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.

Recorded: 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.

Recorded: Episodes will include interviews with experts from in and outside of the photo industry, mini workshops, and behind the scenes secrets that Allison used is in her portrait studio every single day. She will challenge your 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: In today’s episode, you’re going to meet a couple of people that you likely have been, maybe turned into over time. We’re going to be talking about the darling doormat and the disagreeable dictator and why neither of those personalities are who you want to be when you’re dealing with your clients in your business, and a third way to be that is better and a new way that you can move forward and build a business that you totally love with clients that you totally love without having to turn into somebody that you don’t love. And I have Jessica Mackey with me and we’re going to discuss it all.

Allison Tyler Jones: Hi, friends, and welcome back to The ReWork. We have Jessica Mackey back in the podcast studio, client coordinator extraordinaire.

Jessica Mackey: Hello.

Allison Tyler Jones: Welcome, Jessica.

Jessica Mackey: Thank you.

Allison Tyler Jones: I’m so glad that you’re here. So Jessica and I have been in an interesting place lately. We are working through the second launch of The Art of Selling Art course with a new group of students that are so awesome. And we just are finding it’s kind of like we’re living two lives on two different tracks. So we’re looking at what our students are going through with their own clients, and at the same time, we’re in our own studio going through things with our own clients and seeing the difference that that makes.

Jessica Mackey: And I think part of it is that there’s also not a difference.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Jessica Mackey: That I think people think that, “Oh, once I’m in business for a long time or once I start having more qualified clients, they’re never going to second guess me. They’re never going to have questions. They’re never going to not love my work.”

Allison Tyler Jones: So cute. Yes. Yes.

Jessica Mackey: But it’s like, no, we still have those, but I think what’s changed is you.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yes.

Jessica Mackey: That you’ve evolved and that the way you handle these situations is drastically different from where it was 15 years ago.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right. And by situations, we mean people saying, “Oh wow, that’s so expensive,” or demanding an explanation of something, or maybe-

Jessica Mackey: Or not liking an image.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Jessica Mackey: Feeling bad about the way an image turned out and you’re like, oh my gosh, it’s so easy to get defensive and take that personal-

Allison Tyler Jones: Right.

Jessica Mackey: But that’s not what you do anymore.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right.

Jessica Mackey: And so what do you feel like that evolution has been?

Allison Tyler Jones: Well, in the course, one of the lessons that we talk about is, and I’ve spoken about it when I’ve spoken at PPA, is the concept of being a doormat. And I call it the darling doormat. And the reason I call it darling is because I started out as the darling doormat. And I think many of us as particularly women in this industry, but also really nice guys, we just want to create pretty images and we want to give our clients a great experience and create something beautiful for them.

Jessica Mackey: And you want them all to love you for it.

Allison Tyler Jones: I want them to love me. I need them to love me. And so that can sometimes set you up for a problem. And what that problem looks like is that we just want to focus on the pretty pictures and we don’t want to talk about anything in our mind that feels negative. We don’t want to talk about pricing. We don’t want to talk about rules, like you need to put something on the wall before you’re buying little things. Any rule that would actually create a sustainable business, we don’t actually want to say those words because it makes us feel like we’re not being nice.

Jessica Mackey: Well, and you want to avoid what you view as confrontation, so anything that makes you feel uncomfortable or that you assume makes the client feel uncomfortable.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right. And that’s the key right there because what we think we’re doing, as a darling doormat, what we think we’re doing is we think we’re being nice, but what we’re really doing is we’re avoiding a confrontation or avoiding what is for us an uncomfortable conversation because we think, because we’re a doormat, we think that it’s going to be uncomfortable for the client, but it’s actually not uncomfortable for the client at all. They just want the information.

Jessica Mackey: Right, that you put your own filter of, “Oh, this is going to be so awkward,” onto-

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. Well, I think of, I don’t know, you’ve got teenagers and I had teenagers, it’s kind of like you have that one kid that’s over-sensitive and you’re like, “Hey, I need you to get in there and clean your room,” and they’re like, “Mom, why are you yelling at me?” It’s like I didn’t yell, I just said, “Get off the couch and please go clean your room,” but no, somehow that was yelling.

Jessica Mackey: Right.

Allison Tyler Jones: So sometimes I think as artists, as creatives, we tend to be super sensitive and we think, “If I ask for what I need from this client, then somehow that’s being demanding,” or something like that. So then we don’t pre-quote, we don’t let them know how much things cost. We get in and we get to be friends and we’re talking about clothes and we’re talking about how the lighting’s going to be amazing and we’re going to create this beautiful image.

Allison Tyler Jones: And we’re taking them through an amazing experience and we’re good at what we do, so they have amazing work. And then they’re sitting there, we’re looking at these images together, and then we secretly, somehow magically come up with an invoice and present that to them. And then they look at it and go, “Whoa, I had no idea. I thought I was going to get all the digital files,” or, “I had no idea it was going to be this much money,” or, for whatever reason, they were shocked and surprised because we didn’t say and then we think they’re yelling at us.

Jessica Mackey: Right. Right. And I actually have a teenager just like that right now. And one of the concepts that is kind of big that I’ve learned about in organizational psychology is this disconnect between message sent and message received.

Jessica Mackey: And so I’ve talked to this teenager about it whenever she gets super hurt feelings, and I’ll be like, “What is the message that you just got? What is it that you think I said? What is it you’re hearing?” And it is interesting to realize that, no, like you said, I told you to clean your room, I wasn’t telling you were a failure-

Allison Tyler Jones: I hate you. You’re lazy.

Jessica Mackey: Yes, exactly, and I’m so disappointed in you.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, I wish you were never born.

Jessica Mackey: Yeah. And so it’s almost retraining her to not put her own filter on the conversation, to recognize that maybe what you think you’re hearing isn’t actually what was being said.

Allison Tyler Jones: Exactly. So I think the flip of that with the doormat as a photographer is that you think it’s being mean. You think you’re being mean to quote prices ahead of time, or you’re just delaying the inevitable, and really, at the bottom, what we’re hoping is that they are going to be so swept away by how beautiful those images are that they aren’t going to care about price, but what area in your life do you not care about price?

