This week, I’m very excited to introduce an inspiring figure in the Photography space. Someone who turned what was considered a “stupid” ideainto a thriving business. Alex Cearns is a pet photographer and photography, business mentor. She has published book, win awards and recently become an Ilford Master.
Tune in to the podcast to discover her journey and what are advice she has shared for those who are thriving to build something like her.
If you want to learn more about Alex's work, you can find it here:
Don't forget to leave a review on the podcast if you enjoy this conversation, it would help us to get found and help to inspire other photographers.
Alex Cearns 0:00 And I've got a free one hour consultation on my business idea. I said to him, you know, I want to photograph animals in a studio, like what people do for people but for pets, and he actually laughed at me and said that will only ever be a hobby. That's like no one's going to come to that. That's stupid idea.
Stanley Aryanto - The Wicked Hunt 0:24 weekenders Welcome back to The Art of Photography podcast, where we share our passion and we share how photography gave us hope, purpose, and happiness. And today, I am so excited to introduce Alex who's been crushing it as a pet photographer and she also crushing it in, you know, creating a business and coaching kind of a business to help other photographers to crush it just like her. So I'm really excited for you to to hear some of the story behind her success. Hey, Alex, how you doing?
Alex Cearns 1:01 Good. Thank you. How are you? You made me blush? That was such a lovely introduction.
Stanley Aryanto - The Wicked Hunt 1:05 No, no, your your well deserved. I feel like I mean, we're gonna go into that a little bit later. But I feel like you know, everything you created just go crazy. So that's amazing. To see. Yeah. So you know, thanks for joining us and introduce, give us a little bit introduction of who you are. And you know, a little bit background on what really got you into photography, and what would life be for photography.
Alex Cearns 1:36 So I'm a professional pet and animal photographer based in Perth in Australia, but I work quite globally, particularly on different animal charity projects. So my photography is my day job. Mostly I photograph pets in a studio. And I photograph wildlife in a studio as well for rescue groups. And then I also do natural light photography and tours. So kind of weird combination using artificial lighting for some things. And then, you know, the non pet stuff I do outdoors using natural light. And I also photograph wildlife in the studio as well. So it's kind of a weird mix that I started photographing, probably about 15 years ago, I went on a holiday to like an old kind of prisons, tourist attraction, it's an old prison, you know, ruin, and I was walking around the ruins and I had a small point and shoot camera. And I just thought this camera isn't enough. It was just kind of a hobby. I bought a camera cuz I was going on holiday. And when I got home, I thought cameras with the big lenses. So I can you know photograph birds and just by using the smaller camera but kind of outgrew it pretty quick. So I came home and I bought a $350 entry level digital SLR it was a very cheap kind of budget camera. And I thought, you know, I'm going to photograph everything, you know, this easy, I'm going to photograph still life and landscapes and animals people. So easy. Just point the thing and push the button. And little did I realise that it's not all very easy, some things are quite hard. And animals are what I gravitated to and found the easiest and found I was getting the best results in. So I started that fairly quickly. I'm about eight weeks in, I just decided I wanted to photograph animals. And I guess now my life is just consumed by animals. They're some of my best friends. But you know, one of my best friends is a cat. And don't tell anyone. And I also, you know, animals are surrounded by them in my home, I've got my own pets, I travel and I work with animals. You know, my charity works revolves around animals. And I just think that's a really nice energy to be around. I feel very lucky. Before photography came along, I was in audit and compliance kind of roles. I was a police officer for 14 years and I was a airport auditor so she's gone airport audits for their counterterrorist security measures for five years. So might have like checking boxes and enforcement and compliance and to switch into something, you know, lovely like the arts is a real shift. And I'd much rather be where I am now than doing those jobs.
Stanley Aryanto - The Wicked Hunt 4:09 Oh, that's, that's awesome. And like you always you always have a creative side of you or like photography really appeal to that creative side all the sudden, how's your creativity, you know, in your life all together?
Alex Cearns 4:28 That's a great question. I didn't have any I don't think I really had any creativity. But I was in my early 30s And I was kind of looking for my thing. Like I really wanted my thing that I could just do that brought me joy wasn't even something I had to be good at. And you know, something that it's easy exclusive. Like I didn't have to be number one in the world. I just wanted a thing that I could enjoy. My grandmother was a very talented painter. She would paint on China like cups and mugs and plates and she was a very good artist. And you know my I'd always took photographs when I was younger. So there there was a bit of a family history of, you know, being artistic. But I can't even draw a picture like, my drawings are like see figures. And that's why I take photos because I just can't what I say with my hand, but I just when I picked up that camera, I found that I gravitated towards animals very quickly. And I loved that they became like the natural focus on my lens pretty much. And I found that probably six months before I went on that trip and bought that camera I was I thought maybe, maybe I'll be a soccer player. That sounds like fun. And so I went to a soccer training, I bought all the gear because I thought I spent less money on the gear and got there and it was my turn to kick the ball that was only training and I kicked the ball in a way it went for miles. And the coach turned around and said, Did you just kick that off your toes? And I was like, yeah, yeah, it went really far. She's like, we don't kick like that. It's off the side of your foot. And I was like, Oh, I don't know if this is gonna go so well. And then you had to run and you had to bend down. And I'm like, I don't know if I'm up for this exercise thing like that. So I realised fairly quickly, it wasn't going to be soccer. Then I started writing a book on other people's supernatural experiences. And I thought, well, that got a bit weird. And I wasn't going off there. And so I was trying to find the thing. And, you know, I was actively trying stuff to see what I enjoyed the most. And I'm still doing it. So because I still love it. So yeah, I was glad that that stuck.
Stanley Aryanto - The Wicked Hunt 6:22 That's, that's interesting. And what what is it that one thing that makes you feel because you know, you just say you try a few different things. But you know, what is that thing that makes you like, feel that photography is that thing that you want to pursue?
