Branding & Business without Burnout: Growing a Sustainable Brand Photography Business with Meg McMillan
Whether your business goals include winning awards, making a certain amount of money, or working with dream clients, at the end of the day, we’re all trying to we’re businesses that feel sustainable above all else. Many photographers find themselves trying different niches to see what fits, and while that’s a great way to discover where your passion lies, over time, it can lead to misalignment and burnout. When you have alignment in your business, you can cultivate your passion, grow your ideal clientele, and gain the confidence to charge what you’re worth.
In today’s episode, I’m chatting with Meg McMillan, who has carved a niche for herself in the personal brand photography space. She’s sharing why she loves brand photography, the importance of identifying your ideal clients and charging enough money to stay in business, and how to navigate creativity and expertise in her collaborative line of work.
Meg has learned the hard way, like many photographers, that you have to charge enough money to not burn out, to pay yourself what you need, and to really be invested in the work that you’re doing for your clients. As a new(ish) mom and an entrepreneur, she is also learning how to make time for herself, which is also part of growing a business that lasts.
I hope this episode will help new and seasoned brand photographers alike to find the inspiration and confidence to take action toward building a sustainable business.
What’s in this episode:
- [04:41] How Megan discovered the need for personal brand photography, why she loves it, and the biggest mistakes she sees from personal brand photographers just getting started
- [10:36] How Instagram algorithm changes have affected brand photography, how to get creative with adding video to your offerings, and the importance of building trust with your clients (whether they tag you on social media or not)
- [18:22] Learning who your ideal clients are, and overcoming your scarcity mindset to say no and stop being a people pleaser
- [24:58] How brand photography is evolving, the importance of understanding your client’s vision and being able to deliver on it, and how to create shot lists based around different stories or aspects of your client’s business
- [30:29] The importance of sharing your expertise when it’s needed and scouting locations and permissions for photo shoots
- [36:34] Why you have to charge enough money to stay in business and know your value and expertise
- [49:12] The importance of taking messy action forward and not focusing on perfection
Tune in to this episode with Meg McMillan to learn about personal brand photography and how to build a sustainable business that pays you what you’re worth and aligns with your passions!
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Meg Marie McMillan went from having 27 jobs, a failed business, and quitting college, to creating her own six figure photography business! She’s a personal brand photographer based in sunny San Diego who’s empowered over 300 heart-centered entrepreneurs to feel confident AF on and off the camera. She coaches hundreds of photographers around the world through her online courses and Masterminds on how to scale and flourish in their business. When she’s not behind the camera, Meg loves being a boy mom, exploring the world, indulging in margaritas, and living room dance parties!
Connect with Meg
Brand Photographer Community with Meg McMillan on Facebook
Did this episode with Meg McMillan inspire you to focus on building your business in a sustainable way? Check out this episode from Natasha Ince that offers you even more insight on fostering client relationships!
AS Ep 154 FINAL.mp3
[00:00:00] Megan McMillan Really it breaks my heart, honestly. Like when I see photographers that are like giving up or going out of business and they’re so talented. I see their talent in their photos and their passion for it, but they’re just they’re just not charging enough and they’re not like learning the business enough. You really have to put time into becoming a business owner, which is like, It’s crazy what we do, right? It’s like the biggest personal growth journey you’ll ever go on is becoming a business owner and like having to learn all these things that you weren’t planning to learn and having to like really look at yourself, look at your flaws. Like look at like what’s holding you back. Look at where you could improve on and like, spend energy there.
[00:00:45] Lisa DiGeso Welcome to the Art and Soul Show where we dive into heart opening chats on photography, business life and that messy in-between. I’m your host, Lisa DiGeso, a mom, a photographer and entrepreneur, and I’ll be sharing honest conversations and advice for photographers with insight on mindset, entrepreneurship and creativity. The goal of this podcast is for you to be able to gain insights and strategies that will get you real results. Because let’s face it, having a photography business can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be. This is the place you can go when you need a boost of encouragement, a kick in the pants and inspiration to pick up your camera. This is the art and soul show. Hello, my beautiful friends. Welcome back to the show. I am super excited to dive into today’s conversation with Meg McMillan. She went from having 27 jobs, a failed business, and quitting college to creating her own six figure photography business. She’s a personal brand photographer based in sunny San Diego who has empowered over 250 heart centered entrepreneurs to feel confident on and off the camera. She also coaches hundreds of photographers around the world through her online courses and masterminds on how to scale and flourish in their businesses. When she’s not behind the camera. Meg loves being a boy mom, exploring the world, indulging in margaritas, living room, dance parties. So without further ado, here is Meg. Welcome.
[00:02:14] Megan McMillan Hello, Lisa. Hello, everyone. So excited to be here.
[00:02:19] Lisa DiGeso Well, I am so excited to dive into our conversation today. So tell us a little bit more about who you are and really what you’re passionate about.
[00:02:26] Megan McMillan Yeah, so I’ve really stepped into this new identity as a mother the last two years. My oldest son is turning two soon and my youngest son is four months, so I’m really still a new mom. I feel like I’m still figuring it all out, but I’m so passionate as well about like my business. And that’s like the other side of me that I’m a little obsessed with, to be honest. So it’s like this season of my life is all like finding that balance of like being a mom but also being a business owner. And I, I’m in this like, kind of like, unapologetic phase of like, I can have it all, like, I can grow the business. I can be a great mom, like I can pour into myself as well. And like, that’s something that I’m really striving towards is, is and I don’t like to say balance. I don’t love that word, right? There’s never like a perfect like balance, but it’s, it’s like just like owning desire, the desire I have for all the things I’m passionate for.
[00:03:28] Lisa DiGeso Yeah, Yeah. I love that. It’s finding ways that you can win in each area without having to sacrifice everything in each one, too.
[00:03:35] Megan McMillan Yes, exactly. And like rebalancing when you need to. And you know, you’re like, out of balance again or.
