Growing Family & Business with Neon Howe
Episode 99: Neon Howe
In Episode 99 of the Portrait System Podcast, Nikki Closser chats with Neon Howe, who specializes in headshots and contemporary magazine-style photography in Modesto, CA. In 2014, Neon left his job as a software developer so that he could start his photography business while also consulting for the company he had worked for and being a stay-at-home dad for his newborn baby boy.
Be sure to listen to the whole podcast to hear how Neon juggled it all by creating stability in his scheduling so that he could make time for his boys at the same time he grew his new business. As always, Nikki brings such great perspective. This time she reminds parents that it’s so important to come to terms with not being able to do everything on your own. Letting go of that pressure can free up energy for creative solutions that can help your family and your business flourish.
You also won’t want to miss hearing about some of Neon’s awesome initiatives to grow his business. His 100 Strangers project helped him push through his fear as he developed his communication skills. His 40 Days of Being 40 Self-Portrait Series helped him reboot his photography after going dormant during the pandemic. You also might be interested to hear about how Neon achieves such beautiful lighting which he describes as being “like cooking . . . you just toss in different flavors that feel good.”
Here are links to some things mentioned in this conversation: Episode 53: Create Something New with Richard Wood, The Portrait Masters Conference, The Personal Branding System by Nikki Closser, The Portrait Masters Awards Gallery, The Portrait Masters Shootout, and Felix Kunze Lighting Series.
In this blog, you’ll find some of Neon’s gorgeous portraits, links to his web presence, and answers to some bonus questions.
Get to Know Neon Howe
Q: What has been your biggest breakthrough in business?
A: Learning that you have to ask for the things you want — specifically, when charging what you think you’re worth. The point at which we raise our prices, there is a lot of fear over whether anyone will pay for it. However, the first time a client doesn’t bat an eye and pays the new prices, you wonder why you didn’t do it sooner! The lesson? In business and life, you only get what you ask for.
Q: How did you push past fear when building your business?
A: Fear presents itself to me whenever I feel like I don’t know what is going to happen. The best thing for me was to practice doing whatever it was I was scared to do to get a feel of what-if cases. Afraid to talk to somebody? Practice out scripted lines in my own words. This allowed me not to think about the words, but rather focus on how to educate and excite people to want to work with me. Basically, anywhere fear about something is present, there’s generally a way to create a practice environment for you to work on, build the muscle memory with, and execute come “game time.” It should be said, don’t spend all your time practicing in your safe space. Get out and execute as soon as you can. You will fail, modify, try again, and ultimately succeed.
Q: What does the Sue Bryce Education community mean to you?
A: The SBE community is my photography family. It’s the space one can go to gain and share knowledge and inspiration, as well as build great friendships.
Q: How has Sue Bryce Education changed your life for the better?
A: I joined Sue Bryce Education because I wanted to learn how to run a photography business. Ultimately, my time as a member has helped me to become a more confident person in all aspects of life. Sue and her amazing team have helped to create this uniquely safe space from which people putting in the work can tap into their own hidden potential. It’s amazing to experience as well as observe in others.
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Neon Howe of Neon Howe Portraits
FULL TRANSCRIPT: Please note this transcript was generated by AI and may contain errors.
00:00:00:02 – 00:00:02:07
You’re listening to the Portrait System Podcast.
00:00:02:20 – 00:00:27:13
Part of me enjoys creating things and developing software is fun because you get to pull out wild ideas and bring them to reality. And that’s what we do with photography as well. It’s like when the clients come through and you ask them, how would they like to be photographed? It’s a process of figuring that out and helping create something that’s unique to that client.
This is the Portrait System Podcast, a show that helps portrait photographers and people hoping to become one. Navigate the world of photography, business, money and so much more. We totally keep it real. We share stories about the incredible ups and the very difficult downs when running a photography business. I’m your host, Nikki Closser, and the point of this podcast is for you to learn actionable steps that you can take to grow your own business and also to feel inspired and empowered by the stories you hear.
Today’s guest is Neon Howe and I really love this interview. Neon is a portrait photographer in Modesto, California, and while he’s been at it for a while, life just gets in the way of growing your business sometimes, and Neon shares all about what his journey has been like.
00:01:10:11 – 00:01:41:27
Neon ended up leaving his full time job to go part time, and eventually he became a stay at home dad for his two sons. In the meantime, he was juggling getting his business up and running with family and everything else, and what he talks about is so relatable to so many people. Neon has a studio at home, and he creates the most beautiful portraits with absolutely perfect light. It was really fun to get to know Neon a little bit more, and I know you’re going to love listening to him. OK, let’s get started with Neon. Hey, neon, welcome to the portrait system.
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How are you
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doing? Well? Thanks.
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I feel like this has been a long time coming. Interviewing you.
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It has been,
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you know, we had to reschedule a couple of times and I just, I love your work so much and you’ve just been part of the SBE community for so long, just such a great like positive energy. And so, yeah, I’m excited to finally have you on.
00:02:06:03 – 00:02:13:17
It’s awesome to be on here. And it’s like, Wow, I don’t know if I really can be here.
00:02:15:14 – 00:02:22:25
Oh, whatever. You know, I feel like I know when I asked you to be on, you were like me, are you sure? And I’m like, Yeah, you don’t give yourself enough credit.
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I think it’s fun and exciting to to make it onto the podcast.
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Yeah, cool. All right. Well, let’s actually get started. So you were not always a full time photographer, and actually, you’re just on the brink of doing like full full time photography, right right now?
00:02:40:20 – 00:02:42:04
Yes, pretty much.
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So before photography, what did you do before photography?
00:02:46:18 – 00:03:13:03
I went to school for a computer science degree, and that was my career as a software developer until my son was born in 2014. We got the opportunity to kind of look at where I wanted to go as photography started to become a more of a focus and possibility for me. During that time? Hmm.
