We had the good fortune of connecting with Jesi Cason and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jesi, what is the most important factor behind your success?
The driving force behind the success of my photography business is the extensive work I did behind the scenes to develop my brand. I spent countless hours: *writing profiles about my ideal client so I would know who I was trying to reach through my marketing *experimenting with captions and website copy to test out what language works best and define my brand voice *creating graphics and images that fit with my color scheme and fonts *examining how what I do best can best solve problems for my clients *researching and implementing ways to make my workflows more efficient and headache-free for my clients All of this adds up to a client experience that is fun, easy, and effective – turning clients into friends!
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My artistic style is best described as bold and colorful. I love using dynamic lighting and lots of fun colors in my work. Developing my style and finding my artistic voice took a long time – I first picked up a camera in 2007 and I don’t think I started really having a vision for my work until 2015. That was when I started to learn studio photography and how to use off-camera flash to create light. When I first picked up a camera, I didn’t have a solid plan of what I wanted to use it for – other than improving my selfies for MySpace. Through sheer hubris, I took a few paid jobs within a year of owning a camera – which was a mistake! I do not recommend charging for a service you haven’t even mastered yet. Pretty embarrassing. Once I realized I wasn’t able to produce consistently good photos, I took a break from trying to earn money and focused on learning composition, proper exposure, and lighting. I was incredibly overwhelmed when I first started experimenting with studio lighting. I watched a ton of tutorials online and practiced on my cats, my friends, and myself as much as I could while still having a full time job and going to school part time. My skills advanced more in that first year of using studio lights than they had in the previous 8 years of owning a camera! A co-worker encouraged me to turn my skills into a business and I enrolled in the Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida MicroEnterprise program, which provides aspiring entrepreneurs with resources and education to launch a business. I learned enough in that program about the logistics of starting a business and qualified for a loan – which I used to buy a professional level camera and some lenses. What I didn’t learn, however, was the specifics of how to run a photography business. I spent the next couple of years bumbling around, making just enough money to pay off my loan but nothing in profit. I also had no idea what kind of photographer I wanted to be! I was shooting anything from weddings to cosplayers to pet portraits, with no knowledge of how to market myself. Regardless, I was offered a position as a real estate photographer and I left my day job to become a photographer full time! Unfortunately, I had never shot real estate before and, despite trying my best, it proved to be a genre of photography in which I did not excel. I was let go after 3 months. The fear of being an instant failure and having to go back to my day job motivated me to double down on my efforts. Through a complete stroke of luck, I saw a listing for a job opening in a family/wedding photography studio! I applied and was hired based on my strong portfolio. This job gave me the opportunity to finally learn the business of photography. I also learned that I have no interest in specializing in family or wedding photography! I spent a couple years there running the company, learning, growing, and trying new things. Finally, I felt ready to dedicate myself full time to my own photography brand. I learned so many lessons by doing things the hard way. If I could go back in time, I’d tell myself not to take any paid jobs until I was actually good at photography, start using studio lighting right away, and figure out what genre of photography you want to specialize in and do as much of that as possible! And most importantly – as an artist, the business side of your craft is just as important as the creative side. It took me 10 years to figure out that branding photography is my passion. But now that I know, I’m diving in head first and never looking back!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I live in Fort Myers, so my first stop would be breakfast at Bullig Coffee & Bites. Then we’d wander around the historic downtown area and stop by the Sidney & Berne Davis Arts Center to see whatever art show they have on display. From there, we’d have to hit up my favorite vintage stores, Sirena del Sol and The Curiosity Shop. Lunch would be at San Julian’s Taqueria. In the afternoon we would visit some of my favorite walking trails and then head to Cape Coral for dinner at Nice Guys. If there’s a band playing across the street at Ollie’s Pub Records & Beer or Palace Wine Bar, we’d hop between those two places. And at night, you just gotta drive out to Captiva and look at the stars!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Huge shoutout to “Building a StoryBrand” by Donald Miller – this book and the accompanying podcast have been immensely helpful with developing my brand position. Also the Bokeh Podcast which has helped me think of new ways to serve my clients. And Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida, whose MicroEnterprise helped me get my business started.
Jesi Cason Photography