How to Define Your Photographic Style
Awesome. Thank you, guys. Thank you, thank you, thank you. We're gonna be starting this lesson talking about defining your photographic style. When it came time for me to start preparing for this course, I have to admit that this particular section left me a little bit overwhelmed, because I don't pretend to be an authority of defining photographic style. In fact, it's the complete opposite. It took me a really long time to find what my photography style was. So, in light of saving you time, in light of you really honing in your focus, I'm gonna be talking about what that means. Now, I came across an article about a few months ago on The Knot Magazine, and they had defined photographic styles for brides. But when I was looking through it, I couldn't help but see it through the lens of a photographer, and that pun was totally intended. And there's a gem at the end of this article. We have to understand that the framework in which they're writing the article is for ...
brides, but if we were to take a step back and think, "How can this apply to my business?" I actually think it would be beneficial. Before we get there, I have to just come out and quickly say that it is a struggle to define what your style is. If you are pretty confident in what your style is, I think that you can look back with grace to other people who are just starting in the industry being like, "I have been there, I've done that. "I totally get it." Or you might be at a place in your business, you're like, "Photographic style? "I just realized that aperture and f-stop "were the same thing!" We're all on different walks of the trajectory, but knowing your style, if it comes in your first year, or third year, or it may be your fifth year, it's knowing that will help change the trajectory in getting the types of clients that you want, shooting the types of weddings you want, getting your work featured and marketed in a way that you want. What happens, and what I see happen quite often, is that photographers can get reinspired. Reinspiration is a wonderful thing, but if reinspiration happens again, and then again, and then again, and every time you're reinspired, you completely shift the perspective in which you approach a photo shoot, approach your post-processing, approach your marketing, what happens, and what can potentially be a really tough situation, is that when a prospective client sees your work online, it looks like six different photographers all contributed to that portfolio. I see people nodding your heads. Thank you. I don't know if you guys grew up in, like, maybe private schools or church, or having a lot of conversations with your family, but when you nod, it makes me feel like, good, I'm not alone in this! This is great! I'm not the only person who had multiple personalities in Photoshop my first year, because sometimes my photos would look really dark and moody, and then other times, I was happy, and they were punchy, and wow. I really loved gaussian blur, year one. I thought it was the coolest thing in a Photoshop action. It was fun to experiment, but the last thing that we want is for a client to come and wonder what she will get when it comes to her wedding, which is why it's really important to say what your style is. Now, it's valuable to take a step back and really just be okay in your own skin. It's okay to say, "This is what I want, "this is who I am, and this is what I do." That is entirely okay, because when you say those things, it allows the recipient, the viewer, the potential client, to look at you and say, "I see what you do, I see who you are, "and I want what you do." That's a powerful shift in the types of weddings and work that we start getting. Now, you will always grow. I know as photographers that's the thing that we do, and I encourage you to grow. And I even encourage you to change. But the thing that I'm going to ask of you is to tether yourself to small, incremental changes, because the thing you want to do is you want to invite your viewers along through what that process looks like for you. Because you might go to a conference, or you might go to a summit, and let's just say it's a Lightroom summit, or a Photoshop summit, and you're so inspired that you come back and you completely shift the entire trajectory. You might say, "I have found myself! "I know who I am!" That is great, but just like with any relationship, you can't simply show up and say, "I'm 100% different, deal with it," right? You gotta bring those people along with you for the ride. Even if you know, ultimately, where you want to go, perfect. You just have to make the small changes to get there. Now, one thing is, the sooner you define your photographic style, it's going to be easier to book the right client. Some of the greatest benefits of knowing what your style is is to look and have the freedom to shoot the things that you want. It's a temptation to shoot everything extensively. My first year, I was not thinking about photographic style. I'm just gonna be honest. I was like, "Oh my God, somebody hired me to shoot a wedding!" I had my camera. I shot digital. (mimics shutter clicking) I just wanted to shoot everything so that I didn't miss anything. I was more concerned with being held responsible for somebody's most cherished day that I really was trying to take a really strategic perspective about how I was supposed to approach my style, my curation, for their day. So the minute that I started actually taking a step back and thinking, "Okay, I'm a little bit more "confident with my approach, now. "Now I need to hone in on that style." And once I honed in on that style, I completely saw a complete shift in the types of clients that I was attracting. If you're at a point in your business and you're very happy, and you're thankful that people are hiring you, but you walk away from a wedding, and you wonder, "Why did they hire me?" It's not their fault. The onus is on you. Perhaps you're not putting enough of your style, enough of yourself, enough on your curation to know, to say to them, "This is what my portfolio looks like, "and this is what you can expect." Now, I wanna get into an article from The Knot Magazine, and it's written by Lauren Kay, and she writes, quote, "The type of photography you prefer will help determine "which kind of photographer you should hire." This is what the writer is writing to brides. If this magazine is educating brides on photographer style, and you yourself cannot define what your style is, you're gonna be behind the curve. So, now, today's a great day to become accountable, for you to say, "This is where I define myself." You can change in the future. That's okay. But it's important to actually come and say, "This is the thing that I am." Brides are very informed today. Social media, online presence has completely changed that, so you don't want your business to fall behind what the bridal curve is. The Knot Magazine divided photography styles into five categories. Now, from a photographer's perspective, you and I both know that there are more than five different types of photography styles. But, if push came to shove, and we had to make it as easy and as simple as possible for brides, I actually would agree to the five categories in which they have broken up photographers. I'm gonna get to that in a second, but the five types, I'm gonna break it down. One, a classic photographer. Two, an artistic photographer. Three, a lifestyle photographer. Four, a dramatic photographer, and five, a documentary photographer. I'm gonna be showing you excerpts from The Knot Magazine article. I'm using these with permission, but as I was going through the presentation last night with JD, to kind of like throw over ideas, when I put up that slide, he was like, "You took that photo?" And I was like, "No, can't you just figure out "and assume that that's not my work?" And he said, "No, not at all. "You need to clarify that what you're putting up "is not necessarily your style, "but when you get to yourself, "to make sure and point that out." So, let's go and define what a classic photographer might be. First up, the writer, Lauren Kay, writes that these photos are the types of photos that you have seen your entire life. If anything, you might have seen your parents have these types of wedding photographs, your grandparents to have these types of photographs. They have a tendency to be a little bit more formal than what we, not than what we. They're just a little bit more formal, period. And if that's your bent, that's awesome. Own it. Classic photos reflect reality, but there are small modifications that the photographer might slip into and change, which is different than the documentary style photographer. We're gonna get to that in a minute. But that type of photographer is completely, 100% hands-off in his or her approach. Classic photographer, a little bit closer to documentary, but they might step in and say, "Mom, step over here." Instead of a documentary photographer, who might just say, "Mom is there, "and this is a situation in which I shoot." Now, there is a little bit more artistic license. That's a fancy way of saying they change things, is artistic license. And I believe that a classic photographer makes ordinary moments absolutely beautiful. Second type of photographer would be the artistic photographer. On a personal note, completely away from The Knot Magazine article, I am the most inspired and I am the most impressed by artistic wedding photographers. They see the world so different than I ever could see it, and they take photographs that are so beautiful and so stunning on a wedding day that I myself, given the exact same situation with the exact same client at the exact same time of day, time of year, place in the world, would never see it in the way that they saw it. Some of the most inspiring work I see from an artistic photographer perspective come from photographers like Jonas Peterson, Max Wagner, and a litany of other amazing people who are doing crazy things. And they're shooting photographs that you don't really see a lot of on Pinterest, that when you do a Google search for wedding photography, they're not necessarily up at the top because it's not what a lot of people are doing. But from an artistic perspective, the artist, the tiny artist in me, I love it. Now, having said that, I also, even though I'm inspired by it, I can't be something I'm not. I need to know who I am. I need to know, ultimately, the type of client I'm going after. Now, an artistic photographer has a tendency to attract adventurous couples, untraditional couples. They have a tendency of shooting with wide lenses because they like to set the scene and put people within that frame in a very different way. I really don't shoot a lot with wide lenses. I don't attract adventurous or untraditional couples, and if I tried being something I'm not, it shows itself online. People online are so intuitive that they can see this person's trying too hard to be somebody that they're not. In light of that, I can look at it and say, "I am inspired. "You push me in a very different direction, "but you own that space, and I applaud you for it." Thirdly, this is the style that I resonate with the most. I'm incredibly inspired to be listed amongst some of the peers listed in The Knot Magazine underneath this category. Lifestyle photography is capturing natural moments that have been refined. For so long, I used to shy away from the fact that I really did approach a wedding day like a photographer, like a curator, and like an art director. I felt like it was a liability. And now, after years of doing this and having somebody define it as taking this type of artistic license and refinement, I'm like, "Yeah, that's exactly where I am!" Lifestyle photographers set up curated photos. They shoot the day, and they let the day, they let things unfold naturally, but not without doing the work before. It's very common for lifestyle photographers to scope a location to find the best light, and then organize the day around what they want to unfold. It's very common for a lifestyle photographer to pause something and say, "This isn't working, let me fix it." And then they step back, and then you move them into a pose. A lot of times, what brides are looking when they see a wedding photographer's portfolio is, I think, I call it the girl-next-door quality, so that when people, when brides, not people, because I'm targeting brides, not photographers, not moms, not dads, not grooms, my target audience is a bride. What I want her to do is to look at my portfolio and think that this bride, I