00:03:13:08 – 00:03:20:15
OK, so so at that time, did you quit your software job or were you still working when your first son was born?
00:03:20:29 – 00:03:43:12
I was still working. I had the opportunity to actually just kind of dip my toes in the water, so to speak. I started consulting for the workplace that I used to work at just to see if I had the time or the the ability to to ramp something up like this, as you know, starting your own business.
00:03:44:00 – 00:03:50:29
Well, that’s kind of nice to have that like safety net, I guess, before you just quit altogether?
00:03:51:14 – 00:04:13:10
Totally. It was it was comforting just to have like, OK, yes, the money’s still coming in. And you’re not just jumping directly into trying something new, so to speak, I guess. I mean, that’s running a business now. Being in the thick of it is it’s quite an undertaking, I guess.
00:04:13:20 – 00:04:47:23
Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I remember when I was at school social worker, I was able to go down to part time for one year, one school year. And you know, a lot of that was obviously because I wanted to be in business for photography full time. Part of it was because of a family member issue that I needed to help help with. So it was it was kind of like a blessing in disguise to have that part time, one year to like I was still getting half of a paycheck paycheck from my, you know, from the school every month. But obviously my pay was cut in half and no more benefits and that sort of thing. But it just felt somewhat less risky, I guess.
00:04:47:25 – 00:04:49:22
So I’m wondering if that’s how it was for you, too.
00:04:50:03 – 00:05:13:24
Totally. Definitely less risky. And potentially one might have not pushed as hard. I suppose it’s kind of. An interesting, double edged sword like you have this, this comfort zone. I guess that when starting something new, you might need to be out of it a little bit. Yeah.
00:05:14:17 – 00:05:38:03
Yes, totally. Although I remember thinking like it will be a cold day in hell before I go back to full time or, you know, like full time social work like I knew I was done. Like, there was not an option for me to go back. Yes, at all. So I guess it could really go either way, depending on how much you like that current career, you know that you’re in before photography.
00:05:38:19 – 00:05:48:05
Totally. For me, it was definitely a fun thing. I realized after doing kind of this recent project that.
00:05:49:26 – 00:06:20:14
Part of me enjoys creating things, and the part of developing software is is fun because you get to pull out wild ideas and bring them to reality. Yeah, yeah. And that’s what we do with photography as well. It’s like when the clients come through and you asked them how, how would they like to be photographed? It’s a process of figuring that out and helping create something that’s unique to that client.
00:06:20:28 – 00:06:29:02
And it can be exciting, nerve wracking, but totally fun when you’re in the thick of it.
00:06:29:17 – 00:06:58:18
Oh yeah, for sure. And just from looking at your work and knowing your work, you’re definitely a creator. And obviously, all photographers, all artists create in some way. But I think some of us are more lean more towards that. Like your main profile, I guess as a creator and I feel like when I look through your work, you have that like, there’s just something about what you do that is just. It’s unique, and it’s it’s just really cool and really creative.
00:06:59:08 – 00:07:31:21
Thanks. It’s fun to hear that because I don’t know if it’s the internal voice that’s in my own head going, Gosh, you need to do a lot more work and figure out how to do these things, ’cause there’s all these other people who who obviously make it look effortless and their wild creations. I mean, Richard Wood, for example, like this stuff just off the charts. And you go, How how can you tap into a fraction of that creativity?
00:07:32:18 – 00:07:39:29
Well, I will say, though, I don’t know if you listened to the episode that I did with Richard, but it is definitely not effortless. Like, oh
00:07:40:01 – 00:07:40:22
no, I totally
00:07:40:24 – 00:08:08:21
understand was like batshit crazy. Trying to do is, you know, get his his final touches together. And just like the whole process is, it’s intense. But it is interesting how you can look at someone else and think like how it does. It just seems like it’s just easy for them. You know, whether it’s making the money or creating something totally off the wall creative or whatever that might be. Yeah, it’s interesting.
00:08:09:10 – 00:08:20:28
It’s the looking outwards instead of looking inwards and and kind of just processing and letting, letting it kind of stew and manifest itself. I don’t know.
00:08:21:14 – 00:08:31:06
Oh yeah, totally, totally. OK, so you went down to just part time where you were just doing consulting and then you stayed at home with your son, right? Because you’re your wife works in the health care. Is that right?
00:08:31:13 – 00:09:12:27
Yes, exactly. So I did that and I became a stay at home dad slash consulting. So that was great. It was an opportunity for me to spend time with our son and then try to figure out how to run a business. So consulting was kind of almost like a step halfway step into running your own business because you have to manage your own time and figure all that stuff out. But I did formally set up the business and then got that going, and it all is kind of like a whirlwind process at that time, I guess trying to figure out what you’re supposed to do properly for the location that you’re at
00:09:14:09 – 00:09:15:08
all with a newborn,
00:09:16:01 – 00:09:58:06
All with a newborn. Yeah. So it’s, you know, I think every one of us with children knows the whole process of trying to secure a babysitter or just nanny. We ended up getting a nanny during that time, and so that helped to allow me to schedule things in. I think the interesting thing when starting out as a business is you think you have to accommodate the client schedule and to a degree you do, but you are the business owner and you get to dictate when you want to work.
00:09:58:20 – 00:10:12:09
Yes. And that was a big hurdle to still overcome. Thinking like, Oh, I can only work weekends, but you really want to have your own weekends. So it’s like, how do you juggle this?
00:10:12:29 – 00:10:45:22
Totally. I love that you brought that up Neon because it’s such an important thing. And you know, I remember someone brought this up in the group or something where they were saying, you know how I convince clients to do shoots during the week. And I was like, Well, I never do very rarely. Maybe like a couple of times a year do I work on weekends? And I was like, My clients don’t need to know even that I don’t work weekends. I say, here is my availability for all they know. Your weekends could be totally booked up with other clients like you. Just this is what I’m available when I’m available to shoot.
