Vicki Landers The episode delves deeper into how Vicki reimagined her professional life by moving out of her comfort zone, challenging traditional
Today on the Mess in the Middle we chatted about Carol Walker’s evolution through photography and the opportunity and successes she’s had.
If you want to learn about what it takes to launch and grow a local business, this is a great session to dive into.
*What follows is an AI-generated transcript may not be 100% accurate.
[00:00:00] Audra: Okay. Hi, Carol. How are you?
[00:00:04] Carol Walker: I’m good. Audra. How are you?
[00:00:05] Audra: Good. Good. I’m so happy for you to be here and I’m excited to spend some time with you and catch up and see what you’re working on and where you’re going with things. Let’s first take a few minutes to of give everybody a background of who you are and what you do in the universe.
[00:00:21] And then
[00:00:22] we’ll take it from there.
[00:00:23] Carol Walker: Okay. I have been a professional photographer for, going on 37 years this year. Wow.
[00:00:30] You don’t look old enough
[00:00:32] unless I like to say I started when I was five. There you go. But, and I’ve had some great fortune, that a lot of hard work of course, but, I started out in what I
[00:00:44] affectionately referred to as the fast food photography business.
[00:00:48] Audra: oh, interesting. Okay.
[00:00:50] Carol Walker: After I graduated from photography school, I managed a photo lab for a couple of years, just to get more experience in, the color and printing process. But then I had an opportunity to work for Olan Mills and nice.
[00:01:03] I. this is back in the eighties now,when there was an Olan Mills in everywhere and I became a, regional trainer for them for four and a half years. Okay. And from there, the woman that actually introduced me to Olan Mills, her and her brother, who I had worked with at the lab had decided to open up their own like little.
[00:01:23] private, family portrait studio, photographing families and children and weddings. And so they made me an offer and I came on board with them for a couple of years. Okay. And during that time, it was an interesting time in my life cuz I was moonlighting as for what I really wanted to do
[00:01:39] rock photography and I worked for two, three actually music magazines
[00:01:45] Audra: statewide. Nice.
[00:01:46] Carol Walker: yeah, so I was, photographing a lot of bands. A lot of
[00:01:49] music. Yeah, it was,
[00:01:50] that’s fun. It was fun. Yeah. It was interesting, fun life. Then I was in like my late twenties right about that time. And, then. Yeah, exactly.
[00:01:59] Carol Walker: Then I, from there actually went into, glamor shots. Believe it or not, and their heyday came along and, and so I, I joined up with them and became a regional trainer for them for three and a half years. Okay. that’s all what I call my fast food photography, those studios where it’s like, get ’em in, get ’em out.
[00:02:18] And, you learn a cookie cutter way of doing things, but. I learned a lot. a lot more than that. II still pull from that even now during my busy times. Yeah. But, from there I had decided, what, I think it’s time to branch out on my own and, got about three months into it.
[00:02:34] And,like any new business and entrepreneur was, just struggling, trying to figure out how I’m gonna make this work, as a photographer and I had a, an offer fall into my lap. and this is actually a very funny story. I had, an opportunity to be an interim manager for the film commission of Pinellas County.
[00:02:53] Wow. Yeah. And, the film commission, framework doesn’t really know what they do. They market the area to producers of film, television, and commercials to try and bring production into the area. Okay. It’s a wonderful industry, clean, very lucrative for those in the production industry, So I went and I spoke with and interviewed with the film commissioner at the time.
[00:03:15] still my good friend, Jennifer Paramore, and, hand to God. True story. This was a Wednesday. I remember it clear as day and we literally sat in her office for about two hours talking. And all of a sudden she looked at the clock. She goes, oh my God, look what time it is. I have to be in Tallahassee for a meeting as she’s shoving things into her briefcase.
[00:03:34] Carol Walker: And she goes, you know what, if you want the job, it’s yours, I’ll be back on Friday, just take messages. And she ran out and I remember sitting there and just looking around her office and going, what did happen? and I called my husband at the time and I said, I think she just offered me the job. I’m not sure about it, right?
[00:03:54] Yeah. Yeah. He goes, yeah, you’re filling in till she, I go, no, I think she just offered me the job. That job went nine years. I was with the film commission as film commission manager. I loved it. I loved what I was doing. I loved my boss. we worked for the county. it was a wonderful experience.
[00:04:12] But along that time, digital came in. Yeah. And I felt like even though I was still connected with my state association, my national professional photographers of America,
[00:04:24] Florida, professional photographers
[00:04:25] and local Tampa area, professional photographers, I felt like I was getting left behind because I really wasn’t doing what I, I set out to do.
[00:04:33] And here I was sitting at a meeting one night at the local Tampa meeting and my very good friend and someone who’d been a mentor for me for many years. Bruce Evanson just threw out this wacky idea. He said, I’m thinking about retiring in a couple of years. Why don’t you come on board? We join forces and you take over eventually.
[00:04:54] And it took me four months because, four months thinking about it. And I really, we had lots of meetings, went over lots of things, lots of details. Because the reality of having my own brick and mortar, I had never really thought about it. I had no business background, no business training whatsoever.
[00:05:11] Okay. And. And Bruce said, I’ll teach you all that. I’ll teach you how to run a business. And do you wanna get your master’s photography? And I, yeah, I would love to, I didn’t think I know he said I’ll help you get there. And he did. And, I came on board January, 2006. we flipped the business in January, 2009, three years.
[00:05:31] And, I became Thomas, Bruce or Thomas, Bruce studio. Bruce kind of sunset it off into his retirement. He is still my very good friend and mentor. Awesome. Sur dad. Yeah. Helped me move into my new studio last year. And, I did get my master’s. He good. Brought me up. I got that back in 2016. And I’ve just, I always said there were some big shoes to fill, but how could I find, put my twist on the whole thing?
[00:06:01] Bruce was the most awarded, it was known as Florida’s most awarded portrait studio. he’s got every bell and whistle, in our industry that you can get master craftsman, everything and. I think what I’ve brought to the business is just a more contemporary feel yeah. To what he established, which is classical portraiture.
