The WordPress Photography Podcast
The WordPress Photography Podcast
Episode 73 - Massive Brand Shift w/ Mike Allebach


mike-allebachOriginally called “The Tattooed Bride Photographer”, Mike started a movement to make Tattooed Brides acceptable. He believes in the power of In Person Sales and Album Sales to create life long clients. Never having held a sales job in his life, he set out to learn the ins and outs of In Person Selling. It paid off, in 2016 he doubled his income using Album and In Person Sales. More recently, Mike has shifted his photography business in a new direction, offering couples boudoir photography services.

Visit the show notes page to answer Mike's question from this episode.

What we discuss:

  • What is couple boudoir photography?
  • Why Mike shifted from a full-time wedding photographer to a couple boudoir photographer.
  • What went into the rebranding for the website, business backend stuff and social media?
  • The process and experience for couple boudoir photography sessions
  • How are you getting leads and customers for the new service?
  • The book Mike is writing

Where to find Mike:

Referenced In This Episode:


Transcription was done by Temi.com which means it's an AI generated transcript. The transcript may contain spelling, grammar and other errors, and is not a substitute for watching the video.

Scott: Welcome to episode 73. My name is Scott Wyden Kivowitz and today I'm joined by my guest, Mike Allebach. Now as a reminder, at the end of the show, Mike will have an opportunity to ask you a question and you'll be able to answer that question on the show notes page or the youtube channel or wherever you would like now. Mike was originally called the tattooed bride photographer, and Mike started a movement to make tattooed brides acceptable. He believes in the power of in person sales and album sales to create lifelong clients and never having held a sales job in his life. He set out to learn the INS and outs of in-person selling and it paid off in 2016 when he doubled his income using album and in person sales. And more recently, Mike has shifted his photography business into a new direction, one that I've never seen before in the photo industry before this.

Scott: I've seen it in other industries, similar, similar things. Uh, I guess, um, Mike is now offering couples boudoir photography services. And I'll let mike explain that later in this episode, but for now, welcome to the show, Mike. Yeah, thanks for having me on Scott. Yeah. So, um, I've been, I've been wanting to get you on for awhile. You don't use wordpress and you know, even though this is called the wordpress photography podcast, we like having people come on that use other platforms because it's a, you know, we don't just talk about wordpress, we talk about websites, we talk about online marketing and things like that. So, um, the topics we're gonna be talking about today, the, the topic can really work no matter the website platform you're using, whether it's squarespace, good gallery, show it wordpress or wix or weebly, whatever, using what we're gonna be talking about today can relate to you. So before we dive into today's conversation, Mike, what's going on in your life? What's, what's new in your world? Well, I, um, I decided to write a book

Mike: book in 2018. I did one of those things where I said, you know what? Twenty 18, I'm going to write a book. And I just squeaked in like at the very last second I had finished my book, so it was, it was something

Scott: maybe just as hard as I thought it would be or harder.

Mike: Um, I have no experience writing books. Uh, so I got it back from the editor the last week of, of 2018. So I'm pretty stoked about that. It's, it's on marketing. So yeah.

Scott: Oh, and before we continue, I just have to point out, I meant to point this out earlier. Mike is actually under the weather and he's still joining us today. So there might be some, some edits here and there where I'll have to do some, some hard cuts if he has to turn in, you know. Um, so I, I'm really excited for your book. I know it's a topic that I could learn from. It's a topic that a lot of photographers can learn from because, um, well what's, what's the topic you're writing about? Share. Share that with everybody.

Mike: Yeah. So this is this idea of a solo entrepreneurs and that you can have this viral brand for your business. So brand that people actually want to talk about not only your clients, but also that press wants to pick up and talk about as well.

Scott: And now when people listened to that, right, they're going to think, well, what does Mike know about going viral? Right? So, and the cool part is that you've done it a couple times or a few times and you've done it with a Jaleel's video, right? Which we'll have to link to in the show notes. I'll make a note to a, to link to that in the show notes. Um, Julio is a fantastic photographer. I think he's had affiliate. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Um, and billy, uh, has a really powerful story. He, um, he was basically forced into a wheelchair and, uh, by just being at the wrong place at the wrong time and being shot. And uh, so mike did a very powerful video all about Jaleel and that was, was that your first of your own work that went viral?

