Category Archives: Guest Posts

To Blog or Not to Blog?

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

Photography Credit: Lisa Jane Photography

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*.

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Something Borrowed, Something Roo: A Day With Katie

Allow me to start this post with a short disclaimer: this post is shameless. This post includes mentions of boobs, bottoms, and other jiggly bits. In this post, you’re going to see me in my undercrackers. This is a sight that few have dared to peek at – similarly; it’s a sight that I don’t dish out very easily. Like most women, there are bits of my body that I dislike for a myriad of silly reasons (“they’re too small!” – “it’s too big!” – “but that scar is so unsightly” – “overdue for a wax, much?”). For all of these reasons, and many more, I was beyond terrified at the idea of baring all at my first ‘public’ underwear fitting. The only other time I’ve ever let a professional handle my bits and bobs* was way back in my mid-teens, when I found myself crying in the middle of Marks & Spencer’s lingerie section because I couldn’t find a bra to fit my silly diddy boobs. My mum promptly marched me into a cubicle with a lovely member of staff who measured me properly, and I walked away with two beautiful new sets of underwear, and a whole load of new-found self-confidence. Such an ego boost! On the tube to Ladbroke Grove, I had a cheeky spritz of deodorant and tried to harness the emotions of that previous positive experience – hopeful that this one would be just as good, if not better.

* (N.B. Sorry, previous boyfriends – no offense)

Walking into What Katie Did exceeded all my expectations from the get-go. Kat and I were lead to a private changing area, offered cupcakes, and even gin cocktails in teacups! Our hostess, Vicky, chatted with us for a while about what it was that I needed – what my wedding dress looked like, what size I took, and what colours I preferred. We toured the shop floor, ogling cuts and hues, while Vicky steered me towards shapes that would best flatter my shape. We had the initial intention of finding the perfect underwear set for my wedding day – but after a lot of deliberation, we figured that going for a bra and brief set wouldn’t work, as my wedding dress was backless. Totally unexpectedly, Vicky offered me a beautiful pair of peach high-waisted knickers to wear with my wedding dress – plus a silky black bra and French knickers set to wear after hours… oo la la!

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Great Expectations

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.

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Feel the Fear

When I first moved to London, my flatmate at the time had a book called Feel the Fear but do it Anyway by Susan Jeffers. Not really being one for self help books, I never got round to reading it but as it hung around the lounge, the title really spoke to me and it’s kinda hung around in my mind ever since. At the time I had pulled out of doing a degree in fashion and textiles after it had dawned on me that I wasn’t anywhere near as obsessed with fashion as my fellow foundation students who had got onto the same degree. They were going to college in Victorian Underwear and thick black tights while I was still channelling Neneh Cherry in a purple satin bomber jacket with a spiral perm (hey, it was twenty years ago!)

Although I had always done photography I was flummoxed by the sums… F-stop numbers going one way, shutter speed numbers go the other way… Who invented this stuff? Why wasn’t it just 1, 2, 3 or A, B, C? So I decided to try fashion styling as that was just putting clothes together for photo shoots, not designing them but it was still photography related. So how could I get work experience at that? I was obsessed with reading The Face magazine so I started there… I picked out my favourite shoots and the same couple of stylists’ names kept cropping up so I found out their phone numbers and got in touch. Our flat was in Chelsea but I am no trust fund babe – we were signing on and most weeks ran out of money to top up the key meter for the electricity. I was aware that I needed these people way more than they needed me and that is a vulnerable position to be in. It would have been easy to psyche myself out of making those phone calls, I was totally terrified but eventually I did and a stylist called Camilla Nickerson who sounded just lovely said that actually her assistant had pulled out of a shoot the following Friday and I could come along to help out.

I arrived at the studio after a sleepless night to a buzz of activity but everyone seemed very sweet. I got stuck in unwrapping the amazing clothes by Vivienne Westwood and John Galliano. Turned out that all the people at the shoot were friends – the make up artist was mates with the stylist, and the photographer’s girlfriend was the model along with her brother. Her name was Kate Moss and it was one of the first times she had been in a proper studio too. She was only a couple of years younger than me. I thought she looked like a beautiful alien and when she stepped on set she was mesmerising. As the shoot unfolded I realised that I had no clue what the stylist was doing. In this room full of stunning clothes, one of the shots turned out to be just Kate under a black satin sheet with nothing on but a narrow leather thong around her neck… Six months later me and every girl in London wouldn’t leave the house without the same necklace on. It quickly dawned on me that day that I was no fashion stylist but I carefully watched the photographer Mario Sorrenti and he didn’t seem to be doing anything that I couldn’t grasp. He was using the daylight and bouncing it round with poly boards and shooting on 35mm. Maybe this photography lark wasn’t so technical after all?

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Something Borrowed, Something Roo: The Groom’s View by Lamb (AKA Mr. Roo!)

