The importance of wedding photography is emphasized by the fact that most weddings seem to pass by very quickly for brides and grooms. If you ask most married couples to describe their special day, they will tell you it went by in a blink of an eye. This is the main reason wedding photography is so immensely important; it captures in sharp focus the moments of a day that requires months of planning and then so often passes by as blur for the bride and groom.
BUILDING A RELATIONSHIP
The most important part of wedding photography is the relationship you build with your clients. That relationship begins with the first meeting and continues to grow with each step of the wedding planning through the presentation of final photographs. In fact, great wedding photographers continue the relationship with past clients long after the couple has received their final product. You might be the best photographer and technically brilliant, but to be a great wedding photographer also requires the right kind of personality. You need to sincerely want to be friends with your clients and fully gain their trust.
As a wedding photographer, a bride and groom will be sharing one of the most intimate days in their lives with you. You will be there as they are getting ready, when they see each other for the first time that day, when the bride walks down the aisle toward her future husband and when, as a couple, they walk back down the aisle after the ceremony. You’ll be there when the couple is introduced as a married couple for the first time, when they have their first dance, and all the other noteworthy moments during the wedding day.
To best capture all of these intimate moments, you must develop a strong and trusting relationship with both the bride and groom. When you meet new clients, try to begin to build this relationship from the very first time you speak with them, by focusing the meeting on their needs, not yours.
When meeting by phone or email, it is really important to clearly convey your thoughts and information. Unfortunately, it’s entirely too easy to have miscommunications and misunderstandings when only communicating by phone and email. To counteract this, always try to be really specific and when in doubt, make sure to ask questions and get clarifications.
When you do get to meet potential clients for the first time in person, let them pick the location. Many people want to meet at a coffee shop and that can be a good choice, but try to suggest one that isn’t very busy so that you can talk with little interruption. Other great locations are nice hotel lobbies or even a quiet restaurant. There will be times you’ll be invited to the client’s house, which is great because it lets you get a strong sense of who they are and assess their personal style. Meeting at a client’s home also allows you to meet them where they are most comfortable and it will help you understand what direction they may be leaning in regards to their budget and style of photography. You can also learn more about their personalities and interests.
At this initial meeting, bring a couple of wedding albums so prospective clients can see more detailed examples of your work. It is important to let them see samples that cover the entire wedding day. For most couples, choosing a wedding photographer is a new experience. Often, they don’t realize the depth of services you can provide, so this is a great opportunity to show them how you can fully capture their special day. Also bring along a pricing sheet so you don’t have to discuss or barter about price and service. Don’t ask for a deposit or expect the couple to make a decision immediately. In fact, don’t discuss pricing unless the couple brings it up. Just leave them with the pricing guide so they can take the information home and discuss it.
Choosing a wedding photographer is an important decision to make and there is no need to rush it or be pressured into making a decision. Make sure potential clients have enough information about what you do and how you do it so they can make an informed decision. Tell them to go home, discuss the meeting, look over your images, and contact you with any additional questions they might have. If they hire you, make them feel confident that they chose the best photographer for their special day.
The initial meeting is not just about a business negotiation, but it is a chance to get to know the couple, to see how they interact and to find out about their wedding day. Regardless of whether you are meeting the clients in person, on the phone or through email, try to get as much information about the wedding and the couple as possible. For example, the choice of wedding location and reception are usually significant choices for the couple. Perhaps they picked the historic church because they love the architecture or the museum reception location because they are lovers of art. Knowing these elements would be beneficial for you to know as the photographer and possibly incorporate in the shots.
An important aspect of this initial meeting is that it gives you a chance to educate potential clients about how you work and what they can expect from you. While price and their budget can come into play, most people will book you because of your personality, your work, and the experience you bring to the table. The impression you make at the initial meeting will help potential clients determine if you will be a good fit for their wedding.
Questions to ask the couple at the initial meeting:
- Bride’s name and contact information
- Groom’s name and contact information
- Where will the wedding be held?
- Where will the reception be held?
- What is the wedding date?
- What is the wedding schedule?
- Will there be a rehearsal the night before?
- Is there a wedding coordinator? If so, need contact information.
- Why did they choose the locations and date?
- What are they looking for in a wedding photographer?
- Find out more about their families
- How do they want to handle their first meeting—before the wedding or when the bride fi rst walks down the aisle? This will determine the wedding schedule.
- How did he or she propose?
- What is the location of the honeymoon
- Estimated number of guests at the wedding
- Names of all the people involved in the wedding (family, wedding party, main relatives, helpers)
- List of all the vendors (which you can use when you credit them in your blog and also for sending your work for publication)
- Learn more about bride’s and groom’s backgrounds, including how they met, what they do, and their hobbies and interests
Initial Meeting Checklist:
- Meet in person when possible
- Let the client choose the location
- Dress appropriately for the occasion
- Pay for your clients’ coffee or drinks
- Take sample photo albums
- Take a calendar updated with all previous obligations
- Provide a price list for the client to take home
- Discuss expectations, both yours and the clients’
- Take a laptop or notebook for notes
- Don’t expect or require the couple to make an immediate decision
BEING ON THE SAME PAGE
While it isn’t usually great business practice to turn down clients, it is important to recognize when a couple may not be a good fit for your business. While there’s an innate desire to want to book every wedding, it is not usually possible from a scheduling standpoint, and certainly not desirable. You have to select wisely, ensuring that you and the client will both be happy in the end. Chances are, if you are booking every wedding, you’re not being selective enough. The case may also be that you are not pricing yourself appropriately.
Often the biggest hurdle in finalizing a deal is price. Weddings are expensive, and there are lots of unexpected costs that couples won’t anticipate. But after the food has all been eaten, the thank you notes written, the dress hung up and their life as a married couple well on the way, the photographs from the wedding will still be there to transport them back to that day, that time. Even if the couple doesn’t understand how important their wedding photos will be, you must know how much your work is worth.
Negotiating is fine, but too often wedding photographers (photographers in general really) are tempted to lower our prices just to get the job. As photographers, we need to value the time and the investment we have made in our businesses, and when you negotiate lower prices, you are potentially losing profit in your business. If you respect yourself and your talents, clients will too. Remember that even if you do not get this client, there will be another opportunity waiting for you.
It is important to make sure your clients understand what they will be getting in return for their money, and help them see the value in what you will provide. When a couple wants to hire you, send them a contract, which details the services you will provide so there are no surprises later on. Include an advance fee due to reserve the date and lock you in as their photographer. Do not use the term “deposit” because legally a deposit can be refunded. Make sure they are clear that this fee is non-refundable because you are setting this date aside for them alone, and cannot take on any other jobs that day. It is not acceptable for them to cancel when you may have turned down other potential clients.
Some of the important information in a contract includes:
- Client contact information
- Venue location
- Event date
- The amount of time you will be shooting on their wedding day
- Engagement photos
- Assistant costs
- Second shooter costs
- Incidentals and travel costs
- Album costs
- Fee schedule, including amount due for “date-reservation”
- When the clients can expect to receive their final images
- What happens if you cannot make it due to an act of God, accident or other legal issues?
- What happens if they are forced to cancel or reschedule their wedding?
As you begin your relationship with new clients, it is important to gain their trust and remember that while you may shoot dozens of weddings each year, this is most likely a once in a lifetime experience for them. Imagine the positive impact you can have on the couples you photograph. Let them know you understand the significance of this event and want to be part of their special day. They will appreciate you for rest of their lives.