Allison Tyler Jones: Hi friends. This episode of The Rework is part of a series featuring several of the students from our Art of Selling art course that we launched for the first time in the summer of 2021. These students are sharing the big and not so big changes that they’ve made in their business over the last few months, changes that have scared them, but made a big difference to their confidence, their session sales averages, the products that they’re selling, how they speak to their clients, and they also share the successes they’ve had while doing it scared. I know that you’re going to find their stories just as inspiring as I did. I can’t wait for you to hear their stories because I know you’re going to find them just as inspiring as I did.

Recorded: Welcome to The Rework with Allison Tyler Jones, a podcast dedicated to inspiring portrait photographers to uniquely brand, profitably price, and confidently sell their best work. Allison has been doing just that for the last 15 years. And she’s proven that it’s possible to create unforgettable art and run a portrait business that supports your family and your dreams. All it takes is a little rework. Episodes will include interviews with experts from in and outside of the photo industry, many workshops, and behind the scenes secrets that Allison uses in her portrait studio every single day. She will challenge her thinking and inspire your confidence to create a profitable, sustainable portrait business you love through continually refining and reworking your business. Let’s do The Rework.

Allison Tyler Jones: Hi friends, and welcome back to The Rework. As portrait photographers, we’re no stranger to burnout. This business requires everything. It requires our heart. It requires our soul. It requires our mind. And it’s very easy to burnout, especially when we aren’t valuing our time and we aren’t setting up our business in a way that supports our life rather than our life supporting our business. And today’s guest is Lara Blair, who is also no stranger to burnout. In fact, she burned completely out years ago and quit the industry completely. She left portrait photography after having a successful business, after writing the book on pet photography, when she went back to teaching school. Fast forward to 2018, and she reentered the industry, this time determined to do it on her own terms.

But she started thinking, “Well, maybe I’ll photograph women.” And then she didn’t really love that. And then she tried to photograph families kind of the way that I do, kind of tried a little ATJ flave with families. Didn’t really love that either. And instead, she’s found her own niche in creating highly conceptual sessions that are amazing experiences for her clients. She also turned 50, and from the outside looking in this girl is taking no prisoners. She’s decided to recreate a business on her own terms, around what she does best for clients that she can throw. And I can’t wait for you to hear how she’s done it. Let’s do it.

I’m so excited to have my friend Lara Blair here all the way from Camas, Washington.

Lara Blair: Hello. It’s nice to be here.

Allison Tyler Jones: So, happy that you’re here.

Lara Blair: Thank you.

Allison Tyler Jones:  So, Lara, give us a quick … It’s Lara.

Lara Blair: Yeah. Like Larabar. Without the dots.

Allison Tyler Jones: Exactly. Exactly. So, Lara, give us a brief introduction of you and your business, tell our listeners where you’re at, what you’re doing, all that kind of stuff.

Lara Blair: Okay. I started, I picked up a film camera in 2000 when my babies were born, like so many women, and I shot film for a little while, I developed in my dark room. And learned all the things, and then switched to digital overnight, and had a terrible digital camera like everybody else. And did that for a while. And then I did that for 13 years, off and on. We moved to New York, I had a studio there, and then we moved back to the Northwest and I opened again. I photographed dogs exclusively for a few years. I wrote a book for Amherst Media, photographing dogs. It’s still online. It’s still pertinent. Equipment’s a little [crosstalk]

Allison Tyler Jones:  What’s the title? What’s the title of the dog [crosstalk]

Lara Blair: I have it right here, actually. Let’s see. Photographing Dogs: Techniques for Professional Digital Photographers.

Allison Tyler Jones: Love it.

Lara Blair:  And a lot of it’s about marketing and that was fun. But then I burned out terribly, and I went back to my first job, which was teaching. And I taught sixth grade, and I loved it. And that’s my heart. I know it’s kind of an age from hell for some people, but I just really love the hot mess thing. And it really resonated with me. So, I was a good teacher, creative, my background’s theater and music. So, I did a lot of acting out stuff and stuff with my class, and very much in my element.

Allison Tyler Jones: Great.

Lara Blair:  But as we all know, other teachers, it been a rough road. I quit right before COVID. So, it was a total godsend that I quit, but I just quit because my kids went to college, and you’ve heard this story before, but I had terrible mom guilt when I was working the first time. I was very busy photographer. Not doing it correctly as I look back on it, not turn and burn, but pretty close. A lot of time away from my family. A lot of late nights editing, giving far too much for what I was charging. And I just burned out. It was awful. And I missed being home on my kids’ schedule. And I thought, “Well, if I go back to teaching I can be on their schedule.” So, I went back and it was good. It was a good choice. Every time I’ve ever made a decision like that, it’s been the right one. I’m good about praying and then listening, and then having that go, “Okay, it’s time to go.” So, this last time-

Allison Tyler Jones: I love that.

Lara Blair: … I went to my team, I loved my team, my sixth grade team. And I said, “I know it’s going to sound crazy.” And they both said, “You are leaving to go do photography.” They both knew. So, I quit, and oh my gosh, I had no idea what I wanted to focus on. I just knew I wanted to do it differently. I wanted to do it-

Allison Tyler Jones: This was when? When was this?

Lara Blair: Gosh. Four and a half years ago?

Allison Tyler Jones: Okay.

Lara Blair: Somewhere in there. And it was pre-COVID … Three and a half years ago maybe. Oh gosh. I can’t even keep track-

Allison Tyler J…: Like 2018-ish?

Lara Blair: Yeah. In the very beginning. Yeah.

Allison Tyler Jones: Okay.

Lara Blair: Yeah. So, I quit and I have an apartment above my garage at my house, and it’s a big apartment. It’s like 700 square feet. So, I made a makeshift setup there, and tried to find my way back. I had to re-buy my equipment because I had sold everything. [crosstalk]

Allison Tyler Jones: Oh my gosh.

Lara Blair: And I upgraded.

Allison Tyler Jones: But then you got new stuff. So, that’s exciting.

