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Laura: You hail from the beautiful town of Bendigo. So, tell us a little bit about Bendigo first, which is a country town in Victoria, Australia. What’s it like?
Leah Ladson: Bendigo’s beautiful. I absolutely love it here. I moved here with my mum when we- when I was about thirteen, I think. So I’ve been here for a really long time. and it’s- it’s actually a lot bigger than what most people think. I get a lot of people thinking that it’s a real country town but it’s- it’s a regional city. We’ve got everything that we need here. But still, the beauty of being country … Like if you wanted to go from one side of Bendigo to the other, there’s kind of this rule in Bendigo that everywhere is only 15 minutes away. So … yeah and I actually lived about 20 minutes out of town, so I live in, like, real country. but everything is nice and close. And, yeah.
Laura: You probably take less time than I do to get to my local shops, and they’re technically 10 minutes down the road. Technically.
Leah Ladson: Yeah, absolutely. Yup. So, yeah, even though I live about- I think it’s about 15 kilometers out, it’s straight in and it’s just an easy, beautiful drive. So, yeah, we absolutely love it out here.
Laura: So you’re a photographer. You’re an author. You’re a mentor. You’re a work at home mum. I’m sorry, I’m a little bit exhausted just- and in awe at the same time . So we’re going to talk through the many facets today. But, let’s take a step back and how it all began. So, photography. How did you get into photography in the first place?
Leah Ladson: it sounds so corny, but I really have loved photography from when- as long as I can remember. I remember, being probably around, eight years old and I used to, blink and pretend- pretend like I was taking photos.
Laura: That’s cute .
Leah Ladson: So like … Yeah, I know. It’s like one of my earliest memories. and so from year 10 when I was able to actually study it, I’ve just studied it through school. and then I actually went on to do a degree in graphic design, which I never really utilized. But I majored in photography throughout that degree as well. So …
Laura: So graphic design was more of your, you know, “That’s my safe option” or did you want to do graphic design as well?
Leah Ladson: it was just one of those scenarios where that’s what I kind of liked in high school and so I just went through- I went to uni straight after high school and just did it, and I guess while I was there I realised that I didn’t have a passion for it. and I just- I tried to get a few jobs, like entry level intern jobs in Melbourne when I finished but, the pay was just really crap and I didn’t really want to move to Melbourne, uh, and there was just nothing in Bendigo. So I just never did it. And, yeah, just- it just … I mean, I think it has helped me a lot in my photography business. but yeah. Once- once I finished that degree, I actually went on and did just a certificate in small business. And, I don’t even think I realised back then that how- how- how much it would come in handy or- or that’s what I would be- end up doing. But, yeah. I don’t know.
Laura: And that’s … So being in a regional city, you almost have to create some of the opportunities don’t you? So you, you know … And if you’re in a big city-
Leah Ladson: Yeah absolutely.
Laura: You take it for granted. You’ve got lots of jobs out … Well, used to. Lots of jobs out there.
Leah Ladson: Yeah. Yup. And I think probably for a lot of the creative jobs, there was nothing in Bendigo for graphic design, but also nothing for photography. There’s no studios here as such to go and do an internship or anything like that.
Laura: There is now .
Leah Ladson: Yeah, but like when I was starting, if you wanted to do something, the only real option was to start yourself- start a business yourself.
Laura: Exactly. And- and so that brings us to another point. So you founded Girls from the Go, which is actually helping regional women-
Leah Ladson: Yeah.
Laura: And growing their businesses. So, how important do you think it is … ? You know, you’re in a regional city, you have, a lot of people who have a lot of talent but not a lot of opportunities.
Leah Ladson: Yep.
Laura: How important is it to actually help people start out their business, and- and have that community?
Leah Ladson: It’s so amazing, and I get compliments or comments all the time from, the members of Girls from the Go just saying, “It’s just a common theme that working for yourself is so isolating”. and they just- they’re so glad to be part of something like Girls from the Go that, you know, we get together … There’s no real … it’s not very formal. We catch up probably once a quarter and … But just even that and having the Facebook group to ask people questions and network and stuff, has been priceless for a lot of people. I wish I had something like that when I was starting out because I didn’t really have anything, like that at all so …
Laura: Yeah and friends- You know, friends that aren’t small business owners don’t always get it.
