In a way it’s pretty obvious to think of all the things we can learn from the more experienced people in our industry, but today I’d like to encourage you to think about what you can learn from your peers… or even people will much less experience than you.
Nature, nurture, experience… we are a mash up of all our external influences, and because of this every single person on this planet has a different way of viewing the world. A more practiced photographer/blogger/stationer/designer might have industry knowledge that they can pass onto you, but someone unfamiliar with the norms of an industry will undoubtedly be able to offer a completely different perspective on the same situation.
Passion and enthustaiam are contagious so don’t ever disregard an inexperienced professionals’ opinions due to lack of experience. Sure, you might not want to take their ideas as gospel, but don’t dispel what their untrained eye might pick up. It’s all very easy to become bogged down with ‘the way things are’ when you’ve been doing something for a long time.
Blogging. If you’re in the wedding industry you’ll be hard pushed to avoid it. Still a relatively new medium, the first blogs (called web-logs back then) were launched in the late 90s. The wedding industry quickly adopted this format as their own with many wedding suppliers now using a personal blog to promote their work and to connect with others in the industry as well as potential clients. There are even people (like me!) who make a full time career out of blogging.
There are currently a reported 164 million blogs in existence, so how do you make yours stand out? Is blogging even right for yomu and your business? Two UK wedding photographers battle it out…
Sassy of Assassynation Photography doesn’t have a blog, preferring to use Facebook to preview her images to her clients and fans
Before I start I should say that I am in no way saying that it’s bad to have a blog, but it just isn’t for me right now. I have never ever had a blog and I can’t see me getting one any time soon. For me, I just can’t see how they will add value (not just workload) to my business. I know all the reasons that people give as to why I should have one (SEO, showcasing your personality, sharing your latest work etc) and I have basically been told that I am a total idiot for not having one. It is probably even more shocking for me to be of this opinion because in my previous life I was marketing manager!
Everyone seems to think I am breaking rule number one by not having my own blog. When I launched my photography business I wrote all the content on my site. I managed the whole thing myself, and being able to update my site as much as I like (I don’t have to go through a developer or anything) I am basically able to update it as much as I want. So instead of blogging, I constantly update my gallery with new weddings. For each of the weddings that I feature in my gallery my couples write a little bit about their day. I’m also very lucky that a lot of my work gets picked up by the big UK wedding blogs (thanks bloggers, I love you guys!) from my Facebook previews or when I submit weddings directly to them. These blogs have a much higher readership than any little blog I could write. I am not a writer, nor do I have any desire to be one. I want to tell my stories through imagery, not words, and having a blog would mean people would have to listen to me prattle on *yawn*.
I was twelve when it started. We were in Dublin visiting family when my Mum spotted that Boyzone were playing at The Point Theatre. I’d never been particularly interested in music, and although I’d heard of the band and seen them perform on SMTV Live (with Ant & Dec – remember that!?), I wouldn’t say I was a fan. But for some reason my Mum asked if we wanted to go and so she went to see if she could get tickets for the show that night.
We were in the very back row. I remember being sat next to my excited younger sisters and someone else’s little brother (who looked rather unimpressed throughout the whole thing). I’d bought a tee-shirt from the concessions stand and I was ready to…erm… rock. And right then and there I fell in love.
I’m not sure what it was… it certainly wasn’t the quality of the show (we couldn’t see eff all from back there!) but something about being there, and seeing them in the flesh (well as tiny dots…) made me fall head over heels… and with lead singer Ronan Keating in particular.
And yes, I cried actual tears when he got married.
In 2001, and with no real experience, Alastair Humphreys decided he would cycle around the world. He set off from his Yorkshire home on an epic journey that took him four years to complete. He cycled 46,000 miles, through 60 countries and 5 continents.
Now, whilst reading that you might think “jeez that’s no small adventure!”, and you’d be right, the idea behind this article and the video below is an explanation of the importance of adventure, any adventure, no matter how big or how small. In this TEDx talk he speaks about his experiences, and why he feels starting small is much more important when trying to make changes.
Isn’t that just so incredibly inspiring? Hell, if he can make a walk around the M25 an adventure, I’m sure we can find our own joy and excitement with some mini-adventures.
“One thing that struck me from this experience”, he says, “was that what I really loved was having adventures in all sorts of different forms, living adventurously. It seemed to make sense to me that surely a good strategy for life is to find what you love and do a lot of it…”
“I think adventure is vital for everyone. They dont need to be big adventures, they can be tiny little adventures… adventure is just about doing something you’ve never done and doing it with enthusiasm and curiosity…”
Today I want to tackle the tricky issue of managing client expectation in the wedding industry. Sooner or later no matter who you are or what level you are at, the chances are that you will encounter some sort of complaint or confrontation in your business. We work with people who are often planning the biggest experience of their lives and there can be a lot of pressure all round. A wedding can be a bit like all your Christmases at once – if your family all get on then brilliant, but a wedding can often highlight any issues too. Then there are all the money concerns connected with weddings. Good for you if you have a bottomless pit of cash to splash, but for many couples a wedding can be a huge financial strain on them or their immediate families. Add to that some of the other pressure that couples can put on themselves… Like making their day the stand out amongst their circle of friends, getting super carried away with how their wedding is going to look, or being obsessed with making their wedding ‘blogworthy’.
I have recently noticed a slight shift in the industry that I am not entirely sure is a completely good thing. I used to have to pitch to my couples about having their weddings featured on a blog or in a magazine, as lets face it, having that press is good for me and all their suppliers to promote our businesses for free. In the last year however, I have started to notice that I am often asked by couples about submitting to blogs even before I have shot their wedding. Of course I love to photograph creative weddings, I love to see my work featured and yes I may even be borderline OCD about details, but recently I have actually started encountering couples that would be devastated if their wedding didn’t get featured. It’s as if it’s the validation that the wedding was a success. This can really lead to a lot of additional pressure all round – both for me and my clients.
I was asked recently by a new blogger how I went about making my industry connections and friends. Like, how did I approach people and ask if they’d like to work together or collaborate on various projects and shoots without coming across as a bit of a weirdo? So I’m telling you what I told her…
If it would be weird in real life…
…it’s weird on the internet!
This is a general rule of thumb that I always employ when I’m chatting to people online. It doesn’t matter if I’m talking to someone because I just want to chat or if I want something from them. I think it’s vital to be yourself, to be honest and to be genuinely interested in other people. Taking the time to get to know people, with no ulterior motive, will stand you in good stead when it comes to taking that relationship to the next level and working together. You should never make your first communication with someone one where you’re asking them for something. Rather, be interested in who they are as a business person and a real life person first. In other words, establish a relationship before you start asking them for favours!
When I first started emailing or tweeting people I admired, I would go about it as I might in real life. Basically I’d make myself as useful as possible. Sometimes it can appear, with Twitter particularly, that everyone is best friends and you’re sat on the sidelines, so how on earth do you strike up a conversation without coming across as strange? Answer – be helpful.