Deal 10: A hot topic, at a hot price!
A Guest Post by Elizabeth Archibong.
As a photographer, whether we like it or not everyday, there is someone picking up a camera hoping to become a pro-photographer and on the other end, established pros are constantly changing the script and reinventing what counts in the industry… so to get your business to stand out, you have to learn more and more on how to skillfully compete with what ever limited resources available.
The one major area we can compete is learning how to position yourself and your business to get the greatest rewards. How can you do this? Focus and specialize on one area of excellence.
If weddings are your thing – focus, specialize, let your website show that you eat, drink, breathe and sleep weddings; become ‘The’ wedding photographer. Rather than show images of babies, pets, nature and what not, your aim should always be to make your target client confident in you and what you can offer long before she has even met you and the best way to do that is your home (on the web) should tell that potential client that you are an expert in your field. It should give a feeling that there is nothing about photographing weddings that you don’t know about, because it is what you live to do. It should make her feel that she must definitely have a ‘chat’ with you – whether she picks you in the end or not is not the point here, the point is that you will be one of those that cannot be discounted and will at least warrant a meet up just to see if you are a good fit (and let’s face it, if a bride is asking for a meet up, you know you’re in there with a chance of getting the gig)
Specializing not only forces you to up your game, it allows you to increase your prices and charge accordingly for the services that you offer. You now are not competing anymore with everyone out there with a camera instead you are now competing with other specialists. This means you are more likely to get heard because the pool is lot less crowded than before. The sort of clients you start to attract, will be different and so will the expectations that come with having a higher end client. The competition is now not on price, but more on how tight your game is compared to the other specialists on her list and, if you will be a perfect match for her and hubby. If you are focusing all your available resources on specializing, you will be on top your game, so the fear that you will be seen as a fraud is not going come up.
If you feel you absolutely can’t give up photographing pets or babies just for weddings and at this stage, you want to take whatever job you can get – that’s okay, but understand that people looking for children’s portraits are a whole different market and they have different needs from the wedding client and require a completely different marketing strategy . It might be best to consider having a different home for your portrait work because little Benjamin and Clara’s mother is more likely to book your services if she believes without doubt that your are more than capable of providing the goods to make her angels look like angels even when they are not quite being angels. Same as above then goes for the sort of fees you can charge for your service of making clara, ben and chris look like little rock stars even on their worst day.
As long you are constantly (without the distraction of trying to be all things to all people) giving your potential clients reason to believe that you are more than able to match their expectations and solve issues that they may not have even considered, then you have gone a long way than others in making your business stand out from the crowd.
Updated: apologies for the kooky formatting – Darren
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June 17, 2013 01:46 am
... my last comment is in regard to the marketing of other types of photography ...
June 17, 2013 01:35 am
Nice article... Do you have ANY advice for a photog NOT doing portrait type photography?? It seems as though 90% of all the articles I read focus on weddings and portraits in some form... what about the rest??
February 6, 2012 04:09 am
We focus on event photography in Nashville, TN.
July 21, 2011 02:35 am
I was interested in several of the topics in this blog, but I am not at all interested in reading high minded "photographers" acting like a bunch of sharks at a feed fest.
I think it is great Elizabeth stepped up and shared the information she had. If you don't agree, simply state your disagreement in a polite manner. If you don't like the grammar or formatting, just leave.
There are many photographers that aren't literary geniuses. I know of one professional painter that has several wonderful tutorials out and she doesn't talk like a politician or spell well at all. But she can sure paint.
Quit being so self-righteous and high minded, it isn't a good look for you. Good bye. Off to a sight where people are about helping each other, not showing off their indignant ability to tear others down.
January 10, 2011 10:16 am
I have this great a Semi-pro to Pro Canon XH A1 video camcorder
of mine that I would like to sell. It is a high quality
HD video machine for small production films or
December 28, 2010 12:56 pm
I think everyone goes through those feelings of not being good enough at one time or another. And just to let you know, there are photographers out there that are better than you. And those that are better than you have others better than them. They're will always be someone better than you in some way or another - no matter how good you are or get. So, don't sweat it. Instead, evaluate what you have to offer, focus on that area and work on mastering it. There's only one sure fire way to do this and that is to actually take your camera and start shooting what you feel you can master. Shoot. Shoot and when your done, shoot some more.