[00:03:42] Lisa DiGeso Yeah. And that’s the and that’s the funny thing I think about motherhood and business. Like my son, he’s going to be he’s actually 13. He just turned 13 and I started my photography career when he was born. But yeah, like finding that balance definitely is, is interesting because I don’t know if that actually ever is quite balanced. You just fill your cup in different ways and it’s like.
[00:04:03] Megan McMillan Ooh, I like that. Fill your cup in different ways. Yeah. Like where do I need to fill my cup a little more right now.
[00:04:10] Lisa DiGeso Yeah. Or even patch holes in the cup if we need to. Yeah.
[00:04:14] Megan McMillan Oh yeah.
[00:04:14] Lisa DiGeso Where are the. Yeah. Where are the energy leaks.
[00:04:17] Megan McMillan Yeah. Like, so my nanny just quit this last week. She’s moving and she really, she kind of realized she took on too much and. And she can’t do it right now, which is fine, but I’m like, dang. So it’s like I’m patching this hole in the cup now. I’m like, Oh, I thought I had everything planned out for when I could work this next month and when I, you know, when I’ll have support. But now I just have to figure it out and patch the cup.
[00:04:41] Lisa DiGeso Yeah, I love that. Well, you are known in the industry as being just an expert and an incredible personal brand photographer who is such an amazing educator for so many. I Have actually been in one of your groups probably for a few years. And I just love watching you educate and teach and empower all these photographers. Just to look at the personal branding side. Now, can you maybe share your story of how you discovered the need for getting into personal brand photography, especially in the entrepreneurial space and how you really got started?
[00:05:13] Megan McMillan Yeah, well, thank you, Lisa, for being in my community. I like to say brand photography really found me. My intention was to be a wedding photographer, family photographer in the beginning, and I did it all in the beginning. I did newborns, family, weddings, and one day my best friend asked me to do a photo shoot for her marketing business, and I’m like, Sure, I could do that. And she’s like, okay, we’ll go to these couple places downtown. I’m going to bring some different outfits. And she kind of shared with me on the. Photoshoot what she wanted to capture in her vision. And it was so much fun. Like, I just remember, like after the photo shoot, sitting there with my friend and, like, having a drink at this beautiful hotel downtown, we finished at and she was like, That was an incredible this was so much fun. And I felt the same way. And then those photos, like, really helped her show up in a new way online for her brand in her business. And she started attracting these like next level clients. And then people started seeing her photos and were like, Who did your photos? And started coming to me. So it really happened very organically in the beginning. But I quickly realized like, ooh, as much as I love family, newborn and weddings, I feel like this is more my zone of genius. Like for me it just like, came a little easier and it just felt like more natural a little bit. And so I followed that call, and so I started getting more intentional with going to networking events and, you know, putting myself in front of business owners who needed really needed like content and like photos that they felt really good about to show up online.
[00:06:56] Lisa DiGeso I love that so much. Yeah, I think because we started I mean, we started Milky Way in, I think 2012, and I remember trying to find a personal brand photographer back then and it was like, am like there was maybe two. Like I could. Yeah. Anybody. So I’m so excited because it’s such like it’s such a great marriage of a different form of photography, especially coming from like, things that you’ve tried, but also like identifying like what do I love to do? What is my zone of genius? And really just like tapping into that and say and owning it. And I love that you shared that. You tried a whole bunch of different things before, too, because I think a lot of the times we, you know, we get our camera, we start the photography industry and, you know, you see or you’re attracted to something, but then you’re like kind of squirrel brain need. Like, I want to try this, I want to try this, I want to try this. But there’s definitely certain ones that that you end up sticking with. So I just I love that you you just followed that call because I think a lot of the times we ignore it and we don’t tap into it because of a lot of fear. So that’s just that’s wonderful. So what what is the biggest mistake you would say that you see new personal brand photographers make when maybe they’re just getting started?
[00:08:10] Megan McMillan Yeah. So in the beginning, like, I didn’t know what I was doing, you know, I showed up to that first photoshoot, like with The Passion, and I loved taking photos of people. And honestly, we got great photos. Like I said, it was really great for her business because I showed up with passion and enthusiasm and like, you know, we connected and I made her feel comfortable on camera. So those are important things. But what I didn’t know back then, what I didn’t do was like any kind of like prep leading up to the photoshoot. And so what’s really distinguishes like brand photography from other like just portrait photography or family or other photography genres is the prep work and the intention that goes into it for that person’s brand because it is going to be a little bit different for every person who gets in front of your camera. You know, for family photography, I remember having like a few family posing clothes that I just like knew worked for everybody and like, had my favorite spots, like my favorite locations. But for brand photography, like, we have to get a little more specific with like, who’s your ideal client? Who do you want to attract, what location feels like you, and what about the esthetic? Like in terms of like your brand color, making sure like the locations like match their color palette and at least aren’t going to clash with their brand. And because ultimately you have to think of the end result. So that would be what I would tell your listeners. Think about the end result of the photos. Not just like what? How could I create a pretty photo, but what is this client going to use the photo for? So it’s understanding their brand. And we do that by having a Zoom call before the photo shoot, which is really great because you really get to know the person and you, they fill out a questionnaire ahead of time or sometimes they’ll do it on the call. And it’s asking them these questions like, what is the vision for your brand? Who are your ideal clients? Do you have locations in mind? And so that’s what I would have done differently, obviously, I didn’t know so much prep goes into it, but it’s, it’s fun to take that extra time to get it’s you as a brand photographer, you’re also creative director unless you happen to have a creative director on your team. But if you don’t, you kind of have to put that hat on. And I mean, it’s similar with newborn photography, how they’re designing the whole photo. It’s like that. But for their brand, right?
[00:10:36] Lisa DiGeso I love that because it’s so funny because I am a newborn photographer, I specifically pretty much only do maternity and newborn, but I. So curious about personal brand because I love the styling aspect that goes into it too, and really getting to the nitty gritty of like talking to the client and finding out what the end result is going to be, whether it’s like creating banners and stuff for the website or it’s, you know, doing stuff for the gram. Now, my actually, my next question is about Instagram. There have been some major changes over the past few years and especially focusing more on reels and video. How is that affecting the personal brand space and how are you, I guess pivoting a little bit to incorporate a little more video if you are?
