NETO: This podcast episode number 1 of the Mobile Alabama business podcast with Trisha LaCoste and April Loyle. I’m your host Marcus Neto and Trisha and I have known each other for quite a while. And I’ve been a secret admirer of her work and April is her business partner at SoLife Studios. They’re wedding photographers based out of Fairhope, Alabama but they’ve done shoots as far away as India; hopefully they’ll go into that a little bit. April, describes herself as an over-Instagrammer and Trisha suffers from wanderlust, a strong desire to travel. So welcome to the podcast ladies!
NETO: To get started, tell us a little bit about yourself and the business SoLife Studios.
LaCOSTE: So April and I have known each other for about 15 years I think, and we started back in 2006 I believe it was. We both had small kids. I’ve got 4 and she has 1 and it was a little overwhelming at that point and we were kinda like just moms who pick up a camera and go ‘Oh, maybe we could make some money doing this, ya know?’. So people started asking us ‘Will you take pictures for us?’ and we were like ‘Okay, let’s do this, I think we can do this’. So we had a little studio at that point, it did pretty decent. But just our lives kind of took us in opposite directions at that point. I went back to school and she did some other things on her own. And then in 2011, she came to me and said ‘I want to do this again, you know, I want to do it right, what do you think?’. I was like ‘okay’!
LaCOSTE: Yes, exactly! Why don’t you tell about Ron? We actually do have another business partner too.
NETO: Oh cool. I did not know that.
LOYLE: Yeah, I think that the summer of 2010, a friend of mine sent me this email. I never get on Craigslist and this guy sends and email and is like ‘there’s a man looking to fill in some plots and schedules down at the beach’ and I had just moved down there so he filled me up my schedule for that summer. And it turned into me freelancing for him more than I was actually working for myself. Just more convenient, a lot of time behind the camera which was what I needed. So I did that for a while and kind of included him in my thought for SoLife. First thought of Trisha, because we had done business together in the past, and we’d kind of grow up a little bit, got more experience behind the camera. And she went back to school. And so, the three of us sat down and I think it took us a few years to really hash out what we were trying to do as three people trying to run this business. Ron is in charge of Google and he’s the reason people find us and book us I believe.
NETO: So he is more operations or is he actually a photographer as well? Cause I’ve not seen him.
LOYLE: He is a photographer. But he runs his own business, that business I was freelancing for and operates that. He enjoys the operations, the behind the scenes is what we call it, more so than being behind the camera I believe.
NETO: Very cool.
LaCOSTE: I was actually finishing my last semester in school and I was taking an Art History class or something. I guess we knew that we wanted our style to be more documentary, not just like pose people on a backdrop and ‘Say cheese’. And just something in that book it was like the ‘slice of life’ kind of art, and I was like ‘What if we did photography like that’? You know, could be like a ‘slice of life’ and that’s obviously too long. But then we like what about ‘SoLife’? We’re just documenting life and that’s where it came from.
LOYLE: We kind of went with it before we even had time to…It kind of just stuck.
LaCOSTE: When you’re starting a business you’re just so excited. You just have to hash out those things so quickly cause you’re just ready to go.
NETO: Sure, made finding the domain name a little bit simpler as well. I have to ask you, I hate to do this, but I have to ask you, this is the question that I, as a photographer, always get: and it’s you know, Canon Nikon. Give us an idea of equipment you like to use. Is there anything that is in your arsenal, a favorite lens or favorite strap or something that, that you’d like to mention?
LOYLE: We are still trying to build with equipment that we are working with. Just what we’ve had available. Both Canon users, we actually both just use 7D, we haven’t made that upgrade yet. We rent a lot depending on the job, so we’ve gained some experience learning but I’m a big fan of the 85, I think Trisha would probably say 7200 is her go-to lens.
NETO: Very cool.
LOYLE: On a bag, you said strap...I own a bag, I received one of those for Christmas. Best gift ever! I love that thing! I just want to carry it around all the time.
NETO: It’s amazing how difficult finding the right bag...I know as a guy...Did I just say that? That’s going to be on a podcast forever now...But I mean, finding the right bag for camera equipment is just absolutely the most painful thing. And I’ve for years I used backpack-style bag. And it’s okay, but when you’re runnin’ and gunnin’ as they say, the last thing you want to be doing is having to set down the bag to actually open it up, so it doesn’t really fit that mode if you will. I’d like to commend you for being a Canon user, cause I also am a Canon user.
