80: Trying In-Home Photography with Leah O’Connell

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80: Trying In-Home Photography with Leah O’Connell 3

Are you considering adding in-home photography to your offers? In today’s episode, I’m chatting with photographer and educator Leah O’Connell about her experiences with in-home sessions and her best advice for photographers wanting to try it themselves. We’re also sharing how to speak to the common fears and hesitations of clients in order to successfully grow this part of your business. 

The Shoot It Straight Podcast is brought to you by Sabrina Gebhardt, photographer and educator. Join us each week as we discuss what it’s like to be a female creative entrepreneur while balancing entrepreneurship and motherhood. If you’re trying to find balance in this exciting place you’re in, yet willing to talk about the hard stuff too, Shoot It Straight Podcast is here to share practical and tangible takeaways to help you shoot it straight.

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This episode is brought to you by The Round Table, a community built for female photographers who want to continue growing their business while forging industry friendships along the way! In this group, you will learn practical ways to move your business forward, while finding community and accountability with like-minded photographers. Come join us and get access to the content and private Facebook community!

Review the Show Notes:

Get to know Leah (2:18)

Leah’s journey into in-home photography (4:34)

Most common fears for photographers around in-home sessions (11:07)

Preparing for and playing with in-home lighting (12:20)

Posing for in-home photography (21:19)

Common fears and hesitations of clients (28:25)

Advice for the photographer getting started with in-home sessions (34:55)

Rapid-fire questions (38:27)

Connect with Leah:

Website

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Instagram

Facebook Group

Episode Links:

Portfolio On Purpose

The Round Table

Root To Rise Mastermind

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80: Trying In-Home Photography with Leah O’Connell 4

Review the Transcript:

Sabrina Gebhardt
Welcome back to the shoot straight podcast, my friends. Today I’m interviewing my friend, Leah O’Connell. And we are talking all about family photography in home. So for those of you that are photographers out there, this episode is specifically for you, Leah and I both do the very big, large bulk of our business as family photographers. And we’re talking all about the ins and outs. We’re really specifically leaning into what people are so scared of, right? If you’re a photographer, and you have always been intrigued by in home sessions, but you have questions and you’re curious, and you’re not sure how it works, this episode is for you. Also, we’re talking about why clients hesitate to book in home sessions. So again, this is important for the photographers listening because you need to be able to speak to those fears in order to market these sessions and grow this part of your business. So if you have ever been interested in in home photography, or maybe you’ve already gotten started, but you’re wanting to get better, and make it a larger part of your business, this chat is for you. Welcome to the shoot it straight podcast. I’m your host, Sabrina Gephardt. Here I will share an honest take on what it’s like to be a female creative entrepreneur. while balancing business motherhood and life. myself along with my guests will get vulnerable through honest conversations and relatable stories because we’re willing to go there. If you’re trying to find balance in this exciting place you’re in yet willing to talk about the hard stuff to to shoot it straight podcast is here to share practical and tangible takeaways to help you shoot it straight. Welcome back to the shoot it straight podcast friends, today I’m chatting with my friend Leah O’Connell. And we are talking all about something that we’re both super passionate about. And that’s in home photography sessions. She and I both shoot a lot in home. That’s what makes up the bread and butter of our business. And I know that this is going to be a really fun chat. Oftentimes on the podcast, it’s we don’t talk about photography specific things. But today we are so for all the photographers listening out there, this one is for you. So before I dive in, I’m going to let my guests introduce herself to the audience. So Leah, please tell us where you are, what you do and share a little bit about your business.

Leah O’Connell
Hi, thanks for having me on to talk about this. It’s one of my very favorite things. I’m Lea I am based in Charlottesville, Virginia, I’m a mom of three I’ve been photographing technically, since I was 16. I started in some small portrait studio business, which was its own brand of exciting. Um, I learned a lot about what I didn’t want to do, and took a lot of that experience that sort of a thread through my whole career. So I’ve kind of found my way into in home photography and just ran hard at it. Whenever i i discovered how much I loved it. So I know it’s something that a lot of people are interested in. But it is scary. Because there’s a lot that is out of your control. So I know we’re gonna talk about that a lot today. Yeah,

