Why Your Small Business Needs to Invest in Professional Photos

Welcome to another episode of Launched & Legal with Dayna Thomas, Esq., entrepreneurship attorney and law firm coach. Launched & Legal is an Atlanta Small Business Network original series dedicated to bringing entrepreneurs and business owners the best practices and tips for strategizing, legalizing, and monetizing their ventures. Today, Dayna is joined by Mike Smith owner of Shots by Mike Smith, which specializes in professional photos for businesses, entrepreneurs, and more.

If you have questions or comments about today’s show, send Dayna a message or comment on Instagram @daynathomaslaw.

Transcription:

Dayna Thomas Esq.:
Hi everyone. I’m Dayna Thomas Esq., and welcome to Launched & Legal, where it’s my mission to help you strategize, legalize and monetize your business. I’m so excited that you’re watching because today and in every show, I’ll be sharing the best practices and tips to take your business and brand to the next level. One thing I believe that just about all entrepreneurs need for their business is professional photos. I’m a huge advocate of keeping your expenses low when you’re starting your business, but you also have to know the difference between expenses and investments. To me, professional photos is definitely an investment for your business. They’re on my must-have list when you’re starting a business. So today I’m talking to Mike Smith owner of Shots by Mike Smith, an Atlanta based photography company with an expertise of professional photos for entrepreneurs and other industries.

Dayna Thomas Esq.:
Mike is actually my go-to photographer. He captured my very first photos when I launched my firm. Photos, which are now used on the cover of my book, on my websites and even on the Launched & Legal cover arts. I’m so happy to share him with you today so you can learn about his path to professional photography and how to boost your business with photos. Mike, I’m so happy to have you here today because we were just chatting and really it’s coming full circle, right? Because as I just mentioned in the intro, you took my very first professional photos.

Mike Smith:
Yes, it is October of 2016 at Emory University.

Dayna Thomas Esq.:
Absolutely went back to my law school because we didn’t have any location or at least I didn’t know of any location and didn’t have the funds to pay for a location to take pictures. So we went to my law school in the lobby, snuck in there-

Mike Smith:
Right, after hours.

Dayna Thomas Esq.:
… and took some pictures. And that photo, or those photos are used for what I used to launch and build my brand. So I’m so happy to have you here and to highlight you and what you do for entrepreneurs and just to share your story as well for how you even got here to where you are. So bring us back a little bit, Mike. Tell us about your background and how you got into photography from the beginning.

Mike Smith:
Oh, man. Going back, I’ve been I think a fan of photography since I was little. And even at Georgia State in our business fraternity, shout out Alpha Kappa Psi. I was always the photo person with the little point and click, point and shoot camera. And one day I discovered interchangeable lenses in I think 2008, 2009, and it was paradise. And I was like I have control. I really love to do this. And I was already doing videos since I was 13, helping shooting weddings, things like that. And it just kind of took over from there. And so I started freelancing with WXIA, which is 11 Alive here in Atlanta, and covering events around the city. And one thing led to another and here I am.

Dayna Thomas Esq.:
That’s amazing. So how did it go from you taking pictures for friends and for Alpha Kappa Psi our business fraternity and school events and it being a hobby to becoming like a business. So full blown entrepreneurship. Where did you make that transition?

Mike Smith:
I made the transition in 2010. It first started out taking head shots for our frat brothers. And then I learned I can make money doing this. I really enjoyed doing this. So how can I turn this passion of mine and to profit to some degree while still enjoying it? And it just kind of was like, let me help you guys excel. I’m real big on service, community and things like that. So anything I could do to help people excel, and I found photography to be a way to do that, but also get into different rooms and meet different people. You can pretty much go anywhere with a camera if you know what you’re doing.

Dayna Thomas Esq.:
That’s right.

Mike Smith:
And so that’s kind of how I made that transition, helping people, loving what I do and then taking that to, let’s see if we can make some money doing this.

