The Nuances of Broadening a Photo Brand

August 13, 2014

By Laura Brauer

One of the things that fascinates me about wedding photography is the different skills you need to stay competitive and fresh. To be at the top of your game, you must incorporate several different genres into your repertoire, including fashion, photojournalism, commercial and portrait photography. If you are a wedding photographer who loves fashion and excels at creating fashion-forward images, there are creative opportunities outside of the wedding day to create more name recognition and revenue for your business.

To show you how it’s done well, I’ve chosen four photographers— Erich McVey, Stephanie Williams, Tanja Lippert and John Hong—whose love for stylish imagery has allowed them to express themselves artistically while bringing more freedom and prosperity to their work.

Erich McVey
One of Rangefinder’s 30 Rising Stars of 2012, Erich McVey has created a name by marketing himself as a fine-art film wedding shooter. His work is a staple on blogs like Style Me Pretty and Junebug Weddings and in magazines like Magnolia Rouge and Martha Stewart Weddings. Brides who see his published work online, in print and on Pinterest seek him out for his romantic style.

He’s come a long way since his first photography gig—shooting portraits for the largest retirement home company in America, Holiday Retirement Corporation—where he learned to connect and photograph engaging subjects. Firmly believing that “we have to make our own opportunities,” McVey jumped at the chance to shoot a wedding for an acquaintance five years ago, and he’s never turned back.

Now McVey leads his own workshops and mentors other photographers, using styled shoots as teaching aids while creating a brilliant marketing loop for both of his businesses. By inviting bloggers to speak at his workshops and help style his shoots, both he and his attendees gain expertise. The bloggers in turn publish the workshop images, so McVey gets exposure and traffic on social media.

Getting the Look
McVey is devoted to shooting film and loves his medium-format Contax 645. However, he will use digital sparingly during low-light wedding receptions. Over the years, he’s developed relationships with several editors, including Emily Newman of Once Wed, and Amy Squires and Jocey Canrinus from Wedding Chicks.

What’s Next
Continuing to expand his wedding and fashion work with an emphasis on education, McVey finds a great deal of joy and accomplishment from teaching people and watching them acquire new skills.

Stephanie Williams
Shooting fashion allows photographer Stephanie Williams to have complete control of her images, something she craves but that isn’t always possible at weddings. It also provides her with about 40 percent of her income and the ability to shoot throughout the year—not just during wedding season. Williams consistently shoots for bridal magazines like Pacific Weddings and Destination I Do, and clothing companies including Ruche, ThreadSence, Everly Clothing, Greylin Collection and Jenny Yoo.

Her first real foray from weddings to fashion was in 2008 when she started building her fashion book through collaborations with wardrobe stylists, make-up artists and models on Model Mayhem—even using borrowed clothing from the models’ own wardrobes. That led to her first shoots with Ruche. Williams’ bridal images fit the vintage-inspired clothing brand to a tee—feminine and whimsical without being overly sexualized, and she has shot for owner Mai Olivo ever since.

Williams shoots with a desire to see the pictures in her head come to life, and her inspiration may come from a particularly beautiful dress, a gorgeous location or a decor element that she wants to take further.

Getting the Look
Williams shoots film and digital for her wedding work and almost always digital for commercial shoots. Her fashion images require a lot of pre-production, from deciding on a concept to creating a team of professionals to support it. She prefers natural light and edits her own work using Exposure from Alien Skin Software along with basic burning and dodging techniques. She also likes the action sets from Red Leaf Studios.

What’s Next
Aside from a fashion portfolio to be proud of, Williams just published a book on engagement photography entitled This Modern Romance: The Artistry, Technique, and Business of Engagement Photography, and is looking forward to signing with an agency.

Tanja Lippert
Starting out as an international model, Tanja Lippert is now a makeup artist, stylist and fashion photographer who makes half of her living shooting weddings with a distinct fashion edge.
At first, most of her work was focused on creating portfolios of her friends and roommates, but now it’s evolved to include wedding, commercial and fashion shoots.

About 12 years ago, a bride found Lippert’s fashion photos and approached her about a wedding. The marriage between the two types of work has catapulted her business, and since then she’s shot a multitude of weddings, editorial spreads for magazines like Today’s Bride, Southern Weddings and The Knot, as well as portraits of musicians and celebrities such as singer Clay Walker and actress Minka Kelly.

Getting the Look
Lippert is a film shooter who adores the look of natural light and does almost nothing to post-process her images. Reveling in the pace that film requires, she enjoys pouring her heart and soul into each project and seeing the good that comes from it. She always works with agency models and sometimes shoots her spreads in entirety before offering them to potential clients so she can create exactly what she’s envisioning. While most people think shooting fashion for a client means rigidly conforming to a set of specs, Lippert makes her own rules, and photo editors from film companies and fashion lines keep coming back.

What’s Next
Lippert wants to continue with weddings and fashion and to shoot more singers and artists that she loves. Her ultimate fantasy is to shoot Jack White and every member of The Civil Wars.

John Hong
Shooting from his beautifully appointed studio in Santa Monica, sought-after photographer John Hong has a dedicated fashion site aside from his wedding work, which has consistently generated revenue and opportunities over the last eight years. He shoots to “test his own boundaries and sharpen his skills” while working alongside his wife, Jane Lee Hong, a fashionista and make-up artist who helps him get the looks he’s after.

Along with his brother Joseph—the other half of John and Joseph Photography—Hong shot his first fashion shoot at the Seattle Art Museum in 2007 for Junebug Weddings. Since then, his images have shown up on the covers of luxury bridal magazines like Grace Ormonde Wedding Style and in the homes of celebrities. His latest coup? Photographing the wedding of last year’s The Bachelor, Sean Lowe.

Getting the Look
Hong is a perfectionist and creative photography geek who plays with lighting to get his desired results. Shooting everything digitally, he can often find the light he wants occurring naturally, but he enjoys setting up dramatic lighting scenarios whenever they fit his vision. He does post-processing in Lightroom and Photoshop along with Nik Collection’s Viveza for tone and Alien Skin’s Exposure for color tweaks.

What’s Next
Hong will continue working with fashion clients and wedding planners in L.A., Hong Kong, Seattle and San Francisco while expanding his portfolio to include fashion videos.

Related Links:

High Fashion, Small Market: How to Shoot Editorial Anywhere

How to Evolve Your Brand: IHNY’s Smart Business Model

Branding with Blair: How to Set Yourself Apart with Strong Marketing Strategies