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 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: Hi, friends, and welcome back to The Rework. Today’s guest is Mary Fisk-Taylor. Former President of Professional Photographers of America, and co-owner of Hayes and Fisk Portrait Photographers in Richmond, Virginia. Mary and her partner, Jamie Hayes, run a gold standard business. They do amazing high-end weddings, and they also do beautifully-commissioned portrait paintings. Mary is a wealth of information. But what I wanted to spend time with her today doing is to kick around the idea of, if we were going to start our businesses over again right now in today’s business climate, would we do anything different, or how would we do it differently?

Allison Tyler Jones: Both Mary and I teach quite a bit in the industry, and if you teach in any industry, you’re going to hear a lot of students having comments like, “Well, it’s easy for you because you have this amazing brand and people want what you do,” or, “It’s easy for you because,” fill in the blank of why it’s easier for you than for them and why you can do it, and they can’t. But actually, you don’t get to a gold standard brand without a lot of work and a lot of trial and error. But the times that we are in now are appreciably different than the times when, 28 years ago, Mary and Jamie started their business and 17 years ago when I started my business. So what would we do differently now if we were starting our businesses now? That’s the conversation, and I hope you enjoy it. Let’s do it. Well, I am so happy today to have one of the busiest, most well-traveled persons on the planet in the podcast studio, Ms. Mary Fisk-Taylor. Welcome.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Thank you. Hello. We finally are here. We’ve been trying for a while to make this happen.

Allison Tyler Jones: I know. There have been lots of scheduling things. You spent 2021 as the president of Professional Photographers of America.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Yes.

Allison Tyler Jones: Coming out of the pandemic, traveling around meeting with photographers, so that’s the groundwork for this. Then I want to just talk about all the favorite things that we love to talk about.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Yes. Yes.

Allison Tyler Jones: So tell me about your presidential year as you met with photographers all over the country, and you have been on the PPA board for many years. You’ve served.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Over a decade. Yeah.

Allison Tyler Jones: What are your overall feelings of the state of the industry? How are you feeling about our little industry?

Mary Fisk-Taylor: That’s a great question. How am I feeling today about this industry? Let’s see. Somebody asked me the other day, “Allison,” they said, “So ,if today was your day, what would you do?” And I’m like, “I’m not so sure I’d start a photography business, but if I did, if I did.”

Allison Tyler Jones: Yes.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: And I’m not. And look, I love my photography business. I really do. But I will say that because our studio is 28 years old, it was very different. And we’ve had 28 years to build a brand and all this stuff. But what would I do? And the state of the industry lends itself to this. No longer, in my opinion, can you just like, you’re good or decent, or you love photography, so you’re just going to open a studio and then you’re going to post a bunch on social media. And I probably hear that more than anything.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: I’m posting all the time. Right, but you have three followers. What you’re not hearing is you still need, I understand that we’re in this digital society and we’re social media, and there’s 3000 different ways to get yourself out there, but you still need that human and personal touch. And I feel like that a lot of younger photographers and not younger as an age, younger studios or younger businesses, they just feel like, well, it’s free. Online is free, so I’ll just put all this stuff out there and they will come.

Allison Tyler Jones: Okay.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: That’s just not how it works. That’s just not how it works.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right. Okay. But it’s sexy. Right? It feels like it should be so easy that you could just sit at your computer. Well, obviously you have to make those images, but Right. To just put it out there on social media or.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: TikTok.

Allison Tyler Jones: TikTok or posting, and it even goes down to the workflow, posting it up on a gallery. Just having everything by Zoom or whatever, or not having any meetings in person. Just having, I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve had that have come to me, younger families that have been employing those photographers for years and the first time they meet them is at the park. They’ve maybe had a couple of texts. They’ve never spoken with them on the phone.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Or Facebook Messenger or whatever.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right, Right. DMs. Yeah. So we’re not saying that any of those things are bad.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: None of it’s bad.

Allison Tyler Jones: All of those things, they’re good. But if you were starting, I think that’s an interesting construct. If we were starting over again, if Mary Fisk-Taylor and Jamie Hayes were starting your studio today, and I was starting today, what would we do?

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Can we do what I’m pretty much doing now, which is commissions?

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: And I think this is scary. I think that we have found our way to this place. We have found our way because when we first started, we were film and we needed to do head shots and this and that. All the stuff that nowadays just does not fly, At least in my little corner of the world. I have got to brand myself as this and this only. And for me, it’s going to be large paintings that hang on your wall because there’s no competition there, or there’s very little competition there.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: It’s quality, not quantity. And what I mean by that is, I don’t need a ton of these, but it’s scary. It’s scary to put yourself out there and say, You know what? I only want six sessions a month, and I want my average to be here or obviously higher, and that’s all I need. That’s scary. People, they side-eye me every time. If people say, What would you do? That’s what I would do, and that’s what I would recommend you do. And they just go, oh, I can’t. I can’t. I won’t. Yeah.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right. Okay, because let’s go back. Let’s take the way back machine and talk about how does it normally evolve. I know for most photographers, for me it was 16, 17 years ago, you kind of start off doing a little bit of everything ’cause you’re so excited that you actually know how to get something good on a print or an image, and then you kind of let your clients tell you what they want.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Yes, of course.