Dayna Thomas Esq.:
I can attest to that because when we went to Georgia State and when we were in school, our business fraternity is heavy on entrepreneurship, heavy on business, professionalism. And whenever we would have an event, Mike, you were always the go-to. Mike, you have to take pictures. Or maybe someone needs new professional photos because they’re building up their resume or they’re going to start applying to different places or maybe just for their LinkedIn. Everyone would come to you for help. And I don’t remember you charging everyone at that time because-

Mike Smith:
I wasn’t.

Dayna Thomas Esq.:
You weren’t charging, right? You wanted to help us. We were students. We wanted to develop a professional image and whenever anyone needed a headshot or any photos for this entrepreneurship journey that they were just developing, you were the go-to person. So I want to publicly thank you, Mike-

Mike Smith:
You are welcome.

Dayna Thomas Esq.:
… on behalf of Alpha Kappa Psi and a lot of-

Mike Smith:
Georgia State and Atlanta.

Dayna Thomas Esq.:
Georgia state, a lot of the young entrepreneurs who you really did help. Right. And so now that we’re older and we have the money to pay you now, hopefully-

Mike Smith:
Thank you.

Dayna Thomas Esq.:
Hopefully everyone has made that transition to understanding that this is not a hobby for you, and this is your business because I’m constantly coming to you from my content. So just want to thank you for that, for the service that you’ve done for entrepreneurs. So entrepreneurs are a big segment of your client base, right? I think that at least in our circles and the circles that I know when people think about a photographer to help with their business, they think of Mike. Right? So how did you outside of what we’ve discussed so far, but how did you develop that reputation for being the entrepreneurs photographer?

Mike Smith:
Well, one was seeing people not having images that match their business or their messaging or their product. And it’s like, I look at myself as more than just a photographer content creator. I’m more of a consultant. Right. I call myself an image consultant to most people, because I want to say, hey, what’s the end use? And let’s create imagery that will help you get to that point. Whether it’s … if it’s on a backdrop where we can cut you out, put you on graphics, social media, things like that. Or if it’s a lifestyle shot to convey a certain message. So that’s what led me to doing photography the way I do it. It’s about service, and it’s about doing a service that helps people in the way it should. And so whether that’s trying to make money or non-profit based, it’s just making sure the messaging is consistent across your verbiage on your website and your imagery, whether that’s photo and/or video.

Dayna Thomas Esq.:
That’s interesting because a lot of people don’t think of photographers as having that expertise, but you really do need that. You can’t just snap pictures and provide someone with pictures and say go use it for your business. What’s the points of these photos? What are you trying to sell? What are you trying to represent? And that’s something that I love that you do. As you say, you’re not just a photographer or a videographer. It’s an image consultant. Right. So what are we doing in this session? And then we have to make sure that we’re capturing that content. And then coming back after, did we get what we needed? Right?

Mike Smith:
Right.

Dayna Thomas Esq.:
So what types of images should entrepreneurs have in their files or their portfolios? Because I’ll just tell my story. I do a lot of stuff. Right? So I have courses, my firm, Launched & Legal, my book, all types of stuff. And so I’m always looking through my files for a picture for something right. As it relates to, maybe I have a speaking engagement, have to provide a photo for that. Or maybe I want to launch something else or maybe … whatever it may be. And I’m going through my files. And I’m looking through a lot of pictures that you took of me. Right. Because I’m looking for a particular image, something that speaks to something that I’m trying to present. So what types of photos should entrepreneurs have in their portfolio or in their files?

Mike Smith:
Well, there are a few top photos that every entrepreneur should have because nowadays everybody’s a brand. Social media has up afforded people that opportunity. So definitely a good headshot, whether on location or in a studio. You always need a good headshot no matter what you’re promoting or trying to sell, because a lot of business is tied to the person. So we can convey who you are through that photo. Then that works. And definitely a lifestyle photo, whether in an office, out and about in the city. If you’re fashion, making sure you get those type of photos, so a lifestyle photo helps, and then also anything pertaining to your business. So if you’re a real estate agent, some listing photos. Like you said, you have a lot going on, so we need something that speaks to education or speaks to a television show or book. And then we have photos of your team. Always need photos of your team because as much as people want to be self-made, we know that’s not true. Right. So making sure you have those, and those are some of the top ones you should have.

