Hi there! We're Luke and Cat, and we're so happy you're here. We hope you'll stay a while! We’re a husband and wife wedding photographer team based in Houston, Texas. Ranchers-turned-photographers, our world is our Craftsman-style farmhouse, coffee in the kitchen, Edison lights on the back porch, and a pair of English bulldogs who are the stars in our sky. Read more...

The Six Figure Sandwich

May 19, 2015 / For Photographers

Fifty years ago, the V8 Ranch relied almost exclusively on word of mouth. Without Google rankings or electronic newsletters, for our family, there was really only one way to get our name out there when the big bull buyers came into town.

One day, when Cat’s aunt Jan was just ten years old, she overheard an Oklahoma bull buyer chatting with a waitress at the local Hungerford Café. As he ordered a sandwich and Coke, it was clear that he had a full wallet and one goal in mind – he was looking to buy the best cattle in the country. Little Jan set down her fork, took a swig of her milk, hitched up her Wranglers, and strode right over to that bull buyer. She looked him dead in the eye and said:

 “Mister, if you want the best bulls around, the only person you need to talk to is my daddy. Stay in town one more day, he’ll give you a personal tour, and we’ll show you where to spend your money!”

The rancher took one look at little Jan and made a decision that changed the ranch for decades to come… 

That Oklahoma cowboy listened to Jan’s advice, visited Cat’s granddaddy, and continues to be a customer to this day.  By our calculations, over the years, that one sandwich at the Hungerford Café has brought hundreds of thousands of dollars to the business, which just goes to prove that having lunch with the “right people” can pay for itself (a thousand times over!).

 



Times have changed.  Precious ten-year-olds now have their own YouTube channels and word of mouse has trumped word of mouth.  Or has it? 

Is the best marketing strategy the one that places you at the top of the search engine heap?

A few years ago, we spent a pretty penny on a company who promised SEO (Search Engine Optimization) for our site—they’d make us #1 on Google in our market, they said. Sure enough, if you typed in ‘wedding photography, Houston’, you found us at the top of the list.

Was it worth it?  We don’t think so.  We may have been seeing lots of traffic and generating more leads, but quantity doesn’t mean quality.  It cost more than money—we also spent a lot more time fielding requests from couples whose needs didn’t match our price point or our aesthetic.  In the end, we booked just one bride directly from a Google search.   And, although we didn’t have a little Jan talking us up at the Hungerford Café, word of mouth has sent hundreds of people our way!



Cat with one of our 'word of mouth' happy endings - two Luke and Cat brides, one referred by the other!

 

 

The Take Aways 

  • All That Glitters:  Doing business in the digital age means new technologies are popping up at the speed of thought.  Searches from mobile devices make up half of all Google searches now, and as of April 2015, it is no longer SEO that determines the ranking of your small business site - it is mobile optimization.  The lesson is: what seems like the prize steer one month might not be worth your cash a few months down the line. It’s okay to take risks - we sure did - but we learned that staying focused on our target market pays greater dividends than focusing on the latest tech fad.

  • Don’t Put All Of Your Eggs in One Basket: Relying solely on cute kids in sandwich shops won’t get you all your business any more than being at the top of the Google heap. Optimize your marketing with a loyal fan base backed by an online presence. In other words, diversify and be smart about it. 

  • Work the System: There are ways to improve your Google results without paying for SEO. Google rewards small businesses when they have activity and reviews on Google+.  And, while Vimeo may be the darling of many professional photographers and videographers, we actually prefer YouTube. Couples can easily find their photography slideshows and share them with friends on Facebook and Twitter.  Best of all, since Google owns YouTube, each video viewing is another step up the Google ladder.

  • Get ‘Em Talkin’:  Fifty years later, referrals are still where the ranch gets the bulk of its clients. The same holds true for our business.  Just one bride referred seven more brides, and the good word traveled fast from there. Our work style and our client experience gets them talking…and keeps them talking!  Remember that referral clients not only cost you nothing in advertising, they come to you educated, eager, and ready to work with you.  In other words, you are already more to them than just a convenient Google result, which makes the closing process faster and smoother.

Likes & Clicks (They matter—but word of mouth trumps word of mouse, every time!),

 

Luke andCat

1 Comment
View Comments
Sharing is the Best!
We love your comments! We thoroughly enjoy reading what people have to say. So join our community and chime in by adding your comment below.

Allison and Francisco

May 7, 2015 / Engagements, Film









































Our rainy day reschedules were all proved to be worth it when we were rewarded with a gorgeous, sun-filled day at the ranch for Allison and Francisco's engagement session. These two lovebirds were stylish, fun, and of course, oh so in love. We are already anticipating their upcoming wedding at The Gallery in Houston.