Lara Blair: I know, that was fun. And I did the photographing women thing for a little bit. That’s so big right now, did not love that. God Bless anyone who’s doing that right now. I just feel like women tear themselves apart. And that was happening in my sales room, and it made me terribly sad.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. And it just wasn’t your thing.

Lara Blair: It wasn’t my thing.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. Just wasn’t your thing.

Lara Blair: And I love kids. And I love middle schoolers, so it’s kind of random. And-

Allison Tyler Jones: How many people would say, “Oh, God Bless her”?  That would like would never-

Lara Blair: Totally.

Allison Tyler Jones:  … which is what is so great about this business is that you can do [crosstalk]

Lara Blair: Bow down to you. I don’t [crosstalk]

Allison Tyler Jones: Or newborn. Newborn.

Lara Blair:  No thanks. No newborns for me either. So, I did the women thing for a while, and it was good to get my feet wet. I was online, tried to catch up. I felt behind. And I’m a quick study. So, I learned things quickly. And then I realized, “Oh my gosh, I’m doing this again. I can do it anyway I want.” I’ve been following you for years. Years. I mean, because you came in right after I did, I think. You’ve been doing this a long time, I looked at your pictures, and then I didn’t really start to understand your business model till, I don’t know, probably five years ago. And how you did things. And honestly, there are so many talking heads in this industry about … No, there are, about do this, market with this. How do you get new clients? And going to imaging and you buy everything that’s at imaging, and you’re walking around and you’re not sure who to listen to.

I found your voice stuck out from the crowd to me. And the things you were saying were true for me, they resonated in my heart. It was the life that I wanted to live, which was fewer clients, go deeper. And so, I just started, and then bless your heart, you answered some of my questions. I got brave and I just emailed you. And that’s when the ball started rolling. I realized I can do this anyway I want, I’m a grown woman. So, I turned 50, I’m 51 now. I turned 50 last year, and I thought, “I don’t want to do the stuff that everyone’s doing. I want to do it really differently. And I want fewer clients.” I hate turn and burn. I hired an assistant who got it. She just understood that, okay, the phone’s not going to ring and it’s going to be scary because …

She said to me, one day last year, I said, “Gosh, it’s just frightening sometimes when the phone doesn’t ring.” She goes, “I can get your phone to ring. We can go on Facebook and do mini sessions, Lara. Do you want to do that?”

Allison Tyler Jones: Right.

Lara Blair: I was like, “No, I don’t.”

Allison Tyler Jones: I mean, I like her because I think that [crosstalk] that’s a good gut check every now and then when you do feel like … There’s something about women, and especially when own your own business, and entrepreneurs, is that you feel like if we’re not killing ourselves that we really aren’t trying. Or if we’re not just constantly running around like a chicken with our head cut off. And so-

Lara Blair: And that’s the thing with mini sessions, right?

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Lara Blair: I don’t do things small. I go big or go home.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Lara Blair: I charge a [crosstalk]

Allison Tyler Jones: I don’t how do anything mini.

Lara Blair: I charge a mini session price and then I’m mad doing all the work, because I’m not getting paid for it.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. It’s like how to hate your clients, do mini sessions.

Lara Blair: That’s totally what it is for me. And I knew how much time I wanted to spend. And then what I learned from you, in your class especially, was you show the value. You give them value for what you’re charging. And I really believe we do that now, we’ve gotten that down to a science. And then you don’t even blank when you give them the price. I mean, I might blink a little because I’m still not totally comfortable looking a husband in the eye and going, “Yes, this is going to be expensive. Deal with it, buddy.” But I definitely, I feel like what we do is worth it, and if you don’t think it’s worth it that’s totally fine. We’re not your jam. If you don’t need us, it’s okay. [crosstalk]

Allison Tyler Jones: Well, and that’s another gut check, too, is there’s the busy part. And then there’s also that, just exactly what you’re saying is it might feel a little clenchy inside, but when you are convinced of the value of what you’re doing, when you know how many hours you’re going to spend, and how … To what level you are going to kill yourself for this client, then it doesn’t really become about tricks, and overcoming objections, or whatever. It just becomes, yeah, it is spendy, but it’s going to be so great.

Lara Blair:  So, worth it.

Allison Tyler Jones: And I’m so excited.

Lara Blair: I’m so excited. I learned that too. I love that. I’m so excited about doing this for you, and something that’s been interesting in the last year, I’m very much discovering what I like. And I’m not afraid of shooting what I like, and showing just that, and getting rid of everything else. So, for example, I love the idea of bringing a family in and getting … Letting them do their antics and capturing it. But that is not my sweet spot. Honestly, I get exhausted, and all I want to do is focus on the sixth grader. I’m just not interested in a lot of other things. So, but what I love is I love theatrical stuff. I love theme stuff. I love digital composites. It’s very specific. And I thought, “Oh my gosh, who the hell’s going to pay for this?” But Erin, my sweet muse here, she and I talk a lot, every day. “How do we get people to understand that this is what they didn’t even know they wanted?”

They’re the art, you are the art. And yes, I don’t even like calling it a portrait studio anymore, because it gives the connotation of, well, we’re going to get your likeness, and you’re going to come in. It’s going to be fun. And then we’re going to do it again next year. And there might be families that do this every year with us. And that’s the goal. And I learned that from you as well. Don’t discount, just because you’re an investment, that they won’t come every year. But I realized I just have to show what I want to shoot. I know it’s valuable. I know that I can create something special, and then I’m going to charge for it. And I’m not going to freak out when one person out of 10 wants it, because that person is going to count. And I love having time to breathe. I love having time to do creative shoots like I’m doing, because January’s scary for all of us.

It’s quiet. And I have realized that I test out my stuff, my digital composite stuff, I spend a lot of time on Photoshop, which I personally really like. I like the art part. We’re doing this new thing too called Le Reve Sessions where people come in and it’s super fast. We have two closets full of clothes. So, we do a wardrobe thing. They figure out what they want. It’s usually kids, and they have a fantasy underwater, and it’s flying, whatever, levitating. And I love, like, “Tell me about what would your happiest thing be?” And then I say, “I can do that. I can create that for you. Let’s figure out your wardrobe.” They come in, and it’s like 15 minutes, or less because I know what I need them to do position-wise on my backdrop. I shoot it on white, and then I go to town. And they leave and I create the art, and it’s all built into one big price because I want them to have skin in the game. I’m not going to do all of that for them to come in for an eight by 10.