Don't think you are good enough to ask for money while you learn? Wrong. You can ask, they may not pay or pay what you will ultimately be worth. If right now your skills are not up to "high-level" pro, than charge a little less than you will later. Perhaps shoot pics of friends or family at no cost to them as practice subjects. But when you do, treat it lika a paid gig - from beginning to end. You are working as a pro photographer. Circustances just mean that you are not being paid for that particular shoot. But be the professional.
It isn't always easy to drum up the courage to start. But if you have faith in yourself and what you want to be, than no one can get in your way - including yourself.
Best of success to you!
December 28, 2010 12:23 am
I couldn't agree more! There is a saying, "if you provide everything (Wedding, portraits, babies, pets, landscapes, etc), you specialize in nothing. Create your brand and be unique.
November 28, 2010 11:10 pm
I don't know whether anyone will see my comment seeing as there is so many and most of them just worried about the formatting because they are using the wrong browser. Anyways... I can't wait to get my business up and running. Yet I am soooo afraid. I have been dreading to do this for more than a year but I always feel that I am not good enough. I am too scared to just load up something for an opinion. I always feel that there is so many photographers out there that are better than me. I would love to be that "different" photographer, but it seems that all the possibilities are taken. Among so many photographers, what is the best thing to do? How is it possible to make a living out of photos if everyone can simple just sell theirs on the web?
November 20, 2010 08:19 am
I'm glad the web formatting was fixed before I got here.
For those of you who don't know better, the problem was probably not the writer. Often text gets truncated or mis-formatted when posted to the web. The web-master should take care of this. And has now. Based on the quality of the information (very good by the way) my guess is that the writer knows how to format an article.
Thank you Exlizabeth for reminding me about specialized marketing and "homes" for each niche area within our core business. This is something we did in my previous (non-photo) business that was highly successful.
I appreciate your article.
November 10, 2010 08:16 am
FYI--Blog and Forum posts are not suppose to be works of literature. I have an MA in Educational Technology, so I can post this comment with a level of expertise. If that is what is expected in this forum, I will refrain from posting in the future.
I look forward to learning from the forums and I will continue to read them. I just don't want to offend the other readers, by making grammatical, spelling or formatting errors.
One last thought that may be helpful to others participating in this forum, I try to remember not say anything in a post that I wouldn't say to a person in a face-to-face conversation. I also try to write with the same tone that I would use in a verbal conversation.
November 7, 2010 08:28 pm
@Killian. I guess your photographic and people skills are not your fortee. Or are they?
November 7, 2010 01:36 pm
Thanks for you last comment, Darren. I love DPS and the articles and I am learning so much thanks to your web page. Unfortunately, I have gotten annoyed lately at all the negative comments on the tutorials, so hopefully we can all cut this out and just be friends! Thanks, Elizabeth for your article. I am just starting out and trying to find my true photography passion. It is good to think about where to specialize.
November 7, 2010 12:44 pm
Hi all - thanks for your feedback on the post. As mentioned above - there were some issues with formatting this post. Having said that I'd just love to encourage people to respect others and their opinions. We encourage different opinions - but encourage you to do it constructively and to comment with the same tone as you would if you were talking face to face with those you're talking to. hopefully through that approach we'll all come out of this better photographers.
November 6, 2010 11:11 pm
I am a high school business teacher who recently started turning my hobby into a second career. I know from my business degree that specializing is key in this market. I just couldn't find my "gift" until I started taking free senior pictures for my economically disadvantaged students. Photographing teens came naturally--I've worked with them as a teacher for over 20 years. It wasn't long until I started getting requests. Due to a conflict of interest clause, I still only do free senior pix for economically disadvanted students in my school. However, I am now getting paid for senior shoots from neighboring school districts. 75% of my shoots are boys who don't want their pictures taken, but end up having fun by the end of the shoot. Their moms talk to each other and I get more requests. I discovered my specialty, I'm marketing it, and it's paying off!