Alex Cearns 6:37 Yeah, I didn't really have any I played tennis and basketball, but I didn't really have. So I had sport, but I didn't really have any hobbies, I had a little house I'd built and I do gardening and but beyond that, like I was like, I didn't really have a passion, like, you know, I just kind of go to work and I come home and I wanted something that I just got a lot of enjoyment out of that I could do. And you know, photography ticked that box. And I think I've always loved animals. I'm an only child. So I grew up around animals, they were actually some of my first friends. You know, I grew up on a farm, we had, you know, bottle fed baby lambs and rescue kangaroo Joey's and, you know, little animals that we found and rehabilitated. So I grew up around guinea pigs and dogs and, and that's, I just love it that kind of, you know, it was incorporated into my life now. But I feel like too, before photography, it's kind of walking around, but not seeing anything, you know, like, you understand to as a photographer, even if you don't take the photo of the dog, you might look at it and go, that would make a great photo. I'm like that with landscapes and environments, and I see a cobweb and it's got some do shining in the sunlight. I'm like, wow, that would make a great photo. I don't take it because I can't do it justice. But I still see stuff that other people just trade on, you know, because they don't, when you're looking for images all the time, the world is seen in a different way. And I travel a lot, and I do these tours, and I'm always looking through the barrel of my lens. Sometimes I think, you know, am I missing out on the true experience? And I'm like, Well, no, for me, that is the experience, I see more looking through that camera than I say, just sitting here going, you know, because I'm here, I'm just looking at all of it there, I'm trying to find bits that really jump out and that are interesting to me that I can share as something I see as a story I want to tell about that animal.
Stanley Aryanto - The Wicked Hunt 8:22 You know, that is that is awesome. And we get we get talked about this a lot. You know, like, most of the time people say it's like, oh, maybe you know, like, just put down your camera and observe and you know, enjoy and take it in. And it is true in a way but the way you put it is also very true and something that I never think about, which is really interesting. Because, you know, when when I when I teach my mentee or my students, that's what I tell them is that you know, like sometimes like you know that a lens is going to be restrictive. So you need to think about what part of the landscape because it is overwhelming to you. Yeah, so it's really interesting that you two point to point out that you actually get more experience by looking through the lens that is really interesting. Something that is a perspective that I never think about before. Yeah, that's that's that's really awesome. So would you say that you know, your your the fact that you grew up in a farm may help you to find a niche and you know, fall in love to that particular needs and, and stuck with it right away?
Alex Cearns 9:34 Yeah, I think it's a good lesson. I think even even for other people who are trying to find their thing. What do you love doing? What do you love being around? Do you love nature? Do you love watching sport on television, maybe your job as a sports commentator or just to go and play sport like you know, whatever the thing is that you love. I have always had an affinity with animals. I've always loved their company. I respect them. I see them as sentient beings you know, and I I used to volunteer at some rescue centres cleaning out, you know, dog Cade, kennels and cages and stuff like that. And so to be able to photograph them, and then use those images to give back to them in some way, which is really important to me, too, is is a real, I feel is a real gift to me. You know, they're like, well, we got these images for our rescue. I'm like, No, I got the meet your amazing animals and being their company. So I think just looking at your life, if you you know, it wasn't ever for me about even it being a business. It's just what I really wanted to do. If anything, in the early days, when I thought you had this little room in the bottom of my garden, it's now my office where I am now, my first studio, it's very small. And I thought I might make that a studio. I struggled photographing pets outside, in natural light. Fine, we even our little bit hard, I don't know why assisted disconnecting with my brain was not my skill set. So I wanted to photograph animals in a studio pets in a studio, because I love that. And so I converted the little room and I went to a business advisory centre, and I'm going to free one hour consultation on my business idea. I said to him, you know, I want to photograph animals in a studio, like what people do for people, but for pets. And he actually laughed at me and said, that will only ever be a hobby. That's like, no one's gonna come to that. That's stupid idea. And I was just like, Oh, I thought oh, well, maybe he was not a dog person. And I left. And luckily, I was too stubborn to listen, because I just wanted to do it. If no one turned up, well, I just photographed my own dog in the you know, and, you know, now looking back, I always think I wonder if I should send him a Christmas card, let him know how it's been going for last 12 years, it's been going pretty good. So you know, don't let anyone tell you that your thing isn't the right thing. If that's what you really want to just do it. No one else's opinion matters if it's making you happy. Yeah.
Stanley Aryanto - The Wicked Hunt 11:45 I love that. I love that, that that is such an inspiration. And, you know, there is I, you know, as someone who who empower who, whose mission is to empower others to be better in photography, I get crushed when I when I hear, you know, people, people say that kind of thing. Because, you know, I believe that, yes, it might be hard, but it's never impossible. It's about you know, how you can find, find that creativity to create, you know, something out of nothing. So, I think that is really amazing that, you know, you kept stuck with it. And, you know, looking back, you can you can link to those days, and actually, you know, use that. And I know that you're an educator as well, and actually use that as a way to, you know, exam as an example to those people who doesn't believe in it. Because quite clearly, you know, usually you're the person who doesn't believe it, and your mentor is the one that push you But right off the bat, you're like, No, no, it's not. Like, that is incredible. Yeah, that is incredible. Thank you. Yeah. So do you know, share us share with us a little bit about, you know, what is? What is day in the life of Alex, you know, like, what, what, what's not, not only you know, the business side of things, but also in, you know, like with, with photography, you know, you just say that your business, your business, I don't know, mentor or whatever he may be or consultant. Think it's impossible. And yet here you made it. So what do you do to kind of make that work?
