Who knew? Elopement Photography! I honestly didn’t know it was a thing. I learned about this growing niche of wedding photography recently and in my search to find a great elopement photographer to speak with, I found an awesome photographer and entrepreneur — Brianna Parks.
Brianna is a 22-year-old California and Pacific Northwest elopement photographer who started an elopement photography business after realizing a 9-5 job wasn’t what she wanted to do with her life. After two years of business in the traditional wedding scene, Brianna decided to take the leap and focus exclusively on elopement photography, or weddings with under 30 guests.
Her passion for her work is contagious and you will learn quite a bit from this young businesswoman — regardless of the genre of photography that you specialize in.
Elopement Photography with Photographer and Entrepreneur Brianna Parks
Joe: [00:00:00] Joe Edelman here, and you are listening to The TOGCHAT Photography Podcast. I was today years old, when I learned about a new category of photography that I didn’t know existed. Elopement Photography.
Not only did I learn that this has been a thing for a few minutes, but I stumbled across an elopement photographer who has created an awesome destination wedding business by creating once in a lifetime client experiences. And get this, she is just 22 years old. Stay tuned!
DJ: [00:00:36] You’re listening to the TOGCHAT Photography Podcast, the only podcast dedicated to the HOWS and WHYS behind creating consistently great photographs. Here’s your host, Joe Edelman.
Joe: [00:00:48] My photography thought for the week: Yo mama is so big — I needed a wide angle lens and I still had to shoot at f/22 to keep all of her in focus! I know I’m gonna get in trouble for that one. So please just remember it’s all in good light.
DJ: [00:01:09] Next up is a TOGCHAT exclusive interview.
Joe: [00:01:12] My guest today is Brianna Parks. Brianna is an incredibly talented 22 year old photographer and entrepreneur who specializes in Elopement Photography.
Now before I go any further, I want to clarify something. I’ve already mentioned Brianna’s age twice. I will mention it again. It shouldn’t really be part of the conversation about her photography and business accomplishments, but it is also important to highlight that she has built this business with good old-fashioned hard work, desire to learn and a great entrepreneurial spirit. I mention it because I am in awe of her and because I really hope you will realize that if you are willing to put in the hard work, anything is possible.
Brianna is based in Idaho and provides her elopement photography services throughout California, the Pacific Northwest and the world for that matter.
I would encourage you to grab a notepad, there is some awesome business advice that Brianna shares in this interview. Take notes. It can be applied to any type of photography.
Brianna, thank you so much for joining me on TOGCHAT today. How are you?
Brianna Parks: [00:02:21] Good. How are you?
Joe: [00:02:23] I am really excited to talk to you, so I’m going to dive in with the big question. What exactly is an Elopement photographer?
Brianna Parks: [00:02:31] An elopement photographer, I feel like has definitely shifted its meaning over the past few years. At first, a lot of people thought an elopement was two people running off to Vegas to get married, but it has changed. And the way I view an elopement is an intentional and intimate ceremony between however many people, I personally like to cap it at 30. Where people are just getting married for intentional reasons and for intimate reasons, and they’re not so focused on the big show of putting together this super big wedding for their guests, but instead are really focused on their relationship and how they want to go into their marriage intentionally and without trying to impress other people.
Joe: [00:03:11] Full disclosure, I was married in Vegas and it was a lot of fun.
Brianna Parks: [00:03:14] Oh, cool.
Joe: [00:03:16] So how does a photographer get started with elopement photography? Were you shooting traditional weddings first?
Brianna Parks: [00:03:21] Yes. I’ll walk you through a little bit of how I got into photography and then why I eventually decided to switch to elopement photography.
I started my business when I was 19. I had just gotten into college, and I was actually a premed major. And I was planning on going to medical school. It’s totally a different, like a 360. And I just realized how much I hated biology and hated everything that has to do with science. So I eventually switched my major, and I was just really missing this creative outlet because in high school I was pretty big into choir and I wasn’t so much a theater person, but I just liked to doing creative things. I liked ceramics, all of that kind of stuff. And I briefly picked up a camera for a bit there, but it was something I didn’t really pursue until I got into college and I stumbled across a YouTube video about photography and it just hit and it sparked, and I was like, oh my gosh, I really miss doing this.