00:10:45:25 – 00:10:55:11
And here you go. And they’re like, Oh, OK, well, I guess I’ll take a half day off of work or whatever. And I don’t know. I’m like, That’s kind of as simple as that.
00:10:55:15 – 00:11:31:10
It pretty much is. It’s when I think about it is just like even if you’re not making a doctor’s appointment, you’ve got to go get your car worked on. They’re like, OK, well, where available at this time at this date. And you make it and you go, you look at your schedule and you determine whether or not you can do it. And that’s pretty much how we as consumers operate with the business people. So you kind of have to take that step back and realize, Oh, that’s what people will do, they’ll work with their schedule.
00:11:31:19 – 00:12:02:29
And yeah, that’s such a great point about other other businesses that we don’t expect doctors to come work on weekends or car mechanics or whatever that might, might be. So that’s such a good point. And then I mean, and that’s not to say I when I first started out, I was working weekends because I had another job and I was worried that if I didn’t open up weekends, I just clients wouldn’t book me. So I remembered having that sort of like desperation feeling. But once I realized like, OK, no, no, it doesn’t have to be like this at all.
00:12:03:01 – 00:12:05:22
And that happened after I had kids, I was like, Nope, nope. Nope, nope, nope.
00:12:06:07 – 00:12:41:12
And there’s nothing to say that, you know, if you want to work weekends, go for it. And if you have the time to do it, it was just something that I had determined after doing just regular work and then trying to set up the business myself and wanting to spend time with family as well on the weekend, it was just like, Oh, I ultimately don’t want to work on the weekends and I have to get over this concern and potentially having the safety net of consulting money coming in still goes well.
00:12:41:14 – 00:12:44:28
I don’t need to work on the weekends kind of stuff. Mm-Hmm.
00:12:45:19 – 00:13:15:21
And you know, OK, so you also said something else that that I think is really important and and I want to talk about it because I think there are a lot of parents out there who who are in the situation where it’s like, OK, I have kids. I want to run a business, but I also have this sort of guilt. And maybe this was just me. I’m curious if you felt like this to you, but I had this kind of guilt that, well, if I’m an entrepreneur, I make my own schedule. I’m going to stay at home. I should be able to kind of do it all.
00:13:15:27 – 00:13:51:25
And, you know, work when the baby sleeping, you know, and try to do it. While my kids were at the time, I just had one son when he was at home and I found myself so frustrated and so irritable and I started paying attention to when am I, you know, feeling this horrible way of like just frustration and irritation? I was like, Oh yeah, it’s what I’m trying to do two things at once. I’m trying to be mom, I’m trying to be business owner at the same time. It was not working for me, and that’s when I was like, All right, we need to either get daycare or, you know, we need to work something out.
00:13:52:03 – 00:13:53:24
Like, did you did you go through that at all?
00:13:54:00 – 00:14:07:24
Oh, definitely. It’s having to schedule your your time around a child’s sleep schedule. I mean, which can vary between, what, one hour to four hours, depending on? Right?
00:14:08:04 – 00:14:11:13
And you’re like 30 minutes. If he wakes up early and then you’re late and then you’re,
00:14:11:16 – 00:14:36:14
you know, you can’t do anything for the rest of the day because they’re up and awake and you have to spend time with them. So yes, they it was. There is a lot of pressure in that that space when you didn’t have child care service to go, OK, I need to. I can only plan shoots during this four hour window. And sometimes that four hour window is not four hours.
00:14:38:04 – 00:14:39:21
00:14:39:27 – 00:15:19:23
And that speaks to us having to be able to find some some sort of stability in our scheduling and and having children feels like it’s just chaos sometimes. Mm-Hmm. And definitely working to find out. OK. I need to have four hours, six hours out of the day. How can we accomplish this? And and then you figure out, OK, what is the cost of that? That’s my cost of doing business and understanding how to just kind of roll whatever things you need.
00:15:20:00 – 00:15:29:00
If it’s going to cost something, that’s the cost of doing business and and kind of accepting that as part of the process, I guess
00:15:29:17 – 00:16:03:06
it’s the thinking. Yeah, I love that. I think people sometimes forget to roll that cost of childcare into their cost of goods and cost of doing business and that. Isn’t yet another reason why you have to price yourself sustainably, but we’ll we’ll get involved directly. But also, I think it’s not only that, but it’s the mental game of not having guilt. Like I remember thinking, Well, I didn’t quit my social work job just so I could put my kid in childcare full time, you know, like, like, wait a minute, I was just feeling so much guilt and shame for not being able to like, quote unquote do it all.
00:16:03:08 – 00:16:15:15
And it’s like, actually, we can’t do it. All like that is physically and mentally and emotionally not possible to be a full time business owner and taking care of your kids full time like it’s exhausting.
00:16:15:18 – 00:16:21:11
It totally can’t try to do it all. And
00:16:22:26 – 00:16:41:29
something that’s I think maybe we want to think that we have the capacity to do everything from taking care of everybody in the household to doing a job. But yeah, at the end of the day, you have to delegate. And and that’s part of the process of
00:16:43:04 – 00:17:17:09
running the business. And obviously, every family’s different. So there might be someone out there thinking, Well, I do that or, you know, like, Oh, I can’t be a full time person because I can afford child care. You know, there’s just so many different elements. Maybe someone doesn’t have a partner who helps contribute financially. I mean, there’s just so many different elements. So it’s so important for obviously everyone to evaluate their own situation. But similarly to you, my husband and I decided that he would quit his job and just work very part time. And then we had we ended up getting three days of daycare a week, and then it was like two and a half days, really.
00:17:17:20 – 00:17:19:03
And then my husband stayed home
00:17:20:27 – 00:17:43:00
for two days a week, and then I did one day a week, and it was so great after that. I guess it was like such a relief when we both got so much time with with our son. And then we also I got to focus on the business and. It’s just it just once I would like let go of the pressure of having to do it all. Oh, so great. I feel like that’s what my business really took off.
