I learned about PocketSuite from two photographers. I booked them through that app. So I was just like, “Man, the app’s so smooth.”
PocketSuite Photographer Pro
Photography Pro, Jude Laguerre, is a photographer in Florida. His experience with photography of all kinds makes him a great asset to our PocketSuite Pro community. Jude talks to CEO, Chinwe Onyeagoro, about starting with family shots and moving into fashion and beauty photography.
Well, you’ve been part of the PocketSuite community since July 2020. You’ve been around the block. I know it’s probably new for you to be on the other side of the camera. So we’ll be gentle. What was your first experience with photography? How’d you go down that lane?
All right, so how I got down this lane. My cousin, my big cousin, he basically was doing this for a minute. I decided to pick up the camera and start shooting. Come to find out I was pretty good at it at a young age. So I was like, “Let me just continue.” And then it’s been good so far.
Wow, so you had a natural talent and you just rode with it. Then how did you get into business? Did you start off shooting friends and family or did you start getting client calls right away?
I started off with my family. I think I was at a baby shower. I just brought my camera along. I’m just taking pictures and then somebody at the party was like, “Hey, I’ll pay you fifty to a hundred dollars. Come take pictures at my baby shower.” I was like, “Okay.” I’m not making money from it at the time, so I’ll go and make that quick little money. Then when I went, I was like, “Oh, I actually like this.”
That’s awesome. Look at that. You went to a family baby shower and you got your first client.
Now we know Miami’s next level. Fashion, models, the scene is on point. So what is it like to do photography in Miami?
It’s mixed. It’s a lot of fashion, but it’s very mixed. It’s very mixed when it comes to photography – down to beauty shots. Because there are a lot of people who are trying to create clothing and product lines down here. There are a lot of businesses down here, so it’s just a lot of mixtures.
Nice. So when I go to your Instagram, I’m humbled. Because I’m like, “Wow, look at all these amazing women that you’re capturing.” Let me ask, are these all models? Or are these everyday people doing glam shots for their partners and friends?
There’s a mixture because I have some people that I collaborate with on a regular. Then I have clients that just book me and they look good and the pictures come out well. So I just decided to post them on my page.
I’m completely out of that scene, but when I was coming up, I used to do modeling for school textbooks. They would take pictures and then it would go into these textbooks in Massachusetts. This was way before social media. Now I know that the industry has changed so much. A lot of the work that you’re doing is actually for people’s Instagram profiles and for their social media feeds. There has clearly been a shift, making social media the channel that a lot of people are focused on.
That’s very true because most of the clients that I get are people who come in and take random pictures. They don’t even know why they want them. They just want to post them on Instagram to get some likes.
You see how the industry changes. You wait one minute and it’s a whole new world. Do you see an influx of amateur photographers who make it difficult for you as a professional in the industry? Because a lot of people sometimes don’t know the difference between an amateur photographer, the work they do and what a professional like you might do. Does that create new opportunities to educate clients about the differences?
Yes, it does. Because when it comes to the service itself and the price of the service, they’re so used to amateurs giving them a low price. When they come to me and I give them the real price, they’re like, “Whoa!” But I’m like, “You know how much goes into this work?” And I don’t think a lot of people understand that.
Yeah, I’ve heard time and time again that the industry has changed. It’s great to have things like filters and all of these cool photo finishing tools, but they confuse clients in terms of understanding where the value is created.
Yes. Very true.
So as you think about the production that has to happen to really get that shot off, how many people are involved? Does it include makeup artists, lighting folks? What’s that production team like?
When it comes to production, it really depends. It depends on the pricing. Because I have people that I go to for makeup artistry and the people that I go to for lighting. But when I bring them on, the cost of the photo shoot will have to be higher because it’s more people. So most of the time I have an assistant that helps me out. That’s who is mostly with me. So for me right now, it’s a two man army.
As you think about the work that you do, are your clients mostly individuals or businesses/agencies that are like, “Hey, we’re doing five commercials.” We need you to shoot for a variety of different products or brands.”
When I started off, I shot for my family, so most of my assignments were word of mouth. So I barely mess with agencies. Agents have reached out to me, but what they asked for me to do is not what I’m looking for. I’d rather be a solo brand. They want you to basically only shoot their models. Become a part of their corporation and I’m not ready for that.
Now why is that? Why do agencies need exclusivity? Why can’t they just work with you on a case by case basis?
I don’t know if they just feel comfortable with you just being at home when they need you. They have an influx of different models coming in. I don’t know if they want you to be busy on their time schedule, but most of the time that’s what it is. They need you on call basically at any moment.
So what advice would you give folks who are looking at your life like, “Oh my gosh, you’re living the dream!” What are the top three things you did that really sealed the deal in terms of getting you to where you are today?
Number One, passion. Yeah, passion. The reason why I say that is because when I started I was not too into it at first. But once I started to love it, my drive became different. So my drive to go and get clients was different. My chase for it was very strong. Number Two, learn a lot about your camera. Learn settings, watch a lot of YouTube. I watched endless hours of YouTube. Hours of YouTube. And Three, marketing.