My husband and I had just gotten married. We had about $600 in our bank account, literally nothing. And I convinced him to spend all of it on a Canon T6i and my poor husband went along with it. He believed in me. So we picked up the camera and I had started shooting portraits. But I did a few portrait sessions and it just wasn’t for me, I didn’t really vibe with the people that I was shooting.
So I started going towards traditional weddings and I shot big traditional weddings for about two and a half years. And by the end of it, I just got super, super burnt out. I felt like I was shooting at the same venues. Shooting the same couples doing the same poses, just going through the motions. And I just decided to switch to elopement photography, and I was originally planning to switch to elopements at the start of 2022, but COVID hit, and I was losing all of my money, lost all of my bookings for the year. And, I was like, okay I’m just going to go all in and if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out.
But if it does, it’s going to be awesome. Thankfully it worked out and I’m here now and I love it. I love elopements. I feel like they are so intentional and intimate, and I could talk about them forever. But that’s just how I got started into elopement photography.
Joe: [00:05:31] So how does a photographer get started with elopement photography? Were you shooting traditional weddings first?
Brianna Parks: [00:05:37] Yes. I am still in college. I graduate in April.
Joe: [00:05:40] I am jealous and so in awe of you believe me. When I look at your photos, I see emotion. I see love in your pictures, I see nature. But if I could sum it up all in one word, I would use the word fantasy.
What makes a great set of elopement photos? Talk to me about your thought process as you plan and then compose with your camera and expose those images. What’s the story or what is it that you’re trying to create there?
Brianna Parks: [00:06:06] A lot of locations really revolve around my couples. A lot of people, when they want to elope, they want to go to someplace that’s meaningful to them that has some significance.
And if not, a lot of people just really want to spend their money on a super epic place. So a lot of my couples are like, okay, Hey, we got engaged in Hawaii. So we want to go back to Hawaii and do our ceremony where we got engaged at. So usually we do that and then I am a super hands-on elopement photographer. I create personalized location lists for my couples. And a lot of them really love those epic landscape pictures. And why a lot of people decide to elope is because they love the outdoors. They love those super beautiful landscapes. So I make sure I incorporate that into my couples day.
And a lot of them just love the super epic locations. And, so I love helping my couples find those places that maybe a lot of photographers don’t know about, or that will really pull them like their personalities out in the pictures.
Joe: [00:07:06] Before I get too far into your photography, I want to ask about your path to elopement photography. You’re shooting weddings. You find yourself getting burned out on weddings and you decide to do elopement photography. Now you need to market yourself with a product where you’re essentially asking people to take this leap of faith with you and spend a lot of money for the most important day of their life. You have built a great portfolio that speaks for itself. How did you begin to put the business together and how did you begin the marketing element?
Brianna Parks: [00:07:38] I had this idea of wanting to switch to smaller weddings. I said, okay, I’m going to take all the money I have right now and invest it into some mentors who have done the same exact thing, because I had no idea what I was going to do. So I had a mentorship with Anni Graham who is a very talented destination elopement photographer.
I believe she’s based in bend Oregon, and she was the one that pushed me to just fully go into elopement photography. So I instantly stopped sharing big pictures of weddings on my Instagram and just focused on sharing couples. I completely changed my website copy to reflect things that would speak to people who are eloping.
And then I wanted to get deeper into it. So I actually invested a ton of money into the elopement photographer course from Maddie Mae from Adventure Instead. And that was very helpful. I credit that course a ton to what I have learned and picked up from that. And then obviously I wanted to learn SEO.
So SEO was my number one thing I wanted to focus on. So I purchased Corey and Dylan’s Fuel Your Photos course and just really cranked out blogs. And that was really the catalyst for people investing in me. And it just got my name out from there. So SEO is a huge thing. And I advocate for photographers because I feel like a lot of them just focus on Instagram and while Instagram is great, we see even today, like there, they’re switching to video content, they’re pushing video content. So I am a huge advocate for SEO, and that was probably the biggest thing I think that has transformed my business.
