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Find Your Niche and Build Your Family Photography Business

Lesson 5 of 24

Create a Unique Experience & Product

Julia Kelleher

Find Your Niche and Build Your Family Photography Business

Julia Kelleher

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Lesson Info

5. Create a Unique Experience & Product

Lesson Info

Create a Unique Experience & Product

We're gonna talk about a concept I call the product within the product. So, we love family portrait's and we want to niche in families, right? Okay, great. Lets niche in families. I want to do, say, on-location or studio? That's a further niche, yay okay I'm gonna be studio family photographer, woo hoo! Can we take it further? Yeah, we can take it further. Perhaps if you're an on-location, so sometimes were limited by our gear or circumstance. Financial or whatever. We say to ourselves, okay I love studio but I just can't afford to invest in all that equipment yet, so I'm gonna focus on on-location families, and I'm gonna do field families and city kids. Do you see where I'm going? I'm starting to develop a product line within a product, okay? So I want to niche in families. I want to be a family photographer in my town, but I'm an on-location specialist but then I have a specific product line within that. For example field families and city kids, okay? Now, a lot of people do that, ri...

ght? it's not very unique. So I want you to start thinking further about how you could make that even more unique, okay? This is where creativity comes into play. Maybe you do the parking garage sessions, whoa, that's a little different. You're gonna take my kid to a concrete parking garage and photograph them? Yes! Confidently, yes! Okay, can you imag- just think for a second. Open your heart and your mind and go, wouldn't that be kinda cool? If you took my little Bambi Cantrell chair, and took it to a parking garage, we kind of have the makings of a little Vanity Fair session, don't we? With a kid in a tux, oh yeah baby! Melt the heart with a tooth missing, uh! Okay! You can see the magic starting to happen in my mind as I start to communicate that to you. I want the magic to happen in your head too. So, this is really, niching is about marketing. That's all niching really is, it's marketing to hit the heart and the pain point and the desired outcomes for that perfect client for you, okay? So for me, I'm a studio photographer. I do do outdoor family sessions cause I have people request it. I don't really advertise for it very much, okay but I will do it cause I want to please my clients. Again, there's a point of pleasing your client verses letting them walk on you and determine how the session goes. Does that make sense? So I know I talked about that earlier, I just want to differentiate that point so there's not a discrepancy there. So, I kind of focus on these three genres of what I do for my family portrait's. We have our modern family line, soulful siblings, siblings is a word that we actually are gonna start calling it our solitaire sessions but we tell our clients, oh it's a brother sister thing but it can be an individual child. Okay, so just note that, that the term is not quite accurate but were calling it soulful siblings for this class. And then our real kids sessions which are crazy. (laughs) So we're gonna talk about all these and what these mean and were actually gonna shoot these throughout the course so you can kinda see how I differentiate each different product line and then better yet how we create a specific product for each one of these. And what you're seeing behind me are those specific products, okay? So when a client wants one of these sessions, we are focusing on the end result. The art, the product, the originality. How will you move your families, okay? I am a photographer, yes I have a hybrid model. I offer both files and art but the art is the focus. When you hire me you and hiring me for a piece of art. The files are an after-thought. They are the unvaluable, piece of crap after-though, okay? This is the enchilada right here, okay? So when a client comes to me and they say, oh I want my child to be photographed, I start talking about our different product lines and what their goals are for the session. That pre-consultation is incredibly important, okay? So with our modern families, we offer our word wall segments. This is just a simple example. It can be any combination, it can be any special saying, this is the lyrics to a song. A song, I forget the name of it but it's one of Belinda's favorites. So Belinda designed this, she did an amazing job designing it. And we take, it's a combination of canvas and framed prints to create a modular, some kind of modular, it can go across horizontal, it can be vertical, it can be stacked, it can be symmetrical, it can be off-kilter. And we call it word walls, okay. And it's custom. And clients can do any family saying they have. Like in my family I say I love you to my son, he says I love you too mommy. I said I love you more and he goes I love you most and I say I love you more than most. So I would probably use that play on words in my own word walls in my own home because it's something that means something to our family. It's a special saying we have. We also say I love you to the sky and back instead of to the moon and back. I love you to the sky and back and the kicker is, and the sky never ends. So that's my family take on that famous phrase, I love you to the moon and back. Okay, so families have these little unique things that you can really differentiate their product. It is something that is uber meaningful to them and emotional. Are soulful siblings portrait is our museum mount, which is basically a full mounted print inside of a shadow box frame done in black and white with a sloppy border. Okay, and then our real kids sessions are done on either metal or acrylic, this is pretty new product to us. And they're highly colorful sessions. Soulful siblings are black and white. The real kids sessions are highly colorful. We have two amazing kids coming in, I'm so excited. But this is like, the kid gets to be themselves. We also even define somewhat of an age-range for these two products, okay? This is young, three to five. This is six to ten, 13 age. Okay. Doesn't have to be that way and I've had families who say, oh hey can we do fun crazy, you know of course. There is some variability here, but how we market and push it is to define a specific product for a specific type of shoot for a specific type of age range for a specific type of lighting for a specific type of studio family shoot. The product within the product within the product within the product, we're niching down. Hyper-niche. But think about what that does, think about how you're client reacts to that. They look at you as an ultra-specialist artist, right? They look at you as the top of your game because you won't do everything and anything, right? Which makes you more attractive because you're the best. You ever go shopping for wine in a grocery store? You're sitting there you're going okay, the middle shelf is ten bucks, the upper shelf is 30, it must be better, right? You have no idea. And like, the joy is when you get a five dollar bottle of wine that's really good. You're like, sweet score! Okay, but how would you know, it's the same thing with photography. You're clients don't really know what good work is. They know it when they kinda see it, when they taste the wine. But for them the price dictates the quality, right? If it's expensive it must be good! That attracts, that places your product in a specific market place, right? It attracts a certain kind of client. It keep the cheap client away, attracts the expensive client and when you do something like this, hyper-niche, all of a sudden that just adds to the overall perception of what you do. So what does this mean? That means you have to pre-sell your product. Big time! How Julia, how? Well, that pre-consultation really is the single most important component of working this way. You must talk to your client! I know that sounds, I sound like I'm making fun I'm not. I apologize if it kind of sounded that way but, a lot of photographers, people in general. I mean it's hard to talk to people, it's scary. And I get that completely. Shut George the heck up and do it, work through the