Alex Cearns 13:37 I think for anyone that's in a portrait photography kind of area, the best thing I did was just photograph dogs, you know, the more photographs you take for clients, the more other people see that work, the more your brand starts to grow. I also had this really clear picture at the start that I kind of saw myself in the middle, and all my clients were around here. And then I was surrounded by all these other photographers doing similar things or taking photos and trying to vie for that market as well. And I kind of felt, you know, these clients are never going to know who I am if they if my peer group of photographers don't know who I am, you know, unless I have a brand name in photography, then how am I going to push out to the public expect them to know me when my own peer group doesn't know who I am? So I used competitions in the beginning to grow my profile, I entered a lot of competitions. They're not really things that have ever bought me a client, a client will say, Oh, you won a prize. And I say, Oh, is that why you booked a photo session? No, no, no, you photographed my friends German Shepherd and I saw their photos, you know, it's not there, but they will recognise it. So for brand building, it's good. Doesn't necessarily prompt them to pull the trigger and book a session. So I just, you know, started pushing out amongst photographers and going to camera clubs and speaking at camera clubs and doing presentations and sharing information with, you know, camera clubs or kind of anyone from really, really strong, their own fouzia His level of really strong level to like, amateur hobbyist, beginner kind of thing in the range. And I started judging at the camera clubs and doing judging and, you know, now those camera club people are the ones who if they get asked by a friend, can you photograph my dog, you've got that camera, they go, No, you've got to go to Alex, she comes to our club, and she's lovely. And she talks to us and she judges and, you know, they're the ones that book my tours, they buy my books, they, you know, you know, participate in the things I do listen to the podcasts, you know, so I really grew that profile. And then I pushed out then from that into the public as well, just because I kind of, you know, photographers, were partly doing the job for me and recommending me, you know, to, to their friends and family, and it started to grow. So it was important for me to make sure that I was known, you know, in my own profession. And then I kind of stretched out from that. But just photographing, you know, even if we were very lucky to have some amazing experiences. But if your ego gets carried away with the number of books you have, or how many times you've been on TV or awards, and you don't look after your core group of clients, the whole house of cards falls down, no photos, no books, no photos for awards, no people telling you how good you are, because you've dropped the ball, you know, you've got to consistently keep up with the business demands the standard of service, you know, all your professional outputs, and make sure the clients are satisfied, because they're taking those images into their homes, and other people are seeing them and they're talking about you. And that's where business comes from, first and foremost, your customers. So I really am glad I learned early on to not get caught up in I've won a probably an award or people telling me how great I am about because I've got this or, you know, I really was like, that's all lovely, but that's not what generates core business. You know, that's clients and servicing. The needs of those clients are making sure they're looked after and they're happy.
Stanley Aryanto - The Wicked Hunt 16:51 That's, that's great. You know, like, some of the stuff that you just shared there. It's, it's really, it's really amazing, especially for photographers, it's, you know, usually, we, we don't really connect that sort of things, you know, we just like taking photo, do you always like, you always know that, you know, ever since you pick up that camera, and you always know that, okay, you know, like, this is awesome. This is for me, I want to make a full time, like, way to support my lifestyle? Or has it been a process to kind of get there and to actually realise that? Yes, this is what I'm, you know, was born for this is what I want to make out of my life.
Alex Cearns 17:36 Yeah, another great question. When I first started taking photos in 2006, it was just fun. You know, it's just kind of, if I even showed you some of those pictures, now, I was good at cell phone to myself, only 9% sharp don't show any ones I was kind of good at, you know, learn and grew fairly quickly. You know, some photographers take a million photos and they stay at the same level. Some I've got some friends who take photographs and just accelerate in what they do really quickly. So I kind of had a really clear picture of what I was doing there. I just wanted to elevate my photography and take the best photos I could for me. And then in time, that kind of the hobby, I kind of thought, oh, you know, people started saying we photograph my pets. I realised within about eight weeks of getting that camera that animals were my focus. There's a really pivotal moment at a park with a friend and her family. And she said, can you take some photos for us of the family, and the daughter was doing some ballet twirling. And while she was twirling around, I kind of just kept spinning and a bird flew past. So when I got home, I had more photos of the bird than I did of her doing her ballet twirling. And that started happening more and more often. So I kind of you know, realised that that was a thing that I was gravitating towards. So I listened to that. And then it was just meant to be fun. I did a few pet shoots with people. They were I was charging 19 $95 for a disk of 100 photos of dogs outdoors, and I wasn't really enjoying it. And I kind of thought, you know, I just want to do wildlife photography and had some studio lights I was using for a rescue and a backdrop. And I thought I do like the studio stuff because I can control the environment a bit more. I can control the animals a bit more. And so I just really stuck with that. And the progression was just doing what made me happy. I honestly thought my best case scenario would be maybe working four days a week in my government job and doing photography on a Friday and a Saturday that would be my plan. And I opened my studio on the Fourth of July 2009. And by October 2010. So about 15 months later, the demand was so great that the business was going to collapse if I didn't give up the other job because I didn't have enough time I was travelling to airports a lot and I was away a lot. And I was like well, I either stick with what I've known for 20 years safety superannuation, you know, job security government, you know, get looked after, or do I just go and run a business and I knew nothing about doing and I didn't I have a lot of debt at the time. And I thought, You know what, if it all fails, I'll just gone working in a pet product store, be around animal people. And so, you know, dog treats. So if you ever see me working in a pet store, you know, it didn't turn out so well, that never happened. And so there was no pressure. But I also followed opportunity, and I took the opportunities as they came along. And I think that's really important to make sure you follow, you know, if something presents itself, you make good informed decisions at the time that aren't going to cripple you financially and cause your stress. But you're farther along, and I've literally been fully booked for, like, you know, the last nine years doing, you know, 30 to 40 sessions a month, consecutively and consistently all the way through. So, yeah,
Stanley Aryanto - The Wicked Hunt 20:41 wow, that is incredible. You know, that's just so inspiring to, to be able to thrive in the business in such a short period of time. You know, like, I think, as a photographer, the business side of it doesn't necessarily come natural to a lot of, you know, creative as well as photographer. I mean, you know, a lot a lot, a lot of time I realised that photographers are enjoying what they do. And so, you know, they don't compel to charge for what they do, because just being able to share their photo is already given them so much fulfilment, and this like, you know, a happy feeling. What are some of the some of the most important aspects on you know, within that turning point between you, you're starting to making it full time, that had to really become one of the most important thing to turn your photography from, you know, a siping as a hobby, all the way to being a full time a full blown, you know, running it as a business type of thing.