Joe: [00:09:11] What I’m not hearing in your answer is something that I hear from photographers of all ages. I didn’t hear you say “Well, I went to YouTube and I started watching this person and that person”.
Instead, I’m hearing two very distinct things. One. You made an investment in yourself. You realized there was going to be an expense to the education, and secondly, it wasn’t all online. It sounds like you actually spent time working with one of these people. Why not go the YouTube route? It certainly would have been cheaper.
Brianna Parks: [00:09:41] Yeah, it would have been, I learned a lot from YouTube, not so much for the elopement space. I feel like when I would look for that, it just wasn’t on there. And I feel like the education on there is so broad. Whereas if I had this mentorship with someone who has been there before. They were giving me such valuable information that specifically applied to me. And, so I wasn’t just hearing someone from YouTube say the generic thing that everyone’s going to do and that everyone already knows to do.
I wanted to get really specific information for myself that I could use to launch by platform.
Joe: [00:10:15] Brilliant. Good for you.
Brianna Parks: [00:10:17] Thank you. Thank you so much.
Joe: [00:10:19] So Brianna, you’re providing an entire experience to your clients that goes way beyond just shooting a wedding and delivering photographs. What do your services for an elopement include?
Brianna Parks: [00:10:29] Yes. I don’t personally like to call myself a wedding planner just because I know there are elopement planners out there, so I don’t want to discredit their work in any way, but I am very hands-on with my couples. I plan their entire elopement for them. I don’t book their vendors which is a big thing that planners do.
I send them location lists, permit information, timelines, sneak peaks. I do the full nine yards because I know, especially when I got married, I didn’t elope. My husband and I had a bigger wedding, but. So overwhelmed with the planning aspect and it was a lot of work. So I wanted to make it as easy for my couples as possible.
And that’s a big reason why I created all of these guides, because I want my couples to trust me and know that I know what I’m doing. I know the Pacific Northwest in and out. I know the west coast in and out, and I just really want to provide my clients a experience where they just show up, they get married and have the best day of their lives. And they look back and be like, oh my gosh, our photographer helped plan the entire thing. I wasn’t stressed out whatsoever and it was just an amazing experience that I’ll be able to remember forever. So I love, love, love the planning aspect of elopements. And it’s a big reason why I got into elopements because a lot of elopement photographers now are super hands-on with their couples.
This sounds bad, but I am a control freak. So I like having control over those little aspects. Like when they want to take pictures, what time of day, where we’re going to be taking pictures at, how we’re going to get there, what the permit system is like and all of that kind of stuff.
Joe: [00:12:03] Doesn’t sound bad at all. Every GREAT wedding photographer that I have met, they are control freaks. You kind of have to be. I am confident that even with your clients, that’s a big part of why they appreciate you, because you’re providing them information and structure and guidance that they would not have considered on their own. That’s actually fantastic.
Brianna Parks: [00:12:25] Thank you.
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Joe: [00:12:29] I noticed on your website that you are also an ordained officiant? Was that part of the original plan or was that a solution to a problem?
Brianna Parks: [00:12:39] I think a majority of my couples who elope, they just want to have a super intimate experience with just them two. And I noticed there was a of lack of knowledge of what to do if a couple doesn’t want to bring a friend along or doesn’t want to bring a family member along. I love to do hiking elopements. So we’ll hike to these super desolate areas that no one is near, and we get there, and they’re like, okay who’s going to marry us now?
We didn’t think about this. So I was like, okay, I’m just going to become an ordained officiant. I’ll say the legal words and then you guys can get married. It’s a great way to up their wedding experience because they know me, they trust me, they’re not super uncomfortable with me being their officiant. Versus if they brought a complete stranger along and hired a complete stranger, or even if they just wanted to just have an experience without any friends or family, then I’m there to help guide them along. And it’s a great experience for myself. But it’s an even better experience for the couple, because they’re not feeling awkward or weird around someone that they have no idea who they are.
