Picture this (get it? “picture this”, sometimes I kill myself :)) You are a business owner. More than that, you’re a photographer. Even deeper, you’re a Wedding Photographer. Does this apply to nearly any business? Perhaps, but I’m a Wedding Photographer so I’m going with that…..mkay?
Let’s say business is slow, which, in recent years, it is. There’s no denying it. Don’t get me wrong, we’re doing juuuuust fine, but we could all use a bit more, am I right? So, with business being what it is, every single phone call, email, or contact is super important (not saying they weren’t before, but… you know what I mean). One day, a bride calls you. She is looking around at photographers for her wedding and you made her first cut. Now she’s setting appointments to meet with prospective photogs for her big day. She seems nice, everything sounds alright, so you set the appointment to talk some more. With me so far?
She shows up, on time no less (hey, it’s my story, alright?). She’s very nice, brought her Mom along too. You all spend some time talking and looking through your photographs, albums, etc. Then she tells you how much she loves your work. You’re flattered of course. Then she proceeds to tell you all the things she doesn’t want you to do. For instance, I am known for a “romantic” style, with a vintagey (is that a word?) look. She says she doesn’t want any kissing pictures and she wants table shots of all the guests done during dinner. Umm???
What do you do?
Well…. since you could use the work, you agree to do what she wants, since she happily buys a nice package and gives a retainer. I mean, you’re a Wedding Photographer, you should try to book as many weddings as you can, right? Or… if you didn’t book it, one of your competitors would, for sure. Hey! They paid! That’s half the battle. Rationalization, it’s a wonderful thing.
The wedding day arrives, and you show up, ready to work. You begin posing the bride in some sexy poses, to which she says, “I don’t want any posed pictures.” Trying to hold back your reaction, you nod your head and continue on creating “timeless, candid” images for the bride. Once you reach the reception, and dinner is on the table, you are reminded by the Mother of the Bride about table shots. Uggh. Secretly, you’d hoped they forgot. Ok, so you go around to all the tables and coerce the guests to get up from eating to fake a smile at your camera. Considering the clutter and food all over the table, and the fact that the guests aren’t so “into” the photographs, you’re happy if they simply stand there and swallow before you take the shot. During all this time, the bride and groom are being all cutesie at the Head Table, but, they wanted these Table Shots. The night ends. You deliver the images. The bride loves them. Yep, she is absolutely thrilled, you are, after all, a professional photographer and take pride in doing the job properly.
A few weeks later, you get another call. Its from a friend of that bride. She saw your work and is getting married herself and wants to hire you to be her photographer. Awesome news! Referrals are your best friend in this business. She of course wants you do to, “the exact same thing you did for so-and-so”. Sure, you sign the contract, take the money, and do the job, well, I might add. Secretly, you’re dying inside. This is not your kind of Wedding Photography. You still make the bride happy, and she of course, sends all of her friends to you.
A few years later, you’re sitting with a bride who got your name from a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend of that first bride that wanted “no posed shots”, “no kissing shots”, and, “I have to have table shots”. Because you’ve done dozens of weddings for her group of friends, you get the job and she wants the same thing as all the others. When she leaves your studio, you decide right then and there that the Wedding Business has changed. It’s not for you. The Brides just don’t understand and they all want things that are out of your comfort zone to do. Yep, the industry changed right before your eyes.
Did it now…….
What if you could go back in time? What if you could tell that first bride that you’re not the right photographer for her? What if… instead of taking that job that day, you got a super cool, flexible bride who “got” your work and gave you license to “do your thing”? First, you’d have been happier at the wedding. Second, the referrals from that wedding would be for the style you are known for. Third, you’d not hate weddings in just a few years. The industry didn’t change, you bent your own rules to get a job. Bad idea.
There is a Photographer for Everyone.
Read that statement a few times….. let it sink in. Go ahead. I can wait.
Now….. without being too simplistic, what does that mean…. exactly?
It means, you are not the right photographer for every bride that comes knocking. Yes, its true, you should NOT take a client just because they have the ability and desire to pay you. Yeah, easier said than done.
Quick question: Ever notice how many people get out of Photographing Weddings after a few years? It always seems like they have the same reasons too…. “Bridezillas”, “too stressful”, “the clients are just too much trouble”, the list goes on and on. Now, isn’t it just a teeny bit possible that many of them bent their own personal ethos and took a client that wasn’t right for them, and started down the long road to “Table Shot Hell”? I think that could be part of it. Don’t get me wrong, Wedding Photography is demanding work. It’s not for everyone. It’s actually less about the photography and more about psychology and people skills. If you’re not a good photographer to start with? You’re screwed. Can’t work with people? Ehh….. maybe get into landscape work or something?
I know, it’s hard to turn down a payday when it’s being placed right on your lap. Resist the temptation! You will thank me later. When I meet with a client, we already know what they want, they already know what we charge, and we both agree that it takes two to Tango. During their consultation, if they start asking for things that are way out of line for what we normally do, I listen to the alarms going off in my head (you get those too, right?). When enough alarms go off, I say, “I don’t think we’re the right photographer for you….. let me recommend someone?” Sometimes, they resist and tell us how they love our work. I remind them of all the things they wanted changed about that work they love so much. In the end, it’s better for all parties involved if they find a photographer who wants to do exactly what they are looking for. Makes perfect sense right? Such a simple idea.
Now, let me explain something. Everyone has an idea of what they want for their wedding. They’re all different, and I encourage that. We love people to do out of the ordinary things at their wedding. I’m talking about style differences. For example, if your style is traditional, formal posing, studio style lighting and setup, and the bride wants a casual, candid, outdoorsy, pastel kind of look? Guess what? She’s not the right bride for you. The thing is…. they might not realize it themselves. It’s your job as the professional to guide them into making the “right decision”, not just “a decision”. It’s hard, but you’ll sleep better and have less gray hair.
Yes, my Padawans, this is the secret to long life in the Wedding Industry. When you do what you love, it’s not work. If it becomes work, you’re not doing what you love anymore. It’s so easy to blame the “Industry” or the “Brides”, but in truth, if you keep true to yourself and your ideals, you will attract customers that want what you are about.
Alrighty….. let the Saturday begin!