Allison Tyler Jones: So, these are the composites that you’re doing that are like photo illustration.

Lara Blair: Yeah. [crosstalk] Like a lot of animals, like the little spirit animals in there is so much fun to make. I really, really like it, and I realized, okay, that’s one of my happy things, but I’m going to charge for that. Because that’s a skill, and that’s something that I can’t just do at home. And so, I create the art, and then we frame it. We have a custom framer, which I just got in the last year. That is a game changer having work that I’m so proud of to put on the wall, because it’s good frames-

Allison Tyler Jones: Love that.

Lara Blair: … she’s really great. It’s a woman owned business in our town. It takes longer, but it’s worth it. And then we got an installer. I mean, these are all [crosstalk] I’ve learned how to build that value with providing all these things. These are a lot of people who have more money than time, and-

Allison Tyler Jones: Well, and I think that the biggest disservice we do to ourselves is to play small. That’s not benefiting anybody to tell ourselves that nobody’s going to want this. You don’t know, you don’t know who’s going to want what. You don’t know if they’re going to want like your kaleidoscope sessions where you’re doing all those props, and the color, and those kids … And yeah, they do want it. That’s a age where parents are seeing their kids literally disintegrate before their eyes.

Lara Blair:  I know.

Allison Tyler Jones: The confidence is in the toilet, and this little happy elementary school kid is now headed into the depth of [crosstalk]

Lara Blair: Welcome to the Thunderdome. 13.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. No. I think like 14 to 16 … I always said they need to have an island that you can send your 14-year-old. And then to take it back when they turn 16, because that’s rough.

Lara Blair: Well, I wouldn’t mind being on that island with them. I really [crosstalk]

Allison Tyler Jones: No, see, that would be great. [crosstalk] Exactly. And that’s how I’m like, when people are like, “Oh yeah, other photographers might …” Especially fashion photographers, editorial photographers that I’ve met and talked to, and they’re like, “Yeah, I could never do what you do.” And I’m like, “Well-

Lara Blair: It’s a skill.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. [crosstalk] never want to.

Lara Blair:  You’re a kid whisperer.

Allison Tyler Jones: I’m a naughty kid whisperer.

Lara Blair: And that’s a skill. I know you are. And that’s a skill. That’s a flat out skill. I don’t have that skill. Maybe a little, but that’s another reason why bringing them on the backdrop and just seeing what happens, that’s so … You’re so good at that. I tried it, and it was okay. And we got some good images, but it wasn’t the magic that I knew I could do. Give me some wardrobe, give me a theme. Give me [crosstalk]

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. But that’s your theater background.

Lara Blair: Inside joke that you guys have that we can turn into art. And sometimes they’re like, “You can make a picture of that?” I’m like, “Yeah, we can make art out of.” And then when you do it, they’re just blown away. And yes, it’s going to be an investment because it’s special. I have learned also with, yeah, I don’t assume anything. Because my very favorite clients in the whole world are the ones they come to us and they say, “We saved for this. We knew we wanted our daughter to have a [crosstalk]

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Lara Blair: I just want to cry. Like, you saved for this? And yeah, I’m going to kill myself for them, because they value it as much as I do. Not everybody values this kind of photography, and I’m so okay with that now. That has been the biggest change for me.

Allison Tyler Jones: The thing that I love, just that I want to call out to our listeners that might have just gotten missed in that last little paragraph, is that you came back into the industry, you had previously done pets, kids, family portraits, all the new things. I mean, all the typical things. And then you came back in and you said, “Okay, well, maybe I’ll try women. Let’s see how we like that. I really don’t like that.” And then you weren’t afraid to like, “Oh no, I started with women. So, I have to stay no matter what.” And then you tried this other thing, and then you thought … Then you tried, “Oh, let’s try ATJ. Nope. I really don’t love that.” What I’m seeing on your Instagram feed, and what I see what I’ve seen over the last 18 months that we’ve known each other, is very rapid evolution.

And that, I think, is very unique to you because that doesn’t typically happen. But I think it’s a really good example of how … And you’re not 20 either.

Lara Blair: I know. [crosstalk]

Allison Tyler Jones: I remember listening to Joe, I don’t know if you know who Joe Buissink is. He was the famous wedding photographer. And he picked up a camera for the first time at 50. Like picked up a camera. So, didn’t reenter the industry. So, it’s never too late to be who you are going to be. And you’re going to evolve further. So, I love that you looked at other people and said, “Okay, I like that. I want to start there, but how can I quickly make it my own?” And that’s where the secret is because you are the secret.

Lara Blair: Well, I think too, it’s that whole when the phone rings, who do you want to be on the other end? Who do you secretly wish? That’s what I tell photographers who ask me for advice, which is a funny statement. But they’ll say, “How do I know what I want my style, or what I want to shoot?” I’m like, “Okay. So, you’re sitting at the studio, the phone rings. Who do you desperately want to be? What client on the other side?” If your heart sinks because it’s a baby, oh my goodness, take that stuff off your website. You don’t want to photograph babies. Show what you want to shoot. Only show what you want to shoot and curate, curate, curate down to the point where it’s a little frightening. Because you’re like, “Oh my gosh, who am I repelling?”

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. Maybe I’ve [crosstalk] Yeah. Maybe I’ve narrowed it too much. Then you’re just starting to get there.

