Have you ever been interested in shifting to micro wedding photography or elopements, but you don’t know how because you’re used to shooting larger weddings? We’re going to cover the ins and outs of shooting micro-weddings, how to make a switch, and the how and why’s with Dawn Jarvis of Dawn Photo who is a micro wedding and elopement photographer.
How to make the shift to micro weddings
Dawn Jarvis is the owner of Dawn Photo and is a micro-wedding and elopement photographer. She’s been a photographer for at least 13 years and has been full-time for 7 years. Dawn’s photos are all about capturing feelings and helping couples plan their perfect day.
Transitioning to micro weddings was more of an adventure for Dawn. Like an outdoor kind of adventure for her transitioning into micro-weddings. She started gravitating towards the fact that she’s an introvert, though most times she doesn’t seem like she is.
She noticed that the more she shot those big weddings the more she struggled mentally so much after. During shoots, she always felt like she couldn’t give them the photos they wanted or she wasn’t doing enough for them because she was too shy. So that took a toll on her!
She started to do a lot of style sessions to get the elopement content and those started trickling in. So it was a gradual and lengthy process transitioning to where she is now.
Does being introverted benefit micro-wedding photographers?
We all have our strengths and weaknesses but it depends on how much you put out there about how you are. For Dawn who’s more introverted, shooting a big wedding with a big dance floor reception where you have to stand in front of everybody to capture close-ups with people talking, made her feel sick and sweaty.
But now when she goes to shoot her micro-weddings and there’s the same ten people you see all day and introductions are made, it feels intimate where you feel like you’re a part of their lives. It’s easier for her to navigate her way around the wedding.
At a big wedding, it’s just a lot of strange faces. For her, micro-weddings and elopements just sat right with her personality, and now she doesn’t get “wedding hangovers” anymore. She gets home and she’s ready for the next one, ready to edit and work. As an introvert being overly social drains you and that is kind of what causes these “wedding hangovers”. With micro-weddings it’s like a different setting, a different vibe, you feel like you’re a part of them.
Sometimes introverted photographers can feel less confident, which is valid, but it’s also wrong to feel like you have to have an answer for every single minute of the day or every moment of the day. You forget that you’re allowed to be like, “Hey, I’m just gonna let you guys do your thing for a minute. I need to group my thoughts and figure out what’s next.”
So many photographers are scared of doing that because they’re worried about looking inexperienced. Meanwhile, that makes you look stronger than you are giving them a moment to not take photos, and then they might end up doing something epic.
Marketing when making a switch
Dawn didn’t know anything about blogging or SEO, so what she did before she knew any of those things was just on her pricing page. She started changing her wordings, she moved her allotment packages higher. Her vow renewal package was higher, micro-weddings higher and hid her wedding packages.
She changed all her photos to not having big ceremonies, big parties, no receptions, nothing like that. She changed all to more intimate moments, just couples, maybe some family photos, but nothing crazy. And on her contact page, she made sure to say if you’re looking for a wedding photographer that will capture many guests, she’s not that photographer.
She’s only taking on smaller weddings, not because she doesn’t respect the prospective client’s wedding but because she’s not the right person. She’s too introverted for that and every six months she would change that number. She started at like 150 and then went to 100 and then 75 and now she doesn’t do anything over 40.
Being scared of the change
Dawn was 100% terrified. She was scared she wasn’t going to get any bookings, no one was going to find her. She still gets inquiries for bigger weddings and sometimes she describes to her couples more so they know why she isn’t right for them. Sometimes she convinces them to elope the week before their big wedding or she does their engagement photos.
Dawn was lucky when she started the switch from large weddings to micro-weddings, she was still working at the camera shop. She lived in her mom’s guest house, had some fallbacks to help her with the part-time income, and didn’t pay rent. It also helps to have more guts to just leap.
Get more education, there’s content everywhere. There are lots of things to rent, dresses and all, to create allotments to give yourself marketing content. Also, there are several courses for SEO and blogging now that you can use to better your business.
For photographers living in the Midwest
Try not to think about the epic location so much! In Oregon, it’s easier for Dawn to say that but backyard weddings and courthouse weddings with a cute little reception at a diner after are still like an elopement.
There are still so many other ways of thinking about an elopement in the sense of it just being an intimate wedding, and not an iconic allotment or an iconic location with iconic photos. Remember what’s truly important about the day and not what you see on social media or Pinterest.
One of Dawn’s favorite micro-weddings was a backyard wedding in Boston. And you wouldn’t have known she was in Boston, it was just in a backyard with beautiful trees like the fall foliage, but that could have happened in Oregon. It just happened to her in Boston. And it was so amazing. It was 20 people, and it was just truly the most intentional day ever.
And that could have happened anywhere like the Midwest, Texas. So don’t think about the location too much, be more focused on the intentionality. It is not that relevant, don’t compare yourself to someone else’s day because it is different and all that. Know that might not be your dream.
You plan your own and people who maybe live in the Midwest and don’t feel like their backyards are pretty enough or whatever, find some cool Airbnbs to connect with, or if there is an iconic location within two to a four-hour distance that you could make happen on like a weekly basis for a moment or a monthly basis. It’s up to you as the photographer to educate clients that this is an option to expand their minds.
