Allison Tyler Jones: Let me ask you a few questions. Do you really hate confrontation? Do you find yourself replaying over and over again certain client scenarios in which you wish you’d had a better, more confident answer for your client? Or are you getting the same questions over and over again in your business with no really good way to answer them? Maybe you’ve made some changes in your business and are getting pushback from clients or employees and you just don’t know how to respond. Well, the problem isn’t you. You just simply need to rework your words. It’s time to evaluate every word you’re using with your clients and learn new ways of educating and communicating with them so that your clients understand what you do and why it means so much to them. I’m going to help you get up to speed on those exact strategies that I’m using right now in my portrait studio to identify, communicate with, and take exceptional care of my very best clients.
Allison Tyler Jones: And I put it all together for you in a free masterclass, Rework Your Words. Just go to dotherework.com/masterclass. That’s dotherework.com/masterclass and register for my free masterclass, Rework Your Words. What to say so clients get what you do and why they need you. It’s my behind the scenes secrets to the exact words you need to educate your clients in a way that’s authentic and clear and concise and not manipulative or salesy. I’d love to see you there. That’s dotherework.com/masterclass. Let’s do it.
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. I find that in this industry, portrait photographers are overwhelmingly creative, overwhelmingly kind, compassionate human beings who love seeing the connection between families. And along with that comes the heart and feelings of an artist and the heart and feelings of family people. And so often we can be taken advantage of and we can feel like that old quote, “Nice girls finish last.” Or, “Nice guys finish last.” But today’s guest puts the lie to that quote because Nadine Priestley, who is a photographer residing in the Bay Area, is the mother of five. She has a blended family. She’s a portrait photographer specializing in connecting generations, but she also has a thriving commercial business where she can go in and work with CEOs, other executives in the C-Suite and use her ability, her empathic ability, her caring ability, her kind soft personality to work with these high-powered executives and also nice families. She can navigate both of those worlds seamlessly.
Allison Tyler Jones: Now, it hasn’t come easily. It hasn’t come without work, and we’re going to talk about some of the blips that she’s encountered along the way, but how she’s been able to find her way through, keeping that kindness, that softness, and that compassion intact. Whether she’s dealing with a C-suite executive or a toddler and a family. She’s one of my favorite people. I think you’re going to absolutely love her, and I know you’re going to find inspiration in the story of Nadine Priestley. Let’s do it. Okay. I have a very special guest today in the podcast studio, miss Nadine Priestley, who I have only met in person once, but have known for actually many years. She is a photographer in the Bay Area?
Nadine Priestley: Yes.
Allison Tyler Jones: Of San Francisco. And how I knew her is that she referred many clients to me over the years. And then we met in the Art of Selling Art course. She was the founding member, the very first signup, the founding member. So you’ll always hold that special place in my heart. So Nadine, tell our listeners a little bit about you, about your business, what you do?
Nadine Priestley: Well, I am a mother of five. We’re a blended family, and I met my three oldest kids when they were already three, five, and seven. Fast forward, there’re now 38, 40 and 42. So time really does fly.
Allison Tyler Jones: Wow.
Nadine Priestley: And I found because of marrying their dad and them living with their dad halftime every week, it was clear I needed to move to the Bay Area to be with them if I wanted to be in that family. And happily, I’ve been there for a very long time, become part of the fabric of Silicon Valley and grateful to live between San Francisco and San Jose and be in that area. And about 15 years ago, I switched up careers and decided to become a portrait photographer. And soon after I started my business, I thought I needed really cool business cards and a logo and work with one of my design friends.
Nadine Priestley: It was like, “Well, there’s more than just the name of your business. What are you doing?” And so we designed this card that was connecting generations because that was my passion. I was very, very passionate about generations, having a legacy, living through all of the different phases that they lived through. And having had the joy of my three oldest and seeing how fast time flies by before we had my two other kids, I just knew time did not wait for anyone. And so while I wasn’t technically trained as a photographer, my heart was all over it. And I also had good role modeling from family members as I look back as to why I’m so passionate about families. So now I do both portrait photography and also a lot of executive headshot, portrait work for teams and various things when they need someone at the very high end.