[00:06:21] Carol Walker: And there are just not a whole lot of people that do that anymore. everybody’s a photographer these days. Everybody has a nice camera, but really not many people know and understand light, studio
[00:06:35] Audra: lighting. That’s very challenging. So whenever
[00:06:38] Carol Walker: down a little
[00:06:40] Audra: orange over here, don’t have any light over here.
[00:06:43] Carol Walker: I like it. Yeah. so when people ask,or if I’m interviewed or so they say, what sets you apart? Especially since, these days, there are so many photographers. And I just say in a word lighting, I learned, from Bruce the techniques of the old masters, we strive for that Rembrandt light, And, that’s, I think what sets my work apart and again, with a more contemporary feel because, okay. I do a lot of high school seniors. That’s a whole other part of my story. Yeah. And if we get there, but, yeah, so I think, that’s what makes a difference. And that’s where I am now carrying on
[00:07:18] as I say, the tradition of Florida’s most awarded portrait studio.
[00:07:22] Audra: That’s awesome. What a great story. What a great origin story. I think today there’s so many businesses that are either carried on by family. Or not carried on, If they hadn’t stayed up to date on what’s happening or evolved with the internet or digital or print, a lot of print, people have been put out a lot of paper, people that did cards maybe, or things like that.
[00:07:48] It’s either you pivoted when this was all coming or very few of them are still around. have you found that there’s any, cuz you said that and we all know everybody’s a photographer now, especially the better that even phones get. Oh. So they don’t even go as far as a camera. Yeah. Do you find that the competition is
[00:08:08] like when you go to bid on a project, are there 10 other people doing it or you’re in such a niche space that you don’t really have to compete in all
[00:08:16] Carol Walker: that? I think I’m in more of a niche if it’s a company coming to me, for example,I just got, a big client with, HCA, there, with healthcare and a couple of local hospitals.
[00:08:26] And so they bid it out to a couple of photographers in the area. They’re looking for someone with a studio, with a polished professional look. And while I do have the brick and mortar, another thing that I offer and I tell them is if you need me to, I can bring an entire portable studio to you.
[00:08:44] Oh. and, but in that case, it’s more competitive because there are a lot of other people that do that as well. it’s pretty standard, a very good friend of mine Kevin Newsom. they’ve had a studio, he and his wife, Kay, over in Tampa for over 30 years.
[00:08:59] Audra: Okay. And he
[00:09:01] Carol Walker: just last year, he hiked the Appalachian trail straight through last year.
[00:09:06] Big deal, huge accomplishment, especially for a 60 some year old man, but he kinda, he came back from that, thinking I don’t really need this anymore. He didn’t need, a brick and mortar studio because most of his work was all on location, big companies. He’s flown all over the country to cover conventions and he’ll, a company will bring him in to do a hundred head shots.
[00:09:27] over, the course of a day or two and, so we’re yeah in, a different league than the average person who cannot yeah. cover something like that. So it’s changed. Yeah. It’s definitely
[00:09:39] Audra: changed. so what do you focus on now?
[00:09:41] So even though you went through the same things all startups do, You started to go down that path and then you pivoted because you got that job, but you ended up still circling back to getting your own things. what a great, takeaway, even if you’re not ready to go, but finding somebody that may be on their way out or want to and partnering with them.
[00:10:02] Carol Walker: That already has a successful business. That’s a great opportunity. Sure. for somebody that wants to test the waters, but isn’t a hundred percent there yet, right? Yeah. and that I think would still work today, even looking at some of these businesses. I’m hoping for me one day, I, yeah, I just turned 60 this year and so I’m starting to look ahead no time too soon.
[00:10:23] Yeah. But I’m thinking, what am I gonna do with it now? Cause it would be a shame, for Thomas Bruce Studio to close the doors, we’ve been here since 1973. Wow. Just throwing that out to the universe. I know,
[00:10:34] Audra: Anybody listening located in Florida five to seven years. there you go. There you go.
[00:10:42] She’ll be ready to go then. that’s awesome. I think too, because you guys are niched that you’ve been able to evolve through, like you said, the seventies, the eighties, the nineties with glamor shots. Oh. But then still find a place today with every, cuz photography has gone in a different place, It’s become very organic and with all the evolution of social media, it’s out eating and on the beach and then walking down the street. And that kinda, yeah, that, that photography didn’t exist. No, it really, none of us ever pursued that kind of stuff in the eighties and nineties, they
[00:11:20] Carol Walker: were, that was considered just snapshots.
[00:11:22] you took your little Kodak brownie camera or where had long and you were just taking snapshots, but now that it’s the norm, like you said, it’s the Instagram photos and I do a lot, like I said, high school seniors, you’d ask, what I was doing now. And I have definitely evolved over the years.
[00:11:41] Carol Walker: I no longer do weddings. I paid my dues. No more weddings. Yeah. and even the children’s business has just changed. It’s dried up. So to speak for just that reason, because so many moms, they have nice cameras, they have iPhones, And so they’re constantly documenting their children. Like our parents never did, not to the extent that they do now.
[00:12:03] Yeah. But, my main focus now is, families will always be families, high school seniors and, business portraits cuz everybody needs head shots. Yeah. And my senior business was another wonderful opportunity that kind of fell into my lap. I’m telling you I’ve been blessed. and that was about 12, 12 years ago.
[00:12:22] Someone approached me who had the contract for two of our biggest, private schools here. Okay. In Pinellas County, Shorecrest preparatory school and Canterbury school of Florida. and he was located out in Brandon and he was closing his studio. He could still do all the underclass stuff, let your school days pictures.
[00:12:42] Yeah. Yeah. But he had no place for the seniors to go. And he asked me if I’d be interested in taking it over. I was literally a few minutes. I was couple of miles down the road from Shorecrest and not much further than Canterbury. And so long story short. Yes, I took those contracts on and I’m 12 years strong into it right now.