[00:11:17] Megan McMillan Yeah, I love this question because it’s something a lot of photographers talk about and they come to me and they’re like worried about it. They’re like, you know, are we becoming irrelevant? People have these amazing phones that can do what my camera can do and like. And it is it is happening. So I think it’s not. Instead of like being afraid of it, but like embracing it and really, like, it gives us more opportunity actually, like as photographers now that we also have these phones that are amazing, like we can create little video clips for them, we can create content for reels or stories or behind the scenes content for our brand so easily now. So it’s actually a benefit for us, for our brand and for our clients. So like how I started incorporating a little bit of video, I don’t really have an interest in learning like professional video on a camera personally right now. Maybe that’ll shift, but like I do know photographers who offer both, but for me what I offer is actually just like video clips on the phone, which I’ve been doing for years, even before reels and like I’ll share like behind the scenes on my stories. I’m like, I’ll give the client like as little bonus videos, like I’ll give to them clips from our session and behind the scenes and they love it. And like, it’s actually really easy to do. It’s something in, you know, videos so special, so powerful. So if we can take 15 seconds before, like each new outfit or each new like, you know, setup or background to just get a couple video clips like that would be my recommendation on how you could start and just talking about how you offer that.
[00:12:55] Lisa DiGeso I love that. And also, like not only just for the client as a photographer, just having that in your arsenal for things to put on your feed, that’s incredible too.
[00:13:05] Megan McMillan Yeah. Yeah. Like so. And I got this from another photographer I worked with. She, I did her photos and, and like she was doing the time lapses throughout our photoshoot. She was setting it on like her, you know, phone’s camera stand in the corner of her room. She’d be like, Wait, wait, wait, let me just set this up and press play. And that’s all you have to do. And then you have this really cool, like, time lapse video. And that’s a real ah, like, that’s a story. That’s a gift you can give your client. And it’s actually really easy. So it’s like embracing new things and like being that’s what we do as entrepreneurs, right? Like we’re business owners. We didn’t get into business to like, be told what to do or to do the same thing every single day. Like, naturally we’re creative. Naturally, we’re like, innovative. Naturally, we like to learn new things. So just like embracing that.
[00:13:54] Lisa DiGeso I love that. Yeah. No, I think a lot of the time, especially when when photographers are first maybe starting to consider getting into personal brand photography, there is a little bit of a mindset shift that might happen to have to happen, especially about watermarks and tagging on social media when it comes to personal brand photography, because a lot of the time you’ll see, you know, these beautiful images, there’s no tag and photographers can get really upset about that. So how would you advise and address that with your own clients or to photographers and our listeners?
[00:14:26] Megan McMillan Yeah. So this is something I used to take personally. Like I used to get upset if my clients didn’t tag me or if they, you know, like put filters over their images. But what happens when you become a brand photographer is you realize, like, you have to understand, like you’re working with a brand that’s probably already established. They already have their brand vision and they already have like a really specific vision for their brand and how they’re going to use the photos. So you have to approach it as really this energy of like collaboration, like with the client and like also just not taking it personally if they’re not going to tag you. So what I do is I do have it in my contract and I do have it when I send that final gallery template. Like I remind them, like, I would love for you to tag my brand so that more clients like you who I love to serve can hear about me. But if they don’t tag me like I encourage it. But if they don’t, I don’t like go after them. I don’t take it personal any more. Like most likely they just forgot and haven’t thought about it. But what I will do to kind of encourage it is to just share like are my stories sometimes like, Oh, thank you so much for the tag for the love were like, if people tag me in a post or give me a shout out like shout out to Meg. I love my new brand photos. Every now and then I’ll get a client who writes like the sweetest post. Like I will reshare that and be like, Thank you so much. So it’s like instead of like, I’m not going to get upset anymore if a client doesn’t tag me. Yeah, because there is a lot of brands too, where like I actually had to alter my contract sometimes because they read it and they say, Hey, like I noticed you’re asking for photo credit and we really need like we are not going to be able to tag our photographer in every post. And usually they say, like, we’re happy to give you like a shout out. Of course we want to support you, but we just don’t feel comfortable signing this. And so I’ll take it off like I’m flexible with that. Like, I’ll totally say, No problem. Let me just like, rewrite the contract and send it back over to you. It’s not a problem. Like, I appreciate the credit, but it’s not necessary.
[00:16:37] Lisa DiGeso I love that. I think that it’s such a testimony to your business sense, too, because we do need to be adaptable and flexible, I think. Like my example would be is with with newborn photography. Not everybody wants to have their brand new baby or they don’t want themselves to be on social media. And so for a lot of photographers, that’s like, Oh no, like why am I shooting if I can’t share? And I’ve always thought, like, it really has to be a different mindset. Like, okay, well, you’re getting paid to do this. Number one, if they happen to let you share that, that’s a bonus. And so instead of like looking at it as an expectation and a have to it’s a get to and then I just I really I really found when I had that that different mindset, I was like, okay, yeah, absolutely. I can be adaptable. No problem.
[00:17:24] Megan McMillan No problem. Yeah, exactly. Like, I love that mindset. Like, I get to share your photos if you’re okay with. And sometimes I have clients that say, Hey, like I for whatever reason, I’m like, Can you not share these specific photos or can you not share my photos right now until I’m ready? And I’m like, absolutely, like, that’s totally fine. You just we have to take our egos out of it and realize, like, it’s nothing personal. It’s not about us, you know? It is about like serving our clients well. And here’s the thing is, like those clients, like, they respect you. And if they love working with you, which they probably do, they’re going to go tell more people about you regardless of a tag or not. You know, like more people in their their world are going to find out about you because they’re going to be excited to share about, like the experience and show their photos. So word of mouth is like still the best more than a tag, you know, on social media. It’s nice. I love it. But I’m like, It’s okay if you’re not.
