handful people every time we’re in New York, we all – it’s, “Hey, let’s grab drinks. We missed you. Let’s do dinner, let’s do this.” The beauty of the day and age we’re in, they are going to be Instagramming, you’re constantly conversating with them.
This you have to heart to heart 24/7, but understanding that complimenting, understanding this work is great, hey and always being for them and always reminding them at least weekly just when you see their stuff, you know I always have thought, “Oh, that’s pretty. You should tell them.” Just these little, little fish hooks that go out. It’s not just this one boulder that takes care of it. It’s all these tiny little things that continue to weave together a solid relationship.
[0:18:38.2] DJ: I think one thing that I really appreciate what you said is re-sharing that content over and over again, and getting the most out of it. Going back to what you said over about hype first consistency, I think one thing that we see a lot is that people do a shoot that they love and they share a bunch of images in a short amount of time from that shoot, and what happens is you’ve pretty much gone through all those images in a week’s time, and you still can to a certain extent, but you can share if that’s good work, you can share that a month later, six months later, a year later, you can continue to share that work.
It’s not like it’s not good work anymore after a year. Only if your work – I mean, if you had a significant style shift, or something like that, then you certainly retire work at certain points, but make the most of your work because you put so much effort into it in the first place. I really appreciate –
[0:19:26.8] James: Well, why am I doing this shoot? It’s not just to show up once. You want to show up necessarily, but we book – it’s so funny. People find us on Instagram all the time, because we tag, or the location tag of a venue. I was like, “Oh, great. I haven’t shot there in a year, but I posted about it last week.” I think another strategy would be like, “Oh, there’s a handful places you like to shoot,” whether it be Central Park, or for us, those random locations that people will research. Well, if you want to be consistent in that world, just be showing that constantly.
[0:19:57.2] DJ: Yeah. In general, what would you say were the biggest obstacles in getting started in New York? I know we talked a little bit about those, but what did that look like?
[0:20:06.7] James: The feeling of defeat. We had to come to a pretty raw place, where just in all things, you cannot expect handouts. You cannot wait for whatever location, or idea you have to be brought to you. Because by then, it’s usually too late. It will never happen. With New York City, it will never happen.
Understanding that we’re going into this not expecting someone to hand us anything for free, but also we’re going to go into this with a thick shell understanding that someone says no, or doesn’t respond, we didn’t do anything wrong and they didn’t do anything wrong at all, but understanding that it’s a slow trudge and to keep your passion at the top of your mind and the end game in mind, because it is super fun and I’ve never regretted it once, but there has been times where you’re just like, it’s been four months and I have heard nothing.
It’s even harder when you do one thing and then it gets really quiet for a little bit. It’s the behind the scenes, that consistent – it’s the lower half of the iceberg, so to speak of what actually matters and understanding it’s totally worth it and you just have to be making sure you have your reasonings down enough that you will be willing to go into it. Does that make sense?
[0:21:20.1] DJ: Yeah, absolutely. What kept you going during those times when it would have been maybe easier to say, “Okay, I’m going to focus on Santa Barbara”?
[0:21:26.9] Jess: I mean, I think what a big thing that kept us going was knowing that we both loved working in New York City and we wanted that more, so keeping our eyes on that goal.
[0:21:37.6] James: Yeah, it was worth it. Keep boiling down to, “Oh, I could put this off, or do we really need to do this?” The second we do that, start creeping back of we really do want to do this.
[0:21:47.4] Jess: For us it was flying back there and being back there and spending time in the city. That re-inspired us all over again every time. When you’re physically in a place, it’s easier to connect with people than just e-mail. People that we would e-mail, or that we would send messages to on Instagram, then when we were in the city we would say, “Hey, we’re in the city. Let’s get drinks.” Then of course, those conversations that you have in person are just going to be more valuable than an e-mail exchange.
I think for us, anytime that we got discouraged, we would say, “We just need to go back. Let’s go back there. Let’s be in the city. Let’s try to bend another shoot,” and that would re-inspire all over again.
[0:22:23.5] James: I’m just laughing, because there’s been times where we’ve just been sitting at Starbucks in New York, like the first time is – just sending hundreds of e-mails just sitting there waiting for some –
[0:22:34.4] DJ: Just waiting for replies.