Alex Cearns 22:00 Yeah, I think that's a really good point, you hit on, you know, I work with some of the best photographers in the world in my business coaching, but some of them have trouble getting clients in because they just don't have a, an ability, they don't have an ability to market in a certain way, or they don't have a structure to run clients through that's consistent and, and stable. And so you know, that having consistent communication at a professional ethical level, gives clients confidence in the business and wants, you know, it gives it a professional outlook. And so, for me, it was implementing systems and processes, I have this thing where I'm like, I don't have enough life left to live to spend 20 hours a day in the office, you know, I don't anything I can shortcut by clicking a button, good database in system with all my clients in there that sends emails and contracts. And so just automating things as much as I can, you know, just having a system. It's like building a house and you want to run your clients through the house through the tour of the house, but it's all systemized, you get them to turn up by marketing, you run them through, you don't want them to go into the, you know, like I say, the attic or the basement because they're out of bounds. So there's rules and boundaries in your communication, that a rule could be where they park on the day, what they were for a portrait shoot, and all that sort of stuff, when they have to pay for their order, all those clear communication things you need with clients, and then they get to the end of the house to they love it. So they give you their money. That's they're making their order and they leave happy, then they come back again another day and do the house tour all over it. No, come back as a repeat client, tell their friends, you know. So it's about kind of building a house, but it's a business structure. And, you know, for me, it was just really important to make sure, you know, when a client does this, I know I do that. And it's and it's consistent. You know, they do this, I do that they respond with this, I do that. So just having a system in place. Because I mean, I've heard that comment that you can take rubbish photos, and still make a lot of money in business, or don't entirely, you know, you might one person may be able to do that, because it's a gimmicky thing. But I don't entirely believe that I think you have to have good product for good money. That's the exchange, oh, great photo, and you'll give me great payment, you know, and unless you have a business system and structure to be able to facilitate those clients through, you can't sell to them. And it was interesting to see a lot of people just like to shoot for fun. And I remember I did a business talk a few years ago was on it was called Mind your own business or something. And this lady about two minutes in, got up and walked out. Anyway, a bit later on, I caught up with her and some friends and she's come up and said to me, I have to apologise to you for leaving your talk. And my friends here told me it was really good. And I should have stayed. And I said, Well, why did you leave? And she said, Well, you mentioned the word business. And I'm just a hobbyist. I'm not interested in running a business. So I thought it wasn't for me. And I said okay, what if though as a hobbyist, I said do you put your photos on social media? Yes, I do. What if I saw one and I wanted to buy it as if as a as a photograph, you know? Would you sell it to me? I'd be so excited to sell it to you Alex, is it great? So you know what products does it come in? What sizes? How much is it? How do I make the paint meant, you know, do I collect it do deliver it. What's the guarantee? Is it archival? How do you communicate with me about all this said that is what business means it's any sort of transaction. It's not about starting a business and having to then commercialise everything. I said, business can just be you selling a picture to someone that they've seen on Facebook, but they love. And she was like, Oh, I didn't realise that I said, That's what I was talking about. She was like, well, it's very silly. You know, like, business can be that simple business can just be, you know, to be honest, if we take photographs, we don't take pictures, you know, to take a photo on our, you know, our phone, and we don't go, wow, this is the best photo ever. And when you say, Can I see it? No photographer goes, No, it's just for me. You know, photos are for sharing, we can look at this photo I took, it's the best, you know, we put it on our websites, we show our family, even at a hobbyist level. So if someone then comes and says, Can I buy that, that's thrilling, you know, and that's a business transaction. So you don't have to be in a business where you get a business name, and a building and a gallery, if you don't want to do that, but just even knowing basic steps, in case someone ever asks, Can I buy that, you know, kind of important things to think about?
Stanley Aryanto - The Wicked Hunt 26:11 Oh, that's spot on. And that is really spot on. And, you know, I think we have a journey as a photographer, you know, I know, I have, you know, we started with our mobile phone, and then we buy a entry level camera, and then it gets, you know, deeper and deeper into our craft. And, you know, a lot of photographers and especially the hobbyists, kind of have that mindset of, you know, business is this money thing, and therefore, you know, no, no, no, it's not what it's not for me. But I think what, especially the listeners here should consider is that, it's like, winning an award, you know, it being somebody buying you a photo, it's not necessarily about the money, but about that sense of pride that you know, somebody else want to buy your photo, to be hanging somewhere else, or to be used as a as a as a website. And there is a sense of pride there. You know, that's, that's a big sense of pride. And I think one thing that I want to touch here is that, you know, the more expensive you charge for your art, the more it's gonna get appreciated. You know, just think about if you buy this big canvas for $20. And, you know, somebody's scratching you like, dollars, right? Like you buy that for $1,000, there is no way you let any one near that is to scratch or even to dodges. That is a great point. I like, you know, it's very important, I think, for people to think about, and, you know, at the end of the day, all of this costs money, right? The camera costs money, the travel costs money, your studio lighting costs money, even if you do it as a hobby, they still cost money. So it's important to kind of consider that. Oh, that's fantastic. That's, I think that's that story is, is really great to, to share, you know, just to open up people's mind as was towards not necessarily having a business, but just understanding that side of things in case that happens. That's, that's amazing. Now, you know, you have mentor a lot of students and mentee, and what are some of the most important thing when people want to take their passion in photography, and do it full time to support their life? What are some of the most important step and most important thing they should consider? And make sure they understand before they jump into, into that side of things?
