Recorded: Welcome to “The Rework” with Alison Tyler Jones, a podcast dedicated to inspiring portrait photographers to uniquely brand profitably price, and confidently sell their best work. Alison 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 season four of the Rework Podcast. I’m so happy for a new year. Glad that you’re here, and I can’t think of a better way to kick off a new year than with today’s guest, Mr. Tim Walden. Tim Walden has been in this business for over 50 years. He is second generation, took over his father’s photography business and took it to the next level. He’s an industry standard. He’s been the president of Professional Photographers of America and is a friend to all that know him. He’s one of the most generous teachers that I have ever known, and you can just always take his advice to the bank.

Allison Tyler Jones: So, I wanted to start off 2024 with Tim and talk to him about, we’re going to look back and we’re also going to look forward at the things that have helped make his business what they are now, and then changes that he’s making in his business going forward. The thing that I love about Tim is that he’s never one to rest on his laurels. He is multiple award-winning photographer. He does beautiful work, but he’s always trying to level up, always trying to improve. I think he just never wants to be bored, but he’s also so generous and willing to share with us.

Allison Tyler Jones: So, I’m really excited for you to hear what he’s doing in his business this year, a brand-new employee that he’s brought into his business in a new way of working with his clients. So let’s do it.

Allison Tyler Jones: Well, 2024 had to be kicked off with a star, with a kind heart, and there’s nobody that fits both of those categories more than Tim Walden. I’m so glad that you’re here today.

Tim Walden: I’m honored to be here, see you and chat, brainstorm. It’s always fun.

Allison Tyler Jones: It’s always so fun. I know it’s been way too long. You may or may not know this, but you are one of our most popular guests on the podcast. Your episodes are among the most downloaded.

Tim Walden: Wow, I heard about that too. Thank you. Don’t want them to get tired of me. Goodness.

Allison Tyler Jones: Not surprising though. Not surprising. That’s funny.

Tim Walden: Thank you.

Allison Tyler Jones: So one of the things I wanted to talk today about just both of us to talk about, you’ve been in business… Since you took over from your dad. How long? How many years?

Tim Walden: Gosh. I mean, our studio is well over 50, probably 60 years old, and I’ve been running it for close to 40.

Allison Tyler Jones: Okay. Next year will be 20 for me. So 20, 25 will be 20. So I’m 19. So I’m just a baby in comparison.

Tim Walden: Yeah, you are.

Allison Tyler Jones: But we’ve been doing this for a while, and so I wanted to maybe talk, look back at what we feel like were seminal moments along the way where we had realizations of like, oh no, this is a thing. This is important. So the things that got us where we are now and then what are we thinking about going forward for the new year? What are the things that we’re wanting to focus on, think about in the context of the world that we’re living in, and where is portrait photography? It’s just a conversation.

Tim Walden: Well, good. Yeah, I can always run my mouth.

Allison Tyler Jones: Okay, well, good start. Yeah. So what are your thoughts? Looking back, what do you feel like were maybe a couple of things that you feel like were seminal moments for you moments in making change in your business?

Tim Walden: Well, always go back to the same thing. It’s understanding what we’re actually selling. It’s not photography. Photography is the vehicle that carries the message and we’re selling the message. We’re selling the story. Sometimes I hate saying that because I say it all the time, but yet that is foundational to what we do. It’s like how does your photography celebrate somebody’s life? How does it make their life better? How does it tell their story?

Tim Walden: And I think getting away from the mechanics of photography, I’ve often said the technical qualities are critical, but only in order to carry the message uninterrupted. Because if you’re technically inept, the message is going to be lost or destroyed. Really depends. But ultimately, if you focus on the technical only, then I think your work becomes very inept. Maybe, what’s the word? It doesn’t connect with people and then the shop price location, because they’re just looking to record their face.

Tim Walden: I think it is the ability to create something that will grow in value, tell people’s stories in a meaningful way, and do it without any excuses. And that is always at the core of what we do, Allison. And one of the things I love to say is, and I may have said it before, I don’t know, but is the qualities that make an amazing photograph don’t come as features on your digital camera.

Tim Walden: And I think we need to realize that it’s like those aren’t the things that people ultimately will invest in and will cause you to rise to the top. And they’re things like emotion, story composition, lighting, posing, those things kind of weigh in because those don’t come the features on your camera, understanding how to use those to translate the story, all of those type of things. And so we have to stay the course with that and rise to the top in that manner.

Allison Tyler Jones: I think sometimes we have a lot of friends that you’ve done a lot of print competition. That’s something that’s very big in PPA and a really good way to hone your skills and to learn quickly. But it’s easy to get caught in that too when you’re in front of a client rather than actually really connecting with them, you’re so concerned about how is this going to work out for competition or whatever, that you lose the soul, I guess, behind what it is that you’re trying to create.

Tim Walden: Absolutely. I say learn a story, tell a story, sell a story. That’s really what we do in photography. We learn the stories of people, we tell that story back to them through the process, and we sell them that story. And ultimately we do it with photography that is wall worthy, is worthy of their finances, worthy of their home, and then they’re going to start repeating that story. So everything goes back to me, it goes back to story, it goes back to connection.

