Mike Larson workshopguest post by Matt Hollingsworth

After the great free Biblical Business Principles workshop on Monday, today we began the actual photography workshop. Each day is divided up into two parts – a speaking and interacting session in Mike’s studio in the morning, then an afternoon and evening shooting session.

Mike began the morning by talking about the reason he is doing this, and what his desire is for us: that we would not waste a single day of our lives, but that we could have knowledge and training to effectively grow our businesses so that we can effectively grow our character.

Mike Larson WorkshopToo many people don’t learn new things because they don’t think they need to. This is the growth-inhibiting pride that we talked about yesterday, and we need to be able to be humble enough to know that we can learn something from anyone. In fact, there are two ways to learn: through the wisdom and instruction of other people, or through your own experience. Since you can only have a limited number of your own experiences, why not try to learn as much as you can from others, which will make your experiences even more valuable?

With this encouragement, we began the day of learning and growing.

Mike Larson WorkshopNext we dove into the first tool that equips us to be more effective and valuable at our craft – shooting right the first time.

The simple principle is this: the more time it takes to post-process your images, the less time you have to spend on every other part of your business. If it takes you 10 hours to edit your images from a wedding, then if you can cut it to 5 hours then you’ve just doubled your efficiency – and pay – for that portion of your work. But you’ve also gotten back 5 more hours you can spend focusing on your clients, meeting with vendors, growing your character, or spending time with your family.

What can help you shoot better the first time? Like most things, there are two elements: education and practice. Mike gave some instruction on how to better setup your camera to give you more control on focusing, about how to nail your exposure every time by knowing some reference points and then adjusting from there, as well as some other practical tips from his own experience.

Mike Larson WorkshopAnd then there is practice.

How important is practice? If you took your child to the hospital to have surgery, and the doctor fumbled around with his instruments, tried one scalpel, then said “oops, let me try a bigger one and see if that works”, cut in different places until he got it right, would you have much confidence in him? Would you want to pay him? Would you think he had ever done that surgery before?

We can approach photography the same way. But we have the benefit of being able to practice on live bodies! Mike encouraged us that if we need to work on shooting and editing, then go talk to 50 people and ask them to do a photoshoot for you. Chances are you may get 10 who actually will agree, and then schedule them all on the same weekend, back-to-back so you can be more efficient. Then process them all, and go evaluate yourself and your photos. Write down what you learned, what was good, what wasn’t so good. And then do it again. Put in the work required to master your craft as a professional.

Mike Larson WorkshopWe then moved on to talk about developing the client relationship. The themes are trust, caring, and servant leadership. The relationship with your client really starts with you – how you treat them, how you appear to them, how you talk with them.

Your goal should be to develop a trust between you and your clients, and trust takes time. Therefore we need to prioritize time with our clients. Find out about your clients’ background, interests and lives so that you can be better equipped to meet their needs.

Mike Larson WorkshopAlso, find ways to “wow” your clients. Do you ever hear your clients say “wow” when they interact with you or talk about you? Wowing requires forethought, initiative and sensitivity to your clients’ needs so that you can give them something unexpected. Mike actually wowed us with some gifts for each of us at the start of the day:

BagsMarket your relationship-building to your clients as one of your strengths. Educate them on the importance of having this relationship with their photographer. Help them think through “Who will take better care of you on your wedding day – someone who knows your or someone who doesn’t?”

“Photographers are problem-solvers of light and social situations.” The technical aspects of photography solve light problems, but we must be equipped and prepared to handle the social situations as well. This also requires that we spend time and effort developing our communication and relationship skills. If you need more instruction and resources to help you develop in this area, take advantage of things like Toastmasters International, where you can learn confidence in speaking and giving presentations.

Mike Larson Mentor Session at his workshopAll in all, having a quality, genuine relationship with your clients should be at the heart of what you do. The trust you build with them can then be easily transferred to people who they recommend you to.

When you serve your clients with genuine care, find ways to deliver the unexpected and share your passion with them, you will become known more for your character and how you make your clients feel than for just your images. And when that happens, you can have the kind of meaningful referrals that will allow your business to grow.Mike Larson Workshop

Next we discussed some ways to implement both the technical and the relational business practices we had just learned about.

Here are some quick ideas:

  • Be first in something in your area or sphere of influence.
  • Meet with up-and-coming vendors who are at a similar level of experience and growth as you are. Do joint marketing with them. Find ways to give them something truly valuable to them and serve them. Build that relationship of trust with these vendors.
  • Have an assistant film a photoshoot, but have them focus on your interactions with your clients. Go back and watch yourself – painful as that may be – and seek their input on what you could do better.
  • Meet the owner / manager of a wedding venue and do a walk-through with them, suggesting things that may enhance the artistic and photographic qualities. Give them some images of the venue they can use to market.
  • View yourself as a humble leader, and take ownership of having positive and encouraging influence over other peoples’ lives.
  • Specialize in what you do best, and then you’ll eventually be known for what you do best. Find ways to delegate and outsource what you do not do well and be humble enough to let go of those things.
  • Don’t get overwhelmed by a perceived lack of progress. Think about how a brick wall is built. The bricklayer doesn’t throw 20 bricks down all at once. He puts down one brick at a time in exactly the right place. Then he builds on top of it. Track your progress and keep moving forward.

We had two focused presentations by members of Mike’s team today as well. Sophie, Mike’s studio manager, walked us through the Lightroom workflow they use, and Jake, who does the graphic design for Mike, talked about the importance of logos and branding. Both Sophie and Jake provided some great ideas and resources for us.


Sophie at Mike Larson's WorkshopJake:

Jake at Mike Larson's Workshop

By this time we had all had lunch:

Lunch at Mike Larson's Workshop

and were basking in the perfect February afternoon sunlight that was pouring through the windows in Mike’s studio. It was time to go to the beach!

We met two couples and Mike walked us all through some different types of shoots – portrait, lifestyle and an engagement-type shoot. Mike talked through posing and lighting approaches in several different situations. More importantly, he modeled the type of leadership and interaction that we had talked about all day.

Check out some of the images from the afternoon below. The images of the couples are Mike’s.

Mike Larson Workshop

Mike Larson Workshop

Mike Larson Workshop

Mike Larson Workshop

Mike Larson Workshop

Mike Larson Workshop

Mike Larson Workshop

And finally, a nighttime camera toss of the whole group, complete with the sunset!

Camera Toss at Sunset


Mike Larson Photography Workshop Day 2


  1. Extremely good publish, thanks a lot for sharing. Do you happen to have an RSS feed I can subscribe to?



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