Joe: [00:13:40] Now, I noticed that you have a package, that is a mystery elopement. Where the couple doesn’t know where they are going until they arrive at the airport. Have you actually done any of those?
Brianna Parks: [00:13:50] I have not. I actually just implemented. About a few weeks ago. It’s brand new.
Joe: [00:13:55] Okay. It sounds amazing.
Brianna Parks: [00:13:57] Thank you.
Joe: [00:13:57] When I read about it on your website I thought WOW, that is an incredible leap of faith for someone to take, but I think you did a great job of describing it on your website and making it sound like a really amazing experience.
Brianna Parks: [00:14:10] Yeah, it is something I have always wanted to do. Even when I was shooting big traditional weddings, I loved the planning aspect. I love controlling everything. So I really wanted to do this when I shot big weddings, but I just didn’t know how to do it because people already have their venues, they already know what they want for the big wedding.
Whereas my couples who elope, they come to me, and they’re like, okay we’re open between these three states. So I say, okay let me make you a location list. We’ll decipher from there. And then other couples I have that come to me, they said, we have no idea where we want to elope, but we want to elope anywhere in the US and that’s where I introduced this mystery package. Basically, I send them a personalized questionnaire, they answer it, but I choose their elopement location, and they have no idea where they’re going until they get to the airport. I also book all of their vendors, so their hair and makeup artist, their officiant, their florist, as well as the rental car for two days, their Airbnb for two days, I also booked their plane tickets.
So it’s a very hands-on process. It’s definitely a new thing. And I have a few inquiries for it actually, but I think it’s still something people are a little hesitant to do just because they are putting literally all of their trust into me. But I think it’s something unique and something that kind of sets me apart from other elopement photographers.
Joe: [00:15:26] Since you’ve already interacted with a few people that have shown interest, have you heard any objections or concerns from them that you think you should address in your marketing or in how you’re structuring the package? Have you been able to learn anything from potential clients that is helping you update the package?
Brianna Parks: [00:15:43] A little bit. I would say the biggest thing is probably the plane tickets and the rental car and the Airbnb. A lot of people want to make it a trip. And I only cover that for two days. I try to explain my process to them where I say, okay, I’ll book it for two days and then I can also book it for the extra amount of days you want, but you’re going to have to pay me, but you’re basically paying it yourself if that makes any sense.
So that’s probably the main thing that I have been trying to tackle in my marketing but that’s something I need to work on for sure.
Joe: [00:16:15] Definitely, but the great part is that you’re aware that it’s an obstacle and you’re trying to work through it. A big part of finding success with something that’s way outside the box like this mystery elopement package is actually being a good listener. Often times you’re really, really close with your messaging, but you’ve got to find those little pieces that people aren’t connecting with or are objecting to find the perfect language to sell it.
Brianna Parks: [00:16:38] Yes.
DJ: [00:16:40] Are you a member of a photography club or meetup group? Did you know that Joe presents virtually to clubs all around the world? Follow the presentation link in the show notes to learn more.
Joe: [00:16:50] You talked about not wanting to label yourself a wedding planner, but you are planning and working with a lot of vendors. Do you or have you established affiliations or affiliate programs with different companies that are also marketing you and showing off your services?
Brianna Parks: [00:17:03] Yeah, there are for sure. I personally haven’t. I do know a planner that does an affiliate program with other photographers. I personally like the planning aspect though, so I don’t think I would necessarily enjoy hopping on as an affiliate for a planner, just because I like doing that work, but I’m not against it. I think for now I would say I like doing it myself.
Joe: [00:17:25] So where’s the craziest place or what’s the craziest elopement that you’ve done?