Tim Walden: And a lot of it’s experience. What experience do people get when they come to your studio? And one of the things that we’re looking to do is how do we take service to the ridiculous level? How do we get ridiculous with it where people just know that they’re dealing with friends. I don’t want to photograph strangers. I want to photograph friends.

Tim Walden: I want to get to know them, and I want that experience to permeate everything that we do. And that’s very different in today’s market over we’ve been at this. While my father would always keep everybody at arms distance, because he said-

Allison Tyler Jones: Interesting.

Tim Walden: … Yeah, there’s business and then there’s family, friends, things like that. But I think those things have kind of, for me, they’ve all melt together, melted together, because we’re in a time where people are buying you as much as they buy what you do, not more so, but as much as. And so I think you have to be approachable. You have to be focused. You have to look them in the eye. You have to care about their family.

Tim Walden: We like a lot of accolades and awards. I don’t keep awards on my walls. And again, I don’t want to step on any toes, but you were talking about that is I don’t want to walk in one day and just think too highly of myself. I really don’t. I want to walk in and look at the portraits. And that’s what the trophies are. You’re only as good as the last portrait you do-

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, absolutely.

Tim Walden: That family.

Allison Tyler Jones: And it dovetails with what I’m looking back, and I’m thinking of things that were some of those seminal moments were had sitting and listening to you and Bev talking in a darkened room somewhere that I still have the notebooks that I go back to again and again. But one of the realizations that I had, I think pretty early on is that in this industry where you are, we are artists, we are practicing a craft. There are competitions, there’s technique involved.

Allison Tyler Jones: There’s a lot of, that gets very focused on us on the artist and our ability and how we do what we do and our style and all of that is important. You absolutely have to have all of those things. But only in my mind, only as it like you say, tells the story of that client, it really, the more that it’s about me, the less satisfied I am with my work.

Allison Tyler Jones: The less satisfied I’m with my job, the more I can make it about the client and their story and their life in every possible way. So I’m lighting this because Tim and Bev’s family is this and this, and I’m picking this concept because this family has this and this going on. So, I’m using my talent, my ability, and the employee elevating and celebrating that client.

Allison Tyler Jones: And so, then they might come back and say, as we’re looking at the photographs, which we’ve all heard, “Oh my gosh, you’re so talented. How am I going to pick?” And I could easily reflect that right back to them and say, no, no, well, thank you. But really look your family. I didn’t create that love that’s coming out of your eyes. I didn’t create the way that your husband looks at you. That’s you, we’re just celebrating that. And so I don’t have to have it be about me. So that takes a lot of pressure off me because I can find something to celebrate in every single person that comes through my studio.

Tim Walden: It takes it down to purpose. I mean, it takes it to purpose.

Allison Tyler Jones: And meaning.

Tim Walden: Yeah, it does. And I think when we look at our businesses, we have to say, what do I want invisible and what do I want visible? And I think a lot of things that are important need to remain invisible. And those are the technical skills, the equipment, some of your own personal accolades, although I will say the heart buys, the mind justifies. You’ve heard me say that. And there has to be a level of justification threaded through what we do.

Tim Walden: The problem is that needs to be like salt. You just add it a little bit to taste, but it’s not the main course. And so there’s things we want invisible in our business. And then the things that we want visible are the ways that we celebrate the people, the experiences they have, what the work is going to mean over time on their walls and all of those things and their stories told.

Tim Walden: One of the things we’re getting back to, and I’m ashamed to say this in a way, but I think it’ll help people, is even though we preach certain things, sometimes you don’t always practice what you preach. And one of the things we’re wanting to do this year is get back to featuring our clients and our marketing, because we got to the point where we kept the emotion in our marketing. We would share ages and people’s lives, what it meant and why imagery is so important.

Tim Walden: But we’re wanting to hone in and we’re going to our clients and saying, we want to tell your story specifically. Do you mind? We’re interviewing them. We’re looking to use that in our blog posts, in our marketing venues, and not just the peripheral where you don’t attach a person to it that is important, but actually attaching a person to the story.

Tim Walden: We did that for years. I think it’s one of the things that was the magic pixie dust for us when we realized that when we quit making our marketing about us and made it about other people, all of a sudden things started happening for us. But we’ve kept the emotional thread, but we got away from the personal side of that thinking, well, we’re busy. This is happening. It’s not like you’ve stopped doing what you-

Allison Tyler Jones: Well, and I think you evolved.

Tim Walden: You evolved. Yeah.

Allison Tyler Jones: I think you evolve. I don’t think that’s a negative. I don’t think you’ve dropped the ball. This is me being your friend. This is me mentoring. This is me mentoring Tim Walden. I think that you’re beating yourself up a little bit. I noticed that especially when you guys were really in the thick of the black and white relationship portraiture, launching that and really evolving that, it was all individual stories.