Leah Ladson: No, I don’t think you can get it unless you’ve done it. I just … Yeah. It’s- it’s so much harder than what you can probably explain in words.
Laura: Also more rewarding. But yeah, it’s relentless. So you can never stop thinking about it .
Leah Ladson: No, you’re literally always on. And- and I guess most people, are a sole trader, in Girls from the Go, so you- you’re doing everything. You’re not just- your- whatever your business sells or the product. It’s- it’s literally everything. So, it’s just always juggling.
Laura: Photographers is also mainly sole traders or two people. It’s- it’s … So it’s the same issue with- with our photography community as well. So a lot of people feel quite isolated and it’s you know-
Leah Ladson: Yeah. Yep. That’s it. Yeah. So, it started- Girls from the Go started as a hashtag, uh, just as something a bit funny and cute that I just thought that we could kind of all just, start hashtagging it, and then there’d be that little album of, Bendigo creatives, you know, posting their stuff. And, from that I was just like, “I think that there’s an opportunity to do something here. I’ve got some big plans for it in the future when I have time on my hands,” which I don’t know if that will ever happen. But, I’d love to be able to do networking events and host workshops and have speakers come to town and- and be able to do stuff like that.
Leah Ladson: But for the moment, it’s just kind of a nice little group of, women who are just amazing and support each other and I just … Yeah, I think that, we’ve been able to create this network and intertwined all these beautiful businesses in Bendigo and I think it’s been great for them.
Laura: I think it’s really important. It’s- You know, you need to cut through that isolation. so you also- in terms of vulnerability- So you post a lot of your own vulnerability on your social media, you do lives, you do, you know, photos of yourself, so- which is really admirable. But, h- have you thought … How have you combated with, you know, have you come across any trolls in your- in your social media life or not- not yet?
Leah Ladson: Not once. And I hope I never do because I don’t know how I’ll handle that. But, I’ve got the most supportive and just amazing tribe of people who are following me and genuinely interested in me and what I do. And yeah, it’s really cool actually.
Laura: And you think that that vulnerability has helped you build your community?
Leah Ladson: Yeah I do. Yup. When I first started, I had- I- When I first started, probably the Instagram stories. I had a bit of a rule for myself, and I was like, “I’m not going to post anything personal. I’m just going to keep this strictly business page.” but that rule quickly faded out when I just realised that just business is a bit boring and I actually really love social media and I love being able to get an insight into other people’s lives, the people who I follow. so yeah, I just thought, “I’ll just start sharing a bit more about my life” and, yeah. I think that has played a huge role in, you know, having a great tribe around me because that stuff, I guess they really genuinely care about my life. Like, they know a little bit about my kids, my husband-
Laura: And you’re human at the end of the day, eh? So, you want to humanize as much as possible because it- it does get to that point where, you know, the- there are people playing a bit of a social media game, and I just don’t think that’s the right way to go where people, you know, “do follow for follow”, whatever. .
Leah Ladson: Yeah, yeah. And that’s … Yup. I just- I don’t have time for that, and that’s not what I like myself to see on social media. So I- I really like to see people who talk about family life and juggling stuff and, you know, just all the real stuff because it really is humanizing your brand. And, yeah. I guess that’s- that’s why I’ve done that as well.
Laura: And- and you are juggling. Like you’re- So you’re a work at home mum so you’ve got two daughters. how do you go about work at home? So I’ve had to get my mum to take my children to the park and hope that they don’t come running back .
Leah Ladson: .
Laura: How do you- How do you do it?
Leah Ladson: Well, I’m actually really great at it . hashtag “humble”. I- Yeah, so I wasn’t great at the beginning. obviously I’ve learned some lessons along the way. When I first started out, I was- I think my second, my youngest daughter Audrey would have been three months old, when I really started going for it. And so she- I think my daughter- my oldest was at kinder twice, two days a week, and I had Audrey full time. and that just didn’t work. I was getting really stressed out and, um-
Laura: And a- Well a newborn.
Leah Ladson: Yeah, it was just a yucky feeling.
