Let's Play! Children's Photography With Tamara Lackey (Part 3)

[Photo by Tamara Lackey]
Noted children's photographer Tamara Lackey hosted a creativeLive workshop giving us all of her tips on how to photograph children successfully.

In this last part of the 3-part series. Tamara talks about the business side of photography and ways to achieve a work/life balance.


Styling: Tamara give suggestions about clothing that photograph better, but she lets child to choose clothing that's distinctive to the child. For families, it's good they coordinate so they look like a group. But choose styles that are timeless.

In her studio: Tamara keeps a variety of products that she wants to show and sell: framed pieces, canvas wrap. She wants to give examples of how finished prints look.

Gold reflectors: Tamara uses a gold reflector only in a cold environment when she wants to warm up the pictures.


What is involved:
  • Marketing (Photographers must track; ask customers how they found out about you so that you know what is working and what isn't.)
  • Brand building
  • Website development
  • Gathering information
  • Responding to inquiries
  • Developing Pricing
  • Shooting
  • Editing/Post-processing
  • Backup/Disaster recovery (minimum 3)
  • Selling
  • Packaging
  • Delivery
  • Customer Management System (tracking customers throughout each stage)
  • Financial Systems (invoicing, sales tax, reporting, quarterly federal/state taxes, expense tracking, bank reconciliation - Tamara recommends Successware)
  • Insurance, licenses
Developing Pricing: 
Photographers must consider the cost of sales and time and whether you're going for high volume/low cost or low volume/high cost. Factor in your time per hour, as well as markup (e.g. 33%).

Don't waste your time justifying your pricing — a customer like that is not qualified. Spend your time with customers who value your work.

Set expectations on pricing with your website, the look and feel of your online storefront. A luxurious and elegant website will tell customers that your worth and value is higher. Tamara spends the most money on her website.

Also, in a sales consultation, show your portfolio and explain how an image was produced: how the child was during the shoot, why you composed it the way you did, etc. so they understand how much work went into the image. This further explains the value of your work.

If you set expectations, it will be rare for them to think that your pricing is too expensive.

[Photo by Tamara Lackey]
Ideas For Marketing:
  • Guerrilla marketing: do it yourself or pay a marketing agency
  • Word of mouth referrals
  • Donate photography packages to an auction (i.e. waived session fee (Tamara normally charges $500) and an 8x10). Tip: showcase an image that sets you apart from other photographers.
  • Credit towards purchase: people don't like leaving money on the table so they're more likely to use it
  • Hold a raffle where everyone gives you their contact info
  • Gift certificates for any holidays. Put an expiration date to get people to act.
  • Picture sales for friends and family through an external photo printing company with shopping cart
  • Create gift registry

Product Design
Tamara designs herself or sometimes outsources.

Find out what your state taxes are for services and products, or you will be spending a ton of time and possibly money fixing the problem

Figure out your perfect client
Figure out your perfect client: what do they watch, what do they listen to, what activities do they do, where do they shop, etc. This will help you figure out where to target your perfect client.

Don't copy what other photographers are doing and how they're running their business. Focus on your own business.
[Photo by Tamara Lackey]


Tamara didn't always do a sales consultation, but this is where she makes most of her sales. In her consultations, she educates clients. She gives a lot of ideas so that clients can picture in their minds having the images in their homes.

Limit your product options for customers. Don't overwhelm them with choices. Tamara's pricing list is small. The fewer decisions you require your customers to make, the more sales you will get.

She also moves away from just price and order process. So she does not take orders at the sales consult. She'll just take notes for later.

Parents may have differing opinions on the same image, so it's just a matter of finding other images that suit each of them.

In general, Tamara is consulting with the clients to put together the best package for them.


Balance = Mind, Spirit, Body Heart
Peace, Connections, Schedule, Fulfillment

Tamara says she does feel guilty for not being able to keep up.

The typical feelings are guilt, shame, and blame.

Anna Quindlen: "You cannot be really first rate at your work if your work is all you are."

If you feel stuck, take a break. To get inspired, take a pause. Inspiration doesn't come when you're busy with work.

There is a myth of a zen-like balance and that it is somehow achievable. 

If you put yourself out there, other people may be critical of your work, but be confident of who you are. 

"Are you afraid of failing?" 
"Everybody fails. I'm afraid not to try."

The 80/20 rule: 80% of your business/income comes from 20% of your clients.
Don't check your email until 10am. If you start your day checking email you'll get caught up with the minutiae.

Focus on the major things you need to do. Do not multitask; prioritize.

Keys to success: hard work and willingness to fail.

It's not balance if you're trying to do everything at the same time: work and kids. Pay someone to watch your kids for a few hours so you can get some work done efficiently, and then when you spend time with your kids, spend quality time with them.

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