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Chamira Young: Hi everybody! This is Chamira Young from Zenjoyable.com. Thank you for joining us for our Pro Photographer Interview Series, Episode no. 3. Now I have a special treat for you because today we talked of Damien Franco, past owner of a Successful Photography Studio and current Content Creator and Social Media Management Specialist. Let me tell you this as I know little stuff in media. He has quite a journey and has a ton of knowledge to share about using social media marketing to your advantage for your own photography business. We have so many good facts and tips in the interview. But I actually decided to divide it into 2 episodes. So today is the first half and Episode no. 4 would be the 2nd half. So let’s not waste any time, let’s get to it. Enjoy!
Chamira Young: Oh I just wanna thank you Damien for being with us today. I’m so excited and just wants to pick your brain so thank you for being with us.
Damien Franco: Oh thank you, Chamira for having me on, I really appreciate it.
Chamira Young: Awesome. And you know, first of all I just want everybody to learn a bit about you… about your back ground, where you come from. So just give us an overview of yourself and your photography background as well as your background in general on how did you end up on where you are today?
Damien Franco: So, I would try to keep it as short as I can. But I started young as most I think buddying photographers do. So I got , I started as studying Arts as a child practically and I carried through into what I wanted to be when I grow up so I wanna be an Artist straight. Maybe a striving Artist in New York on a street which virtually one day got discover by Gallery and do on a super famous or whatever not to worry about some couple of years and fall over to the toilet of my own vomit where I’d die into total security.
Chamira Young: Oh, that’s so romantic.
Damien Franco: Yeah I know. I was thirteen (13) when I came up with that. So… But you know… So, you come out to college and started studying Arts and its… that’s so really not gonna happen. I mean I was smart that I’ve talked to people and figured, okay so what’s with my Arts, what’s gonna happen? And it’s like “Oh, you would gonna need to get a job without doing Art”. Ah, what?! So, I switched to a Computer Science and I have this slash forward sequel of myself in a white button up short sleeve short, you know, rumbling as I go to this information period of what it has to pick for whatever they did wrong. So, instead of putting my throat I switched back over to the Union Artist again. And then, along the way I came across an attic of some of entirely photographers so I thought “Ah that’s where I can get art and make money!” You know, I mean it just; it was this sort of a “BING!” And I have loved photography. I have studied all of the arts. So, I was very much of that person who believed that the better drawer that you can become the more edge and ability to create shapes in your paintings, you know. And if you can become a really good sculptor at the same time, coz everything in that platform is leading toward painting. And if you can become a good sculptor then you understand how the three (3) dimensions work better. So, you’re bringing more dimensions to your paintings. And of course I’ve studied Photography as well and it was really, it came naturally to me. So I went to the studio for a few years… and… Yes.
Chamira Young: I’m just curious, do you mind if I ask how old you are?
Damien Franco: How old am I?
Chamira Young: You don’t have to answer if you don’t want…
Damien Franco: No no no, I don’t mind. I think I’m 35 or something like that… yeah haha
Chamira Young: Or around there?
Damien Franco: So yeah I remember I’m in 30s, and we’ll go in that.
Chamira Young: Okay.
Damien Franco: But that’s what I did. I’ve studied all of the arts… that was it, I wanna become a photographer… All I wanna do is photography instead of working in an electric store when I get out of college.
Chamira Young: So your degree was it in Computer Sciences or was it a Bachelor of Arts?
Damien Franco: So, Actually that’s a part of another whole story. So, I actually didn’t finish because I had back surgery.
Chamira Young: Okay.
Damien Franco: So that sort of comes back a little bit in the future but… After a couple of years working into the, working as a Photographer or Studio Photographer… I started “Oh well, I can, I’m really really good at this and I can do this on my own, right? And what I’m getting paid to do this for, for this studio is like peanuts compared to like what those in wedding photography in town they’re doing. That’s crazy what am I… “ I can do this. So… Okay. I found another photographer who has edge. At that point, I was in my early 20s I was too scared to do it by myself. But I found an older other photographer who was just starting out as a wedding photographer… So we partnered out right and which was great coz we have a lot of different strengths. And so we’re able to balance each other out. So it worked out well and I asked back. We actually did a thing of job with our studio. We were able to position ourselves in loving texture as a premier, as an upscale sort of contemporary art photography studio a few well, right. So we were breaking a lot of modes. And this was, you know, awhile back, this was about 2004? 2005?
