Pivoting Your Photography Business

In Master Photography Roundtable by Jeff HarmonLeave a Comment

Here are four reasons to pivot your photography business:

  1. Outgrowing your current business
  2. Opportunities offered to you
  3. Identifying unmet needs in the market
  4. Loss of interest/passion OR discovering a greater interest/passion

Here are four things to help you make a pivot with your photography business successful:

  1. Research: structure, pricing, unmet needs, competitors, target market
  2. Update: portfolio, social media, website, Google/Yelp/etc.
  3. Target your market
  4. Be grateful, stay optimistic, and work work work!

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What Does “Pivoting” a Business Mean?

Pivoting is making a big change in the direction of your business. Pivots happen all the time with athletes playing sports. Athletes who pivot well have an advantage over those who do not. These athletes can both analyze their surroundings and understand the pivot is going to help them and turn that observation into a pivot that instantly changes their direction!

The same can be said of a photographer and their business. Those who can analyze their local market/clients and make the bold move to change the direction of the business will find more success and joy in their work.

Why Pivot Your Photography Business?

There are many reasons a photography might make the decision to pivot their business into a different direction. Let’s go through four of the most common reasons to pivot.

Outgrowing Your Current Business

Photographers outgrow their businesses frequently. We all start off with the massive challenge of learning how to properly use a camera and post process photos. After achieving some success in both areas, starting a photography business with those newly developed skills nearly always happens. Just like how you may not have known exactly what kind of photography you like as you got started, when you first start that photography business you start it off in a certain direction without really knowing very well where to take it.

At some point down the road, for nearly all photographers, you wake up one day and realize that your business is no longer meeting your needs. It could be financial reasons. I could be the client pool has dried up or is too small. It could be your skills with the camera and post processing have grown so much the clients you have had are no longer your ideal client.

Whatever the reason, when you realize you have outgrown your business, it is time to pivot that business into something that will let us continue to grow.

Opportunities Offered To You

If you spend the time and energy to continually improve as a photographer it is also inevitable that you will be asked to do shoots that you have never done before. A portrait photographer you may be asked to do a wedding. A landscape photographer may be asked to do real estate. Any photography who puts in the time and effort to provide an excellent service and high quality to their clients will be asked to shoot something they have never done before.

As your skills and the size of your clientele grow, you are going to attract attention from local business owners in your market who have needs for a photographer. In a world where there is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google, and Yelp, there really isn’t an industry today that doesn’t have need for good photos. Not all of those business owners will be willing to pay for a good photographer to create those images for them, but enough will that you are certain to hear from them at some point.

It may be a little scary and feel like it did as you are just getting started as a photographer all over again. That initial lack of confidence doing something you haven’t practiced. Still, think of the growth you will make if you are brave and accept those shoots! Plus, you may find you REALLY like applying your photography skills to those kinds of shoots. When that happens it may be time to pivot your business in a direction you never expected as you were getting started.

Identifying Unmet Needs in the Market

As the unplanned opportunities to shoot something different come your way, you may discover that the reason a client came to you with a different type of shoot you have never done has to do with a lack of a photography service being offered in your area. It may be the client literally couldn’t find a photographer in your market that offered the service they needed. What a great business opportunity if that is the case.

It could also be that the client didn’t like the pricing of that service in your area and thought they might be able to talk a good photographer in their price range into taking on the job for less. Maybe the client is hoping if they offered you a job you don’t normally do you will automatically offer to do the job at a lower cost. Before assuming the job that wasn’t a service you offered is an indicator the market needs those services, you should do your research (more on that below).

If you shoot the odd job that came your way and enjoyed the job, be sure to check out the photography services offered in your area for that genre of photography. It may be a really good reason to pivot your photography business in a different direction.

Loss of Interest or Passion

Over the years we have seen this happen more than any of the other three reasons you may pivot your business. It seems for many photographers they have a limit on just how many weddings or senior portrait shoots they have in them. You started out with thinking you would like to learn how to take good wedding photos, found you were really good at it, and even made a pretty good living shooting weddings. You loved doing it and thrived from the challenge.

Later, after moving well down the path of mastering wedding photography, you become faced with the reality that you now rarely have weekends open to be with family and friends. You have to deal with many brides and mothers of the bride who are unreasonable and demanding. What started out as something that you lived for has become a drudgery. That is a really good time to pivot your business and take it in another direction.

Personal Experience With Pivoting Her Photography Business

We talk about this topic of pivoting your photography business guessing or hearing tales from the thousands of photographers we interact with here at Master Photography Podcast. Erica Kay, co-host of this episode and member of the Master Photography team, has had real-world, actual experience pivoting both of her photography businesses over the past 12 months.

With her personalized service, called Erica Kay Photography, she had all of these reasons to pivot that business come up. Working hard with the local businesses in her market to collaborate and make here wedding photography services well known brought many opportunities other types of shoots. When she did those shoots she realized how fun it was to do something other than weddings and when she looked into the services offered in her market she discovered there was a need. Plus, she was beginning to dread picking up her camera.

With her studio business, UA Creative Studio, a similar thing happened. What started out as a studio to do individual and family shoots in a controlled environment to produce incredible results, pivoted to doing volume headshots for corporations and other commercial photography, and then pivoted again into becoming a full service marketing agency helping corporate clients to fully leverage the high quality images the studio provides to them.

Four Tips To Make Your Photography Business Pivot a Success

Erica has four tips she has learned from pivoting her photography businesses that will help you make the pivot to your photography business a success.

Research

As alluded to earlier, as you realize there may be an opportunity in your local market to provide a different photography service than you had planned on, you need to do some research to figure out of that service truly is viable. Is pivoting your business in that direction really going to have enough clients to sustain or improve your photography business?

