Less than 10 years after Jane Shauck of West Hartford started a fledgling photography business, Shauck's now two distinct photography businesses are thriving.
Focusing on both corporate photography and weddings, Shauck, with help from her husband, Michael, is garnering numerous awards while bringing in big-name clients such as Time, Inc., the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Swarovski and the New York Mets to her businesses, Jane Shauck Photography and IRIS Photography.
Her success is a tribute to networking, to the power of referrals and to quality workmanship.
After several years in a corporate marketing and sales job with Sylvania Lighting, Shauck, who has MBA from Boston College, was ready for a change. "I went into marketing originally to be creative, and it wasn't feeling that way," Shauck said. "I just knew I wanted something else."
Feeling a pull towards photography, she went back to school at night to study photography and quit her corporate job in 2002.
Shauck, decided to create her own business by exploring what she likes in photography: people. She made cold calls to the Associated Press and to local magazines, and quickly got work.
She and her husband — also a photographer — moved from Detroit to Connecticut, where her wedding photography business, IRIS photography, began to take off.
Shauck has stepped up her efforts recently to brand her businesses. She said the work she does for IRIS Photography, with the tagline "true and beautiful," stands out from other wedding photographers.
"We are so focused on family and connections and a photo-journalistic bent," she said. "Our philosophy is that you should live your wedding day and we'll be along to document it, versus a three-hour fashion shoot on their day. The people that are finding us, that's what they want."
Shauck said her work doesn't have a "Photoshopped" look to it, which is appealing to clients.
Shauck's business has grown mostly by simple networking.
"I think we took a really organic approach to networking," she said. "We didn't try to go out and get everybody to recommend us. We network with who it would make sense for us to network with."
Shauck said she meets with three other women photographers each month.
"We are friends, but two of us have a similar (wedding) shooting style," she said. "If we are booked, we recommend the other. That's definitely helped our business."
Shauck said networking helped her other business, Jane Shauck Photography, land a job shooting the New York Mets for SportsNet New York at spring training two years ago.
Julie Frahm, SportsNet New York senior coordinating producer, said they gave Shauck 60 seconds to shoot each of the players and coaches. Frahm said she was extremely nervous having brought in a "wedding photographer" to shoot pro athletes.
"The first time I saw the images, I was floored," Frahm said. "They were stunning. Jane had beautifully captured these players in a way we hadn't seen in the past."
Shauck said she and Julie strategized about how to improve on the typical baseball card head shot.
"We went through some things with the players; we kept it fun and fast and high energy and hopefully they didn't have time to get self-conscious," she said.
Shauck will be back at spring training this year to shoot the Mets for the third straight year.
Other projects Shauck has completed include documenting the making of Michael Jackson's final tour costumes, photographing Swarovski's chandeliers for the 50th anniversary of Lincoln Center, and covering TIME's 100 Most Influential People Gala. Already in 2011, Shauck's work has been featured in Real Simple Weddings and the book, The Art of Light and Crystal, which tells the story of the Swarovski Crystal Palace design project.
Shauck is capitalizing on her growing reputation by increasing her marketing efforts. She recently bought a list through a list service to gain access to advertising agency information through the Northeast. Shauck has planned an e-mail campaign in which an e-mail will go out every six weeks to potential clients.
"If someone clicks through we're able to see that and we follow up with a postcard and maybe a phone call," she said. "It's amazing what a cold call on a personal level can do."
Shauck also uses social networking tools to her advantage, including Facebook and Twitter. She maintains blogs on each of her business websites, which she also recently improved.
"I don't really sell over Facebook or Twitter but it's a way to keep a relationship going," she said.
Shauck frequently enters her photos in contests to keep her name visible. She has won Best of the American Society of Media Photographers, was a Photo District News Faces Winner, and was ranked the number one wedding photographer in Connecticut by the Wedding Photojournalist Association in 2007 and 2008.
"We really focus on getting published," she said. "We have entered a lot of contests so that we could get recognized and we could use those ourselves as third-party endorsements."
Keeping diverse has helped her to weather the sagging economy. Trying to maintain two businesses with just the help of her husband, Shauck realized that she doesn't have to do it all.
"Outsourcing is important," Shauck said. "It's very easy to get caught up in doing all the work."
Shauck decided to off-load the marketing work to a PR firm, and has also hired an editor to help edit the wedding photos.
"It's easy to get pulled in a million directions," she said. "It's important to focus on simplifying everything, from your products to what you're offering your clients to your processes."
Want to see more of Jane Shauck's work? Her wedding portfolio is at www.photoiris.com and her commercial work is at www.photojane.com.