How to have more elopement and micro-weddings
The biggest thing with elopement and micro-weddings is that the couples don’t know how to elope, they don’t know how to have a micro wedding. And that’s where photographers come in because you’ve shot them or at least if you’ve never shot one, you can still act like an expert.
You’ve done the research, you’ve stalked so many photographers, their blogs, Pinterest, other things like maybe some feature blogs. You’ve learned, you’ve talked to people. Being able to help your client understand that they don’t have to read their vows in the same spot that they have their first look or that they have their ceremony or that they spend time with family or no family at all. Maybe they face their family, etc. There are so many ways to connect and create a day shaped around them.
These are what makes it fun. With blog resources, social media captions or talking on stories, you’re just acting like an expert. Talking about these things will attract the right couples because then not only do they not know how to elope or have a micro wedding, but then they love your work. They love you but then you’re also looking for someone that can help them do the process of having fun planning a less stressful day than a bigger large scale wedding.
Creating packages for elopements and micro weddings
For Dawn being in Oregon, about 90% of her clients are coming from out of state to elope on the West Coast because that is their dream and that’s amazing. And it’s so cool because most of them have never been there. They just see photos and think “Oh my God, that’s where I want to get married. That’s so cool.”
They resonate with that location but then they don’t know what city to fly into. They don’t know what vendors are in the area and so she connects them to these vendors. She sends links and names that they could use so they can find people. For instance, her clients can’t bring umbrellas with them but they’re worried about rain, so she makes sure she takes hers along.
It creates this personal relationship with your client when you’re able to help them with their day and give them recommendations to vendors or places that you’ve been to or worked with. And they feel better about it because they trust you and it helps a lot!
The more you offer to help the more they want to communicate with you and it just creates a closer bond with them and you’re doing it for a better client experience as well because you’re going to get a kick-ass testimonial by doing this and that is great for the next client to see and truly understand how much you offer.
Three steps for people to make the switch
Don’t say no to the big ones, Saturday weddings are big weddings, that’s common. Elopements are not always on Saturdays, but Dawn’s only shooting on Saturdays this year. She could have booked a ton of big weddings and it would have never affected her elopements.
Don’t stress out about saying no, do the big wedding because of paying the bills. Keep it up, you’re doing great. Just be aware of how you’re sharing it. Instead of posting about it or blogging the whole thing, just share the pieces that feel more intimate. Like; the details, the connecting, the vows, the first look, the golden hour photos, or whatever.
At the end of the day, stuff like that, those types of moments that could be a part of any day, not the ceremony of 600 people. Be aware of that kind of stuff and how you photograph details.
When you’re using those photos, be sure to have them on your website, and talk about intimate moments like small gatherings, elopements or micro-weddings. Focus heavily on SEO with those keywords. Also, show up on social media and talk about it, talk about it in your captions, on your stories, just try to be honest about where your heart lies as a photographer and your goals of photography.
It’s not necessarily saying, Oh my ideal client is this but at the end of the day, what’s your favorite part about your work? What do you want to grow in your work? Do you want more of those intimate moments? Is it more of those iconic locations?
Is it smaller gatherings because you’re an introvert? Can you say that you’re an introvert and you’re not going to lose clients? You might gain a ton more because they found something to connect with you, you never know.
Crafting your captions and website
You could do many different things, for example ways of posting, making an ultimate experience page on your website, and talking about your processes. Build a highlight on your stories or your Instagram about it.
You could do multiple posts that are strictly about certain parts of the wedding where you could share multiple days, maybe you share six different weddings on a post or 10 different weddings, like a full 10 slide posts.
Maybe just one shot at each other and you talk about why details are so important in a wedding. You could talk about vows and why vows are so important.
All that matters to you is what you’re creating for your marriage, like the memories you’re creating. Just start that and just change your language in a sense. These minor tweaks can make a difference. Even down to your contact form, ask how many people are attending, and what’s the venue, though you don’t need to ask for venues as an elopement photographer, that’s not an elopement thing. So instead of asking about the guests’ list, you could simply ask for micro-weddings or larger-scale weddings.
Final advice to shifting to micro weddings
Honestly, go out and shoot. Go plan three epic style elopements or micro-weddings. Maybe have people who have children who want to renew their vows. That’d be a great one too because you can show people with kids or with their families.
Capture the groom, the bride with her dress, the couple writing vows back to back on their bed or they play board games and eat waffles before their wedding day. Anything that feels like them. Get to know your couple, send them a questionnaire, and have them truly be a part of this planning process for the styled shoot.
Do the full session like a ceremony, have them actually read love letters like make it a memory for them and not just a photoshoot day. Then bring in some sort of meal, a frozen pizza you heated up in the oven at their Airbnb or hot dogs from a stand in downtown New York, etc.
Try to get some other photos with really cool details and capture the moments that make that day matter. It’s so much better than just that 20-minute ceremony and iconic photos you have nothing but to capture their full story and use that as a sample gallery post and for blog posts.
To achieve all of this be sure to send them questionnaires to create this experience for them!
If you want to get started shooting micro weddings and elopements, the best thing to do is to just START! Start with styled shoots and create the content to pull in your ideal clients. You can do it!