Alex Cearns 29:00 I mean, firstly, you're in the best position to transition to a full time business if you're not under financial stress, because, you know, going into it, there's no I've had years ago, had someone write to me saying, you before I was coaching, but you have to help me, I have to make money. I decided I'll photograph pets to make money and I have to start next week. What do I do? And as she wrote, they never wrote back, which was kind of he told me a lot about them. But I kind of wrote back and said, Well, firstly, you know, you photograph animals because you love them dogs particularly can pick up if you're just photographed, you know, if you're not truly their friend so do you actually love animals? Do you know about animals? You know, do you know about safety? Is this really what you want to do? Have you just decided it's a moneymaker? What's you know, you need systems and processes and structure and the pressure of that to have I have to earn money next week doing this or I'm dead, you know, it's way too much like that's the worst case scenario. So anywhere where you have an existing job, you can slowly transition to not put yourself under immense financial stress would be my first recommendation because when You can just take photos, and a lot of photographers aspire to, you know, what we show was this well known famous landscape photographer made all this money on his pet photographer or whoever it is, they aspire to that. But you know what, when you can just take photos for the fun of it, that's the best type of photography, it's great to be paid. But I also have a job, I have to consistently deliver, I can't have a bad day, I'm just out shooting and I miss a few shots for myself. But no worries, I had lots of fun, I can't do that in my business, I have to get that shot every single time for my client. So there's a different pressure and stress still amazing, but it's it shifts, there's an expectation, and there's a consistency that has to be maintained. And, you know, you've you've got to do that, regardless, with pets of the level of training of that animal, you have to get the same photo of this untrained dog as you did have this really well trained dog, you know, that kind of got it because they want this photo they've seen. So I think just having listen as little stress and pressure as you can is, you know, the first thing, you have to make sure animals do you have images people want to buy, like I said, they have to be of a good standard that is actually has a commercial value. And then, you know, it's just working out in a slow progression, I don't think anyone should just go right I'm, you know, I'm going to drop this and start full time tomorrow, it's normally a progression with things, you know, he's off some of the other work, increase a bit of this work. And then as that rolls out the business, Rosa, it'll dictate to you, you know which paths you should take, and when you should jump off that cliff and kind of end up going full time. For me it was kind of go full time or the business is going to collapse because I couldn't do the orders I was getting behind on the emails, you know, that sort of thing. So and then having a plan. I mean, I certainly think, you know, working with a coach can facilitate you because they can help you skip the mistakes they made. You know, regardless of what genre of photography you do, this coach is out there for everything. And even that, I think, find a coach who has had the business you aspire to have, don't go for a jack of all trades, try and find the person that coaches in your genre, no matter what it is, and to find the person that does that, and has actually had a career successful career and that you would like to have to. So find someone to help you along the way. If you can invest in that that investment should pay itself back at some point. But having a plan and a support team, a lot of photographers to even the ones that I speak with, you know, some have really supportive partners, some don't have supportive partners and family, I think pet photography is you're never gonna make money off that it's silly. And that's really hard. So just even crossing that boundary around, right, we're not, you're not going to talk to me about it in that way, this is what I've chosen to do. And, you know, if they believe that, that's fine, but please don't let that energy come into me because I have to pursue this and I can't have that voice in my head saying you're gonna fail, no one's going to spend money on this, you know, like you said, we all doubt ourselves enough, you know, we don't need other people's opinions in there, too. You can make money successfully of anything, if you have a strategy and a way to market anything in the world. So you know, affect your pet photography is very popular, because there are a lot of pets. And there are a lot of good cryptographers out there who are doing really well in it.
Stanley Aryanto - The Wicked Hunt 33:01 Yes, that is so much jam. And you know what I likes I, I wish I had talked to you and interview you before I started all this because that would have saved me so much, so many miserable, like just, you know, being stuck and not knowing kind of where to go. But you know that that first point about Don't be in a desperate place. I think it's really important, especially in this industry, because we are in the creative industry, you know, when you when you're in a desperate place that creativity is gone. Like it's all about money, right? And then it's everything's different. So that is incredible. Now, one follow up question with that. You share how sometimes, you know, like, building a photography, business, it's not all sunshine and rainbows, there is a lot of work that goes into it, there's a lot of things that you need to consider, and also work out yourself. And you also mentioned that, you know, like sometimes it's nice not to have that pressure of just, you know, being able to shoot and kind of go with this like know what, get it great, no, no worries. You know, there's a lot of photographers out there who are thinking about pursuing this full time now, one question that I want to ask you is what's your advice for people who are on the line who who are asking themselves I'm enjoying this I'm at the point where I'm not sure I'm at a crossroad should I pursue it full time? Or should I keep it as a hobby and still do you know their own nine to five or whatever profession that they're doing?
Alex Cearns 34:53 I think timing is very important. So right now I mean the whole world is in a state of You know, still upside down on its head pretty much with the pandemic. And that's brought with it a whole lot of financial impacts on lots of different people, depending on where you live, you know, I say to my pet photography clients, you got to understand right now there are very few people globally sitting at home going, you know, what I feel like a pet photo shoot, let's pay for that. They're not, you know, they think they're saying, you know, what, I feel like not dying today, not going to antes COVID funeral, not losing my job, again, not wondering how we're going to eat next week, you know, there's a lot of stuff going on globally, which is, in our lifetimes, unprecedented for us, you know, to be experiencing that. So I think timing is really important, I certainly probably, you know, now is a while, everything's kind of still in a pause, and kind of slowly coming out of that a little bit. With the pandemic, you know, having been locked down and stuff starting to ease a little bit in most places. You know, hopefully, I feel like it's a good it's been a year, people have used that downtime to make a plan. And that's really smart. You know, if you're sitting at home, you might as well make a plan for when this shifts, it will eventually shift in some way, shape or form, there may be a new normal in how we live, but we'll get there, there always is, there's always up swings and down swings and stuff that happens. So I think timing is really important. And again, because you don't want to put yourself in that desperate situation, that's a horrible place to be, and there's no enjoyment in thinking you can't pay your rent, if you don't make the $2,000 sale of this client. And then somehow, subconsciously, you're sitting there or nervous, and the client picks up on it and goes, oh, you know what, actually, I'm not going to spend anything today. And you're like, Oh, I'm gonna, you know, it's horrible. It's not fun. So I think timing, and looking at the market, you know, looking at the troughs, and peaks, you know, right now, I'd say the world's gonna do here a little bit, we're gonna wait till it's maybe up here a bit. So it's looking at when, you know, one of the things that happens whenever people are restricted and limited, like in a lockdown is when you let them out, they go crazy, you know, they want to go and spend money. And they, you know, if they have been in kind of more affluent countries, you know, people haven't been travelling, so they have some disposable income right now to spend on things that make them happy. People have been doing, you know, home handyman stuff and buying artwork for their houses. So perhaps some of the still life and landscape photographers can cash in on that kind of particular bit of the market. Be I think timing is very important, making sensible decisions and having a timeframe plan, I'm going to, I've got this much money in reserve, I can live off that without the stress. And I'm going to do this for six months. And if I don't get from this point to this point in six months, then you know, go back to whatever you know, something else, you kind of, can't keep throwing money at the wall, if it's not sticking, you know, at some point, it's got to lock in for you as well. So think my backup plan working at the store, you know, as my backup plan. And I think that is important too, to make sure you know that there's an out if you have to take it, you know, hopefully won't, you know, and then just go for it, put everything into it, why you've got to do that, you know, initially when I started, I was working 100 hours a week, it's crazy. Now I coach my clients with that knowledge on how to make their business work for them. Because I've gone through that, and now, you know, I shoot when it suits me, and my clients are happy with that. And I have all these boundaries about times I work and answer emails, and when I'm available, and I pass it on to my clients, so they're starting from scratch with, you know, a better system in place with work life balance, and they're not just strung out 100 pounds a week, you know, doing that stuff.
