9 Things I Learned at a Steve Kozak Workshop

This is a bit overdue, but I wanted to pass along some gems I took away from my time in San Antonio learning at the feet of Steve Kozak. Here’s Steve interacting with a small group during a lunch hour. 

1.  Distinguish Yourself 
Be different from others, instead of trying to do what every other photographer is doing. Be a great creator, not a great duplicator. (I love that!!)

2.  Continuously Improve Your Skills
Be as good at the craft of photography as a dentist is at his or her craft. 

3.  Spend Money on the Right Things  
This doesn’t necessarily mean more gear, or “better” gear! Steve says to spend more money and time on things that truly promote sales, like marketing and furthering your education. Similarly, for printed materials, he suggests spending more on fewer copies, so they look better, and can be updated frequently without wasting extras.

4.  Develop a Year-Round Marketing Strategy, And Implement It
If you don’t have a studio, Steve pointed out that you still have to create visibility. Spend money on marketing instead of rent (see #3). Advertising should comprise about 8-12% of your gross sales. When you create a year-round marketing calendar, think about spring promotions in winter, etc. Focus on single promotions to a particular demographic (one thing, one audience). Here are a few simple things I’ve done lately, or am currently working on, to improve my marketing:

  • Started tracking the % I am spending on advertising in comparison to my total sales rather than just the % of my total expenses.
  • Changed metadata on my website and blog and Facebook description to optimize it for search engines. It’s already working; my ranks are climbing.
  • Was featured as a Daily Deal on Momma Counts. A word of caution here: I made sure to craft a deal for Momma Counts members that still pre-screened clients and ensured additional income. It’s important to sell to the right clients, not just lots of clients.
  • Offered an auction item at a local non-profit fundraiser. 
  • Met with multiple ad agencies.
  • Joined groups like the American Society of Media Photographers and the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition that allow me to create a portfolio on their website, and that help people find photographers. 
  • Started Tweeting. Follow me: BaumannPhoto.

5.  Elevate Your Technique

  • Use a tripod when shooting portraits. It slows you down, makes you think more, improves sharpness. I did this recently at my session with the Whitson Family and the results are killer.
  • Avoid “formulas.” 
  • Invest in quality framing/matting. 
  • Makes  list of 10 places to go photograph, then go photograph them. (I have my list ready! Just need some good weather, which we are expecting this weekend, hurray!)
  • Start a journal, idea book, or inspiration board. Promise Tangeman is a genius with inspiration & style boards, check her out. 
  • Use the background test: a great background makes a great photo even if nobody’s in it.

6.  Hone Your Professionalism
For example:

  • Create standards for a “uniform.” Mine include: longer shirts with sleeves, closed toe shoes, subdued colors, and noise-less shoes. Overall, the goal is to look good and professional, while also being quiet, blending in, being comfy, and not exposing my belly or armpits when my arms are raised holding a camera! 🙂
  • Get liability insurance, not just insurance to cover your gear. I am working on this now. I will be covering the replacement value of my gear…which is shockingly high! And also professional liability coverage in case someone gets grumpy and sues me. I am comparing quotes at my current personal insurer for numerous things, State Farm, and the coverage offered through professional associations like ASMP and PPA.
  • Answer these questions, and then communicate those answers clearly in your marketing tools, office, dress, and speech: 
    • What is your Philosophy? (Towards your work, not life.)
    • What is your approach?
    • What is your style?
    • Why are you in business?

Use appropriate, professional language that adds to the perceived value of photographic arts, and moving text that appeals to emotion.

  • “Previews” not “proofs”
  • “Images” not “pictures”
  • “Enlargements” not “blowups”
  • “Collections” not “packages”
  • “Sessions” not “sittings”
  • Avoid words like “candid” and focus on words that convey the artistic value of your work, such as “mastery.”
  • Refer to the profession as a practice, i.e. “I practice photography” just like a doctor says “I practice medicine.”

7.  Project Confidence.  
Avoid apologizing for the route you choose (i.e. nooooo I don’t have a studio, buttt….). The perceived value of your services among clients and potential clients is the key. 

8.  Connect With your Clients on a Personal Level.  
This is the most important thing! Create an emotional need for people to own your work. Make their experience as your client feel elite.

9.  Don’t Under-Value Your Work, or De-Value Other Photographers Work.  
Placing pricing info on website pre-qualifies clients. I added this information plainly on my website’s FAQ page. Create easily understood price lists. 

What do you think of Steve’s pointers? What additional tips do you have? What questions do you have? 

Steve, thank you. 



About Mosaic Collective, LLC

I am Holly Baumann Ambuehl, founding member of Mosaic Collective, LLC, which was founded in early 2017 and is based in Central Illinois. I own and operate Mosaic Collective with my partner in business and life, my husband, Nathan. Mosaic Collective, LLC houses our rental property, my consulting contracts (with the nonprofit and public sectors on various work), and also my commercial and portrait photography business, which has been doing business as Holly Baumann Photography since 2008 long before the formation of our LLC. My blog posts feature client work, but I just love to write, so I also write about owning a business, food and drink, travel, and sometimes, my personal life! I am always honored when clients trust me to capture their vision, and equally so when my readers converse with me about what I've photographed or expressed here. I hope we'll have an opportunity to collaborate professionally and/or become friends. I'd love to hear what you think! - Holly
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2 Responses to 9 Things I Learned at a Steve Kozak Workshop

  1. >I agree with you 100%, and what a great summary. I have been Steve's personal trainee for three years, and I think that has been the best investment I have made because I get personalized attention. Steve keeps me "honest" in regards to the quality of my photography, and makes me feel confident that with good hard work, there should be no barrier to succeed. It just takes time and dedication.


  2. >Lucy, I can only imagine how much you've grown from Steve's mentoring over the years! You hit the nail on the head – he definitely helps convey to people that are growing a new business that discipline and hard work are the key. Thanks for reading my post – if you are ever in OKC let me know, we can grab lunch. 🙂 – Holly


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