In the photography industry, we often see the term High-End tossed around with little to no clear definition of what that means. This lack of clarity can leave wedding photographers frustrated as they attempt to move into this space. When I was 4 years into the wedding industry, I thought my business was doing well. I was one of the most expensive things at my client’s wedding and from an ego perspective, it felt pretty good.
However, I kept leaving these weddings frustrated as we often dealt with timelines that didn’t go as planned and guests who treated us like hired help rather than artists. I finally had had enough and for the past few years, we have been on a journey to not only figure out why this was but to determine how to elevate our brand from what it was to what it now is. Here are the top 5 tips we learned when breaking into the high-end wedding market.
While curating your portfolio may seem like a no-brainer, this is no longer just about attracting your ideal wedding couple to book you. As you break into the high-end market you now have a second client to attract and that is the high-end wedding planner. Now before you write me off and tell me that planners are the bane of your existence, consider this for a moment, you are working with the wrong type of planner.
As you curate your portfolio, remove any image that would not speak to them. Include in your portfolio more detailed work such as flat lays, custom invitation suites, and on-trend floral designs. This does not mean dumping more images into your portfolio. Less is more. In this case, apply an 80/20 principle to your curation where 20% of your work speaks to planners and as you grow each year the percentage should increase.
Remove from your portfolio any color schemes that are outdated or scream budget. The same can be said for cheap venues or fake florals. High-end planners and clients can spot the difference a mile away. This may mean that you have to conduct a few styled shoots to beef back up your portfolio in the direction you do want to go with your brand as you seek to break into the high-end market.
When doing an initial discovery call with a client before booking, we used to ask about what they wanted to invest in photography coverage. This only gave a tiny view into the wedding they were having. Not only do we ask what they are wanting to invest in photography but we also look at what their overall investment is in their wedding per head.
Why does this matter for breaking into high-end weddings? Clients that spend less than 50k overall on a wedding fall into the budget and lovely category depending on headcount. Budget and lovely clients have a different buying process than higher-end weddings. Knowing their overall budget allows you to sell to them differently and more successfully. Go back, look at your past weddings and assess this for yourself. This data will give you a starting point to go from.
If you want to break into high-end markets you need to offer products to your clients that match that market and align with where you want your brand to go. You cannot offer subpar products that have shoddy craftsmanship or materials. Part of offering those products to them is knowing how and where it is made. You should be able to speak to the custom nature of it which leads to your clients feeling like VIPs.
Facebook ads are fantastic for booking budget weddings but when it comes to breaking into the high-end market this no longer works because referrals and bookings are based more on referral partners and relationships. Connecting with them is imperative and this is done through shared experiences. This often looks like regional professional wedding events, fam trips, and luxury wedding summits. Begin to research these for your own regional market and plan to attend at least once a quarter.
I once heard an educator tell me to dress for the wedding I wanted and not the wedding I had. I had been dressing for the job I had with weddings at barns and once a summer camp, no kidding. It was when we started dressing for the job we wanted and the brand we wanted to represent that we noticed we were treated differently. There is a way to still be comfortable on a 10-hour day without sacrificing how your brand is represented. If you aren’t sure what that should look like, hire a stylist to assist you.
Breaking into the high-end wedding market is not an overnight thing. This is a marathon that typically takes 18 months to even start bearing fruit. As Mary Marantz always says “Slow growth equals strong roots.” Begin to nourish that growth with these five steps. With each new wedding curate your portfolio and review your data. As you refine your work and your brand you will find you are there before you know it.