Allison Tyler Jones: And then like you said, you’ve gone to almost like a StoryBrand, like, okay, this is what this will do for you. And then going back to that roots, I don’t necessarily, I see that as an undulation. Because you don’t want your marketing to always be the same every time. So you do have to vary it, I think. But that thread is meaning beauty, love all the way through. Okay, so go on.

Tim Walden: No, that makes sense and I appreciate that. And I know there’s truth to it because the core values of our marketing and our approach are the same, but the execution does change. And sometimes what’s amazing about that type of marketing is sometimes you don’t know it’s connecting until it connects. Somebody walks through the door and they go, wow, I’ve always loved this about your business or about your art. And then whatever that tipping point is that tips them over into coming, you realize that they’ve been saturated with a lot of the things that you think is this landing with everyone.

Allison Tyler Jones: And don’t you think that it’s important to pay attention to what people are paying attention to? We think we’re sending out message A, and then they keep coming in and talking about message C that was never even intended. But you realize that, oh wait, you know what? I really am good at C and that’s what’s vibing. So let’s bring that in. Let’s bring that thread in.

Tim Walden: Absolutely. And I think that is absolutely true, and it really comes with building a deeper relationship with the people that do come through the door. I’ve really enjoyed that transition in our business into, I don’t photograph strangers. I photograph friends and remain friends. And it’s just amazing to me how that type of investment in our business and in their lives is paying off at this point in my career.

Tim Walden: And as we move forward, we’re always looking for how do we stay relevant and not lose our core values and not lose the purpose of what we do and taking service to that ridiculous level. We talked about one of the things that’s really taken off lately, and I don’t know if we talked about it last time, but boy, it’s been amazing as we’ve put on staff, a stylist and designer to work with our clients. And I don’t know if we had that conversation or not.

Allison Tyler Jones: I think so.

Tim Walden: But man, that’s been a vision of mine. It’s like I told you when we started, it’s like, how do I get to the ridiculous level of service? Because I look at where everybody runs and I think, how can I run fast the other way? And again, I don’t want that to sound insulting. I just want to encourage people that are listening to understand there’s value in avoiding the crowd as long as you do it intentionally and you do it with a brand message and purpose.

Tim Walden: And so we put on a young lady on our staff now who is Debra Osborne, and she is our stylist and designer now a lot of people, what is this stylist doing? Hair and makeup. This is somebody to come alongside our clients and make the experience even more grant and we charge appropriately for her services.

Tim Walden: And I didn’t know when I hired her, this is so crazy. She’s got a degree in fashion merchandising, but this lady, we’ve known her for years, we’ve photographed her children and she was always a friend. She’s become a closer friend. And one time I told her, I said, “Man, Deborah, I want somebody like you on staff.” Because I think one of the problems that we have in this industry is still we’re a reactionary. When you hire somebody, it’s to fix a problem, right? I want somebody to create a problem for me. I want to be too busy. I want to make too much money. I want ourselves to go.

Allison Tyler Jones: I need to hire somebody else to answer those phones.

Tim Walden: Yeah, I mean, but most people are like, I remember this will show my age. But when I was coming up with my dad, it’s like, okay, we got too many negatives. We’ll hire somebody to number negatives and to follow them. But I want somebody to create where I’ve got too many negatives to get back to. I want to fix those problems and I want somebody on my staff to create a problem.

Tim Walden: And for 20 years, we had a marketing director, you and I’ve had that conversation. She had no marketing degree and didn’t understand marketing at all, but totally knew what it meant to be a Walden client and went out and just reproduced people like her, it was amazing. Well, when Deborah came along and she was assisting, I don’t like people assisting me in the camera room. I’m a little bit selfish about that because they don’t know.

Tim Walden: I just don’t like that because I don’t like the distraction. I trust my ability to communicate, connect with people. And it’s not that they’re doing something wrong, a level of distraction from… Because to me, it’s all in a moment. It’s in the blink of an eye. It’s just happy that you’re seeing that story in the most subtle ways. But Deborah was in there, and I thought I could work with this lady. I told Bev, I said, “man, she’s good.” She’s like off the chart. She was helping me style the clothing.

Tim Walden: She was working with me on color palettes for her children, and I said, “I’d like to hire you.” And she turned me down and she said, “Well, I want to wait until my kids get out of school, but I’d be interested.” I waited a year. And then we approached her again, we hired her, and we were forever getting her legs under, getting that first session where she was involved.

Tim Walden: Now all of a sudden, man, that’s that next level mindset and it’s experience, but it’s not a facade. She’s not standing around doing nothing. She’s meeting with them in our design appointments. We’re talking about clothing and color palettes. They’re texting images to her. She’s sending them links to buy clothing if she needs to or matching it to clothing we have. She’s buying accessories for the studio, and it’s primarily for our color work. And gosh, Allison, it’s just been incredible.

Allison Tyler Jones: I bet your clients are loving it.

Tim Walden: Yeah.

Allison Tyler Jones: That’s their biggest concern.