[00:18:22] Lisa DiGeso Now, would you have any advice of maybe someone who is, you know, starting to get into the personal brand photography industry and kind of having clients that aren’t the right fit? So how would they either get out of it or start finding clients that maybe are their dreamy dream clients?
[00:18:39] Megan McMillan Yeah, I mean, I think in the beginning it is helpful to say yes to like different clients because you never know. Like, I remember starting and having an idea of who I thought my like perfect brand client business owner would be. And it surprised me. It ended up being like someone different and like, I wouldn’t have known unless I said yes and like, just tried. But obviously there’s times like, I think what you’re alluding to is like when it’s like obvious, like, ooh, this person, like just their energy or like, I feel like our personalities are going to clash or they’re just like asking me too much. Or maybe they’re being disrespectful or like, you know, I’ve had that too. And in that case, it’s like just speaking your truth and not being okay with not being a people pleaser. This is a big thing for me this year. I’m letting go. I’m letting go of being a people pleaser. And so, like, what that looks like to me is, yeah, standing in my power, like recently, you know, I, I’m getting inquiries for like a headshot session at, like a corporate space. And to be honest, like, I could go and do headshots and I have done this for in a here’s an example like it for an insurance agency and like I’m just doing their headshots in the but it’s like it’s not really the client that lights me up. And what happens is if we keep saying yes to things that just for money that are not our true zone of genius, we’re going to get burned out and we’re going to also resent the business. We’re going to get frustrated. We’re not going to feel appreciated and we’re not going to be available for that yes client that heck yes client of our dream client, Right. I’ve been in that cycle where I said yes to everything and it didn’t serve me in the end. So I learned to say no. I learned to be a people pleaser. And, you know, instead just say, Hey, actually, I don’t think I’m the best fit for this. But, you know, here’s a couple photographers I recommend reaching out to you instead.
[00:20:38] Lisa DiGeso I love that. I think you’re preaching to the choir on the people pleasing. I have to share. A funny little story because you’re going to die laughing. Please do. So I. A few years ago, I needed to go get a consultation just with a lawyer, just on some business stuff. And so ended up having, like, a family friend that was a lawyer and so went in and did it. And then he was like, Hey, like, why don’t we just do a trade? Z You could do some headshots for the company, and instead of getting the lawyer bill And I’m like, at this point, I don’t really know how much a lawyer Bill is going to cost. So I’m thinking like, no, it’s gonna be like three or $4,000. And then I kind of was like, Just think. I was like, Man, I really don’t want to do this. I don’t want to do lawyer headshots. Like, this is not I’m a newborn photographer. Like, I really don’t want to do this. And so finally, after months and months and months of sort of back and forth, I was like, hey, like, can you just send me a bill for this? And he was like, Yeah, no problem. I’m like, Here’s some recommendations for some amazing photographers that do great headshots. Meg, do you know, how much the bill was.
[00:21:32] Megan McMillan Oh, my gosh. How much was it?
[00:21:34] Lisa DiGeso $150.
[00:21:36] Megan McMillan That’s it. I was like, Oh, I thought you were going to say the opposite. I thought you’re going to say like 10,000 or.
[00:21:45] Lisa DiGeso It was like an hour consultation, 150 bucks. I was like, Oh, sir, you do not know how much I charge.
[00:21:52] Megan McMillan Like, that’s so great that you, like, listen to your intuition and you, like, were like, Actually, I don’t really want to do this.
[00:22:00] Lisa DiGeso No. Yeah, I hear you. Like, on the people pleasing and just like, being agreeable and saying yes to things we don’t want to do. And then I was like, I need to stop saying yes when I mean no. Right.
[00:22:14] Megan McMillan Yeah, That’s like. So. That’s a powerful thing to do to be able to say no. And some of that comes from a scarcity mindset of Oh, I need to say yes to this or I’m going to turn down the money and I’m not going to be able to have that money. It’s going to go away. But actually, usually what does happen and I know from experience, when you follow your zone of genius and what really lights you up and you you say no and you actually hold space for that ideal client to come in, they do. You know, it’s this, it is a trust, like a game of trust. And it is having to trust that you are going to have another client who’s more ideal come in to fill that spot.
[00:23:00] Lisa DiGeso And love it and universe trustful.
[00:23:03] Megan McMillan Of it. Yep.
[00:23:05] Lisa DiGeso Now can you share why there might be a danger of just adding in a new session to your business and just calling it personal brand photography instead of calling it personal brand for tell it how goofy, but still treating it like a slightly more personal headshot or glamor shot when it’s actually completely something more. Yeah.
[00:23:23] Megan McMillan So it’s it’s a shift that we make when we step into offering personal brand photography that, you know, we’re working with business owners now and we’re a business owner, so it’s actually a little different way to market and sell because it’s B2B business on a business owner. Whereas like you might be used to selling to consumers and for your photography. But business owners, when you’re working with a business owner like they really have, like there is an outcome they’re trying to get from those photos, like there’s something that there’s a goal they have and you really want to be careful and make sure you can deliver on like their vision and actually capture the images that they have in mind. The images that like you mentioned earlier for like the website banner, you know, banner photo or like the newsletter or like what they need for their sales page. Like, we want to take the time to sit down and ask them these questions on like a questionnaire and just open that dialog to make sure we are getting what they expect. Right? Because I think like with portraits, when I remember doing engagement and family and they have an expectation too, but not as specific as a business owner and what the business owner is going to do with those photos. So like it’s you just want to make sure you want to be careful to make sure you take that extra time to like open the dialog and do a call before to find out like what they actually want and need and not make like an assumption.
[00:24:58] Lisa DiGeso Do you find that it’s you been doing this a few years? Have you have you noticed that there’s a change in how people are wanting to be photographed for Instagram, for example? Because I think for a while there it was like pointy, pointy this like.
