the right match [for the excited bride & the anxious photographer]

i sipped on my vanilla-blonde-roast coffee and once again pushed rearranged the table. i was in an unfamiliar starbucks with only one surge available. i had a bride & groom on their way and i needed to make sure my computer was charged [fail from forgetting the night before]. finally a biker grabbed his coffee & newspaper and skedaddled away from the best table so i snatch it. [why do bikers drink hot coffee? it does not make sense]. the door opens and i glance over to see if my couple arrived thirty-minutes early. nope, only a flock of san francisco police officers. where is my single sister-in-law? she needs to be here, i thought. quickly i returned to my job of setting up for the all-encompassing client meeting. i had made it a rule recently after last year’s mistake decision to book couples whom i had never met. although their wedding day went beautifully and we got along, i realized that meeting in person for coffee screams speaks so much to me. and if distance is an issue, then a phone call or skype session comes in handy.

but now that the new year has passed and i have been able to reflect a lot on how i do my work, i decided that getting to know my couple [even over pippin’ hot coffee] can help close the gap between their expectations and those of my own [and i kind of have a lot]. i know that couples who are not adventurous are not my couple. i know that couples who love Style Me Pretty are not going to get pretty from me. i know that i rather book three weddings with couples i love than thirty with couples i tolerate. and i know that if i want my couples to jump into 50 degree water, that i am going to get drenched alongside of them.

excuse, are you bethany?
yes, i am! hi! you must be…

sitting next to me for 45 minutes was the groom himself. prompt man, i like that. once his lovely bride arrived, i would have one of the best client meetings i have had ever in a long time.

now, we did not walk away with a contract signed or an agreement made. i do not work like that. actually i am quite opposite – i like to take my time booking. so in essence, this post is not for the photographer who wants to learn how to “book a wedding in 30 seconds”. i want to share my personal pieces of advice with photographers who are anxious to book-up their season and to also share with the glowing couples who are looking for their right photographer.

for the excited bride
before you contact the photographer, review, review, review their online portfolio. with a bottle of wine [or cup of coffee] make it a date-night with your fiancé to sit down together and review the photographers blog [check out their most recent sessions to get an accurate view of their current style & ability], review their website to read about them and their background, review their facebook page [it can give you insight into the photographer’s personality and following], and lastly come to a mutual agreement if you both like the style of work the photographer is offering. you would be surprised how many grooms or couples even that i talk to who haven’t seen more than one or two of my photos. if you both find yourselves excited about their work then take the next step and contact the photographer.

– if a photographer is willing to book you without really getting to know you, slow down. be cautious. most likely, the photographer just wants to book the wedding rather than book you.

– if you feel like you are being pressured by a pushy salesman to buy an expensive pair of shoes without trying them on, you are not with the right photographer. investing in a wedding collection or product should be a joyful, easy-going process that does not overwhelm you.

– ask the right questions [and they are not always the ones that the Knot tells you to ask]. as our hour-conversation wrapped up last night, the sweet bride asked me “what do look for in your clients? do you have a certain type of couple you want to work with?” perfect question to ask. this gave me [as the photographer] the chance to tell them what’s most important to me so they can hear my expectations.

– keep in mind, the one person that is consistently by your side on your wedding day is your photographer. it is important crucial that the three of you work well together, get along, have fun and are on the same page. if one person is not comfortable, it will not work.

– be realistic. if you want a specific style you saw featured on your favorite wedding blog, make sure the photographer you book has a portfolio with the same style. don’t just assume that your photographer you book is going to magically become the photographer you saw on theKnot.

– referrals usually don’t lie. but not all referrals mean that it is the perfect match. take the time to make sure you click with your photographer instead of going off of how your mom or best friend felt about them.

for the anxious photographer

– slow down. breathe. i know you see piles of bills that need to be paid for and you need to book three more weddings in order to live. but breathe. slow down.

– book couples who want, no no, couples who crave your work. not the work that they saw on a wedding blog that they want you to emulate. no, your style, your vision, your work. do not sway your artistic identity to fit a bride’s imagination.

– initiate an in-person [or phone if you are too far] meeting so you can get to know the personality, background and expectations of the couple.

– go into meetings with the purpose of interviewing the couple. you are investing as much as they are. prepare questions that give you insight into who they are.

– don’t be afraid to say no. the moment i learned that i can say no to a couple was the moment i felt freedom in my work. up until then, it never dawned on me that i could turn a potential client down. once i matured understood that i have the ability to say no, i was able to book couples that were perfect matches for myself.

– by the end of the meeting, if you feel that the couple is a great match for you, let them know why you think so. but [here comes the but] encourage them to not make any decisions at that moment. i never push the contract or a decision time at a meeting. some photographers would disagree. however, i do not want my couples to feel rushed and honestly, i do not want to feel rushed in whether or not i would like to work with them.

– follow-up. follow-up. follow-up. not two weeks later, but a couple days after. show your couple that you are attentive, are there to answer anymore questions and to assist in anyway [yes, even if that means to refer them to another photographer]

– lastly, don’t be afraid to work with five great couples in a season, rather than book fifteen couples you will not work well with. photography is a slow-building business that takes some seasons to develop. invest in the couples that can help shape the way you want your business to go.

finally

lovely brides, book the photographer whom you crave their style & love their personality [their is a specific photographer out there for all of us]
and
lovely photographers, don’t be afraid to protect your art by having the courage to say no so that you may have the ability to say yes to those you feel are perfect match for your work.

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[photo in bloomington, indian 2012]