Advertising for the Wedding Photographer part 8
What works for me and some conclusions
Chapter 1: Wedding Magazines and Print Advertising
Chapter 2: Directories, Google and Facebook cold calls
Chapter 3: Google Adwords and Facebook Ads
Chapter 4: Social Media
Chapter 5: Wedding Blogs
Chapter 6: Facebook Groups and Wedding Forums
Chapter 7: Wedding Fairs and Bridal Shows
Chapter 8: What works for me and some conclusions (You are here)
Here in the last part of this series I’ll tell you what has worked for me and where my business comes from but first a small update to this post……
I’ve been asked numerous times if I offer a workshop or general health check of someones photography / website and if I can help steer them in the right direction.
I now offer these, they come in two flavours.
- A full website SEO teardown with a written report and guidance on what to change / fix – £150
- As above but with a usability and image critique – £200
If you’d like to take advantage of this service (and it’s money well spent), please ping me an email via my contact form. Turnaround is usually just a few days.
…and we’re back, what works for me and in no particular order:
1. Venue referrals.
So we all know venues are difficult to nail down. As a wedding photographer, basically, you’re screwed unless you shoot a wedding there and impress them enough to add you.
Even if you do make it to a venue suppliers list it’s one thing to be on the list and another one entirely to have a venue co-ordinator behind you pushing your name out there during the venue booking process
Take three venues that I’m on the list for. The total number of weddings I shot this year for each of them was 2, 3 and 12 – The number of weddings at each venue was roughly 60, 170 and 85 respectively.
Which one do you think actively sells their suppliers vs handing over a piece of paper with names on?
This is where building relationships and going the extra mile helps a lot. If you shoot a wedding somewhere, shoot for the venue too. Make them want to use your images, then when they get in touch ask them to add you. There are a lot of people who will give venues images for free. But if yours are good enough then they will trade something for them.
I learned this lesson last year when a venue contacted me for some images, I sent them away for free and afterwards wondered why the hell I did it. It’s not a small business like a florist, it’s a wedding venue.
Don’t take your focus away from the couple whose wedding it is, but during the wedding breakfast in your downtime have a considered walkabout. Take photos that sell the venue.
But don’t give anything away for free. You’ll get nothing in return, you’re just one of 100 togs through the door that year. But they’ve asked YOU for some images. Nobody else.
The best venues ever are not the ones who email, Facebook or text you. The best ones are the ones who pick up the phone and personally thank you for sending stuff in. It’s old school and still the best way to get personal.
Also, NOTHING beats arriving at a wedding and the person running the wedding addresses you by first name. Whether it’s been written down on a piece of paper or it’s genuinely from memory I don’t care. This is an extreme GO! signal to make the effort with them as people like that are generally ace to deal with. Venues who don’t so much as offer you a glass of water and seem like it’s ‘just another day in the office’ won’t help you.
If during the ceremony the lead staff look completely absorbed in the moment or teary eyed then this is your venue. Because you want to work with people like this.
Being on a supplier list is a continuous thing. Expect to do the wedding fairs, to pay a commission sometimes or a yearly fee. Expect to help out at times you’d rather not, to give them a sample album to show couples and keep the lines of communication open at all times.
2. Other suppliers
As with venues, other suppliers are good for referrals. Plus, many become good friends and that’s just lovely.
There is often a synergistic effect between suppliers who frequent the same venue which amplifies bookings
Don’t be that ‘other’ photographer.
Ever shot a wedding and the makeup artist, florist, cake lady, hair stylist, sheep shearer, whoever has a DSLR and seems to always be in your way at the last minute (and worst time) taking photos of their work?
Ever wondered why?
It’s because most photographers don’t consider the bigger picture, are too fussed with the here and now and don’t share the images. To the point that suppliers have taken things into their own hands.
In every. single. case, if a supplier asked me for an image of the flowers, brides makeup or hair then I’m happy for them to use the photos for free in exchange for a credit or link back. Be that via a watermarked image or an actual physical link.
You should see the look on their faces when you say, ‘I’m not like some other photographers, I’m happy for you to use my images if it’s okay with the couple. Here’s my card, fire me an email in a couple of weeks’.
They look at me like I’m the only person who’s said that to them. This is really telling and says this doesn’t happen very often. Explore this weakness the other photographers suffer…and you’re ahead of the pack.
Also big up notable work. If you see something amazing shout about it. Wrap your arms around them and tell them they’ve been noticed. Just how we’d like to be noticed for the work we do.
3. Drive to the clients or meet them halfway. Don’t be a shmuck either.
If there’s something I see often on the pro forums it’s the aloofness that ‘If a client really is interested in you they’ll make the effort to come and see you’.
Suffice to say it’s a terribly blinkered view. Sure, don’t drive more than an hour to meet a couple. If two hours away from you get them to meet halfway. But always be prepared to travel if you can.
I’ve lost count of the amount of times couples have complained to me about other photographers insisting the couple goes to them. But hey, carry on…it doesn’t just give me a foot in the door. More like a massive wedge, it shows willingness to work for them and discounts you from the potentials list
There are of course caveats to this. Know your worth and don’t bend over backwards to get business. This year I was contacted via a wedding planner in London on behalf of their clients wedding.
The meeting was in Mayfair, it took three hours to get there by car, £11 parking, three hours back and I never heard a thing afterwards.