Light-filled days & Completely Beautiful People,

Luke & Cat

EQUIPMENT USED FOR THIS SHOOT:
Contax 645 / Zeiss 80 mm 2.0 / Fuji 400H / Processing by The FIND Lab
Canon 5D Mark III / Canon 50 1.2 / Hybrid Processing by The FIND Lab
Download Our Gear List • Join Our Mailing List for Photographers

Comments
View Comments
Sharing is the Best!
We love your comments! We thoroughly enjoy reading what people have to say. So join our community and chime in by adding your comment below.

The Secret Ingredient

May 1, 2015 / For Photographers

If you've ever been to a church potluck supper, you know two things: 1) there is some mighty fine cookin' to be had and 2) there is an undercurrent of fierce competition.  About three years ago, we attended our first potluck at our new church.  We proudly brought a Sugar Cream Pie, the official pie of Luke's home state of Indiana, hoping to impress our new church family.  Little did we know that we'd just brought a butter knife to a gun fight!

You see, Miss Janie, the reigning pie queen, makes a chocolate pie that is so amazing, it wins the annual pie contest every year; so coveted, it fetched $155 at the last bake sale; so incredible, everyone knows you don't even think about getting a plate of ham, potato salad and baked beans until you've stood in line for, and set aside, a slice of her pie.

Rich and creamy and light all at the same time, this chocolate pie had a haunting taste. What was the secret ingredient? Luke had to know. He begged Miss Janie for the recipe. At first, she was reluctant to give it out (that extra special ingredient needed to remain a secret, especially in our conservative community!), but Luke assured her that he would respect the recipe and only make it at home. No longer able to resist Luke's charms (who can?), and certain that she would be free of a potluck copycat, Miss Janie shared the recipe.



Luke set to work, making it his mission to replicate Miss Janie's pie.  He followed the directions to the letter, measuring each cup, tablespoon and teaspoon exactly.  And that darn pie wouldn't set.  It tasted great, but had the consistency of a thick soup.  After several failed attempts, Luke went to Miss Janie for more advice.  Come to find out, she doesn't measure her tablespoons of flour precisely; she uses heaping tablespoons.  Luke should have been nearly doubling the amount of flour he was putting in that pie!

Now that he knows exactly what to do, will his chocolate pie be just like Miss Janie's?  Probably not.  Will Miss Janie be worse off because someone knows how to duplicate her recipe?  No again.  Martha Stewart or Ina Garten do not suffer because they went on television and gave away all of their secrets -- au contraire!  Their empires have flourished precisely because they shared their best techniques and recipes.

You see, recipes are just a blueprint.  They are a starting point.  The skill, experience, and special touch of the cook, count for more than the formula.  Which brings us to photography….



Should photographers share their tips, ideas and techniques? Or should they guard them carefully like a secret family recipe? 

Many people in our industry seem to come at this question from a place of scarcity: "I make my living from these ideas, and I can't afford to give them away to my competition!  What if they steal all of my business?" 

A quick Google search revealed that 2.3 million couples wed every year in the United States. That breaks down to nearly 6,200 weddings a day.  Let's say there are 50,000 US-based wedding photographers--this would mean that each photographer gets to shoot 46 weddings per year.  We only choose to shoot 15 weddings per year, so somebody already has extras! 

 

 

The Take Aways:

 

  • Givers Gain: We seek to learn from others, so shouldn’t we help others learn too? We don't just feel honored, we feel duty-bound to share our knowledge and experience because other pros once shared with us. Yes, we've grown as a result of their teachings. But guess what? So have they! We maintain strong relationships with our early mentors to this day, and now, we even partner with them on certain business ventures.

  • Collaboration, Not Competition: The more goodwill you share in your community, the more powerful both you and the community will be. When photographers work in a spirit of collaboration rather than competition, everyone wins. We can all up our respective games, attract more business, and yes, charge more. Plus, we'd rather be respected as generous, giving photographers than be known as stingy, secretive ones.

  • I'll Have What She's Having: When people eat one slice of Miss Janie's famous chocolate pie, they clamor for more. It probably costs her only $5-6 to make a pie, yet people are willing to pay $155 just to take one home! She developed the recipe, she did the work, and she put it out there for people to enjoy. Is chocolate pie original? No. But is her chocolate pie special? Oh, yeah. Let's face it folks--there is nothing original about the nuts and bolts of our profession. A photographer’s real value comes down to one thing:

  • You're the Secret Ingredient: There is only one Martha, one Ina, one Miss Janie, and one Luke and Cat (well, technically, there are two of us, but you know what we mean!) The secret ingredient in your business is you. We can all use the same equipment, the same editing software, the same processing companies, but your photos won't look like ours, and ours won't look like yours. Now, isn’t that delicious?

Lovely Meringues & Chocolate Pies,

Luke & Cat

8 Comments
View Comments
Sharing is the Best!
We love your comments! We thoroughly enjoy reading what people have to say. So join our community and chime in by adding your comment below.
1 of 114Next Page