Brianna Parks: [00:17:30] I haven’t done any international yet. I’d probably say Alaska is a good one. I’ve been everywhere on the Pacific Northwest. One of my all-time favorites was actually in Olympic National Park and it was up at Hurricane Ridge. If you’ve never been there, there’s a ton of deer up there, and they’re not scared of humans. So those pictures are some of my favorites. Hawaii is always fun. Everyone loves Hawaii. And then Acadia National Park in Maine was another one that I really liked just because there was no one in the park. I was surprised at how many people just didn’t know about the park. So that was another, yeah, a really fun one.
Joe: [00:18:05] Tell me about Leave No Trace.
Brianna Parks: [00:18:08] Yes. Leave No Trace is a huge part of my business model. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Horseshoe Bend in Arizona? A few years ago it was a place that no one really knew about and some big photographers ended up going, posting pictures online and it just blew up from there. And now there’s a visitor center and a bathroom and all of these things that weren’t there before. I personally have been to places where it has just been trashed and I’m not trying to blame all photographers because no one is perfect at leave no trace.
I am definitely not perfect at leave no trace and there’s definitely mistakes I have made in the past and mistakes I still make now. And I’ve just been to places where the rules are much stricter now because people haven’t picked up their trash, or they trampled the wild flowers.
So I am a big advocate for Leave No Trace. And I make sure to tell my couples that. I say, Hey, we’re staying on the trail at all times. We’re not heading off into the wildflower patches. And then I think it’s really important to explain why. So for example, the Moss and Iceland is really fragile and stepping on it, it will take years and years to grow back. So we want to preserve these pieces, so they look beautiful for generations to come, but second of all, so there aren’t stricter rules for everyone. There would be strict rules for photographers, stricter rules for the public and it’s something I’m very passionate about. So I love talking about Leave No Trace.
Joe: [00:19:27] I think that’s a great value set and I have a feeling that the demographic that you’re attracting also see’s the value of that. So if we were to go along with you on a wedding day for an elopement, what are we going to find in your bag? It appears that most of your images, if not all of your images are natural light. What kind of gear are you working with?
Brianna Parks: [00:19:46] So I have two Canon 5D Mark IV’s. I don’t think I’ve ever brought a flash along to an elopement. I just use natural light the entire time. I also have a 35mm, 85mm and a 50mm. I mainly use my 35 and 50 for everything. I bring a hiking backpack that I have transformed into a camera backpack. So I added some straps that help harness my camera in. That’s very useful for hiking elopements. And then a tripod. And I think that’s it. I keep my gear to a minimum.
Joe: [00:20:17] Is that because your sometimes hiking or even if you’re going to drive right to a location and get out of the car and shoot, are you still going to travel that light?
Brianna Parks: [00:20:24] Yeah, I bring all of my lenses and my cameras to every single elopement and those are the only three lenses I own. I would love to get a 24. I’m not a big zoom lens person. I like my prime lenses, but yes, I bring all of my gear to every single elopement.
Joe: [00:20:39] I’m curious. Why do you like primes as opposed to zooms?
Brianna Parks: [00:20:42] I feel like personally, and this is just my experience, they don’t seem as sharp to me. I’ve actually wanted to dabble in a 24 to 70, and I would love to get my hands on that and rent that and try it out. But I. I feel like I’m already focused so much on what I’m doing as far as mechanics go, because I shoot in manual that having to like, do the zoom lens, like having to zoom it in and out, I feel would just be one more stuff I don’t need.
Joe: [00:21:08] Certainly there’s no right or wrong there, the right answer is to shoot with what works for you. Do you work with a team in terms of makeup artists and hairstylists, or are you just going to book them into a local styling salon to get their hair and makeup done?
Brianna Parks: [00:21:21] I always get vendor recommendations for each of my couples. If it’s a place I’ve never been to, I do my research and make sure I am giving them vendors that I would personally love to work with as well as ask photographers who are some vendors you’ve worked with that you’ve really liked? If it’s on the West coast, I already have vendors I have worked with before that I really trust, and I will just send those over.
Joe: [00:21:41] When I was reading through your social media, I came across a few mentions of Content Days. What is a Content Day?