Allison Tyler Jones: And if they’re going to pay you to show up, you’re doing it.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Yes. You want me to photograph your wedding, You want me to photograph your headshot? You want me to come in on Thanksgiving Day and photograph your family? What do you want? Because I’m here to serve you.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Well, I am. oh, by the way, I am here to serve the clients. The key here is that I want to serve not just anybody who stumbles across my website, phone number, DMs, whatever.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right. So if we were starting now, and I think this is great, I love this because there are photographers who are earlier in their careers, and I think you need to niche more quickly.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Oh gosh. Yeah, that’s exactly right. If the number one, when photographers in last year were traveling or whatever, people ask me questions, what would you do? The first thing I think you need to do, Do you want to Pinterest? Do you want a mood board? Whatever you want to do, who do you want to serve? Who do you want to sell to? Not what camera equipment you’re going to use. If it’s going to be Lightroom or bridge, how you’re going to, No. Who do you want to sell to? Who is the customer you want to serve? I think that that more than ever, is the most important piece to identify, because when you identify that, then you can follow trends and buying habits. You can understand investment levels. And I mean, I can build way more off of that data than whether I’m shooting Canon or 70.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right, exactly. And so I think most people given answering that question are going to say, Well, I want rich people. I just want rich people.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Okay. So you want rich people that what? That buy what you do. So in my little area, the wealthy wealthy that we call them, the FFVs, the first families in Virginia, it’s a thing around here. They don’t buy what I sell. They don’t buy anything bigger than a five by seven. They don’t believe in.

Allison Tyler Jones: In 700 frames on top of their grand piano.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: A hundred percent. And you know what? That’s fine. That’s not who I serve, Who I serve. I know exactly who I serve. I have my top, I have three tiers of it. And the top is obviously families with children living in their own home. I have zip codes. I know pretty much what kind of cars they drive, their favorite colors, where they shop locally, what charities they donate to, where they’re usually college educated or better. All of these things because I can take a sample of who are my great clients, and that rises to the top. So they’re not the richest people, but they do have disposable income and they do buy art or they do buy photography. That’s another big piece. So it’s more than just people who have all the money. It’s the people that buy into the brand that you want to build.

Allison Tyler Jones: So I love that because I think that is a common misconception is that somehow you and I have a map of where all the rich people live, and we’re not sharing it.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Right. Oh, right.

Allison Tyler Jones: And that’s not the case because it’s not necessarily how much money they have, it’s what they value. And for my clients, I feel like, I think you learn this more as you go along. As you interact with people and you realize, okay, there’s a common thread here if you’re looking for it. What is the common thread? The common thread for me, I find that when I have a mom that calls me and is talking about her kids and is telling me hilarious little nuance stories about she really knows her kids and will have all these anecdotes about each individual kid, that is 100% my client. It’s people that are irrationally in love with their kids and convinced that the art they want on the walls of their home is they have art too. So they’re into that. They’re into spending money on their home, but their family is that beautiful home is an envelope to make memories for their family.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: They’re us.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: I mean, irrational love of our children. Check. They’re literally us. And I was a client, I think probably down there early on, you were a client of photography. So I was too a long time ago. And still am by the way. You’re exactly right. It’s more than just money in their pocket. It’s a lot of the things. And look, I understand. Well, it’s easy. And this is what I hear too. So this is where I feel beaten because I’m like, You want my advice, But when I give you my advice, all you’re going to tell me is, well, it’s easy for you to say because you’ve been doing it so long. Yeah, okay.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: But if I were starting out, this is what I would do. So what I mean by you can’t just put a bunch of beautiful images on social media is you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to show up and buy tickets or try to figure out how I can be at the biggest philanthropic events in my town. Why? Because it’s not just the people that have all the money. It’s the people that are boots on the ground that are involved. For me anyway, my clientele tends to be very charity driven. Meaning they’re always involved in something.

Allison Tyler Jones: Community minded.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Yes, their church, their children’s school, whatever. It’s not, When you first came in, if I were to first come in, I’d go, Oh, this school, these families, they are the wealthy of the wealthy. This school is outrageous. This is like every kid’s carrying a Burkin. Right? This is ridiculous.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: They are not my client. They are not my client. These are the people that, yes, they have all the money they could buy and sell me 10 times over but they do not value what I do. I’m much better off at this little parochial school or these little pockets not there. And I think that I learned it the hard way as well. But identifying that and getting out and meeting those people and being involved with those events and volunteering, that’s where I get my clients. I’ll go tomorrow night, I’m going to an event, local small event. I will pick up, I know for a fact I will pick up three or four clients from this one event because I always do. But it’s just the right fit. It’s this pocket of people. And they all breed. They all things together.

Allison Tyler Jones: They know each other.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Yeah, they do.

Allison Tyler Jones: Do. Well, I’m thinking of something that I read on Seth Godin’s blog, which I love every day. If you haven’t subscribe to Seth Godin’s blog, Seth, GODIN will link to it in the show notes. You need to because everybody, I love the way he thinks. But this is one that my sister and I sent to each other, and I don’t know if you read it recently. It was called the I’m not that smart.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Yes, I did read that one.

Allison Tyler Jones: And so he was saying, Someone said that to me the other day, and it was heartbreaking. So this is kind of what people will say to us sometimes. I’m not you or I haven’t, you’ve been in for 15 years or whatever. And so he says, The number of tests in our culture that requires someone who is born with off the charts talent is small indeed. Just about everything else we need people to do is the result of effort, practice, and care. It’s true that variations of that work are easier for some folks, but no one finds all of it easygoing. The correct thing to say is, I don’t care that much. I don’t care enough to do the reading. I don’t care enough to fail along the way. I don’t care enough to show up. I don’t care enough to make a promise to learn as I go to confront failure or to get better at the work. And all of that might be true, but you’re almost certainly smart enough.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Oof, hurtful. I mean.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right?

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Where’s the lie?

