You Are Taking Way Too Long to Respond to Your Emails

You Are Taking Way Too Long to Respond to Your Emails

Life is busy… I get it. Between weddings, engagements, meetings, phone calls, and the seemingly never ending hours of toil spent in the Lightroom develop module it can be very easy to let things go. It starts small at first. You forget to send that album to print, or you forget to listen to that voicemail from yesterday morning. Slowly, it seeps further into your workflow, until you suddenly realize you haven’t cleared out your inbox in three days. 

I’ll tell you right now that I have a very strict rule on responding to inquiry emails. I check and respond once at 8am, once at 2pm, and finally again at 9pm. A lot of photographers use the 24 hour rule. That is way too long, and you are losing business because of it.

That might seem a little over the top, but it is the number one thing that I do in the day-to-day of my business that not only puts money in my pocket, but puts me above the rest of the competition. Before you dismiss all this, hear me out.

The Primacy Effect

There’s a lot of research and study, both in the field of psychology and economics about something called the Primacy Effect. It essentially describes the importance of being first-in. It is a core cognitive bias that says humans can recall information given to them at the beginning of a data set far better than the middle (and even in some situations) the end. Think about it. How many brides have you sat across from who said something like “We looked at 15 venues, but ended up picking the first one we saw!!” That’s the Primacy Effect.

It may seem like a stretch to apply this into the business of wedding photography, but my argument is that the first photographer in the door is much more likely to be hired by the couple than the 2nd, 5th, 10th, or 20th.

Set the Standard

By replying to a bride’s inquiry as quickly as you can, you then set the standard for all of the other photographers who are coming in after you. It doesn’t have to end there either. Not only should you be the first to respond, you should also try and be the first to set a meeting to make your pitch. 

I’ve been working hard on this the past four years, and when I get an inquiry, (who ends up wanting to meet) the average number of days between her first email to me and when I meet with her has been trending further and further down.

Eight days after having emailed me for the very first time I have responded to the inquiry, given out a full set of pricing, set up a meeting, met with the couple, showed them albums, showed them more images, and reviewed my contract. How many other photographers were just starting the process of connecting with the couple by the time I’ve reached this point? According to my data - far too many.

Should You Use an Auto-Response?

No.

What better way to get a bride’s hopes up than for her to get home from a long day of work, see that a photographer has responded, only to find out it’s an auto-response. In the middle of an already stressful wedding-planning process, I believe this puts you in a negative light. Instead of an auto-response, give her a real response. Let your first impression be the one that sells her. 

Not to mention that auto responses are impersonal, and very corporate. Nothing screams Microsoft Outlook on a Dell computer in a grey, windowless cubicle farm than an auto-response. You’re not too busy - write the email, get the business, make the money.

The Data Doesn't Lie

You know what I did? I went ahead and inquired with 50 photographers in my regional area. I used a made up name with a made up date, and reached out via email to track the results. The findings were borderline outrageous. 

How can you possibly run a business where you can’t even respond to an email within a week? There are a lot of photographers out there (some that I know personally) that like to throw around some pretty popular sentiments. I’m sure you’ve heard them too.

“It’s the economy.”

“Young photographers are taking over.”

“I’m being undercut.”

If you can’t get back to a bride who is interested in hiring you inside of three days you don’t deserve her business. You haven’t earned it, and her first impression of you is someone who is too busy to write a simple response. 

Now I'm Getting Sassy

How many photographers spend endless hours shooting “trend shoots” with planners and florists? Pinterest-worthy photos of lush flowers draping beautifully over antique place settings and burlap table runners with “shabby shic” tablescapes and sparkly back-lighting.

Great job!  While you spent an entire day creating images for someone else, I just met with your potential bride and she hired me. If I sound frustrated or angry, it’s because I am. When did so many of us decide that “being an artist” put us above simple, day-to-day tasks like responding to emails? 

What’s interesting is I want everyone to succeed. I want the industry as a whole to modernize, and accept that this business has changed a lot in the last ten years. We all want the same things… a good income, a sense of artistry, to fan our creative flames while still being able to pay for the kids’ daycare, or the mortgage. But we can’t just latch onto the coattails of a booming 2006 economy and ride the wave to success. We have to work harder for it now. This is the reality we live in.