Stanley Aryanto - The Wicked Hunt 38:20 That's, that's fantastic advice there. Yeah. Thanks for sharing that. I'm sure listeners at home, hear a lot of wisdom in that. Now, in terms of, you know, should they pursue their passion full time? What would you say to that? You know, should they keep it as a hobby? Or should they monetize it and do it as part of their lifestyle,
Alex Cearns 38:48 I think monetize along the way, you know, with business, like even for me, it wasn't like, I'm just shooting now I'm going to stop and put a value on this into business, it was a transition. So anyone that's got another job has the blessing of being able to transition into that role. So I think start setting up some structures and practices along the way. So that may be just doing a Facebook post saying, Hey, I've been photographing the mountains, you guys have seen my pictures, I now offer these prints in three sizes for three prices, three by three, you know, or three products in three sizes for three prices, like this really simple philosophy about products and pricing. I mean, that's another thing a lot of photographers struggle with, what products how much, you know, just go with what you times that by three or four, I don't know what there's not, you know, there's all these different formulas, you've got to be comfortable with your pricing. You know, you've got to be think I kind of initially went by what would I pay? You know, what would I pay for this? You know, I didn't use any formula or anything. I was like, what, what's enough to make a profit and what would I pay for this particular product? Because in pet photography, I'm my own client. I'm an animal lover, and I see value in photographs on my client, you know, so if I want to know what my clients think I asked myself what I think and I get the answer. So I think I'm all for everyone for showing up. action into something more. But do it in integrated steps be like, Okay, for the next month I'm going to really promote that I'm selling these for money. Then I'm going to put a little shopfront on my website. You know, this great sites like red bubble, you know, if you ever want to go there, I started out there, you can go on there and you can put a photograph on anything shower curtain, I went on there and just dropped some colours like blue on this little template and printed it out as blankets for my dog, because the blue match the bedroom that they sleep in, you know, like, the paint on the walls, you can put stuff on mugs, clocks, clothing, they sell prints canvas, you can use all sorts of different, you know, products on there, even that, and you can have a markup on there. So you can do you know, particular print run and say I'm selling 50 of these prints through red bubble when they're sold. They're done. And in there, people go online, they pay red bubble, you get the profit margin, red bubble gets the wholesale price, even after red bubble dropships they print and ship to the client, like it's even at a starting point, then you move on to pro labs and you get more involved, you know, depending on where you want to go, but even just to getting a feel for that. There's always someone if anyone says I love this photo, then you think maybe they would bought what Right, right? How much do you love it? I'm doing a little focus group, what would you pay for these? What products would you buy this on a mug, I might do some mugs, you know, just something to start the ball rolling. You have to have that entrepreneurial kind of spin to stuff and start thinking about opportunities. Someone's saying they love your photo, don't just go thank you say thank you and say thank you and then private message him and go, hey, send you love my photo? If I put that as a limited edition print of 10 Would you be interested? Would you also be keen if it was a canvas? And also do you like mug so you know, like, just do some research? And yeah, if you can then you know transition that follow those steps. When you work towards something, stuff starts happening, then doors open minute you go, I want to be full time in this in six months, you'll be there in three because it you'll make it happen because you're taking action. So follow those steps take action. And when opportunities present, as long as it's not against your ethics, your morals are what you're comfortable with. Say yes. Even if it's scary, you know, suddenly someone comes in says great, I see you're selling the landscape pictures. Can you photograph? You know, do you do you know, commercial shots of buildings? Are you we want you know, 15 buildings photographed with this big job. And you're like, Well, I've never done I'd never know about commercial. Find out say yes, find out later. Yeah, I'll do that. Then I'll just get some quotes to you though. And then quickly do your research. There's enough groups and you know, other photographers, you can get Google and you know, there's, there's even, you know, some of the Getty Images has a cat image calculator price for stuff like that. Get on there and find the answer and then just an act like you've done it million times. Fake it till you make it Yeah, I do. I photograph buildings. I've got a fair 15 people things. They're going to be on billboards and magazines, I don't know, you know, just, you know, we can get overwhelmed with the job. But most of us who take photos, we can take a photo, why do we get so scared of these big things when it's just us doing what we do? When we get to, you know, had to photograph for grass to photograph for a movie poster dogs for a movie poster and had to go on set the last day of shooting. And I've never photographed a film poster, like, wasn't even on my bucket list. It was so outside my realm of thinking that I could do that. And I got so nervous I was I've got to go and photograph dogs. And I was like, Alex, you've got to go and photograph dogs, you photograph 1000 dogs a year, like just go and do your job. And I walked in there, and they all look to me, like, how should we set this up? Because they didn't know they do film? And I'm like, alright, we need the backdrop here. Okay, where do you want the trainer, and I just did my job, you know, and they weren't like, they don't know. So you know, I just do my job and got the photo, I really got myself a talking to about getting ahead in your head. So follow the steps, push forward, and by all means, yeah, I'm fully for anyone who thinks they can, you know, get to that point of being professional and successful in photography. It's brilliant, you know, but don't do it, where it's going to cause you great stress and be you know, and then not work how you want go slow, have a plan, and then execute it. And then when you have a plan, write down goals. Goal setting is really important. Every year I write down five things I want to achieve. And I put two or three things on there that are just insane that I'm like this isn't it. And normally within a month I've done the first two and a half and like wow, that was quick. And then next thing that random hard thing drops in and there's only you know one or two more things to go and you know if you don't achieve them that year, because they'll be moving on to the next year. But writing stuff down moves you towards it means you take action to making it happen. So yeah.
Stanley Aryanto - The Wicked Hunt 44:43 Wow. Like I want to do a slow clap here but speech just dropped a bomb there and listeners if you've been thinking about you know, starting your photography business, this right here, right You just gave basically a framework on how to get started. And that is incredible. Yeah. Again, something I wish I had, you know, figured out a few few years ago. So that is great. Like, I want to talk about your book, you put together a book. And yeah, so share with us, I'd like you to introduce your book and share it with Share, share with us how that came about. And what's, you know, what's the idea behind the book?
