I’ve been a photographer full time for almost 12 years now. My first studio walls were opened in 2000, but in 1998-1999 I worked exclusively on-location in clients’ homes, which I still love. When I started on my own in 1998, I decided to focus on children. I began in photography by taking pictures of my own kids, so photographing my friends’ kids, their friends kids, and so on became what I loved to do. I’ve always focused on black and white portraits, and have become known for my style of “hand-painting”, which started with oils, pencils and charcoals. After going digital in 2000, I knew I wanted to keep that same look, so I developed a really simple digital hand-coloring process that mimics the painting I used to do on film prints.
After I moved to a studio space in 2000, I implemented more of a “client for life” model. For me, that started with maternity and newborn portraits! I realized that if I could get new mommies into the studio when they were still pregnant, I could create a bond and excellent experience, including knowing their babies would be safe and comfortable, that would keep them coming back again and again. In 2003 (or so) my specialty became maternity and newborn portraits. I do love babies! But, I also love photographing children (and babies turn into children!)
The biggest challenge working in such a small town for me has been the reputation of being too expensive. I’ve had to learn to market to other areas and become the specialty, boutique studio that brings people in from long distances. Years ago, our clients enjoyed driving in to our quaint little town and had no trouble making the trip back the following week to view and choose their images. These days, our clients are very busy, so we’ve developed things such as our “Full Day Experience” which brings the client in for a morning session, out to lunch or the park, and then back to the studio the same day to view and choose.
Decide who your target client is and then be where they are. Network with the people and businesses they are spending time and money with. For me that means marketing about 45 minutes away and beyond. Hard economic
times bring opportunity. Research has found that people invest more in their families during financially rough times, so stressing the value of portraiture in the home to a child’s self-esteem and as a family heirloom become even more important.
I really love seeing businesses thrive. Of course I have a heart for photographers, but I’ve also done marketing and business programs for entrepreneurial groups, young women in business groups, etc. I especially have a heart for women in business, and I get so much fulfillment from knowing that I’ve been a blessing to someone else’s situation. I’m a single mom, have worked hard, and made a lot of mistakes… I’m not afraid to share those experiences in hopes that someone else might avoid them!
Photo Talk Forum has been a great way to share and “be there” for many photographers, as well as to learn and grow along with them and some of the great mentors we have there.
Oh boy, do I fall short here! One reason I’m so excited about Animoto is that our Animoto videos speak for themselves. I don’t have to spend a lot of time preparing the blog write up, etc. I can pop images into an Animoto show, choose a song and viola! Very impressive marketing to any genre of client.
I am working on a new studio site right now with Big Folio, so stay tuned! I’ve decided to break up the different areas of my business, so that while staying focused on the maternity and baby niche, my high school seniors, wedding clients and our Simply Kids product line clients can all head to their own spot to learn more about what we do.
For moms and new babies, we use Animoto for the web, showing images from the maternity or baby session, or the two combined. Moms are encouraged to email these out to their friends and family, post on their family blogs and share on Facebook. The most exciting thing for us has been using Animoto to show the babies’ first year.
Animoto is a no-brainer for seniors and weddings, but putting images from each of the first year sessions into a keepsake slideshow for the parents at the end of the year is always a winner! We are using WHCC’s dvd cases to customize the packaging, as well. Our clients are LOVING this product! The Animoto video is free with any first year album purchase, or of course they can purchase it separately as well.
For our Simply Kids sessions, we do a full day of shooting that one client mom hosts at her home. I can then put favorite images from the day onto one Animoto show, and because most of those moms know each other and one another’s children, they love showing it off to other friends, who then also want to host a Simply Kids event!
Our Little Angels campaign has been a real blessing to us at the studio, as well as in our community. We’ve raised $35,000 + a year with these events and calendar. The Little Angels events benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Now going into 8 years of working with them, the charity and those affected by blood related cancers (especially children) has become near and dear to my heart. I believe as photographers we have a responsibility to “give back”. What we do is so powerful!
Being involved in your community is important for business in general, but add to that a charity campaign, and you let your current and potential client base know that you have a heart for others. It also gives them a way to donate and be involved while getting a great product they can feel good about. Working with a charity gives our clients a reason to donate, too. I’ve been introduced to a lot of people I wouldn’t have met otherwise, and have had the opportunity to give each year. We donate the $100 Little Angels session fee to LLS, then my favorite image from each session goes online for voting. Votes are $1 each, and the Little Angels who raise the most money (get the most votes) are featured in the calendar the following year. We also donate all proceeds from the calendar sales to LLS. This has resulted in great fundraising and donations through the studio, media coverage, community involvement, plus studio revenue.https://animoto.com/play/3YqimTqoZOkDZyO5IFoKAg