Brianna Parks: [00:21:48] It’s a new thing where photographers put together some shoots that they’ve been wanting to shoot, and they get this whole vendor team on board. So hair and makeup artist, I always liked to hire a stylist for mine just because I’m not the best at styling pieces together. And then a florist and some models. And basically the vision I have in my head, I have them make it come to life for me. And then I sell tickets for other photographers to come to help cover the vendor costs. And it’s a great way for myself to get the content that I want without having to spend a ton of money on it.
Joe: [00:22:24] Now, when you say “get the content that you want”, is this content that you’re using for marketing and advertising? Is this how you built your portfolio, given that you’ve been at this for a short period of time?
Brianna Parks: [00:22:34] Yes. So it’s definitely for marketing purposes. I just did one. My first one ever, I actually did at the beginning of June, it was on the Oregon coast. And I haven’t posted any pictures from that one yet, but it’s a way to show my couples that I’ve been to these places. And I know. Locations in these places and I’ve worked in these places.
It’s a super cool thing. I think it’s definitely new. And I think a lot of photographers are catching onto it and starting to do it themselves, but I love it. And it’s a great way for myself to build my portfolio as well. It allows me to be creative, which is something that’s hard to do when you have turned your creative hobby into a job.
Joe: [00:23:12] Brianna, your images have a very defined style. Can you share a bit of your workflow? When I say workflow, I don’t mean tell me what you do in Lightroom. I’m really mean in terms of style and the feel of the images, I know with my work, being more of a portrait photographer, I tend to shoot a lot of head and shoulders. It’s fair to say you tend to shoot very loose because you are, of course, showing these incredible spaces where the couple is.
I’d love to know about how you create your style in camera. And you already mentioned that work all manual exposure, but then when you do get into post-production, do you have kind of a secret sauce that you’re applying to your images to create that stylized look?
Brianna Parks: [00:23:51] I feel like a lot of the work happens while I’m shooting. This year, I have developed a really big interest into composition. I took an introductory photography class and obviously the very first thing you learned about is composition. It’s very basic. It’s the rule of thirds. It’s centering your subject, all of that kind of stuff.
And I really wanted to dive deeper into that so Anni Graham, the photographer that I did, my first elopement photography mentorship with, she came out with a composition course and I admire her work a ton. I think she’s so talented, especially when it comes to composition and composition is what makes or breaks a photo. So I really wanted to learn from the best. So I took her course, and I am still learning composition and I’m still trying to implement it into my work. But it’s a big thing I like to focus on. I think it’s the most important thing personally for myself. After that, when I go into Lightroom, I use presets. I know a lot of photographers don’t like using presets, but personally it has helped me find my own style.
So I love using presets. I love showing vivid colors. I love to shoot really wide. I’m not a very close-up kind of person, but I try to get one or two close up shots. I should probably be better at it, but there’s not really much I do. I never go into Photoshop. I’ll go into Photoshop if I have to remove a person that is difficult to remove, but I feel like I have a very simple workflow.
Joe: [00:25:15] On an average elopement session. How many frames do you shoot in the course of a day?
Brianna Parks: [00:25:18] Ooh, probably a thousand.
Joe: [00:25:21] And then from a delivery standpoint, are you delivering digital files? Are you selling prints or albums? How does your package work?
Brianna Parks: [00:25:28] I do digital files. I upload all my galleries through Pic-Time and then if my clients want to order albums, they can do it through there. It’s a really easy process for them. I’d say I usually deliver around 200 photos. It really depends on how long they booked me for. I think the lowest I’ve delivered has been like one 150.That was for four hours. And then it just goes up from there.
Joe: [00:25:50] I was not planning on talking to you about SEO, but you mentioned it and it’s a great topic to talk about for photographers and it doesn’t get talked about enough. What I heard in your story is that very early on in the learning curve, you realized that you needed to learn some marketing stuff. Fortunately, you are in a niche and you’re actually offering these additional planning services, and it would appear that it’s really your services that are allowing you to build this SEO and to present yourself as an expert.
So if you were going to share some of the things that are working for you with the articles that you’re writing for SEO, what are some tips that you would give to people to make sure their SEO works for them?
