Guest Interview with Christine Michaelis

Jul 21, 2023 | Business Guest

“Show Notes”

‘This week we talk to Christine about what it’s like being in front of the lens and
how she uses her photographs.

Christine, Marketing and Creative Start-Up Coach, founder of the Creative Start-
Up Academy
, author of multiple books, public speaker, podcaster and workshop.
facilitator. She has worked in marketing and advertising for more than 12 years
before she decided to start her own business supporting start-ups. With her
hands-on approach, she has helped hundreds of individuals validate their business
idea and create a successful start-up as well as working with small businesses
supporting them getting clarity and marketing their business. She sees
entrepreneurship as a way of life and loves the passion that comes from working in
that industry.

Christine regularly has photo shoots to get more images and is always using
photographs on her website, in her marketing and on social media. For Christine,
what separates different photographers is their attention to detail and the way they
react and talk to the sitters. Preferring a natural look Michelle and Marcus discuss
different styles and trends in headshot photography.

We discuss how the client needs to brief the photographer about where the
images are going to be used and what look they want. But equally many clients
need help expressing this and it’s the photographers job to help them do this.
Client using a range of clothing on a shoot helps to get a variety of shots, and that
means it looks like they were shot on different days in different locations.
Reminiscing on a shoot she did with her own photographer, Christine discusses
how the client has to be clear in their aims but acknowledged that it is a two way
process, as the photographer is the specialist. Christine feels very confident in
front of the camera but still really believes spending time with the photographer
before the shoot helps build the “bond”. We go on to discuss retouching in
particular filters and how far you go with the retouch i.e over-smoothing and
loosing authenticity.

Christine works with a lot of start up creatives and offered up the following advice

for those starting out in the business:

Don’t be overwhelmed by the amount of competition.
The importance of having a style
Trust is very important and this needs to be combined with a strong connection
Build an appropriate photographic portf
Be clear with what you offer
Network with other photographers. You will gain insights, gain friends and gain
work. Photographers may need second shooters that they know and trust. And
they may have referrals. Dates they can;t make or leads who are the wrong fit for
them, but could be perfect for you.

You can find more about Christine here:

https: /

“Show Transcription”

Marcus: Hi there, Sam. How you doing?

Sam: Very good, Marcus. How are you?

Marcus: Yeah, very well. The sun is shining. Works coming in. What more can I say? Thank you very much. Okay, on today’s show, we’ve got a guest who is super exciting. I hope you’re going to love her as much as we do. Her name is Christine and she’s from the Creative Startup Academy. Christine, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Christine: Hello everyone. Thank you, Marcus. Hello Sam. Again, lovely to be here. Thank you for the invitation and hello everyone who is listening. So I’m Christine, I have found of the Creative Startup Academy. I started my entrepreneurial journey about eleven years ago. Before that I was working marketing and design agencies and now I’m supporting entrepreneurs on their startup journey to create successful businesses around the globe with my Creative Startup Academy. And that’s me in a nutshell. There’s lots more to talk about me, obviously, because I’m an extremely interesting person. However, to give a quick introduction, that’s me.

Marcus: Thank you. Thanks, Christine.

Sam: So Christine, I guess we’re a podcast about photography, so we’re going to talk a little bit about photography. So I understand you’ve kind of got a wide range of experience of working with photographers in all sorts of different places and roles.

Christine: Yes, I do actually. Of course, apart from taking passport pictures, which is probably not what we’re going to talk about today, is that when I used to work and was employed, let’s say I’m still working, of course, having my own business. But when I was employed, we had photographers that were taking headshots of me and they were very different to the photo shootings I do these days because I’ve worked with a range of photographers that are friends and not friends. And these friends that I’m talking about were professional photographers that were taking and are taking pictures of myself. I was in studios, I was outside, I was in nature and still am. And these days, I have to say I travel a lot and my fiance is obsessed with taking pictures for me and of me. So everywhere we go turns into a photo shooting until I say, okay, enough, I don’t want anymore because every time we go somewhere, within a week I have about, I don’t know, 1000 pictures that I actually can use also for all kind of purposes. So it depends and I guess that’s what we’re going to talk about as well, what the purpose is. Why do you take these actually? Are these for social media profiles? Are these for social media posts? Are these for the website? What is it all for? And yeah, so interesting how they are all a bit different as well, depending on if, you know, the person or not.

Sam: So do you want to talk about a little bit about working with the professional photographers when you were working, a little bit about how you found that any interesting stories you got working with them or sort of things you liked working with them, things you didn’t like, things like that?