[0:22:38.2] James: In a note on the DMs and the e-mails and this is coming from point now where I receive those, if it’s a copy and paste I erase it immediately. That sounds super harsh, but you have to keep in mind these people are probably getting a lot of these. If they’re not, great. Hopefully that they’re flattered and it’s at first. When I say do your research, I mean okay, Davey and Krista, I want to reach out to you guys. I’m not just going to say, “Hi, we’re James and Jess. Love your work. Let’s chat. Can we do something soon?” I would be like, “Hey, you guys just had a baby. Oh, my goodness.” I would add every personal detail I personally could
Yes, you cannot copy and paste stuff like that, but it’s actually going to be worth it. I’d much rather receive – I’d much rather send five of those e-mails than 30 of those e-mails in a day. Your chances went way up.
[0:23:26.3] DJ: I think it’s so easy to do that now, right? I mean, with Instagram and social media, I mean, it’s hard to take the time to write personal e-mails. Again, your strategy especially prioritizing the relationship even over the opportunities that you had in New York. I think one follows the other, right? Those opportunities followed for sure, that it’s definitely worth it sending those personalized e-mails to people, even if you end up sitting in a Starbucks for a couple hours alone, not getting quite the response that you’re –
[0:23:59.1] James: Serve at the bar, whatever.
[0:24:01.0] DJ: Yeah, you’re hoping for but. I also can’t imagine too, when we do things like that, when you guys are starting this, basically it’s like starting a business again, right? I mean, it’s like restarting what you’ve already successfully done in Santa Barbara. You would think, I think on some level, one would think that’s got to be easier, right? You’ve done it before.
I think that, like what you’re saying, it’s a matter of reminding yourself to go back to the basics, so to speak. It can be discouraging, because you feel like it should be easier. I’ve done this. It should be easier to do this the second time.
[0:24:34.7] James: Yeah. They’re already great at taking photos. We have roots in Santa Barbara. Why is it? Because you’re completely resetting geography, which is when you think about your home base, you won’t have a business without – we would have a business without Santa Barbara being our home base.
[0:24:50.3] DJ: Yeah, and the relationships you’ve built in Santa Barbara.
[0:24:52.9] James: First and foremost, exactly.
[0:24:55.8] DJ: Yeah. Again, I think it just speaks to especially an industry like the wedding industry, but I think a lot of industries are like this, especially in the creative world largely, that relationships do play such an important role. It’s not necessarily a matter of who you know, but it’s a matter of investing in people.
I think that’s great. I also got to imagine that to a certain extent, remembering that had to make it a little bit easier in the long run, or just remembering like, “Hey, it was it’s hard building my business for the first time, but I can do it.” I’ve seen what it looks like when I do that successfully.
[0:25:28.9] James: Someone who’s looking to do multiple cities, I would hope they’ve already have somewhat of an established business at home, has an established home base, that’s the part to drop of “Okay, I have actually done this before.” Knowing that you’ve already done it is the confident part. “I can do this successfully here, I can do it successfully somewhere else.” Then going back to the relationship and just pops in my head. Once we’ve done that and even through show at United, the conference, we’ve made friends who live out on the East Coast – I mean, you can’t see, but we have some friends that live right and either in Jersey, or Brooklyn, or whatever it is.
It’s fun, because if we’re booked we’ll send them their way, and if they’re booked, they’ll send them our way. That’s invaluable to both parties. Don’t think about the photographers as competition over there.
[0:26:14.9] DJ: Sure. Sure. Yeah, absolutely. That’s the thing about something like photograph. You can only be at one wedding in a weekend.
[0:26:21.3] James: It’s a fine act. That’s it.
[0:26:22.6] Jess: It’s true.
[0:26:23.8] DJ: There’s definitely, if you’re booked like you said, passing on referrals to other people as well. I want to go back to basically trying to think through marketing in New York City. What advice would you give to somebody who’s trying to market successfully in another city? I know we’ve talked about those things, but if you just had to summarize them, what would they be?
[0:26:45.2] James: Oh, man. As a summary. Okay, sure. One, I think it comes down to all things while you’re doing this, your foundation. If you are choosing a second location to look cool on Instagram, I know this sounds so juvenile, but it’ll fade out. If you’re choosing a location because it’s trendy somewhere else, it won’t last. Actually, figuring a location of why you want to do this.
[0:27:11.0] DJ: I would say that’s important to mention, because I know it seems weird to say like, “Oh, who would do that just to look cool?” It’s easy to look around at people who are running similar businesses to you and say, “Oh, that person is off doing this.”
[0:27:25.1] James: Exactly.
[0:27:26.2] DJ: Then all of a sudden, getting in that mindset, “Oh, do I have to do that too?” You don’t.
[0:27:30.5] James: Exactly. That’s what I – the point I’m trying to hit is I love New York City. I chose New York City, because it gives me life and I feel super inspired by it. I know people that hate New York City and they should not feel like they need to go shoot in New York City.