Brianna Parks: [00:26:29] Number one, tip is definitely do your research. I hate saying this because I know some people will take it the wrong way. I personally like getting inspiration from other articles that are ranking on page one. I do not plagiarize or copy. I’m very against that, but you have to know what information is already ranking. So what do I need to include?
If you’re looking up, for example, how to elope in California. And the very first result, there is a section that talks about how to get a marriage license in California. You look at the second article you notice it has the same thing. Third article has something similar. So I take that as, okay I need to include something about how to get a marriage license in California. Because you’re trying to compete with these other people so you want to give them the best information you possibly can. That’s usually where I start after that, I call this the fun research because it talks about activities you can do there, what are the main things to see and do for your elopement. So just really. The expert in the location. So if I want to be an elopement photographer in Patagonia, I’m going to know everything there is to know about how to elope and Patagonia and how to travel to Patagonia, how to book lodging in Patagonia, how to get different money currencies in Patagonia. If you want to rank, you have to be the expert.
You have to include things that are already ranking well on Google. And you want to provide something different from all the other articles, because if your article is the same as someone else’s, it’s not going to provide any value, it’s not going to look any different and it’s not going to make you stand out from the other photographer or person who wrote the article.
DJ: [00:28:02] If you’re listening to TOGCHAT on iTunes or any other platform that allows reviews, please leave a few positive notes to help other photographers find out about the show. Remember photography is not a competition. It is a passion to be shared.
Joe: [00:28:16] As far as the articles and SEO, do you have yourself on an editorial schedule where you want to pump out an article every so often? Or is it really more a matter of you cherry-picking the appropriate long tail and short tail keywords and phrases that you’re going after? What’s your strategy with that?
Brianna Parks: [00:28:33] When I first started out, I believed that you had to be consistent with Google. And that’s not the case. So I used to put a blog post out, I think once a week or sometimes even twice a week, I would just pump them out. I don’t think I posted a blog post for a few months.
I personally like writing articles based around places I want to shoot. So Patagonia and Iceland are two big places I would love to visit. So I wrote Patagonia Elopement Guide and an Iceland Elopement Guide. And keyword research is a big part. If no one is searching that keyword, then I’m not going to write about it. But I love using keyword research. I mainly just start with places I’m interested in and then I have some random keywords on there. For example, I think vow renewal is one of them that I had a few ideas that I was going to do with that. And I love it because you can go so many directions with such broad keywords.
I always say it’s really important to like, make sure your keywords are things that people are actually searching because, and this is no offense to people who that live in Ohio, but I don’t think anyone is looking up Ohio Elopement Photographer. For example, I live in Idaho, but I based my business out in California. So I just fly back and forth because elopement photography in Idaho, isn’t a thing. So I wanted to target a market that are familiar with elopements and couples that would actually elope, so that’s why I targeted California.
Joe: [00:29:49] You mentioned the blog. You wisely, don’t call it a blog. You call it Elopement Resources. Which is well done. You have a very rich website in terms of content and information. Are you doing all this yourself? Do you outsource any of it?
Brianna Parks: [00:30:01] I’m doing everything myself. I actually don’t think I’ve ever outsourced anything.
Joe: [00:30:06] Where did you learn the writing and the website skills? Did you take classes writing?
Brianna Parks: [00:30:10] I think it just came naturally. I always loved writing essays in high school. I love reading. It definitely takes a while. Rachel Greiman has a fantastic copywriting guide for photographers. I know that really helps a lot of people. I personally did it myself, but I would recommend hiring a copywriter if you are not very good with words, because words are very moving to people and it really will convince them to book you or not to book you. As far as my website goes, I think I just figured it out, looked up YouTube videos. I will still to this day, say that building my website was probably the hardest part of the past three years. I just am not a very tech-savvy person on the backend. So figuring out how to use WordPress was a huge learning curve for me.
Joe: [00:30:55] Do you use any keyword research tools or optimization tools or since you’re working in WordPress, do you use any backend utilities like Yoast for your SEO?