Leah Ladson: Yeah. And then newborn [inaudible 00:10:23] and everything. So, I don’t know what I was thinking starting a business at that time in my life but who knows. But yeah, so over the years, I have learned to put some really strict rules in place for myself. about- Yeah, probably about two years ago, I wrote down some non-negotiables, for myself. One was that I didn’t want to work nights anymore. The other one was I didn’t want to work weekends unless it was a wedding. and the other one was I’m not going to work when my children are home because it’s not fair on any of us. I was getting annoyed, they were annoyed, so it just wasn’t- it just didn’t work for me. so i just put those rules in place and I follow them really really strictly, and I’ve been …
Leah Ladson: So when Audrey turned one, that’s my youngest daughter, I put her in daycare a couple of days a week. So, I’ve just got really strict separation. So I work Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and that’s my work time, and all the other time, I’m a mum. So …
Laura: And you do. And- Like- And it’s never perfect because obviously child care leads to illnesses, and so you …
Leah Ladson: Yeah. Yup. And, you know, you struggle- you struggle with that and you try and prepare for school holidays, but even when you prepare, it doesn’t always work out the way you want it to, and that sort of thing.
Laura: And that’s what life is, isn’t it? .
Leah Ladson: Yeah. Yup. But for the most part, I don’t work nights anymore because that was- Well, it wasn’t affecting my relationship with my husband, but it wasn’t great, like, to be working every single night. I just wasn’t spending any time with him. So I get to hang out with him at nights now. I have family time on the weekends, I’ve got Mondays and Fridays with my youngest still. my oldest is at school, and yeah. I just- That’s just how it is now, so …
Laura: And I- I think the non-negotiables are really key, because you can get sucked into the whole, you know, being busy or having to- everything depends on you. But that’s not-
Leah Ladson: Yeah. Yup. And everything comes back to your why, and my why, the reason I’m doing this business, is because I wanted to be able to stay home with my kids, while they still like me and want to be around with-
Laura: I know, I’m so fearful of the teenage years.
Leah Ladson: Yeah. Yup. And I- Yeah, and really that was- that was the main reason why I started my business, to be able to be flexible for that. So, when I’ve got lots of shoots coming in and inquiries and stuff, as tempting as it is to say yes, I’ve always just got to remind myself that these years will pass and I don’t want to regret working too much, and not spending that time with my kids. So, as hard as it is to say no to great opportunities, for me at the moment, I’m just wanting to enjoy my kids. And- yeah, like once both of them are at school, I’ll have a bit more time on my hands and be able to do some things, that I want to do. But for the most part now, I just- I’m really happy with the balance that I’ve got.
Laura: There’s, you know, the reality of, you know, some- some evenings or some nights, there is no sleep and then, you know, you just have to keep rolling with the punches.
Leah Ladson: Yeah. Yeah. Yep. That’s it. And for example, I- we went on family holiday last week and I got back and I had four shoots in two days and I had a whole heap of editing to do, so I did work on Sunday, which I just- that’s not something I ever do, but I did, and I’m back on top of things now. And, yeah. It’s not a strict rule in that I’ll never ever do it, but it’s- it’s just there in place so I don’t do it often, I guess.
Laura: and … So, let’s- let’s talk about your business. So in 2008 you shot your first wedding. Was that … ?
Leah Ladson: I did. Yeah.
Laura: And is that when Leah Ladson Photography was born or was it rumbling around before that?
Leah Ladson: sort of. No, that’s when it was born I guess. I- From 2008 to 2012 I just kind of dabbled and it was a hobby. I shot a couple of weddings in that time and mainly just kind of family, friends, kids and that sort of stuff. just- I guess- ‘Cause when I was learning at uni, I was learning on film camera, I was in a dark room processing the photos and stuff like that. So, I guess in those four years I was teaching myself digital and, that sort of thing.
Leah Ladson: And then, when I went on maternity leave with my first daughter, uh, in 2012, that’s when I registered my business name I thing.
Laura: Isn’t it funny that, you know, when you’re in your busiest, that’s when you’re actually compelled to … .
Leah Ladson: Yeah. Yup. I’m- I’m just really not good at not doing anything. so yeah. Maternity leave, even though I ended up only having two weeks, bef- no, before- sorry, when I went from leaving my job to actually having my daughter, I only had, yeah, the two weeks of-
Laura: I did that too, and I was just like, “Oh, if only I knew.” But anyway .
Leah Ladson: Yeah, I know. Hindsight, right? but yeah, I ended up going back to my job when she was about six months old, I just felt immense pressure for my work place to go back, which I really really regret. So when I went on maternity leave with my second daughter in 2015, that’s when I took a full twelve months maternity leave from my job and, I just said to myself, “Give it a real crack. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.” And I haven’t looked back.
