This week's featured photographer is Tyler Austin of Amor by TAustin in Fall City, Washington, USA.
Where do you operate your business?
We have a home studio near Seattle, WA. It’s next to but completely separate from our house.
Your Facebook page
Your Pinterest account
Your Instagram account
Your Twitter account
Nikon 70-200mm 2.8
Nikon 85mm 1.8
Nikon 50mm 1.8
Processing Software (just provide the names of the one's you use)
Lightroom and Photoshop
Do you use any actions?
I use a variety of actions I’ve created to speed up my editing and workflow.
Do you retouch and if so can you give me a quick rundown on if you use any plugins, etc.?
Yes, I retouch by hand with basic frequency separation techniques and also use Portraiture to help as well.
You know that woman that will buy something just because it has a certain logo or name on it. That’s what I want for my brand. That’s one reason our logo/watermark looks the way it does.
I want our images that are posted online to have that look of an advertisement somebody would see in a magazine.
My marketing comes from SEO to get new leads, and then the word of mouth from those clients. I’m not a huge fan of going out and networking and partnering with local boutiques and things like that. Not because I don’t want to, but because I’m so busy with everything else I decided to put ALL my marketing efforts into my blog and social media posts completely optimized for Google and other SEO.
If you look at our blog you won’t see big elaborate posts talking about the session, and all the photos from it. You’ll see ONE single image (optimized and keyworded) with keywords based off my research what people are searching for in my area and what describes my brand and who I want to find us. I’m huge on being efficient, and I just thought it to be much more practical to either do one blog/Instagram/tweet/fb post with a single image every day. Or sometimes I’ll sit down and schedule them out for the week if I know I’ll be gone. Just remember, “Consistency is KING”
I'd love to add into the article any inspiring client stories you might have. Also have you had any issues with clients that you would like to share how you resolved them. That is always something that can hugely benefit the readers.
Luckily, I’ve never had an issue with a client. But that also might be in part because of my communication before the session, and all the expectations set up in advance. And hopefully I never come across any major legal issues, but that is also what my contract is in place for.
I don’t have a physical welcome product, but just the initial PDF session guide we send them which has some pre session tips and things not to do before your session. (ie. Spray Tan!)
Our session fee is $300 to secure their session time and date and that also includes full professional hair/makeup/lashes. After their session when all the photos are ready we schedule a viewing for them to come back into our studio to see everything and select what they want for purchase. We offer more of an A la carte pricing menu as most women either want an album, a folio box, wall art, or a mix of both.
Our albums start out at $799 for an 8x8 and include 20 photos. They have the option to then add more photos, thicker pages, acrylic cover, or a larger sized album.
Our folio boxes come in three styles and each style has a small/med/large option. Folio boxes start around $600 and come with 10 photos. Then they have the option to add additional matted prints.
We also use StickyAlbums (the photo APP thing) and give that to each client with any photos that they purchased.
What products perform best in your studio?
Albums and Folio Boxes…But you have to show it to sell it so we have lots of samples and try to keep them updated with our best work as much as possible.
When Rachael (my wife) and I were shopping around looking to buy our very first home, we knew that we wanted a space completely separate from our actual house so we would never have to worry about our kid’s messes, dog barking, dishes in the sink, etc. We don’t have the biggest nicest house but still wanted to have a higher end brand. So when we found a house with a separate building we snagged it as fast as we could and put more effort into fixing that up then our actual house for the first year or so. Our shooting space is about 400 sq.ft and then our viewing area, hair & makeup corner, bathroom, open area for clothing rack and laying out all the outfits is another 400 sq.ft. Lastly, we just recently built on to the end of that to give us another 300 sq. ft of beautiful office space. Such a breath of fresh air as I’ve been operating out of a spare bedroom converted to an office space for years.
The only real challenge I’ve come across that we can’t really fix is that we aren’t a commercial storefront. So sometimes I feel like our initial street appeal when a client pulls up isn’t that ideal. But we work with what we got and try to make it as commercial and luxurious as possible. Big sign on the front, painted studio colors, etc.
Do you have any plans to change and/or grow from your space in the near future.
Now that we finally have a dedicated office space we don’t have any plans to move or grow our space. However, I’ll always try to make it nicer and more luxurious inside, along with trying to expand our portfolio to include other varieties of images we can’t get in our studio space (Beaches, hotels, fields, etc.)
Do you keep strict hours of operation with your clients?