Say a little bit more about Learn and Marketing. I get the passion. You can’t fake passion. You either have it or you don’t, but on the learn front, is it mostly passive learning? You’re watching YouTube and then hopefully an opportunity comes up someday to apply that learning. Or are you actually, while you’re watching, you’re testing it, you’re doing it.
No, as you’re going. That’s why you have friends. You don’t have to post the photos. I have many photos that I took that I have never posted, but it was just a learning process. I wanted to get better, so I got my friends around and I tried different lighting techniques, different guys, girls, families, babies. I tried everything.
That makes a lot of sense. And then Marketing, is it mostly social media marketing where you’re posting your best photos? Or how do you market? What’s your secret?
When I first started, it was basically only Facebook and Twitter. So I was doing a lot of word of mouth. I was printing out flyers, going to the local laundromats, the local nail salons, and just putting flyers out like that. And then when social media, Instagram became bigger, I started to promote more on there.
You know what’s so funny, some of the most successful professionals, particularly as it relates to beauty, media, entertainment, when we asked them how they got their start, they always say flyers and business cards. They hit the streets and handed things out to people. It’s just counterintuitive in this day and age when people think all you have to do is do Google marketing or Facebook. People hitting the streets is not what you typically expect when you’re just starting out.
That’s true. But I realized I was going to the person. They get to meet you and see the person you are. That’s what made them come to me. Because a lot of people are like, “It’s not even about your photos. I see that clients have fun with you also.” But I’m like, “Okay, great.”
I heard a Pro say, “Hey, I went to Walmart parking lots and I would just put flyers under windshield wipers.” The people that end up calling you, are these people who are like, “Yeah, I was just about to hire someone thanks for passing this out.” Or are these people who you gave them the idea? It’s like, “Oh, I never thought of hiring a photographer, but seems interesting. Let me call you and find out more.”
I would say 75% of them say “I was not thinking about it.” Twenty five percent say I was already thinking of somebody and then you gave me a flyer.
Wow, interesting. So now that you’re a superstar, you don’t hit the streets anymore, right?
No. Social media has really been working for me in fashion. So I haven’t hit the streets in a long time. I may need to though. I won’t cut it out.
So now I’m wearing my client hat. For my family, we hire a photographer every year for our holiday cards and every year I’m always shocked. It feels a little expensive to me. I’m like, “All right, it’s all good. This is beautiful. This is art. These are memories.” So we pay it and we finish the shoot and get the invoice then it’s like, “To get the pictures, it’s an extra X, Y, and Z.” I don’t know when that happened – when the price to take someone’s picture became separate from the fee for the prints. As you think about the print business, do you usually work with another platform that just does on-demand printing or do you have a whole operation around printing too?
I outsource. There’s another app for that. My photo gallery comes with a printing shop already built into the website. They basically give me a percentage of the print sales.
Got it. Okay. What advice do you give folks who are like, “I want them all, but I probably can’t pay for all the prints.” Is it just to order the one or two you love for your holiday cards and then you can order more later when you really have a need or do you advise people to get certain packages of prints?
I advise them to get packages first. Because some people don’t really need as many photos as they say they do. People want big prints or something to give to their family members. So I tell them whatever fits you, go with that. Prints can get very expensive.
Yes, they can get expensive. When you think about revenue models, what percentage of your business is print? Or is that an afterthought? That’s not really where you’re generating your revenues.
I just got into printing. I want to say probably half a year now, like six months. I just started getting to printing more because I was so into the service itself and trying to get out the word. I was never really thinking about printing and I didn’t really see people needing printing when they were posting so much on social media.
When I look at your Instagram, the vast majority of the pictures are beauty. I know there’s so many other niches. Did you think about any other niches like real estate?
No, beauty came to me, but let me tell you how this works. Instagram is the beauty world. So that’s where I promote that. But Facebook, the other platforms are where I promote more family and real estate. I do all of those. Yeah, I still do weddings and all of that. On Instagram, I realized that most of my hits are when I promote beauty. I get more likes and I get more people to come to my page.
I see, really smart. So that’s another marketing tip. Make sure you understand which types of images to post on each social media channel.
Looking forward, what can we expect from you? What’s the next big thing that you’re thinking about for your business?
Right now, I rent a studio. So as the bookings come in, I rent a studio hourly. I’m looking to build my own studio and get more photographers into my company. So they’ll be working under me and I’ll be teaching. So I’ll be doing classes. Give them my little talents.
That’s awesome. So, so proud. We are super excited to support you. Can you give us the rundown on how you found out about PocketSuite and what your experience has been?
Okay. I learned about PocketSuite from two photographers down here FWayProductions and Royal Eyez. So those two people I saw using it multiple times. I book them through that app. So I was just like, “Damn, the app’s so smooth.” I asked Royal Eyez, “What is that?” And he told me about PocketSuite. I’m like, “Okay, so let me go download it.” I remember I had a free trial or something for the first month. And I loved it so I was like, “Oh yeah, I click with it.” Also, I shouted until you launched desktop.
Desktop, we launched last month! Give us a month or so and your experience on Desktop will be the exact experience you have on your phone. We’re rolling out features every week. So keep an eye out. Thank you so much for talking to us today, Jude. We are super proud and want to support you as you grow. So let us know what you need. We’re on it!
Okay. Thank you so much.