I recently got engaged and have started the process of finding my wedding photographer. Something that has become very hard since I have decided to rule out the possibility of a friend shooting it, because let's face it, they need to be drinking. As a wedding photographer myself, I noticed some positives and negatives in other businesses first impressions. These are just things that have become my pet peeves while seeking a photographer, mostly website related.
I certainly don't want to step on any toes with this article, but being a wedding photographer who is now acting as a customer, I feel that I've seen an entirely new perspective on the industry. I try not to compare, but it is good to see what the market is doing and really what your customers like and don't.
1) Style Shoots: My eye is becoming very attuned to noticing these. I am not saying don't do it, just be mindful. This becomes apparent when you go to a photographer's page and their portfolio gallery is small and impressive, but then you visit their active blog and... well things just don't line up. Colors are different, lighting is sloppy, retouching is inconsistent... these things should all the be same across the board. When there is a lack of consistency, your client just doesn't know what to expect on their wedding day.
2) Pricing: After searching through tons of photographers and looking at their pricing and portfolios, I raised my rates. I have always felt I wasn't yet good enough to do a large increase; however, after exploring the market and browsing through several photographers images, I had no problem raising my rates. I am not saying follow the crowd, but if you're shooting rocking photos and your competition is charging $2000+ more... well, step up your pricing game. You will book more, I have.
3) Natural Light Shooter: This "phrase" scares me. As a photographer 99% of us would rather shoot with good natural light, that is almost a given. When sunlight looks good you cannot beat it. However, when I see this phrase I read, "Please don't put me in a situation where I have to flash!" If someone is an off camera light master, I promise they know how to handle the natural stuff too. Obviously I don't want someone direct flashing me all day long but I really don't need to know you are a natural light photographer, your images will reflect this.
4) Return / Follow Up Emails Promptly: I feel like this is a given, but it still blows me away how many last minute emails or lack of responses I have been getting. I am about to drop thousands of dollars on your services so please just show me you can return emails. I truly understand things get busy, but follow-up is a must if you are to gain my trust and confidence for our day. If you say you are going to follow up with an email do so within 24 hours. Every email should be actioned within that window. I also like to follow up before a scheduled meeting. Just a nice email saying "hey I am on my way", or "look forward to meeting you today at 5pm."
5) Portfolio: As I viewed photographers I wanted to see their portfolio quickly. I can glance at images and figure out if this is a photographer I want to know more about. When your portfolio is only viewed at one image at a time it just takes too long. I'm not against slideshows, but there needs to be an option to see a large quantity of your work quickly. I want to be able to scroll through some images and get an idea of your style, look, and flow.
6) Film: I love film. I shoot film. I shoot film at some weddings. The dynamic range is rocking! However, at least half of my wedding is going to be at night. This scares when looking through film shooters' portfolios and not seeing a single night photo. What?!? If you shoot film, make sure you show all lighting conditions so your couple sees your look across a full wedding. Heck, even as a digital shooter you should have some night photos in your portfolio.
7) Full Wedding Portfolio: There was a time when I was not the biggest fan of someone asking to see a full wedding. However, now I send one right away to show the clients how their wedding will be delivered online. Bam here it is, this is how I break it up, every image in color and b&w. It gives them an expectation of your final product and puts you on the same page. Just offer it up or send it in your inquiry email.
8) Hard Media: Maybe I am not changing with the times, but I really appreciate the idea of having the full wedding on hard media. What is the point of shooting with a D800 (36 mp) if you only delivery these "high res" images online... give me the full res! Just do it.
9) Recommendations: As a wedding photographer you have more insight on weddings than you think. I am currently working on a recommendations page to list the vendors I like / have worked with. Being able to give the couple advice grows the relationship before the wedding day and karma will treat you well. Just make sure they are reliable and notify those vendors that you are listing them.
10) Music: I would really consider not having music playing on your website. I tend to load several web pages at a time and it is hard to find what tab is making the unwanted noise.
11) Flash Website: My fiance only has an ipad, she could not view anything on flash sites. They were cut right away.
I do not believe that I know it all, these suggestions just popped out at me and my fiance while I was searching. Feel free to share any other suggestions in the comments. We should always be refining our business to our customer's needs and wants.