One Website or Two: Should You Separate Your Portrait & Wedding Work into Different Websites?

So you’ve been at this photography thing for awhile and you’re a competent shooter. Maybe you started out shooting weddings, but now you’re shooting portraits, seniors and the occasional commercial work. You’ve got it all under one roof, in one website, but now you’re wondering if that’s a good idea after all. Maybe it’s better to give each their own website? What to do?

For most people, the answer is an unequivocal yes. A soon-to-be bride doesn’t go looking for a photographer; she’s looking for a wedding photographer. A mom in need of family portraits wants a portrait photographer. A company in need of photos for its marketing seeks out a commercial photographer. And so on…

There’s an old saying, “Jack of all trades, master of none.” Whether you like it or not, we all know that the person who’s good at lots of things isn’t great at any one particular thing. Would you go to your general practitioner for brain surgery? No, you’d go to the specialist in brain surgery.

As Jack Ries and Al Trout point out in their classic book, Positioning, the Battle for the Mind the specialist always wins out over the generalist. They ask you to think of the number one brand of ketchup – Heintz. But is Heintz the number one brand of mustard? No. That’s another brand – French’s. Think of the leading brand in any field and it’s doubtful that they’ll be a leader in another field.

Getting back to photography, the same principles apply. If you offer yourself up as a generalist by listing all your specialties on one site, clients will subconsciously perceive you to not be the best at any single one of those specialties. For the bride looking for a wedding photographer, you will be at a disadvantage to those photographers who specialize in weddings. The specialist always wins out over the generalist.

The other thing to keep in mind is that each type of client has different needs. Wedding clients don’t care about what commercial clients want. But sales and marketing is all about demonstrating your ability to meet the needs of any specific client. When you have one website, it’s much more difficult to craft a message that will satisfy the needs of all of your visitors. In attempting to satisfy all of your varied clients, you’re likely to truly satisfy none.

In my case, I have four websites. One each for Advertising, Weddings, Portraits, and Photographers. If you visit each one, you’ll note that they all have a different message that’s specifically crafted to its target audience. Where my wedding photography site is more elegant and soft, my advertising site is a more forceful and personality driven. Brides and art directors are two completely different clients with different needs – which one site can’t hope to successfully meet.

Now, the one workable exception to this rule is if you’re the only game in town. If you’re the only studio within your geographic market, then you can get away with one site. Be careful though because if someone else opens up a wedding business, they’ll siphon away your wedding business because now they’re the specialist and your the generalist.

Finally, it’s okay to show that you do these other kinds of work. Showing off some of your editorial or fashion work to your brides is a great way to build some credibility. Just be careful how you do this. It’s okay to mix up work on your blog, however I suggest that if you’re going to refer a bride from your wedding site (or commercial site etc.) to your blog that you refer them to just your wedding work so they don’t have to weed through a bunch of seniors (or other work) that they may not be interested in.  You can do this by creating categories for your work, such as weddings, portraits, seniors etc, and then setting the blog link on the website to that specific category.

These days, your marketing needs to deliver a knockout punch to drive clients from website to booking. Hit ’em hard with a website that shouts, “I’m the best at what I do!” Be the specialist and own your market.

John Mireles

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About johnmireles

Photographer, writer, thinker, climber, outrigger canoeist, bad guitar player and even worse singer.
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8 Responses to One Website or Two: Should You Separate Your Portrait & Wedding Work into Different Websites?

  1. summerlandphoto says:

    What about having an opening splash page that leads to different “websites” all under the same web address? I worry about the loss of brand name recognition if I have four separate names for the types of photography I shoot. In my case news editorial, weddings, portraits, and some commercial/corporate work.

    Also, while I agree that it’s probably a good idea to separate out your work to make sorting though it easier for the potential client, I just can’t agree with the jack of all trades master of none when it comes to photography. If you have a strong foundation in photography with regards to composition, lighting, and capturing the moment why wouldn’t you be good at what ever genre you’re focusing your skills on. Sure the look and feel of it would change somewhat based on what you’re doing and who your client is, but your overall competency would remain the same.

    • johnmireles says:

      Having a splash page that leads to four different sites is okay. But if you’re advertising wedding work on Google, the ad should point to the wedding site. Conversely, if you’re sending a promo to a commercial client, you should point them to your commercial site. Now if you’re pointing clients to sites that are specific to their needs, which is what you should be doing, what’s the point of the splash page? (The part about brand recognition I don’t get. Not sure how separating out your site reduces your brand recognition.)

      As far as the jack of all trades thing, you’re looking at it from the point of the photographer, not the prospective client. This is basic cognitive psychology stuff. It has to do with how we as people perceive the world. You can either fight it or accept it and thrive.

  2. Claudia says:

    What would you suggest for photographers that focus on events like weddings and Quinceañeras? Not sure if you are familiar with the Hispanic tradition but its a coming of age for a fifteen year old girl that is celebrated with a mass and a huge party. Almost with the same flow as a wedding… Anyway, I’ve always battled with this internally. What are your suggestions can they be housed in the same page, should I do as suggested above and create a splash page, OR just two different pages with individual focus on each event?

    • johnmireles says:

      No quick answer here. Depends on how competitive your market is, the perception in the mind of the potential consumer and whether there’s any crossover in clients between the two products you offer. My suggestion is to do a little market research to better understand your client and then proceed accordingly.

      John

    • Jay says:

      Given what I just read in this article, I think creating two different websites would be the way to go. Quinceañeras, while similar to weddings, are very different in the respect of capturing what parents will want to see in their daughter’s expressions as a child coming of age as opposed to seeing images of a bride (a grown up daughter) getting married. Emotionally, and psychologically, the two events are handled differently by the parents. I would want to promote the fact that I am a photographer that can relate to the younger group and capture the emotions and fun of that special event. Not to mention, that adding a little “hispanic” flavor to the Quinceañeras website would also promote that I get why this event is so important.

  3. Claudia says:

    Thank you both for your advice. I’ve decided to go with a splash page divining the two events. Our business relies a lot on word of mouth and often repeat customers; so it is not unusual for us to have different events and see a lot of the same people. Sometimes a Quinceañera client turns into a wedding client and so on. Therefore I think that housing the two under one page but maintaining an individual focus on each event would be beneficial to our clients. Thank you so much.

  4. Would you say this is true even if what you are trying to sell if your unique personal and artistic style? If your wedding photography, your commercial work, and your portraits all have a similar stylistic look and feel would you still need to seperate them? (Obviously not every photo you take is gonna fall within your stylistic view, however the ones that get shown as part of your portfolio will probably have a similar look to them.)

    • johnmireles says:

      What matters here is not the photographer’s style but the markets that he or she is targeting. Each market has is different and has its own needs. Your goal in is to show that you can meet the needs of your specific client. You can do a much more precise and effective job of doing this by creating a different marketing program, including website, for each market that you enter. Basically, everything I wrote applies regardless of whether you have one style or twenty.

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