[0:27:43.7] DJ: Krista and I, we’re just home bodies, and that’s something very early on I remember. Like you guys, Krista started the business and I came on along later, but I remember thinking, “Oh, it’d be so cool to be traveling this and that place.” After doing it a couple times I’m like, “Man, I just wish.” I would much prefer to travel to a venue that’s 20 minutes from me, get home at 10:00, crawl into bed, wake up in my own bed, have waffles the next – that to me is the dream.
I think, I really do think that’s important to mention, just because it’s something that you can do, doesn’t mean as something that you ought to do. Focusing on the why. Again, we’ll go back to you. What’s next?
[0:28:23.0] James: Sure. Next steps I would say, like we just said, figure out a place that really does inspire you that you think you could consistently do. Go into it with a lot of humility not expecting handouts, and this is my advice like I said is prioritize relationships over anything. It sounds so – to me, it sounds so basic, because I repeat myself all the time even to myself. Without having a solid – I call it spider web of relationships and network of relationships there, it’s not going to be fun and you’re not going to be able to do it well.
That is my biggest piece is keep investing and going into it the mindset how can I add value to these people. How can I approach New York City and in some way leave it – make it better than when I found it? How can I add value to this tiny little niche, or person, or crew that I got in with? How can I make it better than when I found it? Actionable. It seems silly, but that is what it is.
[0:29:15.7] DJ: Yeah. I mean, to me that should be encouraging to people, because I think sometimes we get in the tendency of thinking that there’s some hack marketing trick out there that only the only the special people know about.
[0:29:30.0] James: I personally don’t pay – for we don’t pay for market, or paid marketing at all. That’s okay, but I knew I wanted to do this long-term and I knew if I – it might get a couple of weddings here and there, but it would be from a random source.
[0:29:43.0] DJ: Well no, I think too based off what you’re saying, especially when it comes to paid marketing, paid marking would be a little bit tricky, especially when you’re charging a certain amount per wedding. A word-of-mouth referral, or a referral from a relationship is going to be much more likely.
[0:29:57.8] James: Much more likely than someone who stumbles across a paid ad and you’re like, “Well, how much?” That’s the thing. I think, do we market? Absolutely. It looks different. I would rather take – let’s say on a scale, you’re taking a grand and you’re like, “I’m going to pay someone online a $1,000 to market me.” I would rather take that $1,000 and invest it in value of either styled shoot, or taking a guru out to dinner, or anything. Say it’s a grand and you took 10 people out. You’re investing into that. It’s way more exponentially powerful than marketing.
If some people do choose the paid route, sure you’ll probably – you might be able to get a few here and there, but it’s not sustainable and it’s not a consistent – it’s not a safe bet in the long run.
[0:30:40.9] Jess: It’s also so important to treat each one of those people like they are your next potential clients and you are going to be working with them in the future. Every wedding that we shoot, we treat the guests that way and especially the bridal party, and then we have a lot of bridesmaids that then when they get engaged, we’re the first person that they call to shoot their wedding, because they’ve already seen how we work and experienced us on a wedding day.
I think it’s important to keep that in mind with vendors too, that when you’re working with them, treat them with the same love and respect that you would if this was a real wedding, if this was a real thing, even if it’s only styled, because when you treat them with that, they’re going to know how you work and who you really are. It’s your care to doing that.
[0:31:20.2] DJ: Yeah. Jess, I think I heard you mention that. I heard you talking about that at the last day of United. I think that’s a great approach. What are some of the things that you do during a wedding day to treat the guests, almost as if they’re your next client?
[0:31:33.5] James: This is fun. I’m glad we’re going to this, because I think we’ve talked so much about how to. Once you get a wedding there, how do you optimize it?
[0:31:42.2] Jess: One thing James and I, we’ll both do this on the wedding day, but we love to take a couple, at least we hope that they’re a couple. Someone that looks like –
[0:31:51.3] James: No. You can scan cost to an hour and identify a couple.
[0:31:54.9] Jess: Then say, “Hey, can we take a photo of you guys?” Every now and then it ends up being –
[0:31:58.9] James: Oh, man. I did it with brother and sister once. I was like, Oh, my gosh. This is the most awkward interaction.”
[0:32:02.5] Jess: I’m like, “Oh, look at each other.”
[0:32:04.6] James: They looked at me like, “You got to be kidding me.”
[0:32:08.2] DJ: That’s amazing though.
[0:32:09.1] James: It’s so wrong chaos of doing that.
