4 Best Practices for Wedding and Event Photography

best-practices-for-wedding-and-event-photography01During the past few years, the recession and economic turndown notwithstanding, it’s become ever clearer that event photography in general, and wedding photography in particular, have turned very competitive. It’s not just the fact that money is harder to come by generally speaking – there are now more hobbyists turning pro than before, since (semi-)professional DSLR cameras have gotten more affordable and accessible to handle. So we though a guide of best practices for wedding and event photography was in order, which is why we’ve collected some of the most essential advice on this topic that we could find on the web. Check it out and let us know if you think anything essential is missing from our list.

The selection is up to you, not the client

Events (and weddings in particular) are occasions for shooting non-stop. You fire away and, before you know it, your memory card is filled and you’ve got hundreds of photos to choose from. Curating the entire raw material and selecting the best photos might sound like a drag, a bore, and a chore, but you still need to do it. It’s up to the artist to select their best photos and present them to the client; allowing customers to wade through dozens of blurry, out-of-focus or otherwise inadequate pictures is entirely unprofessional.

Market yourself with deadlines

The above principle might sound counterintuitive, but it’s all about marketing your photography business properly in the digital era. You see, the Internet is altering purchasing mentalities as we speak – clients are much more prone now to put off a buying decision. However, with the right attitude and best practices for event and wedding photography, you can counter that. Set a deadline for yourself, create a special offer which expires after a certain date, and watch how your clients respond. Chances are many of them will react to this sense of urgency.

Business is business

Among the best practices for event and wedding photography is the fact that you need to remember you’re running a business. Sure, you may have gone into photography because it was fun, enjoyable, and you are passionate about it. However, at the end of the day you still have bills to pay, a studio to maintain, and equipment to purchase. Tailor your products and service cost planning according to your financial needs. Understand your market segment: take a good look at what sells and what doesn’t and always keep improving.

best-practices-for-wedding-and-event-photography02Build relationships

Photography is, to a large extent, a people-oriented field. If you work exclusively in non-wedding event photography, you probably already know how important it is to create a good relationship with your returning customers. The same applies for wedding photographers that regularly collaborate with a particular MUA, wedding planner, or wedding planning agency. So, what’s the best way to hone a successful professional relationship? It’s as simple as being personable, sociable, and friendly. Get people talking about you. Create word of mouth and work consistently toward building a reputation.

Looks like a pro, walks like a pro, talks like a pro…

Don’t dismiss the final item on our list of best practices for event and wedding photography as superficial. It’s important to present yourself as a professional photographer whenever you come into contact with (potential) clients. This means keeping your gear in good shape, having business cards prepared, and pitching your business – but not excessively and ad nauseam. What you want to achieve is to make (potential) clients understand that they need you. You will want them to seek you out, not the other way around, so do your research on trends, take part in wedding expos, and put your best foot forward, both in terms of professional attire, as well as in terms of professional portfolio.

Why Photography Contests Are Good for Business: 3 Arguments

photography-contests-are-good-for-business01Photo competitions have been around since the art of photography itself, but their history in itself doesn’t mean they are without detractors. On the one hand, there are those photo aficionados who tend to believe  that such contests are a sheer waste of time, organized by money- and rights-grabbing brutes with no real interest in the art. Yet, on the other, photo competitions do have value for the artists, since they prompt them to take an honest, objective look at their own work, cull it, curate it, and put their best foot forward. That’s why we at Virtual Photography Studio believe photography contests are good for business, no matter if you’re into wedding photography, glam, editorial, or photojournalism. They can help you carve out a niche and build a name for yourself and they can also do a whole lot more – join us as we explore three essential arguments in favor of photo contests.

#1 The money

It might sound petty, but one way to tell apart professional competitions from lame ones is the cash prizes. The winner of the International Photography Awards gets $10,000 in cash; the winner of the Deeper Perspective section within the same contest receives $5,000, and there’s also a $2,500 prize for the year’s best new photographer. If you win the grand prize of the Smithsonian Photo Contest you get $5,000 and there are also five $500 cash awards for the categories, plus a Readers’ Choice award worth just as much. The National Geographic Photo Contest awards its Grand Prize winner with $7,500 and each category winner with $2,500. Petty or not, when a serious chunk of cash is involved, one can’t help but think of how great money would be for making further investments into business.

