Success Stories: How to Create Your Own Photography Niche

In a day and age where social media and other media consumption habits gear users toward a torrent of visual information, how does a commercial photographer go about creating a lucrative business? The answer, according to more than just one accomplished pro photog, lies in knowing how to create your own photography niche. This is, of course, about personal branding to a large extent, but it also has to do with finding what you love, catering to an already existing audience, and getting noticed (and paid!) for it. Easier said than done, huh? Well, it might take a bit of soul-searching, market research, and adapting, but it certainly is feasible. Here’s how:

create-your-own-photography-niche

Create your own photography niche by providing quality products to ideal clients

Do you happen to know at least one photographer who does it all? Product shoots, events, concerts, architecture, fashion, travel, babies – they know all about it and dabble in them all. While, on the one hand, it’s perfectly acceptable to sometimes step out of your comfort zone and try your hand at a type of photography you’re not entirely specialized in, this is not a very good business strategy. See, the reasoning behind such a ‘smorgasbord’ approach is that the photographers in question believe that if they have something to offer to everyone, then someone will surely want to do business with them. Key word: someone. Anyone. On the other hand, though, the process through which you create your own photography niche starts with knowing what you love to photograph and who you can sell it to, ideally.

So, in your quest to create your own photography niche, start out by identifying the following:

  • The perfect picture. What segment of photography do you feel most comfortable with? Narrow it down as much as you want. It could be a particular type of wedding photography, or something exotic like pet portraiture. The important thing is that you’ve got the technical skills, gear, and experience, to create great pictures of this kind. Finding this segment will take an honest look on your part at your current portfolio. You can also gauge social media reactions to your photos, for an indicator, as well as ask for unbiased second opinions from your peers.
  • The perfect client. First and foremost, a perfect client in any photography niche is one that trusts their photographer and knows they’ve chosen the best person for the job. Then come the specifics. Perhaps you like to work with couples in your area, or with big brands, or not-for-profits. Whatever tickles your fancy is entirely acceptable.

In order to create your own photography niche, you need to find that point of intersection between the two narrowed-down groups above: the perfect product you are able to deliver, and the ideal person to pay for it.

The benefits of creating your own photography niche

There’s far more to gain from specialization in photography nowadays, than just mere monetization. Of course, this aspect is not to be ignored, but here are a few other things you’re likely to gain in the process:

  • Confidence. By working with and for people who appreciate the kind of work you do, you will also gain more self-trust in your own skills and value. This way, you’ll be able to price your shoots at a fairer value.
  • Identity as a photographer. When you stand out from the crowd, when you’re no longer just another photographer on the virtually endless list of online artists, you’ve got yourself a personal brand.
  • New business. This almost goes without saying – when you know what you’re about and what you can deliver to discerning customers, you will also know where and how to go looking for them. If it hasn’t already, you’ll start seeing your photography business take off.

5 Essential Tips on Transitioning from Amateur to Professional Wedding Photographer

As you may have already read here, at Virtual Photography Studio, there’s something of a paradox to being a professional wedding photographer. On the one hand, most people who go into the business start out from sheer passion (or even by accident, in some cases). But then, as they progress, the question arises: can you make it big in this field, or should you stick to your day job? And if you do become a professional wedding photographer, will the transition be subtle and gradual, or should you expect to move up in leaps and bounds? In an attempt to shed some light on these pressing questions for most newbie pros, we’ve gathered up some nuggets of wisdom from the pros. Here are the most important tips on how to switch from the status of amateur to professional wedding photographer.

1. Don’t lay all your eggs in one basket

Accept the notion that you may not become a superstar wedding photog overnight. Deal with it – and do so in the most tangible and palpable ways. What does this mean? A great many things. For one thing, don’t abandon your personal projects, in hopes that you’ll be freeing up time for wedding shoots. In the beginning, these gigs will rather trickle in, instead of gushing in torrents. Along the same lines, yes, do stick to your day job at first, but do so with a plan. Set a deadline for yourself: you need to be making a certain amount of money from photography alone, by a given date. And that’s the date when you’re going to quit and officially switch from amateur to professional wedding photographer.

