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News & Insight

WPPI 2010 – Jasmine Star Marketing Notes

By Pye Jirsa on March 29th 2010


The Jasmine Star WPPI 2010 Experience

Before we get into the notes, I wanted to give you all a taste of the WPPI 2010 Jasmine Star experience. Being ginormous fans of Jasmine Star, it only seemed appropriate that we make it a point to attend her first ever WPPI platform lecture. At least, we hadn’t seen her prior years, so we think it was her first, perhaps she can confirm for us.

Either way, just the simple act of getting into Jasmine’s platform class felt like trying to get back stage at the first ever Lady Gaga Miley Cyrus crossroads concert. As I exited the prior platform class, I saw this line of about 600 people, and immediately the first thought that came into my head was, “this has got to be Jasmine’s line.” That thought was confirmed by another fellow line-stander and hence our 2 hour journey to get back row seats at Jasmine’s platform lecture had begun.

Two hours and 37 new friends later, we finally made it into our room and got our seats. I would use the term nosebleeds to describe the seats, but I distinctly remember having a better view of Kobe’s face than I did of Jasmine’s. Taking a look around us, our little crew of four boys (Justin Lin, Max Young, Harrison Long and myself) felt a little bit like a fish out of water given that we were completely surrounded by a sea of girls! There had to have been at least 10 girls to every guy in that room. Were I single, I think a Jasmine lecture might in fact be the holy grail of meet and greets.

Nonetheless, we were seated, and ready for the show to begin! Jasmine came out on stage, did her thing, KIR (Kept It Real… Jasmine, I feel a little weird saying that) and wowed us with her amazingly warm and personable self. Afterwards, we had a wealth of great information, and an even deeper respect and admiration for Jasmine Star. So, without further adieu, on to the notes!

Jasmine Star’s Background and Story

Jasmine’s lecture was named “Ghetto Fabulous Marketing” or GFM for short. The whole concept behind GFM is being able to take what you got and make it work. To understand GFM and why it was relevant to Jasmine, it is important to understand her story and background.

Jasmine grew up under very humble circumstances, she even mentioned how she has stories of using food stamps and waiting in line for government cheese and such. Stories that really struck a chord with me being that I come from a very similar background being that my father, a single parent without more than a few dollars to his name, immigrated to the US to provide me a better life. So, I can definitely relate to Jasmine’s story as I stood in those same lines with my father 25 years ago.

Despite her challenging childhood, Jasmine worked hard and earned a full ride scholarship to the UCLA law program. Which mind you is no easy feat. But, it wasn’t until her mother had a relapse with cancer when she left school and had a moment to think about what she really wanted to do with her life. When she married JD, it was her wedding photographer David Jay that opened up her mind to photography. When Jasmine was considering wedding photography as a profession, JD encouraged and supported her by saying, “I would rather you fail at something you love, than succeed at something you don’t.” Forgive me Jasmine if I butchered the quote, but it is a quote that I really love.

One Canon Rebel, a basic kit lens, and just a few weddings later, we have Jasmine Star. Ok, so maybe it wasn’t that easy or quick, but you get the idea. The whole point of this story, and of GFM is to say that with a bit of hard work, it is possible to make something wonderful of nothing.

That, in a nutshell is Ghetto Fabulous Marketing. Taking what you got, whatever little it may be, and turning it into something you can look back and be proud of. Jasmine’s story resonates with so many of us in this industry because we all had to start somewhere, and usually somewhere pretty humble. So, it is inspiring to us to see someone who may have started with even less, create something so wonderful.

Note that utilizing GFM does not require significant financial investments that traditional forms of advertising would call for. Jasmine discourages against traditional advertising because its results are so unpredictable, a $9,000 magazine ad may or may not bring in revenue. I can definitely say from our own experience that GFM techniques are far more effective than traditional advertising. All of our traditional advertising techniques which we have spent over $5,000 on, while they have brought us some traffic, have never brought us a wedding.

The How To’s of GFM


So, as Jasmine would say “how do ya get’yo GFM on?” (it’s a bit embarrassing, but I actually would say that too) Well, Jasmine states that there are four components to GFM. Each one is detailed below and they are listed from least to most important. We have also included a little bit of our commentary for your reading pleasure, or perhaps misery… but, hopefully pleasure.

Online Social Networking (4th Most Important)

Blogging: Prior to the now popular days of Twitter and Facebook, Jasmine started out her online social networking presence by blogging. But, what makes Jasmine’s blog so unique (which is something most of you already know) is that she writes stories with each and every post. This allowed visitors to get involved in Jasmine’s shoots and personal life on a far more intimate level. Soon, visitors were returning to read the stories and not necessarily the imagery itself. The key here is to be unique and personal to allow people to get involved and invested in you as a person.