[00:25:11] Megan McMillan Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. The pointy photos where you’re like pointing at a blank wall because they’re going to put text on the photo. Yeah, yeah, it. Oh, my gosh, I definitely noticed this. It’s funny you ask this because I’ve had clients that come to me and they’re specifically like, Hey, I really we want photos that like, don’t look, pose and like we and we want to make sure it looks like just kind of like behind the scenes in the moment because that’s kind of how Instagram is trending towards. I still actually do get clients. So that like want the point of photos but it’s not like that many. So it’s kind of phasing out. It just depends. And so this is when you have to like, do that, like research ahead of time with them and like sit down and understand their brand and get to know like what they want and go in with. The energy of this is a collaboration because other photoshoot genres, you can totally be like, Ooh, I’m the expert. Like, I know like how to get the shot with your newborn. Like, trust me, I got it. Like, I’m the creative, but with a when you’re working with another business and brand, like they actually already have a vision. So it’s like that’s where the collaboration piece comes in and like, yeah, finding out, do you want the point of photos? Like, do you actually want like the photos that look like, I’m not taking a photo? And you were just walking by the camera. And I encourage my clients to show me, like their vision board or one of the questions on the questionnaire I ask is what are three Instagrams whose like visual esthetic and their photos you really love like three different brands because I want to see examples actually of like what they want because every client has different expectations. So that’s really helpful. And sometimes people are like, I don’t have anything. I was hoping you could do that. I’m like, Perfect, Yeah, I’ll create it. But like sometimes they do, they have a vision board and then like just opening that up on like a zoom call and looking at it can really like, bring so much clarity to like what they want.
[00:27:08] Lisa DiGeso It’s so true, it’s so funny, but you just like, I was like, I need to do some new photos for myself. I’m like, But you know, what I’ve never done is created myself a vision board.
[00:27:16] Megan McMillan Oh, yeah.
[00:27:17] Lisa DiGeso Girl was like, What do I like? You know, like, and just like, because I’ve been. Yeah, I love to photograph myself because it can.
[00:27:23] Megan McMillan Start your vision board, start your vision board on Pinterest or Instagram. And like anytime you see a photo that inspires you that you want to capture on like your next brand shoot, you just like, pin it on there.
[00:27:36] Lisa DiGeso I loved that. I love that. So I think often there is a fear of like, you’re going to freeze in your session and do you have a shot list for each client? And is it something that you prepare ahead of time? And is this something that maybe should be customized for each client too?
[00:27:50] Megan McMillan Yeah. So after that, like the brand questionnaire they fill out, then we have a Zoom call to talk it over while we’re talking. I’m like taking notes on the call and just like creating a shot list. Sometimes clients will have a shot list where they’re like, Here’s the ten shots I want and that’s great. Or other times it’s like I’m helping create it for them. On the call, I’m making recommendations, and then I take all that information from our call and I create what I call like my photo shoot map. And I have like a Canva template. And I just kind of it’s literally like a timeline and a map for our session. So maybe we’re going to two locations and we’re going to spend a couple hours at each and then I’ll just write down, here’s like the vision for the shots or like the story we’re telling sometimes. Like it’s helpful to think in terms of stories. So like, for me, my brand story is like, if I was going to have my ideal brand shoot, which I’ve had, but I’ve always I try to get like at least one shoot a year to like update like my, my brand stories are like, I’m a photographer, so I’m going to get photos with my camera, like in a place that would like a location that makes sense for my brand that would look beautiful on the website that’s like minimal and not distracting. And then another story would be I in my intro, like you read, I love Margaritas, so I might actually go to like a really cute, like cafe or bar that has happy hour and do like a margarita shot. Why not? Or like be in a kitchen with a margarita. That’d be another story. And then another part of me is Mom life if that’s something I want to show in my branding and I choose to show, then I’d get like photos with my kids and like, so that kind of can help you really plan out the session and think of like, here’s the shots we’re going to get for this story. This story, this story.
[00:29:36] Lisa DiGeso I love that. That’s so helpful. I think that’s just I haven’t heard that before of having that like kind of overarching theme of having the whole session planned out that I love that.
[00:29:46] Megan McMillan Yeah. And it is helpful as the photographer to go in and not just show up and be like, okay, I have to think on the spot now. I have to be creative right now. Like for me it actually is really supportive to have like a little checklist of like, Oh yeah, we talked about this. Oh yeah, this was an idea I added yesterday. Like, Oh yeah, you need like horizontals for the website. I don’t want to forget that. So it’s like nice to pull up my phone and like have the PDF and just be able to reference that.
[00:30:14] Lisa DiGeso Do you ever run into a situation where you have a client that maybe has an idea that doesn’t really align with your brand with their brand and you can see it, but they still want to go with it anyway, You’re just like, cringe, But.
[00:30:28] Megan McMillan Yeah, we.
[00:30:29] Lisa DiGeso Do.
[00:30:29] Megan McMillan Yeah. This is such a great I love this question ugh so good because like it does happen and this is where I would say like you are the expert and you have to really put on like that expert hat and like not worry about offending them. But like, you know what’s best so far? This comes up a lot with like, location. So a client has an idea of like, Hey, let’s do my house for one location. So I’ll say, Great, Can you do me a favor and send me a video just walking through your house, like in the afternoon time, which is the time we’d shoot there, let’s say, so I can see the lay. I can just make sure, like the the look of it will be great for your brand. And sometimes it is, but most of the time it’s not. And that’s where like, honestly, if I just said yes, that would be doing the client a disservice to be like, Sure, we can do it in your house with this, like your brown carpet and like you’re like blue walls that aren’t going to look good on the website. Like, no, like, I don’t want to do that, you know? So I’ll tell them. I’ll say, hey, like, honestly, like I would recommend we rent a space. Like and what I’ll do is I’ll put together a list. There’s purespace.com and there’s homestudiolist.com. There’s like so many resources popping up for photographers and creatives where we can rent beautiful spaces by the hour. So what I’ll do is I’ll like create a special list and I have like my own favorites. So it’s really easy to go in and look at my favorites in San Diego and just say, I think these like three spots would be good for Lisa’s brand And like, I’ll just like, share the list with them and say, Hey, here’s some options at different price points. Like, I would really recommend one of these because it’s going to elevate the look of your brand. It’s going to make your website look so professional, so clean, and like this is what’s going to really attract that next level client. And it’s just like I tell them that like I don’t hold back.