[00:12:59] My busy time. I’m right in the middle of it. Now, June to November. Our heads are down. We’re focused on seniors and we run over a hundred kids through here. Wow. Plus what’s nice is, is words spreads. I’ve got, a couple dozen or more of other schools, Osceola or Bogie or Dixie or, Holland, sorry.
[00:13:17] It’s not Dixie anymore. anyway, so yeah, so I think my main focus is definitely on seniors and. Who did that? a picture back there. Yeah. Yeah. And, yeah, in a weird
[00:13:30] their kids in the air, walking, laughing, doing, whatever. What I meant by lower the bar is, lighting isn’t as important. pricing is different because these newer photographers, until they get up to speed or understand their pricing is Dirt cheap that it, it makes, some of us that have been in the industry for a long time, Sure. People look at us and go, why are you so expensive when I can pay this much for an eight by 10 over here? And it’s so it’s yeah, it’s just the public’s perception of photography. It used to be, people would say, what do you do for a living?
[00:14:06] I’m a photographer. Oh, cool. now. I’m a photographer, and they go, oh yeah. Oh, and so is a photographer. oh yeah. my cousin does. Oh, he, everybody it’s it’s definitely taken the cool factor out of it. yeah, no.
[00:14:20] Audra: So is digital marketing, let me tell you, our industry has gotten so yucky.
[00:14:25] So talk, there’s always, it doesn’t matter what industry it’s in that we’re talking about. You’re always gonna have people that have commoditized the industry, meaning you’re the Walmart, right? You just want shelf space. Yeah. you’re willing to go bottom dollar. You just wanna get in the game, but then like you have, you’ve done smart in regards.
[00:14:44] If it was intentional or not, you’ve still said,no, I’m not gonna change the standards. I’m not gonna change my path. This is where I am and, not everybody needs to drive a Bentley. Yeah. But there still is an audience for Bentleys, sure. That are willing to pay a little bit more for it.
[00:14:59] And I think that, all business owners should strive to that. Yes. At the beginning, when we are bootstrapping it or scrappy take in every deal, we can to keep food on the table and keep the business afloat. It is a tougher game, but once you evolve and master your craft and get better and better at it, you should evolve out of that.
[00:15:19] unless you really just like the challenge of being a commodity. Yeah. Not for me. No. so if I take just web design, which is just one of the things that I’ve done over the last 10 years before there was an art to it, , there was design and strategy and marketing and things that went into it.
[00:15:36] Audra: And today it. Pop up, you can have somebody build it for you. Some other country. it’s become something it’s lost its drive. Now, does that mean that I restructure my business to compete there? I don’t, I still have very high end clients that I work with that recognize it’s not just about having some pages up there.
[00:15:57] They need to work. They need to have opt-ins and call the actions and the copy needs to be right. It needs to tie all the marketing together. So people actually buy stuff. there’s so much more to building a website than just having five pages put up there. So same issue, different industry, but same kind of thing.
[00:16:16] I’ve paid my dues. I’ve been out this 2009, I’ve owned an agency since 09. Wow. I don’t have to compete in the commodity space anymore when I first started in it, I did. Sure. And it was all priced and it was all who could do it quicker, faster, longer, whatever.
[00:16:34] Carol Walker: Yeah. We’ve all been there.
[00:16:35] Yeah. We’ve all. We’ve all, everybody starts somewhere. And I think one of the hardest lessons or one of the hardest things to learn. And you’re right in any business is accepting the fact that not everyone is your client. Yeah. And you have to be able to let some people go, I had a client ask me for something just recently. In the sales room in, in an order session. And my assistant came to me and said, oh, he wants to know, if you’ll come down to this. And I said, no, I said, I can’t, because if I do that for him, I have to do that for every other parent of every senior that comes in here, they talk.
[00:17:12] Yeah. And
[00:17:14] Audra: I got Carol to go
[00:17:15] Carol Walker: down on the price. and it’s not fair. And why would I’ve thought very hard about my prices. My prices are set where they are. I’m not completely rigid. if there is flexibility for things, but just to straight up say, knock this off for me.
[00:17:31] No, I’m sorry. I can’t do that. they, and he settled into it and he was fine, once he, sometimes it’s a matter of you don’t ask, you don’t get too. So he may have just been coming from, from there, but, yeah, not everybody’s your client and sometimes you just,
[00:17:46] you have to let that go.
[00:17:48] Audra: Do you have any programs with the school that you offer? Some kind of scholarship for kids that can’t afford? With the or seniors?
[00:17:55] Carol Walker: I do with, yeah, I, that’s a communication that I have with the school. they send me a list, the beginning of the year of the kids that are on full
[00:18:04] scholarship. Okay.
[00:18:05] And what we do there is if they just wanna get the required yearbook shot, we don’t, there’s no pricing about it. There’s no session fee. There’s no anything. Nice. We just book the appointment and don’t say another word about it. If they decide that they wanna do one of our other sessions, which is more personal, they’re bringing in, different outputs, they’re showing things off.
[00:18:27] Then they pay the same prices, everyone else, which is already discounted. We do that, as well for everybody every year. our contract schools. Yeah. yeah, so there’s a way to, to do that.
[00:18:37] Audra: We don’t talk about it, so to speak. Yeah. Yeah. no. and those that can’t afford it, especially your senior year, it’s not the kids’ fault if the parents are lack of parents or something just can’t, aren’t a place I can afford it, but yeah.
[00:18:49] Yeah. That’s really nice. That’s good. I
[00:18:51] Carol Walker: also have a, a payment plan. I came up with this, I’m a single. and, I come up with this years ago, I decided, and I tell parents all the time, this payment plan that I have is run entirely by you. You decide how much you wanna put down. You decide what day of the month works.
[00:19:08] You decide how much you wanna pay every month and you decide how long you wanna take to pay it off. Because I don’t care if it takes you until graduation to pay it off. It doesn’t do me any good to hang onto all of these, Great images of your kid on my computer. I want you to have them. This is why we did this.