Web Slideshows: Creating a web slideshow of each and every client allowed Jasmine to turn those clients, as well as their family and friends into Jasmine cheerleaders as they would share their slideshows with everyone they knew.

Online forums and communities: Getting involved in OSP (The Open Source Photo Forum) allowed Jasmine to connect with her peers as well as learn and share techniques and thoughts with others in the industry. Today, another useful social network for photographers is Becker’s [B]School.

Community (3rd Most Important)

Build a network: As Jasmine met other peers, she created a network of close friends and allies. Most likely, those that were as driven and likely to succeed as she was. She built a relationship with these photographers and started a referral network with a select few through Google Calendar. Together, the four (including Jasmine) shared a single Google Calendar and promised to send all referrals to each other.

Vendor Promotion: Create vendor promotion and marketing collateral that promotes the vendors, not you! If you are stamping everything with your logo and studio name, then you are giving the vendor something they most likely can’t use. If vendors don’t use your collateral, then there is no opportunity to spread your name. Instead, create marketing collateral that they would be proud to show.

For example, Jasmine would create 5×7 collage prints featuring just the florist, the planner, or the venues work with their logo, and then print 50 (which only costs like $8 at Costco), box them up in nice packaging with a hand written note, and give them to each of the vendors. When starting out, most of us photographers don’t have much money, but we do have time.

Netmaking: What comes around goes around, and helping others succeed will only bring success back to you. This is a statement that our studio swears by. We provide each and every vendor we work with whatever they need to succeed. Our motto is that we are successful as those around us are successful, and it is a motto that has proved true to us over and over.

Web Technology: Ensure that your website leverages technology that can enable your clients to become organic marketers to easily spread the word. A website that is unique, and one that you can be proud of.

Image (2nd Most Important)

Differentiate and Personalize: Template websites are inexpensive and quick to get up and running which is why the vast majority of us photographers almost always start out with one. However, spend time in making sure that your site is unique. Try to find a template that is unique and personalized to you. If you can’t, then find a customizable template site to personalize it yourself. We believe in this so strongly, that we have provided a free starter blog template (with many more to come) as well as other tools and resources to our SLRLounge community which you can use to showcase your personality.

Unify: Unify your image. Make sure that your logo and branding throughout all your websites and marketing materials is consistent. For a long while, Jasmine had a blog that was much more polished than her main site. If this is the case, resolve it across the board, and once you have created a strong brand image, raise your prices. At least, that is what Jasmine did ;). After perfecting her web presence and brand image, Jasmine raised prices $1,500 across the board.

So, while her product hadn’t changed, her services and studio came with a much more professional look and feel. Thus, the perceived value of her product had increased and customers were happy to pay the higher prices. The best analogy I can think of, would be if you were to imagine putting a beautiful picture into a fantastically crappy frame. Regardless of how good the picture is, the frame will lower the perceived value of its content. Websites, marketing material, packaging, etc is no different.

You (Most Important)

Be Unique: In today’s age, with the technology becoming more and more affordable, virtually everyone is a photographer. So, again to reiterate, be unique and make sure that you are showcasing what makes you different from the person next to you.

Be Personal: Are you putting yourself out there for people to connect to you on a more personal and emotional level? Be more transparent and deliberate in sharing your life and your story. Allow people to connect to you instead of just your photography.

We hope you all were able to get some ideas and insights from these notes and commentary. Jasmine, we wish to thank you for your wonderful example, humble personality, and warm spirit. You are truly an inspiration to us all (even us boys). KOKIR!! (Keep On Keepin It Real… just in case you didn’t know… Ok, I feel a little weird again).

If you have any additional notes or commentary, please add them to the comments below!

Article by Pye Jirsa of Partner of Lin and Jirsa Los Angeles Wedding Photography

Images by Max Young of Film Foto Fusion

This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, however, this does not impact accuracy or integrity of our content.

Founding Partner of Lin and Jirsa Photography and SLR Lounge.

Follow my updates on Facebook and my latest work on Instagram both under username @pyejirsa.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Joseph Prusa

    Thanks for sharing.

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  2. Vtoriia

    Thanks so much for sharing!!

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  3. JP

    Super advice. What that makes it more important is because it comes with experience, because there are tons of ‘advisers’ out there telling what we photographers should be doing, even not having done it themselves. Thats why i love Jasmine’s unique way of sharing the lessons learned. Thanks a million !

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  4. Life with Kaishon

    I really loved this post. Thank you for sharing your personal experience with her : )
    I love the idea of using what you have and making it work for you. : )

    Wishing you a wonderful weekend.

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  5. Rob

    Wow – look at all the hate for such a great post (Ellen, GetitRight) … get read people: read the article/quotes from Jasmine in the spirit in which they were intended, and not the way you’ve twisted them.