Sabrina Gebhardt
yeah, it is scary when you first dive in, because it’s kind of its own beast, right? It’s so unique and different from other types of photography. So again, we both specialize in in home, we both are natural light photographers. So we’re using what is available from the sunshine and windows. We both love it. And I would say in the last 10 years, it’s really started to explode as an offering for families and newborns and, and places to have a session I’d say before 10 years ago, this really was not a thing. Maybe it was a thing in the like, celebrity genre, you might see them, you know, in a magazine spread and their home. But for the every day to day person in home photography wasn’t really a thing. Like you said, there’s still a lot of family photographers who are interested, but terrified because it is challenging. There’s a lot of unique challenges that go with it. On the flip side of that there’s also a lot of clients who feel the same way. A lot of potential people out there moms like you and me who were like, wow, I mean, I see these images and they look beautiful and honest. And, and I love the idea of being at home, but I’m nervous too. So there’s nerves and fear on both sides. And so we’re going to talk a little bit about that today. So let’s start at the very, very beginning. How long have you been photographing clients specifically in home? And how did you get started? Like what prompted that you jumping into that niche and specialty? Yeah,

Leah O’Connell
well, from the very beginning, when I started my business, it was right around 2013 I was always photographing newborns in home, but kind of like you said, like about how people do don’t really understand what to do like it’s its own set of skills. That was me too. I was photographing newborns in home. But I was trying to do what I had learned in studio. And just like, we were doing it with a window in a basket on the floor instead of with a background. And I was like trying to call it lifestyle because we were using natural light, but wasn’t really the same, like it wasn’t landing. So I was trying to figure out what was missing. And most of my families I was still photographing outdoors for the longest time, because that was all that was out there. That was what people expected. And I think the big turning point for me was whenever my daughter was like, around 18 months old, and I had this discontentment around my work, it just wasn’t feeling like I was doing what I was supposed to be doing. And I decided to start a 30 day project in January 30 days, I’m just going to photograph my life, try to get inspired, figure out what’s missing. And I took this one photo of her, my husband was washing her hair bubbles and like really close up smallest room in our house fluorescent light, terrible, like tiny, yellow glow. But I saw that photo and it My heart just exploded. And it was like this light bulb went off that I was like, oh, I need to make more of this kind of thing, I need more of this home, like setting this natural stuff. So there’s this weird transition point or a kind of leaned hard into the documentary side, which is another whole set of skills for IN HOME family photography, it’s very different than the lifestyle genre that you and I kind of lean into. And it took me a while to kind of find the blend of that. But I think that’s a pretty common story from an artist perspective of that, following that inspiration arc of it’s not going to always be the same. And so I kind of just tried to follow that thread and have landed, like in the last five years with kind of my style. And when it clicks, you just, you just know, you’re like, Yeah, this is this is thing for me. Yeah,

Sabrina Gebhardt
I love that. And I love how you said, that specific image sent you kind of hard to the opposite end of the spectrum. And then you landed somewhere in the middle. And I love that you follow that. Because I think and this is just a side topic that we’re not actually going into. But I wanted to mention it. This is something that a lot of photographers and also small business owners struggle with is they think that when they start their business, the path that they are on has to be the path that they stay on. And that’s absolutely not true. You don’t you’re not ever locked into a box, when you are a creative entrepreneur, and you should never feel that way you should feel the freedom to ebb and flow as your passions change and your season of life changes and all of that. And so I love that you have played with what you’re, what your images look like and what your offerings are, and allowed it to land somewhere that you’re really excited about. And this is probably not the last shift you’ll ever have. Right? Like who knows what’s next for you because something will happen. And it will cause you to have a new interest sparked and to go and you know another way which is which is so fun. Yeah,

Leah O’Connell
so much about, it’s about stamina, and when stain. And if you’re really in photography for the long game, that doesn’t mean like I find my thing and I stick with it forever and ever. Amen. It means that you have to, like, follow you as a changing human being and the different things that you are going to bring to the world. But like you said, is you change as a person and letting that be okay, and letting like others come up behind you and take what you’re not doing anymore. Instead of just holding everything so tightly of like, well, this is my thing. And I just it has to be my thing, because it was once my thing. Right? What brings you the stamina to stay in working in this?

Sabrina Gebhardt
Right? Right? I agree. And I do think there’s also a little bit of a sweet spot. Because, yes, it is so important to follow your interest and to make sure that what you’re doing gives you that sustainability factor, like you said, where you enjoy it enough that you want to keep doing it. But also, you need to be doing it long enough that your audience knows what to expect from you. Like, I don’t want you to constantly jump all over the map once a month for years, right? Like find something and stick with it for a while. And then if you feel called to something else, you know, it’s time to transition. So I’m curious, just from a business perspective, are you fully in home at this point? Or do you still offer things outdoors or other locations? Does it depend on your clients requests?