Chamira Young: Okay.
Damien Franco: And then, now, there were not a lot of people doing what we were doing, we were using some really dramatic lightning we were doing some… and this is all in studio. We’re mixing studio sections with the environmental sections. And then, we’re putting together really fantastic wedding products. And we’re exclusively using my graphics studio book, so, we’re totally fishing ourselves into a highest level.
Chamira Young: Okay. Glad you’re breaking into that highest market. That can be really nice as far as money goes.
Damien Franco: Yeah absolutely. And so, you know, along the way, I have that… absolutely. And you know it was one of those timing things where I’ve not going back to finish school but more of giving up making money, why do I need to go back to school? And then, that was a little bit later. Haha
Chamira Young: Haha
Damien Franco: But at that time, why do I need to go back to school if I’ve got business. We’re doing really well but I didn’t quite recovered from my back surgery which as well as I should have or as long as I wanted to. I supposed it wasn’t mine or out. And so, we ran into this prospect when my back was essentially, it randomly going out on me and completely put me to back on bed for 2 -3days. And this happens 2 or 3 times, you know, a year. And at some point it surgical’s caught. And I realized that at some point, it’s gonna happen during somebody’s wedding or the night before.
Chamira Young: Yeah, yeah.
Damien Franco: And, that stuff was just too big for me. So, we’re kinda basically can’t agree on whether or not we’re gonna kill the wedding side. And, I totally understood where he was coming from. He was like that’s lucrative side and it feeds some of basics of studio. The way that everything was set up, I mean, they just work two (2) hand-in-hand where you have to change some of actual cap of business (genre). So, I’ve basically backed out, sold him my half of my studio. And he ran of it for a little while it was on and it did pretty good I think. But we moved at that point… so it’s a fresh start to re-launch a different… We can figure out something and not a photography anymore.
Chamira Young: Now, was that a tough decision for you?
Damien Franco: Of course it was. It was… we had spent a long time building a… we’ve spent a long time doing a lot of our marketing and building a really strong and recurring referrals system, you know. And so, as I was leaving taking out like all of this hard work put on our end when you’re not making money, when I was working three (3) jobs at the same time.
Chamira Young: Yeah.
Damien Franco: And now, I mean, I know the store will… the money will just gonna flow in, they’ll still good if we’ve got constant upkeep and, you know, testing different marketing and all that stuff to get clients in. But now, I can just sit coz it already started to check all in. I mean, every, we could see, because we were very specific on ensuring that we created you know, promotion pieces specific to either coupons or bench or whatever it is that we were doing. And so, we were tracking all of our marketing, we sort of put all this together. We did really research on our marketing. You know, there was a part of it during the studio, when we were lucky, back in 2000 and any time before that, really. If you are a photographer or a buddying photographer and you went to another photographer in your area (who’s six as fold) as you say, “Hey, can you help me out with this?” They would have shut the door in your face. Actually they would have slammed the door on your face.
Chamira Young: Wow.
Damien Franco: Photographers back then didn’t help other photographers. Back then, you were competitions and it didn’t matter if you were in the same price range or if you provided a completely different product. Nobody thought of it that way. There was just Photographers start of marker-ing their territory… This is my area and we’re not gonna be friends. We’ll not gonna help you with anything. But we got lucky. There was another photographer who was in every sense of little way one of our competitors – a direct competitor. We were at an extremely similar price range; he was a little bit more expensive than us. And we provided an extremely similar product. So there was no reason for him to help us out but he did. And he was genuine and he was nice and he would let us in any of all of his secrets and we would do the same. And we helped each other. And what we ended up doing actually was building a referral system with each other. We’re basically saying what we can do for so many wedding. If I’m already book for a wedding, I know that my potential client is also quite going to be interested in your work and your pricing. So, if I’m already booked, Im gonna send them to you and if you’re already booked, can you send them to me. And we did.