Mike: Yeah, that was the first time. And it gave me a cave me a taste of how powerful stories can be. Yeah. So just what, what good things can come out of going viral and the book isn't just for you. No. Okay. I want to do this like publicity son. It's, it's about doing meaningful work, right? And I think everybody wants to get out of the bed in the morning at 5:30 and have something that they would love to do, love to do. Otherwise, you know, you can, you can sleep all day. Um, but a lot of people want that thing. Well maybe you're not a morning person, but a lot of people want that thing that gets them out of bed in the morning. And that's really what the book talks about is, is how to not only find the thing but then how to talk about it in ways that other people will want to talk about it. So yeah,

Scott: that's a, I'm really excited about it because I, you know, I know just from knowing you, you're not only gonna just be teaching, but you're going to be, I'm going to be putting some emotion behind it as well. So it's gonna be, um, it's gonna be a impactful, I think, on a lot of when it, when it's out and I'm looking forward to it. Um, couples boudoir photography. So I look at this and I'm like, when my wife ever do this, um, and so what is couples boudoir photography?

Mike: So what it is, is it's basically, I, I joke about it a lot, that it's, it's kind of like the lex next level of engagement photography. So it's this photography between couples where they do this super sexy photo shoot. And for, for many people it's a way to reconnect with the person that they love. What I'm finding is people are coming to me for three different reasons they're coming because maybe they finally found that person that they love. So they'd been in a string of really bad relationships. And so now they found that person that they can have this open dialogue with this communication with where they say, hey, I have this crazy idea, but what would happen if we did some sexy photos? And I mean not, not on her own, but with a photographer, would you like that? And that conversation can only happen when there's good communication.

Mike: Uh, so we get those, those couples at finally have that good communication. They were, they were in this terrible relationship before, terrible string of relationships and now they're finally ready to open up and talk with the person that they love. Um, another kind of couple that comes to us is they're the couple that have been through hell and back maybe with each other or maybe life has thrown a lot of bad situations at them. And together they've weathered the storm where they're like, this really sucks and we need to celebrate each other because we've been there. Like in those people say this person, they're my rock. They're the person that I cling to when times get tough. And now I want to do a photo session to really celebrate, you know, we've got through this storm or maybe we're still in this store. So a lot of people call me when they get the diagnosis of cancer. Like it's very common that, that I get the phone call weeks after they get that diagnosis and they're really worried. Um, and they really want to say, you know, maybe we're not even married yet, but we, we want to celebrate what we have together and I know this person is super special in my life and I'm not going to take that for granted anymore. Like one of us is dealing with something and, and let's not take this for granted.

Scott: Yeah, you know, it's, you wouldn't think just by just by looking at it, you wouldn't think that it goes beyond just I'm just married couples or just um, couples who just want that sexy photo shoot that it, that it actually does go into a, it does reach people who are having these really hard times. Um, you know, that's not something that's, that's obvious when you learn, you look at these. So it's, um, it's nice to know that there, that there is more a behind it, um, that, uh, that more people are being impacted by, by the session that it's actually doing something I'm way, way, way deeper in their, in their live together. Then what might be visible on the surface. So you shifted from fulltime weddings to couples, good wars. And Are you still doing weddings at all or did you do a complete shift?

Mike: Um, no, I'm doing about five to 10 weddings a year now, but it is in my, in my world at ski complete shift because it went from 35 readings to five to 10 in 2019. So we will take on that client that, that really likes it or I have this awesome thing where the couples that are doing couples bid war are coming to me and saying, can you photograph my wedding? So I don't want to say, oh no, I can't photograph your wedding because they still like weddings, but I want to be doing 90 percent couples Voodoo are and the rest, you know, kind of some branding, photography and, and photos of my couples, boudoir clients, families.