2. Advertise yourself

Word of mouth and recommendations for friends are a great way for landing wedding shoots in the beginning, but we assume you only have so many friends. In time, that source of clients will run dry and you, too, will be left high and dry. To preempt that from happening, work on building up your reputation. This doesn’t mean you need to start running full page ads in the local papers (unless you’re sure you’re that good already). But it does mean you should have an online portfolio, with a small, yet impressive selection of your work. Why not also set up a Facebook fan page, while you’re at it? Have a smartphone? Then you definitely need to be on Instagram, too – you may find it beneath your artistic prowess, but your friends are probably on the platform already.

3. Invest wisely to turn from amateur to professional wedding photographer

In the beginning, it’s likely that money will be tight, so refrain from splurging, no matter how cool that new Canon lens kit looks. Borrow lenses, beauty lights, tripods, and whatever other gear you can from fellow photographer friends – but don’t keep it for months on end and, whatever you do, don’t break it. Rent gear, if it’s available as an option. Rent studio time and consider working with some TFCD models to get your creative juices flowing and to enrich that portfolio.

4. Keep learning

All the great masters of photography did, from Bresson to Leibowitz, so you should do it, too. Your transition from amateur to professional wedding photographer is not over when you think you’ve got it all figured out. In fact, that’s likely when your career is over. Look at how fast technology is evolving, how regularly Photoshop is updated, and how many new lenses are released each month. Check out new seminars and workshops, know about the trainers’ experience and background. In photography, the learning process is never really over – and that’s one of the best things about this job!

5. Stay positive

We’ve written about the importance of staying strong in the face of negativity and criticism before. It’s incredibly important, so don’t you ever forget it. While constructive criticism can be a great way to enrich your skills, outright bashing is always detrimental. Don’t let the trolls get you down and you will do just fine!

13 Ways To Make Sure 2013 Doesn’t Suck For Your Photography Business

It’s the first “workday” of December. The year end rush may be leaving you drained, stressed, feeling overworked, and definitely anything but full of holiday spirit. With just a few weeks left in 2012, why not make it a goal to make the coming year a whole lot better than what you’ve experienced this year? Yes, it can be done. But there is only one way to make it happen – a little planning. These 13 tips can put you on track for a better 2013 – starting today.

Go BIG or Go Home

Don’t just sit around wishing in 2013. Take BIG action steps to fulfill your goals. Hire the coach you’ve been thinking about. Increase your visibility within your community. Do something! The more you do, the bigger your chance of moving your business forward.

Work ON Your Business

Your business isn’t just a way to replace your job. If that’s your sole goal, head back to the work place, as it will be A LOT less stressful. Instead, your business should be more than putting out fires and dealing with daily problems. Block out a section each week for planning and focusing – it’s the only way you’ll create a plan that will move your business forward.

Do One Marketing Task Every Day

Hoping for new clients will never bring them in. The only way to make it happen is to go out and find them. Do one thing every day to make a connection – call a past client, respond to posts on a forum, write a blog post, attend a networking function. Ideally, do it first thing in the morning so it can be sidelined due to a problem or “fire”.

Commit To New Things Every Month

Always work in your office with little contact to the rest of the world? While working with clients is important to your business, working with mentors is the only thing that will bring fresh new ideas into your life. Sign up for classes throughout the year. Buy those books you’ve been meaning to read. Head off to a photography conference. Then make sure you take your best ideas and put them into action. [Read more…]

If You Don’t Change Today, When Will You?

When was the last time you changed?

I mean really changed, not just a little.

I mean stepped completely out of your comfort zone, and did something so radical, when you told people about it they gave you the look … “whaaatttt?”

If you know either Andrew or myself, you probably know we’ve been doing stuff like that for a long time. Trust me when I say our parents gave up a long time ago questioning the way we do things. Just when they are comfortable with what we are doing, we “surprise” them and do something completely new. And sometimes completely off the wall.

When we started up our photography business years ago, we did it on the side for awhile. Until one day we quit it all and worked at it full time. With all of our family completely in the “job” mentality, they definitely questioned our sanity.

