Episode 204 – How Newbie Tennesee Photographer Ryan Turned Two Photos into $3,006!

Episode 204 - How Newbie Tennesee Photographer Ryan Turned Two Photos into $3,006!

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Photography Business Institute
Photography Business Institute

Sarah Petty: Two years after Clarksville Tennessee, senior photographer Ryan Vinson left his teaching career to pursue photography. He realized he needed to up his senior portrait game. The problem was he was unsure how to price or what products to offer. Today I’m talking to Ryan about how he figured it out and sold two photos, making $3,006 after becoming boutique.

Welcome, Ryan. I’m so glad you’re here. Share your backstory.

Ryan Vinson: I kind of got a little headstart with my photography stuff from my teaching.I taught at my alma mater high school for nine years. I just loved going to the sports games and taking pictures and supporting the kids and building relationships.

After the covid year when there was a lot of Zooming and I had to get out of education, it was one of those things where it needed to be done. I was in a situation where I didn’t have to make a lot of money really fast and I could just kind of struggle for a little while, which is what I did for two years. And then I decided it was time to start picking things up a little bit.

Sarah Petty: So you left the teaching career and was photography meant to pay your bills or did you do something else?

Ryan Vinson: I didn’t really have a plan. I just had to get out. It was a mental health sort of thing. I kept photographing at the sports games and found a couple of news outlets that would pay me for the pictures. And then the parents could also purchase the photos. That was my pipeline to senior photos.

Sarah Petty: So that was cash flow. So was that paying your bills when you first started and everything?

Ryan Vinson: Yeah. But again, I don’t spend a lot of money. I ran an Instagram account where I posted the kids’ sports photos. The kids are your best advertisers in that situation.

Sarah Petty: Yes, but they’re screen grabbing them and sharing them and not always buying them.  So what changed in your mind? Were you thinking I can make money with other subjects or what was your next step vision after you were doing sports?

Ryan Vinson: Part of it was I knew the kids and I wanted to be a part of that kid’s senior year still. When you go and support them, you show up at their matches, you pick them up off the floor, they’re going to tell Mom, “Hey, I only want him to do my senior photos.:

Sarah Petty: That’s amazing. So when you first started doing seniors, were you doing a digital file model?

Ryan Vinson: Yeah, it just seemed like the easiest, most straightforward thing to do just to get into it. I’ve never been a print and frame photographer. So I just kicked that can down the road. I didn’t want to charge the seniors a whole bunch of money, was my idea. But then after two years of doing it that way, I looked at the numbers and realized that I needed to make more money to continue.

Sarah Petty: So you did 20 seniors in the year, which is a lot of seniors, and not making a lot of money. Do you mind sharing about what your average was?

Ryan Vinson: My average was $345.

Sarah Petty: Wow. You even know the number. Were you trying to sell prints or were you just giving everything for $345?

Ryan Vinson: For about a year and a half there, it was just digitals. Last winter or so I started thinking I need to start offering more. I found some YouTube videos and I was trying to piece things together to make it work. Then I did one of your challenges in the summer and realized I just didn’t know how to sell portraits.

Sarah Petty: There was a moment that you realized you knew you could do this but just didn’t know how to do it. Was there a moment that triggered that?

Ryan Vinson: It was some of the YouTube videos and people would say that their average order is $2,000 or however much it is. And I realized something needed to change for me because I wasn’t making anywhere near that.

Sarah Petty: During my challenge when I was going through and talking about this model and the possibilities, was it clicking with you?

Ryan Vinson: Yes. And a lot of that really clicked in your course, Boutique Breakthrough.

Sarah Petty: So you did Boutique Breakthrough and you invested in yourself. Was that scary?

Ryan Vinson: Yeah, a little bit. Obviously I believe in education and investing in yourself and I’m willing to put some money in to learn from people.

Sarah Petty: I love it. You’re so smart to see that. I am always surprised when people don’t want to invest in anything to learn. So as you were going through pricing in the course, I just laid it out there for you.

Ryan Vinson: Yeah, and I implemented quickly because with the sports stuff dying down in the summer I didn’t really have much going on. So the first part of it, I just kind of dove right in and made my price list.

Sarah Petty: Got it. So let’s talk about your Julie, a client order of $1k or over. Was your first Julie a senior?

Ryan Vinson: Yes. It was somebody that reached out back in March or something, and I knew at that point that I wanted to change things up, but I spent months just kind of spinning my wheels, but she was very patient. She just loved my work and just waited, and so I’m very grateful for that.

Sarah Petty: So you went through the system and you showed your pricing and they didn’t freak out?

Ryan Vinson: No. And the cool thing is this wasn’t even a sports kid. It wasn’t a kid that I knew at all. It was just Mom who had seen my stuff and liked it.

Sarah Petty: Awesome. So you went through the system and then when you were going through the presentation and they’re adding things on, how did that work? Because your first order was a really good one.

Ryan Vinson: We had some ideas for spots in the house to put things up, and one of them is when you first come in the front door, there’s a wall to the side. And so we ended up just kind of picking that one first and settling on a 24 by 36. Then they also had a hallway and we put a 16 by 20 in there. Two pictures for $3,006.

Sarah Petty: So amazing. So when you look at $3,000 compared to a teacher salary or what you were doing for $345, a lot of work, what opened up for you?

Ryan Vinson: I thought about how I sold two pictures for $3,000 and realized how awesome that is.

Sarah Petty: I’m really proud of you. I love that you took the emotion out of it, you followed the system and got your first Julie.

Ryan Vinson: Do you want the extra good news? Two nights ago was my second ordering appointment, and so that one was another $1,992.

Sarah Petty: Whoa. So almost two grand. Dude, that is amazing. Ryan, you’re going to blow it up. I’m so proud of you and so excited for you. Thank you for being here and sharing your story. That was fantastic.

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