Scott: And what was the original? What originally got you game? What originally got you moving towards couples Brood War and away from what? Like what actually started that shift in the first place for you?

Mike: Yeah, I think this really. This really goes back to the book that I'm working on is everything gets so clear when you look backwards, but when you're in the moment, everything's so vague and it's like, should I do this? Should I not? And within a period of about three months, I had three couples come to me asking for couples. People are, wasn't something that I showed on my website or anything like that. Um, I was doing good war and I was doing tattooed weddings. So for them I think they saw, okay, this guy does photos with, with couples like us and we have this crazy idea and let's, let's go. And everybody used the phrase, um, Calvin Klein, they wanted photos like Calvin Klein ads, you know, those ones from the nineties where they were super sexy kind of topless and jeans. So that's what they were looking for in the beginning.

Mike: And I didn't show any of that, but they, they felt like I open to this. They would always call me on the phone. It would always be a phone call and they would say, hey, we have this idea. Can we come into their studio and talk with you? And by the third time I got that call in three months, I was like, oh wait, I know what this is about. And they would come in and they would be like, yeah, we want to do these sexy photos, kind of like the Calvin Klein ads that we've seen, um, photos of us together. And um, so I just did them and I had done a couple of sexy photo shoots in the past, but I wouldn't even classify them as couples food who are. So it just, it was just like tattooed brides is me sort of falling into it.

Mike: It wasn't this magical thing where I'm like, Oh, you know, couples who are a tattoo brides would be the awesomeness. It was like, I saw some, some, some things come up. And I was like, maybe I could do that. And then as I progressed along that path, it was like, yes, this is my thing. Um, but it's always like this sort of falling into it. There's, there's nobody really there to tap you on the shoulder and say, this is your thing. Like, you have to figure that out for yourself. And for me I was like, well, maybe I could write a book about finding your thing and finding your passion. Then what to do once you find your passion to get the word out about it. Nice. So that's, that's how it happened. It was just sort of people saw something in me before I saw it myself and that I had to figure it out for my own. Like this was, this was gonna be my next step in my journey.

Scott: Yeah. You know, and it, um, when you look at a photographer's work, a lot of times you can tell the difference between photographers were trying too hard and photographers who it just comes naturally and the work that you're producing for, for your clients. They look natural, they look like couples who, who are head over heels in love with each other that, um, that, uh, really, really, really are enjoying the session and, and, uh, and, and that experience. So, um, and so let's, let's, um, I, I'm gonna throw a topic that I wasn't planning in here. Um, uh, right now I just mentioned experience. Talk about not necessarily what you actually do to instruct your clients in this session, but talk about the overall experience of this, the, the, the session from booking to, to completion. Like you're, you're probably still making albums and things like that, I'm assuming. Um, can you talk about sort of the process of this?

Mike: Yeah. So people come to us and they say we want to do this sexy photo shoot or now they know the term is couples voir, so they find us through seo or they find us through a facebook group that we have or something else. And they go in and they say, okay, we're, we think we want to do this. And their question is always what are your packages or what are your price? And I think that's, that's code for. We don't know what else to ask. Um, so what, like how instead of saying how does this process process work? They say, what is the package? What is the price? Because that's what people do. Like when you're looking for something, you're like, okay, what is this going to cost? I think a lot of photographers would that get really thrown off because they're like, oh, these are really price conscious people.

Mike: Well, no, that's not usually the case. They just don't know what else to ask and they're really wanting to know what is your process like how can we get started and can, can we afford this? So they come to me with that question. It's usually, you know, over my crm and then we schedule a phone call or I just call them straight up. If I can get to the call within 30 minutes we do. We have other people at the studio that make those calls as well and then we start asking them really, really, really deep questions. It's not accidental that the people that you see online on our gallery and all that are actually like really engaged in each other because we asked those questions for the beginning. It's like, what does this person mean to you? What was the time that they've been there for you when you needed it the most?