You need to research the average structure of a photography business providing that service. Does it need a studio space? Will it mean you need some assistants you don’t already have? Is there specialized equipment you will need to deliver the images that service demands?

You need to research how your service should be priced. Hopefully there isn’t much in the way of local service providers why you are considering pivoting your photography business in that direction, but if there are see if you can find out their pricing. If there aren’t other local service providers, reach out to your photography network and ask others about how they price and offer that service. See if you can have coffee with a photographer who provides that service in another area, or if that isn’t something for you to meet face to face, at least reach out online to a few and see if one is willing to help you out.

Make sure to research just how “unmet” the needs for this style of photography is in your local area. Google/Yelp are great places to check that out but you should lean on your photography network here too. Ask a client that brought that kind of job to you what their experience was in finding a photographer for the job.

Make sure that as you do your research you understand what kind of marketing similar photography businesses have been doing. Ask them what has been effective and, perhaps more importantly what has not been effective. Be ready to invest a little bit of money into marketing your new service.

Update

In order to be successful with this pivot of your photography business, you will need to update your portfolio, social media, website, and Google/Yelp listings. These are all things you did very naturally as you started your photography business in the first place, if you pivot that photography business you have to make sure they are all updated.

You will need to add some high quality images to your portfolio in the new genre you are exploring. It may mean you reach out to a few local businesses and offer to do a free session. Just like you may have done when you originally started your photography business. Be sure as you add the photos to your portfolio you make a clear distinction about the services offered by your photography business. If what you used to shoot was vastly different from what you are now wanting to shoot you may even need to have a completely separate portfolio.

The same goes for your website. It needs to be updated to communicate very clearly the services offered by your photography business and if you started off with “Twinkle Toes Photography” offering portraits of newborns and want to pivot to doing volume corporate head shots you probably need to get a new domain name and brand a new website.

Make sure you update your online directory listings like with Google and Yelp to reflect the new service being offered by your photography business. Again, it may require removing the old listing and creating a brand new one if the change is drastic as you pivot your photography business.

Marketing

You may have started and built out your existing photography business more organically. Maybe you have incorporated some marketing into your photography business to draw in clients during slower times or just to increase the quantity of clients. Whatever your experience was with the current photography business, you should really consider some marketing as you pivot your photography business.

This will be especially important if you are pivoting your photography business because you think there is an unmet need in your market. You will have to figure out what your ideal client is for that genre of photography and then how you can reach them.

One of the best methods today for marketing your photography business to those clients is through Facebook. The key to Facebook advertising is that it does take some investment. Doesn’t have to be an investment so large it takes you out of business, but a few hundred dollars spent on Facebook advertising bringing potential clients to your Facebook Page has yielded good results for Erica.

Be Positive and WORK!

Finally, the thing may be the very most important success factor with pivoting your business is staying positive and working hard. Remember how things went when you first started your photography business? It is probably going to be a lot like that to pivot your photography business in this new direction.

Remember all the time spent working on your photography skills and establishing your business? You may very well have to continue operating your current business just like you have been for some time before the pivot of your photography business is complete and your income comes from the new genre of photography you have switched to.

Be patient and expect it to take a little time. If it doesn’t and your pivot to your photography business takes off quickly – wonderful! But plan for it to take time and be patient with yourself. So long as you are able to pay your bills you can do anything for a year or two in order to get where you want to go with your photography business.

Bonus Q&A

We asked our audience what questions they had about their photography businesses and here are a couple bonus tips.

Question: What are some things that I can do to help my business, even though I have no desire to quit the day job? My photog business goals are to pay for gear and some travel. Currently, I shoot a little bit of everything. (Portraits, family photos, events, landscapes).  Maybe things you wish you had done toward the beginning?

Erica: Listen to “Season 1” of Portrait Session! The entire season is dedicated to building a business. But without knowing much about where your business currently is, I’d recommend that you make sure you have a solid and consistent portfolio, you’re sharing your work with others, and you have a solid understanding of your pricing and the why behind it all.

Jeff: This is what I do, though I really am not trying to make my photography business a huge money maker. I do occasional client shoots for family portraits and some for the high school basketball teams, but I am not actively trying to build my photography business. This is more of a hobby for me, something I do because I really love it.

That said, my advice is to really look to manage your time. If you want to really have that photography business have some success, it needs an adequate amount of your time. You have to decide how much time you actually have for your photography business after the hours needed for your day job, your family, and the other things you enjoy doing in life. Once you know how much time you want to dedicate to your photography business, make sure it is truly dedicated there and you don’t waste it on other things.

Question: How do you price a service that is not easily comparable? Aesthetics and skill vary a lot, and photographers typically don’t post their pricing openly. Or say you get an 8×10 camera, how do you know what to charge for something that unique (ignoring that there might not be a market for that)?

Erica – focus more on your value and what you need/want rather than what others are doing. There are tons of price breakdown worksheets and calculators out there that will help you calculate what you should charge based on the amount of time and money put into a certain service, the cost of goods within the service, the amount of money you need to make in order to pay bills, etc. Of course, this is only one piece of the pricing puzzle, but this is a good place to start. You’ll also want to consider your skill level/quality of your work, the value you’re bringing to a client (uniqueness = higher value), your confidence (more confidence = more success in charging higher prices), and your competitive market (if applicable).

Doodads

Jeff: Saramonic SR-WM4C ($100) wireless lav mic. Has helped me improve the audio in my YouTube videos which you can check out on the Photo Taco channel.

Erica: Fractals ($99) – “The world’s most creative camera filters” – pack of 4 different prisms with finger holes that allow you to hold or mount them easily in front of the camera, each prism creates a different effect

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