The bottom line is this. There are a lot of photographers like me who are hungry. We get our thrills from cashing those checks, and we’re not slowing down. The barrier to entry in this business has fallen dramatically, and if keeping up with your inbox is too much then it may be time to hang that camera up forever.

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11 Comments

Anonymous's picture

I don't shoot weddings but you're absolutely correct for, well...every pursuit, business or otherwise.

Eric Brushett's picture

I probably should have written in my article that the importance of this goes well beyond weddings, and is probably applicable in every discipline of photography. Thanks for the comment and the read!

Caleb Kerr's picture

Absolutely! I've made a new rule for myself that no matter what I'm doing, unless I"m on a shoot, if a (potential) client wants something, I drop what I'm doing and handle it. Usually it's asking for pricing, and there's no excuse to not get that to them ASAP.

Eric Brushett's picture

I'm with you! I get push notifications to my phone, and if it's an inquiry I respond. Good on you for recognizing the value in this. Cheers.

William Talamelli's picture

The only reason I found this article was because of how many of your fellow CT photographers are talking about how malicious and inappropriate your fake e-mail research was. I agree with you and always respond as soon as possible but you could've found a less troll like way to conduct research.

Eric Brushett's picture

Thanks for the insight, Will. I'm sorry you feel that way. I would wonder how many of the photographers who seem unimpressed by my article were the ones who forgot to respond to the inquiry?

By the way, the data I presented above was collected about 18 months ago and covered well beyond the borders of our state. I wanted to be fair in who was included in my inquiries geographically, so I hit up photographers from Maine to Philly (yes, many in CT).

It's easy to say I'm trolling, and I'm actually OK with that label. What is interesting about the photographer community (both in CT and as a whole) is we are so quick to judge others, but we fail to do so against the standard we are setting ourselves.

Who knows, maybe my article will help a few of those who think I'm being malicious by pointing out how a simple change can make a big impact on their businesses.

Regardless, thank you for the comment and the read (and congrats on creating some really wonderful work). Cheers.

Pho To's picture

I applaud you for your HONESTY. Keep it up and tell everyone how to also TROLL "THE KNOT" boards, PRETENDING to be a "Bride" and steer potential "victims/clients" your way. Other photographers who value business ethic think you are trash, and rightly so. I am appalled that F-stoppers has even give this troll a "Voice" on here.

Eric Brushett's picture

Love the name... but I'm sorry you feel so slighted. It's just business - I'm trying to learn what my competition is up to so I can be better. You don't think the execs at Apple are sending interns to buy the latest phone from their competitors, or vice versa? Thanks for the read anyway.

Pho To's picture

Eric Brushett, instead of all the time spent trolling other photographers and their pricing, maybe spend that time becoming a BETTER PHOTOGRAPHER?? -just a thought.

Rob Mynard's picture

Wow, why all the hate towards Eric? So 50 photographers received an email 18 months ago and may have lost up to 10 minutes out of their lives answering it, I don't understand the problem. From the looks of his results only 14 or so of those were running a serious business anyway (I would actually say only 9 responded in a professional, timely manner).

Brad Delaney's picture

Hi Eric, Great article, I too find it amazing that Photographers take so long long to respond to enquiries. Enquiries keep my bank account ticking over. Its called doing the work. Some people just expect business to happen & they don't understand the work that goes into it. My real opinion is that if you are a full time working professional and you cant respond to an enquiry within an 8 hour time frame your business will/is or about to start suffering. I also believe that there are a very high percentage of part time Photogs in the market that can't respond in a timely manner because they are busy with their 9 - 5 & thats Ok as well. I had a 9- 5 once and made the switch to full time. Wow when your rent & your kids depends on those enquiries you respond more quickly. Maybe the guys that believe that doing a bit of research is trolling ? have never paid their rent from the money they earn as a photographer. cheers for a good article and for making look at my system to see if I can respond even quicker.