Taking an Influencer Program to Uncharted Waters

Taking an Influencer Program to Uncharted Waters

Taking an Influencer Program to Uncharted Waters with Logan Detty

It was the spring of 2018, and I was just about to give up photography for good. Completely burnt out by the people talking negatively about the business that I had built from the ground up, I began to question my future in high school senior photography, even photography as a whole. The daily grind had become a knot in my throat. The monotony of doing the same poses, same outfits, same locations became a burden rather than a blessing in the small town of Chillicothe, Ohio. I remember saying to myself, “I’m more creative than this” and “I just need something different.” The passion that I once had was wounded, and rather than collecting myself and forging a new path, I was letting it bleed out. Until I got one single Instagram message from @juliahollon, a professional model from Columbus, Ohio. She wrote, “Hey Logan, I’m a huge fan of your work and I would love to shoot sometime.” Let me tell you what, that changed everything for me.

In the back of my mind, I knew what Julia was asking for: a collaboration. That’s when the debate started in my mind. Do I send her rates or do I send her dates? I knew after one look at her profile and the comments on her images that she was connected with some really great people in Columbus—Julia was an influencer. Rather than looking at this person as another client, I saw her as a friend; someone who admired what I did and took the initiative to reach out to me in hopes of working with me. She was willing to make the connection with me on social media and make herself available for my benefit. Let that sink in. Talk about an overwhelming sense of peace!

Julia opened the door for me to see photography as a way to connect people together rather than keeping people siloed as individual clients. Not to mention that Julia didn’t have any preconceived expectations—she just wanted to work with me. I felt an overwhelming sense of calmness come over me during that photo session. I didn’t feel like I was racing the clock, trying to fit in all the outfits, with an angry mom over my shoulder trying to get her daughter to smile. We were able to create without limits.

Over the past year, Julia has introduced me to more and more people, including @cassondra_1118, @prestonsaunders and @bobbykenney3, and through those people, I have met even more, like @davidbeckhamphotography, @catashank and @thomasnguyenphoto. The list goes on and on. These people have been influential in my photography journey. These people have helped shaped me into the person I am today. Once I started making these connections with people and seeing how my art, my passion, and my creativity influenced them just as much as they influenced me, something huge came up in my life. Why couldn’t I do the same for others? Why couldn’t I be the one to reach out to others and ask them to do a photo session in hopes of collaboration?

This is not a question of profit; this is a question of passion. I knew in the beginning I was going to have to make a huge time investment into the area of photography that I wanted to pursue. I also knew that the traditional studios invested money in direct mail and Facebook ads in hopes that someone would see them and give them a call. So, why couldn’t I invest like that? But instead of spending money, I would spend time surrounding myself with and photographing the right people. People who lifted my photography on a pedestal, people whom I could make feel special just for them being themselves, not only because they’re paying me. I knew I needed to make a change in the way I perceived my business.

By this time it was the fall of 2018—I was shooting dozens of weddings and had planned trips to LA, Chicago and Toronto. As I visited these places, I began searching on Instagram under the hashtags #ChicagoModels and #TorontoModels in hopes of landing a photoshoot with a local influencer and growing my reach as a professional who was traveling to the area. The purpose of these trips was not to make money up front, it was to invest! I met countless people who looked up to me as a professional photographer and an influencer, just as I did to them. They had a heart and a passion for what they did, just like me.

Coming back to the small town of Chillicothe was no longer a burden. I began to see my city in a whole new light, seeking every opportunity to work with local models and help them in their journey toward becoming an influencer or whatever they aspired to be. I had found my joy again. I booked more paid sessions than I ever thought possible because of continued collaborations with aspiring models and photographers. I had gained recognition on multiple online platforms that exemplified what I knew I was capable of. I was completely overwhelmed with the positivity that flooded my inbox daily. All the negativity that once plagued my business vanished, because people knew that I saw them and I cared about them enough to reach out.

Here I was, a small-town, 28-year-old nobody who had reached out on social media and made connections with people in other states and countries all for the sake of collaboration. I knew I had a chance to use this to further my income by creating a senior influencer program that allowed me to merge both worlds I had created into one. I began contacting some of the professional models I had shot in these cities. I asked them if they would be interested in hosting a photo session meet-up in multiple cities with me and teaching young high school girls about the industry and other inspiring messages. Instead of studio rep programs that only offer a free session or discounts on products to help generate referrals, I created an influencer program that offered highly creative photo shoots and included coaching and guidance from established models and influencers. My goal is to help teach them how to create meaningful content and collaborate with far more than their circle of friends.

The term influencers is used in a completely different context here—the influence that a high school senior can have on another teenager could truly mean the difference of life and death for them. I want the high school seniors who are a part of my team to have such a positive outlook on life that they are willing to go out of their way to reach out to someone else in their time of need, too. That influence that Julia had on me doesn’t have to stop with me—it can extend far beyond me to other models, seniors, photographers and family members. I simply want my creativity and my business to be the vessel for connecting people together.

The way I see it is this: Connection is just another form of creativity. Connections are the lifeblood of my business model and will continue to drive my reach, my awareness, and my revenue. My willingness to connect has allowed me to have true freedom—freedom to help others, freedom to inspire others, freedom from the opinions of others. If you are struggling with the same things that I fought for so long, take one step toward connecting with others in collaboration. You won’t regret it.

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To read the full article, launch the digital version of the July 2019 magazine.

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