[00:32:21] Lisa DiGeso I love it. Well, you are that you’re the expert. Yeah, I love that.
[00:32:26] Megan McMillan That’s what they’re paying you for. Like they want to hear like what your vision is and like what you recommend. And literally, I don’t think there’s one time maybe there’s been a few times where, like, I approached it that way and said, Hey, I’d really, really recommend this instead. Most of the time they say, Oh yes, like, absolutely, I’m going to go with your advice. Like most of the time, like they’re going to trust you and they’re going to actually be like really grateful that you said something, especially when they see the final photos. I get like, Oh, you’re right. Like, this location was perfect. Ooh, I’m so happy. Like, I rented a space or like, I’m so happy, Like, I went with this outfit or like, Yeah.
[00:33:05] Lisa DiGeso I love that. I think it’s so it like the communication and just like with clients, it’s so important because, you know, as a family photographer, what I have seen is what I’m not sharing, okay? This is what would be a great palette for your family or this is what your husband should be wearing. You end up with this guy in a trucker hat, in a plaid shirt, and you’re unshaved with running shoes on, and you’re just like, Oh, man. Like, I know so much better, right? And it all comes down just to that communication.
[00:33:38] Megan McMillan Yeah. The communication. Like, like being brave enough to speak and then say it. And then also, like, if they’re attracted to you and they’ve seen like other families, like, you know, wearing a better palette and better, you know, clothes that are going to look great on camera, like there’s a reason they were attracted to you. So just showing examples and saying like, you know, like this family I’ve done like that family, like this is what I would really recommend for like this on camera. Look, you know.
[00:34:10] Lisa DiGeso Now I it’s funny that you mentioned that there is these sites that can be rented by the hour that I was like, that is incredible because I have heard a photographer either going to like VRBO or Airbnb, but I’m not even not even sure of what the rules are with that and what you need to disclose if you are working with these these locations with a client as the photographer. So do you know a little bit more on that?
[00:34:34] Megan McMillan Yeah. So you’re actually not supposed to do any photoshoots in Airbnbs and like especially at least especially for branding because it is like business to business, it is marketing, it’s a commercial shoot, so technically you’re not supposed to. I know people that have, but you’re not supposed to. But that’s what’s great about places like Pure Space and Home studio list is they already have that location release and that permission built in to like their system. So like when the client books through them, like you’re safe on your end and like you have full rights you in the client to like use the space and capture photos there. So that’s what’s nice about using those. And then, yeah, other spaces like certain hotels, restaurants like cafes, like some allow it and some don’t, and sometimes you don’t know till you’re shooting there. And then they come up and they say, Oh hey, like no professional photos. And they’re usually really nice about it and that’s fine. But it is good to be prepared ahead of time, like before you go with your client to know, like if that’s a possibility and like, communicate it to the client and have like a backup location.
[00:35:42] Lisa DiGeso In case I think even like reaching out to a bunch of different businesses, like our cafes or, you know, different spaces you want to possibly work with and maybe developing a relationship with them beforehand would be especially in like a smaller city or like a smaller town.
[00:35:58] Megan McMillan Yeah, no, that’s perfect. Like, I would encourage all brand photographers to do that in any any genre of photography, especially if it’s like families or a portrait or engagements. You could you could do that. You could create. I have a spreadsheet, actually, and it’s like my I call them location partners. So yeah, it’s great if you already get that, like okay, ahead of time, because then you’re going in and you don’t have to feel awkward.
[00:36:23] Lisa DiGeso I love that. And bring em a little $25 coffee gift card or something and just say thank you. Yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s a long way. I love that. So what do you wish more photographers knew?
[00:36:34] Megan McMillan Hmm? More photographers? Well, I wish more photographers knew that you have to charge enough to stay in business. This is a big passion of mine because, like, I get it. Like, we’re creatives and we get into this business because we love taking photos and we just, like, fall in love with the craft. And when you’re first stepping into being a business owner. $500 sounds like a lot of money. You’re like, Ooh, I like I can go make $500 in like an hour or two. Like, this is incredible. Like I’m going to be rich. And then we forget that, like, oh, there’s taxes. Oh, there’s expenses to running a business. Like, oh, all my time doesn’t go to just, like, photo shoots. Like I have a lot more time that has to go into running the business. So I have to account for my time. So it’s like it really it breaks my heart, honestly. Like when I see photographers that are like giving up or going out of business and they’re so talented. I see their talent in their photos and their passion for it, but they’re just they’re just not charging enough and they’re not like learning the business enough. You really have to put time into becoming a business owner, which is like, It’s crazy what we do, right? It’s like the biggest personal growth journey you’ll ever go on is becoming a business owner and like having to learn all these things that you weren’t planning to learn and having to like really look at yourself, look at your flaws. Like look at like what’s holding you back. Look at where you could improve on and like, spend energy there. It’s like, it’s, yeah. So I think like charging enough and like stepping into like that CEO, Like business owner.
[00:38:17] Lisa DiGeso Yeah, I love that. It is funny because it is such, there’s such a journey with being a new photographer. And like, I remember, like I started my photography business and I had no business experience. Like, I was just grateful people wanted me to take their babies photo and I didn’t even care what I was getting paid at the beginning. And then, you know, as you go on and you keep doing it and doing it and doing it, at some point you have to start charging. You have to start charging more because you realize that your time is worth so much more of your time away from your kids, your family. No weekends like we only get 18 summers really with our children, which is sad and horrifying. But like, really like when it comes to, like, stepping into your business boss hat and putting that on, it can’t be like the way it was when you started. And I think that almost every single photographer has to go through that uncomfortable, painful point when they realize that they’re worth so much more and their time is worth more. But I think like talking to so many, right?