could potentially be friends with. That the brides look approachable, that the brides look sincere, and that the photos look carefully constructed, but without being too directorial. A lifestyle photographer does the work in advance to ensure that everything works the way that he or she wants. Now, this is the fourth type of photographer. The fourth type of photographer is dramatic photographer. The writer states, it's very straightforward, "Lighting is a key component of dramatic photography." Regardless of the lighting situation, these photographers bring in their own light. They navigate their light. Regardless of what the sun is doing, regardless of what the weather is doing, regardless of what the location is doing, they are in control, so that the lighting that they bring can completely change how and what people are seeing. From a personal perspective, this type of photography was really, really prevalent when it came into the industry about 10 years ago. It was about at 10 years that I got in, and I saw that people were using so many types of off-camera light, and it was so very dramatic. And I liked it, but at the same time, it didn't resonate with me on a personal level, having just gotten married. I wanted things with natural light. I wanted things that were airy. And so, about a year and a half into my business, I had an opportunity to meet with somebody from a photo organization. I was really excited. He said, "Hey, you should bring your album out. "I'll take a look at it." At that time, I didn't even have an album to show clients, so I was like, "Oh my God, it's time to break the bank." I went and got a sample album done. I was about a year and a half into it. I needed to show clients something anyway, and I showed up with my sample album like, "Yeah, all right!" "I'm gonna meet somebody, we're gonna have some fun!" So we had lunch, and then he looked at the album, and as he flipped the pages, I felt like my stomach dropped deeper and deeper, 'cause he was like, "Hm." "Hm." Like, nothing. It was a series of "Hms" and flips of an album. He closed it and got to the end, he's like, "Well, you know, I think it's good, "but if you could stop blowing out your skies, "it would just be so much better." And I thought to myself, okay, I may or may not agree that, maybe, according to the existing canon of how photographs work, I might not be where you think I should be. But I think that I'm okay with that. I made that decision. I made the decision to defend my art approach, and technically, he's right. I shouldn't be blowing out skies. I should be having some sort of fill flash, reflectors, something that will make the photo look a lot more X. What he technically said was right. Maybe I was technically wrong. Maybe I never would win awards, and maybe people would never take me seriously. Maybe all those things would happen. But I stayed true to what I thought brides of my age, my demographic, my geographic location, wanted. And it ended up paying off pretty well in dividends. But the thing that I realized the most was that he wasn't right and I wasn't wrong, and I wasn't right and he wasn't wrong. What I realized is that the industry is big enough for different types of photographers to suit different types of styles. I may never book a bride who wants artistic photography, and I'm okay with that. In fact, I think it's better for your brand, because if a bride really wants artistic photography and she comes to you, and you say, "Yes, yes, yes!" There's a really high chance that you're going to underdeliver, and she's gonna feel disappointed, and then you're gonna feel awful, and it's gonna eat at you. Know what you want. Let me save you some time. Know what you want, show who you are, and for the people who it does not resonate with, awesome. Move on from there. The last type is a documentary-style photographer. This is also known as wedding photojournalism. This also, this type of photography also is wildly inspiring to me. With this type of photography, you will not see anything highly posed. You will see a lot of candid photography. Now, what you see is what you get. There are beautiful moments, and even the not-so-beautiful moments are documented in such a way that makes it look even really kind of pretty. There are spontaneous bursts of emotion. There's a lot of excitement, and most of the photos represent the moment exactly as it was. These types of photographers, they work really hard at finding the best angles and the best locations, because their entire goal is realness of the moment. They are not aspiring for perfection, they're aspiring to see the world exactly as it was. Now, there has been a heavy emphasis on interaction, so you will see a photo, a wedding photojournalist, when he or she sees a moment, they run over to that. And they're so good at anticipating moments. The wedding photojournalist, they're very close to, maybe, a newspaper photojournalist. They know a moment right before it's gonna happen, and because they have this seventh sense that's a, it's not a sense, it's actually an art form that they've worked really hard at. They can anticipate where they have to be. When they know a moment's going to happen, they might go out of their way to position themselves in the right light, in the right angle, in the right location to get what they want. Their minds are working three times as fast as I ever could. I joke that these types of photographers are like the ghost of the wedding world, because they are undetectable, they are sly, and they just wait there in waiting, ready to capture that moment. Their actions really prove how hard they work to do what it is that they do. If that's the penchant that you see, that you aspire for realness, you aspire to work very, very, very hard to be anticipatory of those amazing moments, then maybe this is more of your style. I just talked to you about the five photography styles. Like I mentioned before, we know that there are more styles than just five, but picking a style helps define our approach. It helps us define our approach as we go into a shoot, and we're gonna talk more about that in a future lesson. Having a style is the foundation to a business, and it is the cornerstone of this lesson. Knowing where you are now and then knowing where you want to go makes the absolute