With Kahran & Regis Bethencourt, CreativeSoul Photography
Previously published in Success Magazine by H&H Color Lab, 2020
In today’s market, it’s becoming more important to set yourself apart in a sea of photographers. How do you even begin to stand out from the crowd in this social media age where everyone considers themselves a photographer?
When we first started out in the photography industry, we did what many photographers do—we photographed anyone who would pay us. After a few years, our love of photography began to fade away. We knew we loved photography, but we were photographing a lot of things that did not bring us joy. We also had a difficult time finding our audience and clients who would allow us to bring the creativity we needed in our lives.
One day, it dawned on us that we were the ones who were in control of our business, and if we were going to build a business, we should be building one that made us feel complete. We should be building a business that would not only be profitable, but would allow us to push our creative limits and fulfill us. This was the lightbulb moment that ultimately changed our business forever. By identifying our niche, we’ve been able to not only build our tribe, but also turn our passion project into a profitable business.
Finding your niche means finding that thing that makes you special as a photographer. It can be something as simple as your lighting style, the subjects you photograph, or even the way your subjects are styled. Finding your niche will allow you to not only become an expert in your field, but will also begin to set you apart from your competitors. Your potential clients will come to you because they know they can get something that they can’t easily get from any other photographer they find in Google search. It also allows you to command higher prices than your competitors.
To get started, you’ll need to find your “sweet spot”—something that aligns with your values, plays to your strengths and passions, and is something that potential clients would be willing to pay for. Once you’ve identified your niche, you’ll need to reorganize your business to attract and retain the clients who want to purchase your services. You’ll need to take a look at your website, your marketing and your portfolio to make sure you are telling the story you’d like your prospective client to see.
Once you’ve built your new foundation, it’s time to go out and find clients that align with your style, passion and values. Research and identify the places where your potential target audience likes to hang out. There may be online groups, forums or even local clubs or boutiques that are full of potential clients.
The journey to finding your niche can be long and complex, but the ultimate result is rewarding. As the old adage goes, “Find a job that you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”
Question: How did you discover your niche? How did you determine your special style, your sweet spot? Did it develop over time, or was it a lightbulb moment?
We discovered our niche by starting with personal projects that we were passionate about. When we first started in the kids’ fashion industry, we realized that many of the parents thought that their kids had to have their hair straightened to get into the industry. We decided to do our own shoots showcasing kids with natural hair looking fashionable. After a few shoots that went viral, we knew that we were on to something and could possibly make a living from it.
Question: Once you settled on your niche, how did you decide to target or market to those individuals? How did your clients respond to your new creative style?
Once we decided on our niche, we started identifying new potential clients that would be interested in our style of photography. We started with the audience that we already had, showing them more of what we wanted to shoot. We found that many of our existing clients were craving something new and different, so they were excited about the change in direction and would often spread the word to their friends/family.
Question: How did you change your business model to accommodate the new direction your studio took? Was it a quick process or one that took a lot of planning, time and implementation?
This is a never-ending process for us regardless of whom or what we’re shooting. We’re constantly looking at ways to better serve our clients. We typically do a mid-year and end-of-year evaluation to see what things are working for our business, what clients are asking for, as well as what’s not working. After brainstorming the adjustments we could possibly make, we typically find the one or two big things that we can do to make the most impact for our business. We find that this is much more effective than trying to tackle a full list at once.
Question: How do you come up with the concept for a given shoot? Is it something you suggest? Or do your clients come to you with a vision in mind?
In the beginning, we were mostly the ones brainstorming ideas based on our consultation with clients. We usually discussed their child’s interests, hobbies and personality, and would come up with concepts we thought would work best. This year, we added a question that asked the kids what they would like as their dream shoot, and it has been amazing. Kids are so imaginative, and it typically helps give us a little more direction than what the parents provide.
Question: Do you have a set of clothing and accessories that you rely on? Or do you rent these as needed? How does that all come together—do you hire a makeup artist, or do you style everything?
We have (way too much) clothing and accessories that we’ve collected over time. We also have a go-to designer that can make custom clothing for us, if needed. Since our shoots are more custom in nature, we get clothing from a variety of places (rentals, our own stash, and even shopping for new). We are typically the ones in control of this process and just add it to the client’s final invoice. We find that most of our clients come to us for our style, so they are typically happy to just let us take control of that process. We also have hair/makeup stylists around the world whom we partner with in various locations.
How much time does it take to plan and get ready for the photography session?
Planning typically takes around two to three hours. The sessions usually take between three and four hours depending on the complexity of the styles we’re doing.
Question: How do you help make the person being photographed feel comfortable and at ease with the special clothing? Or are they excited to wear it?
The kids are typically excited about the shoot, because it’s like a big dress-up/play date for them. When we get kids who are a little shy, we usually use the styling time as an opportunity to talk to them and get them to open up a little before the shoot.
Question: How do you feel your business is different now that you have discovered your niche? Does it change how you feel coming to work each day?
Being a husband-and-wife team means that we have to be diligent about how we run our business so that it doesn’t affect our personal lives in a negative way. We are adamant about shooting only the things that we love—even if it means turning down money. We feel a sigh of relief knowing that we now have a job that we love doing every day. We are constantly adjusting our business to make sure we are both still 100 percent happy with what we’re doing every day.
Question: I noticed that you have expanded your photography to illustrations based on photography, now included in a line of backpacks and accessories for children. Can you tell me a little bit about how that came to be?
We’ve always said that we consider ourselves more than just photographers. We are building an empowerment brand for kids—not just a photography brand. We’ve dreamt about turning our real-life “characters” into illustrated characters for years, but waited until the time was right to release it. We knew that there was still a lack of diversity in the products targeted at kids, so we decided to do something about it. We received an amazing reception to our launch and plan to expand even more in the future.
What are your goals for the future?
We plan to continue expanding our brand to create more services/products to empower kids of color around the world. We have several new products in the works as well as our AfroArt coffee table book, which will be released next fall.
About the authors: Kahran & Regis Bethencourt, CreativeSoul Photography
Regis and Kahran Bethencourt are a husband-and-wife duo and the imaginative forces behind CreativeSoul Photography. With over 10 years of experience working with hundreds of children, families and brands, they specialize in authentic, visual storytelling. Their holistic approach to capturing one-of-a-kind moments has allowed their work to be featured on BBC News, CNN, CBS National News, Teen Vogue, Glamour Brazil, BET and more. The pair gained global recognition last year with their AfroArt series. The collection, which showcases the beauty and versatility of afro hair, was conceived as a way to empower kids of color around the world. The images went viral after celebrities like Will Smith, Jada Pinkett, Taraji P. Henson, Alicia Keys, Common and more praised the collection on social media.