November 6, 2010 02:35 am
I agree and disagree with Elizabeths points.
Firstly true specialisation can only happen when you are truely at the top of your game and your a very well known photographer. I don't know any photographer that can afford to say no to an assignment just because they are a 'wedding photographer' and I dont do blah blah. Especially given the current financial climate.
Yes know your strengths and weaknesses and where you can make your money.
I think you can appear to specialise without cutting your nose off to spite your face. I divide the areas of work I do currently into 3 areas on my website as each has a very specific structure to pricing. this is reflected in my website as once you are in a section there is a link to the others but it isn't prominate, if a designer wants me to shoot his new collection he doesn't want or care about knowing about the family portraits I do. The home page is simply a portal to my work.
1. Family portraits - where I freely publicise rates etc, I actually do the sittings for free and have never had anyone not buy something the average spend I get is somewhere around £150
2. Commercial and PR - this is the more business stuff I do and can be anything from product shots and business portraits to covering an event I do not publicaise my rates but they are strictly whole day or half day plus expenses. I am considering splitting this into 2 areas now.
3. Editorial and Fashion - this is much more a specific area and is all about what and who normally commission based.
Sorry for the long winded comment its difficult to explain take a look at my site and you will see what I mean www.rubberduckdoes.com. I'm happy to answer any questions anyone may have just drop me a line.
November 5, 2010 06:26 pm
I've been trying to specialize on portraits and events, although it's not as luxurious as weddings, it's more fun and clients are more friendly. (or maybe it's just what my image is attracting, *wink*)
November 5, 2010 03:53 pm
First of all about content - very well said about finding your true niche and then focusing on it. It really differentiate you from millions photographers out there taking photos of almost everything.
Second thing - formatting, don't know why so much hue and cry on this. It was showing pretty nicely paragraphed on iPhone and Crome.
Thanks for the article, it has reenforced my belief.
November 5, 2010 07:38 am
Specialization is biz 101. If you aren't specializing, you aren't focusing your business efforts, and you are diluting your marketing effectiveness. Keep in mind, specialization doesn't mean you ignore all jobs that don't fit into your specialty. We might all starve if we did that. But you cannot market to wedding clients (or fashion, or humanitarian, etc) the same way you market to families, children, pets, corporate events, etc. By saying "but they all involve people", what you are doing is trying to find justification for your old way of doing things, rather than opening your mind to ideas that have proven very, very successful. If you don't create something of distinguishable value, you are competing on price, and personally, that is the last competition I want to be entered into. As others have said, this article isn't "ground breaking", but it is clear from reading the comments that many would do well to listen to the great advice from Elizabeth. If you continue to find excuses to do the same things you have been doing, you will continue to stay firmly right where you are.
November 5, 2010 06:55 am
See that. "look I'm the mirror" instead of "look in the mirror". Ooooh I can't read this. There's a typo. Waaaaaaa.
November 5, 2010 06:52 am
This is truly unbelievable. What a bunch of lame whiners. This is a great way to make sure no-one ever takes the time to give great advice. I had NO PROBLEM reading this article. Shame on all of you shallow louts who are so challenged you can't make it through a short article because of lack of paragraph breaks and a couple of grammar issues. It makes me wonder what's going on in our self absorbed, self-important lives that gets us to a point where we are unable to focus on a story because of the formatting. Run along now; go and have good cry. Then have a good look I'm the mirror. Honestly. (Hope my grammar good enough for you to get
November 5, 2010 05:54 am
I have no idea what all the talk about the format is about, it's in paragraphs on my computer. I had no problem reading it at all and I have dyslexia.
Fabulous and relevant article; it made me think hard and reassess my mode of working.
Thank you Elizabeth for your good ideas.
November 5, 2010 04:38 am
I am amazed at how demanding and petty people are. It is an honest mistake, humans make them. Thanks for taking the time to write this. As far as the content specialization is a good point, I believe you have to be careful not to "put too many eggs in one basket". Especially for the beginner or if your in a market where the recession has hit many people. Anyways, if you don't like the way it was formatted then stop reading it. But save the negative comments for your family. My 5 cents.