Jessica Mackey: Right.

Allison Tyler Jones: Is there any area? And that goes for rich people, too. Rich people, there’s very few areas in their life that they don’t care about price. Even though they have maybe lots more money than we do, it doesn’t matter. Everybody wants to know what they’re in for.

Allison Tyler Jones: So the other thing about darling doormats is they tend to be very reactive. So it’s kind of rather than getting out ahead of what it is that clients want, they’re thinking, “Well, what do you want?” They’ll show a hundred images and, “Well, what do you think? What do you want to do with these?” And the client is just like, “I don’t have any idea.” So immediately when they’re confused, they either don’t buy and they delay the inevitable, they delay decision making, or they just want everything, so they buy a lot of little. So they either want all the files or just a lot of little prints, in which case, they still have never purchased. They never end up with how great it could really be.

Jessica Mackey: Right, because that’s a lot of pressure to put on a client. They’re not photographers, they’re not interior designers. They don’t spend any of their time thinking about this, and then you want them in a sales session to make all the choices.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, to basically do your job.

Jessica Mackey: Right.

Allison Tyler Jones: Because you’re not taking responsibility. Okay, so then what happens I found is that you can go only so long being a doormat and you either will quit the business and get out of it completely or what happens sometimes is that you get mad and you feel like you’re being used. And it’s not anybody else’s fault than yours because you’re the one that made all the rules and you’re the ones that has set up your business and you’re pricing and everything the way that it is.

Allison Tyler Jones: So we don’t have anybody to be mad at except ourselves, but we’ll put that onto the client and say, “Well, I’m so sick of these people asking for this. I’m so sick of that, so now I’m going to create this contract that is punitive and that they have to initial,” and all of these things.

Allison Tyler Jones: So then we become what I call the disagreeable dictator. So the dictator is like the overcorrection, or sometimes people just start out this way, but I find that more this is like a reaction. They’ve been taken advantage of in the past and they’re just not having it anymore. And they’re sick and tired by the way of shoot and burners ruining this industry. So this is kind of the older dogs that have been around for a while. They’ll shoot off a 10-page contract for a newborn session and you better initial every single paragraph or else because they’re not playing around.

Allison Tyler Jones: And then it kind of sounds like nickel-and-diming, like, “Oh, you want a head swap? Okay, well it’s $25 per head swap. Okay, well, you get two revisions to your holiday card and then it’s $100 for design time after that,” or, “You want to bring your dog to the session? Initial here, subsection A, paragraph B that they’re not going to poop on the floor or you’ll pay a cleaning fee,” or whatever. Like it just becomes this very adversarial to somebody that’s coming to you wanting to pay you money and wanting to have a good experience. Now you’re throwing up all these roadblocks in front of them.

Jessica Mackey: Well, and I think that there’s some people that actually maybe fall into both categories.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yes.

Jessica Mackey: So there’s people who because they are in person sales, but because they do want people to like them and they don’t want to get into any uncomfortable conversations in the beginning, they don’t start their sessions outright. So they’re not giving the client enough information at the beginning to know what they’re getting into. I mean, we just had a student who brought up a situation that was similar to this.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yes. So the student in our course had been shoot and burn herself. She hired another photographer that she assumed worked similarly, but they never told her how they worked. And so she did this multi-gen session with this photographer.

Jessica Mackey: She initially just gave her a session fee.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Jessica Mackey: So she gave her a session fee.

Allison Tyler Jones: Just a session fee.

Jessica Mackey: Yeah.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. And they went and did… And you know how much work multi-gen sessions are-

Jessica Mackey: Oh my gosh.

Allison Tyler Jones: From the photographer’s end. It’s a lot of work from the subjects’ end too because of all those people and clothes and everything. So they do this session and then she gets an email from the photographer that says, “The images are ready to look at and let’s set up a date to look at them. Just so you know, anything that you don’t buy during this time, we’re basically deleting,” and then, “Here’s the price.”

Jessica Mackey: Yeah. And so then they get into this sales session and they try to say to the photographer, “We are totally blindsided. We had no idea that you didn’t do digital files when we booked you. We didn’t know all this stuff.” And the photographer became adversarial.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yes.

Jessica Mackey: Like very defensive.

Allison Tyler Jones: Super defensive. “This is a lot of work. You don’t know how much work it takes to do all of this,” making it all about them.

Jessica Mackey: Right, the photographer. Yeah.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right, rather than making it about their client.

Jessica Mackey: And so because she didn’t prepare them and because she started out being the darling doormat and didn’t want to make the uncomfortable conversations at the beginning, then she had to transition into that dictator, and it did not leave a good impression.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. I think that’s actually the worst combo is when you’re flipping back and forth between these two. It’s very dysfunctional. It’s like, “Oh yes, it’s so great. Let’s do this. No, here’s your contract,” and, “Oh, I love you. Yes, oh, you’re going to give me money? Great. Oh, you don’t want to pay what I’m asking? Okay, well, then you clearly just can’t afford it or don’t appreciate it,” or, “You’re not my client.”

Jessica Mackey: “You don’t value what I do.” Yeah.

Allison Tyler Jones: Or, “[inaudible 00:12:27] pain in the butt,” or whatever. But all of this, the through line on every single bit of this is that they screwed it up.

Jessica Mackey: Right.

Allison Tyler Jones: The dictator and the doormat, neither one of those ways is the way to be.

Jessica Mackey: Well, and neither one of them. I mean, sometimes you feel like the darling doormat people do love, but they don’t respect.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right.

Jessica Mackey: Because they know that they can get you to do whatever they want you to do when they want you to do it for like pennies.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right. Okay, which brings me to another point. So let’s go back to the doormat for just a second, is that the doormat’s rationale is like, “I’m going to be nice and I’m going to make everybody else happy.” The problem with that is that the clients don’t actually know what it is that they want.

Jessica Mackey: Right.