When it comes to email No. I’m somebody that is “connected & synced” with all our accounts and devices. So if I get an email it’s super easy for me to just respond quickly before I forget. For client orders to be picked up, because we are a home studio, we operate generally on an “appointment only” basis. However, we still get those clients that come by out of the blue to try and pickup their order after the email that says “please let us know when you’d like to schedule a pickup.” So basically my days of walking around in my underwear at home are pretty much limited to late night hours.
Natural Light, Studio Light, combination of styles? What's your preference? What are your strengths and weaknesses with lighting, if any?
As a professional photographer I believe you need to try and master your craft so that you’re able to photograph somebody in any situation that presents itself. Light is light, and you should try and learn to control it and/or help it, rather than just working with what you have.
Being said that, our studio we built has ZERO windows. I made it like this because I wanted to have 100% control of my lighting 24 hours a day, every day of the year. This way I can replicate any look for any client. Natural light backlit, dark and dramatic shadows… it’s all within our reach at any given time with just a few changes to our camera and flash settings. Sometimes Rachael will even be shooting at the same time as me and shooting at a different angle with different settings. For example, I may be shooting a harsh side lit look on the bed while Rachael is shooting a bright and airy backlit shot. Not only are we more efficient with our session time that way, but the client gets twice as many looks and styles with their photos.
I absolutely love shooting in the studio but I also love shooting outdoors or in a hotel just to be able to mix things up every once in a while. It’s always funny when a new client walks into our studio for the first time and I instantly see their eyes wandering around. And I always say, “Are you looking for the windows?” Which always starts a good icebreaker conversation on how we use light to make everyone look gorgeous.
Do you have makeup artists you work with in your studio?
This is definitely a huge plus to our business. Rachael (my wife) is also our hair and makeup artist which means we’ve never had a hair/mu artists show up late or flake out. The other good thing about this is that Rachael over the years has been trained to apply makeup “for the camera.“ Countless times I’ve called Rachael over to the computer, zoomed in to 200% and said things like, “That waterline needs to be a little smoother, and that lid area needs to have a smoother transition to the highlights.” Call it tough love, but she’s a damn good makeup artist because of it and continues to not only get better, but faster and also leads to quicker and better retouching for me when editing.
BUSINESS IN GENERAL:
Rachael and I have been married and doing photography together for 7 years now. Before photography I was a firefighter and Rachael worked for Boeing as an office admin. After we had our second boy, I decided to do photography full time, and then 2 years later Rachael was able to quit and come on full time with me as well.
Did you go to school for photographer or are you self taught?
I did go to school for graphic design, but when it comes to photography I’m self taught. And when I say self taught I mean reading books, watching youtube tutorials, Creative Live classes, attending workshops and conferences etc.
Did you always want to be a photographer or was it something that came later in life?
I always thought I would retire as a firefighter. But after years of loving photography more and more, I realized I would be able to enjoy my life and kids much more if I worked for myself as a photographer which is what made me finally make the switch.
What is your biggest struggle in this business?
Being a husband and wife team is great, but it means that we have to do everything ourselves. Yes we outsource plenty of things. But running a full time studio comes with a list of a million things to constantly be doing or thinking about. I’m constantly making tweaks and changes to improve basic day to day workflows so it’s not so overwhelming at times.
Is there a reason you shoot boudoir and do you shoot any other genre? If you're exclusive, and/or recently went exclusive can you give the readers some insight into why you did. If you've only ever done boudoir, again we'd love to hear why.
We also shoot around 15 weddings per year, and around 100 or more high school seniors. Mix in some families and commercial video and we have a full plate before we even get into the boudoir business. But for me, shooting boudoir comes down to two main things. One, boudoir is year round so when weddings and HS Seniors die off in the fall we can still be making money through the winter. And two, shooting boudoir is where I feel I get to explore and push my creative boundaries as an artist so I never burn out. Lighting, posing and retouching in unique and artistic ways is all something I love being able to do. And let’s be honest, there is something so powerful and beautiful about the female form which gives me the perfect canvas to create something beautiful that can give such empowerment to a client which I love to see and hear.
If you knew someone who wanted to be a photographer, and could give them one piece of important advice, what would that be?
Spend all your time and efforts training yourself in lighting and posing. If you take a perfect photo you won’t need to necessarily worry about all those editing programs, actions, presets, studio samples, pretty websites, etc. Get a good fundamental basis and then invest in good quality lenses. You’ll hold onto those much longer than your latest camera.