[00:39:19] Megan McMillan Yeah. Like you said it perfectly when you said we only get 18 summers with our kids. I’m like, Oh my gosh, I’m already two summers in with one of them all. Yeah, but it’s true. Like, our time is so valuable and this is where the shift comes in of like, as a business, like any other business, you would charge enough for tax, you will charge enough for expenses or to pay your team like you have to charge enough. And at $500 I remember feeling like $500 was so much money. When I first start, my first shoot was 200. Yeah, my first brand shoot I told you about. Yeah. For my friend who who is has a marketing business, I charge 200 and I remember being like, Ooh, this is great. Like, I’m making $200 and I had so much fun and this is amazing. But like, if you do the math, even at charging like 500 a shoot, you’d have to do 200 photoshoots a year. That’s 200 clients. You have to find to hit 100,000 and 100,000 isn’t paying yourself 100,000 that, you know, if you pay yourself 50% of that, that’s actually considered healthy and a great business. So that’s a $50,000 salary. You have to have 200 clients a year at that price. That’s a lot. That’s like a photo shoot every day. And like, I don’t know about you, but I would rather find 20 clients a year or 40 clients a year and not have to find 200. So what’s interesting is, like the energy that goes into doing like a photo shoot at, let’s say, 500 versus 2000 or 5000, it’s actually like almost the same amount of energy now. And that’s like a shift. You start to make You realize, Oh yeah, I can actually provide a better service, a better quality product, a better client experience, and I can be happier and pay myself well when I’m charging enough.
[00:41:13] Lisa DiGeso It’s so true.
[00:41:14] Megan McMillan It’s good to talk about this all day because I’m like, really passionate about it.
[00:41:17] Lisa DiGeso But I think because I’m coming out the other side like I because I’ve run two companies simultaneously for nearly 12 years now, having my photography business as well as milk and honey or sorry, the Milky Way. And it has not been easy. And I have been under charging and putting my head in the sand for a number of years until finally this January, I actually got hacked and my my website got hacked. So it’s like I don’t have a website. And so I was like, Well, if I don’t have a website, I don’t have inquiries, so I can’t book anything with this business right now. So it gave me the opportunity to go, you know what, this isn’t working anymore. And coming back when I do return, I will be I’ve talked to my clients and I’m like, I’m I’m going to you’re going to be hearing people say like, she’s ridiculous. Those prices are ridiculous, but that’s what I need to charge and that’s what I need to make. And I’m not going to be for everybody. And that’s okay with me. But it’s just like it’s hard. It’s hard.
[00:42:15] Megan McMillan Well, I’m so sorry you got hacked.
[00:42:17] Lisa DiGeso Personally. It’s a blessing. It’s all good. Yeah, I got someone taking care of it.
[00:42:22] Megan McMillan It’s like a blessing in disguise. Isn’t that funny how it’s, like, all meant to be.
[00:42:26] Lisa DiGeso It really is.
[00:42:26] Megan McMillan And, like, it’s. It’s led to raising your prices. That’s so cool. And congrats to 12 years in business. That’s amazing. I’m not there yet. I can’t wait till the day I can say that. That’s so cool. Yeah. Like, and here’s what else came up for me when you were sharing that is like it is That leap of faith in the beginning when we raise our prices, it’s always scary. Those first few people we speak it to or share it with. Until you get those first few bookings, it feels uncomfortable. That’s totally normal. But I love what you said, that I’m not for everyone and that’s okay because you serving the people that can’t afford your new prices and actually want to pay for that, they actually want to find a photographer at that price, probably because that feels good to them, those people, you serving them and staying in your zone and having enough money to fill your cup at the end of the day is going to serve the world so much more than trying to photograph everyone. And I know this is like because I know you’re such a like, caring person and heart centered person and like, you really care. And so it’s easy to want to, like, serve everyone. But actually that’s not of high service. Like up high service is just being in your zone and really serving like those few clients really well.
[00:43:48] Lisa DiGeso I thank you. It’s going to be an interesting process, but I just like hanging my camera up for a little while has been actually really therapeutic. I didn’t really realize how burnt out I was until I put it down.
[00:44:01] Megan McMillan And I can relate. I can so relate. I know.
[00:44:06] Lisa DiGeso Such a journey. So you ready for the lightning round?
[00:44:08] Megan McMillan Yeah.
[00:44:09] Lisa DiGeso Okay. Coffee or tea?
[00:44:11] Megan McMillan Coffee.
[00:44:13] Lisa DiGeso What three things do you want to be remembered for?
[00:44:17] Megan McMillan Hmm. Okay. I want to be remembered for my passion, which a lot of my clients do describe me as that. And that makes me feel like, okay, I’m on brand and I’m showing up as me and I’m sharing that, I am a really passionate person, and I want to be remembered for being a really, like, loving person, whether that’s a loving mom, a loving family member, like loving daughter, like a good friend. Like good. Like a loving photographer. Just. Just being loving. Like I want to be remembered for that. And I really want to make an impact in the world beyond just like me and my goals, but really making a larger impact with my business in other people’s lives, like my clients. And I would love to like I do donate money sometimes, but I would love to do something even bigger than I’ve done so far with like some of my business profit. Yeah.
[00:45:24] Lisa DiGeso Good answer. Good answer. So what did you want to be when you grew up? When you were a kid?
[00:45:29] Megan McMillan I wanted to be an interior designer.
[00:45:32] Lisa DiGeso Oh.
[00:45:34] Megan McMillan And it’s so funny. It’s like, full circle now, But I. That was my first passion. And I actually went to school for it, but I didn’t end up loving it and dropped out of that. And then I had ended up having 27 jobs. To finally find another creative career, which is now like photography for me. So it is full circle now and I’m like, Oh, I’ve always been meant to be a creative. Like I kind of got lost along the way, but I’m back.
[00:46:03] Lisa DiGeso And I love that and love that. I’ve been an entrepreneur since 2001 with different businesses and jobs, like I haven’t worked for anybody since then. And I mean, not not all of them were successful, but I think I tried.
[00:46:18] Megan McMillan But it’s like and it’s like reframing it, right? It’s like, okay, it wasn’t successful. I had a failed business, too, by the way, but it’s like it led you to where you are now.
