It’s a well-known fact that we adore ALL of our Plann’rs…. Whether they’re just starting their business journey, or have been at it for years, have 10 followers or one million. But, every now and again, we come across one of our community members who truly leaves us starstruck.
KT Merry is most definitely one of those people! Starting off as an assistant for fashion photographers, she has built one of the most illustrious portfolios in the industry. As a luxury destination photographer, she has captured the weddings of some of the biggest names in the world, from Kate Upton to Lea Michele. And, it’s not hard to see why she’s developed a stellar reputation as Hollywood’s wedding photographer of choice — her work is nothing short of magical.
Just in case all of that wasn’t impressive enough, KT is also an accomplished wildlife photographer and conservationist, and has a successful suite of digital products including presets and courses. Honestly… is there anything this woman can’t do?
We had the pleasure of sitting down with KT to chat about how you can use social media (and Plann!) to build a prestigious brand around your creative business. You can read our interview below
Prefer to watch and learn? Check out our workshop with KT Merry below:
“Most people don’t know I actually did not want to be a wedding photographer, that was never my intention. And my journey started really far from the luxury market that I serve today.
I’m from a small town in Northern Nevada and started out as a wrangler. I won a photography competition in high school and ended up doing a state competition. Then a national competition that won me a photography scholarship that took me out of that Nevada town and kind of on the path to being a photographer. So, I went to school for photography in Massachusetts, and as I mentioned, I had no desire to be a wedding photographer. Back then, weddings were not the creative events that they are now. Back then, it was much more white tablecloths and church basements.
So, I dove into being a fashion photographer and worked for fashion photographers for about five years as a photographer’s assistant. That meant hauling equipment around… and really breaking my way into an industry that at the time — and honestly still is — very male-dominated and spent a lot of time learning from the fashion photographers that I worked for and learned a ton and got that education of traveling all over the world. Eventually, that transitioned to weddings, after about five years into shooting or working for fashion photographers. That’s right around when blogs began and we really started to see the shift in the industry.
And I have now been in the wedding industry for about 14 years shooting luxury events all over the world. As weddings grew, my business did as well. And I’ve had the pleasure of being featured and working with a lot of publications through the years and always continuously also shooting editorial, as well as shooting for brands and bridal designers. And so that is something that’s really helped me through the years to really continue to step into that luxury market and set my work apart.”
Bringing art and business together
“One of the things that I think is really important for all creatives — whether you’re just starting in photography or are years in —is to understand that art and business aren’t at odds. In fact, they can truly thrive together. I think when we kind of bring these things together and bring some of that structure, it allows our creativity to really flourish.”
Creating a client experience
“Something that I refine year after year is the client experience. So it’s really about not only being obsessed with the work that you’re creating, but also being obsessed with the customers that you’re serving. So whether you’re shooting a landscape that’s going to be hung in somebody’s home, or you are shooting a portrait session or a wedding… those photos are going to last them a long time. It’s really important year after year to keep questioning, how can I be better? How can I serve more? What can I do?”
Using a white glove approach
“I think it’s really important to operate as a luxury business, regardless of your market. And that just means a refined and luxury approach, also known as white glove approach. Whether you are a five-star restaurant or you are a takeaway counter, that good customer service, —somebody seeing you and really taking time and attention towards you— and really going above and beyond is something that we all always appreciate.
What that looks like for me is to do custom proposals over packages. This is just a way to tailor things directly to clients and really become a master of communication. We have to invite people into our vision and really get them on board to understand why we want them to dress a certain way, or we need to shoot at a certain time or in the moment to really get them to relax and disarm and really become vulnerable in front of the camera. All of these things can be helped through masterful communication. Face time is really important, too. So especially during this time, we’ve all been so separated. Getting on Zoom in front of customers and really connect with them one-to-one, is really, really important.”
Overdelivering and overpreparing
“Ultimately, always come back to serve, serve, serve. How can you anticipate their needs? How can you continually over-deliver and go that extra mile? When you have that approach —not only with your work but also the client experience — it’s when you bring those two things together that you really, create something special. And one of the really practical ways that I do this is to be over-prepared. I am a military BRAT, and I think you can never be too prepared or over-informed.”
Marketing to the work you want to manifest
“I always think it’s important to really be able to show what you want to shoot or want to attract. People want to see what they’re buying. So if you are wondering how you can get that work, we have to start showing it to them. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg scenario.
So, if you want to shoot in Bali, then you better have photos that look like you’ve shot in Bali. And of course, we’re not going to have you misrepresent. But, you can absolutely have things that have that same vibe and same feeling that will really resonate with the client that is looking to create that same thing in that location.”
Systemizing your business
“As my business has grown, this foundation has become really increasingly important for me. Systems and processes help you get there faster. I know that we all got into a creative life to not have guardrails and structure, but it’s ironic. The more structure you have, the more you can embrace being creative. It will not only save you time, but it will also save you money and energy because you’re not recreating everything you do every single time. So looking at the types of things that you might do over and over, where can we create a process around that?
It also means planning ahead for the growth that you’re going to have. So I know I did I what most of us do and just dove in and…. and before you know it, you’re shooting 35, 40 weddings a year. Put these systems in place now and allow that growth to happen and never hit that burnout or that crisis where you have that, ‘Oh my gosh, we need to overhaul everything now’ So some of my favorite tools for systemizing in my business are a CRM.”
Creating a content strategy
“So we definitely have [content] buckets in place for each of our brands’ social and Instagram accounts. So, for example, we have our passion project Render Loyalty, which is focused on conservation and wildlife. And we sell fine art prints that donate back to the conservancies where we photographed them. So, our different buckets might include behind the scenes, something about elephants, something about conservation, something showing the product in a frame. And so this is really easy for my content manager to go ahead and fill those slots to put the caption in.
It’s a really great way to make sure we’re getting the most bang for our buck with every post. And I love, love, love [Plann’s features] because we can go ahead and set it up and get that first comment already in there. And so it’s great for my busy team when someone’s out of the office to be able to set up the schedule of these things.”
Ready to start growing a online portfolio like KT’s? Plann has all the content creation and scheduling tools you need to build a beautiful and aspirational brand around your creative business. Log in or start your free trial to take it for a spin.