We met when we were teenagers, and right after getting married in our early 20s, in late 2007, we
decided to start a photography business.
Both of us have creative backgrounds
and gravitated to mostly editorial, fine-art
and landscape photography, but after we
planned our own wedding, we fell in love
with wedding photography.
For three years, we studied hard, read
hundreds of books and watched thousands of
videos before booking our first wedding. We
totally overdid it, and once we shot our first
wedding, things escalated very quickly.
We tried balancing both wedding
photography and our day job for a while, but
soon it was just too much to handle both.
Near the end of our third year in business, we
went full time, and that year, we must have
shot 35 weddings or more. All of our work
was in our own city: Lafayette, Louisiana.
We’d dream of shooting a fancy destination
wedding on a remote island somewhere or a
really rad elopement in the mountains.
Eventually, we booked our first shoot
outside of the state. Incidentally, it was
an engagement session in New York, not
a wedding—the bride-to-be was living in
Brooklyn at the time but wanted to venture to
our neck of the woods for her wedding. From
there, we booked more clients like that first
bride, people who were traveling to Louisiana
to get married but flew us to their hometown
for the e-session. It’s not exactly what we
pictured, but we still loved the adventure.
One day, out of the blue, we booked
a real wedding across the country. An
engaged couple found our website all the
way in Chicago. We were so excited to be
there that we hardly slept. The year after,
more brides flew us around the U.S. so we
could document their big day. Pretty soon,
we had more out-of-state weddings booked
than we did local work.
Then, in early 2015, the economy
in Lafayette, dependent on the energy
industry, was devastated after falling oil
prices. It took our local bookings to a
screeching halt. Naturally, this lead us to
pursue more work elsewhere.
In the same year, we started to get a
lot of attention from other photographers.
The demand for us to be in conferences
and workshops across the nation, and even
a few out of the country, was climbing.
And we were in the running to be one of
Rangefinder’s 30 Rising Stars of Wedding
Photography. Our goals, all of a sudden, felt
more like real life. We were on the road from
one epic location to another.
But this quickly took its toll. We were
getting tired. We had never wanted to be gone
100 percent of the time, so we made it a habit
to be home every Sunday morning through
Wednesday morning. Most of the weddings
we were shooting took place on Thursdays
or Fridays, so this wasn’t too difficult. If it was
commercial work we were doing, we tried for
a similar schedule. But after doing this week in
and week out for months at a time, we started
to truly miss our life in Lafayette.
Last year, almost exactly ten years after we
purchased our first DSLR, we decided to pull
the plug on destination work altogether and
focus on local bookings. We realized we were
the happiest that way and wanted to go back
to the way things were when we first started,
even if our local economy was still in a slump.
So, we went back to the drawing board
and restructured our business from top to
bottom. We replaced 85 percent of our travel
work from our website with photos we had
taken locally. On social media, we started only
posting photos we had taken here in town,
even if they were older. It took about a month
and a half to take effect, but the saying, “Show
what you want to shoot,” still holds up. The
more local work we were showing, the more
local inquiries we were getting.
We didn’t want to lower our prices, so we
moved things around to make them more
suitable for our local clients, adding in a
bridal session to some packages and print
credit on all of them—things that a Lafayette
bride would want and expect. This was a
major help for us; we saw an increase in
bookings almost instantly.
A huge shift in our thinking and marketing
plan came with re-examining the role of
Instagram. We had independent accounts,
which was one way we were getting so much
attention from other photographers, but the
truth is that we were on Instagram a huge
part of the day—probably 3 or 4 hours each.
Looking back, we realized that almost all
of the work that came from Instagram wasn’t
from brides—especially not local ones—but
from other photographers wanting mentor
sessions. We did do some workshops, and
although we truly loved teaching, we felt we
couldn’t dedicate the time to both teach and
shoot. In deciding to cut out mentor sessions,
we also decided to cut out Instagram.
Not 100 percent, of course. We stopped
using Geoffrey’s personal account and
focused more on using Erin’s, since she had
better engagement, renaming it to
@erinandgeoffreyphoto. Now, we spend
about a half hour a day doing very light
networking. The time we save is spent
focusing on making real-world connections.
We focus heavily on fostering our word-of-mouth connections, where the majority of our
referrals come from. We make sure to give
attention to other professionals in our field,
whether it’s the venue, planners, florists or
other local photographers. Coffee dates with
these people go a long way.
This year, we’re on track to book all the
local weddings we are wanting. We’ll still
shoot some destinations from time to time—
we absolutely love traveling and meeting
new people across the country—but we’ll be
limiting this number to four or five per year.
In 2018, we’re planning on Yosemite, Atlanta
and New York City, and we’ll be packing in
vacation time to balance out the work. But for
us, there’s no place like home.
Erin Elizabeth and Geoffrey Blaine Goudeau of Erin & Geoffrey Photography | Lafayette, LA | +