[0:32:11.4] Jess: The thing is like –
[0:32:12.6] DJ: You’re posing them as if they were – as if you’re posing the bride and groom, right? That’s what – Yeah.
[0:32:17.9] James: Yeah. I mean, it’s only three photos. I was like, “Hey, you got to photo together,” and then if they want one for their iPhone, great, and that’s an opportunity to hey, are you on Instagram? That’s just a little touch point, because once you sow a little thread between I’m a photographer, you’re a cute couple, let’s work; you planted a seed there.
[0:32:36.7] Jess: A lot of times, it’s a couple’s first professional photo they’ve ever had taken and they love that.
[0:32:41.8] James: Which is so – It sounds absurd to all of us who are photographers, right? Like, you got to be kidding me. No, most people don’t go out of their way to have professional photos taken, especially pre-engagement.
[0:32:51.6] DJ: Yeah, especially pre-engagement. That’s such a good point. I think that’s such a strong thing that people can do real easily, because during cocktail hour, what else are you doing? Otherwise, you’re just getting random –
[0:33:02.1] James: Even have your second go do it for you. There’s two of us, which is great, but there’s always enough time to do that. Another thing to do is it’s very – especially you get so excited with those photos of the first wedding. A lot of times you’re like “Oh, these are sacred. I need to paste these out, or I need to get this published or something.” I would highly recommend sharing those images freely with every vendor. I would say proactively do that, because I know there’s all kinds of styles of business. I rather continue to found a relationship than to make a hundred bucks off a few images for someone’s marketing purposes.
After the wedding, we make a separate cloud spot gallery for vendors. “Hey vendors, it was awesome to work with you. Here’s the download link. Please feel free to use these as you wish. I can’t wait to work with you again. Here’s everyone’s tags to make sure you’re –” and then that just furthers –
[0:33:53.8] DJ: Yeah, the relationship. A quick question, watermark or no watermark?
[0:33:57.8] James: No watermark.
[0:33:58.3] Jess: No watermark.
[0:33:59.1] James: I’ve never watermarked a photo in my life.
[0:34:01.2] DJ: No, neither we.
[0:34:02.5] James: One, because I have been frustrated at photos with watermarks. No Photoshop, which I don’t do. I mean, all it takes is a screenshot and a crop of half an inch. Or, if it’s right across to the – personally, when I see an image with the water across the whole thing, it’s like, “Well, this is a pointless image.”
[0:34:24.6] DJ: Yeah. I think too as far as building of those relationships. If you give a florist an image you took that captures her work beautifully, she’s going to have no problem crediting you on social media, or remembering you the next time she’s asked for a recommendation. If you give her one with a crazy ugly watermark, that’s probably not going on her website. She’s not using it and you’re not top of mind anymore.
[0:34:47.3] James: Yeah. That comes down to the generosity of that people remember your generosity, and I think a lot of times people think, “Oh, but you can’t edit it, or you can’t throw a filter on it.” I get that. We spend a lot of time dialing in our style, but say on the off chance someone throws over an Instagram filter, or something on your photo and post it and tags you, all that’s going to do is have them go back to your – if they actually follow through with the tag, they’ll find your page and they’re like, “Oh, actually this. Fantastic.” It doesn’t damage you at all, as much as we think in our heads, right?
[0:35:17.9] DJ: Yeah, yeah. One of the things that I want to talk about before we wrap up here is your trip that you’re taking to Paris this offseason. Can you talk about why you wanted to take this trip? It was originally a – I mean, it still is a – it wasn’t business motivated.
[0:35:36.2] James: Right. Not at all. The motivation – our offseason is six weeks. For six weeks, we’re going to move to Saint-Germain, Paris. We already booked our apartment out there and flights and everything.
[0:35:49.9] Jess: Every year since we’ve been married, we’ve said we want to spend a month, or two out of the country during our offseason, because of course during that time in offseason, that’s when you’re getting a lot of leads and enquiries and you’re either meeting with couples, or in our case we Skype with a lot of our couples.
[0:36:06.5] James: We don’t necessarily need to be “in the office.”
[0:36:11.0] Jess: Yeah, yeah. We always said, “Oh, next year we’ll do this. Next year we’ll do this.” We’re celebrating five years of marriage and like a month.
[0:36:19.6] DJ: Congratulations.
[0:36:20.5] Jess: Thank you. We realized, oh, something keeps coming up in our schedule. If we don’t book it and carve out that time intentionally –
[0:36:28.5] James: Which is very great. I’m not complaining where things come up, but you have to be proactive with your time. It’s a pretty sacred thing.
