The members of France Photographers are good friends and a great team.
Sara France spent years making a name for herself as a photographer in the wedding industry before she created France Photographers. Combining her love of travel and photography with her deep personal beliefs around empowering women in business, Sara designed a groundbreaking business model for professional photographers. In 2014, Sara brought together a team of all-female photographers; the result is a beautiful blend of creative minds and a true team of innovative equals. With offices in San Diego, Austin and Hawaii, France Photographers has successfully redefined the landscape of the wedding photography business.
Meet the brains behind the business model: Sara France is an award-winning wedding photographer and a frequent speaker and presenter at international photography conferences. Notably, she has spoken at WPPI and the Palm Springs Photo Festival. She has presented on stage for Apple and is well known as a Sony Artisan. Her style is described as “passionate and alive,” and the same can be said for her business savvy. This down-to-earth entrepreneur is all about teamwork. “The business is not about me. The business is about a team of amazing photographers who work together and consistently push each other’s creativity and growth as artists,” she says. Her innovation in creating this business model is genius for entrepreneurs and clients alike. Sara is a self-taught, self-proclaimed gearhead with the heart of an artist. With more than 15 years in the notoriously cut-throat wedding industry, she has paved a new way for the business world while maintaining the personal client experience that defines her brand.
Most wedding photography businesses consist of the single shooter/second shooter approach, so having a collective is a unique concept. Sara made a conscious business decision for this type of expansion, so it was much more than a necessity of outsourcing and delegation. And finding the perfect fit for her California team came naturally. “I recognized talent. I recognized passion for photography. In these women, I saw an entrepreneurial spirit, a drive, an open heart and the ability to see that we are better together,” she says. France Photographers created its home base in San Diego as the team of Sara, Jessica Van and Rachel Jay. Sara says: “Together, we can each focus on what we do best. That may be creating a social media calendar, vendor relationships, email marketing, website building, financials, operations, editing or client communication.” After much success, France Photographers opened an office in Austin, Texas, with a second team of photographers. Kiera Jane and Mikenzie Ryan have helped expand to the southwest as business continued to grow. And now, this spring, a new office will be opening in Honolulu, Hawaii.
When opportunities arise, it helps to be open-minded and forward thinking; these attributes welcome change. Sara describes how the Hawaii office is the perfect example of true business team support: After military orders came in with a transfer for Rachel’s family, there was no question as to the next step for France Photographers. “We are so dedicated to this team. We support Rachel with this transition as she relocates to Hawaii and opens a France Photographers in Honolulu. We have business meetings to discuss strategy and timeline; she’ll be keeping her eye out for the right photographer to join the team there, but she’s already hit the ground running. She’s making her vision happen, and it’s amazing to witness.” Sara is a successful businesswoman in the truest sense, and she’s determined to see her equals thrive: “That’s what we do. We support each other and, by doing that, we make our business even better.”
A creative and cohesive workplace helps build a successful business, and France Photographers is a thriving example of a wedding photography business. Managing teams of photographers that are hundreds of miles (and an ocean) apart might prove challenging. But technology makes this work easy. Sara describes managing the business end of things: “I have team meetings every week with each team. We’ll have an outline of items to discuss, as well as anything that the team needs to talk about. I have quarterly meet-ups with each photographer one on one (in person or over Skype, depending on if I’m in their town). I’m able to really connect with each of them at these times. We also have meetings that might just involve two of the team members talking about the social media plan for San Diego, the website for Austin or the transition to Hawaii. This way, no one is wasting time in a meeting that doesn’t relate to what they need to work on.”
Efficiency makes for a streamlined business and grateful clients. Sara was happy to share some insightful behind-the-scenes details about running the business. She says, “Leading up to the wedding, tasks are delegated by the wedding photographer hired for each wedding. ShootQ is a lifesaver for us with this. We’re able to keep all of our accounts separate but also see specific details for all of us as a whole. At a glance, everyone can see each photographer’s lead, the financials and where each client is in the workflow. We have an agreed-upon editing style, and we all edit based on that style. The clients get the images based on our workflow and timeline. We work with ShootDotEdit to help us with our post-production. They help us maintain consistency, and their style match has been such an asset, especially during a busy wedding season.” Keeping up with the latest technology and camera gear isn’t just necessary for a cutting-edge business but also serves as inspiration for a visionary artist. “I switched to Sony last year, and I have been so inspired by the technology,” Sara says. “I love sharing that with the team and watching them get inspired by the low-light capabilities or creating new angles with the flexible screen, as well as feeling confident in what they’re shooting because of the digital viewfinders. It’s been an inspiring change, for sure.”
This co-op style business model is a benefit to wedding photographers in the industry, and Sara France can often be found speaking at photography conferences to share her knowledge with other professionals. “I truly see this as the future of wedding photography. It’s unrealistic that one person excels at everything: photography, design, sales, business management, social media, writing, editor, travel agent and CFO.” This is a truth that every self-employed professional photographer knows. With France Photographers, each artist contributes their own strengths, which benefits the whole. “This means there are more people thinking about new ways to bring in revenue, more people meeting new contacts, more content on the blog to feature and more weddings at any particular venue. The list of benefits goes on and on,” she says. So, how can the photography industry bridge this gap between the old and new ways of doing business? “Most importantly, the team has to be completely committed to our business (not just shooting for France Photographers on the side when we book them jobs). This allows all of us to be working towards the same goal. Secondly, each photographer prices themselves at what they (and we) feel they are worth. This is an extremely different approach, which provides more jobs based on different price points and is a huge benefit to clients.”
This team approach is met with great response by clients who hire a France Photographer for their wedding day. There are so many advantages, and not just the additional support that a team offers the client. “We’re able to offer more because of our team. The client has more options with choice of photographer and pricing. In addition, our clients know that they have a supportive team behind them, so they have nothing to worry about.” What more can a wedding client ask for? It’s their big day, and they want it to be perfect. “They know that even if their photographer happens to get sick, they have a team that is trained and capable of helping before, during and after the wedding. No matter the situation, they will be taken care of. Clients also love that we are friends and love working together.” Being surrounded by artists is good for the spirit and great for business, she says. “Being part of a community where you can be open and vulnerable is so freeing. We’re always taking the opportunity to try new things, discover new technology and learn from each other.”
As innovative businesswomen, they follow the needs of their team. As intuitive photographers, they follow the needs of their clients. This is the true power of a team; it can be found in creating a safe place to inspire and support other female photographers. Understanding the challenges of today’s businesswoman and being able to provide support in the way they need is part of why Sara created France Photographers. “We lean into the strengths that we are naturally born with, and we build the perfect workspace that creates freedom for everyone,” she says. This is the future. This is the business of photography.
Learn more: francephotographers.com