We’re excited to introduce you to the always interesting and insightful Jessica Wakefield Tony Romo. We hope you’ll enjoy our conversation with Jessica Wakefield below.
Hi Jessica Wakefield, thanks for joining us today. One of the most important things we can do as business owners is ensure that our customers feel appreciated. What’s something you’ve done or seen a business owner do to help a customer feel valued?
One thing that we have always prided ourselves in was our customer experience. We strive to make sure that no matter what is going on, our customers understand that they aren’t just a money source, but are a part of the Dark Light family. With our wedding clients, we always take them out to dinner a couple of weeks before the big day. They are able to choose the restaurant and the four of us go out to eat.
We don’t talk about photography, or payment, or anything to do with our part of the wedding. Instead, we talk with them about how they are feeling about the wedding, plans for after, guests coming into town, things they are excited about, nervous about, etc. The whole point of the dinner is to get to know our clients as people and for them to get to know us. This way, on the wedding day, they are more comfortable with us and know that they can count on us to not cause them any more stress than they are already feeling.
Also, for all of our clients each year, we send out a holiday card that we specially make for that year. We do something fun, silly and completely off the wall. Each year, people tell us they can’t wait to see what we come up with and they look forward to getting the card in the mail. Some people keep it on their refrigerator all year!
Jessica Wakefield, 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?
We (Jess & Tony) started Dark Light Portrait Studios in Louisiana in 2014. We had met while attending photography school in 2006/07 and stayed friends. In 2014, we took the plunge, decided there was never a perfect time to start a business and the rest is history! We began as wedding photographers, then branched out into portraits.
In April of 2017, we decided to move to sunny Tampa, Florida. Once here, we found that the best way to meet new people was to photograph events, so we began photographing as many events as we could. Most of them were for charities and non-profits and we did most of the work for free. Over the course of the last few years, we are still working with most of the organizations, but we are now compensated, as they have seen the quality and value of our work.
In addition, we both became Certified Professional Photographers through Professional Photographers of America. We are both active members and each year, we attend the annual photography convention that PPA hosts. Its a wonderful place to collaborate, learn and network.
The pandemic slowed us down, as it did for everyone, but now that things are back, we are back in full swing. We are currently photographing events, sports, portraits and occasionally a wedding. We work on personal projects, as well as projects through Dark Light.
The most important thing to know about us is that even though we like to have fun and be silly, we do take photography very seriously. We pride ourselves in giving our clients beautiful images and we take the time to learn our craft and work on it. We believe that the customer experience is the most important aspect of our business and we work hard to make sure that each client walks away feeling good about the money they spent and the time they were with us. We want all of our clients to come back to us again and again.
Have you ever had to pivot?
When we moved to Florida from Louisiana we made a grand plan about what days we would be open and closed, how many clients we would take on each month and a lot of other tiny details. The one thing we didn’t plan for was coming to a whole new state and not knowing anyone.
We arrived in Tampa with grand plans of how to make a lot of money and be able to be very successful. However, we forgot the fact that we knew nobody, didn’t know our way around and had to basically start from scratch. Instead of giving up, we pivoted our business.
Rather than focusing on weddings and high end portraits, we did A LOT of free work for charities and non-profits. These included headshots, events and fashion shows. By doing this, we not only got our name out (people were telling us that they saw us everywhere), but we were able to be creative in our work, since there was no paying client to tell us what to do. In addition, we learned our way around the city, went to some fantastic parties (even though we were working) and eventually turned those freebies into paying clients. That led to people trusting us to do portraits, sports and even a wedding here and there.
If we hadn’t been willing to do the work, then it would have taken us much longer to get into the community and get the name of our business out to people.
We’d love to hear about you met your business partner.
We met at Hallmark Institute of Photography in Turners Fall, MA in 2006. We had a design class together and Tony asked me for a piece of paper. Eventually we started talking a bit between classes and then began hanging out with mutual friends outside of school. After we graduated in 2007, he went back to Oklahoma and I went to North Carolina.
A few years later, I moved to Oklahoma and Tony and I hung out a lot, going on photography trips, finding people to photograph and just improving our craft. I got him a job working at the photography studio where I worked and we did school day photography for awhile. Eventually I moved out of Oklahoma but we stayed in touch.
After a few years, Tony moved to Louisiana and eventually, while living in Missouri, I decided that I would move to Louisiana so we could start our business. In 2014 we started Dark Light and we have been toiling away ever since.