[00:19:28] So whatever you’re comfortable with and I’ve had parents pay $25 a month, and then they get their income tax check, and they’ll pay, a couple hundred bucks they’re done, and
[00:19:38] Audra: they have their pictures. So that’s smart. That’s a good idea. Yeah. I’ve worked with people. That’s
[00:19:42] Carol Walker: a really good idea.
[00:19:42] I want ’em to have it. It’s this is a really special time, For
[00:19:45] Audra: the kid and the parent. yeah. So talk about, as you got into business, how was it figuring out how to run a business painful? Normally it is I
[00:19:59] Carol Walker: had Bruce, okay. Who was, of course, a huge help. that’s not to say that I have followed everything.
[00:20:05] Yeah. Because like you said, yeah. the times were changing fast. Yeah. I came into this right at the crash of the photography industry, When digital exploded and people’s business started falling off for that reason. Sure. Because there was so much competition and people, consumers, weren’t gonna pay the price.
[00:20:23] so I had to find other ways to do things and much as I followed and respected,everything that Bruce taught me, I also knew times were changing and, doing direct mail marketing pieces and hitting people on this long mail list, six and seven times with postcards wasn’t working now, it was about MailChimp, and email marketing
[00:20:45] Carol Walker: and, he didn’t know anything about that cuz of course, he came from a different time. And the other thing I would say that was a huge helped me and I advise anyone is find your mentors, get some business mentors and I have made, some wonderful friends. Okay. yeah, within my industry, like I said, and that’s the power of also being involved in local organizations.
[00:21:09] if whatever business you’re in has organizations, support organizations. Like I said, I had the Florida professional photographers, professional photographers, America, and then local. And that’s where I made connections. And I network that I made friends and we are a community, that just.
[00:21:27] Carol Walker: Yeah, we, we could be considered competition, but we’re also our biggest supporters. We work for each other. if I need an assistant, I know I can call Rob Morman. I can call the man I mentioned, Kevin Newsome. the Newsome were two of my biggest, supporters and business
[00:21:42] mentors. But definitely, yeah. Organizations, support organizations within your industry and business mentors, I’d say, look at people that you admire and that are doing what you wanna do and learn from them.
[00:21:58] And if other industries, I know anything like photography industry were very welcoming in that respect. I remember Bruce told me the first class I ever took from him when I just met him. He told the whole class, and I have repeated this so many times to people I’ve mentored, or assistants. And he said, I’ll teach you everything.
[00:22:19] I know I don’t have any secrets. The only thing I ask in return is that you pass it on. To continue to raise the bar in the industry. So we share we’re a big about sharing in my industry and helping
[00:22:31] Audra: that’s. That’s good. what I think is an important point is we don’t focus on local enough.
[00:22:38] that’s because now that there’s no boundaries, the worldwide web is who we have access to. So when it comes to mentors, we see, especially in photography, maybe we want to start in lifestyle, so we will go out and we will find somebody in that space that we respect or we follow, and then we’ll try to reach out to them.
[00:22:57] Audra: And maybe they’re in another state or another country. And that typically doesn’t work. But when it doesn’t work, that’s when you should step back and say, okay, what do I locally have access to? Exactly. Somebody in the chamber of commerce, like you said, some kind of professional organizations. we know SCORE is there, especially if it’s on the business side SCORE was wonderful too.
[00:23:18] SBA has tons of programs that people can look into that maybe won’t have all the answers and maybe as, not as progressive as you will find somebody online, but it still will help fill in the gap until you’re good enough experience that you can go out to that professional that you see that you wanna talk to and see if they’ll do something for you.
[00:23:43] I think it’s challenging because we do have access to everybody, but that’s almost too big when you’re first starting. Cuz you just get swallowed out there. Overwhelming. yeah. Yeah. and especially if you’re gonna play in the digital space, it’s loud and it’s vast and it’s only gonna get bigger.
[00:24:00] And when you’re first starting, that’s, I’m kind, I’m saying I’m kind of recognizing that for startup people. Way past that you’re way past that, but I don’t ever think of telling people why don’t you just, grassroot it in your own neighborhood. Yeah. Then take it online. Yeah.
[00:24:16] Carol Walker: Yeah. Look into, like I said, the support systems, I can obviously only speak for photography, but,the friends and the contacts and the support that I’ve gotten from even the Tampa area, professional photographers, My gosh, I’ve, I’ve been, I’m a past president of, oh, are you
[00:24:32] Audra: past president
[00:24:33] Carol Walker: of the state as well?
[00:24:34] Yeah. Nice. But, the people, like I said, that I met and the classes, the seminars, the continuing education, and I always thought it was really cool that guys like say even Bruce, and others that have been in this industry for so long, still sit in seminars and they still go to, convention, they go to classes because you can never stop learning.
[00:24:56] Audra: Yeah. And it, and that doesn’t matter what industry you’re. Yeah. Any
[00:24:59] Carol Walker: industry and it’s there then that you can continue. And again, for newer people, that’s when you meet the Bruces, the Kevin Newsom’s, the Al Aldermans, or maybe even the Carol Walkers, that are just. Pick our brains ask us questions because we were all yeah.
[00:25:14] At some point and we want to help others. So yeah, definitely look into local. A lot of businesses, real estate any of those, they all have so many networking opportunities, in business. And like you said, SCORE some of the classes that I took at SCORE that’s how I met you.
[00:25:32] Greenhouse and you never know who you’re gonna meet and what your connections are gonna be. And in some way or another, you just, you can help each. Is why we’re gonna book your headshot soon. I know.
[00:25:46] Audra: Oh, I found somebody online that does, a photographer that does lifestyle shoots.
[00:25:51] So this model’s interesting. That’s come up. What they do is they book five women at a time. They only do women. Okay. They do five women at a time and it’s an hour long and you meet once a month, you pay a flat monthly fee, which maybe in your downtime, we wanna explore this.
