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Beautiful Intent

We’ve all heard the adage, “Work smarter, not harder.” But if you’re just starting out or trying to retool your business, is that helpful advice? Maybe a better recommendation is, “Work with intentionality.”

Stanley Babb, owner of South Florida-based Stanlo Photography, credits his success to an intentional mindset—where every effort aims toward a specific goal.

“Once you get intentional, everything becomes easier,” says Babb, who specializes in weddings, particularly destination weddings, as well as lifestyle, branding, and commercial photography. 

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Born and raised in the Bahamas, Babb photographed his first wedding in the vibrant Caribbean locale. He quickly realized his island-inspired portfolio gave him an edge in the destination wedding market.

After moving to the United States in 2010 and settling in South Florida, Babb continued to build on that expertise. Florida is a popular wedding destination, which made it easy for him to grow his business.

“Once I realized people were booking me because of the types of images I was posting, I started being much more intentional about the work I was showing,” he says.

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On average, Babb books 50 to 70 weddings a year; a third of those involve travel to a destination, including the Caribbean, U.S. cities like New York and Atlanta, and occasionally Europe, Asia, and Africa. The warm climate of his home state means he has wedding business year-round.

Babb says he’s gotten more efficient by outsourcing tasks that don’t require his direct touch. He has embraced artificial intelligence (AI) to speed up color correction, with a first pass based on his preferences. Instead of spending two days tweaking and perfecting color, AI software gets it done in five minutes, he says. Then he’ll spend about an hour verifying that the images meet his style standards and make fixes to those that need adjustments. Babb also outsources his first pass of retouching, freeing up more time for him to focus on other things, like family. 

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“When I think back to the way I used to work when I was shooting fewer weddings, say 30 in a year, I was editing every day. Now, I’m shooting more weddings and I have more free time than ever,” he says. Though he acknowledges that AI usage can be controversial, he says, “This isn’t a cheat or shortcut. It’s a way to make certain parts of my process move much faster.”

His ability to delegate means Babb can direct his editing focus to a hallmark of his work: getting skin tones just right. Most of Babb’s clientele is Black, and he’s developed a reputation for his ability to convey rich, true-to-life skin tones in his photography.

“Skin tones are one of the top three reasons that people book me,” says Babb. “My style and my color were developed over years of tweaking and studying what the client wants, then getting it right every time.”

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Though Babb has four retouchers on his team, he realizes not every photographer has the budget to outsource at that level. This is where a well-directed AI tool can come in handy for handling basic first edits, he notes, leaving time for the photographer to add personal touches to final images.

Babb’s team also includes a hairstylist, makeup artist, dressmaker, suit maker, videographer, and content creator. He uses second photographers based in other cities to help cover wedding and engagement bookings, which enables him to cut travel costs.

“It’s extremely important to build a team of quality,” says Babb, adding that his highly capable partners “are an advantage no one can beat. Think of anyone who is successful, and they always have a team behind them. There is literally no way to be on the next level without a team. It takes your limits to infinity.”

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The mere presence of Babb’s robust team makes his clients feel comfortable and secure, he says. He’s also found his team approach attracts more clients. For example, when NBA player Draymond Green booked Babb for his wedding, Babb and his team pitched Green the idea of creating a complimentary custom suit and dress for a free pre-wedding photo session. Green went for it, which meant Babb could provide a unique service to his client and use the images for his portfolio and social media marketing.

“This [approach] not only helps bring me new clients, it makes my current clients even more excited to have me,” says Babb. “Anytime I can build that excitement and anticipation, it makes my life so much easier. But it’s also a gold mine of content that we can put on social media.”

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Babb’s content creator attends every wedding and engagement session, regardless of whether the client has purchased a content creation package. About half of his clients purchase the package, which includes bite-sized behind-the-scenes videos and images. But even if the client doesn’t purchase the package, the content creator documents every moment, which is then edited and shared on Babb’s social media. 

“What often happens is that brides will see a video I’ve posted of the day, and then ask to have it,” says Babb. “People love videos and natural posts, and these are perfect because there’s no editing involved. I can pull a one-minute clip and post it—so easy.”

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Babb’s content creation plan has worked so well that he now earns a side income just from his TikTok posts of behind-the-scenes moments.

“It’s a no-brainer,” he says. “TikTok pays me to post something I was going to post anyway. More people put eyes on my company, and it builds my brand. That’s the cool thing about social media. Videos are more important than any photo you can post.”

For Babb, staying relevant has everything to do with social media. Posting on all the platforms daily is key to attracting business, he says. He’d rather be marketing-forward and turn away clients than go through dry spells, he says.

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“I’d rather have to say no to someone,” he adds. “That means my marketing is working. A lot of people get comfortable in their volume and stop marketing. Then the next year it isn’t as consistent because of that. You can’t start and stop with social media. You have to stay consistent. Having an overflow of clients means you can choose the clients you want to work with and refer the others out.”

This philosophy, too, is part of Babb’s mantra of intentionality, the strategy behind everything he does.

“If you’re slow or not getting clients, there could be a lot of reasons why,” says Babb. “But, if you get intentional with your learning, with your process, with your marketing—everything will get smoother and easier. You have to plan and work, but it has so many benefits.” 

Stephanie Boozer is a writer in Charleston, South Carolina.