Specializing as a photographer. What does it mean to specialize in something? If we look at the definition, it means to “concentrate on and become (an) expert in a particular subject or skill.” As a wedding photographer, you’ve already taken the steps to specialize in one area of photography. It’s so important to find and share your specialty with clients who are ideal for you. To share more about why finding a niche is essential to your success, we reached out to ShootDotEdit Wedding Pro, Jessica Hill Photography, to hear more about her personal journey to find her specialty as a photographer.
Specializing as a Wedding Photographer
In 2009, I was the everything photographer. I felt cool, artsy and unstoppable and even wore a beret for an entire season. There was really nothing that I wouldn’t shoot. High school seniors? Of course! Kids birthdays? Sure! A dog fashion show? Yup! I was essentially an all in one studio that offered weddings, newborns and families, high-school seniors, senior citizens, boudoir, pets and more. I essentially broke down in late August of 2011, after the 23rd shoot that month and I collapsed on my living room floor and cried until I couldn’t cry anymore.
I felt stressed, overworked, and burnt out. I was tired of the constant hustle. I wanted freedom, creativity, happiness, and to connect honestly with my clients. What I realized in that crucial moment of tears was I couldn’t be everything to everyone. I was essentially an all-in-one studio that tried to do it all. Sure, all of those photo sessions were keeping me busy, but I was barely paying the bills so I had to say yes to everything that came my way. I was in a vicious circle that I needed to break.
What I didn’t know then, but I do know now, is I was lowering my overall value by being an all-in-one shop. I wasn’t GREAT at any one genre; I was just ok at several. All of those genres have different demographics, target clients, price, and relate-ability. My target market was vast and literally spanned the age demographic from newborns to senior citizens, from recently engaged college couples to aristocratic dog owners! While the experience was great for me, I wasn’t able to hone in on who I was really shooting for, or what demographic I was catering towards.
It’s easy to be everyone’s photographer for every photo shoot under the sun, but much harder to be specialized. You really need to know your audience and hone in on your target market to be successful. It was in this tough life lesson I realized I needed to streamline my brands and only show what I wanted to shoot. No more kid’s birthday parties or dogs in tutus for this girl!
The definition of hone is to refine or perfect (something) over a period of time. And this is exactly what I did. I implemented this by knowing the age-old saying; you sell what you show. I knew I wanted to be photographing higher-end weddings, so I transformed my drop-down gallery menu that listed 8 types of photography services into only 2: weddings and engagements. This allowed me to book the couples I wanted and at a higher end price point.
Because I was now specialized in a wedding-only market, I had more time to sell larger packages and upsell engagement and wedding wall art and albums post contract.
Once I nailed down my Jessica Hill Photography brand in the high-end wedding market, I started my companion boudoir brand, Peekaboo Portland. I started Peekaboo Portland in 2010 to target a larger boudoir market, establish myself as a specialized boudoir photographer, and to get great SEO.
Peekaboo Portland started with a few of my brides asking for boudoir photos during their wedding day and evolved to be one of the top boudoir companies in Portland. Since this is such a niche brand, it alone isn’t a full-time job, nor does it provide the year round income that is required to stay in business. Because I had already established Jessica Hill Photography, the boudoir business was perfect to fill in the winter months around Christmas and Valentine’s Day. You really need to know your numbers; knowing that boudoir only makes up about a quarter of my yearly income, I know that it should only take up about a quarter of my time as well. I would consider Peekaboo to be my quiet background singer, where Jessica Hill Photography is my lead singer and guitarist. 🙂
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Figuring out whether to separate out your brands is a tough one, but I think it’s a win-win. It establishes you as an expert in the field of that genre of photography. A lot of photographers I’ve chatted with are afraid to do the work that is involved in creating a separate brand, which is partially true of course. With all of the great website templates, wedding photography editing services like ShootDotEdit, and social media automation available, it was a no-brainer for me.
Thankfully, I’m not wearing a beret while photographing Pomeranians in velvet and I’m able to photograph my two personal favorites, wedding and boudoir. This is not to say that I don’t photograph lots of other genres, I just show the subjects that I want to shoot and am able to really connect with my subjects and love what I’m doing. Because really, isn’t that what it’s all about?
Specializing in wedding photography is an important part of finding your ideal client and creating a cohesive marketing plan for them. Discover additional ways to build a strong wedding photography marketing plan with our free Guide to Marketing for Wedding Photographers!