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. So it’s really what we’re saying is there are so many times in both of our career that I felt like I’m middle class Mesa, Arizona, born and raised. My dad worked with his hands and built custom horse trailers until it killed him. And you were raised by a single mother. And of course, absolutely. We have so many benefits and so many being born in America, being born white. I mean, honestly, we’ve had so many benefits.

Allison Tyler Jones: But we’ve also had to, as Kim Wylie says, throw ourselves off a cliff again and again and again, and do the really scary things. And just being in 28 years, or just being in 17 years means nothing. If you aren’t showing up and doing the scary things in whatever time you’re in, whether it’s the 2008 crash recession during Covid. Pick your global catastrophe here, or local catastrophe or personal catastrophe.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Pick

Allison Tyler Jones: So I think that very often when you’re in an educational setting and you’re the one teaching, which we’ve both been, have done quite a bit of that to serve our industry, you do get that, well, this is why it won’t work for me. And I don’t ever want to hurt anybody’s feelings, but I kind of sometimes want to say, You know what? You’re actually right. And then the next person that comes by and says, You know what? I’m super scared, but I know this can work for me, you’re right.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: No, you’re both right. A hundred percent.

Allison Tyler Jones: I mean, because if you care enough, if you care what Seth Godin is saying to do the reading, to fail along the way, to just show up and put yourself out there, you’re going to find the way. I had my business cards in my back pocket, and I would be in the line at the grocery store. That is the cutest kid I’ve ever seen. I’d love to see sometime. Here you go. I mean, shameless self-promotion.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Well, self-promotion and it’s not shameless, right? It’s what we need. I mean, I’m sorry. Self-promotion. I mean, who else is going to do it? I mean, you’re going to build those fans, right? You’re going to build those raving fans as you build your business. But I mean, everybody’s just busy trying to hang on. And so who else is going to advocate for you if you’re not advocating for yourself? And I have never had a problem advocating for myself. And I’ve always been very proud of the fact that I could always figure out a way to connect with a charity or connect with a community partner or do something and benefit both of us, by the way. But I’ve never had any guilt whatsoever about self-promotion because what choice do I have? I mean, I don’t want to fail. You and I are very much, failure’s not an option. That’s just not something that I love. Have I failed? Absolutely. Will I fail again? Probably in the next two hours. No doubt about it. What I’m going to fill in my diet or I’m going to fail at bad, make a bad marketing decision or miss an email that happens.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: I think that’s another big piece too, is mindset is so huge for anybody and anything we do. But gosh dang. And this, what we do, being able to do it and then charge what we need to charge and be okay with failure and all this stuff. It’s just really hard. And a lot of us at this point in the industry, we’re moms, we’re women. We’re people also trying to juggle a whole side hustle called a family?

Allison Tyler Jones: We don’t have a wife at home.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: No.

Allison Tyler Jones: Making it happen while we’re out shooting on Christmas Eve.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: No, we don’t. And then most of the time we sacrifice our own selves in order to make it all happen. But just because I’ve been doing this a long time, it’s actually in some respects just as hard if not harder. Because guys, you understand that I was with that group that there was a big group of us many years ago that said digital is not a thing. We threw ourselves off the cliff into digital. We threw ourselves off the cliff and invested in websites and then learned social media and learned click funnels. And every single day it feels like learning something new to stay here. Whereas younger people coming in right now, this is second nature to them. They don’t have to learn about these things. They just know all these things. So there’s pros and cons, absolutely. But it’s the constantly having to learn and relearn and I don’t know. The state of this industry is amazing, as amazing as you want to believe it is.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right. And when I even asked that question, I thought, Well, I probably shouldn’t ask this question because I care about the state of the industry. Meaning I would, I want other photographers to charge what they’re worth and have businesses that can support their family and their life. I do want that. But as far as ATJ photo, my own personal self, I don’t care about the industry, meaning it’s irrelevant to me because I’m going to do what I’m going to do.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Same.

Allison Tyler Jones: I’m not looking to see what somebody else is doing unless it’s like, if you called me and said, Okay, I found this really cool thing called Click Funnels or whatever, then I’m going to listen to that. Of course, we’re going to share information. That’s the benefit of imaging. We network and all those things. But I often think that we as photographers, as creatives, as humans, we compare and look to the side and okay, well, so and so is doing that. I guess I should be doing that. And we discount our own experience, We discount. And women especially, we discount our own lived experience of like, Okay, that didn’t really, The whole mini session thing in November did not work for me. That made me sick, it burned me out. It was horrible. And I’m never doing it again. But oh wait, all the photographers in my town are doing that. Then doesn’t that mean I should be doing it?

Allison Tyler Jones: And so just having the confidence to say, Okay, if something didn’t work for you before then how do you pivot and make it right? Change it. Don’t keep doing the same thing. Change it and then also, I want to go back to that. Who do you want to sell to? Or who do you want to work with? Who do you want as your client? For me, one of the other things I realized early on is that I don’t want a one and done. I really want relationships. That is important to me, not just because I want them to come back again and again. Of course, we would like that because that’s sustainable business. But I really do, because of my kids being autistic, I missed out on a lot of that mothering of that little baby that will come up and be like, show you things.

Allison Tyler Jones: And I get a lot of that from my clients’ kids. And so I want to watch them grow up. That’s part of why I do what I do in addition to supporting my family. And so when I’m looking at that, if somebody comes in and is very dismissive and like hey, this is what I want you to do. Okay, so we’re going to go out to the desert, we’re going to do this, and here’s my Pinterest boards and they’re just running the whole thing and it’s very transactional. That’s not a good fit for me.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Correct.