Alex Cearns 45:31 I just, I've actually got seven. But the latest one was seven books. got seven. Yeah. This is the latest one that came out late last year, the one that I knew Yeah, that's the caucus guide to happiness. That sold a record number of copies in about two weeks. So that pretty much is sold out. Other than a few copies still in, in some stores, it's all sold out in the warehouse. I have one on animals with disabilities, because I'm very big supporter of, you know, saying, you know, this little dog with one eye is no different to a dog with two eyes. It's just a cute little dog that needs love and care and, you know, gives love and a lot of joy, I have a book on rescue greyhounds. Up until October, I had a little rescue Greyhound who passed away at seven, but she was awesome. Got one called Zen dogs, dogs meditating and the eyes shut. And there's a couple more as well. And it's an interesting story, how I got into books, these are all with publishing companies. So I get I get paid and money of the sales. And it's all it's all really fabulous. I first got into books, because I was asked by a client to the neck donate a photo for free of a rescue dog to a book about rescue dogs. And because it was for charity, I didn't get all weird and go, you must pay me for that. And I said, Do you know what your dogs the rescue the books were rescued, you can use that photo, just put a credit on it. So they did, then the book went really well. And now we're doing a second version of the book or part two. And one of my friends had a little rescue dog that the publisher wanted for the cover of the book. And I they are on the other side of that, Australia. But I had photographed that dog when she was over here visiting once. So I had these studio shots, the only studio shots of this dog. So my friend, the dog's owner said to the publisher, you need to go to Alex for the photos because none of the photos we've got there just on our phone, you need to go to her for one of these geo shots. So they came to me and said, Can we use your picture on the cover actually have colour here? And so I said sure. So that was this little dog on the cover they they pitched her out on the put on the cover. And so there's just a story book about rescue dogs. And you can see there's a few pictures. This is how my original picture was used kind of like this in the first volume. So said yes to that. But now I've got on the phone two editors from a publishing company, you know, talking to me about the cover of this book. I'm very careful when I you know make approaches to people, especially like editors, can you imagine they even go out to dinner with their friends and their friends are probably saying, Oh, I've got this great idea for a book. I was just thinking I could write you know, like, Oh, honey, like, I just want to have dinner, you know, because it editors everyone's writing them up for their great ideas. I don't want to be that person. You know, it's like, I've got some celebrity friends. I never asked him for a favour. I never go hey, can you introduce me to pink? They know pink? You know, I just because that's not the better boundary? No, no, I don't want to do that. So I but I don't miss an opportunity. So I had these editors on the phone, did the given the pitcher for the cover got paid couple covers of good income. And then just said to them, Hey, by the way, I have 4 million photos of animals in my image library. If you ever need animal pictures for anything, we'd like to do a book of something, please keep me in mind. very noncommittal didn't require yes or no art. So it wasn't even going on. He goes a book idea, you know. And literally two weeks later, my phone rang. And it was one of the editors and she just said Hi, do you want to do a book. And that was my first book with them. Then I did my second within the same year. And then I moved to a different publisher. And I've done all these ones with the same publisher since then. HarperCollins, who I just love. In New York, they come out globally around the world they've sold around the world, which is really cool. All because I just very casually put out I planted a seed, you know? And that's what I like to do if someone says, you know, if I'd, if I'd said, Do you need any animal photos? And then went no, I would have said Oh, that's okay. If you ever do please keep me in mind. I just leave the door open, you know, without, you know, putting any pressure on them or asking you know, Can you Can I do a book that would be like No. annoyed them and I wouldn't hear from them again. So yeah, that's uh, that's kind of how they come about. When I finished with that publisher. I put these end dogs pictures online on a website called Bored Panda. It's a great site with that. Websites and new sites troll for pop culture, kind of fun content. You know, funky, interesting stories about animals people found stuff. So I put this on Bored Panda and it went viral. And 24 hours later my phone rang and it said New York City on the phone and I was like New York City's ringing I'm very excited. I was about 1030 at night and I answered the phone and it was the Huffington Post. And this lady said, I work for Huffington Post. I've seen the Zen dogs photos on Bored Panda, can we please run these tomorrow in the health and well being section of the Huffington Post, it was probably about
probably about a year before the US election and all the political campaigning was happening, not the last one, like four years ago, four and a half, five years ago. And everyone was a bit stressed, because there's a lot of information and a lot of stuff going on. So they're like when people really need like something right now that's happy. And it takes them away from all this politics. So I said, Sure. So they read them the next morning on the Huffington Post, and 24 hours after that, I had an email in my inbox from HarperCollins, New York saying, we saw the pictures on the Huffington Post, do you want to do a book. So just by getting content out there? Now, you know, no book guarantees the next one. So I still have to write a book pitch and have an idea and a concept and we work through it. And it has to be something that sells and something that hasn't been done before, in the same way and something that, you know, it also depends on my brand reputation, you know, are people going to buy the things I put out to people like me enough to go yes, you know, and get this book, because I know, she helps rescue and my social media following impact, and all that sort of stuff comes into play as well. No, because I have to contribute to, you know, promoting it and hope get the word out there. But yes, I feel very blessed to have all those books and the little one, this one's just was just, it was put together before COVID. And it's just meant to make people happy. It's it's really cute little animals that just make they've like the happiest animals on earth. They make people laugh, basically, they're really cute little things. And it's got sayings, but some of the sayings are things like, you know, now very relevant to COVID. Things like just hold on better days are coming. And you know, we'll get through this together. And they're always really cute little things that now have a different meaning post COVID than when we actually did the book. But I think that's partly why it went so well. You know, if what people joy, it's a simple happy book, sometimes the easiest concepts, you know, doesn't have to be anything too tricky. Just saying it makes people happy. They love it.
Stanley Aryanto - The Wicked Hunt 52:06 Wow. That's, that's incredible. So you actually made that book before the COVID hits?
Alex Cearns 52:11 Yeah, I finished. Probably it was all submitted about four months before COVID. Hit maybe January. So maybe three months before COVID came? Yeah. And it was published the noise you submit the content takes about a year for it to be printed and edited and stuff. So yeah, and you before it came out, but came out? Christmas? Well, you know, COVID was kind of still around in most places. That's awesome.