00:17:43:15 – 00:18:31:24
Definitely. It’s so freeing just to be able to have your child taken care of and then you can just, you know, it’s just release of that, that responsibility in your mind of, Oh, I have to make sure that the child is taken care of there alive and well and all that, that stuff, while you’re also trying to juggle this process of like, OK, how do I kick start this business? How do I come up with the ideas and the people that I need to bring in? It’s interesting because I started all of that stuff, but with the the, you know, the oncoming of the pandemic and the shutdowns and whatnot, all of the photography work and networking that I had done had slowed down.
00:18:32:05 – 00:18:37:06
And now I’m almost feeling like I’m back at ground zero.
00:18:38:24 – 00:18:47:27
But I don’t. It’s funny because I’m not scared, as I was in the beginning at around 2014.
00:18:48:23 – 00:18:52:24
Why the shift in that? Do you think? Why? Why is that fear kind of dissipated?
00:18:53:02 – 00:19:23:00
I guess there’s a comfort in knowing that I’ve worked up the skill set for photography, so I know I can capture the images. I have my price points set. I know I can achieve those purchase points, I suppose. And now it’s just more of dust in the rust off or taking the dust off, whatever. And just.
00:19:24:15 – 00:19:50:16
Bringing awareness back to the brand to the photography kind of process, and yeah, I mean, it still seems daunting like there’s a lot of work to be done, but it’s not. Oh my goodness. When you say like, figure out the the amount of money that you have to to bring in for your own business and you look at that number and you go, Oh my God, how am I going to do that?
00:19:52:12 – 00:19:55:00
Yeah, totally. I remember that feeling. Yep.
00:19:55:08 – 00:20:15:19
Yeah, that was interesting because when I started out, just like many of us, it was, I think my my max price was 250 and you got a CD of images. And then I happened to be trying to figure out, OK, who in the industry is teaching
00:20:17:07 – 00:20:39:19
anything about the business side of photography? Because a lot of people just talk about the technical side of how to get the photographs. But I wanted to know, like, how do you make money? And. I landed on, I think, Julia Keleher and then eventually because newborn, oh, dad’s going to take newborn photos, blah blah blah.
00:20:40:24 – 00:20:47:12
Yep, yep, she’s an amazing newborn photographer. She actually did newborn photos of Van. Oh, really? Yes, she’s incredible.
00:20:47:23 – 00:21:19:07
And so she talked about the business side. But it wasn’t until I saw like a bit between Sue and Kelly Brown on creative live that I was like, Oh, it’s Sue’s touching more on this business side and then the whole 12 points of businesses and whatnot at the time. And then I just went down that rabbit hole and just looked at the cost of doing business. And you’re going, Oh my goodness, if I want to make six figures, I have to charge X amount of money.
00:21:19:09 – 00:21:34:12
And how many clients can I ideally take in and all this stuff? And it’s just like, Oh boy. That’s a big number, and that’s a lot of people. I was just charging $250. That’s even more people if I wanted it.
00:21:34:27 – 00:22:07:05
Right, right, right. Oh yeah. OK, so I want to hear about how you kind of made the leap to raising your prices and that sort of thing and building your portfolio and all that, but I want people to know just a little bit more about what you shoot and then you also have a two and a half year old. So you had you and your wife had another baby just prior to the two, like when the pandemic hit, right? Yes. So you have a seven year old and a two and a half year old? Yeah. I just want to make sure people know that. So just when you’re like feeling like you’re on the right trajectory, you another baby, the pandemic hits.
00:22:07:24 – 00:22:16:21
So tell us just about. Like what you typically shoot, who your target client is and and where you live, like just the basics.
00:22:16:24 – 00:22:51:02
Yeah. So my clientele, my target focus is are are women 35, 45 age demographics. And I’ve I’ve fallen more into Sue’s style of shooting the idea being contemporary magazine style photoshoot with hair and makeup. And we always begin our shoots with a consultation to determine how they want to be photographed, whether it’s just going to be their family, a friend and throughout the shoot.
00:22:51:10 – 00:23:01:22
I typically do about a two and a half hour shoot with hair and makeup, and they’ll have about three to four different outfit changes during that process. And
00:23:03:11 – 00:23:18:24
I’ve also incorporated a bit of headshot work into my business. It just seemed like a good way to have, I don’t know. It’s funny to say it, but it kind of like a side gig to your main gig and
00:23:19:15 – 00:23:21:27
never hurts to have multiple income streams, that’s for sure.
00:23:22:07 – 00:23:54:05
Yes. So as an alternate stream, after going to the first portrait masters and then having Peter Hurley there, it’s sort of kind of sparked an interest into doing headshots. And I had basically spent a year focusing on doing some style photography. Then I saw Peter Hurley and tried to figure out a way of building that headshot business into the into my business. And it’s been awesome because.
00:23:55:04 – 00:24:03:20
It’s so much easier than just doing a full on photo shoot, and you can get paid just as much, which is also daunting.
00:24:04:28 – 00:24:26:15
Oh yeah. No. And trust me, I love that topic. Personal branding is like my bread and butter, my jam, like I just put on a course on it because truly, it is to me the most efficient. Yes. I love doing it. And it’s such great money, and it’s not super like laborious and time intensive. Yes, exactly. Basically, what you just said? Yes. So I feel you on that.
00:24:27:12 – 00:24:59:11
It’s a I’m a portrait photographer based here in Modesto, California, which is Central Valley, California. And my typical schedule is I aim to shoot twice a week. And then I have a date for consultations and or reveals and kind of just kind of stagger. That’s the ideal schedule. It’s staggering shoots and reveals appointments.