[00:26:10] Yeah. And they have set up groups across the country, so they partner with other photographers. they don’t travel. Women come in and they’re able to get their shot. So they’ll pick a business location where, okay. we’ve got access to their coffee shop and their restaurant and their offices and outside where they’ve got beautiful waterfalls or whatever.
[00:26:33] Okay. And then they do 30 shots and then that’s it. You’re done. I think they do three outfits or four outfits for each person. Then they send you the files and you get those once a month and it’s a membership that people belong to wait. So
[00:26:48] Carol Walker: they do that once. Oh, with a different group of women every month
[00:26:51] Audra: it could be, or it could be the same one.
[00:26:53] yeah. Yeah. So they pick a different location. So if I wanted to do it every single month, I show up once a month, I spend actually, I think it was like over two hours for four people or five people. Yeah. Yeah. You change outfits and why you’re changing the next person goes and why you’re. Yeah.
[00:27:08] Audra: Yeah. And then they send you the photos and you pay a membership fee to belong. Huh?
[00:27:14] Carol Walker: Wait, the photographer pays or what?
[00:27:16] Audra: No. So if I was doing that, that once a month, I would pay a membership fee every month and I get my shots. Interesting. But it gives you so a couple things come out of it. One, it was very affordable Uhhuh.
[00:27:30] It’s a hundred, 150 bucks a month. Okay. Per person. Okay. So if you’re doing a four hour shoot with five women, It’s not that’s yeah. 500 bucks, right? maybe a little bit more 700 bucks, for an hour or two hours worth of work, not bad. and then you’re done for the day, but yeah, but what it does, it’s affordable price to get,women in two,.
[00:27:53] It gives them everything. They need to create their social media for the month. So they don’t need to worry about, so it’s almost like batch creating, which we’ve talked numerous times. when it comes to social media, you get your photos, you set up your social media for the month and you don’t have to touch it again.
[00:28:09] So you don’t have to worry about getting outfits or what day of the week you’re gonna go or finding the right place. That’s a good idea. I know. Oh, I was saving it to tell you
[00:28:17] Carol Walker: about it. Okay. Alright. We’re gonna talk a little more. I did, something little similar to that a few months ago. I, joined this Facebook group, which has exploded, since then it’s called St.
[00:28:31] Pete girl bosses.
[00:28:32] Okay. You told me about that. Yeah. Yeah. I can tell you about it.
[00:28:35] So they did a thing. This was back in April and I had just joined didn’t really know anybody yet. Okay. And,there are several photographers that are involved in the group. So we went to this place, in St. Pete Imperial, which was a very cool space.
[00:28:50] Okay. And the other two photographers did more of the float around, they only sold 40 tickets. It’s only 40 women could come just a couple hours long. And the other two photographers floated around to different cool, areas and spots within this. Like you’re saying maybe outside, maybe in front of this and over here.
[00:29:07] And I was the studio photographer. That’s my thing. Okay. You do. And so I had set up this studio and the ladies came in and I did several shots of each of them. they walked them through the whole supermodel thing and turned here and this and do this. Awesome. They’re gone. And then I just put the whole thing up on
[00:29:23] just a platform that I use shoot proof so everybody could see their images. Nice. And part of the agreement was I was gonna give each woman, their favorite shot, Nice. yeah. Enhance, fix it up, finish it up for ’em and it was a great experience. It was a lot of work if I’m being honest, but course it worth it because, and I’d love to do that.
[00:29:39] Carol Walker: You know, there’s one thing I can say aside from high school seniors, and I’ve talked to you about it. Yeah. I just like making women feel good about themselves. Yeah. We’re our own worst critics, and the greatest compliment in the world for me is when a woman says, I like that picture of me.
[00:29:57] Oh my God. Cause that’s not easy to.
[00:29:59] Audra: No. we avoid photography and video as much as many of us do much as we can. Yeah. So getting to a place where you can support them. Yeah. So let’s talk about that a little bit. So when we chatted before, besides what you’re doing, I said, what else would you be doing?
[00:30:15] Or, what are you exploring? What comes next for you? The next chapter? let’s talk about that a little bit.
[00:30:20] I think exactly what we just said. yeah, I have just always, I like photographing women. I’ve, I’ve done boudoir before. it’s not been a main focus. I know people that do it and that is their like seniors are my main, boudoiris their main, I went through the process myself a couple of years
[00:30:38] Audra: ago, just, did.
[00:30:39] Yeah, so just
[00:30:40] Carol Walker: so I, which. Torture, at first because photographers,
[00:30:45] Audra: no, I don’t like that. So worse for wanting,
[00:30:49] Carol Walker: what is that?
[00:30:50] Audra: What is that thigh?
[00:30:53] Carol Walker: But I felt if I was going to get into this further, which I would like to do, to answer your question, what’s next then. I wanted to know what it felt like.
[00:31:03] I wanna know what my clients are experiencing. I needed to be in that uncomfortable,
[00:31:09] awkward place.
[00:31:10] Carol Walker: And to her credit, the friend of mine that photographed me of course made me feel relaxed. And, I had a, just a wonderful time and yes, it was a fabulous experience. And. I would just recommend it for any woman just to, yeah.
[00:31:26] To take that time to, you know, we all feel that awkwardness at first, but give wait, was there a wine involved? that was not believe it or not. I have done that with my boudoir shoots, I offer it. I know let’s go down. Yeah. But, in this case there was. That’s okay. she didn’t offer it.
[00:31:45] I didn’t bring my own. Put it that way. There you go. I thought I’m just gonna tough it, talk through
[00:31:49] Audra: it. I got it. I got it. That’s awesome. But,
[00:31:51] Carol Walker: but it doesn’t hurt yeah, it was a wonderful experience just to see. Good. So I could relate to my clients, but every woman, I wish every woman could experience that, Yeah. What it feels like. To just feel beautiful in your own skin. Yeah. cuz it’s not an easy thing and that’s the greatest win for me. Like I said, is when a woman likes an image of herself. Yeah.
[00:32:16] I think it ties into vulnerability and strength shows your strength and yeah, absolutely.