Christine: Yeah, I can for sure. So when there were headshots done, also when I was employed, or still already were not employed, but had my own business, but working for universities, for example, they had their photographer, I have to say, there’s not as much attention to detail, maybe because they’re more like mass photography. And you could see, for example, in one photo, my earring was not in my ear but in my hair. And I was like, oh, you shouldn’t have seen that. You can’t use that. Apart from that, really, not at the university, but other ones, like I said, when I was employed, the typical pose, I don’t know, I mean, I’m not an expert. You were Marcus Moore in the photography world as well, of course, but the typical, okay, a bit from above to have the headshot done, looking up and the head tilted like this and that, It was a very unnatural way to take the picture. There was no warming up. There was, okay, look into the camera, I’m here on a little ladder, look up, I’m going to take a picture of you. Smile. No, don’t show your teeth. And yeah, that’s it, without even using a picture or something afterwards or saying, okay, I see. Can we do another one? Because in this case, I wasn’t the one that paid them, but my boss was and they didn’t care too much about what I wanted to say. That wasn’t the nicest experience, let’s say, because it was without warming up, just okay, because he had to get done like 40 people in a row.

Sam: Interesting what you thought of the photo afterwards, because my suspicion is you wouldn’t like it and you knew you wouldn’t like it as soon as it was taken.

Christine: Well, I didn’t know that I didn’t like it. However, I knew, okay, who knows what this going to be? And when I saw it, I didn’t like it as well. And I wouldn’t like it these days either, because it was very unnatural. Also very corporate with the suit jacket and things like that, which I wouldn’t necessarily dress anymore, but that’s just of the nature of my business now. Of course, when you employ, you have to fit that image of that company and that’s okay. And then they put all the pictures of the people in the frame and in the entrance of the agents, and I was like, no, but that’s okay.

Marcus: Yes, I think that style of photography shooting down or being an Al adds or whatever, it seems to me to be very dated, even though it wasn’t a long time ago. And it’s amazing how headshot photography. Profile photography has moved on so much in these last few years, really. And when I tend to shoot profile photos, I always tend to shoot lower down. So you’re below the subject and that gives the subject a lot more gravitas, makes them look a lot more like an authority figure. Certainly shooting down on people diminishes the effect. And I agree that is more of a modern style. So yeah, it’s interesting to hear from your experience there, Christine. Very interesting.

Christine: I mean, it is a long time ago, of course, but like you say, things moved on and also I moved on. I do have to say I do know my photogenic site, which is my left side. I do not like being taken from my right side or front on, which is sometimes a bit difficult when you have to there’s a few pictures that come out and maybe just one is enough, for example, for a LinkedIn profile or something that then I like from the front and stuff like this. For me it’s also difficult if a photographer tells me no, I want you on this side and I say no, believe me, I do not want this and pushed  into if it’s not your decision and you’re not paying the person, I will take the picture on this side. So that’s also a bit of a moving on to when I started my business and I had to obviously get some pictures done for my website, for maybe freshing up on social media and on profile pictures and things like that. Luckily enough, my best friend was a photographer back then she specialized on wedding photography. But of course she knows about photography and she was all about the documentary style. When we talk about photography in the wedding world as well, but also more natural, not staged too much kind of pictures. Of course we did some poses because I knew I’m going to need those FAQ section, I wanted to have a questioning phase, things like that. But that’s also the thing you as the person who is photographed, need to know what you actually want the pictures for because I think it’s impossible for the photographer to take the right pictures and make you happy as a client if you are not precise with your briefing. Like in everything in businesses the same, if you building websites or a logo, get a logo done or something, if you don’t give a good briefing, then you will not get the results you want. So in that case, we already had somethings I knew, okay, I need them in portrait and I need them in landscape. I need them in this resolution and I want them in these kind of situations with these kind of poses and I want to use them for the following. So in this case, obviously she knew how much she needs to have around me to be able to crop in later on. If I wanted how much of my body will be shown if it’s black and white or color. So we had a mix of things also for presentations I was using and are still using. Not these photos anymore because hat’s eleven years ago. I’ve changed and my hair longer and everything and grayer, however, so that was completely different experience. First of all, because she was my friend, so I was completely natural. She made me laugh and she took pictures while I was laughing from the heart and the belly instead of the smile for the picture. So I’m quite good at posing now. That’s okay. However that was extremely different to any other experience I had before and we were doing everything outside and that was interesting as well because obviously people were walking by. Luckily enough I’m a very confident person, I don’t mind what people care about me when they walk by. I do a lot of filming outside as well. Also if I have hundreds of people around me that want to see doing, I luckily don’t care too much what’s interesting and what’s also happened here now, while some in Italy and doing new pictures, of course I took a lot of clothing with me to have. Not just, like, five pictures in the same clothing in different kind of poses. But we had the car full of clothes, different tops, different dresses and everything, and I was changing. So I was doing all kind of poses with all kind of backgrounds. Outside we found a lovely colored wall or we found a nice green bush and stuff where we took the pictures but then I had to change the clothes and we were for example the colored wall was on a super busy roundabout here where I live.

