Okay, so Cameron was my best decision ever. And EAC was my best school decision. But when it comes to photography and this business, The International Academy of Wedding Photographers is hands down the best decision I have ever made.
It was 2015. We had just moved into our tiny One Bedroom Wonder in a new town, in a new part of the state, and I was pregnant with Ione, our second child. I had shot two weddings that year, both for the most amazing couples who’d created the most heartfelt DIY weddings. I desperately wanted to shoot more weddings. Not only more weddings, but more weddings just like those. But I had no idea how to do that.
I felt stuck. I felt clueless.
One day I happened on a webinar by Matt Kennedy. I don’t even remember what it was about is the funny thing. But it was the invitation at the end that changed everything. They were opening up enrollment for the second wave of students for The International Academy of Wedding Photographers. I’d heard about the Academy when it first opened and drooled over it then, but thought, “I’ll never get that chance.”
This time however I was hooked. Something in me KNEW that this was the right time, this was exactly what I needed to do, and that this was my answer. And when the price came up I was crushed. We were living in the One Bedroom Wonder for a reason. Money was not something we had just lying around. It was in the final Q&A that Matt suggested an idea to someone, and I knew that I could do it. I knew I had to try with everything I had, because I had to get into the Academy. I HAD to!
Matt’s suggestion was this (I don’t remember word for word, but this is the gist of it): There are people that believe in you. There are people that have supported your journey so far. People love to be a part of success stories, and they want to see you succeed. Reach out to your friends and family and ask them to invest in you. Run a special to get bookings you need to pay for the tuition!
And so that is exactly what I did. I signed up for the Academy and for their payment program, and then I reached out with an offer for $100 family sessions.
“I’m so thankful for those who invested in me early on and helped me grow. So many have stuck by me as I’ve grown in experience and skill. Looking at the photos I gave them then compared to where I am now (which is a long ways from where I hope to be in the future still, but I feel like we shouldn’t ever stop growing and striving) makes me chuckle and sometimes cringe. But they loved them, or at least they loved me and stuck by me. Growth would have been stunted and slow without their investment in me. […] I feel awkward asking people to invest in me yet again, after all the help and support I’ve received through the years. I’m so much more of a ‘I can do it by myself’ person, but that separates me from this photography community I’ve come to love so much. So, if you are in need of portraits and would like to help invest in this future I am working to build, let me know! I’d love to come spend time with you!”
I won’t copy and paste the whole post I wrote then, but you can read it here. That post went up on my blog and Facebook and I just prayed I could book the sessions I’d need. Family and friends signed up for their portrait session, and then they shared the post with their friends and coworkers. In the end I booked the exact number of sessions I needed to pay my tuition!
It’ll be two years next month that I’ve been in the Academy. I am working on my last course to finish and get my certificate. And holy cow do things look different now than they did then! I have benefitted so much from the Academy in so many ways! The knowledge from the classes themselves is invaluable, but I was surprised to find there were so many other benefits beyond the classes as well!
The Facebook Group
There is a Facebook group exclusively for students of The International Academy of Wedding Photographers, and seriously it’s one of my favorite places on the internet. Where else can you find a group with 700 people in it who get along, are supportive, will answer questions, and give out virtual high fives?! No question is to dumb or too “amateur”. I’ve learned SO much just from that group alone. It’d almost be worth the tuition just for the group. The classes scared me and I didn’t jump into the content right away (which was silly), but while I lurked in the Facebook group, I learned a lot! I wish I’d jumped into classes quicker definitely, but I’m so grateful for the group and the supportive community they are!
Earlier this year I got to test out a workflow playbook to help photographers be efficient and to get time back. It changed everything for me. The creator, Laura Neff, is one of the amazing Academy graduates. I would have never had that chance without getting involved in the Academy. I am so thankful for her!
In April I had the chance to attend The Workshop Experience by Katelyn James, and got to go with three other Academy students from Arizona. I hadn’t met Kaila before, I’d only met Tina once, and Anh and I had met a few times and corresponded online. But the fact that the four of us had never all met in person didn’t matter at all. We had an absolute blast together! That built in network and friendship made an amazing experience even better! And we met more Academy friends there at the Workshop!
So many different times I’ve seen Academy friends meet up while on vacation, or come together to create new products, or fly in to do a styled shoot together. The network in the Academy is truly amazing. It blows me away constantly!
The Academy is lead and taught by professional photographers who are leaders in the industry. They know their topic inside and out because they’ve used these tactics and this knowledge in their own businesses. Not only is their material AMAZING, but they are all so sweet and want to see us succeed! They are the best!
I know…who likes homework? But this homework rocks! It makes you think, it makes you work. And they grade it! I’ve taken other online courses where you don’t turn in work, you just implement their lessons. The real feedback, the accountability, and the positive pressure this put on me was amazing! And the homework wasn’t just busy work, it was coming up with real plans, putting things into practice, and making real changes and then showing the results! Best homework ever!
Everyone is always interested in the numbers. While I feel the success from my experience with the Academy is way more than just the numbers, the numbers are always helpful to look at. I feel a little vulnerable putting these numbers out there, but starting in the Academy as a very insecure amateur/hobbyist photographer, I’m proud of the progress I’ve made!
- In 2015, then year I joined, I shot 2 weddings at or below $500. I ran my business basically from Facebook and my Blogger Blog.
- In 2016 I shot 9 weddings and was excited when I booked a $1350 wedding. I built a Wix website and got a .com name for my blog, and jumped into Instagram. By the end of the year I was able to work with a professional (and AMAZING) branding coach and get a new website ready to launch in 2017.
- In 2017 between what I have shot and what I have booked I have 19 weddings. Mid year I was able to raise prices to $2000 for a full wedding day. Launched my fully branded business on Showit 5 (such a dream website host!!), and was able to start marketing more effectively on Instagram and Facebook.
- For 2018 I have 3 weddings on the books (which is ahead of where I was last year at this time), and am preparing to implement my new 2018 pricing within the next month as well as participate in my first Bridal Show!
So, why am I telling all of this to you?
Enrollment in the Academy is opening back up TODAY in conjunction with the Turn It Up Conference, which is an awesome FREE photography conference starting TODAY!
The Academy has made the biggest difference for me. It’s had such a huge impact in my business and in my life. I can attribute all my business growth to things I have learned in and through the Academy. The friendships, the knowledge, the experiences, and the support is invaluable. If I could give away free tuition to all my photography friends to join the Academy, I’d do it in a heartbeat!
So, what can you do now?
Go register (for FREE) for the FREE Turn It Up Conference. No strings attached, just a lot of great speakers and information. If you’re not a photographer, but own a small business in a different industry, there is still some great information in the conference! Click the link to see the topics discussed and find the pertinent ones for you! And did I mention it’s FREE! 😉 Seriously, just REGISTER HERE because it’ll be awesome!
They will have information about enrollment for The International Academy of Wedding Photographers within Turn It Up, but if you want to go take a peek at it right now, go check out their website to learn about the courses and process! AND if you are interested in joining, I have a code that can get you $50 your enrollment price! Just message me and I’ll send it on over to you!