Lara Blair: That repelling people who you don’t want to be on the other end of your phone is your happiness starting to bloom. It’s that whole what do I want to do with my day? I’m avoiding burnout. I feel like that’s what I’m doing with every decision because I know life is short. I don’t know how long I want to do this. Probably a pretty long time. I’m really happy. I found a really good partner, someone who believes in what I do, who’s my cheerleader, and everything. I only need her. We’re getting it done together. [crosstalk] that pop in and out that are great. A husband who just says, “Do what you need to do.” And I want this to grow, of course. I want to help other photographers. I want in my area, even, talk to people …

Get to the point where you love what you’re doing and you don’t have to yourself out of bed because you have another newborn shoot that you don’t want to do. It’s so cool with photography because there’s so many niches. There’s so many places you could go, you just have to decide, and really start marketing those people, and also getting your prices where you are going to work really, really hard and not be resentful because you feel like you’re being compensated for it.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, for sure. Can we talk about clients for a sec? Do you have any idea who your very best clients are? And how are you deciding who’s best anyway? More importantly, what are you doing to get inside their heads and figure out what they really need? I don’t think you need me to tell you how important quality clients are to the health of your business and your sanity. But actually, I think you do, because so many photographers I talk to are still struggling to attract, and more importantly, to hang onto really great clients. The problem isn’t that the great clients aren’t out there. The problem is, is that they don’t understand what it is that you can do for them, and how great that service can be, and how it can completely change their life. It’s time to double down on what makes you unique, and clearly toot your horns so everyone, including prospective, new, amazing clients, know exactly what you do and how you do it.

I want to get you up to speed on the exact strategies that I’m using right now in my portrait studio to identify, communicate with, and take amazing care of our best clients all without spending a fortune on ads or marketing. And I’ve put it all together in a masterclass called Cultivating A Quality Clientele, a behind the scenes secret to creating a profitable business built around your unique style, and your best clients, without working around the clock or having to market like a crazy person. In this training, I am going to walk you through the major mind shift that all successful portrait photographers must make to clarify their unique style. How to innovate by ignoring the competition and focusing on what you do best. Simplifying to sell more, a clear way to talk about your work that will educate your clients instead of “selling them.” The most simple and effective marketing strategy that we’ve found, that costs no money and will have your clients buzzing about you to their friends, and the single most effective way to increase your profits in your business.

And why you must know this before you change anything else. I’m offering this masterclass multiple days and times. So, if you are willing to invest just 60 minutes to dig deep and look closely at your own business in a new way, I promise to reward your commitment with only my most effective strategies that have made huge differences in my own portrait studio. Strategies that will have your clients loving you more than ever and bragging about you to their friends. Sound good? Go to That’s, and register for the time that works best for your schedule. Can’t wait to see you there.

So, I sent you some questions before we [crosstalk]

Lara Blair: Yeah, yeah.

Allison Tyler Jones: Podcast. So, I wanted to just run through those, just for fun. So, first question is if you had a genie that could grant you one wish for your business, what would it be?

Lara Blair: A really nice espresso machine in the studio. No, I’m kidding. I’m kidding. Let’s see we drink a lot of coffee out here. I think I would have two themed family shoots a month, and three kaleidoscopes … See, I’ve thought about this three kaleidoscopes a month, and maybe one or two Le Reve’s. Honestly, no more than six sessions a month, and do really, really well off of those, because people really understand what we do and they invest heavily in what we do, because they want these experience and they want the finished product. That would be the ultimate.

Allison Tyler Jones: Okay. So, six of these, because your sessions are, they’re specific types of sessions. So, your themed family shoot, obviously a lot of props and a lot of theatrical looking …

Lara Blair: A lot of composite work, too.

Allison Tyler Jones: A lot of composite. Yeah. Kaleidoscope is the younger girls, individual kid. A lot of color. And then the Le Reve is the … Again, the more composited and very credibly conceptual.

Lara Blair: Yes. Yeah. You got it. Yeah. That would be the same.

Allison Tyler Jones: Okay. So, six sessions split among those. And so, what I’m hearing in that is that you’re saying, “I would like to shoot what I’m shooting,” which you’re already shooting that, you just want to shoot more of that.

Lara Blair:  Correct.

Allison Tyler Jones: And then have higher session averages.

Lara Blair: Yes. Yeah [crosstalk] it happened right before Christmas, the dream of a family shoot. I almost cried. Well, I did cry when they left the studio, and it was so much work that we put into it to make this happen. And I had a real epiphany when I went home. My daughter was home for the holidays and she said, “How’d it go today?” And I told her what they spent. Her mouth was on the floor. She goes, “Why would they pay that?” And I sat there and I said, “You know what? You’re not my client. That’s why you don’t get it. I’ve been taking pictures of you your whole life. You’re not my client. I’m not my [crosstalk]

Allison Tyler Jones: Also, you’re not a prophet in your own country. Your kids are like, “You’re just a mom-

Lara Blair: Oh no, totally.

Allison Tyler Jones: … you’re not cool.”

Lara Blair:  Well, and I’m not my own client either. When I left, I was like, “They really value this. They thought the experience was amazing. They are excited for the art.” I had a moment where I was like, “I can do this. This can be done. I just need to find 10 more of these a year and we’re good.”

Allison Tyler Jones: Right. And so, the other thing I think it’s important about those goals is that … So, you have very specific. So, this is two themed family, three kaleidoscopes, and then another … A Le Reve session. So, that is six sessions per month that you would like to do. That is a very doable … If you know when you’ve reached that goal. You know when you haven’t reached it and you know when you’ve exceeded it. And so, that is huge.

Lara Blair: The sales is a different part though. I mean, that’s how do we get the kaleidoscopes where we want them to be? That’s been a little bit of a challenge for us because they buy an album, and then I usually a piece of wall art. But how do we get it to be the number we want? That is a little bit of a back and forth. Erin and I are constantly coming up with ideas. I want all that work to count. We finally started charging more upfront. Like I said before, we want skin in the game. We don’t want people to … We want them to know they’re going to invest.

So, if invest that $1,000 whatever upfront, we know that they’re all in. And that has helped a lot. And that also has kept the phone from ringing, because people in our area know now that were an investment. I’ve heard that, heard that [crosstalk] in my assistant. She’s like, “I hear people all the time. ‘Oh my gosh. You went to Lara Blair? That must’ve been expensive.'”

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, that’s good.