Leah O’Connell
I mean, I’d say it probably have about 70% in home at this point. Maybe more. A lot of my outdoor work is just people’s backyards. Because I like to help people that I photograph I’m in home and locations that feel like home. Because often I’ll have families from out of town or I’ll have people who are in transition, like they’re building a home or they are in an apartment that’s not really doesn’t have a home vibe doesn’t have any sentimental ties to them. They’re just kind of like there for now. But they don’t want to miss the stage of life that they’re in, they’re just home isn’t like really important to them at that point. So in that case, like sometimes it’s not a great fit. So I just tell people that if they are looking for an outdoor location in my book, The background is the least important part of their session. So of course, like, from a technical standpoint, you’re always thinking about the background, but like mountains and scenic rivers and buildings that doesn’t, I want it to all sort of fade away, and this objects in them and their connection to be the thing that’s at the center. So really, it’s like, you know, background, I never want the scenery to steal the show for the

Sabrina Gebhardt
outdoors. Right, right. Okay, I love that. So, we’re gonna go into the hesitations and some of the fears at this point. A lot of photographers, again, are super interested. And they are also a little bit terrified. And I want to kind of talk through what are some of the most common fears that you hear photographers that are that are causing them the hesitation to actually even try these sessions or to offer these sessions in their business? What are you hearing? There’s

Leah O’Connell
two main things that I hear over and over that are the biggest hesitations, like, technically three, but one is light and space. So the what I’m working with what if the home is too dark? What if it’s too small, I can’t get window light and good, good places if the home light and space is one and the second is posing naturally, because a lot of our posing instruction, if you are an outdoor photographer lends itself to playfulness and movement. And what if I can’t really do those things? It’s just like a whole different set of skills for posing. So that’s, that’s kind of like what I work with people most often is like, how to find the light and how to direct in a way that fits the home not trying to, you know, make a square peg fit into a round hole.

Sabrina Gebhardt
Yeah, yeah, totally. So I definitely, I mean, lighting is probably the biggest thing that I hear. I would love to know how you approach coaching somebody through that if their biggest hang up is, but I’m so used to shooting outdoors at sunset and I know what the lights like and I know how to use it. And I know flare and backlighting and all this stuff. How do I translate that to an in home session? Like how can I possibly still get light and airy or light filled images or play with light and unique ways? If I’m in a home, you know, how are you encouraging that and coaching them through that,

Leah O’Connell
there’s a couple crucial steps that you have to take to start getting yourself used to the difference because you’re not getting the same kind of light. So the first is just get equipped, equip yourself do model calls that aren’t necessarily ideal situations. A lot of times we’re like, this is what I want it to look like. And so I’m going to perfect every single detail. So it looks like that. And then you get into a real life situation where those elements aren’t controlled, and you don’t know how to handle it. So I kind of encouraged people to do things that are really outside of their comfort zone in terms of like the homes that you’re working in and, and play with how how you can like, challenge your style and your skill set to work in those alternative environments. Because you can read and watch videos and watch people work all day long. But practice is always going to be the thing that teaches you like down to the core foundationally. So you can always grab from those things in your toolbox. And then as far as like the technicalities of it for window light, I think people get hung up on the room before we look for the light and you have to go the other way around like it has to be find the light. Even if it’s a laundry room, find the light even if it’s you’re opening the front door and sitting in the hallway. There’s always an option. And the light has to just come first.

Sabrina Gebhardt
Yeah, absolutely. That is something when I am leading a session at one of my mastermind retreats. That is the biggest takeaway that most people have is we will shoot this family in the most random places if need be like stairwells, pockets of light on the floor. You know, we’ll move furniture around and the light does come first. And there are a few exceptions to that if you walk in and there’s this beautiful inspirational kitchen that you’re like I really want to kitchen shot and the lights not the best. You can make this work to tell part of the story, but you can’t let that space and the design and the beauty or the cool stuff. Dory vibe that it has, you can’t let the space dictate the majority of the session, right? Like it can play a part that it can’t play the majority because light is what matters, right. And I also think there’s something to be said about, I love that you said you recommend model calls and having them just play with it in real life situations, like you are not ever going to really be able to pick up the technical side of this until you’re doing it like you have to flex that muscle, you have to practice. And another thing that comes from practicing and the model calls is the confidence to walk into a home and tell clients, hey, this random stairwell or this bathroom is gorgeous lighting, we’re gonna shoot your session right here, you know, and not feel like they’re an impostor, or that their clients are looking at them weird. Because the confidence matters, the confidence to go in and be able to say, just trust me on this, the light is beautiful, I will make your family look beautiful, but we’re going to be in the bathroom.