Chamira Young: You know, I guess that something that at least I know I’ve taken for granted and I’m sure other photographers have as well as far as reaching out to other people within your industry and then being willing to help you. Because today at least, in my experience, when I ask another photographer for help they’re always very forthcoming with their information and what they know.
Damien Franco: Yeah.
Chamira Young: And even contacting people for this interview, you know. You were a great example where you responded back with “Hey, let’s do it!” And it’s something I really appreciate.
Damien Franco: Yeah, yeah. No, and it’s such a new thing. And I really, and as weird as it gonna sound, I honestly think that it was blogs that did that. Because before then, I mean, you couldn’t talk to any photographer that was running a business for say, 2001, 2002. And they would tell you, they’ve got no… They’ve got no help. In fact that’s for most… That’s for most of the early bloggers, early photographer bloggers. I think that’s why they did it, that’s why they did it…
Chamira Young: Yeah, speaking of blogs. I do wanna make sure that you talk about your… you have a blog that received quite a bit of attention at one point…. a photography blog.
Damien Franco: Yeah. So, we left this… I sell my half of the studio; had to get into the a… we call it a Big Boy world and got a real job. So with my wife and a kid and this plane, so I get a one of those career jobs pretty well. But it was anything I was interested at in fact as I was bored to death at work… It was… without doing in this industry or career or you know a job or whatever. It was an extremely data intensive like proactively interval of data analyst.
Chamira Young: Okay.
Damien Franco: And so, I needed to create an album. And at some point I thought, I would never really get it back into photography. I don’t know how, you know, how do we… in what capacity. Maybe I’ll just do a studio, what about weddings. You know, if my back goes out I’ve to rebook studio session, but you know you can’t just rebook as much weddings. There’s always that possibility, I don’t know. I wanted to keep my chops and so I started a photography blog. And I wanted to… and I did it because, I thought, you know, this other photographer really helped me out. I mean, I can help other photographers out. I started reading about other’s photographers blogs, there were, you know, a handful of really good ones. And they were all very forthcoming. And I honestly didn’t think it was going to do anything. I honestly thought that nobody has ever going to read my blog. And I honestly thought, really, I got carried, it’s just a way for me to keep surfaced knowledge fresh in my head for maybe you know 2-3 doubtful years down the road where I was let it and get back into it. But at least I would have like this sort of portfolio of that I’ve still been in this industry. You know, it just sort of makes sense to me to do it.
Chamira Young: Now, in what year did you start your blog?
Damien Franco: So I’ve started about in 2008.
Chamira Young: Okay.
Damien Franco: And it was called YourPhotoTips. And so what, it kinda got crazy but in a good one.
Chamira Young: Haha
Damien Franco: It’s… I’m not like what I would consider a really good writer and still don’t consider myself a good writer to this roundness. And I’ve probably over since then I’ve written all over 10,000 articles or so just on so many different platforms. But I still wouldn’t consider myself a great writer. And people responded, I think they responded originally to the openness, to my willingness to be clear, and transparent and honest. And also it wasn’t… I’ve ran on my article in a very conversational tongue and I sort of always have this like, let say I am just talking to one person and you know, just trying to explain one little thing about whether it’s like How To Become a Better Photographer or something that you could do with Marketing In a Photography or Running Your Business In a Photography stuff that nobody ever told me before. And so that’s how it came about. It was just kinda… it went kinda crazy. It got really really big I sort of getting all sorts of little awards from… First from, you know, it was sort of other industry of specific blogs. And then, it started getting awards from… from internet wide, and then internet big awards. And I gotta do something with this coz it’s essentially, I mean it’s a gold mined for somebody.
Chamira Young: Yeah.
Damien Franco: So I thought I’ve got to bring people on or I’m gonna sell it for something or several accounts, like I’ve got four (4) people interested in buying it all at the same time. And… so, I’ve sold it to Mozilla, I’ve sold it to Barnes and Noble, to other site Sterling Publishing products to like to actually merged for YourPhotoTips.
