Business + Marketing

My Rebranding Story: From Shooting Destination Weddings to Local Couples in Love

March 15, 2018

By Erin and Geoffrey Goudeau

All Photos © Erin & Geoffrey Photography

We met when we were teenagers, and right after getting married in our early 20s, in late 2007, we decided to start a photography business. Both of us have creative backgrounds and gravitated to mostly editorial, fine-art and landscape photography, but after we planned our own wedding, we fell in love with wedding photography.

For three years, we studied hard, read hundreds of books and watched thousands of videos before booking our first wedding. We totally overdid it, and once we shot our first wedding, things escalated very quickly.

We tried balancing both wedding photography and our day job for a while, but soon it was just too much to handle both. Near the end of our third year in business, we went full time, and that year, we must have shot 35 weddings or more. All of our work was in our own city: Lafayette, Louisiana. We’d dream of shooting a fancy destination wedding on a remote island somewhere or a really rad elopement in the mountains.

Eventually, we booked our first shoot outside of the state. Incidentally, it was an engagement session in New York, not a wedding—the bride-to-be was living in Brooklyn at the time but wanted to venture to our neck of the woods for her wedding. From there, we booked more clients like that first bride, people who were traveling to Louisiana to get married but flew us to their hometown for the e-session. It’s not exactly what we pictured, but we still loved the adventure.

One day, out of the blue, we booked a real wedding across the country. An engaged couple found our website all the way in Chicago. We were so excited to be there that we hardly slept. The year after, more brides flew us around the U.S. so we could document their big day. Pretty soon, we had more out-of-state weddings booked than we did local work.

Then, in early 2015, the economy in Lafayette, dependent on the energy industry, was devastated after falling oil prices. It took our local bookings to a screeching halt. Naturally, this lead us to pursue more work elsewhere.

In the same year, we started to get a lot of attention from other photographers. The demand for us to be in conferences and workshops across the nation, and even a few out of the country, was climbing. And we were in the running to be one of Rangefinder’s 30 Rising Stars of Wedding Photography. Our goals, all of a sudden, felt more like real life. We were on the road from one epic location to another.

But this quickly took its toll. We were getting tired. We had never wanted to be gone 100 percent of the time, so we made it a habit to be home every Sunday morning through Wednesday morning. Most of the weddings we were shooting took place on Thursdays or Fridays, so this wasn’t too difficult. If it was commercial work we were doing, we tried for a similar schedule. But after doing this week in and week out for months at a time, we started to truly miss our life in Lafayette.

Last year, almost exactly ten years after we purchased our first DSLR, we decided to pull the plug on destination work altogether and focus on local bookings. We realized we were the happiest that way and wanted to go back to the way things were when we first started, even if our local economy was still in a slump.

So, we went back to the drawing board and restructured our business from top to bottom. We replaced 85 percent of our travel work from our website with photos we had taken locally. On social media, we started only posting photos we had taken here in town, even if they were older. It took about a month and a half to take effect, but the saying, “Show what you want to shoot,” still holds up. The more local work we were showing, the more local inquiries we were getting.

We didn’t want to lower our prices, so we moved things around to make them more suitable for our local clients, adding in a bridal session to some packages and print credit on all of them—things that a Lafayette bride would want and expect. This was a major help for us; we saw an increase in bookings almost instantly.

A huge shift in our thinking and marketing plan came with re-examining the role of Instagram. We had independent accounts, which was one way we were getting so much attention from other photographers, but the truth is that we were on Instagram a huge part of the day—probably 3 or 4 hours each.

Looking back, we realized that almost all of the work that came from Instagram wasn’t from brides—especially not local ones—but from other photographers wanting mentor sessions. We did do some workshops, and although we truly loved teaching, we felt we couldn’t dedicate the time to both teach and shoot. In deciding to cut out mentor sessions, we also decided to cut out Instagram.

Not 100 percent, of course. We stopped using Geoffrey’s personal account and focused more on using Erin’s, since she had better engagement, renaming it to @erinandgeoffreyphoto. Now, we spend about a half hour a day doing very light networking. The time we save is spent focusing on making real-world connections.

We focus heavily on fostering our word-of-mouth connections, where the majority of our referrals come from. We make sure to give attention to other professionals in our field, whether it’s the venue, planners, florists or other local photographers. Coffee dates with these people go a long way.

This year, we’re on track to book all the local weddings we are wanting. We’ll still shoot some destinations from time to time—we absolutely love traveling and meeting new people across the country—but we’ll be limiting this number to four or five per year. In 2018, we’re planning on Yosemite, Atlanta and New York City, and we’ll be packing in vacation time to balance out the work. But for us, there’s no place like home.

Related: How To Woo The Adventurous But Low-Key Destination Wedding Clients

Innovations in Wedding Photography Aren’t Coming From Wedding Photography