[00:46:27] Lisa DiGeso Somehow you just learn the lessons along the way. Mm hmm. Yeah. What What do you like to cook the most?
[00:46:34] Megan McMillan Well, cooking is a pain point for me, but I am getting. But we are working on it, me and my husband, so we can have healthy food to eat.
[00:46:41] Lisa DiGeso I love it.
[00:46:43] Megan McMillan I just cooked actually, this, like, sweet and sour meatball dish that my mom always made for me growing up, and she gave me the recipe. So I like to sometimes cook that. And I made like turkey meatballs and then like, it’s like pineapple and peppers and this, like, sweet and sour sauce over rice. It was really good.
[00:47:02] Lisa DiGeso Nice. Yum. I love that.
[00:47:05] Megan McMillan Yeah.
[00:47:06] Lisa DiGeso I’m such a foodie.
[00:47:08] Megan McMillan It’s like. It’s like a comfort meal to me because I grew up eating it, you know? And it makes me feel like just homey.
[00:47:15] Lisa DiGeso Yeah. I love it. What is your go to song that lifts you up when you’re feeling down?
[00:47:21] Megan McMillan Well, any like early 2000s, like hip hop and pop music as far as like a lift up, lift lift up song. I’m trying to think, well, actually, like, I like Dua lipa, too.
[00:47:35] Lisa DiGeso Oh, you know.
[00:47:35] Megan McMillan I really like Dua LIPA and her songs, and I like the weekend. Like, I can’t feel my face. That’s like, one that will lift me up. Yeah.
[00:47:47] Lisa DiGeso Do you have any personal projects going on right now?
[00:47:50] Megan McMillan Personal projects is if I’m trying not to lose myself in my identity is like. A mom and business owner are trying to still keep Meg like it’s still like, make time for me and like what I like to do. And sometimes that’s going to yoga or, gosh, the last two Sundays I was able to do like a happy hour drink with some girlfriends and it was so amazing. I was like, Wow, I missed this. I missed like, just going out with just me, no kids and like, with friends. So that’s my intention and project right now. It’s just like, how can I pour back into me?
[00:48:29] Lisa DiGeso Oh, I love that’s a good project. I think I’m going to take that one on.
[00:48:32] Megan McMillan Yeah, I love it.
[00:48:34] Lisa DiGeso What makes your soul light up?
[00:48:35] Megan McMillan What makes my soul light up is like when I see people having shifts in what’s possible for them. So, like, just unlocking this, like, level of possibility when I see, like, you know, the clients I coach or like even friends or just like family members, when you have conversations that just like, unlocks something like what we’re doing now, like listening to podcasts and, and you realize like, ooh, there’s this like other option available for me. Like, I could actually have that. Like I could do that. Like, I love experiencing that myself or like seeing other people experience it.
[00:49:12] Lisa DiGeso I love that just getting out of the box that maybe you didn’t even realize you were in. Yeah, that I love that. What is the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given?
[00:49:23] Megan McMillan Best piece of business advice is just be in action, take messy action forward or you’ve probably heard a version of that before, but it’s so true. It’s like we don’t have to have all the answers and a lot of times, the answers don’t even come until we take action, until we fail at one thing, until we try and we have a challenge along the way. So it’s just continuing to show up and take action, whether that’s a big action that day or just something really small to move forward.
[00:49:56] Lisa DiGeso So where can our listeners learn more from you?
[00:50:00] Megan McMillan Yeah, well, I love hanging out on Instagram at Meg Murry photo. I’m sure you’ll link that. And I do offer coaching and mentorship for photographers, especially if you’re kind of curious about starting brand photography and offering that in your business. That’s my specialty and what I love teaching on. So you can find more information on my website at Meg marie Photo Icon and I do have freebies for photographers at photographer Freebies dot com.
[00:50:32] Lisa DiGeso So I love to end my interviews with this last question and it is what are you serious about right now or artistically curious about right now?
[00:50:42] Megan McMillan Yeah, I am like artistically very curious about shifting my editing style, which like is big for photographers, right? Like we get kind of like attached and used to doing editing one way. And I just started to really like be so inspired by other photographers work in different lighting and different editing. And I realized, like I haven’t given myself time and permission to really, like, explore that. And that’s what I want. I want to explore it more and like, learn more.
[00:51:13] Lisa DiGeso I love that creative playtime. I love that any specific genre that you’re looking more into.
[00:51:19] Megan McMillan Of like photography, like.
[00:51:22] Lisa DiGeso Yeah like style or editing style.
[00:51:25] Megan McMillan I can’t see that. I can even express it in words like it’s been hard for me to even articulate, like what I feel like I want to shift in my editing because I just like, need to explore it more. Like I’m not sure. It’s like I just need to play around, maybe do some courses. Actually, I recently reached out to a photographer whose editing really inspires me and she has several different styles and I asked if I could like do a session with her, like pay her to kind of like, what? Have her watch me edit and like, so I’m excited, so I should probably take action and actually book that. So it’s like on the calendar. Yeah, because like, I think I just know it’ll unlock something or like help me kind of like take the next step to explore more.
[00:52:08] Lisa DiGeso You know, that I think a lot of the time we do, we forget to play and we forget like as creatives and as business owners, the easiest way to like, fix maybe a burn out period or just some just boredness is to play.
[00:52:22] Megan McMillan So true. And like we get to do that. Like that’s why we became business owners. Like we can make our own schedule. We can decide what’s most important to like, do today. So it’s like just giving ourselves permission to play.
[00:52:37] Lisa DiGeso Yeah, that well Meg. Thank you so much for joining me today.
[00:52:41] Megan McMillan Thank you, Lisa. You are so just like warm and I love your energy. I felt like I was just hanging out with a best friend. So thank you.
[00:52:51] Lisa DiGeso Thank you. Oh, my beautiful friends, thank you so much for tuning in on this conversation. I hope you loved it just as much as I did. I am sending you so much of my light and my love today and every single day. We’ll see you next time.
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