Chamira Young: Nice. Very nice.
Damien Franco: Yeah. You know, it was great. I mean, with Barnes and Noble they’re big they’re be around forever. So, they emerged it with pixiq.com just with their photography website that was this one and to push sales for their photography line albums. Along the way, they’ve asked me to become their Online Editor, if you will, somebody to manage all the contributors, somebody who does all the social media for the website.
Chamira Young: Oh, no kidding ah.
Damien Franco: And you know, all of that kind of stuff which was really great. Because, I mean, obviously, I guess I shouldn’t say obviously better not mention of any that… but that’s what I’m doing with YourPhotoTips. We had a couple of other contributors among there and we’re really pushing social media usage. I think at that time I sold YourPhotoTips there’s like 27 odd thousand or something like that dance or followers on twitter for YourPhotoTips blog. So, you know that time, you know this is 2011 and that was a really big number back in 2011. And those when you know, prospects are coming to buy a property, an internet property. So throwing that, that number of followers, their eyes really grew big. Well, woah… that’s big.
Chamira Young: Yeah.
Damien Franco: We had a huge twitter group… we had… Everywhere were photographers were, we were there. And we were talking to them; we were engaging with them and driving traffic back to our website and it must have just been helping.
Chamira Young: And so it sounds like then, you guys were pushing social media quite a bit to market your website.
Damien Franco: Absolutely.
Chamira Young: You know I think that’s really something a lot of photographers tend to overlooked with their business. I know not all photographers have blogs, it’s pretty much standard to have your own website these days if you wanna be taken seriously as a photographer. And from the photographers that I’ve talked to just every day and including myself, many of us will admit that we don’t take the time to market ourselves as much. We’d much prefer to be out doing what we do best which is, you know taking nice photos.
Damien Franco: Yeah.
Chamira Young: But listening to your story, it sounds like… marketing… you’ve really used that to your advantage, some pretty serious attention because of it.
Damien Franco: Yeah. You know… and so… this really sort of go back all the way to when I had that photography studio… We spent such accrual little time in the studio like when there were no customers. We didn’t have anything booked with studio, that’s what probably we’re locked up and we were not there. We were at networking events, we were at business lunches or breakfast or we were out talking to restaurants about putting our photographs up in their space. We had created a… We’d created sort of this “restaurants crawl” if you will, where we would put up an either on the walls of the restaurants or we sort of made this almost home-made but really nice looking you know get wood and kinda creative disk or kiosk, if you will, like really kind of nice block and everything like that we put our picture on. We put 16×20 a matter of frame big and small as we could. So we could put as many as we could on there. We would have like we partnered with restaurants. It’s like “Hey. We’d like to put these photos of our clients to promote our business. But what we’re gonna do is we’re going to swap this around. We’re working on all of these restaurants and what we would like to do is include you. And so, what happens is when we moved this photograph of the Jones family, we’re gonna take it from Lola Café and we’re gonna bring it over here to your restaurant. And when we do that, and plus the other five that we’ll bring with, we’re going to email those clients and say “ Hey, your pictures just went over from Lola Café to this restaurant I’m in here, we’ll call it… I don’t know, we’ll call it Aperture coffee shop.”
Chamira Young: Haha..
Damien Franco: And… yeah, that’s funny… coz it used to be one…
Chamira Young: Ahh.. no way.
Damien Franco: Yeah… really… there were… that’s kinda story but yeah… We will email all the clients and got the pictures over to your restaurants and let them know that they’re here. And then, they’re gonna come over here and they’re gonna bring their families. And they’re gonna sort of are you cool of us do this? Can you find us spot to do this and we’ll gonna bring people? It’s not a whole lot but it’s some people here in the restaurant who either haven’t been here before or haven’t been here in a long time. And almost all of them would say yes. You know, like who were able to be here. That was our sort of all or our network marketing kind of thing. We were able to get our pictures a whole bunch of different local people and we were being very specific about the restaurants that we were picking. You know we want it; we wanted to target like middle class up to upper-middle class restaurants that was sort or our target with our graphics. So a little bit more expensive you know, but it got ties.