Leah O’Connell
I think a lot of people get hung up on that too, because of what they see as like templates for family photos and home. And a lot of that is like on the master bed. And in the you know, beautiful couch. And and I again like to have people enter into like a different mentality of like, in your own life in your own inspiration. Do your kids ever sit on the floor with you in the middle of like the, you know, random, like, random hallway? Yeah. So why wouldn’t you try to infuse that into your family session, it’s actually more natural to go in those strange nooks and crannies of the home. Rather than trying to be like, Okay, how many times is your whole family pile on top of the master bed? Like very rarely, you know, at least maybe not. But it’s okay to kind of take those inspirations from your daily life and pull them into the posing that kind of hits the second element of, of this people are like, well, you know, isn’t this weird? Like you said, like, are we going to really shoot in the bathroom, one of the most inspiring images I ever took of my daughter was in the bathroom. So I’m going to bring that and not feel bad about it. Because I know my clients need that that’s part of the reason we’re in the home in the first place.

Sabrina Gebhardt
Right? Right. And there’s also something to be said, again, about being the authority over your clients and having them trust you, they are much more likely to trust you, when you have that confidence of being able to walk into a space, doing a tour of the home, when you first get there looking around and saying okay, guys, we’re gonna be in these three spaces, because the lights amazing, I promise you, it’s gonna be awesome. And they can relax, right? When you have that confidence in that authority. And when they can relax. Part of that is where you get those relaxed, playful images, right? Like when your client can relax, because you’ve got them. That’s when you get that that engagement and that interaction that’s magical, you know? Okay, so I love that I would love to talk also really quickly, when we’re talking about lighting, I don’t want to blow past this. Do you have a specific favorite way to use lighting in home? Or do you still like to play with the variety? Right? Are you still playing with sidelite and backlight and, you know, frontlight? Or do you stick to something that you prefer? I’m just curious.

Leah O’Connell
I mean, I think it has to do a lot with style. And that’s something that you’re going to have to figure out in practice. But for me, I find that I’m really drawn to sidelite I love shooting clients with sidelight and like the hard fall off from shadow and things like that and kind of embracing the moodiness of of that contrast, which I find like again is very different from when you’re in an outdoor session, like sidelight is not really something that you utilize that much. So maybe that’s why I’m drawn to it. Because it is so different. And I think that backlight is harder to achieve in homes than it is outdoor, like outdoor backlight is queen, it’s amazing. And in the home, it’s a little harder unless you’re shooting film in which that the kind of exposure contrast and that is a different story. But I still play with it. I still do lots of silhouetting I play with all kinds of stuff you can do in the home that I think sometimes we assume is not available to us in that environment, but you can play with just as much

Sabrina Gebhardt
Yeah, absolutely. So I actually still shoot back like quite a bit in home. It was something when I transitioned from outdoor to in home that I was just bound and determined to make work and so I have learned how to do it really well and I do it also in hospital settings for first 48 Oftentimes, backlighting is one of the only available lights there is depending on the Windows situation and so you can do anything that you do outdoors you can do in home. It tojust done differently. And so if you are really obsessed with that backlight or getting really creative with lighting, with haze, and with flair and all that, you can still do all those things, you just have to learn how to do them differently. Because it’s not the same is outdoors, you have to be willing to kind of start over again and figure out how to make it work for IN HOME images. So

Leah O’Connell
I think it can be really helpful as a beginner to when you’re not quite sure what you’re drawn to, or what could work, or what to take some of that inspiration from people who are shooting in home, look at their work and try to deconstruct like, Where’s the light coming from here? Where is the photographer standing in relation to where the clients are standing, and to slow it down and kind of think about that carefully, can really help you determine like, and feel prepared, going into sessions to try like, Oh, this is kind of like that setting that I was studying before. Let me try that. And even just that little bit of like a entry point from someone else’s work, who’s shown you how to do it before it’s not copying, it’s just a launching point for you to understand, like, how the lighting works in a home setting if you’ve never been in that before. Right, exactly.

Sabrina Gebhardt
I think that’s a great point. So let’s talk about the other hang up that a lot of photographers have. And you said that is posing in home to make it feel playful, but natural and make it make sense and an in home setting. So what tips of encouragement or guidance, are you giving photographers that are struggling with the in home posing,