[00:32:23] Audra: We do need to be to a place, especially when it comes to women. I have two daughters as well. And it’s tough. It’s tough because of what they see, what the media does, what everything else does and getting to a place where you can say, you know what, I’m okay. I’m looking at my own skin and I’m maybe not for everybody.
[00:32:41] And I, yeah. and that’s okay as well. Yeah,
[00:32:43] Carol Walker: it is. Yeah. My daughter, I showed her years agoshe’s 22 now, but when she was very young, I remember telling her don’t ever believe those magazine covers. None of those girls are that perfect. And I sat her down and not only showed her what could be done in Photoshop, but dove once came out with a fabulous campaign.
[00:33:06] I, you know what I’m talking about, where they showed. At fast time, what that model went through. And those, I just remember the end where the two girls were walking past a billboard and they looked up at it and they see this perfect face. and then they show how this girl started, at the beginning, it’s, they’re just not, yeah.
[00:33:23] The expectations and what society puts on young girls now? Yeah. It’s just, it’s not just now. it’s been going a long time, but now it’s worse because now you got influencers and right kardashians
[00:33:35] Audra: and right too much.
[00:33:38] Carol Walker: Yeah. I’ve read an article actually just today. Blew me away. I’d sent it to my girlfriend and my daughter it’s in Korea
[00:33:47] they have models now that are completely computer generated CGI and they are so human I’ll forward it to you. Audra I’ll forward it. they are so human and they have Instagram followers in the tens of thousands. And people have even asked are, wait, are you human? Or you not, and they interact with people it’s mind blowing if this is the future.
[00:34:15] Yeah. It’s just mind it’s here.
[00:34:17] so there’s, do you know what, a, you know what AI is, right? Yeah. Yeah. Okay. So we have tools now that write AI. So there’s a company called O P T. And, I believe Elon must start at this. This is they’ve been around for, and it’s open opens, open AI. I believe it is.
[00:34:40] Audra: And what it is it’s AI, it’s an AI writer. what it’s done, it’s gone out, it’s indexing the internet so I can use AI, an AI tool to write content for me. So I could say to it’s tools that I use I’ve been using for some time, but I could go ahead and say, okay, I wanna write a blog post about the 10 ways to use social media effectively.
[00:35:05] It will write it for me now. It’s not a hundred percent. I still have to go in and edit it. I have to fact check it. I still have to go through cuz it doesn’t always put it in order or it may not state accurate information, or I may need to expand it or move things around, To make the article make sense.
[00:35:23] So what it does, it’s not replacing writers, but it’s allowing us to create content quicker. Wow. And if you’re not a great writer, it’s a great tool to actually help you become a better writer. Okay. So those tools have been around. Like open to the public where we’re actually have it in a framework where it works and it’s functioning.
[00:35:44] I would say maybe two years, they’ve come out with same company that, open AI has come out with now images. Now it’s not available to the public yet. It’s called D A L L E 3. Okay. Now what that does. It’s open a it’s AI, but photography or AI for images.
[00:36:03] Audra: Now, these companies very smart companies are getting into it and then providing it as a service, putting it in the proper platform with all the infrastructure and you pay for it.
[00:36:14] If you have to get on the wait list, then once they let you in. So this is how cool this is what happens. It’s crazy. There’s a few people that I know that have gotten in and have access. I’m still on the waiting list. I’ve been on the waiting list four months, five months. Wow. Yeah. So they, because they don’t wanna overflow the internet with everybody using these images and you can’t use them commercially yet for only for personal use.
[00:36:41] So a friend of mine posted on Twitter that, who’s got a request for a D A L L E image. And I said, okay, I want a cat riding a bike with aviator flying glasses on it. So he inputs that in and it sent back a grid of six different cats on different bikes. Hilarious, fun pictures. A hundred percent original.
[00:37:08] It looked real perfect. Oh God beautifully done. You can do anime. You can do images. You can do anything you want, but I wonder how that is going to disrupt it. So when you talk about these CGI models, that’s what’s happening. I can create new humans. And what AI does is it says, okay, we’ll take her nose and her mouth and her eyes and her this and brown hair and tan skin and this put together.
[00:37:38] Now we have a brand new person. You don’t, she’s not real. You would never know that. Nope,
[00:37:44] Carol Walker: no. They’re using them over there for like home shopping network as a host for home shopping and they say they have, they don’t have to worry about the number of hours that they work. There’s no drama behind them.
[00:37:58] There’s no, they don’t have to worry about, bad press for anything like, what might happen with a celebrity or a model or something. Yeah. And they
[00:38:05] Audra: have, oh, I definitely would like to see that article. Yeah, I gotta I’ll forward you the article. Okay. It’s crazy. Wow. so I wonder, again, because you’ve niched yourself, when this kind of photography comes out still shouldn’t affect you.
[00:38:20] It will well be retired by then. no, it’s here now. It’s just not being used commercially yet. If you go on Twitter and then do a search on Dolly too, Dolly, you’ll see what I’m talking about. it’s amazing what we’ll be able to do with it. It allows us to be a little bit more creative.
[00:38:36] In creating images, we don’t have to use so much stock photography. Yeah. Yeah. So it’ll be interesting. Sorry for the stock photographers, but yeah. I guess there’ll always be a place there will it’ll evolve. Every industry has to evolve. that’s true. This idea of getting into women photography.
[00:38:56] Yes. what prevents you from doing it right? other than being busy and all the normal stuff,
[00:39:01] Carol Walker: organizational skills, time management skills, time management. Okay. yeah, the seniors, like I said, take up a big chunk of my life. And even when I’m not necessarily photographing them, I feel like I’m always working on something.
[00:39:16] okay. We’re putting together the big composite for one of the schools. I’m looking at grad announcements and, marketing for grad announcements and sending out, MailChimp campaigns for that. I’m getting class videos together because I put a, A music video together of the graduating class.