00:25:00:06 – 00:25:33:15
Yeah, yeah. That sounds like a great schedule, for sure. I love that. And then Neon, I want to hear about your pricing and how you do all that. And we’ll talk about that before I forget, I want to talk about your lighting because it is absolutely amazing. Like, I’m looking at your Instagram and there is the most beautiful pregnant woman in the street. Mm hmm. So that one, there’s so it looks like you did some sort of some sort of project like self-portraits, possibly. So some really, really amazing self-portraits here of you. And they’re all lit incredibly like there’s one sitting here of you.
00:25:33:17 – 00:25:55:06
You’re like on a gold couch. Mm hmm. And then the third one photo that jumped out at me, it’s such a simple portrait, but it’s of a blonde woman in the black, like off the shoulder sweater. But the way you lit her and edit wise is just, I love it. It’s like painterly, I guess, without being too heavily painterly. I don’t know. That’s the best way to describe it.
00:25:55:08 – 00:26:35:21
But it’s funny because like where we all go through this journey of finding like our own style and I still feel like, honestly, I am constantly. Evolving, and I think that’s the best thing that can happen is like we were always evolving in it. It just ages well, hopefully. But yeah, no lighting has. I think from my computer science background or just my nerdy background, I needed to figure out how to, like, make things look good with the lighting.
00:26:35:23 – 00:27:11:24
And that was that’s been quite a journey to just jump in. And it can be daunting because you have natural light and and from watching, Sue you learn to to embrace and and work with the natural light. And then. Then when it comes to strobe lighting. Oh, my goodness, that was it’s so daunting. It’s like, do you point the flashes or the strokes at the people? No. And then you hear people like, you have to feather the light, you have to point the light actually away from your subject and you’ll get better light.
00:27:12:05 – 00:27:16:04
And you think away, how does that work?
00:27:16:09 – 00:27:19:09
Right, right, right. So counterintuitive.
00:27:19:11 – 00:27:53:10
So it was great that people like Felix Kunze has his educational material just to explain and and break down the lighting to where it’s like cooking and you just toss in different flavors that feel good. And you just you got to sample along the way kind of process versus hard mathematical numbers or settings kind of process, which is where my brain would want to go, is like, OK, I need to know that I have to shoot at one 200 of a second.
00:27:53:12 – 00:28:24:27
I’m using f8, so my lights have to be dialed in at, you know, eight eight power or whatever. And ultimately, though, that that takes too much brainpower. And when you’re on set shooting, you just have to be like, OK, I know that my camera settings, their basic dialing zones are one 200th of a second. I like to shoot in the studio at between five point six and eight aperture and 100 ISO.
00:28:24:29 – 00:28:42:06
So from there, your lights can get dialed in, ideally at, you know, half the power that your lights are kicking out and to shoot and adjust from there. But that has been a journey that I could talk about.
00:28:42:17 – 00:28:48:11
Yeah. So the work that I do, the work that I see recently, though, is strobe. You’re saying
00:28:48:23 – 00:29:08:06
yes. So the maternity shoot that’s outside, that was that was all natural light. OK, gotcha. And that was fun. Just being out in San Francisco and and finding that perfect spot where not many people were wandering and getting kind of like that. Yeah, that peaceful sharing beautiful.
00:29:09:03 – 00:29:11:26
Was this a 70 to two hundred lens? You remember what you used
00:29:12:12 – 00:29:18:02
trying to think? Honestly, I think I was using a 135. OK.
00:29:19:00 – 00:29:22:03
So yeah, I love it. I love, love.
00:29:22:05 – 00:29:23:25
Love it. Yeah. At that time,
00:29:24:08 – 00:29:48:24
if you’re listening and you’re wondering, you can go to Neon’s Instagram. It’s Neon Howe portraits and you’ll see it. OK, well, I could just I just love your light so much. It’s just it’s really amazing. And it doesn’t feel like strobe like to too much strobe. It’s going on. I mean, I was actually wondering, like, is this strobe? Is this natural light? And that I think that’s when you know you do light really well when people can’t even really tell.
00:29:49:21 – 00:29:57:15
So yes, that’s that is my goal. I mean, I love the look of natural light, but I shoot in my home studio.
00:29:57:17 – 00:30:00:23
So a home studio? OK, yes.
00:30:00:27 – 00:30:26:06
And it’s pretty much I used to have a home studio that was was full of light. But now I’ve we set up our garage to be the studio space and it is pretty much all enclosed. So using the strobes is is generally what I have to use. And so my my push is to try sometimes to be able to recreate kind of that natural light feel.
00:30:26:13 – 00:30:30:07
Yeah, OK. What’s it like having a studio at home? Do you like it?
00:30:30:20 – 00:30:50:28
It’s convenient. There’s there’s definitely the pros and cons if you don’t have technically, you have your own space, but it’s not completely away kind of deal. So the commute is great. But sometimes that commute, it’s like, oh, still at home kind of feel.
00:30:51:01 – 00:30:55:04
Yeah, right, right, right. The kids know where they can find you.
00:30:55:09 – 00:31:52:00
Yes, exactly. Which is still a good thing. But yeah, no, it’s it’s awesome just to have that dedicated space. I know my wife was going crazy, just having my, you know, v flats and light stands kind of occupying a living space. And now she has her full living space, and I have my ability to just kind of build the set and and leave it. So that’s I think that’s the great thing of being able to have your own dedicated space. It’s just if you’ve got a set idea, especially when I was doing this latest project, I decided to do a 40 days of 40 being 40 years old, OK, kind of project just to kind of, I don’t know, it was a a way to kick start some photography that had gone dormant during pandemic times, I guess.
00:31:52:14 – 00:32:03:02
So to speak. Hmm. Yeah. So being able to leave your your stuff ready to photograph again is awesome. And in regards to having your studio?
00:32:03:04 – 00:32:10:07
Yeah, yeah. So that 40 days of being 40, that’s that’s a lot of the self-portraits that I see. They’re really cool. Just super creative ones.