Leah O’Connell
so sometimes activity can help, a lot of times, photographers will kind of pull that documentary influence in and ask the family to think of an activity that they love to do, whether it’s just swinging on the swing set in the backyard, or baking cookies, or playing a board game or whatever, and incorporating that into your session. So that’s always an option, not the whole thing. But just like a piece, again, an entry point for kind of getting the, like breaking the ice. A lot of times you don’t have the space in home to do those big actions. Like I’m gonna stand over here. And you guys all walk towards me are those like class outdoor things. So playfulness just takes a different turn. But it’s it’s always like a like a smaller kind of playfulness. I think like smaller movements and this whole like, ready, set, go type of prompting can be really helpful so that it’s not like a huge swirling action, it’s more of like, okay, on the count of three, we’re going to all like tickle your partner, or we’re going to pass this kiss around, or we’re going to all tackle that, or whatever, like on the floor, like those are some very basic things. But you could still have that playfulness, but it’s just like a little bit smaller than you would do. Outdoor. I kind of always take this like order of operations approach. We talked about the window light first, but it’s like light, then you do the post, like thinking about the composition where we’re going, and then you add in the prompt. So it’s sort of like a collection of things that pull that final energy out. And you’ve got to go through kind of quickly, but when you add in that prompt, like that’s the thing that takes it from a pose to like an action. And again, that’s just something that you kind of have to play with in response to the client’s energy and what you want to create. meshing it all together. Today’s

Sabrina Gebhardt
episode is brought to you by the roundtable a community built for female photographers who want to continue growing their business while forging industry friendships along the way. In this group, you will learn practical ways to move your business forward, while finding community and accountability with like minded photographers. The roundtable consists of three main parts, new live trainings that drop every month, a growing vault of all of the past trainings, and of course the community. Are you curious how it works. Every month, you will get access to three new pieces of content over a broad variety of topics like pricing, editing, goal setting, website reviews, social media and videos of me behind the scenes at real sessions. Members also have the opportunity to learn from incredible guest speakers and industry leaders on a huge variety of topics. I pride myself in giving you just enough education every month to keep you growing and moving forward. While not overwhelming you with content. The membership vault is such a valuable resource that is honestly more than worth the cost of enrollment on its own. As of today it has close to 100 trainings and only continues to grow. It literally holds every training from the very beginning of the membership and not to name drop, but the guest experts that come to you Inside this group, our industry leaders like Amanda Warfield of chasing simple, Maddie Zhang Kohli, James J. Boyd, and Don Richardson, of tech savvy, creative, just to name a few. So yeah, the education is great, but you can’t ignore the community. It is an absolutely incredible group of women just like you. In fact, I’m pretty sure that anyone in the group will tell you that the community is the best part. Consider it your space to ask all the things, get all the support and make real life business besties. If you’re ready to join us, you can head over to Sabrina gebhardt.com backslash membership and enroll today. Now back to the episode. Yeah, I think some of that comes from practice. And again, going back to the model call, going into a specific model call saying okay, with this family, I’m going to try these three prompts and hope to get this type of image. And with this family, I’m going to do these other ones and just practicing but then part of it is how you prepare your clients. So you know, making sure that you’ve got questionnaires so that you know about ages and personalities and what they’re into and what they’re not into. Because that’s really important. You know, you’ve got to know the age group and have a age appropriate activities or prompts, right? Because not all things land with all ages and all genders. And so part of that is kind of creating like an activity toolbox or a prompting toolbox. And that comes with experience. But also, if you’re a mom thinking through like, well, what were my kids into at these ages? And if you’re not a mom, or you don’t have old enough kids yet to do this research, asking friends and family, like, you know that have three year olds, five year olds, seven year olds, nine year olds, whatever the ages are, what are your kids into? What makes them laugh? What are they watching on TV? What are their favorite toys? Because that will give you an indication of kind of a tough subject, a starting point, you know, like, are we going to play Legos? Or is that not age appropriate for them? Are we going to bake like you said in the kitchen? Or is that not age appropriate? Do you have kind of a toolbox a list of things that you kind of always go to?

Leah O’Connell
I do but like you said it? Definitely there’s tailoring that happens for different ages. And I actually shoot a lot with teens. And sometimes with them, what I’ll do is just ask the parents, like, do they play any sports? Do they like music, and we’ll try to incorporate some of those things like I did a session recently with a family and the one of the teenage boys was a senior football player and very into it. So at the end of the session, we all went in the backyard and played football for it, like they played it too and touch football for a little bit. It’s just like incorporating those things that are actually integral to their family and learning how to ask the right questions to figure out what those things are. Yeah,

Sabrina Gebhardt
exactly. So this leads really well into now I want to kind of flip the script. And I want to address some of the client hesitations. Because I think it’s important as a business owner, people who are wanting to get into this, you have to know what those hesitations are so that you can address them in your marketing and in your prep guides, and all of that you want to be able to speak to your clients fears to get them over the hump so that they’re not scared. And they’re ready to book that into home session. Right? So what are what are the most common fears, I guess that you’re hearing on the client side of things,