You told me a little bit about how you got started, but have you always been shooting? Or was there a time before that when it was just you and a point and shoot?
LaCOSTE: My senior year of high school I got a point and shoot for Christmas and got obsessed. It was like a little Olympus, but I loved it. And when my son was born, my first son, I got my first digital camera. It was a Sony and it was 3.2 megapixels. It was awesome.
LaCOSTE: At that point was when I got obsessed with my first digital camera. And I was like ‘This is awesome’. And I just started getting better and composing shots and that’s when people started asking ‘Will you take pictures for me?’.
LOYLE: I think you’ve always. For me as a little girl I remember getting a 110 do you guys remember those…
NETO: Yeah, a really rectangular…
LOYLE: You can’t hardly see through the viewfinder…
NETO: The viewfinder was so dark…
LOYLE: I think I still have some of those pictures I used to take of my mom’s flowers and the most random stuff. I’ve always been crazy about it but I never thought I would actually...that it would be a career for me. I’ve just always loved it.
NETO: It’s interesting to hear from other photographers how they got their start. Because I remember my own story, I picked up a Pentax 230 T film camera back in the day. And would go out with buddies, I lived in Washington D.C., so we’d go out at night with ISO 1000 and film and take pictures of monuments and stuff like that.
So tell me a little bit about what you’ve been working on lately. Are there any things that you’ve done that you’re maybe working to build the business for marketing efforts or what’s your focus as a business owner right now?
LOYLE: Well, I think we’ve been really encouraging one another to seek out projects individually. We are so used to being together that it can be a little bit crippling creatively because you’re just relying on one another. And just at the same time time in our lives without discussing it we’ve been taking on separate projects. I know Trisha can talk about some things that she’s done. I’m working with a pastry chef to help her with a food blog start-up and prop stylist who I’ve known for a while who has just relocated here from Canada. So she’s been sitting in on that and really styling out some things for us. Food photography is a different animal and I love it. So I’ve been trying to do that more.
LaCOSTE: For me, I have a good friend who is a music artist. I’ve been shooting his pictures for a long time, but just recently it’s gotten more intense, I guess. He literally flies here for me to shoot his pictures.
NETO: Oh wow! That’s very cool.
LaCOSTE: We just spent a day and a half a couple weeks ago. It was so intense. So this is like tougher than weddings. When it is an all day thing we are just so exhausted. And that, I think it gives me an outlet for a different style. You know, SoLife has a very particular look and we’ve designed it that way on purpose. April is...that’s her. She’s the one that aesthetically makes us look the way we do. So I think that doing something completely different, taking pictures of an R & B artist, I get to be a little bit...push the envelope a little bit.
NETO: Find your own style?
LaCOSTE: Yeah, so it’s been a lot of fun. And together I think our goal is to shoot elopments worldwide. That’s what we would love to do.
NETO: You just mentioned two things and I don’t know which one I want to ask about first.
So you mentioned look and finding your own style as a photographer is something that can be a bit of a struggle. And it often times does depend on the type of shooting that you’re doing. How did you end up where you are? Was it just you going through and playing around with Lightroom or was there somebody that influenced you? Cause I know where I get my influences from: Zacharias and Chase Jarvis are the two guys that whenever I looked at what I would aspire to have a look and feel and stuff like that. Is there anybody in your world that…
LOYLE: Awe man, there’s so many different people out there. I could say, Trisha and I both follow Ben Chache, he’s on the PNW and then obviously Jose Villa in the wedding industry and the film. We both are...I know I would love to use film but haven’t crossed completely into that world yet. So we try to accomplish in camera exactly what we want. Our editing is so minimal, we barely do anything. I guess that’s really playing around getting the light right in the camera. I would say, that’s how we got our look. What you’re seeing, those little presets and stuff, those are…not much to that.
NETO: Very Cool.
LaCOSTE: And just trial and error. And just trying to get moments as their happening. We don’t...We’re not very hands on with the bride and groom, unless we have to be sometimes.
NETO: Sometimes you do have to be...