Because of this, in future where a third party is involved I’ll be asking for a fee. This is a stark difference between having an excited bride personally contacting you and asking to meet and a wedding planner acting on behalf of a bride. There’s no emotional attachment to your work with the planner.
I know, I know, ‘what happened to the one hour travel rule?’ – well I guess I wanted to work at the venue REALLY badly and was willing to swallow a little expense for the chance
4. Blog, blog and blog some more and be seen.
Talk about everything you do when you can. It doesn’t have to be a lot of text, but define your wedding report in a way that people can organically see it in search engines.
And no, don’t dump an image and run. Your blog isn’t Instagram.
Your website is your shopfront. Your blog is like the inside of the shop where all the more personal stuff is.
Not everyone who gets married in this country lives in the UK. Many search using venue names, the type of wedding, what they had on the day and so forth.
This sort of information is miles better than targeting an area. Many photographers don’t blog and don’t care to. But blogging is the best free exposure you can get. Bar none.
There is a big correlation between those who can’t be bothered and those who don’t have many bookings for next year. I’ve given advice countless times to togs over their site content and wording alone yet nothing changes and the next year they ask on a different forum why business is so bad.
Use social media to showcase links to your blogs, be visible. Tie it all together.
This is holistic. Deliver outstanding work, work hard on the day, give 100% (not 99%) and be nice. You’ll be noticed and get referred. Nothing is more reassuring to a couple than a referral from a previous wedding you shot.
I’ve tied cravats, (sometimes badly), helped with the flowers, fixed a wedding dress when five bridesmaids couldn’t, ironed Dad’s shirt, delivered the order of service, changed table cloths and applied first aid to a 4 year old stabbed in the eye with a temperature probe. It’s not just about turning up, shooting and going home. I’m a part of the couples day and I’ve a responsibility to help things run as smooth as possible.
Referrals also come from helping others in Facebook groups, forums and such.
6. Take advantage of human nature.
This to me is the cornerstone of how I work. Look, we know ourselves better than anyone. We all like to be lazy or have such busy lives things are left behind or not bothered with. Be bothered.
If there is a limit to your success it’s not the new blood in the market, it’s not the advances in camera phone technology either and it’s not the economy. It’s YOU
Everywhere there are photographers who can’t be bothered to blog. Can’t be bothered to go that extra mile for a couple. Can’t be bothered to be nice in emails at the enquiry stage. Who don’t care too much about their website. Aren’t fussed about being sociable. Who generally don’t care and treat it like a job.
If you take the lead in these areas you’ll be miles ahead of the competition on exposure and attitude.
6. Be different and be creative (where you can)
Your style and what you shoot is important. There’s a new term out there. The ‘Vanilla Photographer’. One whose work is the same as every other photographer because they use the SAME lightroom presets. You know, vintage blue hazes in vogue a couple of years ago, now they’re more yellowy. I still like it sometimes but everyone is doing it. Be different.
The problem is what makes YOU special. I spend extra time on certain signature shots where I can get myself noticed for people to sit upright in their seats and go WOW! Challenge yourself to learn something new and it’ll pay you back because other people can’t be bothered to do it. Some don’t even own Photoshop.
You don’t have to follow any rules in your creativity, take inspiration from others, improve on it, be unique, get noticed, get business.
Looking back at all the previous posts the one thing that stands out is that there is no ‘pay a fee and get business’ method. At least not for me.
A lot of it is about price:
I can hand on heart say that when my prices went up from cheap to sensible levels enquiries crashed in every form of advertising. There was no one form better than the other.
If you do use one of the methods used in the previous chapters then work out what you are actually, truthfully worth and pitch yourself accordingly.
Run the numbers:
So this is where some might go cross eyed but hold tight and I’ll try to explain the chart above.
If you run a campaign and get even one enquiry you know whatever you did reached out and touched someone. In this case knowing that something has the ability to work means you can then pull it apart to see how you might improve on it.
But when you get NO RESPONSE to a campaign you can’t tell how bad that medium sucked. It could suck so bad that even offering your services for free wouldn’t improve things.
If jumping into advertising you should really do due diligence before parting with your cash.
Ask difficult questions, run the numbers and ask people to put their money where their mouth is. If they don’t, then walk. You’ve better, more beneficial things to do (which are free).
Always ask around before embarking on a campaign. Don’t blindly believe someone who has a financial motivation because money motivates people into doing things they shouldn’t. Especially if that someone has no prior attachment to you. After all, that’s sales.
Take everything people tell you with a pinch of salt.
Look before you leap. Half of the mistakes I made were because I thought I knew better. Don’t try to emulate your peers because they might be making a loss at whatever they’re doing. People tend to lie a little about figures. Be that financial or booking numbers. I’ve had a photographer tell me they had 44 bookings in June and when I saw them again in September they had 35.
If you always tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything
Even free advertising will cost you.
Running around getting images together and creating content for either your blog or bloggers will cost you. Make sure you balance up the pro’s and cons of all involved.
If there’s one thing, one thing that will get you business it’s being nice and supportive of others. Your reputation will steadily grow and business referrals will become self sufficient.
Thanks for reading. I hope it’s helps some of you. Really I do.
I think everyone should get a fair crack at this industry. For the most part it’s awesome and I want you all to do well. There’s room for all of us 🙂
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