Leah O’Connell
mostly, it’s, my home isn’t pretty, my home isn’t nice or good enough or big enough, or whatever that could be. And the most important thing that you can do on the client, or on the photographer side to negate that is to show instead of tell, so you can explain all day long about how it’s fine. And it’s going to be great, and I’ve got it. But unless you’re showing the diversity of your experience comes from the model calls comes from you doing a variety of sessions in different kinds of homes. Like if a client is only seen new build, open concept, huge windows, and they don’t have that they’re just going to assume that this isn’t for them. So if you want that, and those are the only clients that you want, then great and you should shoot more of that. But if you want to have a broader depth of portfolio, then you need to show that to so clients. They’re so easy to sell these in home sessions and to invite people to do them when people land on your website and your whatever media outlets you are using and they see you thriving in home sessions. Because they’re gonna think oh, this is her thing. And this works like I could be this they can see themselves in in your work. So in your client guides in your website, you just have to lean heart and it is Scary as a photographer to do that, because you think that you’re alienating the people who want outdoor photos. But maybe all they want is someone to show them what they what’s possible. And they don’t think that anyone can do that for them, you know, so if they’re looking for someone who can do at home, but they don’t feel like it’s a good fit for them or their home, they’re nervous about, they don’t have all their rooms finished, they still have moving boxes, and I shot a whole session in the fall with a family who had moved in to their home that week and had moving boxes all over the place. When we when we did their session, I was thrilled about it, in our in our console call saying, Oh, this is going to be so fun for you. This is going to be such an amazing memory for you to have photos, like a rally, let’s use the boxes, let’s do it. You know, like just really getting excited about it and your energy can negate all of those fears. Yeah,

Sabrina Gebhardt
I agree. So I love what you said about you have to show the diversity. And I think that’s really important because people think, Oh, well, my Instagram grid has to look perfect. And it has to all be the same cohesive type of image or type of style. And I’m here to tell you, and I know that Leah is too, that won’t change, if you start adding in, in home images, or you you literally just transitioning your business to all in home images, it can still be this cohesive, beautiful thing, you can still have the same types, again, of lighting, and of posing, and of connection and all of this. But it’s really important, like you said, to show them that you can get images that are cohesive to your work, no matter the location. And oftentimes, I think the best way to do that is including a pullback of some sort. So whether it’s a blog, or a real on Instagram or whatever, here’s the image, here’s the space, or that kind of thing to show them. Again, that’s a competence builder, it’s a, you can trust me because I know how to use light. And I know how to do this. And in some homes, where like you said it’s a new build was huge windows and white walls, you might have the final shot might be a little bit more of a pullback was a little bit more of the home and the brightness. In other homes where it’s darker, or there’s whatever going on in the background that maybe you as the artist don’t want, it’s going to be tighter, it’s going to be closer to a window. But being able to show the pullback to say, look, I can still give you this even if this is what we’re working with, you know, it builds that level of trust. And I think it’s really important to not be afraid to show those images and and what you were working with. Have you ever done those kinds of posts and those kind of Instagram stuff?

Leah O’Connell
Yeah, definitely. I have actually one of my pinned posts is a pull back like here’s what we’re working with. And, and here’s the final images. I did a whole series last year, called big feelings, little houses, it was like a little personal project that I was working on, because I wanted to demonstrate that like your small space or supposedly alternative environment isn’t scary to me. It actually is super inspiring. So I did a whole like anytime I had a family with like a dark home or a small home, I would do these like pullbacks or like these kind of behind the scenes stories or whatever, and then show the final images and be like, look like this is available to you. And it’s so special. And I think that eliminated a lot of fears for people with like, oh, it’s not even like something to work around. It’s just like, it’s my home like this is this is an option for me. Right.

Sabrina Gebhardt
I love that. I love that. And I do think you know, you mentioned that you get inspired when you have an opportunity to shoot in a home like that. And and I do think I agree with you. First of all, I agree with you. I love to have that challenge of oh, how am I going to work with this? How are we going to use this space uniquely and create these beautiful images? How do I get to play with the light in this situation? But I do think that has come with time because when I first started shooting in home that would terrify me you know if it when they first would ask to shoot in home if it was not huge windows light walls like furniture, I had to have a little bit of fear but over time and again, it’s just flexing that muscle it’s putting myself in situation after situation for year after year. Now it’s a flipped script now when I have the chance to work with something a little more challenging or that may seem more challenging, you know at the at the get go. It’s exciting, right and I love to get to flex the muscle of like, I know what to do here. I can make any situation work. So for the photographer who’s listening and is like okay guys, I’m sold. I’m going to try it CES this year, they’re super intrigued, but they’re still a little bit nervous. What advice do you have for her? Where do you recommend she gets started, there’s