Dayna Thomas Esq.:
That’s great. You’re talking about photos of your team. So I have a phenomenal team, but the thing about a team is that my team, we live in different states. Thank you. I’m so grateful. Thank God for being the internet and virtual right staff. So that’s been a challenge for me in terms of getting a staff shot or a team shot that I think a lot of people might also have that issue, but I’ve seen maybe they can take photos wherever they are and of use technology to put it together.

Mike Smith:
Especially for a website or social media, just highlighting your team. So I say pictures of your team. You don’t have to be with them, but just make sure you highlight the people that you work with because they’re going to need something down the line. And one thing I forgot is product photography. So whether it’s a mug or a cup or lipstick, makes you have great imagery for that because that’s what’s going to help sell your product.

Dayna Thomas Esq.:
That’s true. And it reminds me of a picture is worth a thousand words, which it really is. There have been a lot of people who have called my office, my law firm. And they say like, “Something about your picture.” And it’s not beauty or anything like that. They just said something about just the picture. You seem trustworthy in the picture. You seem like you’re passionate, that you really care. And I’m like just from a picture. And it’s a picture that you took. And I’m like, just from a picture? But it’s so important. In my courses, I talk a lot about what you should not spend money on, because a lot of people think that you have to have a whole lot of money in order to be an entrepreneur, which is a myth that I’m busting.

Dayna Thomas Esq.:
Right. But one of the things that I do tell them that they should spend money on is professional pictures for your website, for your business card. Business cards to me are not dead. As long as you have a really good looking photo on your business card, I think people will save it, and good quality paper.

Mike Smith:
Right. Definitely paper.

Dayna Thomas Esq.:
Good quality stock, for sure. So I’ve always wanted to know this because like I said, Mike, you’re my go-to person and I have lots of things. You even created the video for my Facebook ad for my course. You took the photo that I’m using on my book. Right?

Mike Smith:
The book, social media, Launched & Legal. It was something else.

Dayna Thomas Esq.:
Facebook ads.

Mike Smith:
Facebook ads. It’s been a lot of stuff.

Dayna Thomas Esq.:
It was a lot of stuff. And so my book is now used use that Strayer University and Howard University. Right. So my question to you, because we started all of that when I think it was in 2016. I didn’t have anything yet. I didn’t have anything. No one knew who Dayna Thomas was. Dayna Thomas Law was not a thing. Right. And so now-

Mike Smith:
We knew it was. We knew.

Dayna Thomas Esq.:
We did. Now it’s a thing. Right. So how do you feel about when your clients are using your pictures or your … content that your created, right. And they’ve taken off. Right. So I don’t have a billboard yet, but maybe you might see it on a billboard or you see it on something amazing. And they’re generating all this revenue from photos and videos or content that you created. How does that make you feel?

Mike Smith:
It makes me excited to know that I actually did my job the right way.

Dayna Thomas Esq.:
That’s true.

Mike Smith:
And I’m actually serving the clients the way I wanted to do it, but it also encourages me to get better and create better content that they can use down the line with my expertise. And hopefully I can continue to help grow. Because like you mentioned right before we started taping, I’ve been pretty much at every stage of your journey. And so we are here from Emory University, starting the law firm and getting a book going. And so I’m just excited to see people just grow. And like I said, you kind of see them leave the nest, so to speak and then they come back and ask for advice and things like that. But to generate the income that they’re generating, I know that they’re serving the community that they’re meant to serve. And again, I’m all about community. So to know that I did right by my clientele, i.e. lets say even you, and then you’re going on to do things like this. It just makes me proud of the work that I’ve done, but even prouder of the people that I’ve worked with.

Dayna Thomas Esq.:
That’s fantastic, because every photographer might not feel that way.