Laura: And so, you didn’t go back to your workplace .
Leah Ladson: I didn’t go back. No. Nah.
Laura: That’s great. so naming your photo business. So I know there’s a perpetual debate about, you know, if you want to grow in scale, don’t call it your own personal name, or do call it your own personal name because it’s all about hum- you know, humanizing photography. How did you land with choosing your name?
Leah Ladson: Do you know what? I really would love to be able to think up a really cool name, but that’s not where my creativity lies. I couldn’t think of anything cool, so I was just like, “Leah Ladson, that’ll do. That’s fine”.
Laura: “That’s me.” .
Leah Ladson: Yep. Luckily I’ve got like the, alliteration. I’ve got the double “l”, and I think it does roll off the tongue nicely. But I do often get quite envious of photographers that have really cool business names because I’m like, “Oh, I wish I had something cool like that.”
Laura: It is cool though, because it is- it is you, and so-
Leah Ladson: Yeah, it is me. Yup. And- and yeah. I guess I am my brand too, so, it has worked and I don’t regret anything. but yeah, I do get envious of cool names.
Laura: Do you have any, people shooting with you or is it you’re- you normally are by yourself?
Leah Ladson: I’m usually by myself. Occasionally I do get second shooters in for weddings, and I’ve actually- I’m about to hire a stylist, and I’ve also got an actual assistant as well so … but not other photographers.
Laura: Right so- But you are building up your team, but you’re building up your team with complementary skills rather than a photographer?
Leah Ladson: Yep. That’s it. So I want- I just- Yeah, I would like to be abl to have a stylist, on hand that I can teach to- to kind of style the flat lays and lifestyle shoots that I do so I don’t have to do it all. yeah.
Laura: And so, flat lays as well. So you’ve got a master class coming up. So what- what does that entail?
Leah Ladson: so I’m going to be teaching people, about how to create a flat lay. so it’s going to be talking about composition, lighting and styling, and it’s basically going to be teaching business owners how to create content for themselves. so I’m going to be able to teach them how to actually style a flat lay using their products, or if they’re service based, how to design something service based that’s relevant.
Laura: Which is good because service b- businesses just don’t know-
Leah Ladson: Yeah.
Laura: What to do.
Leah Ladson: That’s it. Yup. That’s it. but then I’m actually going to teach them how to shoot it, whether it’s on their phone or a DSLR, how to shoot and edit it to get it looking kind of Instagram worthy.
Laura: Oh that’s- So more tailored towards the small businesses of the world?
Leah Ladson: Absolutely. Yeah. Yup.
Laura: That’s- that’s excellent. So- and do you do many flat lays, for clients or is it more that you’re doing-
Leah Ladson: Yes.
Laura: you know, actual stylized shoots for your commercial clients?
Leah Ladson: I do a lot of flat lays actually, and, yeah, even more recently, now that I’ve done of flat lays for service based businesses, people are coming out of the wood works going, “Oh, I didn’t realize you could flat lay for a service based business. That’s really cool.” So, yeah. Getting to create. The idea at first for service based flat lays came around, when I was doing my own website actually. I wanted to have some cool hero images, so I just created some little flat lays with my branding colors and, a little blank piece of white paper so I could put some text on that, in post production. And yeah, lot’s of people are wanting them now.
Laura: Commercial shoots. So we have- We’ve kind of talked about commercial shoots, but we haven’t actually talked about how did you transition from weddings to commercial shoots and- and did you find that transition difficult or did people perceive you as a wedding photographer and you had to prove yourself?
Leah Ladson: So the commercial stuff came about actually when I started my business after my second daughter was born. so when I was giving that real push in that twelve months, I’d been thinking about it a little while and I’d just got- I’d just signed up to Instagram and I’d seen people, you know, styling bedrooms and stuff like that and I thought, “That sounds pretty cool.” So I wanted to do some stuff like that.
Leah Ladson: so I just put my name out there and I did a few little [swapsie 00:20:14] agreements and, I- yeah, I haven’t had to advertise at all for it. It’s just- I have come in at the right time or created the perfect niche of photography or branding, that people need at the time. I think I’m kind of lucky, that the time that I launched it is the time that … I mean, social media is just going off and businesses need to invest in good imagery to be taken seriously, or to be interesting to people. So, yeah, it’s really easy.