Mike: So we're asking these deep questions, we're taking the notes down and then from there we're trying to figure out what photos to produce for either their album or their wall art, um, because otherwise we as photographers are shooting in the dark, we don't know what they actually want, they don't even know what they actually want and you start asking them those deep questions like talk about the last time when, when you fell into his arms and he was just there for you and, and they'll tell these beautiful stories about maybe there was a tragic loss and their family and there was this moment of connection that just sticks with them. So what we want to do is create a piece of artwork for their home that they can look at every single day and say, this person cares that much about me. Uh, and I want to look at that every day and get, get that energy from that, that moment and, and what this person means to me in what we've overcome together.

Mike: So those photos aren't, aren't accidental. Yeah. Are you finding that these clients are buying more wall art or books? And albums, things like that. Um, it's, it's pretty split, but our push is for Walmart because you know, for them and in the beginning it's like, oh my goodness, that's going to be pretty sexy, but we want them to see it every single day. You can hide it album, you can't hide wall art, that's for sure. Yeah. If it's over their bed, their bedroom, it's like, what do you want to wake up to every single day and see. And for, for a lot of people it's like, you know, embrace. It isn't even the sexiest photo. It's, it's the two of them embraced staring deeply into each other's eyes or, or, or just like that really tight hug when they're just wrapped in each other and enjoying each other. Um, so we're trying to create something that they're going to see everyday and we, we hope they keep their albums out like open. Uh, but some of, some of the stuff we produce is a little too sexy for people to feel comfortable with.

Scott: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I, I could see, I can see, um, like the, the intimate, you know, I'm looking at each other's eyes, photos being Walmart. I can see that in my house as well. Uh, not sure I could see a, like the super sexy being on a wall, but, um, no. Yeah. But, um, yeah, I, I'm, I absolutely love, love this, this whole, I know it's not new but it's still kind of new. Um, I, I love this genre photography. I think it's beautiful. I think it's um, it definitely has a good impact on, on the couple. So, um, in that process that, that, that whole experience sounds just amazing for the, for the couples. Um, so you're, you're, you're still sort of in this process of going through like, you know, a restructuring of, of, of processes, of, of the, the branding on the website of showing weddings versus coupled brood war and, and you're, you know, you've got to adjust your business back end. All this stuff has to be readjusted, your changing your social media handles. Um, you know, so talk about that, like how much is involved with all this. You, you're [inaudible] you're, because you're still doing weddings, you still have to keep weddings around, but now you're pushing the couple's good, warm, worse. Now you've got a whole lot of stuff to Redo, right?

Mike: Yeah. Yeah. I like, I took one of our, our handles on facebook and I changed it. So it was tattooed bride photo guy and the natural change for that was to go to couple's viewed war photo guy. And in the process of writing the book I was like testing out all these things on that, on that page. And it was amazing. We went from about 15 100 followers on that page all the way up to $7,000. But I'm, I'm starting to tell people, worry about your likes on facebook has zero importance. Uh, what you want to worry about is your engagement. So he made this switch and I got really, really specific about what I was doing and I was trying out all these things and now we get more reach than apple, more reach than Toyota or reach than almost all the major brands in the United States on our page.

Mike: Um, so there has been, it's been like a year long change, so in the process of writing the book I was trying out all the things that I was changing, the website was changing a little bit and, and week by week there's less wedding photos on there and more couples brood war, so I had been making that change and also we are looking at doing more branding photos because it goes along with what I'm writing about, you know, you find your perfect brand, you find the image that you want to portray and you need photos for pr work, so you're going to want that whole full branding portraits package. So we've been moving in that direction of, of couples voir and adding more headshots and more branding images to the website and taking away the wedding stuff. And eventually we're breaking out into three websites where one's going to be family, one's going to be branding portraits and one's going to be couples who are, um, yeah, it's, it's a process.