[00:39:32] Carol Walker: Nice that we release. I put that on social media. I put that on my website and then we send it to all the parents, right before graduation, just as a Momento they can keep it on their phone. That’s pretty cool. But it’s, I feel like I’m always working on something there. and then I also have my other business.
[00:39:47] I do a tremendous amount of passport business. Do you believe it or not? It’s not a lot of photographers that do passports anymore. And, again, I’m gonna say, my good friend, Kevin Newsom used to do a bunch of ’em now that he doesn’t have that brick and mortar, he sends ’em all to me. If they get a phone call or people go to their website, they’re all directed to me.
[00:40:09] Not many photographers will do it. They don’t wanna be bothered with it, but, it, it’s a big part of what we do. Sometimes it’s hard to stack. It comes in waves it does, and some of these countries are just ridiculous, but their requirements, CVS and Walgreens, won’t even touch ’em and.
[00:40:26] Anyway. So yeah, I do a lot of passports, but, and then I’ve got my business portraits, my family’s, events. So there’s always something happening. And I don’t say all that as an excuse. Yeah, maybe I do,
[00:40:39] Audra: but, no, that’s a lot.
[00:40:40] Carol Walker: That is a lot. it’s a lot. And it’s a lot, I do have one assistant.
[00:40:45] very good. She’s newer. she just started a couple months ago. But, yeah, I need to be able to take, I think, a step back. Yeah. I remember one of my business coaches, saying years ago, you have to Carol, you have to stop working in your business to work on your business. And that’s, I think the key for me, I need to be able to take a step back.
[00:41:08] Carol Walker: And let somebody else do it while I can focus on, okay, how can I put this together? What’s the first thing I wanna do, maybe invite friends and family and do something like that. And then tell them to spread the word, get, put your images out there, but I’m gonna need women that are willing to put themselves out there so to speak.
[00:41:27] And that doesn’t mean nothing has to show, AOI. it’s. It’s glamor it’s just, it’s feeling good about yourself, as a matter of fact, one of, again, one of the best compliments I ever received was from a pregnant. That, that I photographed on my fainting couch. I have a beautiful fainting couch here, and she had told me afterwards that I never felt more beautiful than I did during that photo session.
[00:41:52] And, one of those images, actually went. Professional photographers. America made their loan collection and they published it in their magazine. And when they, interviewed me about it, I, they used that quote, when she had said that she just, she never felt more beautiful and that was a pregnant woman, eight months pregnant,
[00:42:09] so yeah, we’re not feeling very attractive at that point.
[00:42:12] Carol Walker: so if she could feel that good, about herself at that point, then imagine the possibilities for, Every day, you just have to be willing to open yourself up a little bit, And like I said, it doesn’t have to be lingerie. She wasn’t in lingerie, it doesn’t ha you don’t have to show anything.
[00:42:29] You just have to be willing to try and to just let yourself go a little bit. And I’m just there to
[00:42:36] Audra: capture. Nice. Nice. And you can tell, I talk ,
[00:42:39] I love more people through it.
[00:42:40] Carol Walker: Yeah. A great rapport, And, and I love people,yeah, that’s, that is definitely a direction I wanna go.
[00:42:46] I just need to focus on it. Get out of the weeds a little bit, get outta, I need get outta my own way.
[00:42:52] not even that. you’re building a successful, you have built a successful business, so it’s not so much about that as it is. You’re also, you’re the manager. You’re the technician. Have you ever read the E a book called the E.
[00:43:08] Audra: Oh, yes, I have. Okay.
[00:43:09] Carol Walker: Yes. So you’re doing another mentor suggested that the email, yeah.
[00:43:13] Audra: You’re doing all of it, Uhhuh, right? You’re the technician. You’re the manager, but you’re also the leader of the company and that makes it very tough to scale. You will. You’ll max out. There’s just, there’s not enough time.
[00:43:24] So you either replace it with other people doing it, or you just don’t take on any more projects cuz you’re. So it’s, that’s probably the bigger decision you have to make. You would have to hire another photographer that does some of what you are doing, not to assist you, but to do some of your tasks.
[00:43:42] Yeah. Yeah. and I’m.
[00:43:44] Carol Walker: On that path. My are assistant. My assistant that I have now is, another one I got right out of photography school. Nice. And, she is, I made it very clear when she started. That is not your first job. this is what you do. I’m this is my job right now, but I am getting to that.
[00:44:02] Where I realized, I recognize I’m gonna have to start letting go of the reins somewhat. And so I have promised her, I will, get, let’s get through this senior season and she’s soaking up everything she can right now, she is right next to me, assisting me when she’s not in the sales room.
[00:44:18] and I told her we will work together. And I told her exactly what Bruce told me. I’ll teach you everything. I know. good. I have no secret. Just pass it on. Yeah. we’ll see. I’m hoping that she is the one that I can turn the reins over to and then focus on what I want to good and will be a dynamic duo.
[00:44:38] Carol Walker: Yeah. That’s awesome.
[00:44:39] Audra: Yeah. That’s awesome. so any new photographers coming into the scene, what would you say about competing.
[00:44:48] Carol Walker: Competing in
[00:44:49] Audra: like trying to establish themselves like you have, but in 2022,
[00:44:55] I would say, really what Megan has done here. My assistant, I think is a great way to start.
[00:45:02] Carol Walker: If you can line yourself with someone that is willing to teach you. Okay. she’s coming right out of photography school, but she also has experience,somewhat with photography. She’s been an enthusiast, and a hobbyist for years, to newer people that are looking to start out on the business, I’d say, get involved with those local organizations is probably my number one piece of advice because the support, the support network is tremendous.
[00:45:28] There you will, not only, make friends. but you’ll, people call you, people get to know you and then they call you, Hey, I need an assistant for something. Or, Hey, my ag camera go down now. Iwe do that with each other all the time. Something goes down, we rely on each other.
[00:45:42] That’s it’s just, it’s getting to know other people within your industry and. Going to things. So I always said about going to convention or going to, Florida school, which is a five day school, four day school that the Florida professional photographers puts on every year. Okay. yeah. And it’s wonderful.