Laura: And what- So it’s been word or mouth or it’s been they’ve found you through social media? Or a bit of both?
Leah Ladson: Uh, word of mouth. Yeah. Yup.
Laura: So it’s good to hear that word of mouth is still, you know, key.
Leah Ladson: Yeah. I’ve never advertised anywhere so it’s all word of mouth. social media for me plays a massive role, especially with the commercial stuff. for the family and wedding stuff, that’s word of mouth, as in around town kind of thing. but yeah. The- I guess social media has played a huge role in- in me creating my business.
Laura: And yeah. And- and because you’re on it and you’re- you’re actually quite active, I think that would help reinforce your brand. [crosstalk 00:21:33].
Leah Ladson: Yeah yeah, absolutely. And, you know, it is time consuming but I actually really love it and I love being able to interact with other brands and stuff like that. and [crosstalk 00:21:42].
Laura: But you can tell- You can tell that. You can’t fake that in a, social media account.
Leah Ladson: No. I think- Yeah. And, you know, everyone has social media burn out now and then. I’ve had quite a few times where I just like- I’ve just got to back off and just not post anything for a few days. I’m done. I can’t think of anything to write or I just can’t be bothered. And- and that’s okay.
Laura: It is okay. I think like a digital detox is also okay, like generally. You know, sometimes emails just feel like they’re too all-encompassing. You just need to step back at that point.
Laura: so, you- your catch line is you “take rad photos of rad people”, which I love. Uh, what’s you- what’s been your favorite shoot if you had to look at the last couple of years.
Leah Ladson: Oh man.
Laura: What- What’s your favorite?
Leah Ladson: That’s hard. I don’t think I could pick a favorite. I mean, I have some beautiful regular clients that I shoot for every month or every fortnight, in fashion. I- I think I could say fashion is probably my favorite. I’ve done some really amazing campaigns for Feather and Noise, which has been a huge career highlight for me.
Laura: Yeah, I follow them on Instagram.
Leah Ladson: Do you? Yeah.
Laura: Yeah I love it. So I- I’ve seen the Purpose campaign that you’re all working on, and quite a few different people.
Leah Ladson: Yes.
Laura: so do you want to talk about even, you know, how that- like Feather and Noise and- and how you work with them?
Leah Ladson: Yeah. Yep. Well, it’s funny. When, uh, I started my business, uh, probably a year in, I started writing some goals for myself of who I would like to work with, and, Feather and Noise were on the top of the list. So, it was this time last year. Yeah no, it was this time last year that, Ally, the owner, emailed me and asked me if I’d like to come and shoot some behind the scenes photos for their Spring [racing 00:23:32] campaign last year. so I went and did that and since them, I’ve been lucky enough to be asked to come back and shoot some of their major runways and, campaigns for their business. Um-
Laura: And how did she find you? Did you contact her?
Leah Ladson: Uh, I had put name- I had put my name- Uh, I think I had emailed her previously, maybe even a year previously or something and asked- or just said, “If you ever need anyone to help out, let me know.” and we’re also both part of a group, called the Digital Picnic. They’re social media gurus-
Laura: I also follow them.
Leah Ladson: Yeah.
Laura: I follow a lot of people .
Leah Ladson: Yes. So we- we’ve both done their course and so once you’ve done the course, you go into a, uh, Facebook group. so I had … That’s what- That’s where it came about. It was a thread on that group where it said, “Who is your dream job,” or whatever. And I had put in there Feather and Noise and tagged Ally. So she’d obviously seen that and, yeah, asked me to come along. And, yeah, she- she’s become a really good friend of mine, and her whole team is just absolutely beautiful. [crosstalk 00:24:42].
Laura: So you shoot- shoot for the stars and you actually- it can become reality.
Leah Ladson: I think if you actually just write things down, sometimes it just does get manifested and just seeing it on a daily basis on a list or something, you- you just put it out there. I mean, for me it was just a matter of putting it out there and, being okay with rejection if that’s what happened, but that’s not what happened in this case, so … yeah.
Laura: So- so you definitely … Your business is growing, your, doing, you know, you’ve got your good guard rails up about when you should be a mum and when you should be a business. But-
Leah Ladson: Yeah.
Laura: Do you know what’s next for your business or are you just- You know, you’ve- you’ve got goals for 2019 or what?