Allison Tyler Jones: I need to have a conversation. We need to almost, we want to go out to lunch afterwards. I don’t know. So do you have things that draw you that your, is your ideal thing for you? Because I know you have repeat as far as they do one kid painting, they’re going to do the next kid.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Correct.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: We have our heirloom map. We have our map, and we really lean into that heirloom map. I don’t know how else to describe it. Whereas whenever you come in to our studio, whether it’s mom’s expecting or you moved here when the kid was three, we’re going to get in line. And what we’re going to do is we’re going to ask permission to remind you when these milestones hit. And we want to make sure we capture them. Why? Because you get 18 summers before your family changes forever and we want to make sure that these tiny little moments are captured. That’s what we’re here for. And that’s really all we’re here for. I’m not here for your passport photos. I’m not here because.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yes.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Come out and this’ll be great exposure. Photograph this. No. Yeah, no think so. No. That’s what we’re here for. We’re here to hold your hand and walk beside you in this journey. I’m not here to just get some great picks for you and deliver. That’s not me. And there’s nothing wrong with that, by the way.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: I’m sure my clients use photographers like that.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yes.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Who love them.

Allison Tyler Jones: Mine do too.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: But they do. But they’re not using me for that. They come to me when they want an iconic piece for their home, an heirloom for their home and another image boxer album. That’s what I’m here for. And this is what I mean. If I were to start today, I would’ve cut out all that beginning. And this is all I would do because this is what we’re really good at and this is what I have the bandwidth and energy for. And this is where I have found the least competition, by the way. And it’s easy. I mean, I think some people look at what we do and think, oh my gosh, that’s just so hard. No, it’s so easy because once you get a nice little rhythm going with your consultation and your banter and then the design, and then it’s really easy. I mean, everybody’s different. And everybody, you photograph people. I mean, I get all that.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: But the system isn’t so complicated. It’s very clear. It’s a very transparent system. I’m not, Oh, let me get you in and hope I can upsell you. No.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yes.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: No, no, no, no, no, no. I don’t have to sit in the sales room anymore with my stomach flip flopping, hoping you’re not going to freak out over my price because this has been handled before I ever picked up my camera. We’re not waiting until the sales room to discuss this. And that’s how I like to do business.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: So here again, going back to the client you want to serve the people I work with, they tell me right up front. Yep. I mean, I had somebody just the other day, I came out with a quote and she came back. She goes, yeah, we’re going to need to take some numbers off. I was like, okay, where are we at? This is what we want to spend. No problem. And I came back to her with a new quote, They’re happy, I’m happy. I’m going to photograph them next Tuesday.

Allison Tyler Jones: But you came back with a new quote. They didn’t like the price. You completely discounted it for the same thing?

Mary Fisk-Taylor: No, that didn’t happen.

Allison Tyler Jones: No, that’s what everybody says.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: That’s a great point. So what had happened was we went from a masterpiece oil to a lighter classic oil. And instead of doing a large meaning, we were going to do one large piece instead of three pieces. And you know what? She always has the option down the road to add those other two pieces on. And she always has the option down the road for me to add more oil to the canvas. So the cool thing is that there could be add-ons down the road, but even if she doesn’t spend another dime on that session with me, she’s happy and I’m happy, you’re happy.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yes. Absolutely. Yeah. I just had a similar situation I had at a doctor who was just a lovely couple. They were both physicians, and this is the first time that I had worked with them. And she was really struggling. I think doctors are so used to the rural followers and they’re used to calling the shots.

Allison Tyler Jones: So we got to the end and she’s like, Okay, so should I just go think about this or whatever? And I said, look, if there’s anything on here that you need to think about, let’s just take it off. Let’s only proceed with what you are a hundred percent convinced of.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Yes.

Allison Tyler Jones: And she’s like, Then she looks at me and she’s like, But I’m convinced of all of them. And I’m like, Okay, then should we move forward? Or should we take something off? And she’s like, no, go ahead and move forward. Allowing her to have that permission to, I wasn’t trying to upsell her. I wasn’t to, if you buy this, if buy all three of them now, then I’m going to give you 20 free Christmas cards. No, it was just like, if you are going to lose sleep over this or have a divorce, I’ll do it. Let’s just take it off.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Exactly.

Allison Tyler Jones: No big deal. And let’s do it right now. Don’t call me in the morning when I went to bed thinking I had this sale and I wake up tomorrow and I’ve got to refund it. Like no.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Exactly. Yeah. And I think that’s scary and I get it. But I mean, that’s one of the biggest man, if that’s something that all of us could do. And guys, see I do. Soapboxes too much. I know I do. But it’s just…

Allison Tyler Jones: Get it. Get the tide. Stand on top of it.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: The problem is, I don’t understand why we as creatives, why we as small business creatives, why we as artists have such a hard time with this. I don’t buy anything where I go in and I put a bunch of stuff in my cart and I go to check out and I go, yeah, no, you know what? And then the grocer or the landscaper or the jeweler or whatever starts backpedaling. Well, maybe we can do this. And nobody does that.

Allison Tyler Jones: No.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Nobody does that. Nobody goes, Well you know Mary, if you don’t feel comfortable, then I’ll give you 20 free mangoes. I don’t know, whatever it is. That does not happen. I don’t go in and buy something at the Apple store and when I start worrying about the computer I want to build, and it’s too much money that they go, well, let me throwing a few free iPad. Nobody has ever said that.