Allison Tyler Jones: And so the doormat is abdicating responsibility. And so the results of is that a good client coming to a doormat, so a client that you want, like a dream client, they are going to feel uncomfortable because they don’t really ever know where they stand when you just won’t tell them what the deal is and how you work. And then they end up asking for things that you don’t do or don’t want to do. Then somehow they feel that you’re mad at them-

Jessica Mackey: Right.

Allison Tyler Jones: But you were never clear in the beginning.

Jessica Mackey: Or they feel like they can’t ask.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right.

Jessica Mackey: So if they’ve paid this and you’re like, “Oh, it comes with X, Y, Z,” and you’re like, “Gosh, but is it possible to swap this head? Can I ask that? I’m just going to have to deal with this picture I don’t love because I feel like I can’t ask.”

Allison Tyler Jones: “I don’t want to bug them.”

Jessica Mackey: Yeah, “I don’t want to bug them, I’ve already paid for their services.”

Allison Tyler Jones: Exactly. So then they’re feeling uncomfortable like maybe they’re putting you out. They’re feeling frustrated. Because of what your vibe is, they feel like they can’t really say, and then at the end, they’re feeling annoyed because you didn’t tell them the prices up front. And then what will usually happen with a doormat is that when they get into a conflict situation like that at the end, then they just roll over and discount everything or give a bunch of stuff away.

Allison Tyler Jones: And then a good client still doesn’t feel good about that. They feel like they took advantage of you and they feel like, “I can’t go back because she doesn’t even know what she’s doing,” or, “I felt like I took advantage of her in some way which wasn’t mutually respectful.”

Allison Tyler Jones: But a bad client, so a bad client, a client that we don’t want is thrilled out of their mind.

Jessica Mackey: Right.

Allison Tyler Jones: Because they found somebody that they can boss around and run through the wringer and do whatever they want. And then they are going to go brag to all of their other friends about what a great deal they got and, “You can go to this girl and she will do whatever. And all you have to do is just complain that you didn’t like the price and then she’s going to take it down in half. And we walked away with everything for nothing and it was awesome.”

Jessica Mackey: And so you’re getting more of the same.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, exactly. So you’re just attracting more people like that.

Allison Tyler Jones: The dictator on the end, so the result of a dictator is that with a good client, a good client, they feel defensive. It’s like-

Jessica Mackey: “Why am I in trouble?”

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. It’s like you’re making them pay for all the sins of all previous clients, right?

Jessica Mackey: Which is a turnoff.

Allison Tyler Jones: Totally. Because they weren’t being defensive. They weren’t doing any of that. They don’t have time to fall in love with you or your service because you’re telling them how you’re not going to do business before you tell them how great it’s going to be and you’re making it about you.

Allison Tyler Jones: A good client is also going to feel uncomfortable because you’re acting like they’re trying to take advantage of you when they really have no intention of doing so. So they won’t open up and tell you what they’re really thinking, so you’re kind of left having to guess what it is that they need.

Allison Tyler Jones: But at the bottom of it, they’re just turned off because they can see you’re just so worried about protecting yourself from being ripped off, you haven’t taken the time to consider their needs and make the experience great for them.

Allison Tyler Jones: So again, they’re going to end up the same as the darling doormat. They’re going to buy a lot of little just to get out of there and like, “Okay, I’m going to get what I want,” but the client doesn’t come out of that with the best result.

Jessica Mackey: They’re not going to go brag about you.

Allison Tyler Jones: Exactly.

Jessica Mackey: Because nobody likes going to the principal’s office.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right. Yeah. And I feel like the real tragedy I see is that most people will be stuck being doormats because they refuse to be a dictator.

Jessica Mackey: Right. That’s exactly what happened with this ASA student too, is that because she went to this photographer who turned into this dictator and just made them feel so bad, it was so defensive, her reaction wasn’t, “Okay, well, I can see how she can do this,” but she was like, “I’m never going to be like that. I’m never going to do that.”

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, she said, “I’m never going to do in-person sales.”

Jessica Mackey: Right.

Allison Tyler Jones: “Because if that’s how it’s done, I’m never going to do it like that.”

Jessica Mackey: And it’s like, no, that’s not how it should be done.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right.

Jessica Mackey: So what do you feel like your evolution was? I mean, you’ve been the darling doormat, so then you over-corrected to the dictator with the-

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. I was flipper flopper.

Jessica Mackey: Yeah.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, I never totally became a dictator, but what I realized is that we totally control how it is. However we are about something is how our clients are going to be. So if we come in, and even though we might be nervous and scared to quote prices and we have a little rumbling in our belly, if we are just like, “Oh, I’m so excited, this is going to be so great. And this is how we do it and this is how much it is,” and we’re talking about all the things that we love, so all those same things, the pretty pictures, the clothes, all of that, and then, “This is that much of this is that much,” and we’re having the conversation and price just becomes normal, it’s easy. Going back to the kid thing, you think about your oldest child, when they tripped, what would you do as a mom of an oldest child?

Jessica Mackey: “Oh my gosh, are you okay? Oh, here, let me kiss it.” And you’re like, “It’s fine.”

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, and you’ve seen that with little kids where they’ll trip. And they look up and then they kind of look like, “Okay, how’s everybody around me acting?” and then they just take their cue, right? Whereas by the time you have the third or fourth kid, you’re like, “You’re fine.”

Jessica Mackey: [inaudible 00:18:02]

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Jessica Mackey: “You’re good.”

Allison Tyler Jones: So it’s the same thing. It’s like if you come out and you’re like, “Okay, well, this is printed on fine art substrate, it’s really special. I know it’s really expensive,” then the client’s like, “What is this? Okay, now I need to be worried because she’s worried.”

Jessica Mackey: Right. Right, you’re setting the tone.

Allison Tyler Jones: “She’s defensive, I feel like I need to be defensive.” They’re just picking up their clues from us, whereas if we’re like, “This is going to be amazing and it’s only this and X, Y, Z,” then they might still say, “Wow, I didn’t realize it was that much.” “I know. It’s great.”