November 5, 2010 03:27 am
Wow. You people are so snobby. If this article was a book, maybe it would've gotten on my nerves in the format it's currently at. It took all of 3 minutes to read. Maybe it was a different format than what you are used to. That doesn't give valid reason to dismiss it or bash the author like some have felt compelled to do.
Very smart article Elizabeth. Thank you for sharing your opinion to this newbie photog. I've gained valuable experience. I am also looking forward to reading your articles I have found on your website!
November 5, 2010 03:10 am
I think the idea of specializing is a good one, but what do you do until you figure out exactly what you want to specialize in? I would like more experience, and then I plan to separate my photos. I hope it doesn't hurt me in the meantime.
November 4, 2010 12:16 pm
Hi All - the formatting issue was totally mine and i apologize. I had a computer melt down around the time this was edited and uploaded and it completely slipped my mind to update the code to better html from my initial upload (before the computer issues).
Anyway it's fixed now. Apologies to both the author and readers for the issue.
November 4, 2010 10:05 am
I think reading this article is not worse than reading a book. Although I agree that some formatting would have made it even better, I think people could appreciate these free insights a little bit more.
On the topic: I think the issue of specializing in a very certain field of photography can make sense for photographers who did this very thing (e.g. just weddings) for the last decade. Especially for photographers relatively new to the business it makes more sense to stay open minded and figure out what it is they like to do and what it is their potential clients are looking for.
Weddings, other events and portraits have something in common: It's about taking pictures of people. So why not offer all of them? You should advertise them on three different sections on your webpage though.
That said, there are some things that don't really mix together very well, e.g. Architecture, Portraits, Sports and Food Photography.
One thing I that I don't like that much when looking at other photographer's websites: Pictures of random stuff - you know like a motorcycle, a dog... all that stuff where I ask myself: Nice to show off your best pictures dude, but you are advertising for portraits - what's the picture of the dog for?
November 3, 2010 08:44 am
I thought this was a great article. Although the formatting was distracting, I can't deny that the information was useful. Thanks!
November 3, 2010 06:10 am
I think I hear what you're saying a lot among professional photographers. And I would agree with the concept to an extent. But I don't think this is the solution for every photographer. Let me give you an example, and I'll use our studio. We specialize in weddings and high school senior photography. However, we also do babies, families, etc. We have talked about cutting certain offerings, but we always come back to the same line of thinking. If we cut out one of the life stages, then that means our clients will be required to go to another photographer for those pictures. That's inconvenient for them. If that other photographer does all types of pictures, there's a good chance they'll just switch completely over to the other photographer for simplicity sake. People like to build relationship with vendors. Most people don't have "hooks" in their brains for wedding photographer, baby photographer, senior photographer. They just have one hook labeled photographer, and only one photographer hangs on that hook in the client's mind. What do you guys think? Is there another side to the specialization story?
November 3, 2010 02:35 am
It can be scary to specialize so this article is a nice reminder that there are benefit$ to specialization.
Excellent article, but PAINFUL to read. Seriously, a little formatting would go a long way to making that easier to read? And to be clear, I blame the DPS editor for not enforcing a little quality control on this.
November 3, 2010 02:04 am
Wow - i thought that was 'Digital Photography School' - not 'Proud Pedant Forums'... guess I'm at the wrong place. But i suppose its easy to pull someone down on an issue unrelated to photography, rather than to put your neck out and do an article yourselves huh?
Elizabeth - nice article... Especially your points about specialising, upping your game and marketing yourself. Despite having work published i'm not ready to commit - simply because i am still on a huge learning curve - but i am sure my time will come.
November 2, 2010 10:29 am
This article is perfect. I love this advice. There is no other way to get word of mouth than if you specialize in a certain area of photography. It also allows you to perfect your businesses. If you know portraiture inside and out you will know where you make the most money and be able to shop for clients that fit this situation. Thank you Elizabeth for the great article.
November 2, 2010 09:50 am
Everyone having a 'go' about the writing - get over yourselves. The writer is a PHOTOGRAPHER!!! They gave good points and insight into PHOTOGRAPHY and the business of expanding your business! I managed to read the entire article - I was able to take on board the points and be appreciative of the effort taken to put a few points down.