#2 The exposure

Some photography contests are good for business even though they provide no actual cash prize, as is the case with the Photography Masters Cup. This competition asks for a $30 entrance fee and promises exposure in the PHOTO Paper Magazine, as well as several online media outlets. The above-mentioned IPA has had the work of its winners published on Buzzfeed, as well as on EYEMAZING. It goes without saying that some photo contests are great for exposure even only by sheer association (Smithsonian and National Geographic are two examples).photography-contests-are-good-for-business02

#3 The business leads

If you win the IPA, you get a trip to the prestigious Lucie Awards in NYC – and if you’re double lucky, you can even get your image selected for a 45-photo exhibition in the build-up for the show. And most local winners will get automatic exposure in local media outlets, irrespective of how prestigious the competition is – you can usually count on national/local pride to boost your prestige. Many previous winners of the contests mentioned above explained that photography contests are good for business because they allow you to become more connected with actual buyers in your niche. As such, winning the right contests is highly likely to ultimately boost your revenue.

Verdict: Top photography contests are good for business every time

Yes, we did say top photography contests are good for business – because the shady ones can actually be detrimental. Here are a few guidelines, if you’re looking to expand the notoriety of your wedding photography business by entering a contest and don’t know where to start:

-          Be wary of contests that charge entrance fees, but don’t offer any cash prizes. These are the money-hungry leeches we were referring to in the beginning.

-          Always, always read each competition’s policy on copyright. You do not want to give rights to your work for free, no matter how otherwise prestigious the contest sounds.

-          Make sure you enter the right category, when applying – and also check out the profile of each contest. Some are geared toward editorial work, while others tend to lean toward photojournalism more.

5 2014 Wedding Photography Trends to Watch out for

The year is well underway, yet many in the field of wedding photography are wondering what the most relevant 2014 wedding photography trends are. Read on to see our picks, which include online advertising, printed albums, and a whole new esthetic, in terms of actual picture-taking.

2014-wedding-photography-trendsFine-art photojournalism is in, vintage is out

‘Fine-art photojournalism?!’, you might exclaim. What’s that? Just what it sounds like: a blend of styles that brings together the candid quality of photojournalistic shots with just a dash of the impeccable style you would expect from fashion and editorial shoots. In other words, it’s the type of photography that manages to look both glamorous and unscripted. The vintage style, popular a few seasons ago, is reportedly falling out of grace with an increasing number of photographers, who are striving for a timeless look, instead of one that just looks dated from the get-go.

Truly professional photography

It was bound to happen, wasn’t it? On the one hand, we’ve seen a virtual boom of DSLR ownership among non-professionals over the past few years. On the other, an increasing number of photography hobbyists are going pro. These two factors combined bring us to one of the most interesting 2014 wedding photography trends. The experts predict this to be the year when the professionals will need to learn to set themselves apart from the non-pros. What’s the best way to do that? By finding a niche all your own and catering to the tastes of clients who know that a friend armed with a DSLR (no matter how expensive) is not quite the same thing as hiring a professional photographer.

Spectacular wedding albums2014-wedding-photography-trends02

In terms of 2014 wedding photography trends, one thing is for sure: much like in 2013, high-quality fine-art printed albums will continue to rule. Yes, yes, we know: these days everyone and their grandmother has Internet access and is dying to share digital wedding photos on social media. However, while providing your clients with a DVD of pictures taken on the big day will remain the standard, what will truly set the professionals apart is the energy they invest into creating a beautiful book of hard-copy mementos.

Stagnant pricing

The economy is ever so slowly recovering, but while this doesn’t justify price increases, the afflux of hobbyists turned professionals in the field of wedding photography warrants that prices will stay the same. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as it means the clientele is getting used to the idea that access to professional wedding photography services is something that comes at a price. In brief, the clients are becoming educated – and this is happening thanks to a handful of professional wedding photogs who are standing their ground, even in the face of economic sluggishness. What they’re doing actually benefits the entire field, since it means that emerging photographers don’t have to start out from the very bottom, in terms of fees.

