Every wedding photographer has their very own tricks to get their calendar fully booked each year. Websites and social networks have of course become a staple for every solid business nowadays. But sometimes we forget that brides and grooms are not connected 24 hours a day and that they might meet other vendors before coming to us. This might be the oldest trick existing to get booked, but referrals from other vendors are a strong way of getting more business.
I used to count only on my website and a little bit on Facebook to get booked on my first year of doing wedding photography. Today, my website is not so much up to date and social network profiles are filled with pictures from photoshoots instead of weddings. However, I still book just as much and that comes mostly from others vendors' referrals and a little bit from guests that were at weddings I documented. In this article, I just want to share with you three easy tricks that you can implement in your workflow to get more referrals from vendors. Best of all, you might already be doing them unconsciously, but perhaps just missing the last step that will take only a few minutes per wedding and increase the number of referrals you get.
Photos of Location and Services Offered
Every wedding I document, I find myself with moments where there is not much to photograph. For example, when arriving at the church and only a few guests are there, or waiting for people to get seated at the reception. The first year, I would use this time to breathe a few minutes, drink some water, and check my phone. Now, I take this time to photograph the location I am at in the best way possible. My goal is to create images that my clients will want to include in their album, but also to create pictures that the vendor/location will want to use on their website.
Anytime I see something that has cost anything to the bride and groom, whether it is the rings, the food, the dress, or the suit, I will take at least one picture of it. Again, a picture that my bride and groom will want to keep to remember that day and where their money went, but also a picture that the related vendor will want to use on their website or social network.
When culling and post-processing is done, I will send these pictures to the vendors. It is important to tell the vendors that these pictures are free in exchange for referrals, but use proper wording or else it might sound aggressive. If you shoot other genres other than weddings, feel free to add that if they need your services for more pictures, you would be more than happy to meet. It takes a few minutes and can lead to more weddings and more photography gigs. I have booked architectural and corporate work from this simple trick.
I am sure that everyone has already heard of same-day slideshows. If you have not, you have probably slept under a rock for the past few years and should look at the article Rebecca Britt wrote about it. To get referrals from guests, this is probably the best advertising tool ever for a wedding photographer. It has happened to me where I've signed a wedding while documenting another one, right after a couple had seen the same-day slideshow. How could it get any better than that? Well, think in terms of pleasing the vendors. Create your slideshow like you normally would and add a few pictures of details you captured during the day. I personally always add a few pictures of the decoration. Usually hotels create them and people do not even really look at it. By putting them in the slideshow, people will take the time to watch it and the hotel planner/decorator will be more than happy.
Speaking of the hotel planner, wedding coordinator, or whoever is in charge of the events at the place you are photographing the wedding, make sure they are in the room when you turn on the same-day slideshow. This is the best way to make sure they watch your work, fall in love with it, and eventually recommend you to future brides and grooms.
Another thing you can do (but be careful, this might be perceived as pure marketing by some couples) is add a list of the vendors at the end of the slideshow. I have had brides and grooms absolutely love that idea, and others hate it. It is always best to ask before the wedding if they would like you to do it or not. If you can, vendors will love you for that. Don't forget to put your logo at the top of the list so that it is the most visible thing.
Follow Up with the Event Coordinator/Planner
The last tip I'll give you is to follow up with the event coordinator, hotel planner, or the person in charge of the location where the wedding reception was. Contacting them after the wedding is one thing, but to keep in touch with them on a regular basis is far better. Simply ask if you can do anything for them, if they have an event planned and need pictures of the decoration, if they want pictures of their seasonal menu, or if they need new headshots of the staff. A hotel always has new things that need to be photographed. By offering your services to them, you will most likely become their preferred photographer and they will think of you anytime someone asks for a photographer.
These three tips are very easy to implement in a wedding photographer's workflow. They take only a few minutes and can help your business in a big way. To me, these tips were also the difference between getting clients from the Internet that could just barely afford me photographing and getting clients from 4 or 5-star hotels that would buy 60-page 12x12 inch albums. By getting referrals from certain vendors it will be much easier to get into the market you are after.
Finally, keep in mind most brides and grooms will get the locations and the dress before booking their photographer, so be sure that you are well-recommended by popular locations and dress shops/designers.