The last time I looked, photography was about light, vision, creativity and passion. If you are more interested in spelling, formatting and grammar -- take up being a novelist and stop being so damn picky with those trying to be of assistance.
If you don't have the self discipline to read through something not 'spaced' or placed in easy to read and digest 'paragraphs' - fine -- don't read it and don't learn. Move on.
OH -- and guess what.. we are bringing up a generation of children who are almost incapable of spelling their suburb -- let's not compare the professional photographer, who appears to be making a decent living, to that.. please.
Sorry to be harsh - but the multitude of 'comment' columns on every kind of internet article these days just seem to bring out people more interested in cutting people at the knees - rather than taking on board the true meaning behind.
I thought the upshot of what was being said was something that some photographers just starting out needed to hear - find your strength and your passion and expand on it. Don't confuse your potential customers and give an umbrella presentation in your website or advertising - focus and show your strengths.
When I go to my mechanic he may not be able to spell 'proper' - but my car comes out purring -- that's talent, experience and know-how. I don't really care whether his invoice has spelling and grammar mistakes.
Sheesh - a lot of people were really harsh on some free advice. Lighten up.
November 2, 2010 09:40 am
While specializing has its merits, it might not be realistic in the market you serve. First, I believe you have to have a passion in that area of photography to be able to show excellence. Also, focusing in one area like weddings, you have to make enough money to live during the normal 6 month wedding season.
There are other things to consider like having the right equipment, access to a studio, pricing that is competitive. The market (Michigan) I serve is hard hit by the economy and clients tend to go low in pricing.
As a portrait and event photographer/videographer, my strategy has changed. Each client has different expectations and my new strategy is to exceed them (do extra work). I let as many people and potential clients view my work on Flicker, Facebook, and individualized photo albums to generate inquiries and business. Sometimes I shoot a big event for free to get the experience and to win the client's confidence.
A great tool I now use is the internet to show and sell photos. I can go low in price on the shoot, then refer the client to buy on the internet only the photos they want. This is especially great for event and family photo shoots.
November 2, 2010 06:06 am
Using paragraphs isn't formatting. It's just proper writing. Formatting is whenyou bold something.
Paragraphs are used to organize writing so each says something in and of itself.
However, I struggled through and I think there are some valid points. But the bottom line is you will still be competing for whatever niche you decide on.
November 2, 2010 04:41 am
Her content is fine. Better than some things I have read here, but not groundbreaking. Thank you for the insight. Part of business is communication. Basic formatting is pretty important. I have viewed on multiple computers and it looks bad. I don't claim my blog is a bastion of perfect grammar or formatting. If I was to wrote a post I would be sure that is had some breaks to delineate my ideas. I don't typically complain about bad articles, but I had to say something.
November 2, 2010 03:32 am
The formatting may well be browser-related. However, the mechanical errors that are present throughout the piece are mirrored on her own website. A lack of punctuation, poorly constructed sentences, and misspelled words have nothing to do with the browser.
If you're going to put yourself out there in public as a "professional" or "expert" who is supposedly viewed as a person of authority in a field, then your public writing should reflect that. If you cannot be bothered to have a writing piece, or especially your own "professional" website evaluated by an editor, why should I consider you anything more than a middle school student with a good photographic eye? Then again, even middle school students are trained to use spell check, grammar check, etc.
November 2, 2010 02:41 am
I think the formatting is a browser/style problem. I can see on my Android where the paragraph breaks are, but there's no space between them. The effect is one of a giant, run-on sentence.
As for the subject: I both agree and disagree. A lot depends on the person, but I find that generalization of your specialty works just as well. It takes longer, however - not something that everyone has the time or patience for.
November 2, 2010 02:13 am
That was actually rather hard to read due to the formatting. Just an FYI
November 2, 2010 12:57 am
Firstly, let’s please give the writer a break and try to “focus” on the content.
