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Emotional Storytelling with Twyla Jones

Jul 21, 2020

Are you struggling to decide the right time to leave your full time job to pursue your passion as a photographer? While you’re working to help someone else build their empire, are you dreaming about building your own?

As my guest will tell you, it’s not always easy making the transition to a career you are passionate about, but the rewards are incredible.

Henry Tieu is a wedding and elopement photographer based out of Seattle Washington. His fast growth in both popularity and creative skill come from his incredible work ethic and drive to be the best version of himself. In this interview, Henry will tell you how he made the transition from nurse to photographer and educator, exactly how he grew his instagram following in a HUGE way in just one year, and will inspire you to pursue your dreams because you can absolutely achieve them!

In this episode we covered:

How Henry and I met at the first workshop he taught at. (1:30)

GIFs, waterfalls, and making it rain! He came to teach about Instagram, but he was inspired by the creativity and community of the workshop. You simply must see the cheese GIF and the GIF of Henry that I took!

The infamous cheese GIF:

My GIF of Henry:

Henry’s GIF work:

What Henry is doing on the backend of his business during COVID-19. (5:45)

Utilizing Pinterest and diversifying his marketing during lockdown. We talk about time management and different methods for tackling tasks. We also share some quirky real life stories from quarantine too.

His story of working nights as a nurse then transitioning to full time photography. (13:30)

*get link of his full story* Henry got into photos through working in the ICU with a patient his own age – it woke him up to how short life is and that’s what compelled him to pick up a camera. It was a way to see the world, then became engagement and wedding photos. Within a year, he became full time at both jobs (30 weddings + 36 hours a week as a nurse). He cut down to part time and his business continued to grow, including expanding into destination work. He had the hard money talk with his husband and decided it was worth a budget cut to go full time.

We talk about the realities of money and entrepreneurship. (23:00) 

“Income with being full time in this photography world is scary, but it’s worth it if you do it right.” We both share our stories about the transition and joys of making the leap.

Growing Instagram quickly and the effects on the business, (27:00)

“Numbers don’t mean anything. You could have thousands of followers and if no one books you, you don’t have any money.” He shares the insights worth really looking at – like people who aren’t already following him that are seeing his image. “Instagram wants you to engage. It wants you to stay on the platform. And it wants other people to do the same.”

Tips for Instagram: 

  1. Before he posts anything, he goes through and likes comments, replies to comments, and also leaves comments on other people’s work. He engages first.
  2. Your photos need to be captivating. Scroll stopping is the goal. Try to draw unique and different inspiration from elements, time of day, setting, poses, etc. He shares how music videos are a huge inspiration to him.
  3. It’s okay to not post everyday, but try to use Instagram stories daily. Use the features that Instagram provides like questions and polls.

The personal side of Instagram growth. (35:30)

Navigating sudden popularity as an introvert and trying to answer comments and DMs turning into a motivation to get out of his box. He’s become a role model for other photographers and takes that responsibility seriously.

The inspiration for his art and how he makes it his own. (40:00)

My photos have become my brand – people recognize my work. He shares the moment that he envisions when he’s thinking about his portfolio. When he takes people’s photos, he thinks of that and plays the music that inspires him to get the vibe he desires. He sometimes even draws out his posing inspiration as seen below. 


The value of taking in good inspiration in order to have good output. (45:30)

Surrounding yourself with beautiful and positive things might not always be tangible, but they show up everywhere. The people you’re with, the environments you work in, those are the little things that shape your view of the world. “How you view the world will go right back onto your creative work.” 

How to expand into teaching – Henry’s journey as an educator so far. What’s rewarding? What’s negative? (47:30)

“Everyone has something to share. It doesn’t matter if you have one year of experience vs five years of experience. It doesn’t matter if you have 50 followers on Instagram vs 100 followers on Instagram.” If you’re creating beautiful work and getting paid, you are doing something right that someone else could learn from you. “Don’t take people’s money until you can deliver what you promise.” Think about the limitations of your geographic area on what you’re teaching. “The most rewarding thing about education is the relationship I get to build with someone.” (No matter if it’s a workshop or free education online!) “There’s always enough room for everyone to rise together.” If you want to teach, get comparison and competition out of your mind.

The downside is people thinking that he knows anything (I can relate!). There’s constant questions and people wanting to learn from him. When people only reach out when they need something, it’s a little frustrating – just be genuine. “I’m not google.”

Henry’s upcoming plans. (59:00)

At the time of our interview, Washington was starting to open up for sessions and elopements. (As of our most recent emails, his elopements have picked up again and he’s shooting a lot!) We talk about traveling and some hacks to get more destination work. 

Follow Henry’s Work

See Henry’s presets in action

Henry has generously offered a discount to our community! Get 20% off anything in his shop using the code: Story

Youtube channel: Henry’s Diary

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