Mike: I don't want to move anything too quick because we'll, we'll stay still take a couple more weddings. Uh, but it, it's been a year of change and on the back end, the actual processes it takes that. What are the artwork when you're shooting in the studio every day or almost every day? Uh, everything changes because it's no longer, oh, I have five days to work on the wedding and all this and that. It's now I shoot in the studio almost every day. I have a shoot right after this interview. I did two yesterday. Uh, it's, there's a lot of work to be done and a lot of things that can't get missed. So we've been working on our crm, our processes. I actually, I really, really, really liked the book called clockwork and it talks about getting processes in place for, for these changes and for getting more organized.

Scott: Well, I will definitely link to that book in the show notes as well. Um, yeah, you know, I feel like when you go from doing weddings to doing work in a studio where you're, you're, you're, you're, you have a session or two every single day, you almost have to rely on your assistance in, in, and, and staff to even more than you might otherwise because now whereas they might have had like a heavy workload, you know, one or two days a week, now they've got a heavy workload every single day. Um, so, so yeah, that's a, that's a, that's a major shifting not only from technology standpoint and branding standpoint, but also your staffing, your employees, you know, they've gotta they gotta kick it up a notch because you're kicking it up a notch. Right.

Mike: Can always sit over their shoulders and the other. That's another thing that we've had to do is with all of this, I need people to do work when I'm, when I'm in sessions. So it's been great because I'm very distractable, very kind of. I'm not as organized. So doing a session every day where I'm tied up for three and a half hours doing that work between the shooting, the calling and then we show work on this very same day. Um, it keeps me organized and it actually cuts down on some of the work, but in other areas with keeping up with any of the inquiries that come in while I'm in a session, people have to respond to them, them right away. Um,

Scott: so it's changed everything when you're doing these sessions and you're doing same day previewing, right? Uh, are you, are you photographing tethered to your computer or are you dumping your memory cards a lot?

Mike: Um, so for branding portrait so we shoot tethered. Um, but during a couples of bar I can't be tethered. Um, so I've tried, you know, some of the, some of the like why fi methods, but nothing has really worked that great for me for how much issued and all that. So it just can't keep up. So I, I get about a third of the way done. Dump a card, you know, I use about three cards is session and I'm that way. Everything's in photo mechanic and the last card is just dumping in, um, so we have about three outfits, so it works out pretty well to do it that way. And then I just sit down and I call through about a thousand photos down to 40 to 50 in 45 minutes and also designed three pieces of artwork. So moving pretty quickly. They get snacks, cheese, crackers, all that stuff while I'm doing the calling. And then once it's ready we go up to the studio, which I'm in on the third floor and that's where we show. So we have a projector or a screen that comes down and they get to see the artwork and all the examples are in this room as well.

Scott: Have that, that, that, uh, you know, 30 minutes or so of you doing the cooling and whatnot and then having snack. It's like the cool down period from there. Yeah, they're hot sessions out pretty well. And then also what I didn't say it is

Mike: there inherent makeup for the first hour. So um, hair and makeup. And then we go into the photo session, which for regular boudoir lasts about an hour and couples. We do ours in an hour and a half. Uh, but it's really, it gives me three and a half hours to really, really work undistracted. I have zero room for error, so have to get it all done and it's really helped my workflow during the day and helped me be more productive. So in the end we only had to retouch the photos that they buy, so they see unreached touched photos, which a lot of photographers get really scared about, but once you start doing it and once you know that your photos have to be shareable and it makes a big difference and yeah, instead of you editing 100 photos from a session, uh, and color correcting and doing all the retouching on them, you're not doing any of that. Only the stuff that they buy. So you're only working on, you know, pieces that people buy, which is a huge time saver.