[00:45:59] You just, you study small classrooms with one instructor, but the best thing about things like Florida school and convention is that downtime. It’s not just the seminars, it’s the downtime in between when you are surrounded by people that share a love. And a passion for something that you do. and you swap ideas, you pick each other’s brains, you tell people, share with people what works for you, what you’re doing, what, that’s priceless.
[00:46:27] that’s better than any, that’s the best kind of networking. and they actually, they just had their convention last weekend before last. Look for it next year, new photographers, or look up the Florida professional photographers or yeah,
[00:46:41] Audra: if you’re or whatever state they’re yeah.
[00:46:42] Carol Walker: Or whatever state that’s true. I need to think more globally here. but yeah. Look for something local or the professional photographers of America. yeah, that’s a convention that, you get 12,000 people that, but it’s the same thing. You are surrounded by people with the same passion as you, you not only make friends, you share ideas and you grow.
[00:47:03] Grow your yourself and, and grow your
[00:47:05] Audra: business. That’s. Yeah. And I think that’s, that’s something to take away from this is it’s. Don’t look at it like those are your competitors. Oh no. Yeah. Look at it. yeah, but if you think about, so if I’ve got two different networking events to choose, I’ve got one where there’s people in every other industry.
[00:47:23] So those are potential clients for me. Okay. Versus going to an association type event where those are seen as those are my competitors. But there’s two different goals that should come out of making that decision, right? Yes. This one you are there marketing and networking and trying to build business.
[00:47:41] This one, like you said, you’re building relationships, you’re learning cool techniques. You’re building camaraderie with those that maybe you can lean on that are in your local area for other things. So you guys can bring each other up together. Yeah.
[00:47:55] Carol Walker: Yes. Yeah. they’re both important in different ways.
[00:47:58] That’s good. Get
[00:47:59] Carol Walker: involved. I guess those are the, that’s the bottom line. The two words get involved. Yeah. don’t be a island unto yourself. You can’t, you’ve gotta get out there. All right. so as we wrap up our hour, what last words would you say?
[00:48:12] Audra: What would you share as far as your journey so far?
[00:48:16] Carol Walker: I’m grateful. I’m I’m just, I’m grateful. I’ve I have. Some wonderful opportunities. That’s awesome. it’s not to say that I haven’t, felt the pressures, the stress earned it from being a business owner, it’s hard, as the thing goes, not gonna lie.
[00:48:30] Yeah. It’s, it is hard. Yeah. But, but once you go down this path, I couldn’t imagine just punching a clock for somebody else or, I, I love what I do and. And I’m doing what I love. And that was really the conclusion right before I, I left the film commission to come on with Bruce.
[00:48:50] That was
[00:48:51] Audra: what I realized is
[00:48:52] Carol Walker: at the time I loved what I did, but I wasn’t doing what I love. And now I can say I have both.
[00:48:59] Audra: Yeah, and I think that’s a very important takeaway if you are in our age bracket, meaning 50 or older, and you’ve got some kind of expertise that you’ve mastered and you’re on the fence about spinning off and doing your own thing.
[00:49:14] would you have done this? you’ve been doing it for a long time, but would you have considered going out on your own at the age that you’re at now or no?
[00:49:22] Maybe if I had, a good career in something else and, felt that I was ready to retire and start out on a new venture and photography had always been, this your thing.
[00:49:33] Carol Walker: Yeah. Yeah. My thing then, then yeah. Yeah. I, why not, Give it a try. You’re never too old to do anything you want, just, maybe jump out of a plane. no, I know somebody did it when they were 80 on their 80th birthday. No, you’re never too old. Nice. So yeah, just,
[00:49:50] Audra: not?
[00:49:51] I think that’s the big takeaway here. Don’t limit yourself to it doesn’t matter your age. It doesn’t matter your experience. And I think the other thing is too, you’ve, to, just to recap that you niched. So if you’re a photographer or you want to consider maybe it’s natural pictures or nation, or, what life, what am I thinking?
[00:50:12] Nature life. Nature landscape. There you go. That kind of outdoors type stuff. , you’re still nicheing yourself. So it age is not gonna matter. You don’t have to only go into photography, looking to create lifestyle stuff. And that’s really the big thing we see there. We don’t see what you’re doing anymore.
[00:50:32] We don’t see that in the forefront of when you go. That stuff has not even thought about, as you’ve just shared, it’s a whole industry that’s existing locally in everybody’s community. So there’s huge opportunity.
[00:50:44] Carol Walker: There, there are, yeah. One of my, one of my very favorite quotes and this is funny.
[00:50:49] It’s on one. I tore it off on one of those little tight calendars that used to have sit on desk. Yeah. Yeah. many years ago. And there’s a cool connection here too, but the quote was, don’t be afraid your life will end be afraid. It will never begin. Yeah. And that has been on my refrigerator for so long.
[00:51:07] And now my daughter is 22 now. And when she was. Few years old. I don’t know. 2, 3, 4. So I happened to look up at that quote and it struck me that the date on that calendar was her birthdate. And I tore it off that calendar years before she was born. But it happened to be October 8th. Yeah. And don’t be afraid you’re life will and be afraid.
[00:51:29] It will never begin. And that’s, it’s something that goes through my. occasionally just, I just need it, a reminder, stop worrying about things. Carol start, not start living. Yeah. Get out there. Yeah. So if you wanna be a photographer at 60 years old, Do it
[00:51:43] do it, whatever it is, do it, whatever it is.
[00:51:46] Audra: Yeah. Don’t take it with you. It’s not worth it. no. Yeah. All right. thank you so much, Carol, for being here. This has been a great conversation. I’ve enjoyed it. Yeah. Learn a lot about what’s happening out there and good cutting your journey. And a lot of entrepreneurs will get some great lessons from this.
[00:52:03] Good. I hope so. Yeah. I hope so. All right. It was fun
[00:52:07] Carol Walker: and it’s always nice talking to
[00:52:08] Audra: you. You as well.
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