Chamira Young: Wow.
Damien Franco: And that was one of our biggest marketing things. We got our pictures everywhere.
Chamira Young: You know, the wheels in my grain are spinning right now. I have not heard of anyone ever come up with this idea before. I’m not saying that it hasn’t been done, it probably has been somewhere but this is the first time I’ve ever heard anyone discussed this type of marketing idea before. That is so unique and creative. And how effective was that; it benefit the restaurants but it all gives you exposure as well. Wow!
Damien Franco: Yeah. But it’s not only that, right… because there’s that whirlwind between us and the restaurant.
Chamira Young: Yeah.
Damien Franco: Our clients loved it. They loved it. They’re telling their pictures was being created all around town. And we honestly thought, we honestly thought that they would go there themselves to see it maybe take like, you know grandma or whatever. What we found was actually that, they were e-mailing like everybody about them. And we could see this through our emailed clients.
Chamira Young: Ahuh.
Damien Franco: That, that when we would send this e-mails to our clients coz we we’re not using our own email, we were using an email client that manage all of our… you know, all of the emails we’re sending in…you know… Coz we had it put together.. So it was just we just want to email this… I think we had the color-coded… the purple crew just new for these restaurants…
Chamira Young: Something like aweber… mail chimp or something…?
Damien Franco: Yeah… I can’t remember what we were using it probably does not exist anymore but yeah it was basically one of those but just a regular email client. And it would show us how many times they were forwarded and would get forwarded and forwarded… Like crazy they were sending to their co-workers, they were sending them to their whole family or whatever… They were very… They took us like an R… that was being created all around time… So cool!
Chamira Young: Oh, that’s the coolest idea. Oh that’s so neat. Yeah. Wow. Okay. This is not a question that I not.. a question that is not on my outline.. but have you considered writing a book about your social media and marketing tips and experience? I mean, it sounds like you’ve done some really unique things. And you’ve invested a lot of time and effort… Put your photography business out there and even your blogs which went big when you were not currently even doing photography… that says a lot.
Damien Franco: Yeah. It’s kinda weird. It’s kinda crazy. You know what’s weird? Again, I’ve talked to a couple of publishers and one of them came to me and then I talked to another one just off a chance… I’m so confident about it honestly, and it’s all about the writing.
Chamira Young: Really?!
Damien Franco: I’ve worked obviously, in a publishing, you know, working with Sterling Publishing I’ve got to see like a discrepancy between what it publish off the rights and actually how it comes out… So I was able to see like how well editors can polish things up. But there was this idea just like Who Am I? Who Am I to be writing a book and stuff like this? I’m not even a (photo Kung Fu) professional photographer anymore…
Chamira Young: Ooh, you need to get over that… oh
Damien Franco: Yeah, I know… I’m not meant to be with that anymore, that’s weird.
Chamira Young: Oh, if you do write a book, let us know.
Damien Franco: Okay. I can do that.
Chamira Young: That is something that, that would be great. That would be great.
Damien Franco: But we were talking about…
Chamira Young: Now, let me move this along here. Really, this is good stuff, because I really do, I really enjoy picking your brain about your social media. This interview is a little bit different than the interviews that I have done up to this point.
Damien Franco: Sure, Sure.
Chamira Young: But social media is huge. And if you’re running any kind of business, you cannot ignore it. So, really, just give us some basic strategy tips for incorporating social media into our photography business. How do the two relate social media and photography, well and marketing?
Damien Franco: Okay. That’s alright. So, I think sometimes what is happening is… If you look at social media from a few marketing prospectives and you sort of think “Okay! I’m gonna be able to use Twitter or Facebook or Google Plus to market my studio of my wedding business or whatever it is”. And then you go there start, you know putting wings to your stuff or maybe you want to run that you’ve got sales or you know book now with 10% off on your next session or whatever. And that’s really all you do from the get-go and especially that’s what you do from the very beginning. Then you’re not gonna gain attraction.
Chamira Young: Okay, folks. That’s the end of the 1st half. Make sure you listen to the 2nd half of this interview in Episode no. 4. Thanks so much!