Wedding Photographers, you, and how to find the right fit.
Wedding Photographers are a number of different things, most of the time. Ok – it’s not exclusive to wedding photographers – anyone who runs a small business has to be good at marketing, selling, the thing they actually do, accounting, and er, time management amongst about a bazillion other things.
Wedding photography is a funny business to run if only for the fact that your clients will book you for their wedding, and that’s mostly it. There may be a newborn shoot, or a referred wedding later down the line, but it’s generally understood that your wedding is a one-time event. So every single wedding is unique in the context of running a business, and every time it’s the couple’s first and possibly only exchange with you as a business.
So as Wedding photographers we need new business all the time, which means we have to spend a lot of time marketing to get in front of the right couples who will value our photography.
It’s actually something I enjoy, and it’s also something to fail at often too. Why? Because marketing Wedding Photographers and selling Wedding Photography are two very different things.
If I’m having to really try to sell to prospective couples then I know I’m not getting my marketing right. I’m not getting in front of the right people.
To me, that’s a good thing, because selling photography is close to impossible if the client needs to be educated about the value of what I do. I know how important the cost is to people, but I also know that when the price is the leading question that person is price shopping. And if price is the most important factor in choosing your wedding photographer then I’ve already lost. Sure, I can go into selling mode and give people what they want, with all of the hooks and details that I think people want to hear, but nine times out of ten that client is going to book someone else anyway, simply because they’re ‘cheaper’.
The hard thing about that situation is that selling all of that info just gives the next photographer on the list a whole program of what to offer and how to shoot, but now they can say that they’ll ‘match’ what I do just for less money.
So I generally don’t get into it when I can see it’s only all about price.
We’re Wedding Photographers – that’s the bit we do well.
Wedding Photography is a hard sell anyway. It’s incredibly personal and tangled up with philosophies and ethics, and usually a very private story of two people falling in love and wanting to be together. Seriously – no two stories are the same – how could they be? The results are what counts, but it’s so amazingly subjective that’s I think it’s close to impossible to really know what it’s actually going to feel like being the person getting married in 12 months. So how can I sell to someone the idea that something I can’t show them yet is going to mean so much to them? There are so many variables.
I have a general idea from experience what is going to happen at a wedding, and I’ve learned my little secrets on the hows and whys and where to be whens, so I know that technically there is a great chance that I’m going to capture the wedding in the best way possible. I have enough experience to know how to adapt to pretty much any eventuality. I’m good at taking pictures and I’ve learned to find humility in that. I know that I can’t know everything, and that helps put me in the best place to catch the good surprises.
I can anticipate. I can know that the best pictures might well be the ones that I didn’t pre-visualise too!
So how do I sell this to you?
Sure – I can show you some favourite pictures from previous weddings. I can show you full sets of pictures from successful shoots. I can ask you to put yourself in that picture – imagine it’s you in that dress/at this venue. It’s close, but it’s not your wedding. Not yet.
All we’ve got left is me, and your expectations, and our values. Do those things match up? Do we fit?
There’s a huge amount of trust in our exchange. Bride and Groom to photographer. It’s potentially very intimate – to get the best pictures there’s a certain amount of vulnerability from me and from you. We have to meet somewhere in the nucleus of your relationship. You have to trust me to know where to look, without prying, and without judgement. It’s the most simple idea, but the most complex journey.
Does it pay off? Hell yes! I still get incredibly personal photographs by sometimes treading carefully and sometimes goofing around. But that’s just me reading the situation and finding the right buttons to press.
The results are stunning. People say the nicest things about my photography, but I wish they knew how they’re usually only possible when they are in on the moment. It’s collaboration. It’s open and brave to reveal our authentic selves. Of course, this feeling natural, finding that rhythm, doesn’t feel like work because it, well, it just happens.
I can’t sell that to you. I can barely describe it. To my mind you’re already there if you already have a clear understanding of why you’re booking me. Why you’re looking for Wedding Photographers in the first place. The value is built in long before the price is scrutinised. As it happens, my prices are neither too high or too low anyway, but that’s not really what this blog post is about.
When I meet you, the right client, the value is already understood; You have a great story to tell and you want the right Wedding Photographers for your wedding – someone who will capture the essence of that story. No compromises. No cutting corners.
The cliche is that your photography will be the big take-home after your wedding. It’s the indelible lasting document of a day that flashes by at the speed of light. It’s very true.
So. As tempting as it is to follow trends, or to be the rockstar photographer, or to be just like everybody else, I’m sticking with pushing my photography further, to a place where my ego can’t get in and there isn’t such a thing as a cookie cutter guarantee of the same pictures as the last ones. There’s no standard. There’s no doing it for the money. There’s no dialling it in.
I’ve long considered my photographs to mean more to people over time. There’s instant gratification, getting your pictures back for the first time can blow you away, but the real magic is in the slow burn.
The most important photographs I’ll ever take will make even more sense in 20 years’ time.
If you think that’s something you want to buy, then that’s what I’m selling. If you think we’re the right Wedding Photographers for you, here we are.
So what do you need to hear from your photographer? Is it money? Or is it the stuff of life?
Would love to hear what you think.