Hunter Harrison's entry into photography isn't exactly an uncommon story. He took a few photo classes in high school and college, fell in love with the medium, but only dabbled throughout his early adulthood until a few years ago when a trip to Costa Rica with friends changed everything. He can't really explain why, but after that trip his desire to pursue photography was "insatiable."
Like so many other photographers, it was following a calling and taking a leap of faith that led Hunter to a new-found career as a professional photographer. Today Hunter is an in-demand wedding and portrait photographer based in Cleveland, Ohio. His unique approach to creating a more personal client / photographer relationship, a true passion for working in the wedding niche, and a keen sense of building a strong brand (with a little help from PhotoShelter) has driven his photo business success.
Hunter's philosophy is built upon what he would expect as a client:
- Treat all people as personal friends
- Deliver exceptional photography and service
- Offer customization to make planning easy
- Provide only heirloom-quality products
"I want my clients to feel like I gave them a gift, to the extent they forget they paid me. I think it might be working too."
While this approach may seem a bit "touchy feely" for some, Hunter credits his approach with making all the difference in his business. Referrals from prior clients drive a large portion of new business with inquiries and booked gigs constantly coming through recommendations from previous clients. And with the majority of his revenue made up of services for clients(the remainder comes from album and print sales), the relationships he forms with his clients are an extremely important piece of his business model.
That's not to say that Hunter is relying solely on his clients' word of mouth to do his marketing for him. Over the past six months Hunter has been intensively working to define the Hunter Photographic brand, "The lack of a considered approach really showed," he says. "It was time for a fresh start." Hunter spent time thinking about a few key questions: what feelings, objects, ideas or people would you associate with the brand; what 3 words describe your work the best; what are the characteristics of people with whom you want to work? His new tagline "passionate wedding photography for extraordinary couples" integrates his desired market into the core of his business. He describes his ideal clients as "loving couples in their mid-twenties to thirties, typically with a post-graduate degree and the ability to pay for their own wedding. [They are] also whip-smart, witty, and fun. Others would say of them 'what an extraordinary couple.'"
Realizing he wanted a more polished design than he could execute himself Hunter swallowed some pride and engaged a professional designer to help him update his website, design a new logo, and create a set of promotional materials to communicate his new brand and business name. read all about the process in his blog post on Branding for Wedding photographers.
PhotoShelter is another driving force behind Hunter's success "PhotoShelter's services literally permeate all aspects of my business in some regard," he says. Hunter uses a PhotoShelter, Wordpress, Graph Paper Press integration for his main site with extensive customization. He also relies on PhotoShelter for his image archive and client gallery display. He uploads his images to his PhotoShelter account directly through the web-based uploader, and occasionally via FTP.
He then turns to PhotoShelter's social sharing tools to allow his clients to easily share images with friends, family and guests. "My clients love it!" he says. "[B]rides love easily sharing their favorite photos to Facebook. The bride's family loves being able to order prints right online. I love PhotoShelter because my clients love the features."
Hunter also uses coupons, a built-in PhotoShelter feature, to drive print sales. Custom coupons allow photographers to create unique promotional offers for individual prints or print packages, as well as photo services at special rates. Once a coupon is created Hunter can share the special discount code with as many (or few) customers as he'd like, driving print sales and booking future gigs from wedding family, friends and guests.
Hunter Harrison is as passionate a wedding photographer as he is a marketer for his photo business. His dedication to both his clients' needs and his attention to the nuances of his brand have all contributed to his success as a photographer. While he admits it's hard work, he thrives on connecting with his "extraordinary" clients and creating images that capture lasting memories for them. "It's crazy how hard you must work to take a picture. It's also crazy how rewarding the work is."
TOP PHOTOSHELTER FEATURES
- Gallery display features
- Social media features
- Ease of management
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