Now you mentioned you like the idea of shooting, travel, get around to see the world and stuff. And I know within the last year I think it is that you both traveled to India. Is that right that you photographed an adoption? So tell us a little bit on how that came to be and what that was like. ‘Cause I saw the pictures and I was actually very moved by the images that you posted. It was just very honest and the story was just very compelling and very moving.
LaCOSTE: That couple, they are friends with my sister and brother-in-law. And they were in Destin and she had asked us to do some pictures just of them as a couple to submit with an adoption grant and some things. And she said, ‘I wish we could put you in our suitcase and take you to India with us’. And it just triggered something and I thought ‘Gosh, what if we really could?’. And I just said, ‘What if we somehow raised the money together and we made this happen? And I thought she would just be like ‘Oh it would be nice, but thanks but no thanks’. And she got so fired up, she was like ‘Are you serious? You want to go?’. And I was like ‘Well yeah we want to go.’ So, the short version is that in six weeks we offered half price photoshoots. She shared; we shared it. It just kind of snowballed and in six weeks we had the money.
NETO: That is so cool.
LOYLE: I never believed we were going. We were boarding the plane and I’m like ‘Welp’.
NETO: This is a great idea. But...This is so unrealistic.
LOYLE: Are we really?
NETO: Six weeks, later, ‘Wait a second...’. What did we just do?
LOYLE: It’s been a dream for me to just travel anywhere...Trisha talks about it a lot. But anywhere like that is...Wow.
NETO: What were one or two of the takeaways?
LOYLE: I think that as far as from a photographer’s standpoint, it taught us a lot about just shooting in whatever setting you’re in. You can’t always control the light and you...we didn’t want to use flash because we just wanted to look as much like it really did.
LaCOSTE: Just kind of hide away and not be so…
LaCOSTE: Kind of be inconspicuous cause you’re sitting in an orphanage with these kids looking at you.
LaCOSTE: And so I think for me, it taught me that sometimes it doesn’t always have to...the picture and the image doesn’t always have to be perfect. And April’s better at that than I am. I’m like more of the...technically I want everything to be exactly the way it’s supposed to be. And she’s like ‘That one’s a little blurry but I love it,’
LOYLE: I like the movement, yeah.
LaCOSTE: ‘...Don’t delete that’. So I think that’s what I took away from it. Like, sometimes it’s not about technically what it looks like it’s about the emotion that’s in that image. So maybe that one was a little bit blurry or grainy cause we had the ISO too high but it didn’t matter because it still moved you. Right?
LaCOSTE: Who cares!
LOYLE: And they will always have those images for the rest of their life. I’m pretty sure they don’t look at the grain of the image.
NETO: It’s so easy...There’s a problem in our industry with wanting more megapixels and I’m going to take this shot of this squirrel and blow it up 100% and ‘Oh look at the grainyness’ and all this stuff. But the truth is that none of that really matters if you’re capturing the essence of what’s happening in the moment nobody’s ever going to criticize because the equipment didn’t quite function as perfectly as everything else could have.
LOYLE: That’s what photography is. That’s why we started this, is to capture real life. However that comes across that’s what we’re doing.
LaCOSTE: And I think it’s about just being bold in that. Not caring. I think like you said it’s almost like there’s so much critiquing and criticism about certain things but it’s just like ‘I know it’s blurry and I don’t care’.
LaCOSTE: So what?
NETO: And owning it.
So, as a business owner, what’s the one most important thing you’ve learned over the last 3-6 months? And it has to be one from each of you.
LaCOSTE: Wow, that’s pretty tough.
LOYLE: A lot of times I think I forget that I am a business owner. Trisha is incredible and I just show up and take pictures.
LaCOSTE: I think that we are finally finding our groove of my responsibilities and her responsibilities, Ron’s responsibilities. Owning that and accepting that without being like ‘Oh you did all of these creative food pictures and I wasn’t about to be there, I feel so left out’.
LaCOSTE: No. She’s a great photographer by herself. She doesn’t need me. But I think it’s finding our strengths and weaknesses and just kind of letting those mesh and not let it create weird…you know?
LaCOSTE: When you have three people running a business together…
LOYLE: There’s no room for you.
LaCOSTE: Yeah, and you’re going to have different opinions and you have to compromise. You have to learn each other’s quirks and how to work together.
NETO: Well you also understand the strengths of one person or benefit. As long as the choice is made to work together...right?
NETO: It’s more than just a business, there’s a relationship there.