Leah Ladson: for- for the most part I’m really happy with the balance that I’ve got at the moment and just hanging out with my kids, and my husband and- and that sort of thing. I’ve got, I guess- Some big goals that I had put in the place for the beginning of this year was to launch my mentoring services, which I’ve done. Um-
Laura: I do want to talk about that as well.
Leah Ladson: Yeah. I absolutely love it. Absolutely just- I didn’t even realize when I was doing it and launching it how much I would love it, but, um …
Laura: And is that other photographers or other small businesses?
Leah Ladson: Yeah, so it’s- it’s- it- it’s, a specialized in photography based businesses, and each client- it’s a half day workshop one on one with me. So each client will get a custom curriculum. so a couple of my clients have been wanting to launch their own photography business, so I’ve gone through everything, from- Well, they know how to take photos, so I don’t need to touch on that. But I’ve gone through everything, to do with launching a business, you know, logos, branding, social media, marketing, all that sort of stuff, even like f- pricing, finances, work flow, just all the behind the scenes stuff. Uh, and then I’ve had other clients who wanted to get, off auto on their DSLR cameras and, learn how to take photos on manual, so that’s the other side of it as well. So absolutely loving doing that.
Laura: Yes. So- so it’s all photography based, but some of it’s more small business, some of it’s more actual photography in terms of techniques?
Leah Ladson: Yeah. Yup yup. But it’s kind of, targeted towards photographers, if that makes sense. and I guess the flat lay master class is an offshoot of that stool, going down that educational, road and being able to teach people.
Laura: And so you really get- you know, you see benefit out of teaching people and- and [crosstalk 00:27:22].
Leah Ladson: Yeah. I love that. I really really love it.
Leah Ladson: yeah. I didn’t realize how much I would love it until I actually started doing it. So yeah, I really like that. So that’s- that was my- my main goal for 2018. So that’s all coming to fruition now. I haven’t really set my goals for next year yet. I guess-
Laura: In a couple of months .
Leah Ladson: Yeah. The end result for me, I would love to be able to have a studio in Bendigo. and- but yeah. I’m not- I’m not going to start focusing on that until both of my girls are in school and I’ve got a bit more time on my hands.
Laura: And- And- So you commute a lot between Bendigo and Melbourne. Now, you know, commuting’s hard sometimes, but how- how do you find that? So, uh, do you chunk it down so that you say, say on a Tuesday, “I know I’m going to be in the car for x amount of time”? What do you do during your commute?
Leah Ladson: Yeah. So as- as-
Laura: Have some down time? .
Leah Ladson: Yeah, I know. As the Melbourne stuff has started coming thick and heavy, I’ve had to put, some more rules in place for myself. So, I’ve tried- or I’m trialing, the rule at the moment that I’ll go down to Melbourne once a month. I’ll try to do two shoots in a day, stay the night, do two shoots the next day and come home. so I’m getting- I’m servicing, you know, four clients a month in Melbourne and only having to go there once. so far it’s not really working. I’m getting a lot more inquiries. I’m- At the moment I’m going down two or three times a month.
Leah Ladson: but yeah. Look, it’s okay. I try and- try and schedule Melbourne trips for Tuesdays and Wednesdays so I get home and I can have the Thursday at home doing my admin and editing before I’ve got four days of family time and no work time. but yeah. It’s just a matter of trial and error. I’m going to really try and enforce the once a month rule for myself.
Laura: And I think, yeah, the saying no and- and- and enforcing those rules, I don’t think many people push back on that. Well, the people that you want to work with don’t push back on it .
Leah Ladson: No, that’s it. And- and it’s surprising actually how many people are happy to wait when you say you can’t- can’t do it. They understand and are happy to wait. So I guess when you first start out, the fear of saying no and losing that client is so huge, and that’s why you say yes to everything. But, I guess as you go along and you get confidence, you get confident to say no, and whatever the result will be, whether you lose- lose the client or, they’re willing to wait. Yeah, it’s surprising how many people are actually willing to wait for me.
Laura: Yeah well, it’s not surprising. They just understand you’re quality and that you’re worth waiting for .
Leah Ladson: Aw, thank you .
Laura: so lessons. Lessons you’ve learned that if you were, you know, looking back at 2008 and you could talk to your younger self, what would you- what are the words of wisdom you’d say to yourself? Or to a new photographer out there?
