Alright – so today we’ve got the honor of introducing you to Holly Davis. We think you’ll enjoy our conversation, we’ve shared it below.
Alright, Holly thanks for taking the time to share your stories and insights with us today. It’s easy to look at a business or industry as an outsider and assume it’s super profitable – but we’ve seen over and over again in our conversation with folks that most industries have factors that make profitability a challenge. What’s biggest challenge to profitability in your industry?
Portrait photographers are a dime a dozen these days. Anyone can pull up their neighborhood Facebook group and literally watch as photographers squabble over who is the cheapest to get the job. There is little mention of skill, experience or anything else, astounding! With photography there is a relatively low-cost of entry, readily accessible equipment, heaps of free education online and the technology has advanced so far that the required skill set of today’s portrait photographer is even debatable, too.
I can discuss, at length: how to operate a photography business legally, camera settings, Photoshop tools, search engine optimization, the value in a diversified marketing strategy, branding, etc., but FEAR is the number one thing I see holding people back from profit time and time again.
I have seen incredible artists with incredibly high caliber work fail, because it takes more than a free website and a price tag. I have seen marginal work sell thousands of times over due to having an on-point business workflow/strategy and effective marketing. Is it education? Best Equipment? Mentoring? Sure, all of those are factors, but we can soak up other people’s knowledge, the YouTube’s, industry workshops, buy the best of the best camera AND still be left paralyzed in our own fears to put any of it into action, let alone to profit at a livable salary/wage.
I have done it and seen it play out in so many others. We fool ourselves by refusing to be vulnerable with others and honestly do what is necessary to earn the income we are worthy of and rightly deserve. You would never ask a friend for a 4 hour favor. You would never expect your sibling to work a day for at their job for free. It is fear is holding you back, explore the personal why and you will transform your business.
In portrait photography, a quick $200 (or less) payment for an hour photoshoot is listed so often Well photographers, its has a lot more actual working hours involved and there are true real costs of owning and operating a business. Ignoring these and choosing to simply cheese-y smile at that $200 arriving in your bank account? Do you actually know what you are earning form that? Is it even a positive number?
Once the true numbers are known….GULP. Many go back into denial-land right then and there. NOPE, next comes putting a plan together to earn the income. Baby-stepping price increases, running constant sales, working for exposure and running yourself on empty with high volume at little profit…that is the quickest way to to burnout and failure.
Most of us fear what we don’t know or understand. Our brains will naturally will fill in gaps for things if we avoid finding the truth or real answers. To overcome this, set fears aside and forever seek knowledge, boldly soak in honest of feedback from clients and peers….tell the voice of fear to hush and operate on fact. It will bring you direction, profit and set your free.
Holly, before we move on to more of these sorts of questions, can you take some time to bring our readers up to speed on you and what you do?
Holly Davis, Owner at Holly Davis Seniors, a fresh modern and bold high school senior photographer in Houston, The Woodlands and surrounding areas. She has been published, featured and awarded indistry-wide honors. www.hollydavisseniors.com
Holly Davis Photography started in 2013 and niched into Holly Davis Seniors three years ago. It was all an ACCIDENT in many ways. I was not a dreamer until way late, my 30’s. I wasn’t even taught to dream for myself beyond being a wife and mom. I had no goals of being the next “lady boss”. Gag. I do, however, have a massive inner drive coupled with just enough rebellion to have a “WATCH ME” side. I have since learned to call it resiliency.
My business was born from need. I am more technical nerd where most peers identify as artists. I am not the “girl with her camera” story. I was a woman who was an at-home mom desperately living externally for her validation and worth. I had to make changes and DID.
Then it happened, photography found me and business was the catalyst to reigniting my soul. I would have never dared to dreamed this…impossible years ago. It is far BIGGER than anything that started with those shaky knees and no one believing this would ever go anywhere at all. Guess what? Over 9.5 years, hundreds of joyous clients and a full-time income later…most of those original people still don’t get it.
How about pivoting – can you share the story of a time you’ve had to pivot?
When Holly Davis Photography first started in 2013, I specialized in kids, families and high school seniors. My own children were in elementary and intermediate school. I was naturally surrounded by kids and families, so it was the primary focus of my business.
The children and family portrait space is incredibly saturated with talent at most any price range. so many compete on price. Terrible plan. I was already 5-10 times the price of most peers. What? This is not good for the industry at all!
I decided to transition to a high school senior only brand 3-4 years ago. I did this strategically. I could see a gap where more income was possible being a one-time in life event and that seniors required a different marketing strategy.
I split my brand into 2 websites and 2 entirely different social profiles on my platforms. It was a lot of work, especially trying to be “cool” as is required in social media marketing when you are really just a dork who can look good every once in awhile when the mood it right.
It has been the best decision I could have made. My heart soars working with teens. It is truly a blessing to have the opportunity to show a young adult the beauty we all see in them each and every day.
What do you think helped you build your reputation within your market?
I can literally say it has been built upon my back. My heart is grateful to have lived in this general area most of my life. I have friends and acquaintances from all walks of life that span decades. I am a natural connector and mostly an extrovert. I need the crowds and social life, but also downtime for recovery.
I have always viewed my business as a personal brand, not photography. Yes, my technical skill and work is definitely up to par, but it is showing up to life daily as my authentic self at all times. Yes, I have goofed and apologized plenty. I have zero poker face, my emotions are often on on my sleeve. The goal is merely for enough clients to pick me as their photographer each year. I have no goals nor expectations of perfection any where in my life.
I feel that vulnerability, pure caring empathy and that genuine energy/desire to connect with others has set me apart more than anything else. Well, I cant hide with this hair and height either.
Beyond clients, I highly value peer relationships. Massively so. The number of photographers that I have shared a meal with, been inspired by, learned from, etc. is astounding and something I can never truly express my gratitude enough for.
- Website: www.hollydavisseniors.com
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/hollydavisseniors
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/hollydavisseniors
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/holly-davis-9a7542b/
Holly Davis Seniors