Have you ever done a boudoir session yourself? (We know Tyler is a guy but he did have this to say)
I definitely think it’s important for a female boudoir photographer to do a session. There are so many things you’ll learn and see differently being in your clients shoes which will just help make you a better photographer.
How do you feel about the male / female debate regarding boudoir photographers?
I don’t think it’s an issue at all. It’s only weird or awkward if you make it that way. Some of the best boudoir photographers in the world are men. If you’re confident and good and professional at what you do it doesn’t matter if you’re male or female.
On another note, I’ve always thought that I have an advantage over female photographers because a woman can’t really look at another woman like I can. And I think that shows in my photos. Then again, I shoot with Rachael so having that eye of a man and a woman during the session, culling the photos, and then retouching the photos kind of gives us the best of both worlds at every stage.
What do you do to avoid burn-out? Is there ever a time when you just want to throw your camera out the window?
Any time I ever feel exhausted it’s usually because I’ve been doing the same thing for a while. So that’s when I’ll shoot a portfolio session where I have no fear of “I have to delivery blank amount of images to a client” which lets my mind be free to push my creativeness because I’m not worried if I only get one photo, or 10 photos, my only mindset is to try and create something I haven’t done before.
What do you love about the business?
My favorite thing is that I can literally create whatever I want. There aren’t really any rules, which allows me to push certain boundaries that I may not or cannot do with other portraits. Also, with boudoir photography I love that everybody whether they say it or not, has that part of them that is attracted to that little bit of mystery and seductiveness of this genre of photography. I know people who like every photo I post to social media but won’t talk about it in public. Then it’s almost a game to bring it up at the right time and get them to book a session.
What do you hate about the business?
Taxes. Hands down, I hate taxes!
Are you a member of any professional photo organizations like PPA, WPPI? What benefit do you feel you get by being a member?
I’m also a member of PPA which I love for the extra insurance perks and Rangefinder magazine. I also belong to WPPI and look forward to the print competition every year….And the open bar at the opening night party 😉
Do you compete and do you have any opinions on it? AIBP runs contests regularly. Do you participate? If not, is there a reason you don’t?
I try to compete in WPPI print competition every year but haven’t yet submitted to AIBP contests. However I’d really like to I just need to make it more of a priority and keep a better eye out for submission info and deadlines.
SOME FUN MORE PERSONAL STUFF:
Anything Italian because the portions are huge!
One guilty pleasure in life?
Margherita Pizza anytime or a frozen pizza late at night
What is your favorite piece of clothing?
A good quality fitted t-shirt
What's one song on your playlist?
I always have “Shuffle” selected on Pandora so it could be anything from Taio Cruz to Taylor Swift to Riverdance lol
What's your favorite movie genre? Example?
Action Hero Thrillers – The Guardian, Armageddon, Gladiator
Favorite shoes to wear?
What are you currently reading?
Picture Perfect Lighting by Roberto Valenzuela
If you could go anywhere in the world, where would that be?
Italy to crave my hunger and artistic mind….New Zealand to crave my need for a good tan.
If you could go back and do over anything in your life, what would that be?
Make myself save that $10 here and there and be a better money saver.
If you could meet and photograph someone famous, who would that be and why?
Alessandra Ambrosio, OMG those eyes would make anybody’s portfolio famous!
What do you struggle with the most in life? (not photo related)
Being happy with my best at any certain time. I always have that feeling of “if I just worked a little harder” been a little stronger, faster… All of those “what if I had, then maybe I could have been” thoughts.
Are you married, single, have kids, husband? Is life a juggling act for you?
I’m married to Rachael Austin and we have two beautiful boys together ages 3 and 6. We also have a yellow lab and I cat. Having two young kids and both of us working full time in our photography business is definitely a constant work/life juggling act that I don’t think we’ll ever fully perfect.
Who inspires you the most in life? Work?
In life, my dad. He’s somebody that is always ahead of his competitors because of his consistency and determination. Also for giving me the entrepreneur spirit and showing me how to run with it and believe in myself. In work, Roberto Valenzuela is definitely one of my biggest inspirations. I love his story of where he started to where he is today. But mostly because his success has mostly been because of his dedication to practice and perfecting his craft.
If you could provide one single piece of advice to influence a young person's direction in life, what would that be?
You can always fail at doing something you hate, so you might as well take a chance at doing something you love. On that note, Innovate or Die. There will always be somebody younger, newer, undiscovered, more talented, and hungry to replace you. So be passionate in everything you do and never stop learning and improving your craft.