2014-wedding-photography-trends03Wedding photography blogs

They’ve been around for just about as long as high-speed Internet connections, but the experts in 2014 wedding photography trends say that they’re here to stay for this year. It’s all thanks to the increasing weight and importance of online advertising. Social media has a lot to do with it, but so do the hefty prices that photographers are expected to pay, in order to have their work exhibited in bridal shows. Print advertising overall is declining and that’s obviously because there’s no comparing online publicity to what money can buy offline. As numerous professional wedding photogs are saying, these days a massive part of their business is coming in from their blog – so if you don’t have one already, you’d better get to it.

A Businessman’s Approach to Photography : The Best Method for Signing New Clients

Guest post by Topher Kelly

Photographs courtesy of Jared Bauman

In a world of salesmen who assure clients that they know “what’s best,” the Socratic sales method, one that revolves around listening and asking questions, isn’t the most popular approach. That said, there’s something to the Socratic sales method that most modern businessmen, whether they are a small town photographer or a Fortune 500 CEO, often underestimate. The art to of listening can uncover a potential client’s key fears, objections, and interests. This is information vital to making a connection and transforming a potential client into an impressed customer and loyal advocate.

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The reasons for employing the Socratic business method boils down to three simple benefits. Professional photographer and business coach Jared Bauman sums it up nicely: “When you ask the right questions and take the time to listen, the client will tell you what you need to know, you’ll learn about all their reservations and objections, and most importantly, you’ll gain their trust.” The key to achieving the benefits Bauman mentions depends on connecting with the potential client and asking the appropriate open-ended questions. “Try to keep them talking and relate to them whenever possible…the goal is to make them feel at home,” says Bauman.

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According to Bauman, the most rewarding part about this method is when that person is so involved in the conversation that they literally lean forward to you, their new acquaintance, and say “I can’t believe I’m telling you this!” With that in mind, your goal should be to make them feel at ease with you, so that they feel comfortable talking about where they are from, their engagement story, and as many other details as your time permits. Find out their style, income, and how big their family is without asking those questions directly. If you can do that, they’ll trust your vision of their special event and, more importantly, your pricing sheet.

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For photographers, the Socratic method is about more than just locking down a client. It’s about finding out if you and the potential customer in front of you are a good fit. “Most photographers, especially if they are just starting out, can’t shoot 300 weddings in a year. This process helps you solve the equation quickly – do I want to work their event? Do they want me to work their event?” says Bauman.

“What people often forget is that in the photography business, like any business, customers buy people, not the brand. You need to be genuinely interested in your potential clients and sell them what makes you unique as a person, not your Jared Headshotphotography service. That’s the step you need to take to be successful in this competitive industry.”

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With a background in business, Jared Bauman provides the photography community with professional coaching and education. He is an expert in photographer pricing, and has toured the country speaking about how to maximize profits through a clear and simple pricing structure.  Jared is teaching a free live online course on creativeLIVE August 1-3.

Why A Networking Group Can Save Your Photography Business

“I’m stuck.”

“I don’t know what to do next.”

“I have no clients and don’t know what to do.”

When clients (and profits) aren’t where they need to be, there’s only one thing to do … get more clients.

Yet in some cases that can seem like the most difficult and painful thing to do. You’ve tried things before. What should you do now?

The easiest answer is right down the street from you. And it takes the form of a Chamber of Commerce.

Chamber of Commerce offices are designed to help businesses get business and stay in business. They offer everything from advice, to networking opportunities, to resources and more. If you have a question, they are the best place to find an answer in your community.

If you’ve never been to your local chamber, what’s your first step? And what should you do when you get there? This is how to get started.

Why A Networking Group Can Save Your Photography Business

Find The Best Group

All chambers are not created equal. When we were first starting out, we joined two chambers and quickly found out that there is a difference.

The Denver Chamber was a huge group of people with lots of meetings and a ton of advice. But because they cater to the downtown Denver area, a lot of their members are larger, corporate businesses, and the members tend to be employees. We also found a lot of people in the professional venues, such as financial, law and real estate.

