My Top 2021 Moments

Where 2020 was a year of some rude awakenings and good victories, 2021 was a year of growth and change moments for me. I revamped my photography business in many ways, changed jobs (the engineering life), tweaked my routines, and updated my priorities. So I’m really excited about how my 2021 ended and how 2022 is looking. 

A Creative Portrait Shoot Each Month

I enjoyed doing this so much last year that I also decided to keep it up for 2021. This tradition of creating a personal photo project each month to learn and push myself is incredibly gratifying, and I love how it routinely makes me a better photographer. Below are images from the 12 creative portrait sessions I did for 2021:

Classic Hollywood Vanity Fair

1950’s Throwback

GQ Men’s Bar Portrait

Shape Portraits

Scrimmed Outdoor Headshots

Queen’s Gambit

Cruella

Shadow Fashion

Ballet Dancer

Steampunk

Exploded View Food Self-Portrait

Androgenous Scrooge

My Photography Business Grew in 2021

One of the things I did this year for my photography business was get serious about data tracking. Where are my leads coming from (Google, referral, repeat, Facebook, etc.), how many ghost after the first email or book a consultation meeting, and then how many book with me after that. What are my sale numbers from each session, including cost of goods & expenses, and how each of those numbers changes based on the kind of photography (portrait, headshot, editorial, theater, etc.). Here’s a recap of how my 2021 broke down by the numbers:

Leads

  • 131 Leads
  • 57 Consultations
  • 52 Sessions

That means 43.5% of all leads booked a consultation, and 91.2% of all consultations booked a session. Not too shabby.

Lead Sources

SourceTotal Inquiry CountTotal BoookedBooking Rate
Google732128.8%
Repeat Client181794.4%
Referral281346.4%
Instagram500%
Facebook200%
Other5120%

Most of my leads came from Google, but repeat clients and referrals were the most likely to book after inquiring. And anything coming from social media just flat-out stunk. This means I can either work harder on social media inquiries or convert Google leads more effectively. 

Lead Tracking Over Time

From the graph, you can see that most of my leads and work happen in the Spring and Fall seasons. This is great because I avoid the heat of Atlanta summers for my shoots, but it makes my schedule super hectic in the Fall because I overlap it with college football season tickets for Georgia Tech (Go Jackets!).

Sessions

Weddings had the best session fee, which isn’t surprising. The average net income of my Brand Portrait shoots was higher than my standard Portrait sessions, which makes sense based on how they’re each priced, the needs of those clients, and that I didn’t change my business model for my Portrait work until summer. After that, my Portrait numbers were significantly better. I also gave away a few heavily discounted or free Headshot sessions, which really sunk my numbers there. So I need to stop doing freebies for those!

TypeTotal CountAvg Session FeeAvg SaleAvg COGAvg Net
Brand6$$$$$$$$$$$
Headshot15$$$$$
Portrait17$$$$$$$$$$$$$
Wedding2$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
Theater7$$$$$$$$

I assembled significantly more data than you see above, but that starts showing some detailed cost information that I don’t want to publicly share. It’s all helpful, though; with this information, I can start planning and making tweaks to my business and processes over the short and long term. Pretty powerful stuff!

The most incredible thing was that even with COVID still present, I did my best year by income compared to any other year I’ve been a professional photographer. I did $42,000 worth of work, my previous best being $25,000. I am so amazed and grateful for this considering photography is my side-hustle. I’m honestly speechless when looking at these numbers.

I Hired a Business Photography Coach 

This 12-week program did enormous things for my photography business and personal life. I worked with Johl Dunn, who positively kicked my ass. Not only did it work on some of the nuts and bolts of my photography business, but it was a course that focused on mindset too to get the rest of your life on track to be successful. This course led to several significant changes in my life, including revamping my priorities and working on my daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly routines. All of these elements combined led to arguably the most successful year of my young life. I’m incredibly appreciative of Johl’s help and for pushing myself to do it.

editing gear

I Changed Engineering Jobs

I came out of 2020 with a job I was thrilled with and really passionate about. I was working on an autism diagnostic device. Unfortunately, leadership changes required me to find alternate employment. So in April 2021, I left my job as a hardware engineer and took a position as a project manager with an engineering consulting firm here in Atlanta. It was a hard choice, but ultimately I’m in love with the decision I made. 

The company is flexible and accommodating in extraordinary ways, including supporting my photography business and letting me pursue it where feasible. As for the job itself: it’s demanding, challenging, diverse, and fun. I work with some incredible people, and it’s a blast to be a part of that team. Another fantastic perk – I get to work from home 90% of the time, even if COVID goes away. It’s been an excellent 8 months.

Updated Priorities and Routines

This change was exacerbated by the coaching program I did, but I’ve been working on my habits, routines, and priorities a lot over the past few years. I worked my ass off in my 20’s. My sole focus was setting up my future and that security with the mindset that I would start enjoying life more in my thirties if I hit all my goals. Well, I think I got there, so I’ve been in the process of changing things up. 

As of a few months ago, I do a gratitude practice, meditate, and exercise every morning for my daily routine. I actually completed 365 straight days of exercising on December 29, 2021! I also journal every evening and read for half an hour every day. These small changes have been tremendous in improving my mental, emotional, and physical health – especially since they all influence each other. In a year that has been difficult, and a lifestyle is pretty busy, having a routine to fall back on which is all about self-care has been invaluable.

I also changed up my priorities. I did an exercise where I ranked my current priorities based on how I set up my life and my current choices. I knew they needed to change, but I was pretty frustrated at how much. Family, friends, relationships, and fun were low on my list, which is inexcusable since I consider myself someone who prioritizes family and friends. Since then, I have tweaked how I prioritize my values and put habits in place to enforce those rankings. They now look like this:

  • Relationships/Family
  • Career/Business
  • Personal Growth & Development
  • Fun
  • Health
  • Finances
  • Environment

And it’s not just lip service. I’ve also created a series of weekly and monthly habits that reinforce these values: catching up with a different friend every week, monthly game nights, monthly dinners with my parents, reading 2 books a month, and building something with my hands once every two weeks. It’s been really fantastic, and I love the changes.

Wrap Up

It’s been one hell of a year. Lots of growth, as I mentioned, and lots of lessons learned. I’m excited for the changes I’ve made and really can’t wait to continue on this great trajectory. Assuming COVID doesn’t ruin everything again – but that’s a concern for when/if that happens. For now, I’m excited for 2022 and the journey it’ll be!

Some Favorite 2021 Client Session Images

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