I recently saw a blurb for a Denver photographer, Jennifer Buhl, who had an unusual pitch. If you need a professional, hip, affordable headshot in a convenient, urban location with a former paparazza, check out HappyHourHeadshot.com. Now making Coloradoans look like celebrities!
Sure, I get new headshots every 5 or 6 years, and they generally look pretty standard – me in business attire against a neutral background. But I have come to realize that many consultants’ web sites now have multiple photos of the principals. Now I see shots of the person in action – teaching a workshop, inspiring a group of people, or just looking a little less formal and posed.
The premise behind Happy Hour Headshot is that you meet Jennifer at a downtown restaurant, she spends 15 minutes shooting you outdoors, then you two sit down with a drink, review your photos, and select the one(s) you want. She does light editing and you get your shots in a couple of weeks. The cost is $85 for the shoot and one photo; additional photos are available at a discounted rate. It’s an unusual model, and the session had a very different vibe from the usual headshot experience – fast-paced, fun and relaxed, rather than an hour of “Now turn your head an inch to the right. Now smile. OK, and again…”
So I signed up for a headshot (great experience, and I wound up with five photos I really like!) and also had a chance to chat with Jennifer to find out more about her approach to her business.
One of her challenges, of course, is that anyone with a camera can call herself a photographer, regardless of their actual skill in capturing a subject’s essence. Jennifer’s bread-and-butter work had been creating baby and family portraits at Jennifer Buhl Photography, but after five years she found that she was getting push-back on her professional rates when families would compare her price to part-timers and hobbyists who just want to make enough money to pay for their avocation. She also missed the fast pace of a paparazza, and was looking for a way to expand her business into other areas.
She launched Happy Hour Headshot earlier this year, and enjoys the accelerated pace of taking just 15 minutes to catch people looking their best. As she was talking with her clients, she found that many are solopreneurs and small business owners, and she realized that they were likely to need to improve the visual content on their web sites and social media pages. She launched Buhl Business Photography to provide the more in-depth photography required by companies beyond headshots of their employees.
As Jennifer told me during our shoot, “Everything is visual now. People realize that their workplace has to look genuine on their web site; their work product or process has to look good. My job is to visually convey what it’s like to work with the company, to reflect who the business is. If you’re a small business, you need to look solid in your collateral, but you don’t have a $100,000 budget for commercial photography. That’s where I come in. I really enjoy going into, say, an orthodontist’s office, see how it’s run, talk with the staff, then photograph them doing their jobs. The end result is a set of photos that show the authentic company.”
I was struck by the evolution in Jennifer’s business, in a profession in which she is competing with many others who charge far less for a different level of service. She could have continued spending her time trying to convince families that a great shoot was worth $900, or she could expand her business into new areas that played to her strengths and interests.
She gets to do what she likes and finds stimulating, she has a more flexible schedule, and she is working with clients who see her as a business expense rather than a luxury purchase, so she is able to price her services fairly. Her experience as a paparazza taught her how to get high-quality images in a short period of time, so she can set herself apart as offering a very different headshot experience.
Her biggest challenge right now is efficiently getting the word out about Happy Hour Headshot. I heard about her through her participation in a Boulder-based network of media women, and we met for our shot at Galvanize, a local co-working office full of start-ups, both settings in which she successfully promotes her service. She is also considering marketing through LivingSocial and through local Meetups.
What ideas do you have for Jennifer to get the word out about her Happy Hour Headshot business? Post in the comments section below.
Short ‘n’ Sweet SWOT
Happy Hour Headshot
Strengths: fast-paced experience, unique photos, modest price, work she enjoys, business is word-of-mouth-friendly
Weaknesses: clients want to linger over the photo selection process, managing client expectations regarding editing
Opportunities: connect with local groups for efficient marketing, expansion of business photography
Threats: difficult to scale while retaining Jennifer’s unique style