Then we joined the South Metro Denver Chamber, which catered to smaller businesses, more entrepreneurial in nature. And we found our target.

Spend the time to look at several in your area. Many focus in on areas – cities or regions – but you can find them based on a wide variety of interests. The Women’s Chamber, for instance, is a great place for targeting women based business opportunities.

Make sure you are comfortable with the people you meet, with the types of networking opportunities, and with the location. You will be working with it quite a bit to do it right, so make sure you have easy access. [Read more...]

The 3 Marketing Mistakes Photographers Make All The Time

Are you stuck in your photography business? Are clients just not coming through your door as fast as you wish? Or maybe the right clients aren’t coming through the door – they want the world for $1. What should you do next?

It isn’t your prospects and clients that have a problem; it’s you. If your business isn’t where you want it to be, it’s because you aren’t marketing it in the correct manner.  And if that’s the case, you’re probably making one of these mistakes.

Mistake #1 – Expecting online tools to effortlessly generate traffic

“Put up a website and they will come.”

“Open a Facebook account and I’ll have all the clients I need.”

There’s something about the online world that has people believing in miracles. So they build a free site on a web builder program and sit back and wait. Then they hear about the billions on Facebook and decide that’s the solution. So they set up a page there too.

Then they sit back and wait. And wait. And wait.The 3 Marketing Mistakes Photographers Make All The Time

The problem is in thinking the web is a magical place where all your dreams come true. It’s not. And it won’t.

The Internet is simply a marketing tool. You have to work at it each day, just like you have to with non-web based marketing as well.

If you send out postcards, you can’t send out 1,000 cards one day and expect your business to be around 25 years from now. You would have to send out 1,000 cards day after day, month after month, year after year, in order to keep bringing in the right customers at the right time.

And if you’re going to market online, you have to do something every day until the end of your business. You must write blog posts day after day. You must be active on Facebook week after week. You must strive to gain followers month after month, and keep them happy year after year. [Read more...]

7 Secrets To A Strong Photographic Portfolio That Most People Will Tell You Not To Do

I read an article the other day on building a photography portfolio. And while the article itself was written well and provided a ton of detail, I disagree with the message.

Most people in the photographic industry teach you to put together a generic, boring portfolio, both online and off. “Choose your best image from each session”, they say. “Never have more than a couple dozen images in your gallery”, they say. I disagree.

When we first built our business in the late 90’s (think dial up modems), we put thousands online in our portfolio. Yes thousands. At our height, we had over 20,000 images on our site. People told us we were crazy. “They’ll never look at that many images.” “Take them down, are you crazy?” The comments when on and on. But we didn’t fail with our 20,000 images. In fact we made it BIG. Because we spoke right to the heart of our ideal client.

Your portfolio should never be “normal”. It shouldn’t be what they teach you in a photography class, or a “best of” series that showcases a few great shots. Nope. It should be a whole lot more.

7 Secrets To A Strong Photographic Portfolio That Most People Will Tell You Not To Do

1. Things You Want To Shoot

Too often a photographer will include things in her portfolio that clients’ expect to be there. Yet if you want to branch out and shoot something very specific, something very unique to you, don’t be afraid to include it because it isn’t the “norm”. People will hire you because of what they see in you. If you showcase certain things, they will expect it as their own results.

2. Beyond The Best Of

Everyone tells you to create a gallery filled with your “best of” images. Your best images are great, but if you’ve ever looked at portfolio after portfolio, “best of” series soon all start looking the same. Do a search for wedding portfolios and you’ll see what I mean. Every photographer includes two to three dozen of his or her “best of” images. And they all look alike. Most are shots of the bride, groom, or some combination. You’ll get a sweet looking image of the ceremony. A couple of great scenics from an outdoor wedding. And of course the mandatory couple of candid images from the reception to prove you are “photojournalistic”. Is that really all there is to it? Or can you stretch and showcase more? We routinely would put together montages that would contain 200, 300 or even 400 images or more from one wedding and include them in our portfolio. A potential client would truly get an understanding of what we could do for her – and it worked every time. [Read more...]