Allison Tyler Jones: No, no. They’re like, well get less ram or get a smaller hard drive. Or that’s like I say, how do you? Somebody says, How do we get this price done? I’m like, There’s two ways you do less things or smaller things. That’s it.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: That’s it, That’s it.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: And you know what? And why we can’t as photographers, and I, sorry guys, but I just don’t understand what we, I don’t understand why we can’t own that. I guess because I came into this industry, not as a photographer. I came into this as a business person. It never made sense to me, ever. So this has not been a habit I had to break because again, I didn’t go buy my car and tell them, put all the bells and whistles on my car and then decide, oh never mind I don’t want to spend that much. And the Range Rover guy go, well, I’ll throw in this. Nobody does that.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: But boy, we love to do that to ourselves. And I guess if more people would listen to this and go, you know what? That crazy girl, she’s not that stupid. She’s kind of smart or maybe she’s got something figured out. Because if we all did that, think how much stronger we could be. We say this all the time, Oh, we’re stronger together. But seriously, if we could all get on the same page with.

Allison Tyler Jones: But sometimes we’re not stronger together. And that’s another point. As soon as you said that, I’m like, sometimes we’re weaker together because we either pull each other down or we allow ourselves to marinate in the negativity online of not my client or this jerk said this or How many threads have you seen on Facebook? Just toxic, spinning over. And not only are you marinating in your own negativity with a client, but then you’re going to go on and go through somebody. You have to protect and I think for women, especially nice guys, I would qualify, I always say women and nice guys, is you have to protect that mental space and what you expose yourself to.

Allison Tyler Jones: Because if you look online, you think everybody’s business is in the toilet, the economy, it’s the big bugga booze, right? The economy is dying, everything is going to hell in a hand basket. There’s war, there’s and all of those things are true. There’s inflation, there’s war, there’s all that. But that just means you better be raising your prices because everybody else is and are you in business. And so that’s the other thing too, is I think sometimes there are people that are truly artiste that only ever really want to make pretty pictures and they don’t need to make a business out of it. So quit killing yourself and don’t make a business. Go have a hobby and have fun.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: But when you agree it’s one way or the other. You know what I want to belong to? I want to belong where all these other imaginary people believe us, moderate people who just want a moderate life, just moderate, who want to be this much conservative and this much just moderate. But there’s either the people on social media that everything is just stars and rainbows and million dollar sales or it’s in the toilet. Most of us don’t live in that space. Most of us actually live in a pretty moderate space. And so that’s why I go on post and try to get the heck out because especially being on the board of directors of PPA, as you can imagine, people love everything we do. So I just try to stay away from the toxicity because it is so true. I actually posted something today and essentially what it says is what you focus on grows.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: So to manage your focus. Because if you don’t manage your focus just actually in the camera room, but same thing with your business, with your social media life, with your personal life. If you don’t manage that focus and how you’re growing, it could just go any which way.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: So you’re absolutely right. I mean we could all get on and have just complain and complain and complain. And what I told you before we started yesterday was like I had some pretty big hits last week. And so yesterday was my feel sorry for myself day. I did not read any business books. I did not do email. I watched Netflix and I felt sorry for myself because I needed to. And I ate boom, chicken pop. That’s what I did for lunch and dinner. And I what got up this morning and I worked out and I’m like, okay, here we go. It’s Monday.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: So it’s okay, but I’m not going to get on the phone with all my friends and complain. I’m not going to go on social media and complain because why? Why would I drag other people down and why would I give life to that? You know what I mean? So it’s not easy. I know what we do isn’t easy. But gosh, if you find your focus and you do manage it and you can, who do you want to serve? What do you want to sell? What do you need to be profitable and sustainable? It’s a pretty simple recipe.

Allison Tyler Jones: It’s just a few basic decisions. And if you believe it that it can happen. I don’t mean from just sit somewhere in the lotus position and manifest it. You actually have to go make it happen. But once you’re talking about that in all the places. So online, website, in the real world and when people are say to me, people say, oh, what do you do? You say, oh, I’m a photographer and that went to, I’m a portrait photographer. And then say, now when they say, what do you do? I’m like, well, I’m a portrait photographer and we specialize in large scale art pieces for our clients’ homes, their custom designed to go in their home. And they’re like, oh, that’s cool. So what is that? And then that sparks a conversation that’s more interesting than I’m, I’m a photographer.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Right, because everybody’s a photographer.

Allison Tyler Jones: Because everybody, Yeah. Or an interior designer or graphic designer.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Yeah, exactly. And we talk now about being a mixed media artist. We use photography and brush oil paints and we create heirloom portraits for homes so that families have those memories forever. And yes, that language has definitely changed through the years, but it is some basic ingredients and how you blend them together and whatever extra zazz and zest you add to it, that’s just all great stuff. But the bottom line is just establishing those few basic fundamental pieces. Then you build from there.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: It’s kind of like the way you light, if you have a basic lighting set up and then every once in a while you get crazy and you add a kicker or you turn one off and turn, you know angle. At least we do because we’re pretty nailed down with our lighting. But you get somebody really exciting or really cool subject and you get fun and you add all that extra, the garlic and the pepper and all the stuff. But I have a basic fundamental recipe that works. So I don’t mess with it very much, but I can always add fun things to it. And just lighting, sometimes you add things and you’re like, well that went terribly wrong. I won’t do that again. And that happens in our business too. That happens with our business.

Allison Tyler Jones: In marketing.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Practices and marketing sales techniques.

Allison Tyler Jones: Probably more in marketing than any other area.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Very much so. Very, very, very, very much so.

Allison Tyler Jones: Well, and so I feel like if I was speaking to a newer, somebody that was a newer in their business, I feel like that the recipe, so to speak in, I’d love for you to weigh in on if what you think I’m missing on this is, I think first of all it’s like whatever your style is, your style is recognizable as your own

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Very much.

