The Great Balancing Act: Photographer vs. Entrepreneur

1.14.15BLOG > Featured | Weddings

Julie Staley is the founder and co-owner of Old South Studios in Charlotte, NC. Julie specializes in wedding photography and uses her prior experience in corporate America to run a successful studio. Follow Old South Studio’s blog and Facebook to see more of Julie’s work.

If anyone asks, I tell them I am an entrepreneur first and a photographer second. I enjoy running the business just as much as I enjoy capturing beautiful images. My years in corporate America prepared me well for running a successful wedding photography studio. We have two main objectives with each of our couples – delivering the highest-quality images from their wedding day and creating a client experience that exceeds their expectations. By focusing on both the quality of our art and the art of our business, we have created a community of very satisfied clients who continue to refer us to their friends and co-workers.

As a busy studio, we have embraced the following strategies:


Tip 1:  Be a trusted adviser.

This is the area where we shine brightest. From day one, we make the bride our top priority. When we get an inquiry through our website, an automatic response is e-mailed immediately and they receive a phone call from our studio within one business day.

After a bride books us, we meet with her in person to discuss the timing of the day’s events based on lighting. If a bride wants couple portraits during golden hour, we guide her in choosing the appropriate ceremony time and/or a first look to ensure those images are possible. As an entrepreneur and a photographer, it is crucial to educate your client on what it takes to produce fantastic images and then execute your plan.

If the bride needs recommendations on florists, DJs or make-up artists, we refer her to our preferred vendor list of trusted professionals. Working with other vendors who are timely, courteous and professional keeps our bride happy and able to truly enjoy her wedding day.

At their engagement session, we offer wardrobe assistance and coach our couples on posing to make sure they look and feel their best. We want to be a trusted partner with our couples at every step during their engagement year so that working together on their wedding day will feel effortless.


Tip 2: Shoot clean.

I shoot as if Photoshop was never invented. I will modify the light with reflectors, strobes or speed lights and remove any distractions from my scene before I ever click the shutter. I generate revenue for the company when I am shooting, not while I am editing. My team and I all have the same philosophy – get the shot right in camera so less time will be spent behind a computer screen in post-production.

Tip 3: Follow the system.

If you don’t have a system for your studio or you haven’t taken the time to map it out, I can’t recommend it enough. We have an Operations Manual in our studio that lists, in detail, the process for everything we do. From the first file import to putting the postmark on the final package we deliver to our clients, this visual checklist ensures that files aren’t lost and deadlines are always met.


Tip 4: Exceed their expectations.

Brides spend an entire year planning their wedding so waiting 6-8 weeks for wedding images feels like an eternity to them. We post a few sneak peeks before they even leave for their honeymoon and I cannot tell you how excited they are to see a handful of our images so quickly.

Because of our streamlined approach in running our business, we can guarantee our couples a 30 day turnaround time for all of their wedding images. Yes, one month from their wedding day, they are holding their final images. This guarantee means we need to partner with fellow vendors who have the same commitment to both quality and speedy turnaround times. We love Miller’s Signature Albums for our couples. These can be ordered and delivered in less than one week. When we deliver beautiful images in unprecedented time to our brides, they become the biggest advocates for our business to their friends and co-workers.

Great photography and amazing customer service have helped us triple our business in the last three years. Our brides and grooms are always so grateful for the hard work we put into each beautiful image and clients often tell us we were the most organized and efficient vendor they have worked with. That makes both the business owner and photographer in me smile. As we continue to grow as a company and add more team members to Old South Studios, I’m looking forward to the years ahead. May they be filled with “happily ever afters.”

Tags: ,

Blog Home

11 thoughts on “The Great Balancing Act: Photographer vs. Entrepreneur

Jamie says:

I was wondering if you have hired more photographers under your business. I am having growing pains and unsure what the next step should be.

Julie Staley says:

Hi Jamie! Great question. Yes, we have hired additional wedding photographers. They all have impeccable experience but have received additional training in our studio’s look and style. They all second shot with me for a period of time before transitioning to a lead position. I am very pleased with the structure we have in place.

Hello Julie,
Very nice article! I am looking for some advise on Studio management software. Could you share what you are using? I am currently using quickbooks. I need some software that would allow me to create contracts/order albums etc. Im looking at studio cloud.

Julie Staley says:

We would be lost without Shoot Q. I invested in this software management in 2011 and cannot praise this company enough. Although it took a few months to fully learn and operate, now it keeps our entire company running smoothly. I can’t speak to its comparability to Studio Cloud but I’ve heard positive reviews about that program too. With over 300 bridal leads each year, we have to stay organized and Shoot Q does that for us. Thanks for asking!

Barry says:

Hello Julie,

Do you pre-sell the complete package including framed finished wall enlargements, photo books, etc, before the actual wedding or event?

Gary says:

Great article. When you hire additional photographers, do you have any no-compete language in their contracts? I fear teaching someone else some of the techniques that I use to light/shoot/post produce and then if a few months, they are off to start their own business. Thoughts?

Louise says:

Thank you Julie! I will look into Shoot Q.

Julie Staley says:

Hi Barry,
We’ve tried different package structures over the years (some with lots of products and some with service only). Now, we are offering 3 packages to our brides. The lower two packages offer coverage only (engagement and wedding OR engagement/bridal/wedding with DVD of final images) but our larger package does include an album. However, many of our brides use their photography budget to get the best and most service they can upfront and come back to us 9-12 months post-wedding for wall art and albums. Just be sure to charge a high enough fee in your lowest package that if they don’t come back, you have still achieve your company’s financial goals. Then, products are simply a bonus!

Thanks for your question,

Do the DVDs that are part of your package have watermarks or not?


Julie Staley says:

I’ll try to handle all the recent questions. Here goes:

Gary, I began addding Associate Photographers in 2012. At first we hired one full-time Associate with a non-compete and placed her on payroll. We found it challenging to keep both her schedule and my own busy during non-peak wedding months (here in NC that is December-March). In 2014, we started to subcontract Associate Photographers allowing them to shoot on their own as well. They are individuals with great integrity and I am very careful about whom I hire. They are not newbies either- all have 3 or more years of wedding photography experience on their own. I train them on our company policies and basic shooting requirements per wedding but their skills are already honed. This system is attractive for both the photographers and myself. I can help them fill in weekends they are not booked and these ladies can enjoy more time with their kids/go back to school, etc. Trust your judgement on who you would hire and be selective. There is always the risk of them taking some confidential info I suppose but I know the company we’ve built is very solid.

Rebecca, we include 2 versions of every image on the DVD- a high-res/non-watermarked copy with a reproduction release AND a watermarked version for all social media. Again, price your collections high enough so that residual sales are not cornerstones of your business (since they will likely NOT print images/products through your lab).

Good luck out there, guys! Hope to see you in Vegas at WPPI in March!

Louise says:

Would you be king enough to share your “reproduction release with us?
Great idea on the two versions of the image. Thanks for sharing!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *