Episode 72: How to Photograph Mitzvah Celebrations – Rachael Spiegel

Have you considered narrowing your photography services to a niche market, but unsure how to go about doing so?

In episode 72, photographer Rachael Spiegel shares how she has built a successful career in the niche market of photographing only Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. Listen in as Rachael shares three tips she utilized to educate herself in her practice, gain experience under established professionals, and network with vendors in her specialty.

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Rachael’s Aha Moment: When Rachael was studying photojournalism, a photo editor reviewed her portfolio and told her that she didn’t see her passion in the photos she was taking, Rachael immediately knew she was right. She hadn’t found her passion in news photography.

Time Management Tool: Photographer’s Edit handles all of her editing so that she can spend more time with her family.

Benefit of Going to School for Photojournalism: To be in a community that was so supportive was beneficial, especially for an industry that is a solitary profession.

Bar Mitzvah: The celebration of a Jewish boy turning 13 and becoming an adult in the eyes of Judaism and becoming an active member of the religious community.

Bat Mitzvah: The celebration of a Jewish girl turning 12 and becoming an adult in the eyes of Judaism and becoming an active member of the religious community. Bat Mitzvahs are relatively new (around 100 years old, Bar Mitzvahs have been celebrated for around 800 years).

Mitzvah Services: Mitzvahs can be celebrated in a variety of ways, including a synagogue service where the child reads from the Torah, leads the service, or does an alternate service. Many Bar and Bat Mitzvah children are also required to pick a community service project to work on during the year preparing for their Mitzvah.

Mitzvah Celebrations: After the service, many families host a celebration. Depending of the family, it could be in a ballroom with a DJ and dinner or it could be a small gathering.

Horah: Traditional circle dance with everyone on the dance floor and the child is lifted into the air in a chair. In some cases, the family of the child will be lifted in the air on chairs as well.

Challenges in Photographing Mitzvahs: Many synagogues will not allow you to photograph the service, so you have to coordinate an alternate date to shoot formals in the synagogue. You’re also photographing in a sacred place, where certain behavior, such as horsing around and jumping in the air, is disrespectful, so you need to find more subtle ways to create a feeling of relaxation and comfort with the family.

Rewards in Photographing Mitzvahs: In order to truly appreciate a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, you have to understand everything that goes into it, including the preparation of the child for the year leading up to it, learning a new language, reading the Torah, singing, etc. You get to capture the celebration of a child’s hard work and the joy it brings to the family.

3 Steps to Breaking Into Mitzvah Photography:
1. Educate yourself on the essentials of Bar and Bat Mitzvahs
2. Reach out to established Bar and Bat Mitzvah photographers to assist them and experience one first hand.
3. Network with local synagogues, Jewish friends, and Bar and Bat Mitzvah planners.

Links:
Website: rachspiegel.com
Instagram: @mitzvahphoto
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