Leah O’Connell
so much free education out there that you can dive into and just see how other people are working with it. I have a blog post, all about how to photograph families in any home. And there’s lots of tips about how to deal with different specific scenarios and home environments, things you can say to direct the session poses, you can use prompts you can use and just start packing that toolbox. Creative Live milkyway retreat, these help you see like kind of go along with someone on a shoot virtually, and that can help you build some initial confidence. And and really, those model calls are so valuable because there’s zero pressure. And if you can just consider it like the most worthwhile investment in your business. Like if you’re not charging anything for this session, like to just like this is an investment in the future of my business, to do this for free, because it’s for me to practice. Continuing education is a crucial element to any career. And so if you want to grow and do develop a new style, you have to you have to kind of flex that discomfort. And when you don’t have money tied to it, you don’t have somebody else’s expectations, or even your own expectations of ways that you’ve shopped before, and you think that they’re expecting of you, when none of that’s necessarily tied to it. And it’s just like, look, this is what I’m doing to experiment and in play, it frees you up so much to actually figure things out and do things wrong. And if you don’t only deliver five images from the session, it’s fine. And you know, you just need to get in there and get your hands dirty a little bit.

Sabrina Gebhardt
Yeah, I agree. I think doing model calls is super valuable. And it’s something that I still do every year, even after 13 years in business, because it gives me an opportunity to create and try new things. But when you’re first starting out, especially within home sessions, I think it’s so crucial to do a lot of them, you know, I want you to do at least five of them. So that you have a variety of sizes, the family sizes of home lighting, and all of those things. And I think oftentimes, sometimes model calls get like a bad rap because you’re shooting for free. But you need to not look at it as I’m shooting for free. As much as this is an investment in my future marketing and my future business. Right, it’s, it’s the same as hiring a mentor or paying to take a course or something, it’s an investment of your time that is going to pay itself back later. So and I guess, you know, we lead right into this, I just have to mention it. I do have a new freebie this year. And it is called portfolio on purpose. And it is literally the framework for building a successful model call. So since we’ve talked about models, I will have that linked in the show notes. This is exactly the steps that I use every year when I launch a model call. It’s what I use to find models for my retreats. It’s how I teach my students to do model calls, it kind of ensures that you’re going to get what you want to get out of these sessions and working with these models. So I’ll have that linked in the show notes. I want to end with I always ask some like random non related questions because it lets people get to know you a little bit more. So we’re going to end with those. What’s your favorite current coffee shop order?

Leah O’Connell
I wish I could go to coffee shop. Not in my life right now. I’m mostly in black coffee person but if I am going to a coffee shop big fan of just like a almond milk, vanilla latte type situation.

Sabrina Gebhardt
Yeah, same I keep it pretty basic unless that’s I’m keeping it pretty basic if I’m going to Starbucks because I don’t like to veer off because things get too sweet and complicated. But if I go to a local like a small business coffee shop, I totally veer off into left field and I’m like what’s your favorite? Like what’s your most recommended drink right now? Like just I let them sell me on basically anything? Yeah. Okay, so let’s talk about a dream vacation. No kids are going money is no object. Where do you want to go?

Leah O’Connell
Italy is on the top of our list. Both my husband and I have traveled there before but in different phases of life when like I was like in high school, and he was in the military and we did not get to drink wine and Tuscan villas and all of those luxurious things. So that’s at the top of our list. For sure.

Sabrina Gebhardt
I love that Italy is pretty high up on mine too, specifically the Amalfi Coast. I have always wanted to go and I actually have I don’t want to go too far into left field with this conversation. But I actually have an itinerary from my grand My mother and my grandfather were that they went on. And I would like to recreate the itinerary from their trip.

Leah O’Connell
Oh my gosh, I

Sabrina Gebhardt
love that. Yeah, I don’t even know if any of these places are still open or available. But I just think that would be so magical to have a travel agent, like just put that itinerary for my husband and I to do so. Okay, thinking back over the course of your business, what is a decision or an investment that you made that you think was the biggest game changer?

