Husband and wife team Jamie and Todd Reichman are wedding photographers for Atlanta’s elite. In this interview, Todd Reichman shares why he is not his brand, how he fell into high-end weddings, what wealthy clients want, and why they’re ideal for introverted business owners.
Reichman Photography has carved out a niche as the photographers on call for Atlanta, Georgia’s most elegant wedding venues—the ones that attract the city’s wealthiest nearly-weds. It’s a long way from where Todd and Jamie Reichman started, shooting budget weddings in Illinois, but Todd doesn’t take any of the credit.
“I got lucky. The first year I started shooting weddings, I booked a wedding with a trendy, super cool young couple. Back then I was charging $1,500 to do everything. Digital photography was kind of new, and every photographer was trying to be the most fun person ever. I thought I had to do that too, which was super overwhelming for me being an introvert.
At the end of this wedding, one of the guys in the bridal party gave me his business card and said ‘I’m going to hire you someday’ and that business card lived in my wallet for two years.”
Two years later, an email landed in Todd’s inbox from that same wedding guest who was getting married - in Atlanta. He offered to fly Todd out.
“I remember flying to Atlanta, shooting this wedding, and it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. The weddings I’d been shooting maxed out at $20,000 dollars. The wedding planner at this wedding told me at the end of the night at this wedding I’d just shot cost more than my house.
And she said there weren’t enough vendors in Atlanta to service these high-end weddings.”
Todd was hooked. He wanted more high end weddings, and thanks to that timely tip from the wedding planner, he knew where he could get them. He just needed to relocate - no small task, especially when you have an established business in your local market.
“The connections I made at that first Atlanta wedding put me up for another wedding and another, and we learned quickly on the job what was required of us. So we made the commitment to shut our business down in Illinois and move to Atlanta permanently.
I had to throw out everything that didn’t fit to make that change -- 95% of my portfolio wouldn’t work. But you don’t have to show a lot to make an impression. So we featured a few weddings on our website that fit the mold.”
As the Reichmans covered more and more of these high-end weddings, they learned a lot about this unique category of client. They weren’t the same as the budget wedding clients back home in Illinois. They had very different expectations.
“It became less about showing images and more about the approach, voice, how you deal with these clients, manage them, make them comfortable enough to tell you what they want. Creating the images is the easy part. It’s all issues of discretion that make it work for that client.”
One of the most significant differences between budget clients and no-budget clients was that the former wanted feel personal connections with their photographers. The Reichmans’ new wealthy clients, however, didn’t. And that suited Todd to a tee.
The problem with personality branding (for introverts and politicians)
Todd Reichman is a self-avowed introvert. He’ll also tell you he’s antisocial. He’s also anti-social media and opposed to associating his personal life with his business in any way. It’s a refreshing perspective when so much of the dominant paradigm around marketing is to “brand yourself.” Todd proves that it isn’t a necessity to share every piece of yourself online to run a successful business and build a successful brand. It’s wisdom that runs counter to almost every business program, but it’s true.
He calls what he doesn’t do “personality branding.”
“I think the problem with personality branding is that a brand is a thing. It’s not a person. It’s a set of ideals, a set of processes and beliefs and methods of execution that should all tie together, and it should be unwavering in those things for the life of the brand. Brands can adapt to the times, but won’t change radically. Brands are unwavering.
"Humans are inherently flawed and conflicted, and need the ability to grow and change. We can hold conflicting ideas and beliefs at the same time.
"I think this is why pop culture is saturated with scandal these days - it’s possible to believe one thing and say it’s the right thing to do, and yet act oppositely to it and not be able to maintain it for ourselves.
"That’s why a person doesn't make a good brand, because they can’t be unwavering ideals every single day. Personality branding is disingenuous when all you hear about is authenticity. No one can be that all the time. You’re always riding the line of violating your ideals, because you’re human.
I’m constantly changing and trying new things. I don’t think a person should be a brand, I don’t think they can be. People are too complicated.”
What’s the alternative? Well, it helps to find clients who aren’t hiring you for your personality - and high-end clients have other priorities.
An Introvert’s Guide to Finding Clients Who Want to be Left Alone
It’s been a long time since Todd was the young photographer trying to be the most fun guy on the block - to keep up with all of the other young photographers. That was never his style. Over the years, he’s built his photography business around what he does best - which first required facing what he didn’t do well. You might say it’s a business built as much around his flaws as his expertise.
“If you want to solve a problem, you have to deal with flaws and issues that aren’t pretty or impressive. And the only way to do that is to form an honest perspective on them. I’m introverted, somewhat antisocial, and I don’t want to put a lot about myself out there on the internet. Social media and networking don’t really work for me. Unless I’m willing to be honest about that set of proclivities, I’m never going to find a way to solve my problem.”
The solution: “I want a client who doesn’t require a personal connection but does require a professional connection.”
Part of what attracted Todd to high-end weddings was that this is where he could find these types of clients, clients who didn’t want to be his best friend, didn’t need to feel comfortable with his personality, didn’t want to bond or have lengthy conversations that enmeshed him in wedding drama.
He took his behavioral cues from watching the staff at high-end hotels interact with guests: “They’re prompt, professional and pleasant, always very attentive to the client’s needs, but they aren’t interacting with them really. They aren’t participants. As the photographer of these weddings, I don’t want to be a participant either. And that’s also important to my clients.”