Tim Walden: Yeah. It’s like, gosh, I wish I’d pulled it up. I knew where it was. Beverly wrote some things about it that was related to taking the pressure off of people. You Know those things. Of course, she said it really well, and I’m stumbling over what the heck did she say? But the bottom line was she’s here to make that experience magical. And then we bring in a videographer when we do those to do a high level behind the scenes instead of our behind the scenes, which is iPhone and stuff. So we bring in, and it’s actually, it’s her daughter who has a degree in documentary film.

Allison Tyler Jones: Oh, cool.

Tim Walden: From Asbury College here in Kentucky. And then she’s now in the next level, whatever graduate school, and they come in and they do this. So it just creates this amazing experience. We buy additional gifts. We just have scripted this thing out to where it’s like, how do I get ridiculous in such a way that people are like, wow, the Waldens are over the top. All the pressure’s gone, the magic’s there, but we haven’t lost that relevance of telling their story.

Allison Tyler Jones: Okay, so you know me nuts and bolts. So is this a different type of session? You obviously have to charge differently for that?

Tim Walden: We do. Yeah.

Allison Tyler Jones: Okay. And so you’re calling it something different and-

Tim Walden: It’s a designer session, yes.

Allison Tyler Jones: Okay. I love that. And so this came about just because you were paying attention when you were photographing her with how she was working in the camera room. And it was like, oh, okay, I could deal with this.

Tim Walden: She said, when she did agree to come on staff with us here, she said, “Well, I thought you would’ve hired somebody else by now.” I said, “I don’t have a job opening. I saw you and I wanted you and you. I’m not looking to hire somebody for this position.” Same thing with our marketing director. It is like you find that person that has those skills and you say, how can I use them where everybody wins?

Tim Walden: And then we make sure she wins through all this financially and with the excitement, and she’s helping us design in their home where things are going to hang, photographing the walls and making these decisions. And I like to say, she’ll come alongside you as a confidant. And I got to tell you, the people that are doing it now, it’s starting to really get some legs under it.

Tim Walden: They’re like, wow, this whole experience is, I didn’t think you guys could do it better. And I don’t want that to sound arrogant. I don’t mean this, but they’re like, well, I didn’t. At first we’re like, “Well, we always love our experience there.” But this has been over the top.

Allison Tyler Jones: Next level.

Tim Walden: We gift give differently. We put surprises in their dressing room. It’s just like, how do we take it to that level? And that’s been my latest fun thing.

Allison Tyler Jones: So, tell me, how are you selling that? How do they become aware of that? I’m assuming that this is mainly geared to existing clients that have already been through your process once, and this is another way to level them up where they can get a better experience.

Tim Walden: Yeah. Well, the first thing we do is we start saturating our marketing with it. Just draw the bricks, the camel’s back. It’s on the blogs, it’s on our website, it’s in a number of emails, things like that. And then I recommend it. I think that carries a lot of weight. I’ll say, Allison, I tell you what we need to do. We need to schedule a designer session because these are amazing. It’s going to make your life so much easier.

Tim Walden: I’ve got pages, I’ve got hidden pages, I’ve got things I can produce for clients. But I think where the weight really comes is that I believe in it. I’m passionate about it. And so I tell them, this is what you need to do. And they do most of the time. I mean, not every time.

Allison Tyler Jones: If you’re a portrait photographer, the next few months are going to be crazy. This is our busy season, and how to make the most of that busy season is to make sure that our client communication is in order, that we are not having clients showing up with the wrong clothing, that we are not having clients shocked in our sales appointments by our pricing and needing to go home and measure or going home and asking their husband, and then sales burning down and our client’s not getting what they need and we not being able to build a sustainable business.

Allison Tyler Jones: So how are we going to make sure that this season is the most successful that it possibly can be? Well, it starts by getting on the same page with your clients so that nothing is left to chance. And how I’ve done this is that I’ve spent the last 13 years revising my own internal consultation form, which by the way, you can download the consultation form that I use in my business absolutely free.

Allison Tyler Jones: But I realized after tweaking that form for about 13 years, that I needed something more. And it wasn’t just a pretty brochure and it wasn’t a price list with no context because we all know you can send a price list to somebody and they’re still shocked by the price because they never looked at it or they have no idea what those prices even mean. It’s happened to all of us.

Allison Tyler Jones: What I realized is I needed a single printed piece for my client to take away with them that would leave nothing to chance and that it would allow me to educate my clients about the price range of my products. It would help them to understand what we would and wouldn’t be shooting for during their portrait session, like actually creating a game plan for what is it that we’re actually going to be shooting for and let’s prioritize that.

Allison Tyler Jones: And then also something that would allow the clients to feel confident about selecting the clothing for their session and a printed piece that would allow them to share with their spouse and be able to put together the game plan for their session. So I needed it to be part brochure, part getting ready guide, part last minute checklist and part consultation form, because my consultation form was internal.