biggest difference. Your style will help you make decisions as you go through the next 30 days, and I look forward to seeing how your style evolves over this time. And if your style itself does not evolve, but your goal for that style evolves, awesome. Work your clients slowly through what that process looks like, so, ultimately, you end up where you want to be. Now, I started this session by saying that there was a gem in this article. The article was written for brides. We totally get it. I read it through the perspective of a wedding photographer, and that's what I kinda wanna share with today. This is also taken from the magazine. The magazine included a sample shot list, and it stated, "We make a shot list before every big shoot "to ensure we capture all the must-have moments." Okay. I get it. They're saying, "Brides, if you want your photos, "your day to be documented, "here are a list of things that you need." I looked at it and I thought, the photo editor for The Knot Magazine just gave me a shortcut to the types of photos that I should be submitting during the submission process. That's what she just told me. That, yes, she does care about a lot of candids, but no, she wants boutonniere shots. She wants getting ready shots. She wants jewelry and family heirlooms. She wants the ceremony from several angles. She wants posed portraits of the band, of the DJ. So, to me, when I read it, I was saying, "You saved me a lot of time." I now know how to curate a submission if I decide to send it to a magazine, if I decide to send it to a blog. This is at minimum what they're looking for. A lot of times, as we start to market our work, we wanna go in one direction, and these editors are saying, "No, no. "Boutonnieres and bouquets are where it's at." We know, though, having said that, we know as photographers, we take photographs of the entire day. We know it is so much more complex than just boutonnieres and bouquets, and, you know, candles at the ceremony. We get that. But the best part of this course is that this list, what they've outlined for us, we're gonna go through step by step, and I'm gonna show you. I'm gonna show you how I take those types of photographs for editors. I'm gonna show you how I document a ceremony. I'm gonna show you how I document a reception. We've created pre-shoots, so we had the CreativeLive crew come down to Southern California and film me as I do that at a shoot. But I think it's gonna get a little bit crazier in that CreativeLive and The Knot Magazine are joining forces for The Knot Dream Wedding. I was really excited. I was honored to be asked to document The Knot Dream Wedding, and then I asked to see if we can bring CreativeLive into that kind of crazy cauldron. But the best part is that you guys are gonna see what I do before. I'm gonna walk you through that process on a shoot at my own cadence, what I'm doing in my own time. And then we're gonna totally flip the script, and we're gonna put you in a real-life situation to see if what I'm talking is true. Unless I'm talking trash, right? You'll be like, "Oh, I have all the time in the world." And then on a wedding day, if you see me going like, "Oh my God!" Okay, we're gonna see. We're gonna see the approach that I take. Can it be applied in a pseudo-situation, and can it be applied in a real-life situation? The goal for that on the wedding day outside of this whole project is, can I shoot the wedding in a way that suits what the editors for the magazine want, and can I shoot the wedding in a way that my clients want? And then, thirdly, just because it's just not complex enough, I need to show you, I need to think in my mind, can I shoot this wedding in a way that makes sense for being on CreativeLive? I just want to thank you for joining that journey, because it sounds like a crazy hot mess. But it's exciting. It's exciting. I'm going to admit that it makes me very, very nervous, but at the same time, I think that I'm up for the challenge, because I don't think it's gonna be a walk in the park, and I don't think that it's gonna be easy. I think that it is an extraordinarily stressful situation, and I want to just come out and say that it is not a matter of if, it is a matter of when. When I make mistakes on the wedding day, I am asking you to deal with me with grace, to deal with me with support, that if you happen to be watching the live broadcast as it's going to be broadcasted live on The Knot, and you see me forget a bouquet shot, hit me up on Twitter, being like, "Hey, girl, boutonniere! "Hey, girl, did you get the rings?" Hook a sister up, because there's a lot of stuff going on. Like, I really mean it! Now, I may forget things. I might talk too loud. I might laugh too loud. I might miss a shot. I might knock over the wedding altar. Yes, that happened in real life. We can talk about it during Q&A. That is not a made-up story. It was a horrifying experience, but I'm still here. The bride was really happy, and that bride's wedding got featured in The Knot as well. So, obviously, I didn't ruin it to such a degree, I was like, "Oh my God!" But in spite of it all, I really believe in the process. I believe in the process of amazing organizations coming together for the benefit, yes, of an amazing deserving couple, but for the benefit of hundreds of thousands, if not just one photographer who can benefit from watching what that experience looks like. Having said that, we're gonna move into the homework portion from this particular section. There will be homework assigned almost every single lesson, because I want you to have an active process of what this looks like. Because it's so easy for us to come and sit here, and be like, "I agree!" "We all need a photographic style!" And if I ask you, "What do you think your photographic style is?" "I don't know, I'm just kind of working on it." No, no, we're gonna make some hard decisions, because you have to know. If you don't know where you're going, you will never get there. So, homework. To please define your photographic style. Secondly, once you have defined your style, I want you to start making small changes, so that your clients can grow with you. So that you can invite them to enjoy the journey. Thirdly, I want you to create a profile of your ideal client. Now, when I talk about creating a profile for an ideal