“My photography business has nothing to do with me,” says Todd, adding that he doesn’t have much in common with this clients, so making the website about him wouldn’t make sense on a fundamental level.
“I know it’s popular to be open and be transparent and talk a lot about yourself, which is great if you’re looking to work for people like you. My clients aren’t like me. I sit in my house and binge watch Star Trek on Netflix all day. International travel for me is a big deal that happens once every few years, and they go skiing all the time and have hundred-thousand-dollar cars.
"I can’t relate to them on a personal level, but I can relate to them on a service level because I understand what they need and what they want.So instead I focus everything outward on the client. I have to forensically deconstruct:
- Who is the person I want to work with?
- What do they think they want?
- What do they actually want?
- How do they want to be perceived?
- How do they want to be worked with?"
"We’re providing a service, and I have to find ways to subtly allude to all of those things. And my website does that job.”
To Design Your Website Around Your Niche, You Have to Know What They Want
The Reichman Photography website has a distinctly editorial feel that was inspired by Life magazine, a deliberate choice that speaks to how his clients want to be perceived.
“The images I share with my clients are are how they want to see themselves. They believe their lives are like Life magazine, like shooting Jackie O at the Kennedy compound.”
“There’s not a lot of scenes of raucous fun or people drinking, ugly crying - that’s not how they want to see themselves.
If someone is giving a great toast and has a glass of champagne that’s one thing, if they have a bottle of beer, that’s another. You don't want anything that chips away at the overall impression.”
Todd makes it clear that he’s not judging his clients in any way. It’s the world they live in. It’s the world they create for themselves. And if you want to be in that world, “A big part of that is not being judgemental about it.”
The look and feel of ReichmanPhotography.com is extremely niche-specific. Its design only speaks to Todd’s ideal type of client. He isn’t concerned about turning potential clients away if they’re not good fits - that’s the idea.
“One of the things that helps is that I’m specific in my own mind about what my market is. If you need 200 clients a year, it’s a different model than if you need 15. I need 15-20 clients, which makes my market enormously specific. I shoot 9 Christian multicultural weddings taking place in one of eight venues in the middle of Atlanta. Very specific.”
It’s this specificity that makes it easy for wedding vendors to refer the right business to him.
“I’m right for maybe 50 percent of the weddings that happen at the Ritz Carlton. It’s important for me to be that specific because I need the person at the venue to know that so they can feel confident sending those clients to me.”
Which venue recommends him also tells Todd about the client: “In being that specific, I know where they came from (which tells me what they’re spending), what impression they’re going for based on that venue selection, and what community they’re part of locally.”
With those details in mind, he can tailor his approach and their experience, putting the new client at ease.
Wedding budget and annual income aren’t the only defining details of Todd’s ideal clients. He knows them far better than that - who they are, what they value, who really makes the decisions.
“Most of my clients are young working professionals who are very respectful of their cultural and family traditions. Their weddings aren’t about their individual identity; they’re about their family, their traditions. The kids have demanding jobs; the parents are planning the wedding. Everything I do is focused on being the person the mother is going to trust. That’s my market.”
Understanding his clients in depth helps him keep focus on what matters to them - and good reason to stay off of social media. Those mothers aren’t looking at Instagram for wedding inspiration or to vet vendors.
“They’re going to trust the planner, the venue coordinator, their friends. Those are the primary sources of incoming referrals. It’s about crafting a specific reputation to those three markets. If I knew they were looking at a magazine or social media outlet, I’d look into it. Right now, they’re not. Twenty years from now, that may be different.”
But perhaps the most important thing for Todd to know about this clients is what they want—what they really want.
Why High-End Isn’t For Everyone
Catering to high-end weddings and the wealthy families who host them requires a specific kind of diplomacy not everyone can master. You may not get a chance to learn it from experience - get it wrong once and you may never work in your town again (and not even know why). For Todd, it’s almost intuitive, or at least the result of careful, thoughtful observation.
“You have to figure out when someone isn’t willing to tell you want they want, or whether they don’t care. A lot of people want things and don’t want to act like they want things. There's a look that they get. And you want to make it okay for them to ask. You kinda make things okay.
"These parents want their kids to have the wedding they want; the kids want their parents to be happy - so their parents may want family pictures but be afraid to ask for something so formal, and it's my job to tell the mother ‘it’s okay to ask for what you want, and it’s my job to make sure you and your daughter are both happy.’
"You can’t always take what people say at face value. A lot of times, what they ask for isn’t what they really want.”
Todd cautions: “Never do what they ask for if you don’t believe it’s what they really want.”
“Higher-end clients will not tell you when they’re upset about something, but the referrals go away. You don’t ever get to make the excuse. Knowing that, you have to do what it takes to make them actually satisfied, not superficially satisfied. You have to ask, and it’s a judgment call. Don’t be judgemental, be on their side, and don’t take it personally. Which is why I don’t want my business to be about me.”
He says it’s not hard, but it “runs counter to one’s ego as an artist. You kind of have to focus on the other person, instead of yourself, which is hard for creatives, artists and entrepreneurs.”
But kind of perfect for introverts.