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...
 
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The Luxury Bride

Dec 2, 2015 / For Photographers

First, there was Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.  Then, there was Four Weddings and a Funeral.  Luke and Cat now proudly present:  Three Brides and a Photographer.  In this email series, we will be looking at three different brides through the lens of running a successful photography business.  Our first post introduced The Mythical Bride.  Now, please welcome our second vision in white as she walks down the aisle.  She’s: The Luxury Bride.



Back in 2013, we got to capture Ashlena and Weston’s destination wedding at the Hard Rock Punta Cana resort in the Dominican Republic. The locale was perfectly suited to the couple, who are beautiful inside and out.  But, when we arrived, there was a hitch we hadn’t counted on. They say that everything’s bigger in Texas, but this resort was massive! There were miles between the beach where the ceremony would take place and the hotel where everyone was staying—a distance that was extra daunting when we considered all the equipment we’d need to haul around on their big day.

It came down to this: we could either rent a golf cart at cost of $450 for the weekend (an expense that would come out of our own pockets) or we could save that money and hoof it with our heavy camera equipment. 

Now, in a case like this, renting a golf cart could be seen by some as a luxury. We happen to think that luxury isn’t always about money—it’s about priorities.  Why not lace up our walking shoes, skip that cost and work off a few of those Sprinkles cupcakes? Because that weekend, we had different priorities.  We whipped out our credit card and paid for that golf cart.  You see, for us, renting that golf cart wasn’t a luxury; it was an investment

We saved time and energy by being able to zip around with all our gear. And, we got better shots in more locations because we didn’t have to ‘waste’ time walking the resort.  As a bonus, instead of being a pain in the neck because of its size, the huge resort turned into our own super-fun racetrack. (The guards at the gate weren’t thrilled, but what else are you supposed to do when you’ve got a knack for stunt golf-cart driving?)

Best of all, we created extra value in terms of “The Luke & Cat Experience” by chauffeuring the happy couple.  In fact, we captured some of our favorite shots of the bride while she was riding to and from the wedding.

What may have seemed like a decision on a luxury splurge—to rent or not to rent?—ended up being the thing that tipped the whole weekend in our favor and allowed us to produce the kind of quality photographs that represent what we’re all about.



We’re sure a lot of folks would have opted out of the golf cart rental fee, despite that old piece of wisdom about spending a little to save a lot.  And that’s why it’s important to start looking at luxury differently—not as a frivolous, expensive, or unattainable indulgence, but rather an opportunity to enjoy something you value.  Luxury is a matter of priorities, which means every “average” bride is The Luxury Bride.  

We’ve seen brides spend $4K on their wedding dress and serve a $10 per plate buffet because that’s where their priorities were.  Likewise, we’ve seen a bride wear a family heirloom gown (free), choose inexpensive wildflowers for her bouquet ($100), and go all out on a great live band ($5k) because music and dancing were the couple’s passion. We serve The Luxury Bride who values heirloom photography.  She’s willing to invest a large percentage of her budget on this expense because it’s worth so much to her.  One of the couples we just met said: “Even if we have to get married in a pole barn and serve peanut butter & jelly sandwiches to our guests, we’re booking you as our wedding photographers!” 

To put it simply, one person’s luxury is another person’s necessity and vice versa.  If your clients can afford to have an “average” wedding by American standards, your clients can afford your pricing.  The question is:  What matters most to them?  Do they value what you offer?  Do they see its worth?  It’s your job to communicate why your service or product is worth the investment.



 

The Take Aways

  • LUXURY IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER: It’s about time to reinvent your definition of luxury. Despite what you know about price tags, the truth is that people put value on things based on their priorities. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that what you do is frivolous. 

  • YOU’RE NOT SELLING PHOTOGRAPHS: Do you recognize the value of what you provide? You’re selling their story, you’re making their memories, you're capturing their emotions and love in a beautiful and thoughtful way. People will pay for a luxury if it’s worthy of their time and money—it’s up to you to prove it.

  • CAN YOU PICTURE THIS?: The question isn’t how much your work costs, but how much it’s worth—and worth is about more than dollar value. You can do a lot to connect with the personalities, emotions, and personal priorities of potential clients. Your business strategy should include helping them envision how they’ll benefit from working with you. Can they see just how you’ll immortalize the important moments in their life? Can they picture how their dream celebration will be that much more extraordinary with your help?

  • LITTLE DETAILS CREATE COMPLETE EXPERIENCES: What do a golf cart-turned-wedding chariot and that iconic blue Tiffany & Co. box have in common? They’re both part of an overall experience. Make sure your entire experience reflects the quality of your work, your commitment to customer service, and your own priorities as a businessperson and an artist.  Sometimes the little blue box matters more than what is in it.  Our clients book us for more than great photos; they also buy into the way we package and deliver the experience of making them.

  • TAKE STOCK OF YOUR OWN LUXURIES: What’s essential to one person (first class airfare, room service, valet parking, or golf cart transportation at a big venue) won’t necessarily be true for another. Take time to consider your priorities and recognize that if something is important to you, then it’s worth the investment.   Do the same with your clients.

