It’s December – everybody is gearing up for Christmas and I mean everyone. It’s like the world stands still and gets covered in fairy lights and glitter. I love Christmas so much that we are always the first people in our street to put up our tree and I totally wind down on work so that I can make the most of this magical family time of year.
What’s important to bear in mind is that your potential clients are doing the exact same thing… Year after year I find that once the leaves start descending from the trees – from around October onwards – the enquiries seem to slow up and get a little less serious. The amount of folk wanting to negotiate on price seems to dramatically go up too and I know that I am not alone in experiencing this. It has been a hot topic in the facebook group for the photographers that have been to Photography Farm in recent weeks, and I have had emails and DMs from other photographers seeking advice on this as well. I have covered discounting before in the Green Room so this article isn’t about that. Instead I want to encourage you to see the bigger picture. I’ve been doing this a long time and I noticed this same pattern year after year. My typical year for enquiries goes a little something like this…
Jan-March: Panic Bookers for that Summer
March-Sept: Organised Bookers for the following Summer
Oct-Dec: Casual Enquiries for the following Summer
We’ve all been in situations when something work-related just hasn’t gone our way. And if it’s something you feel you have worked super hard for then it’s even worse. Gutting even. Not everything we plan for or aim towards always comes off, so how can you cope with a professional disappointment without taking it out on your loved ones or hitting the gin?
I have all kinds of mini-disappointments in my working life. From not being booked by an awesome sounding couple, to pressing publish on a blog post to a sea of silence. In general however, life is good. I work hard and most times I have happy news. All kinds of opportunities come my way and I like to think I grab them all by the short & curlies and make the best of them. I love my clients and I get to work with great photographers at Photography Farm. Plus when all the hard work from the workshop is done, we get to kick back and make use of the rockstar facilities – it’s really pretty great. I even recently went to New York because I was invited to speak for the B&H Event Space and The Blogcademy. Amazing. In between the two events we hung out and generally had a blast. Recently however, I faced a big career disappointment.
A while back I was told that I was in line for a huge worldwide industry award. I had been nominated by some pretty high up people, whose radar I had no idea I was even on. The first thing I did was call Kat to scream my news down the phone as I knew she would understand what a big deal it was. It was super early in the morning but hey… that’s what friends are for. I felt like I had won an Oscar. However when I looked into the small print for the award, it turned out I couldn’t qualify. I was sooooo totally gutted. I felt like I had been invited to Buckingham Palace thinking I was getting an OBE only to be ushered in the servant’s entrance and told I had to polish the silver.
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*.
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!
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.
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?