Brianna Parks: [00:31:04] Yes. So Yoast SEO is a big one. I know a lot of people love to use the paid tools. I personally just use the free tools. I find that they work just fine for me. So I use Google keyword planner as well as Uber suggest. And then for actually tracking my SEO. I am a huge Google Search Console person. So that kind of tracks my analytics and my data for me, but I’m a big advocate for finding the free tools. Because as much as I would love to afford the pay tools, they’re very expensive because they very heavily market towards super big companies that have an unlimited budget. And me like a still photographer. I don’t have that kind of budget. So I love just using the free tools out there.
Joe: [00:31:45] Brianna, you are really kind of fearless. The way you’ve built this business. Just to say, “you know what, I’m going to go for it and I’m going to learn everything I have to learn and I’m going to stumble a little bit along the way, but I’m going to keep learning and I’m going to make it work”. Congratulations. I have no doubt that you will be incredibly successful with this.
Brianna Parks: [00:32:05] Thank you.
Joe: [00:32:06] I always ask my guests to leave some sage words of advice for photographers that are looking to do what they do. So if someone were to do what you did and reach out to you for advice. What advice do you have for somebody that’s wide-eyed, eager and saying, I love what you do, I want to get into elopement photography. I think it will be so cool. What can you share with them?
Brianna Parks: [00:32:25] Honestly, the first thing that comes to mind is a point you already addressed and it’s to just be fearless. I cared so much about what other people thought of me in the very beginning, especially because I said, you know what, I’m not going to go into medical school.
I’m going to be an elopement photographer instead. You get a lot of people’s advice and a lot of people’s opinions. I didn’t do a lot of things because I was afraid of what other people would think of me. And I look back and think, if I only did this one year earlier, I couldn’t even imagine the amount of like success I would have now.
And I can’t even imagine the amount of happiness I would have now, but you can’t care about what other people think. And it’s easier said than done, but you just gotta go for it. Be fearless, don’t listen to other people think and just do what makes you happy because at the end of the day, it’s really your opinion that matters and you’re the only person holding yourself back. So that’s what I would say.
Joe: [00:33:17] I think that is outstanding advice, Brianna, I’ve got to thank you so much. I am so impressed with the approach that you are taking to your photography and your business, and I am confident you are going to have an amazing career. So I wish you all the success in the world. I am really, really looking forward to seeing what comes next from you.
Brianna Parks: [00:33:35] Thank you.
Joe: [00:33:36] Thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it.
Brianna Parks: [00:33:41] Thank you so much.
Joe: [00:33:43] I feel like such a slacker. I wish that I had the kind of confidence and intelligence that we just heard from Brianna when I was her age.
Not only is she building a business doing things that she loves, she has a real passion for the entire process, and she has put in the time to learn how to build and market her business, and she has accelerated her skills and marketing by arranging stylized shoots to create images to show her abilities and to practice new skills.
I sincerely encourage you to check out her website and Instagram profile — the links to both are in the show notes.
DJ: [00:34:22] Did you know, that you can have Joe as your personal photography mentor. I’m talking about direct access to ask him questions and get advice. You can also attend weekly video meetups for members to share and help each other with Joe’s guidance. Be sure to check out the link in the show notes.
Joe: [00:34:39] Be sure to visit my website www.JoeEdelman.com, where you will find my portfolio, over 300 articles and tutorials to help you improve your photography as well as a directory of modeling agencies and makeup artists from all 50 of the United States. You will also find some great advice for models as well as the photographers that photograph them and the website serves as home base for all of my TOGCHAT podcast episodes as well as The LAST FRAME LIVE.
And be sure to sign up for my email newsletter to receive updates. Don’t worry — I never sell the list and I only email when I have something exciting to share. No spam from Joe.
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Okay folks, that will do it for this episode of the TOGCHAT Photography podcast. Remember, When in doubt — click it! Stay safe, have a great week and until next time go pick up that camera and shoot something — because your BEST SHOT — It’s your NEXT shot! Adios!