Allison Tyler Jones: And it’s beautiful work and have worked with so many high rollers in that area for sure.
Nadine Priestley: It’s been such a blessing. And I think one of my neighbors who actually just recently passed away was one of my earliest champions. He just totally knew that I should be doing this and was in a position to ask me a whole lot of things to do because he was head of the Boys and Girls Club and they needed someone to do certain things back really early in my career. And it gave me a lot of confidence and experience that I am forever grateful for.
Allison Tyler Jones: That’s amazing. Well, and I think of that famous quote, “Nice guys finish last.” We all heard that. And when I think of you, I think, “Nice Girls finish first.” Because you are one of the most kind, thoughtful, generous people that I know. And you’re so kind that sometimes I’m like, “Is she going to be okay?” I’m worried that people will take advantage of you because you’re so nice. Just looking at the business that you’ve created, the clients that you have and the level that you serve them at, but still maintain this open heart and generous spirit, it’s a testament to nice girl’s finish first. You are the poster woman of that.
Nadine Priestley: Thank you. And I think it helps me bring out what I see in my clients, even when they’re feeling very nervous or uncomfortable or not the celebrity type that’s always being photographed and know exactly their looks. They trust me and I get their life.
Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. Well because you’re photographing executives who, like you’re saying, they’re not movie stars. It’s all between their ears.
Nadine Priestley: Yeah.
Allison Tyler Jones: It’s the brain.
Nadine Priestley: Totally.
Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.
Nadine Priestley: Totally.
Allison Tyler Jones: They’ve never traded on their looks in their life, they’re trading on their brains, and now you’re here with a camera and they don’t feel confident in how they look.
Nadine Priestley: Exactly.
Allison Tyler Jones: Talk more about that. What do you do to put them at ease?
Nadine Priestley: So first of all, I really empathize with the world that they’re in because I was once a bit in that world myself, and I spent 25 years being really close to the C-suite kind of people in various roles. And I totally understand corporate America from top to bottom as far as how you feel in these different positions. So I can walk in, work with their staffs, way before I get there to make sure everything is planned. And I’m very much a person who prefers to control as many things as I can upfront so that when I have this person in front of me, I can really be one-on-one with that person to do what we need to do most efficiently and so that they love the work and everyone around them loves the work. So it becomes a very one-on-one relationship sort of thing, which is what I love more than… I’m not one who seeks out being in front of a ton of people altogether.
Nadine Priestley: I’m more the one who’s observing and then loving the one-to-one. So I think that works in my favor. And then of course, I have many of my family clients who are also very engaged in living in this complex world that we live in and still need to make time to be present for family photos and various things. And it’s just such a joy to be able to see them coming together to create something that they never even knew possible, but on their terms. A lot of my work is done on kind of a rapid pace because that’s the slice of time we have available. And I grew up photographing my five kids and the youngest one, as you know, there’s always a ringer.
Allison Tyler Jones: Or two. In my case, there’s two.
Nadine Priestley: Yes.
Allison Tyler Jones: If you’d had seven, you would’ve might’ve had two.
Nadine Priestley: Yes. And the boys were saying, “Hey, if you just do this little person, we would be done. So can you please just do it so we can be done?”
Allison Tyler Jones: Get on board.
Nadine Priestley: Get on board, yeah, but now they are the ones who are organizing our family photo shoots and making sure things happened for their daughters and their kids. And it’s a testament to the strength of all of them being one family and all of us doing things together. So yeah, I’m blessed for sure.
Allison Tyler Jones: I love that. So how has your business evolved? How are you doing business now versus any other time? What changes have you made in your business? What’s working for you now? What’s good?
Nadine Priestley: Okay. So Alison, I have to thank you very much for helping me be a better business person for myself. Because I’m a decent business person for other people, but not for something that’s so personal, that’s so important to me. And I think you opened my eyes in so many ways, but one of the ways is you really taught me to see much, much bigger. Like what is really possible for the kind of work that I’m doing. And I don’t think I valued what I was actually giving to my clients and what they were getting in a way that wasn’t all sustainable for me truly. And so when you helped all us in class, me in particular, really understand that there’s so much more value to what I’m doing and that I needed to price myself to take all of those things into consideration, I ended up having the most stellar year the first year we worked together.