00:32:10:09 – 00:33:06:18
Yeah, it was. Yeah. I’ve turned 41 now, but yeah, during those last moments of being 40 serves not to make it all like dramatic or anything, but the idea is just like, Oh, cool, I’m 40 years old, which we get to this our various stages in life. And at this point, I’m like, you know, 40 is a big milestone and I’m in the process of doing this. I was thinking of how can I connect to future clients and being able to go like, I want to share 40 days from myself being 40, potentially sharing a little bit more of my life? What am I thinking? And in that regards to to open up the idea of like being photographed, we go through this process of questioning of how to connect with our clients, how to communicate better with our clients.
00:33:06:28 – 00:33:30:19
Am I thinking what the project was to this was the avenue to to help? Grease the wheel and show them that it’s a great time to be photographed because we’ve reached all of these different milestones. We’ve learned all of these different lessons in life and it should be documented. We should have photos taken. So yeah,
00:33:31:11 – 00:34:08:24
yeah, it’s really smart too, because you could show your clients those 40 photos and one of them might really resonate with them and they’d be like that. That’s how I want you to photograph me. Like, I feel like you’ve put so many different options out there for people that, I mean, who needs Pinterest? You could just be like, OK, here’s my here’s my 40 self-portraits and 40 different ways that I could photograph you. Exactly. Do you like any, you know, do you see yourself like there’s a double exposure that you did of like flowers and your head? Right? Is that what it was? I mean, it’s just so cool.
00:34:09:06 – 00:34:31:08
And then there’s that really classy one, like I mentioned of you on the gold couch, you know, with your tie kind of undone. There’s, you know, the one with you walking in your backpack, this one with your son in the mirror. Yeah. And you’re, you know, I mean, just so many really cool things that it’s like, you’ve got this really amazing portfolio that you could just say here, pick, what do you like? So it’s smart.
00:34:31:10 – 00:35:10:25
Exactly. And I mean, our goal is to to capture, you know, that are array of images between. Ideally, I’d like to shoot between 25 to 30 images for presentation while present 25 to 30 images for the reveal process. So it’s yeah, trying to spark those ideas for for clients and showing them that they can be photographed. And it’s not that you know your life is dull or boring or anything, but photography allows us to to play a little bit, I suppose, and in you can present yourself as something more than you think you are.
00:35:11:06 – 00:35:32:25
And then I think the fun thing is that once you do see that image, you realize, No, I am that I am powerful. I am sexy, I am beautiful. Mm-Hmm. I think that’s a cool thing. Like, I had a photo session done with Gerson at the first portrait masters where I came into.
00:35:32:27 – 00:35:34:00
I love those
00:35:34:02 – 00:36:09:18
photos. I came into it. Super nervous is like, Oh my goodness, there’s all these people who are crazy good photographers and as well just being in a space for portrait masters to be like, I feel like a very, very new person in the industry and all these other people seem so well versed in photography. But the having done that session and being able to dress up like GQ style and take those photos in the beautiful space that we were had definitely brought out a confidence.
00:36:09:20 – 00:36:17:09
And I think it really shaped me towards the future of my my own career. Oddly enough, doing a photoshoot?
00:36:17:27 – 00:36:30:27
Interesting. Yeah. And it’s funny because I remember those photos. I want to say Gerson got in the top 20 contemporary portraits with one of your photos. You’re kind of like laughing. Yeah. So black and white. Yeah, yeah. I love that shot.
00:36:30:29 – 00:36:42:06
Yeah, that was totally fun. And it’s also neat just being able you do the photo, shoot your for yourself and you experience the other end of the camera and.
00:36:42:22 – 00:36:43:21
Hmm. Mm hmm.
00:36:44:04 – 00:36:48:06
It helps helps you relate better to to the clients, I feel.
00:36:49:03 – 00:37:00:09
Yeah. Yeah. Well, OK, I want to talk just a little bit more in the business and how you said you typically show between 25 and 30 photos to each client. Tell me a little bit about your pricing. How do you how’s your pricing work?
00:37:00:16 – 00:37:36:00
That has been an evolution. So when you did the sales intensive, I worked off with the numbers. From there, I believe I started on the low end, which was nine hundred for six images. So it’s like nine hundred twelve hundred two thousand where the break points and I’ve bounced around with the session fee being around 250 and then now I charge $600 for the session fee with a $400 credit.
00:37:36:18 – 00:37:50:17
My images are $400. My base package of six starts at eighteen hundred and then goes up to twenty eight hundred with a max of twenty images.
00:37:51:09 – 00:37:55:00
Awesome. OK, and then do you do prints and digital or both?
00:37:55:04 – 00:38:19:16
I provide prints. I use the folio box from Graphi Studio, and that has been an evolution in itself. I love the folio boxes, but the reveal boxes, I’ve grown to love those a little bit more as they operate both as a display. With the choice of the image that you want to use and allow you to just store the images if you want them.
00:38:19:28 – 00:38:29:29
Yeah, for people who are listening, it’s a box. It has like a the front of it is glass. So that’s like you can see the first. It’s like a frame. You can see the first image so you can swap out which ones on top.
00:38:30:01 – 00:38:44:03
Exactly. And then mix it. And that’s how I educate the clients. This is basically your frame. And however you feel that day, you can swap out the image and it can go portrait or landscape mode. And it’s a beautiful presentation piece.
00:38:44:21 – 00:38:48:29
Yeah, yeah. And then Neon, how are you finding most of your clients?
00:38:49:21 – 00:39:27:12
So clients are. I’m getting client leads through my website. I’ve set up a form for clients to go ahead and fill out as well getting inquiries through, I guess, through Google. People are calling me and they’re saying there they found me from Googling nice. Mostly, it’s interesting, as I mentioned before, that that focus to get headshots as part of the business. They come in for headshots and then I do more so generally well or go from headshots into a full on shoot, is what I should say.
00:39:27:21 – 00:39:29:01
Yes, yes, yes. Yes.
