Now that wedding season is in full swing, I’d like to reflect on a few ways that you can take your current performance and boost it to the next level. I always hear people say that the wedding photography market is too saturated. True, there are a lot of photographers these days, but it’s possible to stand out if you can find ways to be creative, hustle, and connect with the right people.
Shooting weddings is not for everyone, you need to be willing to do what most people won’t. Can you keep a smile on your face when everything is going wrong? There are many simple things you can do on-location to set yourself apart from the competition. I recently shot a string of weddings and this is what I learned and how you can apply it to your photography.
1.) Hustle, Hustle, Hustle
After returning from shooting a wedding on the east coast, I received a text from the groom saying “Thanks for everything, you worked your ass off!” I was surprised, not because I thought slacked, but because that so many people at the event had noticed. Usually when the wedding is coming to an end, my back is starting to hurt, my feet throb, and my mind is racing. This is good, it lets me know that I did everything I could to get every possible shot. Going the extra mile will get you noticed by people and your name will pop up when a guest at the wedding is looking to hire for their own event.
2.) Not Every Shot Has to Be Perfect
It’s funny the way that we spend so much time learning our camera gear so that when the time comes we will know exactly what to do. Sometimes when I go back and look through the images in postproduction I find a few happy accidents. I was shooting detail shots of the bride's very expensive heels and totally missed focus. At the time I was annoyed that I was wasting valuable time. In retrospect, the shot is one of my favorites and is totally unique to how someone else would have shot it that day. Set yourself apart by thinking outside the box.
3.) Whenever Possible, Shoot the Rehearsal
I get asked a lot to fly in a day early and shoot the rehearsal dinner. Unless you're booked that day as well, you should jump at the chance to attend. I charge a fair price provided that accommodations are made for the extra day. But this is actually to my benefit. It gives me the chance to spend some time with the family and bridal party without all the pressure of timelines and shot lists. I can break bread with the attendees and get to know them, and most importantly they get to know me. People tend to hire those that they know, like, and trust. So spending time with people is my best way of booking future jobs.
4.) Give the Couple What They Want
Customer service goes a long way. I was in Starbucks the other day and I love that they always greet me by my first name. After buying my iced coffee, I spilled the drink everywhere. Before I could clean it up, one of the employees swooped in, cleaned it up, and filled the cup up again. Now that is customer service. On a wedding day the same rules apply. Whatever the couple wants, give it to them. If they want a photo with everyone at the wedding individually: “Sure thing!” I am only there to please the bride, groom, and their parents. No questions asked, no excuses, and absolutely no attitude. No matter what I am happy to fulfill every request.
5.) Always Thank the Parents
It is most likely that the person paying you for your services is the bride or groom's parents. I always make a point to sit down and chat with them at some point. I tell them a little bit about myself and compliment them on how good of a job raising their kids they did. This has nothing to do with business, it’s the right thing to do and the thing that my parents would want me to do. It’s out of respect. At the end of the end of the night I always say goodbye and thank them for making me feel welcome.
It’s very important that if you are starting out, don’t worry about how much money you're making. Spend your time working on how to make your client as a happy as possible. There will be plenty of time to learn how to make picture-perfect images. When things get a little shaky and you want to quit, remember that the feeling of failure comes and goes. There is always a better day on the horizon.