Nadine Priestley: And I did even better this past year, despite in an economic environment like Silicon Valley, it’s a little harder. People are feeling different than they did a year ago. And I saw that starting probably earlier than many other places in the country. But nonetheless, people still need photography. It’s not like those moments just stay on ice and wait for you to have economic times that are ready. Those moments are fleeting and they’re gone. So that was really big. And I think sometimes it would just be little things where you would say, “Oh yeah, sometimes we just hope people will pay us better.” And it’s like, “Well, what store have I been to?” When I said, “Oh, well, this is really worth so much more than whatever the price tag was.” I’m like, get that out of my head. So I quickly updated my pricing to be much simpler and much more reflective of what I do.
Nadine Priestley: And I think one of the biggest areas where that comes into play is I really love telling stories through albums. And I used to break my neck to do these amazing stories without valuing each of those images that was priceless, that was inside that book. And now I feel like I’m congruent with doing those books in such a wonderful way. And I think my clients are thrilled because they get more of what they really want. I mean, these fine art books are incredible, and they last for many generations, I’m sure. So that’s really huge. And then there’s of course, little things like responding immediately when someone calls, texts or emails. Don’t let anything get stale for any moment in time. And so that’s also been helpful because I’m right away responding and that’s when they want to talk about something.
Allison Tyler Jones: Right.
Nadine Priestley: Or I’ve been in situations where I thought I had clearly communicated my pricing, what everything was upfront, we were knowing what we’re doing, but you’ve taught me you actually need to invoice and do things upfront so that it’s more like a retail model where people know immediately what they just signed up to spend. And so there’s no surprises at the end when you’re like, “What? You’re surprised that the simple process that we had wasn’t so clear?”
Allison Tyler Jones: Right.
Nadine Priestley: And just learning various things that make me a better business photographer, I mean, person operating a successful portrait business. So that’s an incredible.
Allison Tyler Jones: Well, you’re incredible because it’s just having a trainer. You can have the best trainer in the world, but you actually have to show up and do the workout and they can’t do it for you. And so I’ve watched you because you have such a kind heart that some of the concepts are hard to do because you think, “Well, I don’t think I’m all that.” Or, “I don’t want to be out front.” Or whatever. But then realizing that when you’re able to put all of that effort and care because that effort and care is who you are. You’re never going to shortchange somebody, you just won’t.
Nadine Priestley: No.
Allison Tyler Jones: And then when you’re charging appropriately, then you don’t have to worry about that. There’s no fear on the back end of they’re not going to value this, and I can’t give this amount of time because they’re not paying me for it. And then feeling resentful or whatever. You can just be like, “These guys are amazing and I’m going to make this the best that I possibly can be.” And that’s congruent with who you are.
Nadine Priestley: Yeah. And I also think another joy that I have with my clients is so often they hire me to do one thing. Let’s say I have an example of someone where I did family photos for them long time ago. And then every time their high school seniors… They had three kids. Every time they became seniors, I did the senior work and then the dad ended up creating his own business and he called me to create all the images for the website. And then I photographed their team all of the time for the last, however long they’ve been in existence, almost five years. So I love how we go back and forth with things. And I think one of the other big learnings that I learned from you and had the courage to practice is consulting with clients before they ever see my camera. And I don’t have a studio, so I find myself, more often than not, going to my client’s homes for these consultations.
Nadine Priestley: And it really, really helps me in so many levels. And I think some of the bonuses that I hadn’t expected was often meeting other members of the family, not just the person who hired me. Because it could be the mom, could be the dad, could be somebody else. But if I meet people in the context of their own home where they are their own person, it just allows me to have an easier insight into who they are and how they operate and connect with each other. And I just really love almost becoming a part of their family.
Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. Well, which goes back to what you were just saying a few moments ago, which is that you love the one-on-one.
Nadine Priestley: Yes. I do love the one-on-one.
Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. And you love the personal, you love the specific.
Nadine Priestley: Yes.
Allison Tyler Jones: And you love the individual. And so that is just becoming more of who you already are.
Nadine Priestley: Yeah.
Allison Tyler Jones: Is awesome.
Nadine Priestley: It’s really such a great feeling. And when I have the joy of being able to photograph the same family or the same team, whether it’s corporation, multiple times, it just becomes better and better for all of us because we just understand each other better. We know how to make it great. And that’s why I really love to have my clients and see them over multiple, multiple years because I feel like we both just do our best work, the better we know one another.
Allison Tyler Jones: That’s such a sustainable model too, because those are relationships that will weather any economic storm. It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t affect a business because it certainly can, but they know there’s no risk in coming to you because they know you, they’ve dealt with you. So it might be more expensive than maybe what somebody else they’ve heard about, but they know what they’re getting. They know it’s going to be great, and they know that there’s no risk involved. It’s going to be right or you’re going to make it right because that’s who you are.
Nadine Priestley: Totally, totally. Yep. So positioning me in the right light is part of what I’ve gained confidence to do with my clients and be able to accept when they say, “Well, you’re clearly high end and we use you when it matters most.” Is something that I do now get, because I look at my work and it is very good.
Allison Tyler Jones: Yes, it is.
Nadine Priestley: There’s a lot behind just what you see in the picture. It’s like, the behind the scenes of how that all came together is pretty magical. And I strive very hard to always make the people who go through that experience walk away with a fabulous feeling about how that was. Because I know it impacts what they see on their walls or what they see in their book, and it brings back that feeling.
Allison Tyler Jones: Mm-hmm. I love that. So I have a couple questions for you. So as a nice girl that you are?
Nadine Priestley: Yes.
Allison Tyler Jones: Have you been taken advantage of in business? Have you felt taken advantage of? How do you advocate for yourself or how do you speak up for yourself when you are such a kind, nice person? What does that look like in your world?
Nadine Priestley: I think that it is always hard for me to be able to set out more clearly what the process is and to eliminate any surprises. So I think I’m constantly on a journey of trying to make my communication more clear and more simple so that there aren’t surprises and make sure people know what they’re spending before I go design their album and all of that. But I won’t kid you that there are situations where maybe I’m not following my process exactly like I should. And I really try to learn from those experiences, but also keep my brand in mind. And I think you’ve helped me so much when I’ve gotten into situations where it’s difficult to harsh through and decide, “Okay, this is what we’re going to do.” And then I go do it and the chips fall where they may and I move on rather than hanging onto it and trying to work through it in a further way.
Nadine Priestley: I’m like, “Okay, this one was a learning case and now I’m going to go do whatever I need to do better on the business side for the next situation.” But I’m not going to dwell on the missed portion of whatever had happened.
Allison Tyler Jones: Right. Well, because I think for women in particular, the reason I’m kind of digging in on this is that we think that if we are… Let’s just talk about how fun this is going to be and how great it’s going to look and all of that. And we don’t get down to the nitty, gritty, “Oh, let’s just talk about the… Oh let’s talk about the money later. Oh, let’s just do the pictures.” And then we pour our heart and soul into it and make it amazing and great. And then we show the images. And then at some point we do have to say a number, even though we don’t want to. We want them to just magically wake up in the night and go, “You know what? I’m going to send her $10,000 because she’s so nice.” But at some point we have to say a number.
Allison Tyler Jones: And then sometimes that number becomes so shocking because they didn’t have time to get used to it. They didn’t have time to put it into context. And then we are the bad guy and we don’t like to be the bad guy. You’re used to being the good guy. And so it’s counterintuitive, I think. And it was so hard for me for sure. And I’m not nearly as nice as you are, but it is hard. But I’ve watched you progress to the point where you realize, “Okay, if I don’t say this, I’m actually in a way kind of being dishonest. And they’re going to feel like I pulled the rug out from under them, and I never want to feel like that ever again.”