client, I really just don't mean any girl getting married, because that's the temptation. When we start, I will be the first to admit that when I first started, my approach to attracting the right client was what I call the Wedding Superhero. Where there's a wedding, I'll be there! I didn't care. I was like, every wedding, "Girl, you wearing a white dress? "I'll just shoot you." But as I started growing the business, I started thinking, who is my ideal client? If I'm going to be giving away a weekend, a lot of weekends for my family, for my friends, for personal time, I wanna spend it with people who see the world the way that I do, who can appreciate me as an artist or as a curator on their wedding day. But if I didn't know the types of show she watched, her age demographic, her lifestyle demographic, her geographic location, where she shopped, the shoes that she wore, how she spends her free time, is she educated? I'm not just spewing these facts as some things that I'm pulling out. I really know the age between the brides that I'm getting married. I know that my ideal client doesn't come from old money. I'm very fortunate now to be shooting weddings, these beautiful, amazing weddings for beautiful and amazing clients, but I'm gonna say it in the most traditional sense, this is new money. I'm working with new doctors and new lawyers. I'm working from children of immigrants, people who have devoted their entire lives and sacrificed everything so that their children can have everything they didn't have, and then their children paid it off in dividends. And now this wedding. The wedding is a huge part of their lifestyle budget, but they're going to say, "We're going to make this sacrifice. "We're going to spend this amount of money, "because this is what our family deserves." That is where I know I squarely reside for some reason. My branding, my personality, something doesn't resonate with kind of like society life. Like, the old money, the blue-blood money. And I'm okay with that. Now that I know where I'm resonating and who my target client is, I know that my clients are educated. Most of my clients will have advanced degrees beyond college. I know that. I know that most of my brides pay for the wedding on their own, so they're between the ages of 20 and 38. When I first started my business, my ideal client was in that 23 age range. You know, her parents were helping her pay, my fees as a photographer were a lot lower. I know that my clients like to read. When I make these intentional decisions about what I'm putting out on social media, if you follow me on Instagram, I update the books that I'm reading. On my blog, I do book updates, why? Because I want to attract a person who finds the value in the things that I find value. I casually joke, but I mean this with all sincerity that the brides that I attract are animal lovers. I have booked weddings because of my dog. That is not a stretch of any sort of exaggeration. I kid you not. There's one story in particular. I met with a client. She was meeting with two other photographers. At the end of our session, she said, "Thank you so much." We talked about our dogs, and I come to find out that we live in the same neighborhood, and we walked our dogs on the same dog trail. Well, that just did it, because the following day, we lived in the same neighborhood, and she dropped off a contract, a retainer, a 50% retainer, and a dog biscuit for Polo, and the note was, "I can't wait for Nala and Polo "to see each other on the trail. "So excited." And I was like, "Polo, you're gonna get a big treat." It was amazing! And here's the thing. I now know that because of my ideal client, we're so hungry, just, "Please, please, please can someone please book me?" Why not say, "This is who I am. "Let's connect. "I wanna be there on your day." It's such a deep and profound way, and I'm telling you, almost 10 years into it, it really, really works. Now, once you have your ideal client profile, what I want you to do is to create a wedding day shot list, because as we approach a wedding day, right, we're going to step away from that theory of, "I'm gonna hold down the trigger "and I'm gonna shoot everything "because I can't miss a moment." Because once you now know your style, you're gonna feel less responsible for documenting the bride putting on deodorant. 'Kay. If you have shot weddings, you know that there's always somebody in the room, when the bride picks up her armpit and she picks up her little Secret or Dove and she's doing this bit, and someone's like, "Get a photo of that!" And I think to myself, if I was a documentary photographer, I might. But I know who I am, and so I just smile and nod. "Oh, yeah, cool, cool!" And so I just wait. I was like, "Aren't those just the funniest photos? "I know, they're so great." And how many seconds does it take? One, two. If I can have a conversation between the one and two, I'll be like, (sighs) Right? That's not my style. I don't attract that client. So, when you know what your style is, you feel the less pressure to say, "I'm in control of my day." I created a personal shot list for my weddings. I created a personal shot list so that I wasn't so overwhelmed with what it looked like. I've been using it for years, and then just a bit ago, I decided to post my shot list online. If you want to get more information about it, you can find it at jasminestar.com. Jasminestarstore.com. I look forward to seeing you as you develop your style over the next 30 days. I cannot wait to hear more about your ideal client, and I cannot wait to hear about how you're starting to attract the type of wedding that you dream of shooting. I'm so excited for this adventure, and thank you guys for being along for the ride. Now what we're gonna do, there was a kind of that moment, I saw you going for the clap. It was like the slow clap. It was like that after-school clap, like, (slow clapping) And then we're supposed to rally in. I love it, thank you. Thank you for being there for me. I appreciate it. We can do Q&A right about now, for, oh, yes, boo! Bring it on down, we're gonna get you a mic. The way that this works is, because there's so many of us in the room, just give us a little bit of patience as we get you the mic, because we want everybody to hear as well as what's going on the camera.
