Category Archives: Guest Posts

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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Let’s Make the Web Faster – Images

Photography Credit: Made U Look Photography

Beautiful photographs are our bread and butter. They’re eye-catching, enticing and transcend language barriers. But they are often the heaviest elements on a web page and so they’re the focus of today’s article on speeding up your site.

Resizing

When uploading photos to your blog you typically don’t need to preserve the original resolution. For example, the main content column of Rock n Roll Bride (i.e. this bit you’re reading now) is only 576 pixels wide while a JPEG from a 15MP camera is over eight times that. If you’re simply embedding photos in-line with the blog post, make sure you are resizing the images before uploading. WordPress will do this auto-magically leaving you one less thing to worry about but other blogging platforms may vary. I dug around and found an old photo which was saved straight from the camera, the filesize (and therefore download size, to your visitors) is 3524KB (~3MB). If you look back at last week’s article on measuring your website you will see this is around the same as our entire front page, just for a single image. However, after resizing in Photoshop to 576px wide it shrinks to just 210KB, a 16-fold reduction.

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Let’s Make The Web Faster

Photography Credit: Made U Look Photography

At the School of Rock Kat talks about the importance of serving up a snappy website experience to your visitors. A statistic from Mashable claims that one in four visitors will abandon a website that takes over four seconds to load. While visitors do tend to be more tolerant of slower websites in image-heavy markets such as photography the underlying message is still important for us to hear.

Personally, I hate waiting for really slow sites to load. If I need to see their content bad enough I’ll usually wait it out but I will rarely return and I certainly will not spend any time poking around the archives for more hidden gems, or checking out their advertisers. Instead, it’s right back to Google to click on the next search result.

The time you keep somebody waiting while loading your site on their computer is part of that first impression package, along with branding and layout. Most people understand the importance of the last two but rarely consider page speed along with them. I was looking at a photographer’s blog recently which actually took over three minutes to finish downloading, I’m not even exaggerating. I was so shocked I refreshed it to make sure it wasn’t a fluke. I’m a sucker for punishment, right?

The reason I bring this up is because I recently discovered our own page load times had gone from speedy to slouchy. This discovery flew in the face of our internal motto: Serve beautiful photography, fast.

I’ve since come to realise our website had been getting marginally slower month by month. But because Team Rock n Roll Bride has reasonably powerful computers and super-fast Internet access we never noticed it directly. It wasn’t until I was trying to load the site on a slightly outdated laptop and over a slower connection that I first became aware. And just think, as smart phones, tablets and 3G become more prevalent a light-weight, blazing-fast website is increasingly important.

So, over the last month I have been up to my elbows learning about the surprisingly complex world of page load times and I’ve picked up a few tricks which I think almost every small business could benefit from.

Benchmarking

To find out how fast (or slow) your website really is you need to gather some data. My two favourite tools for this job are Google Analytics and Google Chrome. This is where it starts to get interesting, or tricky… depending on your perspective.

Google Analytics

Around November 2011 Google Analytics started collecting page load times from approximately 1% of all visitors. This means, as long as you are using Analytics, you have some data available to you right now! Just go into your reports and choose Content > Site Speed > Overview to see the graph. The problem with this is, even with our not-insignificant traffic, a 1% sample rate creates a very erratic graph. A visitor from Uganda is going to have a much slow experience than one from the UK, for example.

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The Purple Cow: A Guest Post by Charlotte White

“Well, it doesn’t really have anything to do with cake. Shouldn’t it be something a bit more ‘cakey’?” he said.  I was really excited to be sat in my first proper ‘grown-up’ business meeting, up until this moment.

It was my first year as Restoration Cake and I was trying to get to grips with the concept of charging strangers for my creations. The afternoon was to be spent with a colleague who knew all the financial stuff. I went to the meeting with a website, a Twitter account, a growing list of orders, and a name.

“Restoration doesn’t really say ‘cake’,” he said.

The name Restoration Cake came to me in early 2009, as I sat at my dressing table (yes, I am totally spoilt) putting on my make-up to go to work in an office I absolutely hated. My boss didn’t like me and didn’t really attempt to hide this fact. I had just bought a house with the man I love and there was also this big thing looming called a ‘recession’ so I kept calm and I carried on.

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Bitchless Bride on Rock n Roll Bride: Communication is Key

You may have seen me talk about Bitchless Bride before, especially on twitter. She is my new wedding industry hero! The alter ego of a wedding planner (and no, even I don’t know her true identity!) who was sick to death of crazy bridezillas and mental wedding vendors, she set up her blog to give it to us STRAIGHT. I loooove her. She’s a hoot. And hell, she rocks a pink wig. We’re definitely destined to be BFFs.

I just about wet my pants with excitement when her video guest blog landed in my inbox. Some exclusive Bitchless Bride on Rock n Roll Bride?! Hell. Yes. We are a match made in wedding heaven. Listen up brideys, listen up wedding suppliers, cos Bitchless is about to give it to you. No holds barred.

(FYI there are a few swears in here, if you’re at work… or you’re of a delicate disposition then you might wanna save this for later…)

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“How Do I Get More Likers?!” – Facebook Tips For Wedding Professionals: A Guest Post by Cathie Watts of Phunkey Photography

Originating from New Zealand, wedding photographer Cathie Watts of Phunkey Photography is a Facebook wizz. With just shy of 11,500 ‘likes’ on her photography facebook page she boast more ‘likers’ than many full time wedding bloggers! So how did she get so popular on the social network? What things did she do to get herself ‘liked’?

This week I asked Cathie to share some of her top tips for getting started when using Facebook for your business. If you have any more specific questions for her, hit us up in the comments. I’d certainly love to read a follow up from her! Over to you Cathie…

Brand your Facebook page

A consistent and streamlined brand is essential to your small business. If you’re unsure about your branding, a good place to start is to decide on three words that you want your clients to use to describe your business. Once you have these words, be sure that all your Facebook posts clearly communicate at least two of your three words.

For example, my three words are fun, funky and professional. So I make sure that the content (‘content’ refers to everything you put on your page, from your profile picture to your ‘about’ section) I publish on my page communicates at least two of my words. Branding is a subtle art, you can’t set your ‘about’ section to say ‘Phunkey Photography: fun, funky and professional’ and expect people to just believe you… they have to feel like they’ve formed this opinion on their own… after all, actions (even digital ones) speak louder than words… right?

For more (glorious) information on branding read ‘Enchantment’ by Guy Kawasaki.

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