Allison Tyler Jones: And then very, very aligned right with that because I think that’s kind of where we begin and end, like you said, is what are we shooting with and how does it look and all that. But what do I want my client to have whenever we go to the doctor, whenever we’ve taken our kids to pediatricians. Something’s wrong with your kid. What do you always ask the doctor when they’re telling you, Well we could do this, we could do this, we could do this. What

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Would you do with your kid?

Allison Tyler Jones: Yes. If it was your kid, what would you do? That’s what every mother asks our doctor.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Absolutely.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. So what would we do if this was our family? If this was our kid and money was not an option, just dream it out and not, don’t make it expensive just to be expensive, but what do you really wish that you had? So I have seven kids and I look back and there are things that I photographed that I have of my kids that I’m really, really glad I have. And then there’s things I’m like, we probably didn’t need to do individuals every year. Maybe there were just some special years where they were maximum cute or maximum awkward.

Allison Tyler Jones: And then where are they going? And so I want my style to be recognizable. I want to then have an idea of this is what I think you should have. I think you should have a maximum size as big as possible on your wall, somewhere in your house of your family that highlights your family. And if you’re tucked and belted, it should be tucked and belted. If you’re crazy and cuddly, it should be crazy and cuddly. If you’re a nut job and you kids are complete chaos and your dogs are naughty, we should see that. And then you need to have someplace where you can have a gallery of your family. And I think everybody should do, because I’m a former, everybody should have an album every year. So those are how I talk about my life. So what am I missing in that for you? Or how would you?

Mary Fisk-Taylor: I don’t mean you’re not missing it. I love that. I love everything you said. And so this is where we differ and this is something that’s going to. Well, first of all, I think the strongest thing you can say in the sales room is if it were me, this is what I would do. I mean, they hired you for a reason. And I mean it if this were my kids, my session, my family, this is what I would do right now because I know what your home looks like. We’ve looked at pictures. I’ve been in a site visit, this is what I would do. And I’d say that almost every time I meet with a client. Now, I love and Jamie and I both, my business partner Jamie Hayes, and I have Allison Tyler Jones in me. Because your fun, goofy, nutsy chaotic stuff we have tried. And when you build a brand and then you try to shove something in there and it doesn’t work.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: That’s what happened when we tried to do the ATJ thing much. If you tried to incorporate our environment tuck, you’d be like, Who is this? Who is this?

Allison Tyler Jones: I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do it. Right. I couldn’t do it. Yeah. Cause I’d be trying to be you.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: And I’m trying to be you.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: And that’s okay. I, because I do love it and I envy it and I think it’s so cool. But for us it’s very much that we much love the whole idea of capturing the littles and all the stuff. And usually those are smaller pieces for a grow wall or an heirloom wall and adding an album or something. And then for us, that 18 month to two year old is crucial. Then we hit the three year old, then before the teeth fall out and then we take a little breaky break. We’ll do the family normally. Cause by that, sometimes all the kiddos are our family’s done, we’re not having anymore. But I do love it if we do that and they have a baby. Because then we have to redo that family portrait. And I don’t hate that there’s that. And then of course the family and then we want to hopefully get them in at least every other year or so. Even if we’re just doing an album or an image box and then right before they go off to college. That’s a huge age for us.

Allison Tyler Jones: So that’s your heirloom map.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Those are our maps, Those are our pieces. And I also, if I have a great client, and this is happening a lot more lately where one of the kids is about to get married. We’re getting them in for that last family portrait before the in-law. And those tend to be some of our biggest sales because mom or dad’s, not that they’re not thrilled, but it is a big shift in change in the family. My niece is getting married this weekend, so I’m just having this conversation with my sister this morning.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Because even she’s get out here and get my family photographed on the. And not that she does not love her to

Allison Tyler Jones: But Exactly. But it’s like that’s the one thing that is not going to change. Those two people created those kids.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Yes.

Allison Tyler Jones: And that’s the nuclear.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Exactly.

Allison Tyler Jones: And dude, I can’t tell you how many in-laws we’ve retouched out of stuff lately.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: And yeah, the spouse outs.

Allison Tyler Jones: We’ve, Yeah, the spouse outs. Oh that’s, I’m writing that down. Spouse outs. That’s, we need to have that as a line item. Yeah.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Well, as a wedding photographer still you also, when they’re like, well the boyfriend or the fiancé and I’ll, I’ll like somebody who I trust and love, I’ll be So should we put them on the end?

Allison Tyler Jones: Yes. Put him on the end. Put him on the end.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Put him on the end. Oh, he’s in the middle. He’s staying. But put her on the end. Put her on the end.

Allison Tyler Jones: And make it where she’s kind of leaning away. It’s easier to retouch.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Yeah.

Allison Tyler Jones: Like honey, you, so you know, if you’re being photographed in a wedding or in a family portrait and somebody tells you, I want to see a little bit of white space between you and the next person, you’re on the bubble.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Yeah. They don’t believe that you’re going to be there the next day.

Allison Tyler Jones: Out that family. Yeah, exactly. I love it. Well, I think it is definitely when you’re further into something years in, it is sometimes easier to look back because as you’re an older mom, we’re older moms, right?

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Yes.

Allison Tyler Jones: And we can look back and go, dude probably don’t die on the hill of whether they eat, drink chocolate milk and their lunch at school. Probably that could be, we could save that level of concern over whether they’re sleeping with their boyfriend in fifth grade. I mean, I don’t know.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Yes, exactly.