Nadine Priestley: Totally. And I’ve learned, even though I would verbally say, “This is how it works.” I would put certain things in their upfront session fee. We both talked about people don’t read and they don’t do math. And so I have to do the math, over-communicate with the big numbers so that there’s no surprise. Be able to estimate, “Oh, most of my clients would spend at least for this type of a situation. There probably will be more images than what you actually expected to show up. So don’t be mad at me if you actually decide you want to buy twice as many as you think you might want to buy, because I can help you if we need to call those down. But you might decide you really don’t want to call them down. So this is what you need to be prepared for.”
Nadine Priestley: And I think it’s just so much better how you taught us to talk about that upfront and let the balloon deflate upfront before we ever pick up the camera in these situations so that we truly know what we’re shooting for to the best of our abilities.
Allison Tyler Jones: And then you get to be nice on the back end.
Nadine Priestley: Yes.
Allison Tyler Jones: I mean, you’re nice all the way through, but it’s kinder to inform upfront. So through the process of all of this, which I’m just so proud of you, I think you’re just doing such a great job, what has been the hardest thing? What about getting better in the business has been the most difficult for you, do you think?
Nadine Priestley: I think the part that I’m still not doing up to my standards is getting my website. Getting some of my messages publicly out the way that I would want to, because I think so much of my business is based on referrals and based on people in my community typically are the ones that I’m serving by far the most. So because of the various things that I’m involved in and people know who I am, and I’m doing all these different projects, I learn a lot from the people that already know me, but I still have an appetite to get to know new people every year because my clients change. Some of them move away, different things happen.
Allison Tyler Jones: Sure.
Nadine Priestley: We all grow older, and it’s important to keep the new funnels in place. And so that’s what I struggle with the most, is externally tooting my horn in anyway. It’s seems like-
Allison Tyler Jones: I know it’s so hard. Well, I know I’m the worst self-promoter on the planet, but I think what I find, and this is just something that’s coming to me as we’re talking about this, is that what you can have confidence in is the beauty of people. The beauty of the average person, the conflicted CEO, the whatever, that you have confidence. You have confidence in what portraiting does for people.
Nadine Priestley: Oh, sure.
Allison Tyler Jones: And so you never have to actually talk about yourself.
Nadine Priestley: That’s true.
Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. You will actually never have to talk if it’s because you are not ever going to see anything on my website that’s going to be like, “Allison Tyler Jones, award-winning, blah, blah, blah.” No. It’s always about why we’re doing it because we love families. And I think very similar experiences. Family, we love family, we love connection. We love kids and all of that. So I think you could talk about that all day long and never have to mention yourself.
Nadine Priestley: Yes.
Allison Tyler Jones: And in a way that’s so consistent with your brand.
Nadine Priestley: Well, thank you for seeing what my brand is before I did.
Allison Tyler Jones: Well, you’ve got it. You’re just so dang humble. But you’re a class act, and I appreciate you taking the time to be here. I think we’ve got so many good ideas. I hope people were taking notes as they’re listening to this because we have a lot of good insights, and I think we gravitate toward what we know and what we love. We gravitate toward things that speak to us. And sometimes we don’t realize that until in retrospect, where we look back and go, “Oh, here’s a common thread, and this is how this all ties together.” Your experience in corporate America. I mean, there are many photographers that don’t have that experience, but wow, has that stood you in good stead?
Nadine Priestley: Yeah. It really makes me very comfortable with any situation that I’m in because I get it.
Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.
Nadine Priestley: I know how people play all their various roles and the demands that they have in their lives. And I’m blessed with so many clients that also really love art and have appreciation for things that come together and don’t have their own time to do those things or can’t do them for their families, but they sure, sure appreciate them. And I mean, that’s just awesome for me to see how we can do something for people that gives them that confidence.
Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, I love that. So what advice would you give to our listeners if somebody was coming into, let’s just say we have a lot of listeners that do corporate work. Do you have any suggestions on dos and don’ts if you’re going to be photographing a C-suite executive or whatever, are there any kind of quick little dos and don’ts that you would have for somebody? Common mistakes or just things that you would suggest?