    Author – thank you, sincerely. Rich content, I even made notes :)

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  6. Ellen L Adams

    First of all, as an African-American, I’m sick and tired of people using what they feel is the “latest urban colloquialism” in such a glib fashion. There is something very disingenuous about it and it’s offensive.

    If you have a great marketing idea and you want to speak to the fact that you can make it work no matter what your circumstances, great. But hijacking slang expressions, no matter how good your intent, needs to be done with great caution, if at all.

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  7. Danielle Rabbat

    That was a great rundown with LOTS of great ideas!
    Thanks for the great recap. I was totally ‘wowed’ by Jasmine’s site when I saw it! She really puts herself into everything she does and that is awesome.

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  8. Adam Cavanagh

    Great notes. Thanks for sharing :)

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  9. Getit Right

    If you are going to attribute a quote to someone, at least get it right. And don’t take credit for regurgitating and repackaging ideas for $$$

    I’d rather be a failure at something I love than a success at something I hate. George Burns US actor & comedian (1896 – 1996)

    KORPO (for those who don’t get this ghetto slang – “Keep on Ripping People Off”)

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  10. Jennifer Paulos


    I think you are the only one who took that line so seriously. It seems like it was meant to be a funny exaggeration. Even J*, who posted a comment here, didn’t read that much into it. Most of us know how much work is required to be successful in this industry. If not, those people will soon find out ;)

    Besides, you shouldn’t worry about all these people “calling themselves professionals.” If your work is good, it will stand out from all the average junk out there.

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  11. Chris Whitcomb

    Please do not spread that “One Canon Rebel, a basic kit lens, and just a few weddings later, we have Jasmine Star” myth! She will be the first to say that she spent an entire YEAR shooting EVERYDAY so she could learn how to shoot in MANUAL no less. Too many photographers are picking up camera, printing business cards, creating a blogsite, buying TRA, and calling themselves professionals. That is not Jasmines story, she worked very hard at her craft before she booked anything. Rant over.

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  12. Paola

    Wow!! I love you…can I say that? You totally saved my behind cause it’s so hard for me to attend these events even though I’m dying to!! Thank you for this!!!!

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  13. Dee

    What an awesome post! I love J*! :)

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  14. Brittani

    Thanks for this post!! I didn’t go to WPPI, adn I was so excited when I heard she’d be speaking!!

    And yes, that quote is a d*mn good one! =)

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  15. John Solano

    Very NICE!!!
    Liked it so much, I had to post on my Facebook.

    John Solano

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  16. Max Young


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  17. WillSalomon

    I ran into your site by accident, just clicking around and you have a wealth of relevant content on here. Thank you for sharing and giving to our community.



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  18. » Blog Archive » Jasmine Star speaks at WPPI 2010

    […] Her session is entitled Ghetto Fabulous Marketing and in a nutshell, she shares how she connects with people, markets herself and spends next to nothing on marketing expenses. She acknowledges it’s not necessarily the right way of doing things, but it’s her way. An excellent summary of the platform was done by Pye, and I’ll just send you his way here. […]

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  19. Rebekah Towers

    Thanks so much for the great notes! There were so many people both at WPPI and not that didn’t get the chance to get the Jasmine* experience. It was so great to hear what she had to say. Totally an inspiration as always. :)

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  20. Lorrie Prothero

    Thanks for the review/notes – I missed her class …so bummed I did, but very thankful you covered it so well.

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  21. admin

    Thanks J* and Dans for the quote correction, I knew it was missing something ;)

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  22. AmyPunky Photography

    Great post!!! Thanks for sharing!!!

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  23. Deanna McCollum

    Thanks for sharing this! Great advice and an inspirational story. Wish I could have been there.

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  24. dans

    “I’d rather see you fail at something you love, then succeed at something you hate” – JD

    That’s really a quote that I love !

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  25. Andrea

    Wow, thank you for your thoughts and for including so much rich information. I did not attend WPPI, so this was really valuable for me. Thank you :)

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  26. Otto Rascon

    Thanks for this recap! I really appreciate it. I will check it out in a lot more detail later. Rock on!

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  27. Jasmine*

    Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga?!? Pfft. I was hoping for something more along the lines of Neil Diamond and Cher, but I guess the former will suffice. ;)
    Thanks for the recap…totally awesome.
    p.s. “I’d rather see you fail at something you love, then succeed at something you hate” – JD

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  28. Saadia Me*Chel

    Thanks for including this rundown of Jasmine’s platform class. It’s benefical for those of us who were unable to attend WPPI or Jasmine’s platform. Very valuable!

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  29. How do you make jasmine essential oil?

    […] WPPI 2010 – Jasmine Star Ghetto Fabulous Marketing Platform Notes … […]

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