pain. Learn to speak to people. Learn to engage them, because what are you doing when you do that? You are showing them that you truly and deeply care about serving them well, that you want them to walk away with something valuable at the end of this process, that you care deeply about their session and them for that matter, and their children. And you are going to set them up to have the best possible session by speaking to them in the beginning, okay? And that pre-consultation includes a multitude of things, it's not just, oh hey which product do you want to buy? It's, you know, I spent the evening on the phone last night talking to our clients who are our shoots who are coming in today, and drilling them and having them tell me about their kids, what there interested in, what makes them fight, what makes them frustrated, what makes them happy, what makes them bored, what makes them, you know like I want to know these details, give me the nitty gritty so I'm an insider. So by the time your kids walk into the studio and I start talking to them they're like whoa, how does she know that? Oh she must be cool. Okay, this is cool I can do this. It relaxes the children, it relaxes the parents, it gives you fodder to work with. Because part of soulful and real is getting expression. And if you know that child inside and out, you know it doesn't have to be inside-out, but if you know key nuggets about that child, then all of a sudden you can connect with them on a different level, okay? And talk to them about what makes them bored. You know one of the classic things that I do is have them solve math problems. (audience member chuckles) what's five plus two? Seven minus two? Six times six? And they sit there and go and they give you these beautiful faces and your like click, click, click, okay? So little tricks like that. And if there really good at something they want to show that off. If there not good at something they get insecure. And it shows on their face. And I'm sorry but the insecure face is one of the most vulnerable faces out there, and it's so beautiful in black and white. Okay? So, let's go over kinda quickly what these products are that we do for these different segments. So that's my studio, we just redid it, and I'll talk more about that a little bit later on. But we shoot on the sigh-kwell, we're gonna do it on seamless paper today. Which is a great alternative, you don't have to have a sigh-kwell to do this. But we photograph anywhere from high-key to mid-key to low for our modern families. You can do it all on one background, which I know seems crazy but it is true. And then we develop a product that fit's into their home in a specific space. So it's basically combining imagery with text, combining presentation styles. So everything from canvas to framed prints, that kind of thing is the typical methodology. But I will put our shadow box mounts with it, okay? And then do, you can mix it up. So you can do shadow box with a galler-wrapped canvas, you can do all kinds of things that make it look layered over time. That make sense? So it's not just a bunch on canvases vomited on a wall. I can't stand that. I prefer things to be layered, shelf's, stuff like, I know it just looks tacky doesn't it? it's like, oh yeah, okay we couldn't think of anything else to do will just vomit canvases on the wall. No! (laughs) Mix it up, make it look designed for the space. We were doing a Q and A here yesterday, and Sarah asked me what would you have done if you weren't a photographer? I'm like, interior design, interior designer. Yes, love it. And I think I'm attracted to this kind of product because of that. Use meaningful phrases as I talked about earlier. Something that means something to the family. Design for the space and stay on brand, okay? We're gonna talk about branding a lot in the last segment but I just want you to keep that in the back of your head for now. Stay on brand, it's critical. Soulful siblings, again shot on the exact same background, the exact same space, okay? This time the lights are turned off, okay? At least the background lights are turned off. This is my boy, you can see this is a raw image. The light in the background had to be removed, okay? It is then processed, okay? Highlights and shadows are enhanced and then it is turned to black and white and made into the specific format that it will be printed in. It never goes here. Show you my clicker is in a slow mood today, it's acting like Monday. There we go. So then the final result is a black and white image that we then float mount onto either canvas or a watercolor paper. I was out of watercolor paper, so it was on canvas in the last few days and then the sloppy border is applied. So this is about, lifted a quarter inch off the surface of the shadow box. And then I order my shadow boxes in custom ways and with different matte backgrounds and frames and things like that to lend itself to the portrait. Typically, white, black, or silver just to work with the black and white imagery. Now can we do this in color? Sure! And I have. But, it's marketed as a black and white portrait. It's shot in color and then converted later, okay. So we're gonna shoot that today. So, and Casey said he can kind of convert things to black and white just to give you a feel for it. We're gonna talk a lot about shadow and how light plays into a black and white. But this portrait is not about the smile. And it's very important for the parent to understand that. It is about expression of your child and them becoming an independent, older, self-sufficient human being. They're graduating from that, need to be cared for all the time to, oh we could actually leave our kid home for 15 minutes by himself, you know like, woah freedom! Right? Parent? So obviously my son is a little too young for that, but it is considered a soulful portrait. It's about the eyes, okay? So again, we do the museum mount and then of course it can be siblings or single. We call ii soulful siblings, we're actually kind of changing that name to being more of a, in line with our brand which is Jewel Images. So I think we're gonna call it our solitaire pieces. So, all of my names tend to have something around jewelry, again to stay on brand. Real kids, these are the fun ones. The naughtier the better. We're love it. So we let kids be themselves, okay? This is for like, the two to five range. Preschool, mmkay? This is when kids are really just starting to assert their identity and independence. You know, "I can do it mommy, I do it myself!" You know that stage? I love crazy, they are allowed to dress themselves. I want lovey's, I want binkies, I want blankets, I want anything that means something to them. This we actually shot here at Creative Lives. This is Evey, I love this girl. She brought her pug purse. A little pug, and she wore a Christmas sweater in January with her polka dot skirt. Yes! That is awesome, okay. Full color images, we blow the fan on them, we let them be crazies, sunglasses. I mean, hallelujah parents freak out over this stuff. They love it, okay. Again, shot on the same background, okay just in different shades of grey. That's Carline and her little snoopy dog. She brought the sparkle Hello Kitty sweatshirt and her rainbow sunglasses, which you can see down here. And we usually just print on either acrylic from millers or a metal print of some kind. So it's full color, vibrant, glossy, fun. Modern! Okay! My brand has changed to a much more clean, modern feel as we've kind of gone through the years. And I want you to know that that's okay. It's okay to change your style as you grow as an artist. And I had a hard time grasping that initially, but once I owned it my clients thrived on it. They loved to see the change and it gave them an excuse to come back. Now, that doesn't mean wishy-washy flippy back and forth change. You really have to own it and make sure it's truly your identity. Okay. So, again this is about bringing the sentimental things that make these kids themselves. And I have spoken with both Bryat's mom and Lilly's mom today, and they are bringing the things that are truly them and these kids are so excited cause they get to dress themselves. And kids really do thrive under that and I love for them to be crazy and silly, it is a fast moving session and we use strobes for that reason and I'll talk about that in the next segment.