Allison Tyler Jones: Pick your hills.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Pick your hills. I mean, yes, mean, and honestly, you know what, we had it a little bit easier because moms today, with social media and everything at their fingertips, you have to worry about so many things out there and so many creepy, terrible human beings out there preying on kids. I didn’t have that much because it was just happening. My kids were older. But I think about, I have a lot of clients who just have go through that and I think, oh gosh, I didn’t have to worry about that. So choosing your battles and at the same thing, choose your battles with.

Allison Tyler Jones: Your business.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Yeah, with your business and some things I just have to let go. I was, gosh, doing something recently and they’re pretty much whoever the director was or whatever said, if you’re not doing videos, you might as well just crawl on a hole and die. And I’m thinking, well, I’m dead because.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: That is something that I just cannot take on right now. Why? Because my clients aren’t on TikTok. And I understand that Facebook is for dead people essentially.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: That’s where my clients still are.

Allison Tyler Jones: And you’re Instagram.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: I cannot invest anymore. I’m good. I cannot take on one more thing. Now if I felt like all of a sudden it was, and of course I’d figure it out and I’d learn and I’d try to find more bandwidth for it. But you don’t have to do everything either.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right. Okay. So I love that you don’t have to do everything. You don’t have to chase every turn that comes along and that you absolutely. When I went into my studio space in 2009, that’s when everybody from the pulpit, I should say from the platform was saying, You should not charge more to go on location because location always sells more than studio. That was bible. Bible was, that studio was dead.

Allison Tyler Jones: But I loved studio so much. And so I just found a way to make it my own. And I think that is the key in my mind is that each one of us has something special. Each one of us has a unique vision of family and the people that we’re photographing. If we allow that to come out. Now, you can kill that. You can kill your unique vision by letting your clients call all the shots, by copying what other people are doing or chasing every return that comes along.

Allison Tyler Jones: Or you can kind of put on your blinders a little bit and really think about and quit looking at everything that’s happening on social media for a period of time. And really just think about what do I love about this person in front of me? What do I want? How can I marry my talent, my ability to light, my ability to? What lens I’m using? All of that and tell the story of this person in a way that is unique to my gift.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Right.

Allison Tyler Jones: And then showing their gift and then combining that into a finished product. That is the gift that is going to be a gift to that family over generations of time.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Right. No, you’re exactly right. But also, and I don’t know that I’ve never, not always been this way, but now more than ever. But it also has to be to the integrity of my, I mean you use the word brand, but what I do Well, yeah, meaning.

Allison Tyler Jones: Your core competency.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Yeah. I mean, I’m not going to ever, I tried, but I’m not, I had just recently went a great, great client and amazing kiddo and she wanted me to do the same portraits, but he wanted some amazing composite bin shark looking thing.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: I’m like, yeah, no, I could.

Allison Tyler Jones: Go see a bin shark.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Yeah, I cannot, that is not what I do. And there was a time when I would’ve tried I to do that and every time I tried to do that, go out color outside those lines, it just normally doesn’t work for me. And it’s okay to refer someone on or to, if it’s not what you do and it’s what they want, it’s okay. You know what I mean? I don’t need to do all of it. And I think for the longest time we tried to do all of it, you know what I mean? And that is, I think that’s hard. And I would not recommend that for anybody today opening a studio.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, absolutely. And then also to be settled in who you are in the good way, not stagnant, but settled. So I had a client last week, we were in the view and order appointment and she was just getting very over rushed. She’s like, I know that you told me this. I know that you told me in the consultation that you don’t sell the digital files. But she’s like, So she holds up her phone. She’s like, But my generation. And I was like, first of all, I’m like, listen to me, Linda. I’m like, okay.

Allison Tyler Jones: My generation is used to having thousands of images right here. She’s holding on the phone. And I said, Yeah. And I said, And how many of those are worth putting on the wall? And she says, well I know, but I’m just used to having all these options. I said, Look, this is a different experience. But even as she said that to me, I did clench in my heart a little bit. I thought, have I passed it? Am I old? Am I irrelevant? Is this, and then I’m like, no, actually no, because I have spent years realizing that a lot doesn’t make it better. It’s making you, it’s as an artist, rather than throwing up a hundred images, it’s way harder to get it down to the 10 best and then show those to a client in how they should be used. That’s way harder. That’s way much more work.

Allison Tyler Jones: And I told her, I said, look, it’s harder to sit and decide this is going to go on my wall. My kids are going to walk by this every day and this is going to become a part of who they are. And I said, But I’m here to help you do that. That’s why you’re sitting here and not on your computer, on your bed that I just sent you a gallery that you have to figure out because then you’re just going to pick them all and they’re never going to be special.

Allison Tyler Jones: She fought me on that until the very end. And then she sat back and she said, okay, I understand what you’re doing now I understand that you made me do that hard thing. And she goes, Now I can see that these really are the best. I don’t need those others. And I understand what you’re doing now. But I had a moment there where I was just like, okay.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: It’s hard.

Allison Tyler Jones: It is because then it makes you doubt yourself. But then I’m like, No, no, no, no, no, no honey, I have seven kids I got, they’re all married and I know what’s on my wall right now. I know what I’m glad I have. I am not going to let you on my watch. You are not buying a 40 by 60 of a newborn. That is not happening in my world.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Right.

Allison Tyler Jones: Because that kid’s only going to get cuter more fun. Cause I told her, I said, How many newborn pictures do you have of this baby? Because they have IVF baby. She’s like, oh a million. And I’m like, I know. And I said, I did that with my oldest and it was when it was double prints. My mom and I had boxes. And my mom’s like, honey, I don’t think you’re going to want this many pictures of her as a newborn. She’s only going to get more cute and more fun. And I’m just like, I don’t even know who you’re talking to. Not only do I want them all, I got to have them in double or maybe triple prints and they’re all still sitting there.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: I know, of course they are. Of course, they are. Because now you look back and you’re like, what was I?