I would like to mention a little bit about my experience in photography and learning my style. My first major wedding that I did was second shooting with another photographer. I was actually assisting, and I was a third photographer. It was an unpaid gig, and I was just going there to get the experience. It was the best wedding I have ever actually been to, and I have to admit, some of the best photos that I actually love for my style were of the bride drinking a water bottle. I don't know why this was important, and it was a beautiful photo, and I still thought it was important. To this day, I never really realized I will never photograph that photo again. So, thank you.
That's great, but what is your style?
Oh, my style is very beautiful and washed out but unfortunately, I have to pick the right moments to make it look nice.
Great, so your style, what I heard you say is that your style is light and washed out, correct? That's your processing style. What would be your photographic approach? Are we talking about artistic? Are we talking about dramatic? Because when you talk about the bride drinking the water bottle, if your approach is documentary, then you shoot those damn water bottles. You own it. You love those shots. That's great. But if it's not, then you're right. Maybe parsing back a little bit, and maybe when she drops the water bottle and then you crop her out from the elbow up, then it's a great photo.
I think at the time, for me, my problem was because I was the third shooter, I couldn't really take over the creative control, so I actually had no other choice but to assume the documentary position. If I was the second shooter, it might have been a more artistic style of documentary, because that's what I actually love. I'm really artistic with what I do, but I still try to stick to making sure that it looks the way that it did on the wedding day, so the bride can go, "I remember that moment," rather than, "Oh, that's a great photo." 'Cause that's what's important.
That's good, and I'm glad that this is a stride that we're making towards getting you to that point. I look forward to seeing what you do when you're the first shooter, too. Awesome. We're gonna get a mic right over here. Could you pass that over to her? Awesome.
Thank you. I see mentioned a lot in business that we are looking for ideal clients, and you've mentioned that yours is sort of you. Your ideal client is in your age bracket and your style bracket.
Not my income bracket, let's be real. One day, one day.
You're walking the walk, you look like you fit right in.
Oh, thank you!
You're working the whole, "These are my girlfriends, we hang out" thing. But I see a lot of people that struggle because their ideal client is not in their demographic, their bracket. In my own experience, I'm finding that I am approaching closer to the mother of the bride's age. I used to be with the bride, so I was right on target, I knew exactly who they were. Now I am really close to their mom's age, so I'm finding a little bit of a struggle in sort of narrowing that down. There's some gentlemen in the audience, they're obviously not in a bride's head the same way that a 27-year-old is gonna be. Do you have any suggestions for really naming your ideal client, if you're not them?
That is a great stinking question, and it's very, very complex. I'm like, "That's gonna be a whole different," No, not at all. It was a little bit long, so I'm gonna try to hit the points, and if I miss one, please, please, you speak back to me. Let's take a bigger, bigger step back. We have to think that the CEO of Nordstrom and the CEO of Nike may not be their target clientele. Their target clientele is probably the 24-year-old who's spending his mama's money 'cause he's at college with aspirations of going to the NBA, but he's really just finishing his accounting courses, right? We have to understand that the CEO of Nordstrom is not the quintessential Nordstrom shopper in her 40s, you know, 2.5 kids, has a part-time job but has a husband who has a very corporate experience. We have to understand that ideal clients rarely look how we look, and I think on the outside, it may look that I can identify with my target clientele, and maybe, now, it can to a degree. I might be within my target age demographic. I might be on the same gender demographic. I am not of the same educational demographic. Yes, I went to college, and yes, I went to law school, but I dropped out, so what does that count for? You know, a lot of loans is what it counts for. I'm not in the same, and because I've been starting to shoot destination weddings, I'm not in the same geographic demographic. I'm not in the same financial demographic. So, yes, I can connect with my brides in a way, but that way is probably not different than I might be able to connect with, say, somebody right here. We like to spend a lot of time with our family. We like to walk our dogs. We enjoy a good meal. Instead of looking at the ways in which you're not connecting with the brides, take a step back and say, "I understand I might not be able "to connect to them on a personal level, "but what can I do to find similarities?" I think that if you have been shooting, and you're now, you said you started at the age of brides, and now you're approaching more of the mother of the bride, that's fantastic! You can now say you're no longer the novice. You're a seasoned pro. You can shoot a wedding in your sleep. You can have the confidently shot in, where are you based?