Allison Tyler Jones: So that’s one thing is we’re setting the tone, and then also just realizing that being an expert in photography isn’t enough. So these same photographers, these same doormats, these same dictators would have no problem if I said, “Okay, can you swap this head from that head? Can you take this head from my daughter in this pose and put it on this other one?” They would have no problem without defense just saying, “Okay, yes, we can because they’re in the same position and the lighting’s the same,” or, “Can you see here that they’re turned this way and so it wouldn’t work?”

Allison Tyler Jones: So they would have no problem saying that because they’re an expert in Photoshop, right? And there would be no personality attached to it, like, “I don’t dare tell them that I can’t do that.” You’re just explaining this is what we do and this is how, and this is why it can work or this is why it couldn’t, but we won’t do that when it comes to quoting and actually guiding somebody through our process.

Jessica Mackey: Oh, so you’ll say we’re really good about the technical aspects, like, “Oh, I can do this. I can’t take this picture here because there’s not enough light.”

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Jessica Mackey: You can set parameters on the technical-

Allison Tyler Jones: Right. You’re at a client’s house and you’re like, “Oh, I want you to do some stuff in my kid’s bedroom,” and it’s a fricking black hole painted black with no light and it can’t happen or it’s really ugly or whatever, you’re like, “Okay, well, I think this would work better.”

Jessica Mackey: They can communicate.

Allison Tyler Jones: “So we have no problem. This is what I think you should wear. We could light it like this.” So we’re being an expert in all of those creative areas. We have no problem doing that and that’s where we shine and it’s so much fun, but where we’re having a problem stepping out as the expert, and I keep saying expert, is that the expert is the alternate to being a darling doormat or a disagreeable dictator.

Jessica Mackey: And sometimes we call it like a trusted advisor.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right, to be an expert or an advisor.

Jessica Mackey: An expert feels like too much pressure.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yes.

Jessica Mackey: You don’t have to be the expert, but you do need to be the advisor, the trusted advisor who knows a little bit about what she’s talking about.

Allison Tyler Jones: Or a lot.

Jessica Mackey: Yes, preferably.

Allison Tyler Jones: And so you’re just stepping into that role. And so then you become the expert and so you can extrapolate all of that expertise you have in Photoshop and lighting and the photography and clothing and the creative and just broaden that a little bit more into, “And I also think this is what it should be printed on, and this is how it could go in your home.”

Jessica Mackey: “And I would frame it like this.”

Allison Tyler Jones: Exactly.

Jessica Mackey: “Based on your decor, I think you’re really going to love this frame.”

Allison Tyler Jones: Right.

Jessica Mackey: Or, “You guys have lived in four different houses in the last six years, this frame tends to really transition well.” Just know what you’re talking about.

Allison Tyler Jones: Exactly. And it comes with experience, but even when you don’t have a ton of experience, I think you can really lean on your creative experience in the actual session itself.

Allison Tyler Jones: Where I see the problem is, is that we do all this expertise in the creation of the image itself, and then when it comes to guiding the client through the selection process, we show them way too many images and then say, “Okay, what do you want to do with them?” And it’s like, “Wait a minute, where did the expert go? Where did that person that was telling me what to wear so I could look skinny and how we were going to light it, and no, we didn’t want to shoot there because that background was too busy, that person just disappeared and now I have this quivering mass of jelly in front of me who just wants me to pick and be excited that it’s going to be a fortune without any guidance.”

Jessica Mackey: Right, and I think that is the slippery slope that a lot of photographers go down, is they don’t want to put their client in a box.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right.

Jessica Mackey: Right? So they don’t want to limit the options that they show their client, whether it’s images or frames. You hear that all the time about clients who basically have 20 different frames they show the clients. We don’t. Because again, it’s too many options.

Jessica Mackey: So if you’re having the client look at 200 images to select the two that are going to go on their wall, or 20 frames to select the two that are of go on their wall, it’s just too much and it’s overwhelming, and I think it’s also overwhelming as a photographer because you’re having to take them through all those images. And so that’s a lot more back and forth and, “Well, yeah, this one, and what do you think of this one?” where when you narrow it like we’ve talked about with a lot of things, when you do that preparation before, you’re putting that time in ahead of time, but then you’re entering that sales session much more prepared and it streamlines that client experience.

Jessica Mackey: Wouldn’t you rather, as the photographer, put that time into preparation versus that time with the client? We’re there having to experience a lot of that prep that maybe you should’ve done ahead of time.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right. Right. That’s why I finally realized in doing a session that way or not being the expert and being that doormat, because that’s definitely where I fell, more on the doormat side than the dictator side, thought I was being quote, unquote, nice, “They need options, they need lots of options, they need lots of things to see,” I realize that actually I was just being lazy.

Jessica Mackey: Right.

Allison Tyler Jones: Because it didn’t take me that long to actually get ready for the view and order session. I would just like, “Oh, here are the images.” I’d lightly get it down to however many, too many. And then when I started editing down to… Not editing, culling them, so picking one image over another, just to make sure our terms are correct. So say I’m doing your family, I’m looking at five different pictures of Kate, five different poses of Kate, and basically three of them are almost exactly the same, but her expression is slightly different.

Allison Tyler Jones: So it’s hard to sit there and go back. It takes time to think, “Okay, which one do I really like the best?” And then what have I said and what I’ve heard every other photographer say, “Well, I until the mom looks at it, she’s not going to really know which one is the best one. I need to just let her pick.”

Jessica Mackey: Oh, it’s so overwhelming.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Jessica Mackey: Like as a mom’s experience, because there have been times where I do go to Allison for my family portraits, and Stacy, who is our retoucher, for me, she culls the album before I look at it. And there were times where I did it before and it would take me hours to go back and forth between, “Oh my gosh, well, maybe his expression here or her expression there,” where, when Stacy culls it for me, she already has that eye. She is the professional and she’s not emotionally connected to the images.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yes.

Jessica Mackey: So she can just look at them and say, “This face is the better face of Tyler. Kate looks more natural here. Yeah.” Because as the parent, as the client, you’re emotionally connected to all of this-

Allison Tyler Jones: Exactly.

