Wedding photography is becoming an increasingly competitive market, and it can be tough making sure you stand out from the crowd. Wedding photographer and ‘funtojournalist’, Marianne Chua’s has some excellent advice on how to become a unique photographer.
How to be an unique wedding photographer
If you’re a Fujifilm wedding photographer, you’re probably already someone who isn’t afraid to pull away from the status quo, yet when it comes to marketing and bookings, lots of wedding photographers fail to put into practice the advantages of presenting themselves as unique, with Marmite advertising. They’ll pitch themselves as a ‘jack of all trades’, take any booking that comes their way, sometimes feeling pressured to drop their prices when competing with other shortlisted photographers, and try to appeal to every man to pay the bills. However, I believe there are several downsides to this approach:
1) If you’re casting a wide and indiscriminate net, the chances are you will be shooting for couples that you don’t really gel with, or even worse, actively may not like. The main perk of self-employment is the luxury of choice: in a nine to five day job, you would never actively choose to work for a boss you didn’t like, so why do that now? When you aren’t excited to shoot for that couple, you just won’t have as much energy and passion for the day and your job satisfaction is much lower. Whereas if you’re genuinely enjoying the wedding day, your energy levels, and subsequently the photos you’re producing, are likely to improve. As well as affecting your photography, if you’re getting along with the couple it probably means you’re also getting along with their friends. If that’s the case, you’re far more likely to be booked through word-of-mouth referrals in the future.
2) There’s also an impact on time and effort. If you’re trying to appeal to all, you’re more likely to receive fifty lukewarm emails from people who are simultaneously shopping elsewhere. You’ll be doing excessive admin and you’re starting the client interaction from a position of needing to work hard to secure their interest. The other option is that you solely address your ideal niche market. Yes, you will receive fewer emails, but if each of those enquiries land in your inbox already super enthusiastic to have YOU, the chances are they won’t be emailing anyone else. In many cases their mind is already made up and a lot of the ‘sales effort’ has already been done for you.
3) You’re more likely to hit a pricing ceiling. The way I personally see the industry is that there are two types of photographers: “suppliers” and “artists”. There’s nothing wrong with either method but it does affect how you showcase your work. A “supplier” photographer is someone who is looking to shoot any wedding that comes their way, usually with a willingness to supply whatever the couple need without much personal voice. Because they pitch themselves as a ‘jack of all trades’, they often hit a pricing ceiling that they can’t go beyond, because there will always be someone cheaper offering just as good photography. The “artist” photographer is someone who essentially is saying this is my work, this is how I shoot, you can choose to book me or not. As a result, couples who book them are buying into more than a set of photographs; they are buying into everything the photographer is bringing with that – the experience, the person, the eye. In a couple’s mind, this is something that cannot be replicated and therefore you become priceless.
The key message here is, don’t be afraid to express your true creative voice and target your niche of ideal couples. I’m a wedding photographer who has managed to shoot weddings full time within my first year of business and who has been fully booked every year since whilst managing to shoot exclusively for my target audience. I find I have ecstatic feedback from happy couples, I’m treated very well on the wedding day and I have such a strong referral rate from both couples and wedding guests that I barely have to spend money on marketing.
How do I make sure I’m appealing to my ideal clients?
Now you’ve decided you like the sound of converting your business to a more niche brand, you’re possibly wondering how to go about it? Here’s some initial information on how to get started:
1) Firstly, you’ve got to work out who your ideal client is. To do this you can start from the existing or from scratch. Choose ten of your favourite weddings that you’ve shot and try to identify common demographics amongst those couples. Sometimes it’ll be appearance based, sometimes it’ll be about their personalities. Alternatively, if you feel you haven’t shot for your ideal couple yet, you can write down an imaginary couple. Go into great detail about their lifestyles, key personality elements, even give them names!
2) Secondly, make sure the photos on your website are on point. Your website is the most important marketing platform for you and you should put a lot of thought into how to make it a super effective 60 second elevator pitch. So, with this in mind:
- Show what you want to shoot. And only show this. Your website is not an advert for what happens on a wedding day, every couple knows that there will be a ring exchange and a kiss, so you do not need to show every key part of a wedding in chronological order. For example, if you dislike taking group photos, don’t put a group photo on your homepage.
- Make sure couples can see similarities between themselves, their wedding and your portfolio photos, whether it’s by having a similar venue or making sure the couples you show reflect your ideal client you’ve already identified.
- Be strict with yourself and only showcase photos that meet your signature photography style. Keep the editing and appearance of the photos consistent.
3) Connect with your ideal clients through demonstrating your personality on your website text. This is one of the things photographers often find the hardest; we are creative with photos but not necessarily creative with words! Don’t be afraid to quite literally spell out who you are and even what you love to shoot and what kind of person you love to shoot for. Yes it may alienate from couples, but remember, this is about attracting only your ideal niche. Couples are scanning through tens of websites very quickly, so it’s essential to grab their attention with the least effort on their part, rather than having to make them read long-winded or coy paragraphs to understand you and what you’re all about.
4) Don’t forget, once you’ve booked your ideal couple, you need to make sure their whole future experience of you from the first meetings, to your behaviour on their wedding day and how you deliver the photos is consistent with your branding message. You could put all this hard work into getting the couple to like you enough to book you, but if they’re left feeling like you’re too different from the impression you’ve given on your website and believe you’re disingenuous, you will not become a positive and lasting memory. If you make sure your brand is true to yourself, you will find it much easier to maintain a positive experience for your ideal couples.
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