Leah Ladson: I would say listen to your intuition if you get that really yucky feeling in your gut about a client or a job. Really listen to it, and it’s most likely not going to be worth your time. I’ve had two pretty bad experiences. One, a wedding and one, commercial. and yeah. I got that yuck feeling, and I should have listened to it.
Laura: And you should have just said, “No, I’m sorry. I’m not going to take this job”.
Leah Ladson: Yep. Yep. And since then, I’ve said no to a handful of jobs just because I’ve got that yuck feeling. and I’ve even had a- had one earlier in the year where it was fine in the lead up, but then on the day of the shoot, I just- I was getting lots of messages and micromanaging and stuff, so I- I stopped the shoot mid shoot and, just said, “Look, I’m- I’m really sorry. I can’t work like this.” And, yeah.
Laura: Well good for standing up for yourself as well.
Leah Ladson: Yeah. And it’s not something that I would … I hate confrontations, so it was really- that was a really huge thing for me. But I- Yeah, I know it was the right thing. And I was polite about it and it wasn’t aggressive or anything like that. It was just that, you know, I’ve- I’ve worked my bottom off. I don’t know if I can say-
Leah Ladson: I’ve worked my ass off to get where I am, and I don’t- I don’t want to work for people who don’t respect my creativity and my art, I guess.
Laura: Well and- and that’s- Haven’t they taken out a professional- Like, that’s why they’ve hired a professional. So …
Leah Ladson: Absolutely. Yup. Yup. So …
Laura: Did you feel good about it afterwards, or just a little bit shaken? .
Leah Ladson: I didn’t feel good, but I didn’t feel bad. Like me two years ago, I would have had anxiety about it and stressed about it for a couple of weeks. but yeah. Me this year, I was like, “You know, I feel a bit bad for not completing the shoot, because that’s not my work ethic. but at the same time, I did the right thing because I don’t need to be treated like that.”
Laura: Yeah exactly. so failure in businesses. Another lesson. You know, everyone says failure is a- a good way of- of growth and potential and if you can’t learn how to fail then you’re firstly gonna have too much anxiety and secondly, you’re probably going to quit. How- What have you failed at along the b- your business journey and how have you learned from it?
Leah Ladson: I think failures are brilliant because you learn your best lessons from them. I’ve had a- had a few big failures, in my eyes. one time I did a shoot for a fairly- a big influencer who had a lot of followers and it was all a bit crazy and stuff. And I mean, it’s not something that I could have helped or done, but, I went and shot in Melbourne for two days for this person, and my memory card got corrupted, so I lost the whole- photos from the whole first day. so that was absolutely devastating and I was absolutely gutted about that. Um-
Laura: Which I mean- Yeah, technology never works for you when you need it to .
Leah Ladson: Yeah I know. And I’ve- you know, I’ve got the backups and I’ve got all of that stuff, but there’s nothing- I guess, yeah, it’s just a freak thing that happened and there’s- there’s not much that you can do about that.
Leah Ladson: I have learned from little bits and pieces. One really bad wedding, but lots of just little bits and pieces to have a really tight contracting place, so all of my clients, whether it’s weddings, commercial or families, will sign contract with me, just stating my terms and conditions. Um-
Laura: What about payments as well? Like, do you do payments up front or … ?
Leah Ladson: Yep. So, I- Back in the early days, I had quite a few people who would book and just not turn up or that sort of thing. so not part of my terms and conditions is that to book a spot with me, they have to pay a 20% deposit.
Leah Ladson: yeah. So I guess it’s just all of those little things. I had a big fail last year. I had a wedding expo in Bendigo, and I spent probably $2000 or $3000 dollars on being there and the set up and everything, and it was just a fizz. It was just a massive dud, and it just didn’t work out. I didn’t get any- any sales or any inquiries even really. so that was-
Laura: Yeah, my husband did that too, and then he was, “Oh”. . “Good lesson.”
Leah Ladson: I know. At the time I was just absolutely devastated. But now I realize that I think I’m- I think I’m done with expos. I don’t think they’re my type of, people. I don’t think that they’re the couples that I want to be- or not want to be booking. But I don’t- Yeah, I just- I don’t think that they’re my people. so, yeah-
Laura: They’re looking for something different.
Leah Ladson: Yeah.