I'm from Michigan.
Michigan. So, you've probably shot in snow. You've probably shot in rain. You've probably shot in sweltering summers. You have shot on days where there is no sunset and where there is an eternal sunset. Like, you have been there. That is a competitive advantage, not a disadvantage. Now, if you feel like you're still struggling trying to find where that target market is, and you want to, say, start writing things that are applicable more to the bride's age, can you, maybe, interview a past bride about what her experience was like? If there was anything different that she could do. Maybe talk every Wednesday, 'cause they have these hashtags, #WW, #WeddingWednesday. If you wanna be participating in a social media conversation and you yourself have been like, "Well, it's been about 10 or 15, "20 years since I've been married. "The game has changed. "Who can I speak to to help me give "prevalence in this sector? "What can I do, what kind of content can I start building?" And you taking a picture of really great shoes in really great light at a beautiful venue automatically puts you in connection, because the shoes that that bride is wearing, and this goes for guys, is the shoes that that bride is wearing if you just put that single shot up on Facebook and you share your settings, and you say, "This is where I was." You geotag where the location was in Michigan. These shoes are fabulous. A girl of any age would love 'em, would feel like a million bucks. You are neither closer or farther from your target clientele, but you're creating content that is applicable to potential clients. Did I miss something in there? Anybody, conversations? Are we okay? Does that answer in a way? We can go deeper.
No, I think that's about right. The only one thing that I have been doing is my daughter is 23, and every time we get together, I'm like, "So, tell me about social media. "What apps are big? "What are the girls doing?"
That is fantastic, and that is a competitive advantage that you should just own. That is absolutely, positively fantastic. She will tell you about the hip videos, the hip things to say so when you're on a shoot, you no longer say, "Oh, that look, your outfit's on point." You say, "Oh, that outfit's on fleek." I don't think I'll ever feel cool to say that, but knowing what is hip and what is cool, yes, that's right! Exactly! That definitely helps, so use her and leverage her. I would love to take a, we're gonna bring the mic two rows up. Hi.
So, would you say that it's kind of a two-step process? In defining your style, you're making sure the right people that want your images are coming to see you, and defining the client, you're making sure that you can actually work together, and make that connection?
Yes, work together, make the connection, appreciate and see your point of view. Absolutely. Now, I need to step back and say that I don't want this to become across as a misnomer. Right now, I'm not batting 100, or whatever you're batting. What are you batting? When you bat, like, what?
1,000. I was off by a zero, okay! Clearly, sports ain't my thing. And poor Tara, Tara's sitting there like, "Girl..." I'm not batting 1,000 when it comes to booking these clients. I don't walk away from every wedding and I'm like, you know, fairies are on my shoulder, I'm like, "Oh, it was such a great wedding!" But I will say, in larger percentages, in larger portions from when I first started out, I arrived to the wedding, and then I know, oh, I get it. I get why I was hired. Now, there are still some weddings where I'm just like, "Okay, maybe not the best fit. "Maybe I don't feel like "I am as valued as I have been in past weddings, "but that's okay. "Our styles match enough for me to do our job, "and I'm gonna deliver on what she's hired me for." That's the truth of the matter. My goal for you, my goal for me, is to increase what that percentage is. In the beginning, it wasn't so much that I was resonating as well, and now it just seems like most of my brides, I go to a wedding, I connect with them. They send me a thank-you card or a gift at the end of the wedding, and I think to myself, "Yeah, we got it! "We just got each other!" I think that is so gratifying on a business level and on a personal level. Awesome. We're gonna pop the mic back, and then we'll bring it up here, and we're gonna end right about here. I see another question. If we have more time, we'll get to that, too.
Hi. Can your styles cross two genres? 'Cause I know that there's definitely people who stick to one genre, but I feel like when I'm shooting different things, like, some of it's lifestyle, and then some of it's documentarian. Can you bridge two styles, or do you have to just stick to one?
