Certified Photo Manager Lisa Deneau combines her love of photos with her love of animals to create beautiful pet photo books! In this interview, Lisa talks about starting her business and finding her niche as a Photo Manager.
When Lisa Deneau was 10 years old, her parents gave her a Polaroid camera and her love of photos has grown ever since. Lisa has always loved the arts and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting. When she moved to New York, however, she decided to join the corporate world and began working with architects and engineers.
In July 2020, during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, The New York Times ran a front-page article about second-act careers that mentioned The Photo Managers. When Lisa read this, she was so excited and moved by the idea that she quickly got involved with every event offered by TPM, starting with Save Your Photos Month.
In conversation with Cathi Nelson, Founder of The Photo Managers, Lisa discovered what her niche as a photo manager would be – creating beautiful photo books of animals and their people. Lisa joined us to talk about how her business, Once Upon a Tail Photo Books, came to be and how she feels about her new career as a Photo Manager.
What do you love most about what you do?
There are a number of aspects I enjoy, but what I love most is talking with my clients, and taking the time to look closely at their photos to discover how to best tell their story in a book.
My clients tell me the most wonderful things about how much they love their animals. These stories are oftentimes sweet and very moving or entertaining. For example, I spoke with someone a few months ago and she told me that her dog knows how to speak three languages – English, Maya, and Spanish. It just doesn’t get more charming than that!
It’s really beautiful when people express how much they love their animals. I love capturing those feelings in photo books for them.
Tell us about your process when making a pet photo book.
The first thing we do is have a discovery interview. I’ll talk to someone for a while and learn about his or her pet. We will talk about how the animal came to be part of that person’s family life and stories about the animal so I have an understanding of who I’m working with, and what matters to them. After that, we talk about their images. I ask them to send me photos so that I can take a look at them and understand what size book might be best based on the kind of photos they have, their clarity, and their resolution.
Once we’ve talked about what they want, I write a proposal. Then we go through the process of getting approvals and starting the project. At that point, as I say, on my website, we’re off to the races!
What is your least favorite part of your work?
My least favorite thing is dealing with the technical aspects. I don’t naturally enjoy digging into learning technical things such as how to use a CRM, or accounting software, or how to deal with glitches on my website. That is one of my biggest challenges.
How have you found The Photo Managers community to be helpful?
For anyone who’s new to this organization, there are so many resources. The most notable resource is the members themselves. There are many people that will take the time on an individual basis to help you if you have questions or things you don’t know how to deal with.
Through The Photo Managers’ regular Member’s Huddle meetings, I met my accountability partner. We started as photo managers at about the same time and we meet every two weeks. We have some things in common and some things that are not. She’s now one of my dearest friends and, due to all of our meetings being online during the pandemic, she is the one and only photo manager who I have met in person! I also hire other photo managers as consultants from time to time and find helpful advice in the members-only Facebook group.
What are some skills from your past work or life experience that have helped you as a Photo Manager?
For 25 years, I was a marketing and business developer for architects and engineers. Through this work, I learned how to talk to people on the phone, sell services, and listen. So much of what we do as photo managers involves listening to what other people want and need, and then coming up with solutions for them. Along with my marketing skills, being able to listen effectively has been critical.
Tell us a story about how you found one of your clients.
It was January of 2022 on a very cold, dark evening in New York. Bundled up in my heavy coat and my COVID mask, I headed out to pick up something to eat. I walked into the elevator and stood beside a man, also in a coat and a mask, holding a dog in his arms like it was a baby. He was obviously going outside, so I said “Well, that’s the way to travel!” We spoke for about 15 seconds before the elevator doors opened and we entered the lobby.
Before we parted ways, I said, “Hey, wait a minute, can I talk to you?” He said yes and I told him about the work I do. He said he might be interested and would talk to his wife. A few weeks later, he came to my apartment, looked at books I’d done, and became a client. It was a great win for me! The project was a lot of fun. It’s a book I’m proud of and the clients are very happy with it.
How did you establish your process for pricing and creating photo books?
After I talk to people and I see their photos, I have a sense of what it’s going to take. I might need to do some photo editing, some retouching, and some writing. Once I have an estimate of how many hours I’ll spend on a book, I give my clients one price that includes everything, including the cost of the book and shipping. I don’t charge for all of my hours, but I certainly have an idea of what my hourly rate would be so I can use that to give my clients a specific number.
How do you find new clients?
I have a marketing plan and I’ve been working with two SCORE coaches. Cathi Nelson was the first person who told me about SCORE, which is a wonderful organization of retired executives who have all kinds of expertise in terms of running a business or having a small startup. Through this coaching, I’ve come up with many new ideas including reaching out to veterinarians, going to the dog park, and working with dog organizations. But right now, my primary means of getting new business is word-of-mouth advertising.
How has membership in The Photo Managers helped you?
The support from The Photo Managers has been tremendous. I started with Save Your Photos Month in September 2020, and I went to every webinar I could. But once you become a member, many more free courses and training webinars become available to you. I also regularly attend the member huddles, which are fun online meetings where you get to share ideas with other photo managers in a small group setting.
In my first year as a member of The Photo Managers, I took part in the yearly business-intensive program. With 12 other new Photo Managers, we learned about many practical aspects of starting a business in this field. I have also virtually attended The Photo Managers annual conference for two years, which has been wonderful.
The greatest gift of this organization is the people. It is a welcoming community of generous people who love what we do. It’s great to be with people who have a love of photos, whether they are doing scanning or organizing, digital or printed, photo books or slide shows. Photo management is such an enormous field and there is someone or something there for all of us.
Watch the full interview below to hear more about Lisa’s business and see some examples of her beautiful photo books featuring animals and their people.
#1: Becoming a Photo Manager is an exciting opportunity for a second-act career!
#2: Having support from others in the industry is essential when you are starting a new business.
#3: Find a niche you love to create work that will be meaningful to both you and your clients.