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.
You and your product are awesome. You feel you have set a fair price for what you offer and in the words of our Cheryl “You’re Worth It” Then what’s with all the potential clients wanting to barter with you? It can be utterly soul destroying to be repeatedly asked to lower your rates because somebody else up the road is doing the same thing as you for less.
There are some vendors who love to haggle over prices and don’t ever expect anyone to pay their full rates. If this is you then I wish you well but most of us set a price that we actually want to achieve and feel disheartened when asked to take something off. Interestingly, the most haggling happens at the lower and upper ends of the market. The couple with around £1800 or less to spend on photography often feel that because this end of the market is so overly saturated that they have the power… and quite frankly they do. They have a huge amount of choice and there any many wedding photographers out there willing to compete on price to get the work. If you are somewhere around this price bracket, and find yourself repeatedly asked to take off 10-20% as ‘that is all they have budgeted for photography’ you will quite often get to the wedding and find that the bride is in a £3000 dress or they have a Choccywoccydoodah cake that cost more than you. What that couple actually meant when they said they were on a budget is that they didn’t value your services above some of the other things at their wedding. Sadly these are usually the things that are only there for the day.
As a wedding photographer, are you including an album with every package that you offer clients? I didn’t used to but I have recently changed this so that I do.
It’s been a huge few years for wedding photography. The arrival of affordable digital SLRs have of course impacted massively on how many people now offer their services as wedding photographers. It feels like a buyers market a lot of the time as anyone looking to book a wedding photographer in the UK has a huge amount of us to choose from. Potential clients are often putting their demands in at the initial enquiry stage instead of waiting to see what you offer. As an extreme example, I had this in my inbox a while back…
I am writing to you regarding a wedding taking place on XX of XXXXXX 2012.
If you are available for this date, I have a bride and groom looking for a photographer to capture a full day. They are, however, on an extremely tight budget. The absolute maximum they may be able to stretch to, would be £400 for the total costings. The wedding is in XXXX Church with the reception to follow, down the road. It was originally planned that a friend would be photographing the events of the day, but it has recently come to light that this may not now be possible.
Ideally they are looking for the following:
Coverage from preparation to first dance
Full copyright of all pictures
Needless to say I responded with ‘Dear Sir/Madam, thanks for your truly delightful email but I am busy for that day, in fact that whole year.’ I have also had lots of enquiries that state “We don’t need an album as we will be doing our own”. Of course if you are including the high resolution files in their package then they are very welcome to. But check up on those clients a year or even two down the line and see if they ever made that album. Or go back through your weddings and look at who was definitely going to order an album from you and see if they ever did. In the planning stages of a wedding, a few hundred pounds on an album to proudly display your wedding day can seem perfectly reasonable in the grand scheme of things. However after the wedding, when maybe the washing machine breaks down or they start to think about having a family, that chunk of money on a wedding album can now seem like quite a lot to find. Two thirds of couples overspend significantly on their wedding budget and often take quite some time to pay it all off. As photographers you will find that more often than not you will be missing the window of opportunity on providing a wedding album.