Allison Tyler Jones: She wasn’t.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: I know. I still have in my closet now. They’ve been relegated to my dressing closet. And there’s some little ones that I took and I framed of Alex and I’m like, I think that was cute. But now it makes me giggle every time I look at it. But they are printed. They are printed.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yes, they are printed. I know.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Framed by the way.

Allison Tyler Jones: Exactly. And so that’s my story. That’s your story. But somebody listening to this who is newer in their business, they’re going to have a different story. So what are you convinced of in your soul? And when somebody tries to talk you out of it that you feel like actually this is not right. This is not how I feel about it. Everybody has that. And so how I think the story of Mary and Allison is you figure out your secret sauce. Figure out your own recipe and what you would do if it was you and guide that client through and there’s always room for that service. That’s what people, no matter how much money they have, they cannot find that. It’s very rare to find somebody will step forward and say their opinion.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: That’s fantastic. And you’re right. I mean take them on your journey in what you believe in. I mean, because gosh, isn’t it easier to lead someone down something that you believe versus trying to do something?

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. There’s no selling involved. You’re just telling them what you think.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: ‘Cause you went to this program or went on this, watched this video or whatever, and this is what somebody’s doing. So you try to do it. If it’s not authentic to who you are and you don’t believe in it really is going to be a hard journey. It’s much easier to do what you believe in and what you would do for your own family, your own loved ones, your own pet, whatever it is. Whether, whatever type of photography you are. Yeah. I mean authenticity. I think it’s free by the way too. It’s a free thing. You don’t have to buy it, you don’t need. That’s self-guided. So believing in yourself getting that basic recipe being true to who you are and what you would do for your loved ones, kind of hard to go wrong on that one.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. But it does, I think it does require putting a little bit of blinders on and quit listening to the noise out there.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: All blinders on. Sift through the noise. Sifting through the noise. There’s some really great stuff. Right? I mean, you’re going to find that little tribe or that mentor or those people. I mean, I know I have, and it changes from here to here, but you have to be able to sift through it. And the comparison is a thief of joy is just so true. And I guys, I fell for it too. I’ll follow a look and I’ll go, oh, their life is so perfect and I have to go, Wait a minute. Nope, wait a minute. Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope. This is, no, that’s just, this isn’t true.

Allison Tyler Jones: Let’s bust all the myths right now. Nobody’s life is perfect. Okay. Nobody in the whole world’s life is perfect. Everybody has stuff and good things can happen for you and success can happen for you.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Yeah.

Allison Tyler Jones: Why not you?

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Why not you? Why not? Why not you? Absolutely. And nothing, nobody’s life in nobody’s business and anything is perfect. Yeah. And the good thing is I think we’re moving, I think we’re trending away from that a little bit.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: I’ve kind of noticed that lately. And that’s been a refreshing change. And just if you meet somebody and you hit it off or you feel and your soul have this follow, I mean follow along, but always, I don’t know, I hate to say this, but always keep your eyes open and make sure that it’s fitting what you believe in and what you want to do. Because they’re already taken. Right. You be you. Yeah. And like I said, as much as I love what ATJ and her team and what they’re doing, I mean, we love it. And I go to her studio and I drool over. It’s not who we are and it doesn’t work for me. And what Mary Fisk-Taylor and Jamie Hayes are doing here in Richmond, Virginia. That isn’t take anything away from Allison and it doesn’t take anything away from me. It just, it’s okay to admire other people and what they’re doing, but I have to always stay treated who we are.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Thank goodness that we kind of sort of kind of figured that out.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, no, you definitely, definitely figured out. You’re the gold standard. And I think there’s so many, and you’re not alone. You’re not a unicorn. And I’m not a unicorn. And so many people that we know, I say it all the time, there are so many people that we’ve never heard of that are supporting their families doing this. And so, and why not you?

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Why not? And you can make a great living in photography. And I think that’s something that people don’t believe. But I promise you can. I promise you, you can and you can. And you can now. I know too many people opening studios when the pet within the past five years that are killing it out there. Why? Because they’ve got sound marketing and business. They’ve got that recipe, they’re blinders on and they’re head down and they’re just living their life. And that doesn’t sound as sexy and fun, but it’s the right thing.

Allison Tyler Jones: It doesn’t sound sexy and fun to eat vegetables and work more either. They’re rather have a shot that’s like a pill.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Yes, of course. Or just hypnotize me or something. I don’t know. Yeah. I’ll let you know when we figure that part out.

Allison Tyler Jones: I know. Yeah, please do. Please pass that on. Well, Mary, I know you’re busy and I really appreciate your time being here today and imparting your wisdom and advice.

Mary Fisk-Taylor: Oh, you’re so welcome. You’re so welcome. Thank you for having me. I love it. It’s an honor and a privilege, and thank you for all you’re doing for this industry. Love you.

Allison Tyler Jones: Well, you’re the best. Love you too.

Allison Tyler Jones: I hope you know how much I appreciate your time and your attention. And if you feel that something you learned today could benefit another fellow portrait photographer, please share this episode with them. We want to help as many portrait photographers as possible to build sustainable, enjoyable, profitable businesses that can help sustain their families and their dreams. And that’s what it’s all about. So please share if something was valuable and you feel like that it could help somebody else. And if you get a minute, please give us a review at iTunes or wherever you listen to your podcast. It makes a huge difference in other photographers being able to find us and get the information that can help them build better businesses. You’re awesome and I appreciate you. Have a great day.

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


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