Leah O’Connell
Okay, there are two. And I share two. Yeah, yeah. So I’ve pivoted a lot, like I kind of mentioned earlier. So what the first one was that right before COVID. And my middle son was born, I hired a studio manager, I had, I was anticipating this exponential growth, I was expecting to take this maternity leave at the beginning of 2020. And because it just happened to be like the year no unexpected, I all of a sudden had an employee and having someone depend on me like that in my business. I was expecting it, obviously, but not with the strain that came with that year. And it really forced me to get super serious and figured out what I was doing. So I got really creative, I got more organized, I got really clear about my vision when I wanted, I learned about delegating, and communicating, I learned all of these things like on a high intense curve. So ultimately, when she moved away, I didn’t need to fill that position again, because we had kind of worked our way out of it, like I had guide figured out how to work so lean. And it just made this huge trip, like difference in the trajectory of my business. And then the second one was my the first investment that I ever made in a mastermind, and I did I did workshops is love, so to retreat, and just that was the first time that I did in person, small group education. And I was like, Oh, I get it. Like, this is what works for me, like way more than any online course, way more than any PDF guide that I could ever have taken. There’s something about being in the room with people and you know, this, obviously, but like when you’ve been in business, for as long as I have, and anyone else can attest to this, like you hit these plateaus where, you know, at the beginning, we just talked about this, like you get that it took like, what’s the next thing for me? And though that mastermind and that sort of like leveled up growth was a huge, huge turning point for my business. Yeah.

Sabrina Gebhardt
When when people ask me this question I that’s the same answer that I give is, there’s a year that I finally pulled the trigger and stopped just relying on Google and YouTube and blogs and free education and I paid a lot and I did three in person experiences within one calendar year. One was a one day intimate workshop, one was a conference and one was a three day intimate mastermind, with a lot of hands on. And the the mastermind one was definitely the most valuable. But the combination of the three and like you said, it’s it’s a combination of being in the room with people and just being inspired and being able to ask questions and share stories. And then being able to learn hands on from an expert, there is literally nothing like it. There’s there’s nothing like it and the two with like that small group of people and that, yes, the poor, you know, we work so much by ourselves in our daily life. And so, you know, when

Leah O’Connell
I hired my studio manager back in 2021, of the reasons I think that I did, it was because I was just so tired of doing everything by myself. I didn’t really thought through like, oh, wait, there are other ways to find this community. Or your team if I didn’t want to, I thought that was the trajectory of my business. But I, I wasn’t. And I think that that in person education showed me that like, there’s a whole world of support and friendship and community and industry, like positivity here that we can lean on each other for that I wasn’t taking advantage of at

Sabrina Gebhardt
all. Exactly, exactly. And, and again, that’s something that until someone makes the investment of time and or money to be in these groups, they you don’t realize what you’re missing until you until you have it and then you’re like, oh my gosh, I was so lonely. Yes, I was so lonely. I was lacking support, and that you don’t realize how good it can be until you’re on the other side. So last question. If you were not in photography and coaching, what do you think you’d be doing? Right?

Leah O’Connell
I’d probably be a middle school English teacher. Because that is actually what my degree is in. I went to school to be a middle school English teacher and never made it to the classroom. So it’s funny that I’m kind of wrapping that back around now, but that’s probably the path that I would be on today.

Sabrina Gebhardt
I love Have that I love that it’s specific middle school, I always say that the people that are called to teach that age group are so special, like they have something that other educators don’t have. And now that I have one of my kids has been through middle school and is in high school now and I have one in middle school right now. It is so a parent, the, the the educators they have they’re, they’re just really called and drawn to that age group. So I love that. Before we go today, I want you to share where people can connect with you and how they can work with you. Sure,

Leah O’Connell
I they can find me on my website. My business is Firefly photography. So my website is L O. Leah O’Connell’s. firefly.com. I have a page there for education. I have a couple of different offers for mentoring there. My Instagram is Firefly photo underscore, Leah, I’m sure she’ll have links for all of this stuff to find me in it. So reach out if you have any questions. I also have a Facebook group, a free Facebook group. It’s a really intimate collection of people and I often share behind the scenes gallery walkthroughs there. So that’s another great resource for people if you kind of just want to be a fly on the wall and see like how images are deconstructed. I do that a lot, because I find that it’s helpful to see like, how these images got made. And so that’s one thing that we talked about a lot in the group too, so you can always join, join me in there.

Sabrina Gebhardt
Awesome. Thank you so much for being here and sharing all of your knowledge. I knew this was a great chat. I can’t wait to get the feedback from the listening audience. So with that, this is a wrap and we’ll see you next time. Thanks so much for listening to the shoot it straight podcast. You can find all the full show notes and details from today’s episode at Sabrina gebhardt.com backslash podcast. Come find me and connect over on the gram at Sabrina Gebhart photography. If you’re loving the podcast, I’d be honored if you hit that subscribe button and leave me a review. Until next time, my friends shoot it straight.

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