Mike Smith:
I hear you.

Dayna Thomas Esq.:
They might not. But I love that and I knew that about you, but I think that a lot of people may want to know that. And I think that’s something … because I’ve seen those situations where there’s been pictures that someone thought would be nothing or nothing would come of it, and then it’s huge and it goes viral. So that’s great that you have that perspective because it really is the photos in my opinion, that’s a bigger part of creating that brand that helps to be that platform for everything else. So not only have you helped me with my business, we’ve also discussed some aspects of your business, which is good. I’m always there for you if you need anything, Mike. You know that. So you do have a client agreement for your photography agreement. I know because I signed it before. Right?

Mike Smith:
Couple times, couple times.

Dayna Thomas Esq.:
Yeah. So this is Launched & Legal. So let’s talk a little bit about the legal stuff. So I know that sometimes clients who are hiring a photographer or any service provider, they can be nervous about presenting or suggesting revisions to a contract. I see both sides, because you have your contract because it’s the way that you want it. This is the way that you do business. But then on the other hand, there’s the client who may want to negotiate something. So how do you handle that? Do clients typically want to negotiate your contract? And if they do want to negotiate anything, what’s something that they typically want to negotiate in your agreement?

Mike Smith:
Well, a lot of times I’ve found it depends on the client. So whether it’s a company or someone just getting started or maybe someone right in the middle, a lot of times at this point in my career, I don’t have a lot of, I call it pushback, but I don’t have a lot of revisions to it or negotiations. When I’m dealing with maybe a bigger client where licensing may be involved, then we can talk about the use. So going into some things that may need to be negotiated, sometimes it’s price. It’s always price. We get that. It’s always price.

Dayna Thomas Esq.:
Firm on your price.

Mike Smith:
Yeah. So stand firm on your price. Today’s price. Yesterday’s price is not today’s price. So stand firm on pricing, but also terms of use, how long someone can use it. And then the big thing we get is ownership. Because I think we’ve dealt with that a few times as far as owning photos, because I’m big on ownership of my images and how people can use them, because we’ve seen people abuse our images before where where you can say this might be for social media, this might just be a headshot-

Dayna Thomas Esq.:
And then it ends up in stock images somewhere.

Mike Smith:
Somewhere. And so pricing, licensing, maybe terms of use and ownership are the big three that I’ve seen come across.

Dayna Thomas Esq.:
And I can believe it because, okay, so let’s break it down. What Mike creates every day, all the time with his business is copyright. Mike owns so many copyrights. We probably couldn’t even count it all. And if you watch Launched & Legal, you know that it’s because he’s creating content. So trivia question for you viewers out there who watch the show. Who owns the copyright for something that’s created if someone pays them a million dollars for it? Ding, the person that created it. It does not matter how much you have paid someone. It doesn’t matter what you guys have spoken about. It doesn’t matter what you send in email. Whoever creates a content owns it. So Mike you’ve created a lot of content and the only way to transfer copyright ownership is in a contract that is signed by the creator. Right?

Dayna Thomas Esq.:
So I think this is something that we had discussed, but I see both sides. You’re creating this, right? So this is something that you and the photographer or the content creator need to speak about beforehand. Right? Because once you’ve already paid them, it’s really hard to get copyright transferred because it’s their copyright. They created it. It’s theirs. Right? And if you want to own that, typically that’s another fee, for you to own or to have the copyright transferred after the fact. Now, if it’s something that’s very important to you, which it should be, then negotiate that upfront because that photographer or that content creator may want to charge you a different price if you’re going to own the copyright for that. Right. Or maybe you have a relationship where you’re constantly doing work and then that’s the situation because you’re doing work together consistently. Right.

