Over the course of the last two years, I have been working to become a Certified Wedding Photographer through The International Academy of Wedding Photographers. This is an online school with courses in wedding photography taught by some of the biggest names in the industry. We go over all sorts of things: using off-camera flash, branding, photo editing, posing, workflow, and so much more. Part of the reason that I am working toward this certification is so that I can learn how to provide you guys the best services I possibly can.
Anyway, today I was working on an assignment (look at the work of photographers you admire and see how they’re using off-camera flash) and in my Googling efforts, I came across this Harper’s Bazaar article detailing the ‘40 Best Wedding Photographers in the World’. In the article, under each photographer’s section, it describes each photographer’s ideal client, and I noticed something. But, before I get to what I noticed, I want to explain what an ideal client is, and no, it has nothing to do with achieving perfection.
In business, one of the first things business owners have to do is to define the type of person that they would like to work with or sell to. It helps to focus our branding and advertising efforts, and it helps us become focused so that we’re not trying to be everything to everyone. This process is called ‘defining your ideal client’, and involves all sorts of traits from what colors people like, where they currently shop, whether or not they are married or have kids, where they live, what they eat, and even what they look like plus so, so many more factors. There is no one right way to define these ideal clients, and that definition can include any number of traits.
My ideal wedding clients are young adults only a year or two (or less!) out of college. They’re only just beginning their careers in teaching, police work, social work, as a chef, a fire fighter, or other public servant. They volunteer in their community and treasure friends and family, and could probably be described as a ‘wall-flower’ when at a party. I’m more interested in helping these people document this special day in their lives so that when they’re celebrating their 50th anniversary, they can pull out their wedding album and see photos that have stood the test of time. Ideally, I’d have photographed every event in between their wedding and that 50th anniversary as well!
Back to what I noticed: the photographers featured in this article often used phrases like ‘appreciates fine art’, ‘travels the world’, ‘appreciates high-end fashion’, and, ‘loves all things elegant and classy’. I can understand wanting to attract that kind of client. For photographers, clients like that often get married in exotic locations, with high-end venues, stunningly beautiful florals, and $10,000+ Pnina Tornai wedding gowns. Not to mention, you get paid to travel the world with them. They’re gorgeous weddings, don’t get me wrong! In fact, they’re the ones we all drool over on Pinterest. But, they’re also really, really expensive, and so those types of weddings are often out of most peoples’ budgets.
Another thing that I’ve noticed in the photography industry: most photographers have a goal of becoming one of those photographers. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that goal, but in my personal opinion, it creates a level of elitism, where everyday people become convinced that professional photography is completely out of their budgets- because it is. Photographers like those in the Harper’s Bazaar article often charge as much as a small car costs to have them photograph your wedding, and those with similar goals in mind are on their way to charging that much. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that, but there are FAR more everyday, hardworking people in the world than there are world-traveling, highly-educated, rich people.
I have no interest in becoming one of those high-end wedding photographers, and sometimes I catch a lot of flack from my local cohorts for this. But, my branding and my pricing are set to attract my ideal clients. So, if you’re questioning whether or not I’m actually a professional, or if I’m not going to serve you properly because my pricing seems weird, please know I am, and I will serve you just as if you were a millionaire paying me a fortune for my services. I just don’t believe in charging a fortune for my services when I can work a little harder each year to make just as much as my contemporaries do working less.