If you’re looking to elevate yourself as a business owner or photographer, a mentorship with the BEST of the best is the way to go and in my opinion, the fastest way to grow and get better.
At the end of last year, I began to seriously evaluate myself as a photographer. I realized that while I received rave reviews about my photographs from family and friends, had my work featured in prominent magazines and blogs, I still felt like I needed to grow and push myself much harder and that my work could be so much better.
And I knew that I could only get better if I hung out with the BEST of the best.
So I reached out to Scott and Melissa, the award-winning and kind husband and wife duo of Hopkins Studio and also recently named a top 100 photographers in the world. I’d met them a year earlier at Stacie Francombe’s Inspire Smart Success. So I made the investment in myself and my business and traveled to Savannah to catch up and learn from Scott and Melissa and understand what I was doing well and not so well and how I could get better.
I left Savannah reinvigorated, inspired and ignited and gained greater clarity into what I was doing well and not so well, but this time, I had a support system and resources and solutions on how to become better a better wedding photographer.
Shout out to Melissa of Hopkins Studio for the behind the scenes shots from our time together. Savannah wasn’t as warm as I expected, but we still had fun!
A blog post could never summarize everything I learned (business to production to shooting techniques) or be applicable to everyone since we’re all in different phases of our photography journey, but here 5 general takeaways that you can apply from my time with Scott and Melissa.
- Invest in relationships. Genuinely take time to get to know others.
Genuinely nurturing reciprocal relationships with people is important. Scott and Melissa didn’t have to directly state that, but from our time together, it was a clear and consistent theme in all of our conversations.
What’s amazing is that what they do and how they connect with others is a natural extension of who they are. Scott and Melissa genuinely take care and look out for their clients and vendors. I felt so loved and well taken care of throughout my visit with them. Since my time with them was meant to be a more of an educational experience, I was pleasantly surprised and delighted to be treated to really good meals, an in depth tour of Savannah and good conversation: fried chicken tacos from Buffalo’s at Palmetto Bluff and let’s not forget about Jim N Nick’s BBQ Restaurant. Oh my!! Southern food is the best.
- Take care of yourself as a photographer so you can be the best for your clients.
Shooting a wedding is physically demanding because as a photographer, you’re on feet all day and always on the move so it’s important to make sure you, your equipment and your body are in tip top shape. That means resting up the day before a wedding, making sure your back is in good shape (for me personally and the Hopkins, that means seeing a chiropractor regularly), preparing all your equipment, lenses and cards 2 days before the event and carrying an emergency kit of supplies. My favorite emergency kits are these ones made by Pinch Provisions. They’re small, cute and colorful and thankfully because I had packed this kit, it recently came in handy when my bride had a dress snafu.
- Invest in photography workshops that push you outside your comfort zone.
Scott and Melissa are amazing at what they do and they get and stay that way because they constantly push themselves as photographers. Scott has been shooting for 30+ years, so you’d think he had already officially earned a Ph.D. but I was surprised that both he and Melissa still actively seek new ways to learn, grow and participate in photography conferences and workshops including: WPPI, Foundation Workshops and CreativeLive. They study photography outside of the wedding photography including the following:
- Bryan Peterson’s Understanding Exposure
- Peter Turnley’s French Kiss – this book comes in red, so I’m all over it
- Sam Abell’s The Life of a Photograph
- Robert Valenzuela’s Picture Perfect Posing – a wedding book but it offers innovative posing techniques
- Invest in editing and curating your portfolio to attract your ideal client.
The type of client you attract is a function of what you show. Scott and Melissa took me through their photos and how and why they chose them. That one act alone was eye opening not only because their images are stunning (see for yourself here) but because I began to see how to strategically curate and edit images to attract my ideal client. Be intentional. End.of.story.
I had the 85mm with me, but after our time together, I’m going back to the Canon 70-200mm lens.
- Invest in a solid system for prepping for every shoot and downloading and processing all images.
Scott and Melissa are crazy organized. Everything has its home, label, process. Seeing this alone made me realize that when you’re organized, everything is efficient and therefore frees you up to be more creative and focused on producing and being your best. I love that like me, Scott is into technology. So anytime, he finds himself doing something over and over, he researches a tech solution. So for example, when setting up a new client, you have to create a system of set of folders with subfolders, labels, etc. This process can be repetitive and sadly, I used to manually do it until Scott introduced me to Client Folder Maker App, a folder creation and management app. Watch this video to learn everything it can do to make your life more productive and efficient. Awwww. (angels singing) Time saver for sure!
Overall, a really eye-opening and invaluable 3 day experience, but the real work starts with slowly implementing and executing everything I learned and I’m happy to know that Scott and Melissa will be there to offer advice along the way. If you’re ever in the Hilton Head area or even if you’re not, I highly recommend doing a mentorship with Scott and Melissa not only because they’re the best but because they’re just genuinely good people with big hearts.
A special shout out to Whitney of W Photography and her husband, who were such wonderful models and patiently allowed me to learn how to move about more, test lighting, as they just stood back and looked pretty. Thank you!