I wholeheartedly agree that specialization, to a point, is far better than being all over the board. One can look at their market position from an internal-out perspective, that is asking the questions, “What am I good at, what do I like to do, what makes me unique, what would I like to be know for”? Or, one can take the market-back perspective, asking questions such as, “what photography need exists in my market area, what market segment is being under served, etc”.
Then you can develop a branding strategy around the segment you want to serve. If you conclude that you would like to serve more than one segment, then you should be sure that the two are logically related and are not too much of a mental stretch for your client base. If they are, than you might consider multiple branding strategies, thereby completely segmenting your markets.
There is a lot more to discuss on this subject, but I think that covers the general principles.
November 2, 2010 12:49 am
I have to agree with Tyler's comment.
November 1, 2010 11:22 pm
Perhaps this is a browser issue? The text appears to be divided into paragraphs as I see it (in Firefox). Admittedly, there are no blank lines between the paragraphs, but there are, nevertheless, paragraphs here.
Re. the content of the article: an interesting idea. I wonder whether focussing too narrowly might result in one loosing other potential clients (especially if you do work on, say, both wedding and child/baby photography).
November 1, 2010 11:15 pm
I can't really disagree. If this person is supposed to educate me in her position as an expert or a professional, and I see a post that is making the English teacher in me spaz out, she loses credibility fast. This post is not only poorly formatted, but it is filled with mechanical (grammar and spelling) errors as well. To me, this is -not- the work of a consummate professional.
Here's the thing. I've been called "Grammar Nazi" and "English Snob" and if I need to own those titles, I will. But when you expound on the virtues of being a professional, and you are taking it upon yourself to come from a position of authority, then you'd darn well better be able to write correctly. Otherwise you look like a poorly educated middle school student who turned in a first draft for an essay assignment. Typos are normal; but these are not "typos."
(My apologies to the poster if I seem harsh. I truly don't mean to pick on you personally; you just because that proverbial straw that put the camel in traction. I have seen several "professional" photographer's websites that have absolutely abysmal grammar, spelling errors throughout, no punctuation, etc, and it drives me absolutely crazy.)
November 1, 2010 10:50 pm
i thought the same thing.. this person doesn't understand white space.
November 1, 2010 05:57 pm
Ryan: If I cant read the damned article, then there's an issue.
November 1, 2010 05:24 pm
I'm with Tyler. I tried to read this article but the humongous wall of text sent my eyeballs skittering around the page, landing nowhere, which killed my focus. I made it to the one bold-faced sentence, before heading down to the Comments.
To Ryan's point, writing an article that "helps other photographers," is only effective is it's formatted in a way the reader can consume the information.
November 1, 2010 05:00 pm
I love your article. This is the answer I'm looking for. I'm more inclined in portraiture and photo journalism but still not ready to sacrifice other kinds of photography doing a bit of this and that. I've realized that a lot of photographers in general (amateur or pros) are doing basically the same thing but the question is how can I make mine stand out. I need to specialize one area of photography so I won't look like a trigger happy paparazzi - shooting whatever is in sight. I will choose my subjects more carefully to strengthen my portfolio and like you've said compete with what ever limited resources available. I've seen your work and it's just beautiful - simplicity is beauty. Thank you!
November 1, 2010 01:04 pm
Actually I am with Tyler... no matter what your "profession" you should at least have decent writing skills. Either that or the webmaster should know how to put copy on the site.
November 1, 2010 11:10 am
COME ON! People spend time to help other photographers by writing articles and all you can comment on is how bad the formatting is?!? Yeesh.
November 1, 2010 10:58 am
I wanted to read this but the formatting is awful. Paragraphs are a great way to organize ideas.
November 1, 2010 08:38 am
I agree. If it's one thing I've learnt in the few months I've been photographing (with a couple of paid shoots up my sleeve) is that I seem to have a knack for portraits with or without flash, particularly at parties and events (such as a charity fundraiser).
I tried a bit of band photography last night and actually felt kinda redundant as there was about four other photographers there all vying for those great shots (local band/venue btw).
In the end, whilst I got some great portraits, I'm yet to nail the live band photos, especially in such low light.
So in that respect I think I've found my potential specialty, portrait and candid portraits.
Nice article, though it would be easier to read with paragraph gaps :P
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