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 looks like this: a Craftsman-style farmhouse; our newborn, Knox, in our arms; coffee in the kitchen; Edison lights on the back porch; and a pair of English bulldogs at the foot of our bed. Read more...

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The Secret Ingredient

May 1, 2015 / Business

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

We love to teach photographers how to hone technique, artistry and business acumen to create a life that improves your craft, and a business that supports your life. For a fast track to your authentic Life & Craft, check out more about our workshops we host on our cattle ranch in Texas.

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