Stanley Aryanto - The Wicked Hunt 52:34 Yeah. And for the listeners out there who don't know what the clock is, which is the cover or to what the book is all about is basically an animal that you can only find in Western Australia. I'm pretty sure it's it's you can only find in Britain, this island, right? Yeah. And yeah, it's the cutest thing. It's, it's always smiling. It's the happiest animal on earth probably. Just look it up goes search. It's it starts with quo. A K is their rights,
Alex Cearns 53:08 qu o double K, AKA
Stanley Aryanto - The Wicked Hunt 53:11 Obamacare. And you'll, you'll know exactly what we meant by, you know, the happiest animal on earth. But I like it's been, you know, an incredible hours talking to you, you know, you've dropped so many wisdom and advices. And it's just been so many learning, and so many takeaways that we can take from this conversation. Now, I always ask my guests is one question before we all end up the podcast. If there is one thing that you could give us an advice I know you have given Hibbs if there is one thing that you can give advice, either you know, as for photographers, or in or in more business sense, what is the one most important thing that you think people should consider and focus on?
Alex Cearns 54:07 I think the best bit of advice is a lot of photographers doubt their own work and ability. You know, they have that that, like, Is this good enough. And the comparison to other photographers, and it's that thing, if you ask for 100 opinions, you'll get 100 opinions. If you have a photograph that you love, and no one else hates it, it doesn't matter. You know, there's stuff I love of mine the most is the really abstract, weird stuff that other people will get and go that's blurry. I'm like, No, that's art, you know? So don't let anyone ever tell you that, you know what they'll tell you but don't take it in, don't let it in, you know, have that just be like, Oh, that's I asked for your opinion. So I'm gonna get it. It differs to mine. You know, there comes a point where you might stop asking for opinions, and just trust what you want. You know, I like this photo, therefore, I like this photo. I'm going to print it. So just don't don't doubt your own assessment of your own work, you know, but also, don't be too hard on yourself. Not everything you take is rubbish, you know, you know when it's a good Photo. And notice self audit, you know, you get those people that post, you know, 100 photos on Facebook with the same thing. And you're like, you could have said that into shots, you know, pick the two best and use those don't do the two best in the 98. Okay, I'm not very good down to rubbish, you know, like, don't put the whole series on it. And yeah, and just forge ahead, seek help if you need it. You know, like you've said a few times, I wish I had someone I could have worked with in the beginning, I've spent 10s of 1000s of dollars and countless hours of life, I don't have, you know, that's gone on making mistakes that now I can help my clients not make ever again, you know, they start from I started from here, they're now starting from over here, and they can skip that through my knowledge. So find support, if you want to take it to the next level, find the coach that fits you. And just keep shooting, best thing you can do as a photographer is just shoot. And, you know, if you do end up doing it as a business, and you have days where it is sometimes like anything, sometimes there's days where it's just a job, which, you know, you don't want to stay in those days for too long. Because we're very blessed to do what we do. If you do just have a day off work and go and shoot for you, where there's no expectation, go and be in nature, beware makes you happy, and just shoot for fun without thinking I have to sell this product as a result, or it's got to be this certain type of photo, just have a have enjoy it, and get it back to what it used to be. And then you've got that balance between, you know, the commercial side and just doing it because you love it as well, because you never want to lose that, you know, you know, there are a billion West jobs in the world and taking photos, you know, so you never want it to become a bit of a chore where you're because it can be dealing with the public, you've got systems you got to do admin 70% of its emailing back about print orders, and you know, all that sort of stuff, it can bog you down. So you just have a good plan and make sure you always enjoy it and put time in there to enjoy it if you need to, as well. And don't ask for too many opinions.
Stanley Aryanto - The Wicked Hunt 56:48 All right, well, that's great. Alexandra, you know, same with you, you know, I wish back then I knew a concept of mentorship. And I wish I knew that, you know, somebody that that could mentor me or that I can relate to that. I'd love to be mentor. But to be honest, like you know, back then I'll probably wouldn't take it anyway. I was like, damn. It's a progression. I feel that, you know, you have to go through it. And then you look back, you're like, Man, I could have just
Alex Cearns 57:25 asked for two grand. Yeah,
Stanley Aryanto - The Wicked Hunt 57:29 everything started in one day. It's crazy. Yeah. Yeah, that's, that's a great advice. And I love how you say, you know, find a mentor, that not just a mentor that is good, but a mentor that you can relate to that you want to be because, you know, just because they're good in their photography doesn't mean they will be a good mentor or even if they're a good mentor doesn't mean it will suit what you wanted to do. So it's really important. I think that is one of the most important thing when picking a mentor. So I'm glad that you mentioned that. Well Alex it's been such a pleasure to have you here. Now I am sure that the listeners want to you know find out more about your very cute you know Zen dogs and workers and all these very cute animals. So where can they you know see more of your work and you know, get in touch with you they want to to get that mentorship going and you know, save this years of gains and frustrations.
Alex Cearns 58:37 Yeah, sure. My so my photography businesses called houndstooth studio and other Facebook pages houndstooth studio. If they search houndstooth studio by Alex Kearns that will pop up. And I also have a Facebook page that's a private group for photographers, small business owners and creatives so it's a little bit different to the standard photography groups. And that's called Inspire I NSP hyg HDR like Inspire is in higher up with Alex Kearns and that you know, they can apply their to be joined the group and I'll let them in and, you know, just shoot all sorts of different stuff in there people share success stories, and it's just kind of a really nice group. You can ask advice, but it's also it's mostly the small business based genuinely with quite a bit of a slant towards photography in the creative arts so they can find me there too. But yeah, house to studio if they want to find me there. I can always send them information or anything else and they can check out a lot of cute animals too, while they're there.
Stanley Aryanto - The Wicked Hunt 59:29 antastic Yeah, now, I'll make sure that I'll put it on the on the description so you know, they can just click on it but yeah, thanks a lot for sharing that. Like it's been you know, first of all listeners those you know if you can find that group on the on the description below, jump on there, Alex would drop some of the her greatest advice and wisdom there as well. So, if you get a lot from this, you will get a lot from that. group as well. So, but yeah, like, I'll put it all in there. But I just want to thank you for, you know, no, no only being here but sharing a lot of this wisdom and advices that I think it will give a clarity to a lot of people that want to make this happen. You know, I know, just listening to this, you know, I honestly wish that I had listened to this, you know, two to three years ago down the line, it would have saved me so much time. But yeah, thank you very much for being here. And thank you very much for sparing the time to share your knowledge and I love how you don't hold back on your knowledge as well. You're so generous with them. So we absolutely appreciate it.
Alex Cearns 1:00:50 Thank you for having me. It's been great. It's been good to chat.
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