Dayna Thomas Esq.:
But always make sure that you have that conversation with whoever’s creating content for you, your videographer, photographer, graphic designer. Absolutely. Because it has to be in the contract and in your contract, I believe the default language is that the person gets a license, which is typical. Right? So that person will get a license to use it for business purposes, marketing. They can use it however they want to use it, which is great. Right. But at the end of the day, if you get a big deal with Coca-Cola and they want to use this picture, you have to get Mike’s permission in order to do that, because that’s something that you may not have anticipated when you were taking these pictures at Emory University of 2016. Right. But then you never know what the potential opportunities are.

Dayna Thomas Esq.:
I think it’s the right thing for that photographer to be involved in that conversation about how the picture is going to be used. So default law, whoever creates it, owns it. The only way to transfer copyright ownership and pictures and other content is to have a contract that says that you will own the copyright in the photos, and that has to be signed by the photographer.

Mike Smith:
And I actually learned that from you. It’s something you know, but sometimes putting it into practice may situational. But so now it’s kind of like, oh man, Dayna gave me this transfer of ownership paper. I’m going to go ahead and sign it because that’s my girl. But I mean, make sure I take this over somewhere else. And so once I started doing that, Mike, you got it. No. And I put in, write it, put your name on it. We going to both sign it, dated it so we know that this logo you create or this logo I create or whatever it is that I need from you as well, that we both understand who owns it from this point forward.

Dayna Thomas Esq.:
Absolutely. So I’m happy because we learn a lot from each other. I learned a lot of photography from you and how important it is. And then you’re learning about the legal stuff for your business. So when it comes to other people who want to start a photography business, but maybe they’re concerned about getting clients. What advice might you have for them?

Mike Smith:
Getting clients. Do the work.

Dayna Thomas Esq.:
Do the work.

Mike Smith:
Do the work. It sounds simple, but it’s really do the work that you want to get paid for. And then also when it comes to photography, understanding the different markets of photography. You have head shots, you have portraits, you have weddings, you have municipality, maybe government, contract stuff. There are a lot of avenues to make money in photography. So I would say do the work, but experiment. Shoot just about everything you can because I do a lot of head shots now, but it was events, portraits and things like that. So now it’s more small business head shots branding since we’re to that point. And just making sure you understand why you’re doing it.

Dayna Thomas Esq.:
That’s right.

Mike Smith:
If you are concerned about getting clients, part of it starts with you. Do the work. Show the work. Show the work, because you’ll get paid. You’ll book what you show.

Dayna Thomas Esq.:
That’s right.

Mike Smith:
And so use social media as a tool, not an end all, be all. Some people put everything out for free, put everything out in the universe and wonder why it’s not coming back. You’re casting a large net. So that’s why I say do you market research so you can figure out what you want to do, niche down a little bit and figure that lane out. I have a few different lanes now that I’m 13-plus years in so I know how to navigate a different, a lot of different spaces. But for someone just getting started worried about clients, figure out what you like to shoot. Do that, show that, and then figure out how to create value that you can get paid for.

Dayna Thomas Esq.:
I love that, Mike. I think that makes complete sense, especially for a business that’s so visual, right? Social media, using Instagram. Show it because people tend to put themselves in that photo and say, “I would love to have a photo that makes me look like that.” So thank you for that advice. If someone wants to hire you or learn more about you, even see your photos, how can we keep in touch?

Mike Smith:
You can keep in touch by following me on Instagram at Shots by Mike S-H-O-T-S B-Y M-I-K-E. My website shotsbymikesmith.com and on LinkedIn at Michael Smith Jr., I believe.

Dayna Thomas Esq.:
Awesome. We’ll check you out. Thank you so much, Mike.

Mike Smith:
You’re welcome.

Dayna Thomas Esq.:
I appreciate hearing your story more and being able to share that with the viewers and teaching them all about how to use photos to boost your business. Thanks. That’s awesome.

Mike Smith:
You’re welcome.

Dayna Thomas Esq.:
Be sure to share today’s show with someone who can benefit and visit MyASBN.com and subscribe. If you have any questions or comments about today’s show, I would love to hear from you, send me a message or comment on Instagram at @daynathomaslaw. Remember to tune in next week and every week to make sure your business is launched and legal.


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