00:39:29:15 – 00:39:36:07
And prior to that, when when I was getting the business really working to ramp up the business was
00:39:37:23 – 00:40:08:18
through networking. I would find people and just talk to people in the networking groups. And if there was. Somebody that I was interested in. I’d offer them a gift voucher. Sometimes it wouldn’t be like, Oh, cool, thanks for the gift voucher. Let’s set it up sometime soon. It would be networking for another six months and they go, Oh, I’m ready for the shoot because it’s networking wise.
00:40:08:20 – 00:40:14:09
It’s a process of just getting to know each other and building that know, like and trust.
00:40:14:24 – 00:40:15:23
00:40:16:01 – 00:40:23:22
And now post pandemic, so to speak, I guess, trying to come back?
00:40:24:08 – 00:40:25:10
00:40:25:22 – 00:41:00:19
It’s definitely a process of of reconnecting with the community, getting your face out there. I think that’s the most daunting thing in the beginning is getting yourself out in front of people. Because prior to the pandemic hitting, I was I was getting on a roll of booking a client or two every week. And when you’re not broadcasting as much, then you know, nobody knows where you are.
00:41:00:27 – 00:41:09:07
And yes. So you might be the greatest thing on God’s green earth, but they can’t find you. So right,
00:41:09:18 – 00:41:27:06
right, right. We have to be top of mind again and stay relevant and make people remember us because you’re exactly right. There are a million photographers, so we have to present ourselves often, you know, so that we end up being the one they want to book so they don’t forget about us.
00:41:27:25 – 00:41:56:21
So, so right now, I’m working back to that process. It’s I’m thinking back during early 2019, all throughout 2018, I had basically set benchmarks for how many people I need to talk to in order to get how many people I wanted to book. So I like that. And that was just working off of that. The one out of every 10 people you talk to, you kind of roll.
00:41:59:06 – 00:42:24:13
It was, and it was obviously easier because there was no pandemic and you could go up and talk to people and you’re not worried about getting some virus. But having that ratio of who I needed to talk to helped to get me out and and push and get those numbers, whereas now I haven’t been able to go out and and talk to people. So,
00:42:25:28 – 00:42:58:13
yeah, so now I’m working on on getting out there again, getting my face out in the community just because I know that the greatest, I suppose, avenue for getting bookings is actually doing face to face time. A lot of the inquiries that you might get from a lead on your website doesn’t always pan out, but I know that working direct communication with people is almost it’s like in 90 to 100 percent when it works kind of thing.
00:42:58:24 – 00:43:00:07
Yes, yes. Agreed.
00:43:00:26 – 00:43:14:08
And I think it’s just that people, people get to see your personality, get to just see you, and it gives them a greater opportunity to go, Oh yeah, this probably feels right.
00:43:14:18 – 00:43:22:08
And let’s and just to feel comfortable with you like you make people feel so comfortable when you’re in their presence, you know? So I’m sure that helps a lot, too. Yes.
00:43:22:13 – 00:43:26:06
Yeah, it definitely works in our favor, right?
00:43:27:03 – 00:43:50:00
Hmm. Totally awesome. Well, thank you so much for sharing all of this with us. It’s been really interesting just to get a good another perspective on, you know, someone who left their old career and, you know, having kids and being a stay at home dad and having the business and everything. So I really appreciate you sharing everything was with me and with our listeners. And yeah, it’s been good.
00:43:50:09 – 00:43:54:26
No, it’s been fun. And thank you for having me on the show.
00:43:55:01 – 00:43:56:26
You’re not off the hook yet, though. I for more questions.
00:43:57:23 – 00:43:59:26
I know those are coming. I knew this was coming.
00:44:02:09 – 00:44:07:16
OK, so the first question is what is something you cannot live without when you’re doing a photo shoot?
00:44:08:12 – 00:44:45:24
Hmm. I’m thinking two things. Definitely the on the planning side. I like to have mood boards set up for my clients and myself. So working with the mood boards helps set the stage for the shoot. And I like to kind of the photo shoot itself is as one of those moments for me, it’s it’s a high energy kind of deal, so I like to get a little bit of a pre.
00:44:46:14 – 00:44:59:10
Shoot meditation in. Be it five or 10 minutes just to kind of calm my own nerves because I get very excited before the shoot, so that just kind of helps prepare me for the photo shoot itself.
00:44:59:27 – 00:45:03:25
Yeah, I love that. So important to be in such a good mental space.
00:45:04:04 – 00:45:20:28
Yes. And because we always get a little bit nervous in the shoot sometimes. And then you’re going like, Oh, wait, how do I do that pose? This pose isn’t really working for me or. And you can move on from it. But I think if you’re relaxed,
00:45:23:01 – 00:45:28:21
you’re more capable of. Redirecting or directing
00:45:30:00 – 00:45:36:03
Yeah. Yeah. I love that. OK. Number two is how do you spend your time when you aren’t working?
00:45:36:21 – 00:45:42:26
I’ve picked up woodworking recently, which is another expensive hobby, apparently.
00:45:45:21 – 00:45:57:14
But my wife has loved it and been building different pieces of furniture for our ever growing needs in the house. And that’s been fun.
00:45:58:03 – 00:46:04:25
That’s cool. I love that. All right. So number three is what is your favorite inspirational quote?
00:46:05:18 – 00:46:09:04
I was thinking about that and. And.
00:46:10:29 – 00:46:22:27
Everything that I’ve come to enjoy has. Boiled down to just do it. So it’s kind of Nike’s just do it.
00:46:23:14 – 00:46:24:09
00:46:25:27 – 00:46:28:08
it’s a slogan for a reason. And it’s a good one.
00:46:29:01 – 00:47:02:26
It’s it’s interesting because in the beginning where we’re just so caught up in all of this different bits of information and figuring out how to progress. And really, we just we need to take that first step. And whatever it is, is feedback and realizing its feedback, not failure. If it is like something that didn’t go right, it’s not failure. It’s feedback and you just come back, iterate and move on to the next step.
