New Direction

When I am passionate about something, I can’t hide it. And photography is something I am definitely passionate about. Some may look at my work and think “nothing special,” but the support I do receive keeps me moving forward. (By the way, I will have a photo in the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of JMU’s Madison magazine! This is the second photo of mine that they have used!) When I look over the years, from just point-and-shooting at summer camp to now when I am trying to find my way into business, I can see that I have come a long way. I am the nerd you will see in the library reading up on photographers that inspire me and perusing the photography section at bookstores. (Have I mentioned that I have fallen in love with a Magnum contact sheets photo book that costs $150?) I started following photographer blogs recently and I am just soaking up the business advice these professionals have to offer (Katelyn James, Jasmine Star, and Justin & Mary are some of my favorites).

A side note about these photographers: I emailed two of them through forums on their blogs and they both sent back the sweetest messages. These people are down-to-earth and are so willing to help others. They use their personality and lives to market and brand their work. When you work with them, you are not just hiring a service, you are hiring an identity and a style.

My best friend, Maria, and I are looking into starting a business together. She is the videographer and I will be the photographer. We have been trying to figure out what to name the business. The name is probably one of the more important parts when it comes to branding and marketing. The name can determine the cliental that you attract and how seriously your clients view your business. Trust me. I have seen advertisements on the side of the road for a local photography business that has left me thinking, “Were they drunk when they came up with that name?” I just end up shaking my head every time I see their sign. When it comes to photo/video, people want to hire a business that has a name that says something about who they are hiring. Thus you see a lot of business names that use the primary photographer’s name (example: Sonya Ruth Photography). Because using your own name prevents your business from having a cheesy, meaningless name that means nothing to others.

So our problem is how to name our business when we are using both video and photo. We will be able to work together and separately depending on clients’ needs. She may need to make an instruction video for a pianist or I may be off photographing a newborn or we may both work a wedding. What kind of name encompasses all of this? I have not the foggiest idea yet. It is easy enough for me to work under “Sarah Derr Photography,” but how do I adapt to having a partner who does video? Perhaps we need to sit down and decide just what type of business and clients we want to pursue. What do we want to specialize in? If we swing our net too wide, we are going to reach too many groups and overstretch our abilities. And each type of group requires different equipment. Sports, wedding, newborn, nature…. they each have their own recommended equipment list and we cannot afford to buy it all. We need to decide what we want to do and who we are going to market to. We need a focus group.

(The preceding paragraphs were written in the morning hours of the day.)

PUT ON THE BRAKES. This evening, I got wind of an Assistant Photographer employment position through James Madison University. Which I applied for! This may change everything, or at least my direction for the next year or so. I was planning to move out of Harrisonburg and back to Charlottesville, but professional employment at the university would keep me in my current apartment for another year at least. Although I am entirely enthusiastic about entering the wedding photography business in the Charlottesville area, a job through the university would provide professional experience, portfolio and resume building, and networking. I will keep you all posted if I hear anything back about my application.


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