Allison Tyler Jones: I was keeping that form, but I wanted this printed piece to go with my clients, and I wanted it to be sexy and good looking and that they felt completely and totally cared for. So I wanted all of this in a single booklet that the client would take with them at the end of their consultation. Now, I’ve been using this, I created about five years ago. It’s called “The ATJ Game Plan Booklet,” and I started off by using it in my studio and I’ve been revising it for the last five years.

Allison Tyler Jones: And now for the first time ever, I’m offering it to the Rework community to use in your portrait studio. So what’s included in that? In this course, it’s a little mini course, not a big long course, there’s a video lesson with me on how to use the game plan booklet in your consultation. You will also have a video recording of an actual client consultation with me and a client using the booklet in real time. And then you’ll have layered PSD files of the game plan booklet that we use in our studio every day, as well as a PDF version of the latest and greatest ATJ consultation form.

Allison Tyler Jones: So, all of that is included for just a one-time payment of $295, just $295 to completely change the way that you interact with your clients, the information that they have, how taking care of they feel, by making things transparent to them, putting together the game plan for the session so that everybody’s on the same page. We all know what we’re shooting for, we know how much it’s going to cost. They know what to wear. Everybody’s on the same page.

Allison Tyler Jones: This is the document. This is the booklet that has changed my business, and I want you to have it too if it works for you. So go to do the, that’s do the and download that booklet and start using it in your business this busy season. I know that the game plan booklet will be a game changer for your business.

Allison Tyler Jones: I have questions. You and I have taught a lot and we’ve talked to lots and lots of photographers. A problem I forsee listening to you talk about this is that as creatives, we love to add things to our service. We love to add, let’s do more things, let’s do hair, let’s do makeup. Let’s have a three ring circus and a pony and clowns and all the things, but we fail to charge for it, and then we end up just doing more and more and more.

Allison Tyler Jones: And so sometimes more isn’t better because if we’re just doing… Doesn’t mean anything to the client, are we doing more to just more So how are you holding yourself to where you’re charging enough for it? What was the thought process? Okay, if we’re going to do this, walk me through that.

Tim Walden: I think for us, one thing is that we talk about it, Beverly, myself, we spend time discussing it and knowing that we both feel good about it too. I think I trust my gut in the fact that I’ve been doing this so long. Not that I don’t make mistakes. God, I wish that were true, but I don’t make it as quickly and I don’t make as big ones as I used to. I better at avoiding that.

Tim Walden: And I think three, we look at this as somebody, this is a proactive move, and I think that’s a very important part. And then we spend a lot of time training and talking with her. You’ve got to have the right person for stuff like this. I mean to me just to go out and start making decisions, I make decisions more people based than position based.

Allison Tyler Jones: For Sure.

Tim Walden: Yeah. So I think that was a key. We just loved Deborah. We love her family, her husband, her kids. They’re wonderful people. So we knew her character. We’ve known an awful long time. And then I think the other thing is we clarify this is how much we’re going to be able to pay you, and this is what it’s going to require of you, and I want you to go in with your eyes open. We made some pricing changes. We made a significant change to our session fee for that.

Tim Walden: And then we made some changes to our overall pricing because it’s commission based as well. So we do flat rate and commission based. So she made pretty good money on mean first order out. She was in somewhere between 30 and 40,000 on that particular session, and she made pretty good money on that, but I want her to prosper. I think when you’re getting people like that at that caliber, you can’t just. But she gets paid as we get paid. So I knew that.

Allison Tyler Jones: So your purposes are aligned. You’re both on the same team, you’re both working for the same team.

Tim Walden: Absolutely. And so the other thing is we didn’t eliminate what we do. We embellished what we could do. My trick with all of that though is always is we are, I want to be a simple place for people to do business with where they understand I don’t want complication, so I like our price list. I don’t have, if you want to add extra retouching, if you want to add this surface, he’d like this texture. I don’t do stuff like that. I want people to sit down and not say, this is what you need and this is what it costs. And you’ll never regret buying it. It will grow in value every single year that you have it.

Tim Walden: So, anything we add, I want to be that simple. So we had to simplify some things as you go. And I think other things morph. That’s the other thing you have to realize is, and you’ve heard me, I know say this is when I encourage people on marketing and things, I say, just make a bad plan and fix it. Because sometimes people are, I don’t know what to do, and if I do that, what if? So I’m not that kind of personal.

Allison Tyler Jones: They’re waiting for the perfect thing.

Tim Walden: Yeah. And it’s that, what is it? Analysis paralysis or whatever you just overanalysis like, well, let’s just make a decision and move forward. So all those things came together and I think there’s wisdom and prudence in being cautious, but I don’t want to be still, I would rather make the mistake of doing something positive and fixing it then make the mistake of staying where I’m at all the time.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, I think that resonates with me because I tend to analyze too much and then I talk myself out of it or whereas sometimes it’s just easier to fix it while you’re in motion. Fix the car while you’re driving it.