NETO: Especially in a small business we have a lot of that as well. I had to let go of certain things. And maybe that’s what you’re experiencing, is just having to let go of those things and trust that other person is going to handle it. In this situation Ron is handling all the business stuff. Well letting go and letting him handle that stuff.
NETO: And then knowing that your roll is ‘X’, whatever ‘X’ is, however that breaks down.
What about you? You’ve had thirty seconds what’d you come up with?
LOYLE: Yeah, what Trisha says is what is happening for me too. I think we’re both at a place where we’re understanding this a little bit better. But also I think, just as far as the business goes, I’m learning that not to grow tired in doing what’s good and facing the ordinary at times because we are finally at this place, and it just keeps getting better. It’s blowing my mind that our price-point has changed and people are still booking us. And four years now, just looking back I just cannot believe...just from being faithful and not growing tired of it. Because I think there’s a time when we all just wanted to throw in the towel.
NETO: Part of owning a business.
LOYLE: Right! And the way we have to split this up and pay for equipment is just sometimes it’s very hard not just to want to get a regular job. But I really have learned a big lesson about being faithful and we’ve just been so blessed this year in particular. Just wow. My mind is just blown.
NETO: Setting goals and achieving them.
LOYLE: Yeah. They’re coming to life for us. It’s just amazing.
LaCOSTE: I remember when we first started, I remember a figure that Ron mentioned. ‘If we can have you guys makin’ this much’. And I think that we’re going to do that this year. It’s pretty cool.
NETO: Pretty cool.
Cause there’s all those doubts when you first start out. Well I don’t know, will I we ever get there?
The last 1702 meeting that we were at, we went around the table and we had to tell what our ‘Wow’ moment was during the last month. And one of the guys said that his wow moment was that he had actually gotten to turn on the payroll functionality in his accounting software. That’s just a really cool moment for any business owner. To be able to achieve those goals.
Let’s talk a little bit about resources. So are there any books, podcasts or blogs or anything like that, that you’ve found helpful? That you check in with regularly? Or is there a book that you go back to that you’ve read recently that’s really been influential?
LOYLE: It has nothing to do with photography but I read Onward, the Starbucks book. I think every business owner should read that. As far as blogs, man, I’m…I go through periods of time where I’m checking regulars Don Me Pretty or Green Wedding Shoes-type blogs that I’m always blown away by the work featured on these things. And sometimes I just have to go a period of time without looking at all cause it can stifle creativity if you’re constantly comparing yourself or having to even use those to inspire you. And your inspiration isn’t coming from yourself anymore. So I go through...I’m back and forth. Sometimes I hide out completely on social media, just gone. And then I can let myself back into the world and let it inspire me.
NETO: Very cool.
LaCOSTE: You know what? She sends me blogs. ‘Look at this one, I want to do a wedding like this. And we could go here and shoot a wedding’. So I think that she’s more of the...kind of the inspiration behind everything.
NETO: She’s the visionary.
LaCOSTE: Yes, she’s definitely more visionary.
LOYLE: Trisha makes it happen.
LaCOSTE: Nobody would get emailed.
LOYLE: Cause I get very frustrated with trying to create something...But Trisha will. If I can show her something, she can see it. I love that she’ll say ‘I think we need to try this’. Because you know, she has a different perspective and more of a technical side of it and her obsession to look a certain way technically is the perfect marriage with my creative mind. But, yeah, I’m always sending her to creative blogs especially with elopements. ‘Cause that’s our number one goal to get to different areas of the world to be with people on their day, even if it is just the two of them.
LaCOSTE: Yeah, you know.
NETO: It’s not a term I’m familiar with so tell me about them.
LaCOSTE: Well we have one coming up for this month in Asheville. Somebody elopes?
LaCOSTE: It’s a way to get married.
NETO: So you guys tag along with them?
LaCOSTE: That’s right. So they can show it off when they get back. We’re going to be hiking on a mountain in Asheville with this couple and their dogs.
LOYLE: And an officiator of some sort.
LaCOSTE: That is what we would love to do. We’re like we could leave all the cake cutting and all the guess and all that stuff.
LOYLE: Family members…
LaCOSTE: Man, if we could just have a bride and a groom...
NETO: Don’t you just love shooting the reception?