[0:36:38.4] Jess: We said, this is actually before our last trip to Paris in July. We said, “Okay, Paris next year. Let’s figure out when we can do this. Let’s pick the dates. Let’s book it and then protect that time.”
[0:36:49.7] James: We have a wedding January, mid-January, like two days after, fly to Paris and we’ll be there. Like you said, it’s for leisure. Just actually did 23andMe this year and randomly –
[0:36:59.9] Jess: Found out I was French.
[0:37:00.5] James: A little bit of French. Honestly, it has to be Paris. Oh, so we’ll go. A lot of it’s just – it sounds really funny, but whenever we spend a lot of time somewhere else, even small amounts of time, creatively you just get a different perspective. It’s like when you’re playing Mario as a kid and you get a mushroom, you level up. It will level you up. Every time I go somewhere –
[0:37:23.9] DJ: I think that’s one of the best metaphors that somebody has used for creatively leveling up. I love that.
[0:37:30.4] James: It is that.
[0:37:32.5] DJ: This started as a more of a personal way to celebrate an anniversary. However since then, you’ve booked a number of sessions in Paris, which is awesome, because again, I think as far as leveling up creatively you have subjects to shoot out there and you’re booking work, which is never a bad thing.
Do you think that the investment you made in choosing to shoot in a second destination, like choosing to shoot in New York City has helped you book other destinations as well, whether it be destination weddings, or in this case, just sessions? You put it out there, you’re going to Paris and now you have a number of sessions booked. Do you think the two are correlated in any way?
[0:38:10.0] James: I think it’d be silly to say no, it had no influence. After all, if you want to compare strategically less to go real quick back to Santa Barbara and New York, it basically – once you have roots in both places, it doubles your reach physically. Someone sees you on your West Coast, we get a handful of Mexico, Hawaii and you can go up Pacific Northwest, because we’re pretty central there.
As if we’re on the East Coast, you got the whole East Coast, Iceland’s right up there and Europe is basically closer than Hawaii to us from New York Yeah. That exponentially opens up that realm.
[0:38:47.7] DJ: People know you travel.
[0:38:49.6] James: That’s a thing, and people know you travel through it. People are expecting travel, and it would be announced that we were going over there as a handful of past clients and people that followed us, or that already wanted that, “Oh, Paris,” and it was more of a reason. Let’s pull the trigger.
[0:39:06.4] Jess: They were looking for an excuse.
[0:39:09.2] James: I think living that lifestyle of being people that travel, definitely it made it easier for us to even have a thought of living somewhere for six weeks out of the country, and I think it encouraged others to succumb alongside.
[0:39:22.2] DJ: Well, that’s awesome. I’m really excited to follow along as far as if we were in Paris, we’d be booking a session for sure. Jack, I don’t know, how I feel about flying with our – I mean, he’d be closer to eight months at that point, but still. You all owe us a trip out here to Annapolis for sure at some point though.
I really appreciate you guys taking the time to share about that, because I think booking those destinations, or consistently booking destination weddings, or destination events is something that people would love to do and they want to do, especially when they get into this industry, but it seems like such a confusing feat, but I think you guys broke it down I think into much more manageable steps, so I appreciate that. If you are going to be at Showit United, these two are giving a keynote this year super.
[0:40:12.1] James: Super stoked about that.
[0:40:13.3] DJ: Yeah, yeah. That’s awesome. Otherwise, if you are in Paris listening to this episode, you should get in touch with James and Jess. Speaking of, what are the best ways for people to follow along and learn more about you all?
[0:40:24.9] James: Totally. Yeah. I think Instagram’s our daily upkeep of what we’re doing. Jess is @jessfairchild and I’m @jameswitty. Other than that, you can find us at jamesandjess.com and there are streams of whatever most current events are on there that wherever you can find us.
[0:40:42.0] DJ: Awesome you all. Well, thank you so much.
[0:40:44.1] James: Yeah, absolutely.
[0:40:44.9] Jess: Thank you.
[0:40:45.4] James: Then if it’s okay to say anyone listening, if you have more questions about this, or you’re genuine really curious about New York, or Paris or anything else, you guys feel free to e-mail us, DM us. We love chatting about this stuff.
[0:40:56.8] DJ: Yeah, that’s an awesome offer. If you’re listening and you’re interested, definitely take them up on that.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[0:41:05.1] DJ: Thanks for tuning into the Brands that Book Show. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider subscribing and leaving a review in iTunes. For show notes and other resources, head on over to daveyandkrista.com.
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