Tim Walden: Yeah, yeah, you go in as wisely as you can, but there comes the time, you pull the trigger, you make a decision. And with her, it was a year and after the year, we still wanted her. She’s like, “Well, why didn’t you hire somebody else?” I said, “I don’t want somebody else. I don’t even have a job opening.” It’s like, I don’t have a job.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right. You want her. So about how many hours would you say she’s working? Is this isn’t a full-time position or?

Tim Walden: She’s on a case by case.

Allison Tyler Jones: Like project based.

Tim Walden: Yeah, project based. We bring her in and she’s coming in tomorrow for some more training on some other things. We spent a lot of time brainstorming, and I involve her in decisions that probably don’t have to, but when people take ownership of something, they feel respected and loved and you treasure them. They bring up perspective that can help you. And so we involve her in a lot of things. But on a session side, we don’t do that many sessions. We’re very low volume, so we might do one a week on a yearly average. I mean, because we’re not doing huge numbers. And she’s probably involved right now in about 50% of those, which is-

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, No that’s great. Yeah, no, that’s great. So she’s helping them get… She’s coming in that consultation. She’s in on basically mostly the clothing side of it, like the pallets and how I’m imagining also the style. Is it going to be formal? Is it going to be casual? How’s that going to look? And then photographing their walls and helping them figure out where things are going to go. So then you have the right photos that you need.

Tim Walden: Absolutely. I will say we’re finding that one of the transitions that we’re seeing more and more, and it’s not really a plan, but with our color work is we’re going more and more formal because it really is one of those things that I think separate us that much more. And if I had to look back and say, what have you done right? What have you done, I don’t want to say wrong, but where have you missed the mark?

Tim Walden: I think our color work was where we missed the mark early on, and it was self-propelled itself. And the fact that it became where we threw everything that didn’t fit into a relationship portrait, and then eventually a Bovasas painting, those two were narrow. And then it’s like, oh, well color. We’ll do something here. We’ll go outside. We’ll do casual, we’ll do formal. And I find that we’re fixing that and she’s part of that fix.

Tim Walden: And used to it be like, we can find something for you to wear in your closet. Now we don’t do that anymore. It’s like, if you need to buy something, let’s buy something. And I thought that when people make investments of their time and their money and their energy, all those things leading up to it, even though we want to soften the amount of that, but if they’re willing to do those type of things, then they’re willing to invest money in their portraits.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. Well, because they are in the truest sense of the word invested in it.

Tim Walden: Yes, they are. And sometimes we think wrong. It’s like, I’m going to save them some money so they can spend some money. But I don’t know that at the top level of client base, that’s the way we think. So a more formal approach to our color work, and of course we’re working very tight with color palettes now. We’re working in color palettes. We’ve used those to help us perfect our style to find that color style a little bit more. So it’s not a catch all.

Tim Walden: And I can’t tell you that. Oh, three years ago I sat down and said, yeah, this is what I need to do to fix this problem. I’m not that smart. It was like, “How am I going to fix this? Well, let’s try that and let’s try this.” And you sit down, you roll up your sleeves, you make the plan, you fix the plan. As you go, it morphs and you’re like, “Wow, this is how I do that.”

Tim Walden: Because for us, one of the things with our color studies, I didn’t want to start adding names and styles and things like that to it. I’ve got to keep my brand really clean and we built it, they know it, the clients, I don’t want to ruin it. So it’s like, “How do we fix this color problem?” So we did a lot of that with color palettes. And we started talking about the palettes. It is actually a living thing. The palette is determining the lighting, it’s going to determine the posing, it is going to determine the expressions.

Tim Walden: So all of a sudden this color palette is making all these decisions. It’s not just a bunch of swatches. It’s making decisions and we’re allowing the palette to drive us to the decisions we want to make. And it becomes part of that. Nowon the other side, we’ve got a designer here helping us take that to the next level as well. And so it’s been a really good journey, but that’s been our latest fix over the last, I don’t know, three or four or five years, six years is how do we do that?

Allison Tyler Jones: The thing that I think is interesting about that, just looking from the outside looking in, is that I don’t think there’s a lot of these decisions that they don’t come to you fully formed all at the same time. Your black and white portraiture, that was a process and an iterative process as you refine that. Same with the Bova serge painting. And then like you said, the color became something else that maybe wasn’t as refined as you wanted it to be, but in the back of your mind you were always looking for at some point that is going to be as refined as these other things.

Allison Tyler Jones: And so, when you were ready for that, when that person walked in and you saw her working in that way, you were like, oh, that could be the answer to that. So you’re always the fact that you’re this many years in and that you’re still looking for ways to be relevant and ways to evolve in positive ways to become more of who you already are, I always think of you in that way. And I think that’s the genius is don’t ever try to be anybody else. The other thing I have to note, I put a note on my paper here, is that I always have to dig a little bit with you because you have the nice southern gentleman exterior, but you are a contrarian and a control freak.

Tim Walden: I have that. I guess.

Allison Tyler Jones: You’re both of that, but you’re so nice and have the smiling. And so people may not know that about you, but you are, like you say, when everybody’s running one way, it’s not that you are saying, I’m not going to do that. If everybody just decided that they were going to all go be studio portrait photographers and do black and white, which is exactly what happened when you guys started speaking.