Sam: Oh, wow.

Christine: How do you change there without everyone just stopping on the roundabout doing accidents? Of course, seeing a half naked lady getting dressed for the photo shoot. Well, we tried to hide a bit behind the car door and photographer, in this case, my fiance, was holding up like a towel. So I can actually change. And I have to say, in this day we had about three or 4 hours with five different locations and we shot about 800 pictures that I’m

Sam: wow.

Christine: So very productive. But because we both were prepared we both knew exactly what we’re doing, you can also have a day and get one photo out of that so I think that all depends on the preparation.

Sam: Yeah. So that’s interesting, because last, a couple of weeks ago, we were talking to somebody, and she was talking about the photographer preparing. But yeah, we haven’t actually talked so much about actually as a subject that you need to prepare, like you say, both for thinking about clothes, thinking about what you actually want out of it. Because if you go to a photographer and you don’t tell them what you want, they’re not a mind reader. If you don’t like any of the photos, that’d be one thing but you’ve got to tell them what you want or where do they start? You’re making it impossible for them. You’re sort of going to lose before you begin

Christine: sorry, I just wanted to answer that because I want to put that responsibility on the photographer, though, because most people do not know how to breathe the photographer and the photographer needs to tell them, I need to know where you want to use this for. The photographer needs to may be educate most of their clients. Okay. If you want to use it for social media, you probably need it in this in that format because someone else these days, the world is a selfie world. Everyone usually takes pictures on their phone in portray mode in a strange angle, and you can see that they hold it with their hand instead of having a light and a tripod or something like that. And I think people will see that also. If that person thinks, oh no, that’s good enough, I’m going to use that and having podcasts myself or other things where I ask people for photographs, this is a real challenge sometimes. And I explain to them it needs to have space around you because it needs to fit in that frame and that layout. And if you don’t have the space, then it will cut off your hat or don’t have people around you because I won’t have the okay to use that afterwards if there’s other people on there. So for me, I would like to play that back and say, please, every photographer, prepare something and be prepared that people won’t read what you send them.

Sam: Yeah,

Christine: people never read what they

Sam: no, they don’t.

Marcus: It’s interesting, as you said, we were discussing this with Charlotte when we this idea about how the photographer works with the client. You also mentioned there, Christine, about the photographers not listening. And I want back in the day when you had your first photo shoot and then you went to a documentary type wedding photographer and you had a much more empathic approach to it. And it’s interesting to me, I wonder people get very worried about being photographed, I mean, to the point of being very anxious about having a photo shoot and don’t like having their photos taken. And I do wonder if that’s where that idea has stemmed from, where basically photographers did not listen in the early days.

Christine: I think so, yes, a lot has to do with that and then a lot of confidence. Of course, if people don’t like themselves in pictures because maybe they didn’t have a good picture taken, because I’ve met so many photographers that really say, okay, you get two pictures, and they didn’t work with me. But if I meet them in networking event. Okay, if you want a portrait of yourself and you get two pictures for me and you will love them, but they spend half a day atleast with them because you warm up, you talk, you explain things, you show maybe pictures in between. You ask for feedback whilst you I would assume whilst you take the pictures and then the end result will be great, I think. Another thing I would like to touch on and that would be interesting to hear from you as well is the retouching bit afterwards. So I had, for example, a picture taken at the university and I had a cold sore on my lips which looked awful and red. And I said but we had to take the picture on that day because of photographer books  for that day. And I say if you can just this little bit, can you make this PN less red in the picture? Oh yeah, I will. Never did. Okay, didn’t bother. I didn’t use the picture. But anyway, I’m not a massive fan of getting retouched a lot or something afterwards and I don’t know what the norm is. I know retouchers, do some retouchers. The photographer does some retouching probably for the lightning and sweat and complexion and things like that. And if you have a specific style, if we’re talking about weddings, I know about this because like I said, my friend is the Wedding photographer. You have a specific style, you put a specific preset and filter, let’s call it on top so it fits that if that’s what you do and that’s what the client wants. But yeah, I would be interesting to hear what you think about retouching the picture and how much is in there. And I’ve seen lately as well on TV somewhere where they retouch extremely person like a TikTok  filter or something so you look completely like a different person and they ask the people and the people say, oh yeah, that’s a nice picture. So I’m more of being authentic and looking real in the picture. But I don’t know what your thoughts on this?