Nadine Priestley: Well, I think that one of the things that I would suggest is finding out truly how much time you have with a person. Because I would say in general, if I have not captured that person in 10 minutes, being ready when they are ready to be photographed, you got to get it done. And 10 minutes is often the window to have some gorgeous portraits of them available. And they’re not going to wait around. They’ve got too many other things to do. And I also would suggest making sure that you take advantage of talking to whomever is hiring you because it’s not the CEO that typically calls you and get a lay of the land. And I always go visit wherever I’m going to be photographing in advance, because for me, I need to know where that is. And if it means it’s the same day, I’m there much earlier than the appointed time whenever the CEO is going to be there, to just make sure there is no glitch at all on my side, and that we have every opportunity for success.
Nadine Priestley: And then another thing that has become very important is sometimes photographing teams together. And I find that it’s important to be able to communicate in advance what’s going to happen. It’s simple things like, “Are we wearing ties or no ties?” You can imagine it used to be very important for people to wear ties. Well, there are so few people that I photographed these days that need to wear a tie. Maybe they need to wear a jacket, but not a tie. And you don’t want people to show up in a team and someone to look like the odd person out. And so it’s really important to give enough guidance to people so that they can be a part of the success of how that whole team looks together rather than someone show up and for some reason feel badly because that’s the last thing any of us want.
Allison Tyler Jones: Oh, yeah, that would be a disaster.
Nadine Priestley: Be prepared, I think is the best thing that I could offer. And just recognizing time is leading.
Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. Well, so in that regard, they really are kind of almost like celebrity shoots. And you hear people that photographs celebrities that are like, “Look, we have three minutes.” And they had their handlers. They walk in, like, you got to be ready to go and have that dialed in. You’re not going to get an hour.
Nadine Priestley: Yeah. And usually I ask for longer because I know they could be late. Something could happen, but I know I got to get it done and be ready for whatever the situation is.
Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. I love that. Well, you’re prepared. You got it.
Nadine Priestley: Well, it makes my life much easier being as prepared as I can be, because then whatever comes up that’s not in the game plan, it allows me to adjust to that quickly and still achieve our goal.
Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, I love that. Well, I would trust you with anything, and I just appreciate you taking the time today. I know that our listeners are going to find great value in this, and I just appreciate you as a friend and so glad that I know you. So glad that you’re in my life.
Nadine Priestley: Well, it’s my pleasure, Allison, and I am just extremely grateful for the Rework, for you, for the mind shift. And I would say if anyone is at all hesitating signing up to take the Art of Selling, I would clearly take that in a heartbeat because that together with Your Rework podcast is just reassuring words to me. So I recently met you at imaging, and I ended up having to drive from another place, not California, to get there, and I bathed myself with repeats of the ATJ podcast, and there’s so many insights, that having heard them before in a new light, I was able to just gain so much more even from hearing them again. And so I’m just grateful that you’re out there and you’re doing this in such a creative way. Love it.
Allison Tyler Jones: Thank you.
Nadine Priestley: I love you. Thank you.
Allison Tyler Jones: I love you too. Thank you all. We’re lucky to have amazing guests, so thank you. Well give your mom an extra hug from me, even though she doesn’t know who I am. And good luck on your travels home, and we’ll talk to you soon.
Nadine Priestley: All right. Bye Allison.
Allison Tyler Jones: Thank you. Bye. If you’re driving or on a treadmill while you’re listening to this, don’t forget at some point to stop and register for my free masterclass, Rework Your Words. It’s at dotherework.com/masterclass. You’re going to want this information because in this brand new workshop, I’m going to walk you through the words you need to say to yourself that will convince you how much your talents and your service brings to your clients’ lives. The words that will help you sell on value, not price, and the actual exact words that we use in our portrait studio every single day, that will give you a clear way to talk about your work, that will educate your clients instead of just “selling” them. Whether you love to sell or avoid it like the plague, selling portraits is a unique skill set and one that can be learned and enjoyable. All you need to do is rework your words. Join me at dotherework.com/masterclass to register for the free masterclass coming up. See you there.
Recorded: You can find more great resources from Allison at dotherework.com and on Instagram at do.the.rework.