Or when we decided to sell our house last summer so we could move into a condo, and travel the world anytime we choose. Our daughter is off to college in a year, and we know travel is more important to us than a large yard that takes a ton of time in the summer months. [Read more…]

How To Keep Your Part Time Photographer Business Moving Forward While You Still Have A Day Job

Do you have a day job to pay the rent – and spend your evenings and weekends doing what you love, hoping one day to turn it into something more? Yep, that describes probably the majority of photographers out there at some point in their careers.

That’s where we started. It can be really tough though to keep up your stamina and your spirits when you’re working long hours at the office, only to come home and start it all over again with more work piled up in front of you. Especially when the tiny details seem to get the better of you. Its easy to ask “is this all there is?” as you begin to look for the day when you can enjoy your life too – not just work seven days of the week.

Yep, we have been there. And I’m so grateful we stuck out the odds and made it into the business we have today. Here are a few things that helped us. Make sure you have them in your own life too.

Write Down Your Goals – With Dates

Writing down your goals is probably on every small business website and information guide you’ve ever written. And while the advice may get old, the concept shouldn’t. Its there because it works. Yet if you have a goal list in front of you, have you added dates to it as well?

Rather than having a vague idea of what the future holds, put it to the test. A goal of “I’ll quit my full time job by December 31st of this year” is a lot more motivational than “I’ll quit my job someday”.

Putting a date to things creates a sense of urgency. It allows you to think beyond the basics and find ways to get things done. [Read more…]

The Only Thing That Limits Us Is Our Imagination

How do you interpret the world? What is realistic … and what isn’t?

What if you could take different pieces of reality and put them together? What story would they tell?

Take a look at this video and see how quickly it turns your perspective around.

Artwork is truly in the mind of the beholder. And Erik’s tips to combine photographs can really make you think not just about combining multiple images into one, but also how you will tell stories with multiple images.

  • Photos combined should have the same perspective
  • Photos combined should have the same type of light
  • Make it impossible to distinguish where one image starts and the other ends.

Ultimately, in order to get just what you want, it takes planning. What are you going to try next?

Is The “F” Word Creeping Into Your Business and Personal Life?

“Most people die at 20 and live until they are 75.” – Les Brown

I saw this quote the other day and wrote it down to remember it. I have a whole list of quotes I love and look to them often for motivation.

And while I completely agree with this quote, another part of me asked “why”. Why do people give up everything, lose their dreams, and continue with a life they really don’t enjoy?

When I started out after high school, I attended college because my mom said I had to. I didn’t have a goal or a purpose; just my mom behind me saying I had to have a degree. She wasn’t allowed to go to college back in her day because her family assumed she would drop out and get married anyway; why “waste” the money? She always regretted it and made sure her daughters had a degree instead.

So I “fell” into a business degree because I really didn’t know what else to do.

Then I fell into a variety of “jobs”, from banking to accounting to auditing. I never loved it; I just did it. I did get paid very well for what I did. And I also traveled all the time, which I guess is what whetted my appetite for travel. But I just did it all because that’s what you were supposed to do.

Then something happened when I was 28. My dad died of a massive heart attack. It was very quick, no warning. Just here one day, gone the next. He was 54 years old and way too young to die. But he has continued to influence me more since his death than he probably ever did while he was alive. [Read more…]

The Most Important List You Will Ever Have To Quit To Succeed

I’m a list person. But I’ll be the first to admit that lists aren’t always all they are cracked up to be.

A list can be a great tool IF you have the right things on the list.

But what if you don’t?

Then a list is simply a waste of time.

But the problem comes in not knowing if you are making the right list … or the wrong one. Because we use our own knowledge, our own filters, our own biases, there is a good chance your list may do more harm then good.

Your list may be putting you on the path to “un-success”.

If you look at your own life – wants, desires and goals – chances are you have big things planned for the future.

“I want to start my own business.”
“I want more time with family and friends.”
“I want to quit the 9 to 5 corporate grind.”
“I want to travel more.”
“I want to make sure my kids get into all of the best camps and schools.”

