These days it seems that branding is the hot topic within the wedding industry, especially for photographers. We certainly discuss it quite a lot at Photography Farm and we are very lucky to have photographer’s brand expert Melissa Love join us to share her expertise. When I first started shooting weddings, brand simply wasn’t an issue. It was enough to take good photographs and make sure that you were found in the right places. However there has never been more wedding photographers competing against each other for potential business, so of course branding can be one of the elements that can help us to stand out.
But what about a USP? Before working on your brand, have you given any thought to it? I don’t hear people using this term any more, it’s kind of fallen out of fashion along with shoulder pads and pagers. Yet if we all defined our USPs before looking at branding, it would be much more likely that we’d each end up with much more unique brands and websites. These days it seems like there are way to many companies with very similar website designs.
Almost every photographer I know hates writing their About Me page. I confess, I used to be the same. I can merrily write about anything else but writing directly about myself makes me C R I N G E. I’m putting a cushion over my head now just thinking about it. If you feel the same then think about it this way… your About Me is just like an online dating profile. You’re trying to attract potential clients – but more than that, the ideal match of client for you.
Next to the homepage, the About section of your website will be the most frequently viewed on your site. If a potential client likes your work they’ll next want to know a little bit more about the person behind the lens. One of the worst things you can do is leave this part out. Couples have a lot of choice when it comes to their wedding photographer, so they will more than likely end up booking one that they feel a connection with. According to the amazing wedding industry resource Think Splendid, 45% of couples with premium wedding budgets say the possibility of becoming friends with their wedding professionals factors into deciding who to hire.
Unfortunately there are not many places you can go to for inspiration on how or what to write on an About page. In fact so many people simply look at what their competitors have written and cobble together something similar. I also frequently hear about wedding suppliers posting direct copies from other people’s sites – which seems crazy… more than anything else on your site, your About Me needs to be 100% authentic. I guess it is sheer panic that leads newbies to tactics like this. After all, it’s not very British to want to toot your own horn is it?
When it came to writing my About page I started to think about online dating profiles…. there are loads of resources out there designed at helping singles write a decent one so let’s steal a few tips from them instead.
Tip #1 Get dressed up
It sounds weird but if you sit down to write in your PJs with unbrushed hair, you’re unlikely to get in the professional zone. Putting on a suit might be too extreme but your favourite top and a squiz of perfume will immediately put you in a better frame of mind to write creatively.
Tip #2 Have a great profile picture
You may be a photographer because you prefer to hide behind the lens or a designer because you like to be behind a computer, but you must must must have a decent photo of yourself attached to your profile. People relate to faces so show yours!
Sheesh, I have recently seen sooooo many rants on the internet from photographers giving up because they find it too tough to cut it as a wedding photographer or they are sick of competing with the newbies who “under cut their prices/ don’t know what they’re doing/ use vintage processing/ are ruining the industry”. So here is my two pennies worth… first up a little history.
I started working as a photographer in the early 1990s first in music and then from 2000, the majority of my work has been in weddings. I am still as thrilled to earn my living in this way as I ever was, still as excited about each and every job, from the simple engagement shoot I did in the sunshine on Brighton Beach last night, to the look book that I shot for a collaboration between Rock n Roll Bride and Crown & Glory. I will NEVER tire of taking photographs or being in such a privileged position that people trust me to record their memories on one of the most important days of their lives. I will always be on a quest to take THE perfect photograph that sums up a wedding day.
Are you always busy? When that group email or Facebook event invite gets sent your way, are you never able to go because you have to work?
Weddings are a weird industry, everyone knows that you work a lot of weekends but then it is also expected that you are contactable first thing Monday morning. If your marketing campaign has been successful and the bookings are healthy, you may well find that suddenly weeks and weeks are stretching in front of you with no proper break. Every wedding you take on has a significant amount of admin and for us photographers, there is that mountain of post production. Throw in a few double or even triple header weekends and that mountain can quickly become Everest.
The business is yours and so it’s quite normal to want to manage every aspect of it. There are also certain things you definitely can’t outsource, but if you look at the situation objectively, do you think you could actually be addicted to being so busy?
Recently, a good friend and photographer showed me some images that he had shot a few years ago. He told me that he was cringing while putting together the couple’s album because they had waited three years before coming back with their selection and meantime his work had, in his eyes, improved a lot. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the images and the couple were clearly still very happy with them if they were investing in an album. Of course they were not the images he would shoot if he did their wedding today but I told him that I think it’s good to look back on your old work and cringe a little. It shows that you are progressing, evolving and developing.
When interviewed on Rock n Roll Bride, Jonas Peterson said “You will never find your style, your style will find you” and certainly ‘finding your style’ is one thing that a lot of photographers, artists and designers seem to struggle with, especially in the early days. However I believe that this constant quest to define and refine your style is one of the things that keeps us in a state of creativity. If we didn’t, our work would surely become stale and dated and we’d probably get very bored. I have been earning my living from taking photographs for over twenty years and I have yet to think “this is it… this is exactly how I’m going to shoot every picture from now on”. I go through phases of being in love with a certain lens, filter or technique but it is never the only way I shoot. By constantly playing and experimenting, learning rules and then breaking them, I’m forever progressing and changing. Any creative should grow with their craft and I very much see it as a journey. The path may be unknown at times but isn’t that all part of the adventure?
Sometime late last year I got an email from Kat asking if I wanted to go to Paris to do a shoot with her, Gala & Shauna. My answer was of course an enthusiastic ”Oui ma Petit Filous!!” They’d bagged themselves a fabulous apartment that we shot in, but of course I also wanted some photos by the Eiffel Tower. On the Eurostar on our return, I got to thinking about the tower and its purpose in the city. Sure, it’s a big tourist pull, but I started to wonder how on earth it got built in the first place and why it’s even there at all. So I did some research on the most recognisable iconic landmark in the French capital.
Paris is a beautiful city with plenty of amazing architecture, lots of culture and umpteen things to do but before the tower was built, many of its citizens were moving away and tourists were not exactly flocking there. Commissioned for the Exposition Universelle, a world fair held in Paris in 1889, Monsieur Eiffel’s brief was to create a temporary structure to mark the entrance to the fair. Despite facing much criticism, he seized the opportunity and designed the tallest structure in the world at that time. Once completed, visitors to Paris raved about the innovative lattice tower, left armed with their photographs and talked non-stop of going up in the amazing lifts or dining in its fine restaurant with amazing views. Suddenly the fortune of Paris had improved and these visitors were filling up the hotels and cafes. People rapidly moved back to Paris and it was suddenly one of the most exciting and most visited capital cities in the world. So much so that the decision was made to never take it down, and to this day no trip to the city of love is complete without a visit.