Marcus: It’s a great question and it’s a great debate and it’s a debate that’s been going on for a long time within photography. I mean the first photography was invented in the 1850sand the first retux photograph came out in 1854.So it’s been going on for a long time. It’s a conversation that you have to have with appliance and we’re talking here about commercial business photography and really you mentioned the word authentic and that’s paramount. So heavy retouching really should not be encouraged. But removing an OD Blemish that might be this a temporary blemish is certainly something the photographers be open to doing situation you had indeed. Maybe just to move on. Christine, obviously your specialization is working with startups, creative startups. Maybe you can just give us a few tips for our listeners out there, something that you can give us an overview, one or two things that would be a great advice for photographers starting out in the industry.

Christine: Well, one thing is don’t be discouraged that there’s photographers out there. I mean that’s for everyone that wants to make themselves self employed who wants to start their own business, they say. But there’s so many out there. Finding your style and having a personality, I think, is important, not only on the pictures, okay, I’m using this preset, or I do this, and we’re talking about niche as well. Of course you can specialize in portraits. You can specialize in a documentary style, in landscape photography, in animal photography, in pregnancy, in whatever. However, I think one of the main things is people want to have a photographer they can connect with and trust. So most people I know, and also me, I would not book someone that I have not met before and just saw online. I would want to start building a connection and a relationship with that person. This way also your clients will be much more relaxed when you take the pictures because they know you and you know them, and then building a personality for yourself.

Sam: So business networking, which we talked about before, is a really good place. Then you’re thinking for photographers, so those connections can be built

Christine: for sure. And then, of course, having a portfolio, because one thing is the photographer and the person to connect with, but the other one is to see what they actually do. And then the client will decide with their gut. They’re not going to decide. Oh, he’s having ten years experience, but if I don’t like the style, I will not book that photographer. So these are two main things, building your portfolio and even if you take pictures of your family, if they let you, to have something on your website if you want and get that done. And I think a lot of depending on the industry that you want to go into, like fairs work really well as well, where people meet you,

Sam: kind of networking, call it

Christine:  for sure. And then another thing I would really recommend is networking with other photographers because a lot of referrals will come from them if they don’t have time or if they think they’re not a good fit and they know you, they will refer to you. Especially, of course, I’m talking about Wedding, for example. Again, that was really well there. If they need a second shooter or if they can’t because they’re already booked for the date, they will refer you. And I think that’s for all photographers as well. So build a network, of course, where you meet potential clients, build your personality, but also network with other photographers to be in their mind so that referrals might come from there and you might find great groups and you might meet up from time to time as well. You all have the same challenges. You have new technology, new things to talk about. And build up your portfolio even if you don’t get paid for it, but even with friends and family, so that people understand your style and what you’re for and be precise on what you want to offer. So I had a call the other day, for example, with someone that said, I want to go into this documentary style and all authentic and just in the moment taking the pictures. And then he was telling me, oh, I have the studio here where people pose. And I was like, but how?

Marcus: Yes.

Christine: it does not match. Because he then said in the same sentence, oh, I want to get them here in my studio. I said, no, but it’s great if you want to do studio photographer, do that. But if you want to go into that direction that doesn’t match, you don’t need your studio, these kind of things. So don’t be clear in your message and in your style. Build a portfolio, build a network with photographers and potential clients.

Marcus: That’s brilliant advice there, Christine. Brilliant advice. And presumably, obviously, you mentioned you work with quite a lot of photographers. And what I’ll do is I’ll put your details in the show notes so our listeners can get in touch with if they need some help.

Christine: Yes, I’m always happy to connect and have a chat. People can connect with me on LinkedIn anyway and checkout what I’m doing and the photographs I have.

Sam: Amazing. That’s brilliant. And Mark talking about people connecting. We also have the Shoot To The Top newsletter that people can sign up to so they can go to website for photographers. That’s with the number four forward slash podcast. You can sign up to the newsletter there and you’ll get the podcast sent to your inbox. You’ll get transcripts and all sorts of extra goodies information and we talk about coming on the podcast too. So, yeah, go over there, sign up and get the Shoot to the Top podcast. Christine, thank you so much for joining us. It’s been really interesting, really informative. I’m sure our listeners will have learnt an awful lot of stuff. That’s been amazing. Thank you so much.

Christine: Thank you so much for having me.

Marcus:  Thank you. Thank you, Christine. Really appreciate.