I’ve previously blogged in Photographer’s Corner about how ‘being yourself’ can be bad for business. I say that meaning that if you’re trying to attract a target audience which doesn’t fit your innate style, you’re onto a bit of an uphill struggle as you try and turn YOU into THAT. I’ve seen people do it successfully, but is that what you really want? Is that what you visualised when you decided to set up in business? If your primary objective was to make money, then perhaps; but if you’re like the majority of us and wanted to be a photographer so you could do something you love and believe in, then the answer is a resounding NO.
So, having established that, it’s time to be true to yourself. Even so, when you’re being the most ‘you’, there’s still something else to consider. Just by shooting what you love, how you love to do it, isn’t going to bring you clients who love what you do. Eh? I know, that sounds like crazy talk. But let me explain.
I love to shoot weddings in documentary style. I love to work with clients who value great photography, but who don’t want the photography element to be bigger than their wedding. I love black and white, I love atmosphere and drama. Oh, and I also believe in werewolves.
Yes, that’s right. Ever since I watched ‘An American Werewolf in London’ as a child (and yes, I was FAR too young to see it), there’s a small part of me that believes in werewolves. I won’t get off the tube at Tottenham Court Road. I won’t live in a house where the treeline comes right up to the garden, as that offers a great hiding place for them. And I dream of seeing them out of train windows, passing me by in the street, peeking at me through windows.
So what does this have to do with my photography business? Good question. Well, it’s about curating the parts of you which are relevant to what you want to offer clients, and what clients are looking for. If I ranted on about werewolves in consultations, it wouldn’t exactly be a great sale closer. (They’d probably be closing the door fast on the way out, though). And, in the same way, if everything I like to shoot at a wedding was shown on my portfolio, it wouldn’t necessarily make my portfolio a great selling tool.
I was given some great advice recently. It’s about looking at your portfolio and your website not through your eyes, but from the eyes of your target customer and who THEY will be viewing those shots with. Your bride may well be sitting there with her mum, and they’ll both be looking for different things. You have only a few seconds to grab their attention with your headline portfolio images. So forget the shots YOU particularly love, and think about the ones that yes, you loved to shoot, but which will speak most to your audience. Remember, they have never met the people in those photos, so those shots need to create an immediate emotional connection. A beautiful photograph is not enough. You need to display something which the bride will linger over, imagining herself in, and which the mum will look at, thinking of family memories.
So what are those shots? Well, I can’t say I’ve cracked this yet, but definitely if your shot has the ‘aaaah’ factor, you’ve got a good start. A groom looking lovingly at his new wife. A father of the bride with tears in his eyes as he gives his daughter away. Both of these will appeal to that bride and that mum.
Needless to say, there’s a lot more to making a good, consistent, coherent portfolio which will win your clients over, but these are just a few things to think about. Remember you have to make a hugely positive impression and FAST. So take the best of you, which will appeal to the things which are going to be the most important to your clients. Ring photos, dresses, flowers, pictures of marquees all lit up, save for your blog posts. You’re not selling these, you’re selling memories. No-one hired a photographer on the strength of a picture of some flowers. And no-one hired a photographer because they believed in werewolves. At least, not yet.