Standing Out in a Sea of Competition
It’s no question that the wedding and portrait photography industries are highly saturated. Being a Southern California wedding photographer, I am surrounded by some of the best. I am forced to compete with photographers who are more well-known and hold far more experience than my own 4 years of photographing weddings. Many would wonder how a newer photographer can survive this. How can you make a full-time living as a photographer when there are thousands of photographers? What can you offer—that will get clients to book you—without having to be the lowest priced?
If you are tired of competing on price, you must offer more than just images. “Pretty pictures” are just the prerequisite. When there are tons of others in your area who can offer pretty pictures, you need to take it to the next level in order to achieve the most success. This realization is what makes me believe so strongly in specializing. Having a unique specialty is a great way to position your business and create a niche. Whether you are a wedding photographer or portrait photographer, focusing on a specific style of imagery can greatly increase your value in the market.
In 2011 I began branding myself as a fairy tale photographer, specializing in couples and weddings. Sticking to this one style of imagery that I am most passionate about has brought so much success to my business. I don’t spend my time shooting tons of things that I don’t love or get endless inquiries for things that are not my strength. Narrowing my focus has created a niche for my business, giving me the opportunity to travel all over and work with clients who connect with my style. It has been a very rewarding adventure and the best decision I have made for my career!
The following tips are my top 3 suggestions for successfully carving out your own niche in the industry and rocking out with your specialized photography business! They are designed to be a useful guide to creating a fulfilling and profitable photo business, helping you to create a demand for your service and add value to your work.
A Main Idea
The first step to specializing is finding your main idea. This should come fairly naturally and should be something that you discover, rather than decide on. Take some time to think about your shooting history. What things did you photograph that made your heart soar? What things would you be happy with not shooting again? There’s a good chance that your niche might not end up being just one big idea or theme. There are many ways to define a unique style other than just a single concept. For example, try the “three words” strategy, commonly used in branding. If your style can’t be defined by one main idea, try coming up with three words that characterize it.
Add a Twist
So maybe you already have an idea of what your specialty is going to be and you have it all boxed up in a pretty little package in your mind? There is still one more step that will take that concept to the next level… Add a twist! If your idea fits into a box too well or flows effortlessly, it’s probably because it’s been done before. If it makes too much sense, push harder to make it more unique. Take the concept and incorporate other ideas that don’t necessarily go with it. It should feel like a puzzle that you are putting together. For example, when I began my fairy tale branding, I discovered that there were many different ways to interpret “fairy tale.” There was a “princess” style of fairy tale with flowers, fancy gowns, castles, and an overall bright and soft feel. There was also a more mysterious, woodsy feel that incorporated forests, ruins, fog, and a more haunting and dramatic tone. I felt very drawn to both styles and thought I needed to decide on which one I would offer. However, by mixing the two styles, I have formed something even more unexpected and creative. To keep my work consistent, I do not change my editing when I shoot one style or the other. I have an editing preset that I apply to all photos, to ensure that they have the same soft, bright style. I recommend finding a few “anchors” to help you keep your style consistent as you explore the different ways you can execute it. These can be things like your editing, lighting, lens choice, posing, etc.
The Little Touches
When it comes to successfully branding your new specialized business, the details are not to be underestimated. Everything you do should have logic behind it and be working to serve your brand. This goes for everything! From the products you offer to the way you deliver your images, it all counts and contributes to the overall impression that you leave. These details are things that I am always working on and continue to evolve in my business. A little over a year ago, I realized that none of the packaging options I could find were sufficient for my branding. I decided to take matters into my own hands and create little fairy tale “books” that are filled with moss and carry the custom flash drive I use to send photos. It takes some extra time and money, but it always leaves a good impression!