Trust fund

For Susan Michal, trust and patience are the elements of success

By Jeff Kent
Images By Susan Michal
First published in June 2005

When it comes to the fine art of selling, nothing is more important than learning to trust yourself as an artist, says Susan Michal. My trust is usually rewarded with a bigger sale than expected.

Susan Michal, M.Photog.Cr., is a busy woman. In addition to running a thriving portrait and wedding studio, she serves as president of the Professional Photographers Society of North Florida, plans wedding photography seminars, does photography for charities, and travels the world in the company of other photographers. Last winter when the mega-media Super Bowl hit her hometown of Jacksonville, she shot nine days-worth of high-profile bowl festivities. She also finds time to earn accolades in state and regional print competitions.

Maybe it’s Michal’s way of making up for her late start in photography. After 25 years as a professional musician, she decided that making images was her true calling. Throwing her boundless zeal into her new career, Michal opened her studio for business in 1997, and has already become one of Florida’s most sought-after photographers.

Michal trained her focus on child and family portraits from the start, although the 25 or so weddings she shoots per year account for roughly 30 percent of her revenue. Calendars featuring her images of children have been selling in national chain stores since 1998. She’s also produced three “When I Grow Up” theme calendars for the Jay Fund Foundation, a charity established by New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin to benefit children with pediatric cancer (www.tcjayfund.org). And she’s just completed the installation of 50 images of newborns in an OB-GYN medical complex.

Michal says the key to working with children is to establish a relationship of trust between the photographer and parents. “I rarely deal with an overly controlling parent. They recognize my abilities with children and they let me do my thing,” she says.

That bond established, Michal takes her time getting the right images. She believes that the outcome will be better when parents and children are relaxed and happy, rather than rushing them through a session in hopes that something good will develop. This is especially true when photographing infants.

“Patience is the most important element,” she explains. “There are many parents willing to invest in photography. The key is making them feel comfortable and giving them whatever time they need to make the baby comfortable. Getting the big sale is a direct result of being willing to work with the baby until you have a set of images the parents cannot live without.”

Michal’s patient, relaxed attitude carries through in all of her photographic work. She steps back and lets things happen, then subtly works herself into the equation in a non-commanding fashion. This style serves her just as well with wedding clients as with kids.

“I don’t try to control everything. There’s a time and place to make suggestions, but ultimately you will never be in control,” says Michal. “Some couples feel more comfortable with guidance, while some are just naturals who move effortlessly through the day, giving you amazing images. I try to help my brides feel comfortable. I know they’re under a lot of stress. I do not want the wedding day to revolve around me. It’s the couple’s day. It should be about them.”

For Michal, the sales process begins while she’s doing the photography. Once a positive rapport has been established, Michal’s open confidence puts her clients at ease. They can relax. They can trust her vision and believe she will capture knockout images. From then on, selling the work is easy.

“When it comes to the fine art of selling, nothing is more important than learning to trust yourself as an artist,” says Michal. “I am one of those lucky photographers who can sell their own work, and I prefer to do so. I like to help my clients choose what’s right for them. You’ve reached an essential level of success when you’re able to let a client walk away and think about the sale. My trust is usually rewarded with a bigger sale than expected.”

To see more of Susan Michal’s work, visit www.susanmichal.com.

Professional Photographer Magazine - Portraits Professional Photographer Magazine - Weddings Professional Photographer Magazine - Senior Portraits Professional Photographer Magazine - Commercial