Lara Blair:  Which is like, “Oh my God.” I think in the past I would’ve been like, “Oh no. Oh, I don’t want to sound like .. Who do I think I am?” I could care less now. If you think that and you want to come to us, fabulous. That’s great.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. I remember reading a book once about luxury brands, and they were talking about actually one of the goal of a luxury brand, say like a Chanel or Louis Vuitton, or whatever, is that you actually want the client to think it’s more than it is. That to be pleasantly surprised when they come, that they’ve built it up in their head, like, “This Chanel bag is going to cost me like two million dollars.” And then they’re so pleasantly surprised that it was only 20 grand. But they have it in their head that, “Oh my gosh,” because expensive means different things to different people. And so, I’ve had that happen where people have come in and said, “Come for a consultation,” and they’ve seemed a little bit trepidatious, if that’s a word. And then they’ll say, “Okay. So, we’ve really been looking forward to this. Is there any possibility we could do this for like $10,000? Is that just okay?” And I’m like, “Well, of course we can do something amazing for that.”

But they built it up in their head that it’s this huge way more. So, that’s actually a really good place to be. But before you get there and I’m not putting myself to the same category as Louis Vuitton, let’s be real. [crosstalk] it was just an example. But before you get there, you’re in the phase where you are right now, which is that your phone doesn’t ring quite as much. So, you’ve gone from doing maybe more at a mid-range, you’ve gone high, and you’re willing to say, “Okay, I don’t care if my phone’s ringing because I’m building this brand.” But what I see you doing, what you’re not doing is you’re not just sitting there going, “Okay. Well, Allison told me that if I just charge more, I’m going to get more.”

Lara Blair:  Nope [crosstalk] Yeah.

Allison Tyler Jones: Or whatever. You’re on social media, you’re educating your clients. You’re showing what you’re doing. You’re continually just out there. So, anybody that would follow you is like, “That girl is busy. She [crosstalk]

Lara Blair: You know what?

Allison Tyler Jones: All the time.

Lara Blair:  I had a friend, I had a really good friend, I have a little posse of photographers. And we text every day. She’s like, “Dude, you’re busy.” And I laughed and I go, “You’re so cute.” I said, “All this stuff I’m doing in January, it’s all creative work that I’ve wanted to do in my heart. I have this art I want to make.” And first of all, I have to make the art because I go insane. Because it’s really gross and rainy here, and I have to do something. Second, I need my clients to look at it, not only say, “Oh, what can she do for me?” But also, “Gosh, got a call. Better get in there. It looks really busy.”

That’s fine. That byproduct is great. But honestly, for me, if I don’t shoot, I go insane. And Erin knows that. I’m like an Australian Shepherd, running in circles. She’ll say, “Do we need to schedule a [crosstalk]

Allison Tyler Jones: Do we need to schedule a shoot?

Lara Blair:  Oh yeah. I mean [crosstalk]

Allison Tyler Jones: That’s how you know you’re a true artist is that you need to create.

Lara Blair:  I was having a terrible day yesterday. We were just hanging out, and she’s like, “You’re in a lull.” I’m like, “Oh, I am. It’s January.” And so, we had a shoot at 4:00. Was so fun and so [crosstalk]

Allison Tyler Jones: Happy.

Lara Blair:  Yeah. And I thought it’s good on all ends, and you’re right, you can’t sit around and just say, “Well, I’m expensive now. That’s just how it’s going to be.” You show the value.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, exactly. So, you’re telling that story, and you’re speaking, going back to something that you said earlier, is that when you’re asking that question, “Who do I want on the other side of that phone call,” you have to talk to that person before they call. And you have to be speaking their language all through social media, and everything that you put out there in the world. You need to be speaking their language. Talking to that person [crosstalk]

Lara Blair:  You should do that when you shoot everything, don’t you think? If you’re shooting everything, how do you speak language to all those people?

Allison Tyler Jones: You can’t.

Lara Blair: You can’t.

Allison Tyler Jones: It’s not possible. It’s not possible. And it’s hard. This is not an easy thing. This is scary. Every single [crosstalk]

Lara Blair: Scary. I do everything afraid, Allison. Everything. I do everything afraid, but you just got to step out. Otherwise, you won’t get what you want.

Allison Tyler Jones: So, true. I love it. So, speaking of that, when we’re talking about making change in your business, you are one of the founding members of the Art of Selling art course, which thank you for that, by the way, loved having you in the class. What was a takeaway, something that you learned in the course that you felt like led to positive change in your business? Something that was specific and quantifiable?

Lara Blair:  So, many things. Well, first of all, I want to say that your course is for seasoned people, like moi, and also if you’re just beginning, that was cool in that class because there was really both. I think the biggest one for me was create an experience and a value that’s so good that you don’t freak out when there are fewer clients. That’s where I got brave and thought, “Okay, I’m going to do this. And I’m going to …” I don’t put my prices on my website. I have my session views on there, but nothing else. So, when people would call or come in … Oh, I know what the other one was. This was another big one. I totally changed this after your class, really talking specifically about what they’re going to be paying before they even step into my studio.

So, a lot of times my consults are here at the studio. I don’t want them to say, “We don’t have the money to do this right now,” when I’m standing in their hallway. [crosstalk] nice to do it at their house. So, now we do it here. And I love that whole thing that you taught about if they get to the end of your spiel, and they say, “Wow, this is really an investment. It’s just not in the cards,” to go the route of, “I’m so glad you came in, we will be here when you’re ready. Think about all the ideas that we can shoot together. And I’m just so glad that you all came in, and I hope you come back. No hard feelings.” That’s what I’m thinking on the inside. I spent 10 minutes talking to you about what the value of this is. And if it’s not in the cards right now, that’s totally fine. But you know what? Down the road, they’re going to remember that, they’re going to want to come back.

So, being super, super upfront, it’s really scary to do that for me, even still. I don’t say the numbers, I point on a piece of paper. I’ll say-

Allison Tyler Jones: Hey, whatever it takes.