That's a really good question, and I don't have, I'm like, please, I'm not standing up here thinking, "I'm the guru of photography styles, "so the answer's no." Yes, to an extent, right? Because the more that you cross over into different styles, now, I understand that on a wedding day, during a ceremony, I am not a lifestyle photographer. I'm 100% documentary. Documen-tairy? Document-a-ree. Put the wrong emph-ass-is on the wrong syll-abble! Okay, I am 100% photojournalistic, I know that. But the thing, the way that I'm curating my images out online really reflects more of one style. And I think that in order to start attracting, I think it might behoove you to make the best decision of, do you want to start attracting more of that documentary, or do you wanna start attracting more of that lifestyle? Where do you think your clients would value you the most? And then, sure, shoot the day how you want to. Fulfill that artistic desire, but then curate the day. Show the images more towards the style that you want to start attracting. We're gonna bring the mic up right here.
Thanks. That's actually really close to my question. My base business is editorial portraiture, so it's punchy, fashiony. But the weddings that I've done are really breathy and ethereal and lifestyle, and I don't really know if that's doing a disservice, attracting kind of two separate clients, or if I should keep them bridged, or totally separate them.
I think that when somebody goes to your website, it might be in your best interests brand-wise to market yourself to two different audiences, and distinguish yourself in those two centers. I don't think that you should give up one or the other. I just think that you should say, as a portrait photographer, you are this. And as a wedding photographer, you are this. Now, if you're shooting these weddings, and they're light, and they're ethereal, and you find that it's like a vacuous emotion when you go through that, then what you should be doing is maybe branching over, bringing more of that editorial style, a little bit more avant-garde, a little more forward thinking into your wedding approach. Now, you might have to do that by setting up shoots on your own, because I'm a firm believer of saying you cannot book what your client cannot see. No one's gonna say, "Ah, I see nothing in your portfolio "that represents you can do an editorial shoot "of me in my wedding dress, "but I'm gonna hire you." No. They really must see what you do. So, if you're saying, "I want to get away from the light and airy, "and I want to do more edgy stuff," then set up two to three shoots. They can be cost-effective. We can get into what those numbers look like, too, as we talk about building your portfolio in the future. But saving a little tiny bit every month, I can put together a shoot that I feel really proud of in about $250. We can talk about what that looks like on camera, off camera. But, depending on where you want to go with your wedding business, then you make the decision and then go in that direction. But no, I don't think you have to say, "I only do this." Awesome. So, I think we have a couple minutes. We're gonna end with one question right back there. Was there somebody who had a question? Yes, I knew I saw a hand! All the way to the back, we'll just pass it all the way back.
I'd like to say that I'm a lifestyle photographer, and that my work speaks to that sort, but what do you do when you get a client, you think, "Hey, this is my style, "this is what they've seen." They like it, and then they say, "Oh, by the way, I don't like any pictures of myself "not looking at the camera." I was terrified. I had a bride who did that after we already did all the booking, a week before the wedding, she's like, "Let's just make sure that every photo, I'm looking at you." Even at the ceremony, she would look at me. (students laughing)
Other than letting your work speak for yourself, how do you get that across to your clients that that's the type of photography you shoot?
That's great, and this goes back to that notion of batting 1,000. I don't wanna show up here and tell you that all of my clients show up being like, "Oh, I wanna be carefully curated on my wedding day, "and I wanna look effortless." No, I do have brides who want to micromanage a lot of their poses, because in their mind, they have a way, it's like, "Oh, no, no, no, this is my good side." So all the family photos of the bridal part, she's can only be on this side, right? We have been there. I haven't had a bride just wanna look at me directly, but I will say, if I was in your exact situation, my goal, always, is not to make me have the most amazing portfolio. It is ancillary, but my goal is to make my client happy. They have hired me. There must have been something in the trajection of our relationship that made her look at photos and think, "I only feel comfortable looking at the camera." In light of that, I would put a lot more emphasis of her looking at the camera to ensure that I deliver in a major way. But I would still shoot for me. 90% for them, 10% for me. And you can put together, we're gonna talk about what I do for marketing in a future lesson. But you can create two different styles. I create slideshows after every engagement session, after every wedding. I'm gonna talk about why I do that in a future lesson, but if I was in your situation, I would create a slideshow that played to things that she wanted. A lot of looking at the camera, a lot of traditional portraits. But let's just say that she got married at the Ritz-Carlton in Laguna Beach, and you really want to showcase that venue, but you don't want to showcase the slideshow of that with the bride. Create a second slideshow, and that then becomes your marketing piece for future clients. Curate the day for her and curate the day for you. I think that's gonna be a good place for us to end. We are gonna get to so many more Q&A. I just wanna say, again, thank you guys so much. (students clapping)