Those are great desires to have; but does your list support those goals?

Unnecessary tasks are the number one cause people don’t get what they want out of life.

When you make a list, you fill it with a variety of tasks. But when it comes time to check the items off the list AND SO SOMETHING, we tend to go with what we love first, pushing the difficult or challenging tasks to the bottom. And eventually you wad up the piece of paper and throw it away – do you really want to be reminded year after year of the tasks you can’t get done?

If we don’t want to do something, for whatever reason, we don’t. No matter how much impact it may have on our future.

So what is the solution?

Do only the things you love to do and have them make all the difference in the world.

Of course its not that simple. We would all be highly successful people if that were the case. But there are things you can do right now that will help you create better lists.

If you actively looked at everything you do, there are many ways you could simplify your life, giving you reason to create stronger lists. Let me show you what I mean. [Read more…]

7 Things You Gotta Have For A Successful New Year

1. How sincere are your messages?

When you send out an email, post on Facebook, or send out a tweet on Twitter, what is your ultimate goal? If its to sell, you have it all wrong. So many people today take the old way of thinking – “sell, sell, sell” – and try and incorporate it into new technology. It doesn’t work, nor will it ever work. When I see the message come through, “Hi you don’t know me but I have a great product…” its straight to the delete button. Messages need to be from the heart, offer value, and convince a person you are the right one for the job. People know how to find you and will make the sale when they are ready.

2. How is your customer service?

When was the last time you flew? Traveling used to be fun. Now its an incredible pain; something you only want to experience if you really have to. You can find your deal and buy your plane ticket months in advance. Yet you know your costs are anything but over. If your bag is a millimeter too big or an ounce overweight, you’ll be slapped with a fee. And don’t expect it to change any time soon – the only thing you can be guaranteed with is more fees. But is that really the way you want to be treated? Do you really want to give your money to someone you really don’t like? Or do you want to hand over your money to a friend? Someone who understands you and is willing to give you 110 percent all the time? This will continue to be the year of incredible customer service – only businesses dedicated to it will survive.

3. Does everyone want your products?

There’s a Starbucks in our area that does an unbelievable amount of business. It’s a free standing coffee shop with a drive thru. I have never driven by that place without seeing a minimum of a half dozen cars waiting in line – at all hours of the day. And if you go into it its one of the largest in the area, with tables, sofas and chairs spread out by two fireplaces. A little closer to my home was a local coffee shop that recently went out of business. The coffee was okay and they had few options for snacks and other beverages if you weren’t in the mood for coffee. To tell the truth, the only reason I frequented it is because you could always find a table. The difference is in the quality. If your products are average, there is no incentive to make the purchase. But if you make someone say “WOW” you’re on your way to success. [Read more…]

What 10 Things Will Change Your Photography Business?

Have you ever found yourself saying, “I really need to do this” or “I need to make this change”. Then months go by and you realize you never had the time to do those few little things.

I think we’ve all done that over and over again. If something isn’t absolutely necessary, if it isn’t something that needs to be done for your business to succeed, it seems to be put onto the back burner indefinitely.

Yet if you sit down and take a look at all the little things you wish you had time to do, you might be surprised at how they cumulatively could change your business.

That’s what we’ve done here the last couple of weeks. We sat down and made up a list of the little things for each facet of our business. And now we’re finding it’s a great roadmap to get 2012 started with a bang. Want to do it to? Here’s how.

Write it down

The problem with doing the little things is you always put them off, hold them in the back of your mind, and never add them to your to-do list because bigger things are always more prevalent. If you have to get out an order for a client, are you really going to put “change  out About Us page on website” in front of it?

In order to get the little things done, you have to know what the little things are. And how they will impact your business. Let me share with you one of our examples.

We’ve created a “10 things to do” list for several different areas of our business, one of them being our VirtualPhotographyStudio website. We still love the look and feel of our Virtual site, yet there are small things we’ve talked about changing for months. So we sat down and created our top “10 things to do” list for Virtual. Some of the things we’ve included are: [Read more…]