Lara Blair: … “That wall has to have a 40 by 50. It’s going to look like a postage stamp if it’s any smaller than that.” And then I write down the number, and I slide it over to the husband. Not always, but most of the time, and I’ll say, “This is what that’s going to cost.” And then most of the time they’ll be like, “No. No way.” I’m like, “Okay, so what size do you want to go?” And I’ll point to my [crosstalk] “How about that one?” And then I write the price down, and I show it to him. So, being so specific that they’re 100% clear. I don’t want them to come into the sales room with me and look at me like, “What did you do? You got me to love all of these. And I can only spend this amount of money, and you really suck.” That’s a terrible place to be. And I think most photographers, when I first start, we were all doing that. You just take a bunch of pictures-

Allison Tyler Jones: Oh, the whole industry’s set up that way. And then it’s like, let’s go read 50 books on how to overcome objections that should never happen in the first place, because you should have talked about it before you ever picked up a camera.

Lara Blair:  And one of the things that I learned too, from you, within that whole thing, was … And I listened to a lot of the other people in the class talking, be really specific about what you’re making. Don’t go in for two hours and shoot a bunch of stuff, and just hope it’s going to stick. [crosstalk]

Allison Tyler Jones: You need to be specific about what you’re shooting for, the product that you’re shooting for. Yeah.

Lara Blair:  Yeah. Great example. I’ll tell you something we did that was a total mistake, and it’s such a great example. This adorable gymnast. Oh, she’s so cute. Her mom called us, was very clear with us, super specific what she wanted. She goes, “I want the chalk picture,” when they do this with the chalk that’s in the air.

Allison Tyler Jones: The clapping, yeah, and the chalk goes everywhere. Yeah.

Lara Blair: Yeah. And I thought it’d cool. And I wanted to light it. I was practicing lighting with Erin, how we could do it. And I thought, “This is so cool.” Well, typical me, you can’t do anything small. I shot this whole hour. We brought costumes out, and we had her beam in here, and it was so wonderful. And they were great images. I was so happy with them, and she came in to purchase, and she bought one image. And funny enough, she didn’t buy the chalk one, but she bought an image that she liked, but she told us that that’s what she wanted. Was really clear. And I was like, “Okay, no, we’re going to shoot …” And I spent all this time editing, and I had to laugh because I know these things, but I’m still doing them because I can’t do small. So, reigning it in for me is not natural. But if a client tells me exactly what they want …

That’s what I love about Le Reve. They come in and they say, “I want to be in space, and I want to be floating tethered to a space shuttle.” “Well, awesome. I know exactly how to do that. It’s going to take me 10 minutes. We’re going to put a little costume on you. I’m going to work in my Photoshop magic and it … Boom. You’re going to have a piece of art. We’re going to frame it.” I love how specific that is, but darn, I’m going to charge for that because that’s a specific thing they ask for. So, and then when you have families that say, “We really want to capture lots of stuff,” we have a thing in the beginning of a session that we’ll do, we do a Vanity Fair inspired thing, where we have gowns and dress-up stuff.

I love Annie Leibovitz, she’s my hero. And so, we’ll do that canvas background where it’s Vanity Fair-ish. I’ll shoot that, but it’ll be like 20 minutes, and we’ll get those is, and then we’ll shoot the theme on the second half. And that, for me, is the perfect blend. And so, like that family before Christmas that invested so wonderfully in us, they bought both. They have a gallery wall to Vanity Fair, and then they have the theme pictures on a large wall, and it was this perfect session where we catered to everything they wanted. But yeah, we charged a lot for it, but man, it felt great because it was a lot of work. A lot of work.

Allison Tyler Jones: That’s amazing. So, it’s not very often, at least in my experience, that you have a client that is that specific. That’s like, “I just want this one thing.” That’s a gift in my mind. Like, “Thank you so much. That is going to take 20 minutes to shoot, no big deal.” What I find more typically, especially with the way the industry is right now, is they’re like … This guy called and bought a gift certificate for his wife, just a couple weeks ago. And so, he’s like, “Okay. Well, so if I buy the gift certificate for $5,000, then what’s that going to get me?”

I said, “Well, that’s going to get you the session and an album. And then maybe a small piece of wall art.” He’s like, “Oh, so I can get all the wall art with the rest of it.” And I’m like, “Well, no. Because the album’s $3,500. And then [crosstalk]

Lara Blair:  See? You’re so cute.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. I’m like, “That’s $4,000.” I said, ‘A small piece of wall art might be about $1,100.” And so, he’s like, “Well, I mean, we’ll just have you shoot the images and then we’ll just decide. We can just pick it up [crosstalk]

Lara Blair:  Oh, those are fighting words for you, Alison.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. Yeah. So, I’m like, “I still don’t think he’s understanding.” Now, we haven’t done the consultation yet. He’s just buying a gift certificate at this point. But then I said, “Okay.” I said, “Well, hold on. Let me just stop you. So, just so you know, typically clients spend north of five. I know you’re busy,” because the ADD CEO, come on, [crosstalk] they can’t process. So, I’m like, “This will just get you in the door and then we can figure out what we’re going to do. It’ll get you an album, for sure.” But he was also at that same time talking about, “Oh, well, my wife’s personal shopper is calling, and she wants me to buy this vintage Chanel bag for her. It’s going to be $20,000 for her birthday.”

And I go, “Well fine, get that and put the gift certificate in it, whatever.” So, again, we tend to think how our own frame of reference … Like well, I would never spend that. So, nobody else would, but obviously people do. So, when you hear people saying things like that, like, “Lara, yeah. I love that Le Reve thing, and I want to have my spirit animal, but then I also want the Vanity Fair background, and then can we do the kaleidoscope? And we can do all of that, and can we just shoot out, and then I’ll just decide what I want?”

Lara Blair:  Nope. Yeah. I learned that too, because I am one of those people pleasers. I really am. And I think a lot of photographers are, a lot of female in particular. You just want to give them the moon, and you want them to say great things about you. I’m definitely an artist’s heart. I live on the right side of my brain, but I also am developing that left side where I got to run a business here. I have a very large space that we pay for. I pay for an assistant. These are things, and yeah, it’s absolutely going to cost you, and I’ll throw in the other words of you’re going to love it. It’s going to be fun. You’re never going to want to go anywhere else. We’re going to treat you like gold. And you’re the king and queen of our castle when you come in here. It’s really going to be wonderful.

