I've done a lot of programs on marketing and building a photographic business in a tough economy. There's so much you can do to neutralize the challenges and still keep your business on track. One of the key topics of just about every program relates to the Big Three: Brides, Babies and Pets.
To start, I accept that my relationship with my dog is over the top, but here's what so many photographers forget. Most pet owners are a little nuts about their dogs or cats. In fact, so much so, there are an estimated 170 million households with pets, making pet photography number three in reasons why people hire a professional photographer!
In a survey done by Kodak years ago and I don't believe it's changed one bit, the top three was brides, babies and pets, in that order. What makes the Big Three exciting is they're all related and can create a perfectly natural transition for diversity in your business. Brides have babies and families have pets. The connections between all three couldn't be more natural to help photographers bring diversity into their business.
Years ago, Vicki Taufer, who I talk about in the video above, launched what's become the gold standard of community pet events. She offered a free sitting and one 5x7 of your pet if you brought in a donation for the Peoria Animal Shelter. Vicki and her staff wound up doing over 120 sessions that day, leaving 40 people on the wait-list. It became a classic. Her original purpose was simply to get people to know who she was and see her studio. Today, in addition to her children's business, she's become one of the best known pet photographers in the area.
In addition, her promotion became one of the standards for partnerships with other vendors, community involvement and publicity. I know of at least a half dozen other photographers who took Vicki's concept and used it as a model to develop their own program, each time customizing the original concept and making it even stronger.
I'm a huge fan of diversity in your business model, especially in this economy. While there are some who feel it's more important to specialize and stay with one category, e.g. weddings, children, family, seniors etc. I'm a believer it's critical to never say "Sorry, I don't do that kind of photography" to a client. I believe you need to be skilled enough to take on just about every request that comes through your door!
And for those of you rolling your eyes and screaming right now because that's not what you want to do, then don't! But, at least build a relationship with a couple of photographers outside your area of expertise, so you can refer a client to somebody good, rather than just saying, "Sorry, we don't do that kind of photography!"
Think about the transition though. If you did a great job on the wedding and the client loved your images and working with you, then why wouldn't you want to be there when the first baby was born? And as the family grows, why wouldn't you want to be there for family reunions, holiday portraits and even their commercial needs, depending on what kind of business the family is in.
Brides have babies, babies grow up and become seniors and through the entire cycle there are endless opportunities for professional photography. Along the way there are opportunities for maternity, weddings, day in the life kid's portraiture and pets, just to name a few.
Just my two cents on diversity. It sure seems to make sense!