Jessica Mackey: And it’s a lot of pressure.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right. So it’s harder as the photographer. When you’re doing that process of culling those images, it takes more time. And so it’s easier to just show them more, but it wears them out and it makes the experience not as good.

Allison Tyler Jones: So when your edit is really tight and you have maybe one of each kid or, at the most, two, or whatever the poses are, however many you’re going to show, but it’s very, very limited and you get it very, very narrowed, then of course if there’s a situation where they’re like, “I hate that expression on Kate’s face, that’s the expression that she makes just before she’s going to say something sassy and mean and before she’s going to get grounded, is there anything else?” of course you have those other two. You can just put those in another as your secondary. You could go get those if you needed to, but you’re narrowing it ahead of time. You’re becoming the expert.

Allison Tyler Jones: You’re looking at it as the photographer, and I’ll use the words again and again, like, “Okay, I love this one and I love this one. This is the one I’d put on my website because graphically it’s so cool. And she’s looking away from the camera, she’s obviously fixing her dress.” There’s that moment in time and you kind of feel this little moment in this.

Allison Tyler Jones: So that’s being an expert. It’s explaining why you chose the images that you chose and it allows them to see their kids in a new way that they haven’t ever experienced before, which is really cool.

Jessica Mackey: And I think as a photographer, that takes practice, just like any other aspect of your art. When you would ask me to cull an album when I first started, it was super overwhelming because I’m like, “I don’t know,” because I’m still educating my eye-

Allison Tyler Jones: Correct.

Jessica Mackey: On what it is that I’m drawn to, what it is maybe you would be drawn to, what it is the client would like. But the more albums I culled, the better and faster I got at it and the more I could see, “Okay, I can see why this one is going to be better than this one.” But it takes practice. If it’s hard the first couple of times, you don’t give up. You just keep training your mind.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right. But the bottom line of all of this is having an opinion, forming and opinion. The doormat is just like, “Here’s everything. What do you think?” The dictator might be, “Here’s one, take it or leave it.” I would never do that because I always have something in my back pocket, but I would probably, when it comes to showing images, I definitely go more… I’m not going dictator, I’m going expert. That’s where I’m going. I’m literally saying, “If this was my kid, this is the one I would put on the wall,” as the photographer that shot it.

Jessica Mackey: And that’s how you trained me to do it, like, “If this was your kid, what would you put on the wall?” because then you have an opinion. And I think that part of that too is being able to figure out when you take that culled album or whatever, the set of images that then you’re showing the client, you get to see your client’s reaction, and then that further educates your eye on, “Okay, so these are the kind of images that they ended up selecting, that they’re drawn to,” and so when you go to cull again, it’s just all an education process.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, there’s so much there. We could do a whole episode on that because I think there’s so much more when it comes to that editing process and what it is, because I will see what my clients tend to gravitate toward and want to do, but sometimes I push them, because I’m like, “I know you think you want this, I know you think you want every one of these images to be camera aware, face forward, smiling at the camera, but a whole gallery of that is boring.”

Jessica Mackey: Right, and year after year of that. Sometimes you want the more artistic. And so that’s where you do get to become the advisor and expert is you get to show them the art. So you blend traditional, maybe what every photographer thinks they want with what you wish they would have.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, you in particular, and that will be very specific to each-

Jessica Mackey: Photographer.

Allison Tyler Jones: Photographer themself. So as an expert or a guide, a trusted advisor, they educate and inform clients in a confident, positive, knowledgeable and helpful way. We’re assuming that our client knows nothing about the process and we’re holding their hand every step of the way. So even if they’ve said, “I’ve had my kids photographed every single year by photographers,” assume they know nothing because they don’t know how you work. They might know how a bunch of other photographers work, but trust me-

Jessica Mackey: Well, and a bunch of other photographers that have been darling doormats or disagreeable dictators. So if you’re coming in as the trusted advisor, you have to assume this is their first experience with an expert.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right. So how comforting to go to a service provider of any kind, whether it would be a physician, an attorney, an interior designer or a graphic designer to have somebody say, “I am so excited that you’re here. I can’t wait to work on your project. Here’s how it works.”

Jessica Mackey: Well, it’s like shopping at Ikea versus some kind of high end furniture-

Allison Tyler Jones: Where someone’s just going to take care of you. Right.

Jessica Mackey: Yes. And they’re going to be like, “Oh, well, what I think you would love,” and, “Check out this fabric,” and, “Oh, you’ve got a three year old? I would recommend this.”

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. Exactly.

Jessica Mackey: Just to be taken care of versus the build your own.

Allison Tyler Jones: Exactly. And you can always at anytime along that say, “Look, I know I have a three year old, but they’re very well-behaved and they would never wipe their snot on it, so let’s just go for the silk.” Right. So they can always adjust and tell you, but you’re leaving nothing to chance. You have a process for every phase of client interaction.

Allison Tyler Jones: And that’s where I got out of the doormat, was when I realized I have to take responsibility for everything, because in the end, everything that happens is my fault, whether it’s good or bad. And so if I’m going to be at fault for everything, I’m going to control everything. I’m going to have a process for everything.

Jessica Mackey: Well, and I think that sometimes photographers assume that if you come in as that expert, that you’re overriding the client’s opinion, but really, you’re making the client feel taken care of.

Allison Tyler Jones: Exactly. And you’re excavating what they need. So you’re saying, “I’ve got this process, I’ve got this handled, I’ve got this taken care of, and then I’m going to listen to what it is that they need and I’m going to help them with every single part of the process.”

Allison Tyler Jones: So instead of the doormat saying, “Well, what do they want? Well, what do you want?” I’m leading with, “Okay, here are your walls. I have them laid out. This is what I think would be amazing for your house. What do you think?” So we have a starting point already of, “Final, this is the vision. After all the things we’ve talked about and all the things that you’ve told me, photographing your family, looking at these kids, seeing the personality, looking at your house, here’s what I think we should do. What are your thoughts?”