LaCOSTE: Especially about two hours in when everyone is wasted.
NETO: You can quote me on this I will never do another wedding as long as I live.
What do you like to do in your freetime and do you have any hobbies?
LaCOSTE: We always joke that my hobby is also my job.
NETO: Of course…
LaCOSTE: I love to read, but I do some design work and stuff on the side and that’s usually what I get obsessed with. Late at night is when I get inspired creatively. So I’ll start working on something at nine o’clock at night and all of a sudden it’s two in the morning and I’m about to get up in a couple of hours. I’m a night owl and she’s up at 6am texting me I’m like ‘Dude I just went to bed’.
LOYLE: I like physical activity. I’d say that’s my like...
NETO: I know you guys like to get out and hike out in the woods and bike and stuff like that.
LOYLE: I live near the beach so I try to get out there as much as possible before the tourists crowd the beach.
LOYLE: We have kids so you know…there’s that.
NETO: That takes up quite a bit of time.
So what does the average day look like for you? Trisha why don’t you start with that? If you were to paint your average day, I mean you get up at, I know you have kids so, I know you probably have to get up early to get them out to school and all that other stuff.
LaCOSTE: Yeah, so my day starts pretty early like at 6. Then I drop them off, usually go work out, try to get behind the computer, do editing. Seems like during the day is not the best time for me to work. That’s just not when I’m most productive, so I’ll do as much as I can, then I get out from behind the computer. So kind of once the kids come home we eat dinner everybody settles down that’s when I usually start my real work late at night. Just seems to work better for me. Which is great for a job like this. If I worked 8-5 I’d be….
LaCOSTE: I don’t know what I would do.
NETO: Wouldn’t fit in to the creativity aspect of it.
Are there any rituals or things that you do on a daily basis? Like every day I wake up, I take the kids to school, I goto the gym, go back home, get ready for work then into work. So you’re sayin’ that just about every day you do about the same thing?
LaCOSTE: That’s, yes.
NETO: Clear the brain before you try to get any work done.
How about you?
LOYLE: Yeah, it’s the same for me. I have a daughter that I have to get off school and I try to hit the gym after that. Sit down and work on...I’m usually the one blogging for us and Instagramming for us, so I try to make that happen. If a few days have went by then I know it’s time to work up something like that. Trisha and I have an editing routine it’s really cool. She’s the like the first round and I’m the second. So that’s really cool. Makes it so much easier. So just catching up on that stuff. I’m the same way about midday. I really have to get away from the computer and out of the office so I try to just play in my yard. If I can find something to work on to get me outside. Same thing. It’s pick up the kid, eat dinner. And I shoot on the beach at night a lot right now so that’s always an hour at sunset. Which is great cause then you’re back outside again watching the sunset. And that’s kinda cool.
NETO: Finally, where can people find you? Social media? Website? Phone numbers? Anything that you want to share?
LOYLE: And we’re big Instagrammers. And at SoLifeStudios as well. We don’t Tweet.
NETO: You’re not twitterers?
LaCOSTE: We don’t do that. We have one! But we don’t....
LOYLE: Probably hasn’t had a mention in 3 years or something.
LaCOSTE: We should probably get on that.
LOYLE: Yeah, maybe, I don’t know.
NETO: Well, Instagram is your place in that…
LOYLE: Instagram is so visual.
NETO: For photography it really makes sense.
LOYLE: There’s just such a community there.
LaCOSTE: I mean, I don’t even think we’re that good at Facebook.
LOYLE: We have a Facebook and we try to mention if we blog or something. But maybe I think we don’t have anything to talk about. Maybe that’s the problem, talking type of media. Instagram is just basically that picture.
NETO: I mean posting a picture occasionally may not be such a bad thing. Showing people what you’re up to.
LaCOSTE: We do once and a while.
LOYLE: Yeah, follow us there. Stay motivated. Get some followers.
NETO: We can talk afterwards, I’ll give you some tips.
NETO: Well, I want to thank you again for coming on the podcast. To wrap up are there any final thoughts or comments that you’d like to share or anything?
LaCOSTE: I’m just excited about you doing this and excited to be a part of it!
NETO: Well you guys are episode number one, so…
NETO: Yeah, that is pretty cool. So I do appreciate your willingness to sit with us and share your journey as business owners and as entrepreneurs. So until next time...