Author Topic: Re-Positioning  (Read 425 times)

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Offline Sbuchanan

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Re-Positioning
« on: January 13, 2017, 08:08:09 PM »
About 10 years or so I decided to more narrowly focus my marketing and positioning as a specialist. I'm a food and architectural photographer. I can shoot people, and products, and kids, and dogs, cats, turkeys, and (ugh) politicians. But I don't sell it. The rationale being that I would rather work one job for $10k, than 10 jobs for $1k - and as a specialist, I can charge those rates.

Well, it's been a few years, and while it's been reasonably successful (I'm still in business, which ain't nothin) I'm nothing if not insecure.

To my esteemed and respected friends - what's been your experience?  Is a specialist still the best route?  Would I be better marketing myself more broadly?  Point of reference, I live in the sticks.  My studio is in Annapolis, MD - which is within an hour of Baltimore and DC, which are both good sized markets, but they're not NYC, Chicago or LA. 





Offline Jeff Behm

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Re: Re-Positioning
« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2017, 09:27:30 PM »
Steve, I'm on my phone, so only a brief acknowledgement at this moment. But I want to get back to you since we're doing many of the same things.

Offline Darren Cassese

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Re: Re-Positioning
« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2017, 06:42:50 PM »
If you do expand into the other stuff and need a reliable shooter to do it...
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Offline Jeff Behm

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Re: Re-Positioning
« Reply #3 on: January 18, 2017, 09:55:46 AM »
Ugh!  Sorry it took so long to reply to this.  I've made exactly the same sorts of decisions, Steve.  I started as a generalist, became a commercial specialist in manufacturing and industry, then grew into a 22,000 sq ft studio that I had to support, so became a generalist again, but with assistant photographers who did things I didn't particularly care to do myself or wasn't as confident in, but still needed the income stream to support the overhead and staff of 4-5.  But I promoted myself as a commercial photographer first and foremost.

It may be best to be a generalist in a small city or town with no major markets from which to draw, according to circumstances.  Same for when there's no overriding area in which a photographer is interested, and they can best pique their enthusiasm with broad areas of pursuit. However, when there's a combination of talent for a niche, a sustainably large niche to which to market, and an interest in serving that market, then specializing is better.  As you say, the dollars are there for specialists. 

During my large studio period, I used to pursue portraits, and actually sought out Marty Rickard in order to study with him at his studio in central Iowa, in a town of 900 people.  His talent and reputation as a portraitist was so powerful that his geographical area from which he drew was a 75 mile radius, nearly all of whom came to him. They paid handsomely.  For years, he also wrote a monthly article on professionalism in photography for "Professional Photographer Magazine" the official mag for the PPA.  And, when he went on vacation, it was usually to the Napa Valley, where he regularly made all the new images for the Gallos and all the other family vineyards, paying for his vacation and more.  He just didn't promote that commercial work in his home market.

I market food, jewelry and corporate work (corporate events, headshots and executive portraiture).  The corporate generates the most sessions but usually the lower fees per session.  It gets the second most marketing attention however, because it's work that is more frequently sought by clients.  Food gets the most marketing attention due to it's fee structure and my personal interest as a former restaurant executive.  Jewelry is third in about every category but I'm told I'm good at it, and buyers come to me regularly, though there are less buyers for quality jewelry photography compared to the other two.

Having said all of the above, what I show off most on the gallery home page are food and jewelry.  These have an impact on potential buyers from other niches, as well, although if a specialized buyer like Nike sees food and jewelry, they aren't likely to be impressed.

If I'm approached by someone from a niche in which I don't specialize, but feel confident in, I can often show samples to which they can relate; especially true with manufacturing work.  Turning work away isn't something to be done lightly, after all. Because these things come along, it allows me to choose and provides material for future prospects not in my usual markets. They just won't be promoted unless asked. 

By the same token, I was approached recently by a member of a client's team about photographing her sons for a portrait.  As I said, I did that work for years in my old studio, but its been at least 7 or 8 years since I did anything similar, and I didn't want to botch the job, given the broader ties to a large client.  But one of my regular assistants is very good at family portraits.  My reply was "I'd love to, but's its not an area I practice much, and wouldn't want to let you down.  I have an associate who would be very good for you, though.  Let me put you in touch." 

If I decided to pursue a new niche, it would probably be with a new website and a name for that particular niche, hopefully protecting the main areas from confusion.  For example, if it were architecture, perhaps the new domain and business name could be weshootbuildings or something.  The phone number could be the same, but email and online would be specific to that pursuit. 

Don't know how close all that is to your situation, it's simply my take on what I think are similar questions I ask myself.