How To Snag One Big Client That Can Keep The Money Coming In Year Round

Let’s say you have a goal of bringing in $50,000 a year. If you hit that mark, you could quit your full time job and concentrate on photography year round.

What would be better:

Finding one $50,000 client?

Or finding 10 $5,000 clients?

 How To Snag One Big Client That Can Keep The Money Coming In Year Round You probably jumped one way or the other immediately. Some would say the easiest way would be to find that one great client that you could focus all your energy and provide them with the best service ever. Others would say that is impossible – it’s much easier finding 10 people that are willing to spend $5,000 each.

Now lets define what a client is. How would you define “client”?

Most people would say something like “a person that hires you for a service and brings in money to your business.” Yep, that is a client.

But I think you can look at a “client” in a different manner as well.

I found this definition of client in the Merriam Webster dictionary:

A person who engages the professional advice or service of another.

And that’s where the difference lies. It’s with the word “advice”.

For me, a client doesn’t necessarily have to bring you in money. They can bring you in non-monetary services as well. Including referrals.

So if you are a wedding photographer, and you become close with a wedding reception site – close enough that they send you a good selection of their own clients every year – the wedding reception site could be your client.

In order to market and service this “client”, you would have to maintain a very good relationship with them over time. You could:

  • Take the manager out to lunch
  • Send over a gift basket after you book a client they send over
  • Refer clients to them if they book you before their wedding venue
  • Provide them with a free sample album to showcase how their venue looks in photographs

And of course a whole lot more.

So if your goal is to snag one big client for the year, where should you look for that “client”?

Should you market to a list of newly engaged couples? They get married once. They may refer their newly engaged friends, but time will move them away from your business if you focus on wedding photography.

Or should you concentrate on getting your one big “client” from a referral source so strong, they can literally keep you in business for years to come?

You choose.

The #1 Myth That’s Holding You Back

If I asked you what is holding you back from creating the photography business of your dreams, what would you say?

I’m willing to bet it’s related to the one myth that holds every photographer back at some point in his or her career.

I know, you might say a variety of things – I have people email me all the time with different comments and questions.

Some say they simply can’t find clients in these hard economic times.

Some say they don’t have all the pieces to put together a business.

Some say they don’t have the time to dedicate to do all the things they want to do.

But no matter what people say or how they say it, it all comes down to one thing. The one myth that will hold you back and keep you from being the success you are truly meant to be.

I need to “give” away my photography services and not charge what I’m truly worth.

Yep, I hear it all the time. They may say it in different ways, but that’s truly what they mean.

Have you ever been held back by this myth?

The 1 Myth Thats Holding You Back As A Photographer

Have you ever said:

“Photography is easy – how can I charge for something that people do all the time. Everyone has a camera. Why is my work better than theirs?”

I agree. Photography is easy. Anyone can find a camera, see something they want to capture, and press the button to freeze the moment. The art comes in creating something different that the average person can’t create.

A photographer understands there are many ways to capture an image, but only a few that will make the viewer say “WOW”. They look for the WOW in everything they do. They leave nothing to chance. They take images that most can’t. Because they know how to look beyond what most people see, and capture a whole lot more.

That’s the art form. And that’s what people get paid for. They create an experience that they can’t recreate themselves; that very few can capture.

And they aren’t afraid to charge what that experience is worth.

Or how about:

“I used to charge more 5 (10, 15, 20) years ago. But the market has changed. I can’t get what I used to. I have to lower my sales just to keep up with the new players in the industry.”

Have times change? You bet.

But that doesn’t mean photography has changed. In fact I would argue that there is more demand for photography today than there has been at any other period of time.

Yet that doesn’t mean its business as usual. You can’t “do what you’ve always done” and expect to get paid the same for it. You have to look at things differently. You have to offer things differently. You have to give people what they demand.

And when you tie it all together, you can most certainly make what you did 5, 10, 15 or even 20 year ago … and more.

Or maybe that’s not you. Maybe you’ve thought:

“I would be thought of as greedy if I charged a whole lot more than what someone can print a picture for at “insert your favorite big box store here”.”

