With over 20 years of experience in the industry, Rose and Tim Coleman of Center Stage Photos are known for their high-quality cheer and dance portraits. Based in Oklahoma, the Colemans travel around the U.S. photographing sports teams and clubs. They’ve also spoken at SPAC, SYNC, and Pas de Deux.
We sat down with Rose and Tim to discuss how they balance running their successful studio, making time for family, traveling, and taking care of their cows, chickens, and goats.
While the search for the perfect balance between working hard and enjoying life can feel like a never-ending journey, the Colemans are proof that it’s not impossible!
In this video interview, you’ll get to know them, hear their stories, and hopefully feel inspired to seek your own work-life balance.
The History of Center Stage
Rose and Tim discuss how they got started in 2016—broke, raising kids, and photographing one All-Star Cheer account. With weddings and seniors being the biggest categories in the industry (and thus the most saturated), the Colemans knew they wanted to do something different. High-quality volume photography was still “an untapped territory” in their area of Oklahoma.
Rose says, “We knew that we could make something beautiful. We could take what we knew with the portrait world and join that into a volume sports world—and be able to work from home and have more flexibility and time and not have the overhead of that kind of building and staff and all the requirements that went along with it. So we were like…we’re gonna go volume.”
In their first year of business, one of the gym owners promoted the Colemans on Facebook, and in the next week, they had booked seven out-of-state accounts and became a national company.
Tim says, “And that was the beginning of what we now have—over 70 All-Star Cheer accounts, roughly 25 local dance accounts that we work with; we were able to create something that we both work full time without any assistance from…other side jobs or anything like that. And we’ve been able to raise three kids, buy a twelve-acre ranch, and pretend to be farmers—and love on the baby goats.”
Getting Online with PhotoDay
At that time, Rose and Tim weren’t selling online, but they used a “shoot and show” technique that allowed customers to view and choose their photos on-site on an iPad. Multiple poses and image-first selling were always a part of their strategy. “We wanted parents to get to see the image, choose what they want, and then check out at the end.”
They knew moving online was inevitable, but they wanted to find the best solution for their business. They learned about PhotoDay at SYNC, met co-founder and SVP Lisa Mallis, and admired the fun PhotoDay brand—including our team baseball tees. COVID was another factor that pushed them to make the transition from paper order forms to online selling. Tim says, “It was a scary transition, but I had faith in the transition.”
How PhotoDay Has Changed Their Workflow
PhotoDay has always strived to be more than just software—we are a community dedicated to bringing picture day into the hands of today’s parents, influencing and improving creativity, and leveraging technology every step of the way.
Tim says, “Being a part of the community has been super beneficial. Getting to meet just really great, authentic people within the industry is wonderful. That has nothing to do with the amazing software” and all the time it has saved. All of those hours of manually inputting orders, deciphering handwriting, whittling away at stacks of paper…It’s all taken care of now.
“Honestly, [PhotoDay] gave us the hope to scale. It gave us the opportunity and ability to do a lot more.” Now they can photograph four accounts over a weekend in a different state and post the galleries as quickly as humanly possible. That means one day (or two for compositing groups). With their competition sitting on images for two weeks or more, they were able to leverage the power of PhotoDay’s time-saving technology to improve their turnaround time.
“It’s part of our strategy: beautiful images, dynamic lighting, get to them as fast as possible, and make it convenient for parents.”
Let’s Talk About Capture
Rose starts with, “Let’s talk about Capture. It’s my favorite thing. Part of our strategy is taking a large amount of friend photos (we call them buddy shots), and we encourage it.” Once a subject has gotten their six to eight individual photos, Rose and Tim ask if they want to take a picture with a buddy—and the answer is always yes.
In the realm of paper order forms, buddy photos can be difficult and time-consuming. Enter: the Capture app. With Capture, all you have to do is upload subject data before or at picture day, snap reference photos directly in the app on picture day, and watch FaceFind sync the reference photos and data to your professional images upon upload.
What might take a typical photographer a whole weekend to photograph takes the Colemans around three hours—without compromising any quality or creativity.
“That’s why we love the Capture app. That has been my absolute favorite thing about PhotoDay. Being able to take reference photos of them and not have to touch that later. And so when we upload images after we process things out, they immediately get sorted into the correct places.”
Rose and Tim exclusively use private galleries in PhotoDay, so they use Capture to “keep the photo shoot going” smoothly with their allotted one-minute per athlete average. “They get their own individual access just to their files only. We’ve found that the best way to sell to them and it’s the best way that works with our system.”
Rose shares that she was getting to a point with their previous system where she didn’t want to do buddy shots anymore due to how time-consuming they were on the back end. “So I would say that was probably the biggest thing of change was working with the Capture app on the workflow side of things…It’s magical. It’s Disney magic.”
Making Marketing Easy
The Colemans agree that PhotoDay helped ease their marketing woes. From automatic email and text communication to flash sales to targeted holiday promos—“It made it easy…We brought in so much more money.”
“I don’t blast emails…I want to only talk to the people that haven’t made a purchase, and that option is available now. And I love that.”
Rose and Tim have three children: twelve, ten, and soon to be eight. “It’s so crazy. We have such a different lifestyle than most of our friends that, you know, go in at eight, they come home at five” and struggle to juggle pick-ups, drop-offs, practices, making dinner, etc. “But we get all of those opportunities, for the most part, unless we’re traveling, and then we bring them with us.”
“We have so much more free time for a lifestyle that we love…We kind of like create/mold to whatever we actually want to do.” Whether that’s vacationing or buying more cows and chickens.
Accomplishing Goals with PhotoDay
“I just love that we’re able to accomplish our short-term goals so quickly. I think that literally, we’ve been able to accomplish every single goal that we’ve set out for. [Rose chimes in: “You’re bragging”]. And we’re in the stage of figuring out what our long-term does look like.”
“Financial freedom has been our biggest goal ever,” Rose says, which can feel unattainable for a lot of people in the photography industry. “Most people feel like it’s just a part-time gig or part-time job…but with the back end of what PhotoDay offers, you really can make a great living off it. And I just didn’t think that that was possible five years ago.”
“A lot of the workflow has been able to allow us to position ourselves in a pattern of growth in order to be able to do more because the workflow things of our lives have been simplified.”
“If you’re not up to your head in workflow, and you have automated things on the backend that help reduce that workflow—you can dream about things. You have the moments and the opportunity to actually create or ideate about something that’s bigger than just taking a photo.”
Having PhotoDay as a workflow and marketing solution allows photographers to focus on their work to the best of their ability. “And then at like midnight, you hear that cha-ching.”
Rose and Tim recently hosted a webinar with us all about staying balanced—check out the replay.