Justin and Mary, a husband and wife photography team based in Connecticut, have run countless business and photography workshops across the country. This year, they launched What’s Next, a ten-city tour, with the two of them speaking for a full day about business, branding, productivity, and lighting. I went to their New York tour stop at 320 Studios, and I am so glad I did!
I went expecting to learn a lot about building a brand and tinkering with the nuts and bolts of my business to make it its most efficient. I expected to pick up a small amount of advice about lighting wedding receptions that I didn’t know before. I was not expecting to have such an emotional reaction to Mary’s talk about business, or to learn so much from Justin! I wasn’t remotely prepared for what I heard and learned, but it’s exactly what I needed, and I went home inspired. I stayed up late working on my goals for the weeks and months ahead, and I edited some personal photo projects I’d been putting off.
I cam home with more than 30 pages of handwritten notes, so I couldn’t possibly blog about everything I saw and heard. I’ll just recount my motivational highlights, which had to do with Mary’s talk. She is a fantastic public speaker, and a joy to watch.
At the beginning of the day, Mary spoke about fear, and the realities behind the things we fear. She had everyone write their biggest fears on a chalkboard at the front of the room. Then she addressed the three most common types of fear (failure, rejection, and critique) one by one.
Here are a few of my favorite quotations from this part:
“In terms of failure, there is no IF. You WILL fail. Don’t waste your time worrying about IF you fail. The only way not to fail is not to try . . .Success doesn’t teach you much. What’s great about falling on your face is that you get back up, and you get BETTER. . . Fail forward.”
“Don’t Rush the Nebraska Years. [Those times when you are doing your craft on a smaller scale or to a smaller audience than you’d like; The building years.] You have no idea what they’re preparing you for.”
“You get in life what you have the courage to ask for . . . If you ask, they might say no, but if you don’t, they definitely will.”
Do anything worth remarking on, and someone will criticize it. If you aren’t being criticized, you aren’t doing anything remarkable. . . Whether you go big or small,people are going to have opinions. You might as well go big.
“Fear lies and says, “I can’t , I can’t , I can’t” until you do. Fear can’t lie to done.”
” Your dreams are not opportunities. They are obligations. You have something you owe the world. Think of those who sacrificed so you could live your dreams, and think of those who are watching you as an example of what they can do.”
With that call to action, the What’s Next Crew came up and erased everyone’s fears from the board, and Mary asked everyone to come up to fill the board with their biggest, craziest, most audacious goals.
The next part of the day dealt with steps to reach those goals. She explained her “7 Steps From Dream to Done,” which is a system of organizing your big goals into attainable tasks, and seeing each task through. At its core it’s very simple, but very powerful:
- Focus on one goal, going through this list from start to finish.
- Be willing to say it out loud.
- Ask yourself WHY.
- Get Specific.
- What are the potential hurdles?
- What are the next steps? (Break it down further no fewer than 7 steps, and of those 7 steps, every single one can be broken down)
- Start your first step.
She also gave great advice on general productivity, going over everything from emails to daily tasks to editing to blogging to client deliveries, and everything in between! It was all really helpful, and great motivation to tweak the way we do certain tasks. She really me away when she said “We wear busy like a badge of honor . . .There are people getting a lot more done in a lot less time . . .The way we spend our days is the way we spend our lives.”
Once we were all revved up to go back to our businesses in efficiency overdrive, Mary turned the conversation to branding. But this conversation about branding was like nothing I’d heard. It wasn’t about logos, colors, SEO, or advertising. It was about the heart of your business. It was about what you, and your business, stand for, and what you’ll leave behind when you’re gone.
The most moving part of the day, for me, was when Mary talked about her adoptive grandparents. After Justin and Mary got their wedding photos, they visited Mary’s grandparents to show the pictures. While there, her grandparents showed them a photograph from their own wedding, and Justin took a photo of the two of them, more than 60 years into their marriage, holding a photo of the day it began. As it turned out, that was the last photo taken of the two of them together, because her grandfather passed away a few weeks later.
Mary said, “Did the photographer know what an important part of this love story this picture was going to be, when he pressed the shutter? That she would hold that picture as she said goodbye to the love of her life? Do we, as wedding photographers, realize that we are creating a legacy of love?
That story hit me right in the gut, and really reaffirmed why Chris and I do what we do. Between the two of us, we have plenty of ways we can use our talents, and we try to pursue as many of them as we can. But one of the most important things we get to do with those talents is to preserve the memories of our clients’ love. That’s powerful. When she told that story, I pictures Chris and I, 60 years into our marriage, showing our own grandchildren photographs from our wedding day. I found myself fervently nodding (through my tears) when Mary said of their business, “We don’t shoot weddings for the couple. We shoot for their grandkids.”
Although we don’t presume that each and every couple we shoot wants kids, let alone grandkids, the basic idea of that statement beautiful. Photographs are a tangible piece of a moment that’s long gone, and they are a way to share those moments with the people who weren’t there, even with those who didn’t exist yet . That’s a “legacy of love.” That’s something meaningful that Chris and I can be happy to have created, and proud to leave behind.
Mary was an inspirational speaker, and Justin took over after her talk was done. His part of the day was very helpful. Justin offered some fabulous tips and tricks for lighting , some of which Chris and I are already adding to the way we’ll be covering weddings from now on. His talk delved deep into the ways you can light with intention, manipulating light to create images that are both beautiful and tell a story. All his off camera lighting setups were easy to set up and transport, and could be used in every part of the wedding day.
This conference was such a great way to kick off 2013.If you have the opportunity to see Justin and Mary speak in the future, I highly recommend it!