Scott: Yeah. And I mean really doing calling and, and um, and really what exactly what you're doing, narrowing it down to the actual purchase that is a time saver down the road. Right? So that's a time saver for, you know, for your staff who's doing the final edits and whatnot to uh, to, you know, they still have a ton of work, but they're, you know, it definitely makes it easier. Um, you know, and, and for those who use a software like, I dunno a photo mechanic does this, but with light room you could still do some basic edits during import and, and not even be hands off. You can have a dual lens correction and you can have a do minor curve adjustment, minor contrast adjustment, whatever you want. Um, if you want, you could even have it hit the auto button unimportant. So I mean that I wouldn't do but, but you could, you could do some, some, you know, you, you basically make an import preset and you can do it why you're calling and not even have to worry about. It's straight out of camera now it's got some minor edits in it. So, um, so, um, my last question for you is about your leads and customers as your shift as you do the shift and you did mention that you're getting a bunch of leads from Seo, from social media, are you getting, I'm like, are you seeing a big return from your wedding clients so you're seeing referrals from, from your wedding clients or is it mostly Seo and social media at this point? It's really, is that right

Mike: mix? So a lot of my people are coming back for these sessions and some of them are spending more money on the couple's bid more than they did on the wedding, you know, wow. Though it has that much meaning for them. Um,

Mike: so I would say yeah, it's a huge mix. We do a lot of expos, so we get our face out there, name out there were, were, were there, so they ask us questions. So I'd do the Tattoo Convention, which is Great. We do bridal shows for bridal boudoir. Um, so I would say it's so split it, some return clients, um, you know, past wedding clients a lot from social media. Again, our page is getting more views and Toyota and, and apple and all those, so they're able to see our work out there. Um, and that our group, we have a group that has, I was checking it, it has over 100,000 engagements in a month from our facebook group. So people are talking, people are really getting involved in and asking a lot of questions and getting stoked about doing session.

Scott: That's, that's awesome. I'm only slightly dying so this has been fantastic. Um, I think, I think that, uh, this is going to be a John Ra photography that we see grow in 2019 and beyond. Uh, just the same that I think that personal brand photography is going to be growing in 2019 and beyond. I feel like it's, I, I said that we had a, I had a, um, a discussion with Jamie Swanson about personal rephotographed I think back in beginning of August and I said this to her and I'm going to say it to you. It's not very often that that we see in the photo industry a new John or photography and wild couples. Couples would war and personal brand photography or not new as far as like they've never existed before. You're basically you, you took a concept that that existed in a different form and turned it into couples boudoir photography just as, as headshots and business portraits, portraits and lifestyle photos have always existed. They'd never existed in a personal brand photography package. So I feel like this is a drawing for a drawing or photography that is new that we will see more photographers either attempting or being successful in from here on in. It's exciting. It's so. It's always exciting when the industry see something new and refreshing and it works for other photographers as well.

Mike: Yeah, and I, I, I see them both as, as life changing in some ways. Like if, if the personal branding photography allows somebody with a business to be able to really take their business to the next level, that's, that's life changing. Same thing with the apples would work if it allows a couple to see their, um, themselves as different as a sexy couple together as, as they see that photo up on the wall where they're able to celebrate what they have together, then it's this life change to them. So if they didn't have this session that wouldn't be possible. So I think that something that photographers are still learning is that the power of photography to change a life? Yeah. To actually change lives. It sounds Cliche, but it's true, you know, people see photos and they're like, I've never seen myself in that light before. I've never seen myself in that way before. I've never seen our relationship in that way. And now they're, they're able to do that. And the photography that supports those changes is, there's always gonna be space for people who do that kind of photography and who, who are able to make those changes. Yeah.

Scott: Um, so now is the point of the show where you have an opportunity, Mike, to ask the listeners a question. Um, so if you have a question fire away.

Mike: Yeah. I mean, so what I've experienced in my own business has been the more that I put myself out there with the press, the more press that I get, the more I'm willing to go after it with my ideas such as tattooed brides, couples who are even personal brand photography. So my question is, what is stopping you from reaching out to your local newspaper to or even to a, to a national TV show. What's stopping you from emailing them or calling them and saying, Hey, I do this thing. Would you be interested in doing this story?

Scott: Nice. Yeah. That's fantastic. Okay. Well, thank you mike for joining us today. I'm glad you're able to join even being under the weather. You can find the show notes and where to find a Mike and to answer his question at imagely.com/podcast/ 73. And don't forget to subscribe to the show on Apple podcast, stitcher, spotify, Google play, and wherever you listen to podcasts. Until next time.

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