00:47:03:21 – 00:47:10:05
And. Yeah, that’s where I was like, OK, well, it just boils down to just do it.
00:47:11:05 – 00:47:30:20
Yeah, yeah. And you know, and I think people sometimes think that it’s like, Well, how do I do it? And and it’s like trying not to get caught up in the like, Well, just do it, just do it. Like, that’s not what it what. Know what it really means. It’s like, just take one step, just one small thing each day and the next thing you know you’re doing it.
00:47:31:00 – 00:47:32:07
00:47:34:00 – 00:48:14:19
I think looking back on on all this stuff, starting the photography business, there’s a lot of questioning right of how we we should do things. And I find now like, I have those questions still. But there’s a confidence that that grows in your ability of continually just taking that next step and finding out, OK, well, this didn’t work, but that did and realizing to a degree that a lot of the answers are contained within ourselves after absorbing so much information.
00:48:14:28 – 00:48:45:11
I think even with with pricing, there’s been a case of like, OK, well, you start out at two hundred and fifty dollars for a session. And for me, I was like, Well, 250 really isn’t working. What do I do? Do I do I charge more or do I not do anything else and just keep charging? 250 and lessons learned are like, Well, the next step is to to try a different price point.
00:48:45:13 – 00:49:21:09
Let’s try a different price point and you’re scared as well. Well, clients pay that. I don’t know. Maybe they won’t. Why don’t you find out how? OK, so next person calls you go, Well, my session fee is $600. Includes $400 credit and includes. X y z and you get so pumped when they go. OK, cool, let’s book in like way. I just changed my price and it’s higher. And it’s interesting to kind of take in that whole process.
00:49:21:15 – 00:49:49:05
Yeah, it is like like I think going back to what you initially said is that everything the answer’s kind of within you. Like with using your pricing example, you know, you cannot sustain at two hundred fifty dollars. So you know, your answer is raise your prices. Yes. And of course, we need or if we go through the whole thing like we have to have someone externally tell us that we have to, even though we know it’s like we need someone else to give us permission to put our prices to where they need to be. Yeah. So it’s that validation that we know we have to do it
00:49:49:07 – 00:50:11:19
needed that validation to see that somebody else is doing it. And it’s interesting in our community to to go and and see it’s OK. You have permission to try things and tailor it to your needs, I think is the key thing.
00:50:12:02 – 00:50:20:10
Mm hmm. Totally cool. OK. And then last question for this section is what would you tell people who are just starting out,
00:50:21:05 – 00:50:27:00
Just starting out? Oh. Running the business photography,
00:50:27:18 – 00:50:37:06
yeah, yeah. Or someone who is just, you know, just like maybe knows how to shoot, but they don’t know what to where to go from here kind of thing.
00:50:38:03 – 00:51:15:20
For those just starting out, I think there’s an element of having fun that needs to just be fostered. You’re going to be afraid to try some certain things that push you out of the comfort zone. And those are the things that I feel have to get dug into a little bit like from, for instance, when I wanted to photograph portraits of people as a computer science nerd, people were things that I wanted to gravitate towards and starting conversations with stuff.
00:51:16:04 – 00:51:47:09
But I wanted to do this hundred strangers project, and I pushed myself to go out and talk to people and ask them if I could take photos of them, which was so daunting. But it has helped me develop the communication skills, I believe, to yes, to get there and just relate to people. Ultimately, people just want to be heard and listened to and be seen. And that’s what we do as photographers is help people be seen.
00:51:47:19 – 00:52:10:08
And so, yeah, just figure out what it is that you’re afraid of in this whole process and maybe push it just a little bit harder to master it. And that little those extra little steps over time will help get you to where you want to be.
00:52:11:01 – 00:52:20:06
Yep, exactly what you said. Little steps. It doesn’t. You know, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Exactly. For sure. Very cool. And then where can people find you online in?
00:52:20:21 – 00:52:35:12
I am on Facebook at Neon Howe portraits as well as on Instagram and Neon Howe portraits. My website is www. NeonHowe.com. I think I said to many Ws.
00:52:36:27 – 00:52:39:13
Yes, very cool. And Instagram.
00:52:39:19 – 00:52:43:09
Oh yes. So Instagram and Facebook are Neon Howe portraits.
00:52:43:17 – 00:52:46:10
OK, gotcha. I just want to make sure you said that.
00:52:48:03 – 00:52:54:07
Awesome. Well, thank you again. I’m sure I will see you online again soon, hopefully in person at some point.
00:52:54:18 – 00:52:55:19
Are you going to the Shootout?
00:52:56:02 – 00:52:57:01
I am. Are you going?
00:52:57:05 – 00:52:59:08
Yes, I’ll be there for the first two days.
00:52:59:21 – 00:53:05:16
Sweet. I will be there. I’ll be there. Both sessions. Yay. Oh my gosh, I get to see you in person. Fan freaking tastic.
00:53:05:18 – 00:53:07:03
Yeah, yes, it’s very cool.
00:53:07:06 – 00:53:09:24
Yep, I get on a plane on Sunday. I cannot wait.
00:53:10:02 – 00:53:11:29
Yes. Same here. So.
00:53:12:01 – 00:53:27:00
So excited. Oh, good. Good. Good. Good. Awesome. All right. Well, I will see you on Sunday. Then I know if you’re listening to this recording, this will come out after the Shoot out. But well, maybe next time we do, next time I interview you, we’ll talk about how fun it was.
00:53:27:11 – 00:53:29:03
Exactly. Yeah, exactly.
00:53:30:00 – 00:53:33:15
Awesome. All right. Well, you take care and I will see you in a couple of days.
00:53:33:17 – 00:53:34:07
00:53:34:17 – 00:54:09:24
OK, bye, Neon.
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