Lamb, by Feather Love Photography

When I started thinking about my special suit for our special day, I knew more about what I didn’t want, rather than what I did want. From the off we knew our wedding wasn’t going to be Royal Ascot; I definitely wouldn’t look right in a top hat and tails, plus Roo may have baulked at the idea. I also new that I didn’t want to rent a suit; as is evident with most things we’ve chosen for the wedding, we aren’t fans of the (con)temporary. We’re given more to the robust, the long-lasting, and sentimental. This suit was going to be mine, forever. The material chose itself – robust, long-lasting, sentimental? It had to be tweed.

But what colour? This was the easiest bit. The general colour scheme for our wedding was never a conscious decision; it just seemed to evolve out of natural choices we made in regards to the flower arrangements (mostly moss), table décor (cacti and terrariums) and even our invitations. Luckily, the decision for the colour of my suit was just as natural. It was always going to be the colours that have become apparent as reflecting us both – dark grey/greens and ashy browns – really earthy.

Probably the biggest factor that affected the search is that I’m not particularly flush with cash, so I was after something of very good quality, but with a budget of £200. I’ve never been able to do things the easy way. To get a general idea, Roo and I set around Brighton and we found that, for my price range and for the type of suit I wanted, vintage was the way to go. When asking in shops for their tweed range I was surprised to find that there were hardly any in stock, with it being summer. Being the least likely fashionista, I had no idea that suits have seasons (naïve, I know). My wardrobe tends to be identical all year round, the changing of the seasons marked by the addition of a solitary jumper. We found a lot out of my price range, so one idea we had was to buy a jacket first (as there were some great individual jackets at reasonable prices) and then to find the trousers separately. However, towards the end of a whole day of trawling Brighton, the prospect of finding my suit in two halves felt like it could have been too time consuming. I kept the idea as a back up but carried on with finding a whole suit as the plan.

I arranged for my best man, my younger brother Kevin, to come down from Liverpool so that we could have a look together. You may be aware of Roo’s obsession with listing; well I’m a seasoned addict of lists myself. We set out to London, armed with a comprehensive list of second hand/vintage shops that stocked suits, which we compiled the night before by fishing through general review websites (I’ve listed them at the bottom of this post). We hit upon a problem before we even left; Roo was working that day, so was unable to come. Kevin and I are both horrendous shoppers; fearing the crowds, harsh lights and our inability to choose one thing from the other; this was going to be more difficult than we anticipated. One thing I did personally like by taking the vintage route, rather than visiting tailors, is that you’re left to your own devices, to trawl through the mass of vintage clobber, rather than being hounded.

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Another Level

I often get asked how can someone take their wedding photography business to the next level? Today I am going to give you some examples of things I did that worked for me, and offer some pointers for the direction you could go in. These are from my perspective on the industry. Sadly I’m not going to give you a magic formula to success but can start by saying that sheer hard graft plays a large part.

What makes me qualified to talk about this? Well a few years ago I was maybe a lot like you. I was trundling along nicely and year on year the bookings came in. Yes, I was probably getting a little complacent…. If things were looking quiet I would take out an ad somewhere or submit to a magazine and boom, the phone was ringing again. But then things really slooooooowed down. My home life had been super busy… Hello two small blondes who are the best thing I have ever done but also the most demanding. Looking back I have no idea how I juggled things or got myself to any weddings at all but I did keep working. Then when the Winter kicked in and I had time to review the business, I was a little bit concerned that the next year’s diary wasn’t very booked up and being completely honest I wasn’t that excited about many of the weddings.

Make a Plan and Make Connections

It was definitely time for a change so I created an action plan (okay I wallowed about feeling sorry for myself first) but with the new year I felt a renewed energy and decided if nobody was going to wave a magic wand for me then I would have to fix things for myself. I started with a bit of customer research. I spoke to the clients that I already had to discover more about where they were getting their inspiration and their suppliers for their weddings. This is how I first heard of Rock n Roll Bride. I got in touch with Kat and though I totally cringe now reading back my initial email, it does show that the best approach is always a personal one. I’m not saying call someone up and ask to meet up and be BFFs forever… That is just creepy… but neither should you send an impersonal contact. Talk a bit about yourself and showcase some of your best work. Ideally what you need to do is form associations with people in your industry who are more powerful than you. Getting featured on Rock n Roll Bride lead to my business turning around and I was back on track getting the right clients for me.

At the time I didn’t know this but forming alliances with your peers is a sound business strategy and now I also believe it works the other way. If you believe in someone else’s talent who is newer than you that is also a good connection. If they have drive and ambition then they are only heading in a forward direction which is where you also want to be going. I used to know very few other photographers and now I know lots, and all of them slightly different in their experience, style and outlook. If I can’t shoot a wedding, I will always try to direct the couple to another photographer that I think they would like, and I even share a google calendar with some of them which I can check to see who’s free on a particular date. This of course comes back on me as well and I also receive some great referrals this way. But more than that, by connecting with lots of others doing the same thing as me but at differing levels, I get a bigger view of the industry in general.

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