Allison Tyler Jones: And everybody was doing that, you still have your own way of setting yourself apart and making your clients feel special. You’re always going to do it the Tim Walden way. You’re not reactionary in that way. And I love that. And you are a control freak, and I love that too.

Tim Walden: Well, you know me well enough to know that’s true. And I can’t say it’s not when I’m sitting here looking at you because you know the truth, but I am a bit of a control freak, and I say, I’m a little OCD. Actually I say CDO that way. What alphabetical order, right?

Allison Tyler Jones: Yes.

Tim Walden: About details and looking for perfection. Photography to me has always been a love hate on parts of it because I love the art side. The scientific side balancing those two is pushing the button at the right time, but is the light in the right? I mean that’s been part of my both love hated this industry is the fact that I look at it and I go, gosh, you could have done better on that compositionally lighting the background, it’s a little hot, it’s a little whatever it might be. You beat yourself up. But ultimately I’m not willing to sacrifice the message.

Tim Walden: And so yeah, it’s an ongoing thing with me. But if that were to go away, I probably wouldn’t do photography anymore because I’ve got to have a hill to climb. The thing is like you’re talking about, it has to be the same hill because that’s who I am, but I haven’t got to the top of it. So I’m still working toward that.

Allison Tyler Jones: You actually never will because I don’t know who said it, but there’s that your critical eye will always outstrip your ability. There’s always, no matter how good unquote we are, you’re always going to be setting yourself that challenge. And if you don’t, I think you probably should give it up. It is like if you don’t like people, you shouldn’t be a portrait photographer. And if you aren’t wanting to have a little bit of control freak having that I single to the brand and the experience that you want your client to have and you’re constantly bringing people back to that.

Tim Walden: You know me too well, that’s the problem now.

Allison Tyler Jones: I love it. I recognize it because I have similar tendencies for sure. I found a post on my Instagram that was making me think of what you were talking about with the clients and this design person that you’ve hired and the concept of how our clients invest in our process. And so I have this text that a mom sent me before their portrait session, and so see if this sounds familiar to you. She said, “Pedicures, manicures, haircuts, brows, wax, dry cleaning, drop off and pickup. Facials, multiple trips to fashion square mall appointments for makeup and hair all time perfectly so as not to arrive a minute late.

Allison Tyler Jones: Testing eyelash glue for allergic reactions, jewelry, brought and return. Multiple packages opened and returned. Suits that were ordered and came in wrong and returned and fitted two more times to get it right, and multiple arguments won and lost over close and other things they have no say in. And someday I will look at these pictures with tears remembering this moment in time when we all still lived under one roof for the last few months. I’m already crying.

Tim Walden: That’s beautiful.

Allison Tyler Jones: So, this was before she saw the pictures.

Tim Walden: Wow. That’s because she knows you and she knows what to expect. The thing about a brand, and this is what you do, and this reminds me of that comment, is my favorite thing to say about a brand is that a successful brands form people’s expectations and then fulfills them. And ultimately everybody comes with you with an expectation. When people come to you, Allison, they have an expectation. You formed that expectation. You formed it on your passion, you formed it on your skillset.

Tim Walden: You formed it on the story that you’re going to tell about them and for them and so fulfilling, it becomes they know what that looks like. That’s why I think things like what you just read to me that tells me that you formed their expectation, now it’s just a matter of fulfilling it. That’s what photographers do wrong. They’re like, oh, I want all in the name of service. Somebody wants a blue background, somebody wants this, and they want that. You become all these things, and in essence, you’re not forming expectations. Everybody comes with one. You’re not fulfilling it.

Tim Walden: You’re like, “What did I do wrong?” And so I think that tells me that great businesses like yours, great image makers like you are forming people’s expectations. And then you’ve built the process and the place and the method to fulfill that expectation. And that’s what I think we do and try to do. And it’s what’s going to make you successful in this business, not that you have, I have a $3,000 camera, a $5,000 camera, it’s none of that. Those are just tools. So yeah, kudos. I love that. That’s what that tells me, Allison, when you read this.

Allison Tyler Jones: Well, you’re nice. I love that too. I just thought it is such an investment. And as I read through this again, I’m like, okay, I think this designer session that you’re onto is such a genius idea because I actually had a new client came to us into a consultation early this fall, and they were like a brother and sister. They own a lot of businesses together, and their families are very close. They do everything together. So they wanted their families, their kids, grandkids, to all be photographed together. And then they wanted to do a bunch of stuff separately or whatever.

Allison Tyler Jones: And so, he said, okay, so you’re going to pick all the clothes for us and have them here, and then you’re going to have a team of hair and makeup people that are going to do our hair and makeup, and we’re going to do all this here. And I was like, “No.” So I had to, okay, so we talked about forming expectations in his mind they were going to roll in the Kardashians. We were going to have a team of hair and makeup. We were going to have stylists on staff. He goes, oh, he goes, well, I thought that it was going to be like a $20,000 session fee. I kid you not.

