Internationally acclaimed and Licensed Artist, Storyteller, Writer, Designer and Master Photographer Larry Hersberger lives and creates in Thomasville, NC.
His knowledge, raw creative talent, unique vision, and style has led to a brand of art previously unknown in the art world. His art has been selected for the prestigious PPA IPC Loan Collection Book. Mr. Hersberger has earned his degree of Master Photographer from the Professional Photographers Association of America and has been featured in their magazine as an honored cover artist.
What speaking engagements have you had during this last year?
I’ve been teaching a lot. The last two years I’ve done 14 or 15 private three day workshops throughout 15 cities. I also did a mini-tour with 10 cities in 21 days that were evening workshops. The focus of what I do and what I teach is two fold; the art and business of Santa photography and fine art portraiture. Those are my two fortes in the photography industry.
How would you describe the art of Magical Santa photography?
It’s nostalgic, vintage Christmas art. It’s hard to describe because it’s done in a vintage yet over saturated way. It’s a phrase I’ve coined. Prior to “Magical Santa Photography,” there was none. There was only Santa mall photography and that day at your studio where you bring in as many kids as you can and they sit on Santa’s knee. I changed all that. What I did is I looked at Santa as nostalgic Americana folklore. I don’t see him as a goofy whimsical, ho ho ho mall Santa. He’s not that to me. He’s a majestic, mythical figure.
When I think of that in those terms the only thing I could think of was, “This has to be fine art. It’s got to be breathtaking.” There’s a market for it. I’m a retailer. Photographer should think of themselves as retailers because they really are. And what stronger time of the year than Christmas? Create a beautiful elegant fine art product; package it, merchandise it, market it, and sell it properly. That puts you with all of the other retailers in the world.
So how is the business of Santa photography unique? How does it differ from fine art portraiture?
A lot of people expect it to be different but it isn’t. I’m the only photographer that I know in the world that does Santa portraiture every month of the year. People tend to think that Santa artwork is for Christmas because it’s part of a Christmas experience. That’s not the way I think.
The artwork itself is more about the correct size of the child. If the child is going to be too big for the photo in December it needs to be taken earlier. If that size and age is in June then you should photograph that session in June. The art you’re going to make from it is going to last for generations. It’s going to last Christmas after Christmas. It’s an investment.
You don’t have to rationalize it to the kids. They just want to see Santa. You have to rationalize it to the parents. Once I explain to the parents what I do and why I do it they’re like, “Oh, this is really different. That makes sense.” They’ll book any time. If somebody wanted a stunning portrait of their grandmother that had nothing to do with Santa and the best time for her to do it would be when she’s visiting in July, then I would do it in July. I wouldn’t wait until Christmas.
I view this as all the other fine art work I do. It’s an option on the table and there are reasons to do it in every month and we’re set up to do it all the time. To me fine art is fine art, it doesn’t matter what the subject matter is. And as far as what it can do for your business, as long as a photographer follows my systems I can take them from doing zero to six digits in one year.
Are the elements of what you teach applicable to more than just Santa?
Every single one. I’m a big systems person. I believe that to do a business properly there should be systems that are functioning with each other that link to create a master system.
The system of lighting that I do for my Santa work works for any type of multiple person story telling photography. The system of communicating with children works for communicating with any child, whether it’s a fine art portrait of a child or for Santa. The digital process works with many different styles of photography. The products, merchandising, marketing, and sales systems works for everything. I teach a system that someone could implement into their studio and get immediate success. I put a simple sales, merchandising, communication, and product system into a studio that they can that repeat over and over. Then they can go into every one of those sessions and be confident.
Photographers are generally creative thinkers. Because they’re more creative than analytical they often struggle with the sales and marketing piece. If they don’t have a system that means that they are going in blind to every one of their consultation and sales sessions. They are going in blind and the anxiety overtakes them and they don’t know what to do. Imagine how that affects their income.
What would you say was the single greatest resource for you as a developing photographer and sales person?
My clients. Your clients will tell you exactly what they like and what they don’t like. It just depends on whether or not you’re listening. At the end of the day the clients look to your for what’s new. Don’t try to force the same things down their throats after they’ve told you they don’t want it. Clients want whats fresh. If it’s not fresh then they’re going to go somewhere else.
The world changes. A lot of the time we get stuck trying to learn how to do something really, really well. It works really well for about five years. Then you try to do it for five more but the world has moved on. Maybe technology has changed, maybe it’s a generational thing, maybe it’s colors, maybe it’s fashion. If you don’t succeed after that five years it means you’re not listening.
What is one tip that will help someone in their photography?
Systems, systems, systems. Systematize your business. I’m half artist and half business person. I believe you should have a clear understanding of your product, how your art fits into that product, and how to market and sell that product.
You need to look at your business as a business. You also have to understand what is your brand. If you don’t have a clear picture of what your brand is you’re going to be going forward gray. How can you expect to be noticed in a whole bunch of gray matter? There’s so many photographers now… or at least people with cameras. I call it gray noise. If you don’t have a clear identity and brand. You’re going to fall into that gray. How can you be seen? As soon as you understand your brand you can raise that flag up and your brand will stand out.
So how do you develop your brand?
So what problem does having a system solve?
It will solve all your problems. A systematic approach to the whole business accounts for every move you and your clients make before you ever even talk to them.
Your communication system takes into account how you communicate through them with them through all of the senses. How you communicate to them when you meet them with body language, visual, audio, your studio, everything.
Understanding what your power positions are in your business and how you set them up correctly. Set them up to buy exactly what you want to sell. There is a system to all of that. One of the products I have in our Magical Life that I sell is how to put a sales system into a studio. It’s really how to put a sales system into anything for that matter. It’s very, very, clear. It articulates every thing in your business as system, and they’re all linked together. Once it’s all set up you’re just a player in your system. It takes so much of the pressure off. The better that you refine your system and the better you get at it the better your machine works.
It also eliminates so much fear and enables you to move with confidence. Its easy to see how that can happen. When things are unorganized and an absolute mess in your life, how can you be confident?
Mr. Hersberger is known as an innovator and educator in the global photographic art community and is followed by thousands worldwide. He has lectured on the topic of art and photography for professional organizations around the world. He has educated thousands of artists via his own private workshops, his online platform, and professional organizations. This has allowed Mr. Hersberger to reach an astounding global audience. He has been a panel adviser with SURTEX in NYC.