Little Luxuries & Complete Experiences (They Go Together!),

Luke & Cat

P.S. If you liked The Mythical Bride and The Luxury Bride, be sure to sign up for our newsletter. Part 3 (the grand finale!) will be emailed exclusively to our subscribers

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The Mythical Bride

Nov 24, 2015 / For Photographers

First, there was Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.  Then, there was Four Weddings and a Funeral.  Luke and Cat now proudly present:  Three Brides and a Photographer.  In this email series, we will be looking at three different brides through the lens of running a successful photography business.  Please welcome our first blushing beauty:  The Mythical Bride.



The Mythical Bride is that fantastical figure you’ve seen in books, movies, TV shows, or on the cover of a magazine while you’re in line at the grocery store. She’s got off the charts high-end taste and an unlimited budget to go with it. She’s got a runway dress from a world-famous designer. We’ve even heard some wedding photographers cite her as the reason why their business is stuck. “She’s not the type of bride I work with” they tell us as they point to editorial spreads, Hollywood screens, or even our own website. “I feel like I can’t charge more or take my photography to the next level until I work with this bride.”

To that we reply:  “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo!” Let’s wave our magic wands and take a down-and-dirty look at fairytales, myths, and the curse of self-fulfilling prophesies.



Cinderella may have married a prince, but she got to the ball in a camouflaged pumpkin pulled by mice, remember?  If she had held out on her fairy godmother for a vintage Rolls Royce, she may have missed her window of opportunity. 

With a wedding photography business, that whole “Someday, My Prince Will Come” mentality doesn’t really work. Because waiting for Prince Charming or a Mythical Bride implies, well, a whole lot of waiting around.

Focusing too much on the Mythical Bride could make you miss what’s right in front of you: brides who are channeling her in different ways throughout their wedding planning process.



In all great fairytales, there’s an element of sacrifice and the same is probably true for most of the brides that photographers work with. As anyone who’s binge-watched Say Yes to the Dress knows, for every bride who says price is no object, there are ten more who are making certain financial decisions in order to buy their dream gowns: forgoing a new car and taking the bus to work, nixing an upcoming vacation, even giving up cable or eating out for a few months. They’re on a mission, and they’re going for it.

In other words, the mythical bride might not exist, but the desire to be like her definitely does.  You don’t have to wait for the Mythical Bride, you just have to communicate how your photography can enable your brides to have a little piece of the mythical fantasy wedding for themselves. They may not have the means of a celebrity A-Lister or the title of Her Royal Highness, but they can still feel like royalty in some ways (and have the photos to help them remember it).



 

The Takeaways

 

  • GLASS SLIPPERS REALLY AREN’T PRACTICAL: Waiting around for the Mythical Bride isn’t exactly the most practical business plan. But if you bend your idea of her just a bit, you’ll discover a whole world of potential clients.

  • DON’T WASTE TIME WISHING: If wishes were horses, would you have a full stable? Don’t get caught up in a vision of what your business or client should be and miss the opportunities you have right now.

  • BE AS RESOURCEFUL AS A FAIRY GODMOTHER: Take a cue from brides who are doing a lot to achieve their dream wedding and recognize that what you do is part of the solution. Work with what you’ve got, even if it’s a pumpkin and some mice.  Finding ways to help your clients attain a piece of that Mythical Bride is the thingamabob that does the job—whether it’s recommending a great planner, creating your own version of our Bride Guide, or helping them craft a sensible time line.  The better they look, the better you look.  So, help them work some magic by serving as a valuable resource.

  •  YOUR HAPPILY EVER AFTER IS IN YOUR HANDS:  That goes for love stories and the photos you take. You don’t need a Mythical Bride, you just need to understand the priorities of the bride you’re working with and provide your own signature photography magic that focuses on those priorities.

  • SLAY YOUR DOUBTS/DRAGONS: Know your worth and charge your worth. It’s that simple and that important. Don’t project your own financial expectations onto your clients—you might think they can’t afford it, but they might have goals for their wedding that include stellar photographs even if that means sacrificing elsewhere.  If that’s the case, you are an essential investment to them and they are an ideal client for you, no matter who designed their dress!

  •  FIND THE BEAUTY IN WHATEVER YOU DO: You’ve probably heard this one before, but it really helps to approach every wedding as if it’s the most beautiful event you’ve seen.  We can become jaded in our industry, but remember that this day means everything to them.  Look for her grandmother’s handkerchief sewn in the skirt of her dress, wait for his tears when he sees her walking down the aisle.  You can take legendary shots of any emotion-filled event, even if you do wish they had booked a better venue or spent more money on their flowers. To state it another way, we don’t work with Mythical Brides.  But we help regular brides create memories that become the stuff of legend and myth.  You see what we did there?   Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo!

Leaving Fairy Tales Behind & Celebrating our Cinderellas,

Luke & Cat

 

This post is part of a 3 part series. View the next post in the series, The Luxury Bride.