Tim Walden: It can be.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. And I said, well, I can absolutely make that happen. Interesting. So that kind of made me think, okay, hold on. Is there another tier here for people that want something like that? So just exactly what you said, I think there’s something in the ether there that if people don’t want, and Kathryn, our friend, Kathryn Langsford in Canada.

Allison Tyler Jones: She started offering the service where they’ll go get all the clothes and pick them up from the client and they’ll get them dry cleaned and everything, and they bring them to the studio and have them set up there on a rack so that they literally just come in and nobody’s forgot the tie. I love that bell, the socks. So I think there are different ways to working that we might find in the next few years are completely different than what we thought

Tim Walden: Without losing who we are as artists. It’s just like we’re those peripheral things that will keep us on track for excellence, timelessness, storytelling, all those, but take both the experience and the finite details and the finessing to the next level. And so for us right now, this is that thing that is getting legs under it and starting to prove to be beneficial. So our next conversation with Beverly was like, we were talking, we were like, well, this is when people do this. They’re like over the top, we’re getting some energy underneath it. Maybe there shouldn’t be another option and we’re not there.

Allison Tyler Jones: This is how we do it.

Tim Walden: This is how we do it, and we’re not there. I’m not doing that right now, but now it’s in the conversation.

Allison Tyler Jones: And that makes me think of the Grant Cardone book that Sell or Be Sold?

Tim Walden: Yeah, love that.

Allison Tyler Jones: Love that. And he talks in there about, there’s one part about how when somebody’s balking at the price of something, he’s like, what we automatically think of is that, oh, they’re cheap. But he says, actually, what they might be telling you is, I don’t want to pay this much money for that thing you’re selling. I actually want something more. So, he’s using a car as an example.

Allison Tyler Jones: I don’t want to pay $60,000 for something that has cloth seats and not automatic windows or whatever. I’d rather pay 80 and have the full thing. But because we’re locked in our own little head and our own little scarcity mentality, and we’re thinking a lot of our students do, is that, well, people are cheap. They just want digital files. They don’t want. They don’t want, they don’t want, it’s like, no, actually they probably want more.

Tim Walden: Yeah, that’s right.

Allison Tyler Jones: Because they’re used to just paying for a few digital files for a few hundred dollars, but they don’t even know that this exists. They don’t even know it exists that you could print it, frame it, hanging it on their wall, and have the designer come in and help them pick their clothes.

Tim Walden: Yes, absolutely. And it’s like when you see those, when you dealing with those things, create those gaps, we talk about those are gaps. And I always say, how do I widen the gap between me and all the other photographers? And what’s funny about that, I don’t really, and again, I don’t know if this is sound wrong, but I rarely think about that from photographic excellence, although that’s important.

Tim Walden: I think about it in the peripheral things, experience in all of the services that are provided and the decisions that are not added but eliminated in that process. And I just hold myself accountable to excellence in photography. I don’t always hit the mark. I never hit the mark I want. But usually when I’m thinking about creating gaps, it’s rarely like, well, I need to have another light. Or if I had lens, there’s people I would hire to photograph.

Tim Walden: If Beverly and I got married again, there’s people I would hire to photograph my wedding with an iPhone over other people that have a $20,000 camera because I know what they do with that tool, right? So when I’m thinking about_

Allison Tyler Jones: Absolutely.

Tim Walden: … I’m not thinking about tools, I’m thinking about the other things, the investment worthiness, the clarity, the consistency, and more than anything else, the message, the purpose, the heart. Those are the things. And so, yeah, I’d rather have some iPhone photos, but some people you and I know, then I would’ve given somebody, it’s like a while ago, a $20,000 camera. I don’t care.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, that’s so true. It is so true. I love that. Well, I’m excited. Thank you for sharing the inside T on Walden Photography and what’s new and happening there, because you’re always ahead of the pack and helping all of us to be better and always so willing to share. I so much appreciate that about you.

Tim Walden: Well, we all got here because people that were willing to share and then friendships that like we had with you and others where we sharpen each other and our skills, and gosh, I don’t want to be the one that doesn’t play along. But what people don’t realize is that through the process, I learned so much. And that’s what keeps me both inspired and making hopefully positive changes and the negative-

Allison Tyler Jones: Inspired and humble, right? Inspired and humble. Because as you’re trying new things, we’re messing it up too. And you’re realizing that not just going from success to success. There’s some fails along the way and that keeps you trying to, and I think that’s an important part of the process as well.

Tim Walden: Absolutely. You’re very kind.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. I love that. Well, thank you so much for being here. I hope I’m wishing that 2024 is the best for you. I’m hoping I can get you back at least once more in this year that we can do another one or two more episodes. But I think this is a great kickoff for the new year, and I’m feeling very inspired. I have three pages of notes and I’m excited.

Tim Walden: I’m honored. You’re the best. Thank you.

Allison Tyler Jones: Thank you.

Recorded: You can find more great resources from Allison at and on Instagram @Do.the.Rework.

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