Does anyone think you’re greedy if you have a roof over your head, clothes on your back, and food on the table? Nope, I don’t think so. We live in a society that is way beyond “existence” mode.

We live in communities where the basic necessities are a given. They are the norm. We expect people to be well fed, have clothes on their backs, and live in a place that is acceptable to them.

If you have a job, is it greedy expecting a salary? Is it greedy wanting to give your family everything they need and desire?

Then why is it greedy expecting a healthy living from photography?

Photography is a whole lot more than printing an 8×10 at Walmart. Yes, I’ll agree, some “photographers” attempt to do that. And that’s why they are held back.

But if you treat photography as an art form – not simply a business – you create an experience they can never get using their iPhones and Androids.

You offer professional products – not merely an 8×10 that could be printed at Walmart.

You offer albums only a professional has access to.

You offer unique sizes, styles and options your audience has never seen before.

You go the extra mile and do what very few don’t.

And once you do this – once you feel the difference – you’ll quickly realize you are worth everything you charge … and more.

What Is A Photographer’s True Competitive Edge?

Digital cameras of today are sophisticated, easy to use … and everywhere. Whether you use an iPhone and an app, or your Canon EOS 5D with a full array of lenses, anyone with a digital camera and a computer can establish themselves as a photographer willing to be hired to shoot for a fee.

Yes, these wannabes may lack classical training in lighting and posing, but clients trying to stretch their budgets often see them as a viable option.

And so the pricing wars begin.

The reality of it is photography isn’t a product based industry; it is and always will be a service based industry.

Someone may tell you a photograph is a photograph – and the pricing should be comparable from place to place. But if you hear that from a potential customer, they don’t understand the nuances of photography. That isn’t his or her fault. It’s ours as photographers. And in order to create a full fledged, full time, six figure business, you must understand this and build your business into the service business it should be.

What Is A Photographer’s True Competitive Edge

Start with your photography

The problem does arise from the photography itself. What makes you different from the wannabes? Does your work stand apart? Or is it easy to confuse your work with everyone else out there?

If you want to make this your true profession and you are wanting to grow into a six figure photography business, your work has to stand apart. You have to understand posing and lighting. You must create truly professional images. Practice, practice, practice. Attend seminars by people that are already making six figures in their prospective fields. Head to judging contests to learn what master photographers are looking for in images.

Then use this to make your photography stand apart from the competition. You can also use your knowledge to make others aware of what they should be looking for. Point to an image with a telephone pole coming out of a clients head once, and a potential client will know exactly how to look for composition as she heads off to visit other prospective photographers.

Change your marketing and sales

A potential client doesn’t know what to look for until you tell her. Arm her with questions.

  • Does the photographer have liability insurance?
  • Does the photographer have backup equipment?
  • How many images does the photographer take at the wedding?

Whatever questions you present, explain your answers in detail and why it matters to her. If she’s armed with the knowledge you have something that other photographers don’t, chances are she’ll be back with a check in hand when she can’t find the customer service level anywhere else out there.

Use stories to teach

Doesn’t the idea of a general photographer sound great? You can visit them for your wedding, have your baby’s portrait created, and have them photograph the new earrings you’ve fashioned for the brochure you’re designing for your new business.

That’s how many people view the photography world. Flip that around and make them think differently.

Would you really want a cardiologist answering a question about a mole on your back? Or a plastic surgeon helping you with a sore throat?

People specialize to become good at what they do. And as a photographer, there is an extreme difference between shooting a pair of earrings for a brochure, and following a bride and groom around for the day of their wedding.

Yet many consumers don’t understand that. Use a story – just like the one I described about the medical field – to get your prospects to understand the differences.

Maintain your pricing

Finally, don’t be seduced into lowering your pricing in order to get jobs. If something isn’t in your arena, or a client wants you but “can’t” afford you, the decision should be on them – not you. Your time is too valuable to spend accommodating the penny pinchers that don’t realize your true potential.

Let them head out and go with the wannabes to save money. Let them be disappointed in the overall service they received. And allow them to help you by providing stories to their friends – stories that will push them towards you with the lessons they learned.