Class Description

Now that you're consistently booking family photo shoots, it's time to create a business that stands out from your competition. Well-known newborn and family photographer Julia Kelleher will show you how to create a personalized "niche" for your photography that also offers its own product line.

In this class, Julia will show you how to:

  • Develop a solid, definable and recognizable brand
  • Attract your ideal client's to your business
  • Develop products that your clients will buy

By the end of this class, you'll be working on creating your own niche while growing and expanding your photography business to include new clients and larger sales.


Courtney Ranck-Copher

I own I think all of Julia's classes. This is probably my favorite. I will say that it's because its exactly the type of photography I have been wanting to focus on. So the information was extremely valuable to me. But I do love all of Julia's classes and you can learn so much from her as a mentor regardless of the type of portraits you shoot. Thanks Julia for a wonderful class I have watched it multiple times!


As always, Julia never disappoints! It has been so awesome to watch her work with such incredible intention, from concept to session to sales. Her energy and strategy are so motivational and very, very creative! This class rocks from start to finish, and is a perfect addition to my Creative Live business arsenal! Five stars all the way!!!!!

Amy Vaughn

My favorite part was seeing how Julia's business evolved over time and transformed into what it is today. Good tips for finding inspiration to develop a niche and practical marketing advice. I'm glad I took this alongside Tamara's business class - the two photographers had very different approaches to their business and shooting family photography in many ways, but it really illustrators how there's no one way to do everything. I learned so much from both of them.