Jessica Mackey: Yes.

Allison Tyler Jones: So that’s different than, “What do you think? Here’s a hundred images, what do you think we should do with them?” And they’re thinking-

Jessica Mackey: Or, “What do you want to do?”

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, “I got to pick images. I got to pick framing. I got to pick where it’s going to go.” They can’t do it because that’s not their job.

Jessica Mackey: And so then they do those 8x10s because it’s too overwhelming. They need help. That’s why they come to you. They don’t just need good images, they need help.

Allison Tyler Jones: Exactly. It’s the service, that’s the real value. So the message to them is, “I’ve got this and I’ve got you. I’m under control. I know what I’m doing. I’m a professional, and I’ve got this. So even when you do don’t know, client,” even when the client feels like they’re unsure and don’t know, “I have an opinion.” So when they say, “Well, which image do you like better between those two of Kate?” I’m going to say, “Well, if I was putting one of these on my website, it would be the one on the right, and here’s why. I love how she’s looking down. I love how you see every little eyelash. I love that little smirk on her face. I love that freckle to the left of her nose, it’s so cute, but really, I don’t think you could go wrong because I wouldn’t have shown you anything that I didn’t love.”

Jessica Mackey: Well, I actually have a good example of this. So I don’t know if you remember a few years ago, Allison was training me to do sales. And I had this one client come in and we were looking at these two pictures of her kids, her boys. And in one, they were wrestling and you couldn’t see faces, and in the other one, you could kind of see faces.

Jessica Mackey: And she asked my opinion and I gave it kind of in a way of, “This is what you should do,” not, “Well, I’m drawn to this because of this, but I could see…” I kind of shut off her opinion a little bit and was like, “This is what you should do. This wrestling one, it’s just so fun, it’s so unique.” I talked her into it. Well, then she called and changed the order. You know what I mean? If we’re not listening to what they’re saying, like, yes, we are the trusted advisor and we’re the expert, but we still have to leave that door open for them to have opinions.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yes.

Jessica Mackey: And we have to be listening to what they’re saying. Because if her words were more, “I’m drawn to this one,” then I need to be validating that other image and her choice in that other image instead of trying to force my vision.

Allison Tyler Jones: Exactly. Yeah, and I definitely when I decided, “Okay, I’m going to be expert, I’m going to be a trusted advisor, I’m going to build this process,” I definitely kind of went a little bit that way where I’d say, “You are crazy if you don’t get this one.” Now, I can still say things like that to existing clients, clients that I’ve had for many years that know me, we’ve worked together, I know what they have on their walls, I have that long relationship with somebody where I’m like, “You are not allowed out of this building without this image. You have to have this.” And then they just laugh and they’re like, “Okay, whatever, just do it.” I mean, half the time, they’ll just say, “Just pick what you want and bring it,” because they know-

Jessica Mackey: They trust you. Yeah.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, they know that I’m going to pick the one… They just want to come to see them because that’s part of the fun, right? But they’re going to just do whatever I say.

Allison Tyler Jones: But in the earlier times, the first one or two times that we work together, they’re still unsure of their own decision making ability and nice, great clients don’t want to be a pain in the butt.

Jessica Mackey: Right.

Allison Tyler Jones: So you kind of have to listen. And we just had an experience recently about this where we thought everything… I was just telling you about this before we got on the podcast. And so we thought everything was good. They loved everything, we had a great time and finalized the sale. And then I got a text saying, “I’m just not really sure about what’s going on. I’m not really sure about the big. It’s a lot of money. I’m not sure whether I really like myself in it.”

Jessica Mackey: And as a photographer, it would’ve been easy for you to get defensive on that and be like, “What are you talking about? I lit you perfectly. You were posed. What do you mean you don’t like yourself?” Photographers, sometimes we take that internally where she’s not talking about you, she’s not talking about the artwork. You had to really listen to hear what she was saying.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yes. And so where I’ve learned, because I have a stronger personality, so it’s easy, I could really bowl people over and just by force of personality be like, “This is what you need to do. Absolutely. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah,” and that’s almost like being an agreeable dictator in a way. You know what I mean?

Jessica Mackey: That’s true.

Allison Tyler Jones: We have now a third category. So I don’t want to do that. I want to really listen to them because in the end, if I’ve bowled them over and we hang that image on the wall, and every time that mom is walking by that image, that something about that is bugging her and she just never was able to say to me what it was that she didn’t like, she spent a lot of money to have something that she doesn’t completely love of in her house.

Jessica Mackey: That she’s going to turn away from every time she walks by it because she doesn’t like herself, where in the end, you actually went another step and you talked to her and were able to kind of figure out like, “Okay, tell me what you’re thinking.”

Allison Tyler Jones: Right. So we set up a second Zoom call. And I said to Stacy, who does our retouching, I said, “Go find me another mom. She doesn’t like herself in this one,” and she hadn’t really told me what she didn’t like. So she didn’t want to put us out-

Jessica Mackey: Be high maintenance.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Jessica Mackey: Yeah, but she didn’t want to-

Allison Tyler Jones: She didn’t want to be that pain. And so I-

Jessica Mackey: And sometimes as women, we think that if we’re confident, we can’t also be insecure about something. We can’t say that I don’t like the way look in that image because you’re like, “Well, it’s not about me.”

Allison Tyler Jones: Right, and, “It’s about my family and maybe I’m just being vain and blah, blah, blah.” Okay, well, with corona, everybody’s up at least 20 pounds.

Jessica Mackey: Right.

Allison Tyler Jones: And so I kind of was surmising that maybe that was the thing, even though she looked tiny and very darling to me, but that doesn’t matter. I don’t know what she looked like before corona, so she might be feeling like she looks fat.

Jessica Mackey: Right, what she sees.

Allison Tyler Jones: Who knows?

Jessica Mackey: Yeah.