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We Took On This Much Debt To Start Our Business

Nov 12, 2015 / For Photographers

Gather ‘round, folks we have a tale for you that sports Old West charm, family legacy, a few sharp-as-a-tack women, and even a lesson or two.

It all started way back in 1882, when Cat’s great-great-great-great grandmother, Rachel Ann Hudgins, purchased 11,000 acres of land. It was the start of a ranching boom in Texas, a dusty era when bowie knives were as common as mustaches. But Ms. Rachel Ann managed to be a pioneer among pioneers, and a rare combination in late-nineteenth century Texas: a female landowner and businesswoman. The ranch she built, J.D. Hudgins Ranch, is still in existence today.

Fast forward to 1974. Texas was less of a wild frontier but still saw its fair share of mustaches.  And, the legacy Rachel Ann Hudgins had established was in full swing. Cat’s grandparents, Sloan and Mollie Williams, found themselves at a crossroads and decided to ride fast and hard away from the predictable. They sold everything they had in order to buy the famed V8 Ranch from cattleman Howard Parker in a $1 million deal — an amount that was just as impressive then as it is now. It was the kind of wild move that would have made Rachel Ann proud and, true to form, it worked out. The ranch has sustained four generations of our family. 

Now, don’t go thinking that it’s time to roll credits on this Western. We’re sharing all this family history because when we started helping out photographers who are establishing their brands, we noticed they had a lot of concerns about how to finance their businesses.



On this side of the new century, Cat’s sister and her husband took out a $300,000 loan to buy a herd of Brahman cattle right after they got married. (Our grandfather didn’t bat an eye. “Y’all can do it!” he told them.) And as for us? In our early days, we also took out a loan for $30,000 to finance our budding photography business. Though neither was quite the million dollar amount of our grandparents’ days, it was still risky…and still totally worth it.

If you’re just starting out with a new business, chances are good that you’ve done your homework about money and financing—and you’ve likely heard all the experts say “debt” like it’s a bad word. Most investment advisors or financial gurus sing different versions of the same old song: To build a successful business, you need to start and/or stay debt-free. 

But here’s the thing: As any Western fan knows, just because someone wears a sheriff’s star, it doesn’t mean he’s the good guy. And just because a financial expert tells you his or her business advice is the gospel truth, it doesn’t make it so.

We come from a long line of risk takers but (and this is key!), they were calculated risks. The property deals made by Cat’s grandparents and Rachel Ann were part of an overall strategy that paid off. The loan that Cat’s sister took out was a move that needed to be made to get her and her husband started in business.

We’ve only taken out one loan so far, but we’ve never regretted it.  We would even consider another one, if it came down to it and it was right for our business.  It’s important to note that our debt was “necessary” debt, meaning we didn’t spend it on extravagant trips to Vegas and a year’s supply of Sprinkles cupcakes.  We used those funds to purchase equipment, training, and professional services that would leverage our business and make us more money.  It was debt we knew we could easily repay, even if our business didn’t produce the results we anticipated.  In other words, we leveraged our business without over-leveraging ourselves.

The real question isn’t “How can I avoid debt at all costs?” but rather “If debt is necessary, how can I take it on responsibly?” That’s the kind of attitude that will lead to your own version of riding off into the sunset.

 

The Takeaways

 

  • DON’T GET CAUGHT UP IN WHAT THE TOWNSFOLK ARE SAYING: There are a million books, lectures, and TV shows that will tell you how to build a successful business. Don’t dismiss the information (some of it is very helpful), but don't accept it as the end-all-be-all truth either. 

  • HEROES TAKE SMART RISKS: Don’t feel like you and your business can’t take on any debt — just do it responsibly. Consider all angles, pros, and cons, and act accordingly.  For example, government-sponsored small business loans have way better interest rates than credit cards.  If you’re considering debt, do your homework on the “best debt” you can take on.

  • TUMBLEWEEDS HAVE NO REAL DIRECTION: When they’re not signaling a showdown in a Western, tumbleweeds are pretty aimless. Don’t let your business be a tumbleweed. If you choose to go the responsible debt route, then you’ll need a lot of organization, direction, and vision.  Craft a clear plan for what you will do with the money, how it will help you leverage your business, and at what rate you will pay it back.

  • MAKE YOURSELF A WANTED POSTER: No, we’re not talking “dead or alive” descriptions. Once you’ve created clear goals for your business and determined how a loan could help you reach them, use that newly acquired debt as extra incentive to hustle.   Post your goals in a conspicuous place and remember that making payments larger than the minimum due and paying off that loan ASAP is like bounty hunting for free and clear profits.

  •  THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY: Examine your relationship with money.  Many creatives believe that dealing with money isn’t pretty.   We love money the way we love our camera equipment—it’s another useful tool that helps us do our jobs effectively. And, guess how we got our great equipment?  With…you guessed it….money! It really does make the world go ‘round. Surround yourself with people and resources who can help you think about debt, wealth-building, and the exchange of money in positive new ways. 

Lasso Your Own Future & Create A Plan,

Luke & Cat

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