In 2020, wedding photographer Allie Siarto’s business saw a steep decline as COVID spread, weddings were downsized or canceled, and demand for her services dried up. In the midst of the downturn and pandemic, she decided to expand into an unexpected new niche: divorce photography.
Siarto, based in East Lansing, Michigan, about 100 miles northwest of Detroit, had a thriving wedding photography business she started in 2010, doing up to 50 weddings in good years. After COVID emerged in 2020, she shot only nine weddings that year, and most were in backyards for a few hours where you could only bill a fraction of what she was previously doing in fancy venues with many guests.
From Weddings to Headshots
The wedding photographer started to pivot to headshots and small business marketing/branding photography to recoup some lost revenue.
“When I started marketing personal branding photography, I noticed that some of my favorite clients were women who had recently been divorced,” Siarto tells PetaPixel. “They were reinventing themselves in their lives and careers, and hiring a professional photographer was one small part of that.
“I realized that it was an empowering experience for these women, and after being a wedding photographer for a decade, I thought it would be fun to just come right out with this divorce photography.”
Siarto, who used to run a market research company, initially promoted it in a local women’s networking group in her area, and many women found out about it through friends. She also had some women reach out because they worked with women going through a divorce. They loved the concept and wanted to help promote it.
Getting the New Business Rolling
The next step for Siarto was to set up a shoot with a friend and a few other women going through divorce in the community. She used that to start marketing the newfound concept. Many would message her on Instagram or email and just say, “Tell me more!”
The typical age group for divorce photography seekers is the 30s to 60s. It takes about 30 minutes to get a solid mix of photos in a few different outfits in the studio, but longer sessions are also available for those who want more.
Divorce photography is a relatively new spin-off launched in 2022 of Siarto’s personal branding photography. It’s still early, but it’s “gaining traction,” she says.
Siarto now gets many messages that say, “I saw you’re a divorce photographer. Tell me more. I’m going through a divorce.”
A Hand in the Whole Process
Siarto is involved in every step of making sure the client looks her best, from makeup through digital photo editing. Her divorce photography package includes guidance on hair, makeup, outfit styling, and the photo session itself. The makeup is simple and not over the top.
The shoot is done without the camera being tethered to a computer, and the client sees the photos only after they are edited.
“I use Photoshop for all of my retouching,” says the divorce photographer. “Beyond the basic cloning tool, I use the PhotoLight Pro Photoshop Retouching Pack for skin and The Sourcery Sauce for [extending/fixing] backgrounds.”
A Chance to Feel Great Again
Siarto says that these women talk about how divorce can be exhausting, and many of them aren’t taking any time to honor themselves throughout it all. The photo session gives them a chance to get their hair and makeup done and feel great. They then have photos to share on LinkedIn and personal social media.
The photographer says that one of her favorite things is seeing these women change their profile photos and get a ton of loving comments from friends and family telling them how great they look. It is confirmation that her work is making an impact in her clients’ lives.
About the author: Phil Mistry is a photographer and teacher based in Atlanta, GA. He started one of the first digital camera classes in New York City at The International Center of Photography in the 90s. He was the director and teacher for Sony/Popular Photography magazine’s Digital Days Workshops. You can reach him here.
Image credits: All photos supplied by Allie Siarto & Co. Photography and used with permission.