So, always having that on the other side of, yes, you’re going to spend a lot of money … And I’m not even there yet. I know I need to raise my prices. I know I do, probably in the next few months, which is scary. But-

Allison Tyler Jones: It is scary.

Lara Blair:  … the more we do, and the more people understand it, what’s that Tim … The Walden, I love that quote.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. [crosstalk] Tim Walden, the inimitable Tim Walden said, “It’s more important for clients to understand what I do than for them to like what I do.”

Lara Blair:  Yeah, because if they understand it and then they want it, they’re going to invest. And they get it, they get it. And having a smaller amount too, allows you to go all in. And I really want to go all in with every single client. I want them to feel like they are part of our family here.

Allison Tyler Jones: Well, and I love that you brought up the artist’s heart, because I think it’s really … An artist’s heart is big, and beating, and creative, and amazing, but an artist’s heart can be burnt down [crosstalk] and can be worn down. Yeah. And can be crushed, and stabbed, and killed. And so that has to be protected. And so, if you feel like … I think there might be people listening to this that are … Feel like I can never do the business side of it. Then maybe you should team up with somebody that really loves the business side so that they can protect you. I would put my dad in that category. He was an artist of custom horse trailers. He should had never have been the front guy, because he wanted to just give everybody everything, and promise the world. And he should have had somebody in front of him that would say, “No, that’s not going to be ready for six weeks. It’s going to be ready in 12 weeks. And you’re going to pay double what you think you are. So, just [inaudible]”

Lara Blair: Well, yeah, he never would’ve said that because he just wanted to make these beautiful works of art, these trailers. And that was definitely me before. So, Erin, I trained her. She does all that upfront work for me. I want to be the artist. Unless [crosstalk]

Allison Tyler Jones: There you go.

Lara Blair: Like my Jessica, who just steps in and says that this is what it’s going to cost. And this is where it starts. And you can certainly come in and talk to Lara, but this is where … This is what you want to spend for kaleidoscope or whatever. It frees up my brain, and my creativity flourishes when she does those things, because I’m not bogged down with, “Oh my gosh, they don’t want to hire me.” That whole like, “Oh, they don’t want it.” Well, no, they just don’t want to pay for it. It’s not that they don’t want it. It’s the other side of it. And I also have her do sales for kaleidoscopes, because I just don’t want to sit and do that. I’d rather work with families because that’s our bread and butter.

And I go to the homes and look at the walls, and actually Erin comes with me a lot of times. But when she does the kaleidoscopes too, she’s invested because that’s on the other end for her. So, it’s this wonderful world of each … We’re doing what we’re good at. And also she’s a English teacher like me, so she can write. When she writes emails-

Allison Tyler Jones: That’s awesome.

Lara Blair:  … I know they’re going to be beautiful, and awesome, and not have to worry about someone working for you that’s going to not put a punctuation in there. I’m a weird one about that.

Allison Tyler Jones: Didn’t do their Oxford comma.

Lara Blair: I’m such a grammar person. I just love it.

Allison Tyler Jones: Grammar Nazi.

Lara Blair:  But I love that she can do all that. She’s really, really great at that. And I’ve been able, like you said, to protect the artist’s heart, and then when I want to do a creative shoot I still have gas in the tank, because I’m not freaking out about what I have to say to the client that’s calling me later wanting to discuss head shots. Yeah. Which I’m still doing by the way, which I would love to not do in the future. But it’s something I got to do for a while.

Allison Tyler Jones: You always got to have something to refine. Well, I love it. I think the takeaway for me, from this, is because I … You and I have a lot of things in common, but I do love the business side almost equal to the art [crosstalk]

Lara Blair:   The business side.

Allison Tyler Jones: I really do. I love [crosstalk] See? This is instructive and it’s so good for our listeners, because you are a true artist. You’re not happy unless you’re creating. That’s a real thing. And so, you found somebody to work in your business with you that can be your front man. That can say the hard things, but that can say them in the way that’s true to your brand. And so, there are many ways to do this.

Lara Blair: You can train people to be the voice of your brand. You totally can. It’s not that hard.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah.

Lara Blair: Not everybody can have someone that treats it like their own business the way Erin does with me. [crosstalk]

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Lara Blair:  That’s a gift, but you can totally train someone that, even using phone scripts if you have to in the beginning, write down what you need them to know, and then you’re not having them fly blind. And then it just becomes natural after a while. And then also, if you shoot them, I know you shoot Jessica, Erin, she’s one of my best muses. I shoot her, her family, her kids all the time. She can talk firsthand about what it feels like, and what the [crosstalk]

Allison Tyler Jones: Yes.

Lara Blair: I met her because she did a kaleidoscope for her daughter.

Allison Tyler Jones: I love that. Okay.

Lara Blair: And she believed in it and saw the value. And then I was like, “This woman’s special.” And that’s where it went, but she can say, “It’s totally worth it. Yes, you’re going to spend a lot of money, but man, it’s going to be great.”

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. That is huge. That is. And als, being a mom and can be able to talk mom language. So, many good things there. So, before we leave, what advice do you have for photographers who might be struggling with any of the things we’ve already talked about, or something different? If a photographer is struggling, if they’re coming into 2022 and feeling like maybe this is not going to be in the cards for me, what would you … What encouragement would you give?

Lara Blair:  I would say a lot of good journaling, you answer some specific questions for yourself. One of them is, do I have to make a living doing this? So, am I a side hustle? Because I’m going to add to what my husband makes, or my wife? Or do I really need to take a good, hard look at the business side and have an accountant sit with me and figure out what I need to make, to be able to keep doing this? And then the other question is, what’s my niche? Who do I want to work with? Who do I not want to work with? And what do I need to eliminate? And then, the whole bravery thing about you’re going to be afraid to switch over, I think guaranteed. It just is, as we don’t know, especially with pandemic land, it’s such a pain in the butt not knowing what’s coming down the pike, but not being afraid to lose people that you might have loved having in the past, but might not necessarily be willing to invest, or they just haven’t in the past and you just like them. They’re fun people.