Allison Tyler Jones: So Stacy went in and we found another mom, and really, we did find a better one. She was more engaged, her hair looked better, her hair was kind of blowing. And so Stacy put her in and we did that and then we let her see that as another example. But I was really grateful to her because before we even looked at anything, she just said, “I don’t why this is so weighing on me. I feel really nervous about this and I feel like I shouldn’t be so picky,” and she’s not the only client that has said things like this. Many times this will happen where they really have a hard time saying, “I don’t like this,” or, “I don’t like myself.”

Jessica Mackey: Especially when it’s, yeah, it’s something about themselves.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. Or even one of their kids. They’ll feel like maybe, “My kid looks weird,” or whatever. because I could have gone on. I had the image ready to go. I was ready to share my screen. I was ready to move on. And I had already actually shared my screen. I turned the screen share off and I just looked at her and I said, “Okay, I need you to know that you’re not being high maintenance. This is what my job is all day, every day. We’re just figuring out how to make things look the way that we want them to look, to make them beautiful and make them great for you. If you walk by this image in your house every day and you don’t love it, I failed you. I’m never going to fail you. I would rather you not buy it than to have that happen because then you’ve spent money on something that you don’t love.”

Allison Tyler Jones: And she got a little emotional and she was like, “Thank you so much.” And so we figured it out, we found it out, and then there were a couple more things even as we were going through. I said, “Okay, how do we feel about that?” “Well, oh, well never mind.” I’m like, “No, I need you to say.”

Allison Tyler Jones: And so, one of the ways in becoming that expert with our clients and being confident but also listening is that we can allow other people that maybe might have been darling doormat in certain ways in their life, maybe when dealing with service providers like, “No, no, no. I’m sure it’s fine,” who are actually really nice people, allowing them maybe for the first time ever to have the experience they should’ve had, the most amazing experience, that they got exactly what they wanted.

Allison Tyler Jones: So I’m listening, not thinking, “She thinks I’m a bad photographer. She thinks I shot it from a bad angle. She thinks I don’t know how to light.”

Jessica Mackey: You’re taking your ego out of it and just listening.

Allison Tyler Jones: It has nothing to do with me.

Jessica Mackey: Yeah.

Allison Tyler Jones: She just wants to look pretty in an image with her family.

Jessica Mackey: And I think sometimes when the client goes, “Well, oh, nevermind,” as a photographer, you’re like, “Oh, phew,” because what if she says something that I can’t do? Well, you’re the expert. You’re okay to communicate, “You know what? I will see if we have a head that is lit right. Let me look into that and get back to you.” You don’t have to… but you know know what you can and can’t do and it’s okay to communicate that to the client.

Allison Tyler Jones: Exactly.

Jessica Mackey: But let them have that safe place to discuss, to ask questions.

Allison Tyler Jones: Exactly. And if you are fully inhabiting that expert, you know of course there are going to be things that you don’t know and there are going to be things that you can’t do. That’s the reality of life, but it doesn’t have to mean that you suck.

Jessica Mackey: Right, or that it’s anything in your artwork.

Allison Tyler Jones: And you’re a failure and that they hate you. We’re not the 14 year old who thinks the parent is yelling at them. The client is not yelling at you telling you that you suck. Everybody’s trying to get their needs met, right? They’re just trying to get their needs met and they want to pay you to meet their needs.

Allison Tyler Jones: And so you remaining calm and looking past sometimes even what it seems like they’re asking, and sometimes clients will say it in a way that feels challenging. “Well, I hate that. I hate myself,” they won’t say that. They’ll say, “I don’t like the way that I was posed. I hate that angle.” Well, that feels very much like you’re telling me you don’t like my work.

Jessica Mackey: But sometimes what that is, it’s just that clients are the product of their upbringing and sometimes they don’t know how to have uncomfortable conversations themselves.

Allison Tyler Jones: Exactly.

Jessica Mackey: And they don’t want to be vulnerable and say, “I look fat because I’ve put on 50 pounds and I’m super insecure about it. So I’m going to say, ‘I don’t like the way I was posed instead,'” but really what they’re saying is, “I feel really insecure about being overweight. Can you help me?”

Allison Tyler Jones: Right. Exactly. And so if we armor up and freak out about that and come back at them negatively, like, “Well, you wore the wrong clothes,” or whatever, of any defensive thing, you can just sit back and kind of breathe and just say, “Okay, so tell me specifically. Let’s look at this and see what is it that you’re really not liking,” and then come up with a game plan and figure it out.

Allison Tyler Jones: So that’s just one area that you can be an expert too. So whether it’s from the beginning, the very beginning of the process, which is, “This is how we work. I’m so excited that you’re here. I’ve got this, I’ve got you. Here’s what we’re going to wear. Here’s how everything works.” And based on what we’re discussing in that consultation, “This is how much probably it’s going to cost, in this range.” And then we’re going to photograph it. They’re going to see that you totally know what you’re doing. It’s amazing.

Allison Tyler Jones: Then you edit within an inch of your life because you’re being the expert as you’re culling those image. And then you show them a very tight edit of the session itself and the final view of what it is that you want them to have. That’s just expert, expert, expert, expert. And then if there’s anything that’s happening that they’re not loving or they don’t like, that we’re not taking it personally. We’re just literally listening to truly understand and reflect that back to them, like, “Let me understand what it is that you’re saying. Are you saying that you don’t like yourself at all or is there a certain part of yourself that you don’t? Should we just go back to the drawing board and find another image?” And so, that’s fine.

Jessica Mackey: And I think, I mean, just to follow up, I know you said this earlier, but when you say edit the session, for us, that’s a cull.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right.

Jessica Mackey: We’re not going through and retouching every single image that we’re showing them.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. I know, those words. Yeah. So we will say edit a session. We’re meaning culling the images and choosing which one we’re going to show the clients, and then we will edit.

Jessica Mackey: Sometimes we’ll pre-retouch.

Allison Tyler Jones: Actually retouch, do a pre-retouch, a light pre-retouch on a few.

Jessica Mackey: Especially if we know ahead of time, like if you’ve had that consultation and you’ve had that open conversation with a client and you know they’re struggling with their weight, you want to show them what you can do. You want to show them an image, it doesn’t have to be every image, but you want to show them-

Allison Tyler Jones: At least one.