Laura: Or they’re just looking . That sort of thing.
Leah Ladson: Yeah, that’s it. Just looking. yeah. Lot’s of tire kickers.
Laura: Yes. I was gonna say-
Leah Ladson: Yes, so I’m just- I’m not going to stress myself with expos anymore. I’d rather put money into, Facebook ads or, you know, that sort of thing.
Laura: You know ’cause you know people are hanging out at Facebook, Instagram, et cetera, and so.
Leah Ladson: Yeah, that’s it. And- and a lot of it is just doing a really good job with the weddings I book and, nine times out of ten, I’ll book a cousin or a bridesmaid or something from a wedding the year before.
Laura: Yeah exactly. It’s a- It’s- It is a word of mouth business really still.
Leah Ladson: Yeah so just doing a good job of being a nice person, will get you a long way.
Laura: . Yeah, being a nice person. That’s actually that, it’s huge, but people take it for granted. Like, the people aren’t as nice as they used to be or as community-oriented as they used to be. So you’ve- you gotta- you gotta get your tribe from the right people.
Leah Ladson: Yep. Yep. Absolutely, and I- I’ve got the right people around me, so, yeah.
Laura: So human interaction. Sometimes it’s exhausting. I saw an apt quote on your social media the other day.
Leah Ladson: .
Laura: Sometimes you just want a break from everyone. when you’re taking photos, multiple shoots a day, you’re talking to people all the time, how do you recharge?
Leah Ladson: Yeah s- Yep. So this is- this is another reason why I love my business is because I- I’m an extrovert and I love being around people and meeting new people and- Yeah, I just really like people a lot. so I love that part of the job where I get to go out and meet new people and photograph them and everything. But, it- it does get exhausting sometimes. So I equally love being able to come home and sit in my little editing cave by myself and not speak to anyone. So the way I recharge is being alone. So if it’s not in my office- my home office, I generally will if I’m just feeling overwhelmed with the world or, upset or anything like that, I’ll generally retreat to my bed. I love bed.
Laura: . I love my bed too. I don’t see my bed enough with a one and half year old, but oh god, I love my bed.
Leah Ladson: Yeah I know. I think that’s why I like it so much, is ’cause I don’t get enough time in there. But yep, I- That’s what recharges me is hanging out in bed watching Netflix or just being by myself in my office.
Laura: So we’re almost there. So speed round. this is where you just come up with, you know, very short, sharp answers, to questions and whatever comes to your head straight away. So-
Laura: So what are the two words that describe your photography style?
Leah Ladson: bright and fun.
Laura: What’s the hardest part of doing business?
Leah Ladson: being- being the soletrader, being the photographer. I’m not just the photographer, I do the marketing, the advertising, the accounts, the admin, just all the stuff. All the things.
Laura: best place you’ve taken photos at? In? When? . Best place.
Leah Ladson: for wedding, I would have to say- I shot a wedding a couple of years ago up the top of, the Gold Coast, the Hinterlands, and it just looked over the mountains. that was absolutely stunning. I did almost walk into a snake, but apart from that, that was awesome.
Laura: How important is it to have the right tribe? We’ve talked about it, but you know, in a couple of words.
Leah Ladson: So important. So important. I just think that I- I honestly wouldn’t be able to do what I do without the people, my good friends, around me. I honestly wouldn’t.
Laura: How important is it to support female-led businesses?
Leah Ladson: Hugely. Hugely important. I don’t know- I don’t know how I fell into the female-led businesses, but I think I might be a feminist . yeah. I just- that’s who I’m drawn to, and I just think it’s a really nice feeling and it’s a really nice thing when women support women.
Laura: Five years, where do you see yourself and your business?
Leah Ladson: Five years? so I reckon I would love to be working from my studio in Bendigo CBD. possibly have a couple of employees and probably focusing a lot on my educational stuff, like my mentoring and my workshops and that sort of thing. yep.
Laura: And if you- People want to know more about you, so what’s your website?
Leah Ladson: My website is at www.leahladson.com.
Laura: And your Instagram handle?
Leah Ladson: Is @Leahladsonphotography.
Laura: And that’s all. Thank you for your time .
Leah Ladson: Yeah awesome. I think- I’m more than happy to- to chat about this stuff. I think it’s really helpful to people starting out, to sort of listen to questions and answers like this, so I’m more than happy to talk to you.