It doesn’t mean anything personal when you don’t photograph them anymore. Just because you are either more expensive, or you’re completely changing gears where you’re not working with babies anymore. Or you have this big session fee up front, which I think scares some people, which it should. If they don’t want to pay that amount with a print credit in there, and invest, why are you spending all this time, like we said before, shooting on spec and hoping they buy something? So, being clear, does it need to make money? Is this a business or is this hobby? And then, who do I want to photograph? What kind of clients make me the happiest when they walk in the door? And then I’m okay, and saying to yourself, “I’m really okay if I lose the people that don’t necessarily either, niche-wise they don’t fit, or they don’t want to invest that amount of money on what I do,” and letting it go.

And the artist’s heart has a really terrible time letting things go. But the more and more you do that, and just live with the fear and make those decisions, the further you will go and the happier you will be with your life, because life without margins, let’s just call it what it is, it sucks. You can’t think. I was listening to your podcast, Kim, when there are no margins there’s no room to be creative, there’s no room to think outside the box. There’s no room to show up to a client’s house with flowers because you’re so grateful for them investing in you. You’re just turning and burning. And what kind of life is that? You can go work at Home Depot and make more money than some of these people, which is a great job by the way. I mean, I feel like people aren’t honest with themselves because they love photography, and they love taking pictures.

It’s not enough anymore. It never really was enough. I think we all talked ourselves into it, but if you’re going to do this and you want people to invest in what you do, you have to invest in yourself, which is making good decisions and giving yourself margins.

Allison Tyler Jones: I love that. That’s basically section one of the course. Just figure out what you want, and-

Lara Blair: That’s the hard question.

Allison Tyler Jones: … who you want to do it for. And those are things, those questions are things that I’ve … That whenever I come up against a big decision that I need to make in my business, those are the questions that I’m asking myself. “Why am I even doing this in the first place? Do I want to do it? Do I have to do it? Who am I doing it for? And how much do I need to make out of it?” That’s it.

Lara Blair:  Yeah. That’s it. Right. And then the rest of it falls into place.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. We can put a lot of stories around it. We can make it a lot more complicated than that, but that is basically it. [crosstalk]

Lara Blair: I would also tell anybody who’s stuck right now to take your class, because I feel like it’s the catalyst, like a real turning point for a lot of people. When I watched it in the class, it was like knowing that other people are struggling in the class, but also saying, “All right, I’m going to do this. And then I’ve got to be held accountable for that in this group.” Or asking the questions you didn’t even know that needed to be asked of your business. You ask the hard questions, and you can’t sugar coat it anymore about what its been in this industry. You’re asking the stuff that no one asked before. It’s different. It’s a different experience.

I wouldn’t have taken your class if I didn’t think it was actually really going to cross over into something. I had a feeling that I would, and it was magical for me. And people need to understand that invest in somebody who’s really going to tell you the what for, and what you need to do rather than the stuff that we’ve seen over, and over, and over again about presets for your lightroom, and how to use your lights, and how to get more clients [crosstalk]

Allison Tyler Jones: Well, you need presets sometimes too, but I [crosstalk]

Lara Blair: You know what I mean. Stop messing around with that stuff when you’re not making any money. Right?

Allison Tyler Jones: Exactly. Well, I appreciate that. But one thing that I have to really compliment you on is that it’s only as good as your application. You can have the best trainer in the world, and if you don’t actually show up at the gym, you’re not going to get the results that you want. And so, you are a master executor, and you don’t let a lot of grass grow under your feet. When you see something, like, “Oh, I can see a better way,” you’re going to do the better way quick, quick, quick.

Lara Blair:  Thank you.

Allison Tyler Jones: And so, that’s ideal. That’s ideal.

Lara Blair:  Thank you.

Allison Tyler Jones: That’s awesome. So, where can our listeners find you?

Lara Blair:  Well, I love Instagram, so fun. We do crazy stories too, lately. It’s been fun. It’s Laura Blair Photography. Same on Facebook. I tried TikTok, feeling a little old on TikTok. [crosstalk]

Allison Tyler Jones: So, Lara Blair, L-A-R-A, right? L-A-R-A B-L-A-I-R.

Lara Blair:  Yes, L-A-R-A, Blair, B-L-A-I-R. Not Linda Blair. She’s the one that threw up on The Exorcist.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right. No, we don’t want that.

Lara Blair:  No.

Allison Tyler Jones: No.

Lara Blair: Yeah. And drop me a line, and I love answering questions too. I’ve had some people ask me some digital composite questions, which I love to talk about. So, love hearing from people.

Allison Tyler Jones: Awesome.

Lara Blair:  It’s fun.

Allison Tyler Jones: Thank you. Thank you. Well, together we’re going to make everybody better, and hopefully this will be your best year yet. I wish you the very best-

Lara Blair: Thank you [crosstalk]

Allison Tyler Jones: … and I’ll be hearing from you, I know.

Lara Blair: Thank you for everything, really appreciate you.

Allison Tyler Jones: Appreciate you, too. Thank you so much.

Lara Blair:  Bye.

Allison Tyler Jones: Do you know someone who would really benefit from this episode of The Rework? Maybe a fellow photographer who’s in the trenches with you and always looking to level up their biz? Or perhaps you have a friend who is struggling to make their business work. I would be so grateful if you would share this episode with them. All you have to do is head to the platform where you are listening, click the share icon, and text it, or email it to the person that you think could need it most. Thank you so much for doing that. And while you’re there, if you have a chance and can give us a review, it would mean the world. We are a micro, tiny podcast, and we’re trying to get the word out to as many portrait photographers as possible, to help them build better businesses and better lives for their family. And if you would help us do that, it would mean the world. Thank you so much. And we’ll see you next time on The Rework.

Recorded: You can find more great resources from Allison at, and on Instagram do dot the dot rework.


Share This Post