Jessica Mackey: Yeah, at least one image of maybe how you can help them feel like a better version, the pre-COVID version of themselves.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yes. Wouldn’t we all love that person? Yeah. So when we step forward as the expert, the client is feeling relieved. A good client is feeling so relieved because they know that you’re taking responsibility for everything and they feel like you’ve been transparent. And so they know what’s going on and they’re trusting you to do your thing. They don’t feel like they have to micromanage you.

Allison Tyler Jones: They feel informed because you’ve talked about price and all the things even before the session. So they can proceed knowing exactly what the investment is required or they can decide to schedule another time when that is more in their budget.

Allison Tyler Jones: They feel confident because you’ve assembled the plan and the vision for the portraits in their home. And the result is they can see it and can’t wait for you to get it on their wall. They trust you because you’ve clearly got this and have been transparent. They know that it’s not going to be cheap, but they know they’re in good hands and they can relax because they have all the information that they need.

Allison Tyler Jones: And the number one thing that I want my clients to feel is I want them to feel lucky that they got a spot with me. I want them to feel lucky that they found me and that they are really looking forward to going through this process together.

Allison Tyler Jones: And so the result of all of that is that they feel like they’re in the right place and they then are bragging about you to their friends because the experience was so unlike anything that they had had. The opposite of what we described before with the student of, “I will never do that again,” was, “I can’t wait to do it again and all my friends should do it because it was amazing.”

Allison Tyler Jones: Now, that’s what a good client feels. A bad client coming into this situation with an expert feels informed because you clearly value what you do and you have the process for doing it and it is clear that no one is going to be bossing you around. And the result is they will fall in line and go along with your process, or they’re going to go find somebody else to boss around. And so there’s no way this goes bad. It’s all good.

Jessica Mackey: Right. And I think that one of the thing that kind of keeps a photographer from wanting to position themselves as experts is a fear of what to say, how to say it when they ask the hard questions.

Jessica Mackey: And so this whole conversation has made me think about something that we just created and got up on the website that I think you are going to love. Because one of the things that keeps us from position ourselves as that advisor or that expert is feeling like we don’t have the words, feeling like we aren’t prepared if our clients ask questions that make us clench. And so we created a booklet about words and frequently asked difficult questions.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yes. So this booklet that Jessica created, and we have it loaded up on that website, is basically just the common difficult questions that we get asked again and again. And we’ve talked about it in past podcast episodes, but we’ve kind of gathered these all into one place to give you the words that we use when we’re presented with those hard questions that we sometimes don’t want to answer that make us want to turn and into doormats or dictators. And instead, it threads the needle of moving into that expert role.

Allison Tyler Jones: And so that is available to you for free. We would love to share that with you. We want everybody to become more of an expert to be able to guide their clients through the process of their studio and helping them get the best experience possible, the best product possible.

Allison Tyler Jones: And so if you go to, you’ll find that frequently asked difficult question booklet there, and that is just a starting place for you. It’ll give you some words that you can use. Now, you’re going to of course adapt it and use it for your own words, these are the words that we use, but they’ve proven very effective. We use them every day, and then we also, as we’re training new employees, it makes it just so much easier to train new employees so that they don’t get scared, they don’t turn into a dictator or a doormat. They’re able to move forward as an expert as well because you want everybody in your studio to be the expert.

Jessica Mackey: And part of that becoming an expert isn’t necessarily having to use Allison’s words, it’s just coming up with a plan, your own plan of words that you’re going to use when your clients ask difficult questions.

Allison Tyler Jones: Exactly. And so bottom line, what I realized when the doormat wasn’t working and I knew I didn’t want to turn into a dictator, I realized that our clients just don’t have any idea what’s available. They don’t know our industry, they just know they need pictures. And our clients have never been exposed to this level of service before. And so that requires a process to guide them through, make recommendations for how my work would best be displayed in their home.

Allison Tyler Jones: And so just like any other industry, other industries have the process by which you introduce your clients in and bring them through, and that’s exactly what we do. So instead of being a doormat and instead of being the dictator, you can step forward as an expert because you have a process in place. And that frequently asked difficult question booklet will help you start putting that into place, or if you already have a process, it will help you refine what it is that you’re already doing.

Jessica Mackey: Absolutely.

Allison Tyler Jones: So I’m going to leave you with a quote, my favorite quote about success is that, “Success on any major scale requires you to accept responsibility. In the final analysis, the one quality that all successful people have is the ability to take on responsibility.” And that’s Michael Korda, who is a famous book publisher, but it really is true, that if the tendency is that when something comes along that we don’t like or we don’t want to deal with to shove it off, either put up a wall, a dictator would put up a wall and a doormat literally lays down and let’s somebody walk over them, and that neither one of those is effective in the long-term and that doesn’t make for a beautiful experience for the client or for person running the business.

Allison Tyler Jones: But if you can be an expert, you allow that client to influence you, you listen to them, you find out what they really need, and then you come up with what your unique solution is for them. And then together, you make something really beautiful and amazing for their home.

Allison Tyler Jones: And so I hope this has been helpful. I think we covered a lot of stuff.

Jessica Mackey: We did. We did, a lot more than we even intended to. It’s like we can’t help ourselves.

Allison Tyler Jones: I know.

Jessica Mackey: We get on here and we just have so much to say.

Allison Tyler Jones: Just keep going. I know. So go to and download that frequently asked difficult question booklet and let us know how that’s working out for you. Let us know maybe how you’ve changed the words in different ways that have worked better for you, anything that didn’t work, we would love your input. DM us on do.the.rework on Instagram or That’s Jessica’s email. She’d love to hear anything. But anyway, thanks for… I’m so glad you were here today. I appreciate you.

Jessica Mackey: Yeah. Absolutely. Thanks for having me.

Allison Tyler Jones: All right. See you soon.

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.

Allison Tyler Jones: 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.

Allison Tyler Jones: 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 at do.the.rework.

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