At times being a wedding photographer can be a tough test of mental fortitude. I’m sure most, if not all, wedding photographers have had that moment when it seemed like the wedding photographer market in your city was full of more hot names than an A-list celebrity wedding; and the thought was had how do I stand a chance in this field? This is an understandable question, but of course the answer is NOT to give up. Instead, stand out as a wedding photographer and you’ll achieve this in three simple ways: 1) being unique, 2) being a story teller, and 3) offering the highest quality overall experience.
Unique is One of a Kind
When it comes to being unique I am looking at this from the business perspective. In this way it pays to be unique by offering products and services that aren’t so typical. As the old business philosophy goes: be different, don’t follow trends, but start them. Just because the photography scene isn’t offering printed albums may not mean you shouldn’t – be that photographer. The other photographers you know may not seem interested in some photo product – get it, try it, separate yourself, start that trend, establish it.
Speaking of albums this is often the best way to establish yourself as “unique”. For any older photographers out there it’s crazy to think, but true, that albums are almost becoming unusual in this day and age. Instead, many photographers prefer to be pushing digital options and their clients – seeing the low price tag – don’t see the reason to rock the boat. In this way, even by offering printed albums and printed products in general you may be separating yourself from the herd. Yet, even if albums are around in your area don’t fold your hand; instead double down.
Offering printed products is the perfect way to not only stand-out as a photographer, but also appear more professional and credible. Again, even if others around offer up albums, simply offer more. Don’t be afraid to display an extensive and diverse sampling in your studio. As my psychology professor used to always say the one truth in psychology is that people vary; while it’s certainly impossible to please everyone the “what would you like?,” approach is much more appealing and professional than the one-size-fits-all methodology. Your clients will have different tastes. Therefore, guide them, but within reason, try to appease their tastes as much as you can.
Moreover, offering printed products doesn’t need to mean only albums. Don’t be afraid to get creative and offer some printed photo products such as images boxes, folio boxes, three-fold print displays, album-box-USB package deals, or HD photo books. Once more, the more diverse and creative your studio display and offering the more unique, professional, and trustworthy you’ll appear to your clients.
The Story is the Sell
Of course if you’re really looking to maximize clientele then its not only the products you offer, but what you put inside those offers as well that will set you apart. This is when it pays (pun intended) to be a storyteller and not simply a photo-taker. The bad news in today’s world is that the masses can easily get an above-average camera and USB and achieve decent images. However, the GOOD news remains that these average-Janes-and-Joes of the masses aren’t photo artists.
Here is where you as the pro come in. Your role has now expanded; from being the one with the fancy equipment and the eye, to that as well as an artistic, photographic storyteller. This is especially true when it comes to weddings and wedding albums. You, as the professional photographer, still retain that artistic, photographic vision and now need to take it a step further and use it to develop a gripping story around your photos.
Case and point: while there is always a place for the odd everyone-gather-round-and-say-cheese wedding photo, but just make sure your album, or photo product, doesn’t lose it’s flow. Include pictures that profoundly highlight the moment and capture the purest emotions – even if they aren’t the most technically sound. Also, as mentioned, choose photos that fit in the story line and naturally, compellingly keep it moving. Adapt these ideas into your own style and I’m sure you’ll need a bigger reservation book.
Quality is King & Queen
Lastly, the best way to entice clients in the first place and keep them coming back is to offer the highest quality. I know, I know, it’s like OK, enough please tell me something I don’t know! However, I am taking it a step further.
Of course, this implies products –do be sure to do your research and find printing lab(s) that offer extraordinary quality at a decent price (they do exist) - and your own images and projects as mentioned above already, but I am going deeper here and speaking about the experience you offer.
Be as personal as possible and every so often take a step back, put yourself in your client’s shoes, and ask yourself how you’d like the experience to go. Don’t be afraid to meet with clients before the shoot. Use this time to walk them through what to expect from you and ask them what they’d like in the shoot, after the shoot in terms of products, if a printed product – which? How would they like it designed? Any special requests (within reason of course)? Give them the impression they are guiding the decisions even if they really aren’t. Listen to what they say, but have no fear of discussing with them why an idea you have may be more practical, stylish, or fitting. Clients who feel like they are being heard and can have an input are always satisfied and a satisfied client is almost always a returning client – and/or at least one spreading the good word.
Your Story is Your Sell
Speaking of which, my bonus tip to help yourself is to be confident and get the word out about your business. Ask people around to help advertise your business. For example, strike an agreement with your town’s florist, or beauty saloon, or bridal dress shop to recommend you, or let you leave a sample album, or a few sample photos. Perhaps you can go quid-pro-quo and one of those businesses would benefit themselves from their product having some good pictures taken. The next thing you know you not only have your word out, but have potentially made some great connections and even friends.
Remember the most beautiful diamond can only be one that’s been mined; been seen. You could be the most skilled and artistic photographer but if your word isn’t out people won’t even know you’re there. Even if you don’t believe that you’re the best – act like; advertise like it.
As a professional photographer you have skills that are highly sought after and valuable. You possess more than just a knack for taking good photos, but also an artistic eye – which is invaluable. Take full advantage of this as you look to market your business and make a name for yourself. Be yourself and don’t ever go too far out of character, but don’t shy away from trying different things and offering a variety of products. In the end remember to be unique, be a storyteller with your amazing photographs, and offer the highest quality products, service, and experience. With this it’ll be you as the A-list wedding photographer that other photographers will envy.