Our next studio spotlight is South Sound Weddings in Lacey, Washington. Owner, Krystal Switzer started her professional photography business in 2010 after picking up a camera and the Scott Kelby series of photography books. After a major rebrand a few years ago, she developed KS Photos for her family and commercial photography, and South Sound Weddings for weddings and boudoir. South Sound Weddings keeps her busy with 25-40 weddings and 12-15 boudoir sessions annually. Splitting the business between two brands was a strategic marketing move that has worked out well for her. Krystal and her partner in life and business, Joe, work with a great team of two dedicated assistants (Laura and Patrice), and 3 contract photographers throughout the year. When she is not busy running two successful businesses, chasing after her adorable kids, or just taking a minute to eat a piece of cake after meeting a client for “java or beer”, she volunteers heavily in her community using her camera skills and huge heart to their benefit. She participates in local auctions and fundraisers for the local chambers, photographs local military events and fundraisers, provides newborn portraits for low income families through a pregnancy clinic, and also volunteers with local new business to help promote their involvement in the community. Krystal works with Find Your Future and other youth and education initiatives to teach students about the photography industry and how to run a photography business, along with providing free workshops to student photographers. Her motto is, “Always say YES to your community!”
Krystal has been featured on the cover of Community Values magazine, and will be published in South Sound Wedding & Events Magazine in December. She won the “Best Professional Photographer” award in the South Sound in 2015, 2nd place in 2016 and currently nominated for 2017.
Rebranding is daunting challenge, but in the first iteration of her professional photography business, “Flash by Faith Photography” Krystal found herself getting confused looks from customers who thought the owner’s name would be Faith or from those who assumed that she only did church portraits, She recognized the need for change and this time made her logos simple and easy to read based off advice from her late father to keep it simple (McDonald’s is recognized everywhere just from a simple “M”, Apple is recognized by a partially eaten fruit logo, etc.).
Krystal explains, “My new brand consisted of changing websites, marketing approach and how I talked to people. I believe when rebranding it’s not changing a business name and hoping it will attract new clients, but has to be a complete overhaul on the business and business owner. My rebrand was a great time for me to look not just at my business, but how I was running it with open eyes and realizing if I need a change, it has to be from the ground up. I started looking at my photography first, noticing I was inconsistent (not good for a brand) and I began taking tips from pros, going to photography workshops etc to better myself as an artist. As my skills improved, I began looking at how I ran my business from contracts, client data, delivery of images/products, etc. Everything I touched was rebranded to make it successful for my business. Rebranding did not happen overnight, it was implemented within a few months yes, but took almost two years to see the success.”
Krystal, how did you and your camera first meet?
My camera and I first met about 5 years ago; he knew he wasn’t my first, but was the keeper. As I walked into my local camera store, he just kept pulling me in with that fisheye attached to him. Well, I couldn’t not give him a chance, so being bold, I just held him close to my face. After about two minutes with his technical abilities, I was impressed. That was it, he went home with me same day; Canon and I have been together since.
What is something your business tried and you learned from (either by it succeeding or failure)?
Trying new business strategies can be tricky, most important tool in succeeding within my own business; is me. What I mean by that, is being myself around everyone: clients, potential clients, colleagues, peers, competitors and business partners. In the past, I tried so hard adapting to different personalities around me hoping to appease them and gain their business. Nope. This did not work for me. People can tell if you are being fake or surface level with them, only trying to gain their business, huge turn-off guys! Be yourself – ALWAYS! Even at a wedding show with hundreds of engaged couples, I talk to each person as a potential friend, not a potential client. This strategy is no different than meeting a new “mom friend” on the playground while kids play, or even just chit chatting at your local pub with a stranger and becoming friends.
If you had a magical genie lamp, what would you change about the photography industry?
A magical genie lamp in my hands with only option to change one thing about the photography industry? Well there goes my wish for a new minivan. Okay, photography industry change to impact so many I’d love to see – Stop the competition among hobby photographers, stay-at-home-parent photographers versus full time and pro photographers. Across the board here, we all share the same interest, shouldn’t we all be BFFs? I believe there are thousands of Facebook groups and websites specific for finding people in your community with similar interests just so you can meet up and share the hobby together. Just something to think over.
How do you find your customers? (expos, online advertising, print ads, referrals, high school advocates/models, etc.)
EXPOS are the way to go for finding new wedding customers. Rule for expos I attend; look and dress professional yet casual, which includes showing off my tattoos, why? Because, I’m not afraid to be me and that makes me “approachable” to the modern engaged couple. We are in the era of pushing authenticity, and well my tattoos are a part of what makes me unique.
Do you prefer to shoot by yourself or with an assistant and why?
The more the merrier, right? Shooting by myself or with an assistant is about the same as asking preschool teachers of 25 three-year olds, if they’d prefer to teach alone or have an assistant, LOL! I always prefer to shoot with an assistant because, having help allows me to be a better photographer in the moment with my clients. Having to juggle, light stands, sand bags, camera bags, batteries, camera cards, wireless units needing to be synced etc.; so much easier with help by my side. Don’t think you must be a full-time photographer to work with assistants, shoot, I started by hiring my 17-year-old cousin for a few bucks per hour. Once my business grew, I started hiring on more experienced photographer assistants.