Sunday, March 29, 2009

Photo Requests vs. Actual Purchases

In a recent Twitter discussion, @weddingtidbits asked the question:
weddingtidbits question on twitter

Several photographers responded and the answers were posted on

What you'll see is that clients tend to ask for images that they think are missing from your portfolio. If you show mostly candid work, they'll ask for posed images. If you show mostly posed and detail work, they'll ask for more candid images. Meaning that no matter what your clients are attracted to in your work, they still expect you to be able to do everything well and to be able to deliver it all in a final product.

What was most interesting was that many photographers agreed that the posed images were the most purchased. This may be because posed images are often what we think we look best in, however, what I've learned over time is that most people simply order photos of themselves. So, if the only images you have of a person are the ones of them in a posed group, than that's the photo they'll order. However, if you have some really amazing dance floor shots or really flattering candids throughout the night, you'll likely get an order for those photos as well. If you have a photobooth corner at a reception, you'll likely get many orders from that as well. I also find that most online purchases are from guests who likely won't have access to the disc that the bride & groom will eventually receive (if you've included that in your collection.) Which is why it's also very important to make sure guests are able to access those online images in a way that is quick and convenient for them.

This begs the question: Do the things that people order affect what you photograph on the wedding day? Does the way you put your albums together affect how you photograph the wedding day? How much income are you missing out on based on how you've decided to capture an event? Is your pricing/ordering structure set up to make it easy and profitable for these kind of purchases to take place?

Everyone's business is different, which is why I don't believe that there's one right or wrong answer. What has worked best for you? Do you plan to make any changes for the future? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Anne Ruthmann is a lifestyle & wedding photographer from Boston, MA. She spent 10 years practicing marketing & management in corporate and non-profit businesses before pursuing her passion for photography as an independent small business. She loves helping others find creative and low-cost solutions to business problems. Follow her on Twitter to see her daily adventures and thoughts.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Finding the IDEAL Clients and Freedom!

I originally wrote this post a year ago over at the Starting a Wedding Photography Business Group on Flickr. A year later, it still rings very true for me. It was truly a moment of revelation, and changed my business - and I hope it helps you too.

No, no - I don't have magic tips for you to help you book the ideal client. But I do have a revelation to share. Here it is: Not everyone has to like you, and you don't have to market to everyone out there!

When I started out, I thought I wanted to Book the High End Bride. I had dreams of $$$$$ and I wanted them. I live in Houston, and there are plenty of rich people having huge weddings.

Then I booked what I considered my first high end wedding. When the wedding day came, I realized that I really didn't click with them that much. Not because they were rich or extravagant, but ... just because. I had sold my work and not myself. We didn't connect on a personal level. I was uncomfortable the whole time, and I feel that it shows in the photos when I look at them. They miss that certain spark for me. (The bride loves them, and that is what matters in the end.)

My High End Bride dreams came crashing down.

I realized something. If I am giving up my Saturdays for people, it needs to be for people that like ME. Truly ME. Not just my work, but me as a person. I took a chance and moved my blog to the front of my site - and instantly had a great response to it! As a result, I feel like my clients are now better pre-qualified to know if they will like me and my style, and we work so much better on the big day.

That was when it hit me. I don't need EVERYONE to like me. I ideally want to book 20-30 weddings a year. That means that only 40-60 people need to like me. In a city with millions, I only *want* 30 couples to discover me and want to work with me each year. I'm not a wedding studio, I don't have tons of associate photographers. It is just me.

I can't tell you how much freedom I felt when I realized that. Here I thought I needed everyone to like me and want to work with me -- when the reality is I only want the IDEAL clients.

Once I clued in to all of this, I went from booking lower packages to booking my higher packages, and I've continued to raise my rates. More importantly then the money, I have consistently been working with clients that are my ideal clients.

My ideal client: someone slightly geeky who likes blogs and highly values their wedding photography, probably much more than anything else on their budget list, or second after the venue/food. They like my style, and more importantly, they like me. They are laid back and fun to be around, and willing to try out crazy things. We laugh a lot at our initial meeting. We leave feeling like we've made new friends.

I've booked another wedding with a large budget since I first wrote this a year ago. (Matter of fact, I booked it probably 2 months after I wrote this post.) But the client booked me because they liked ME. The fact that they pulled out all the stops for the wedding wasn't the issue. They valued their photography. It wasn't another item on their to-do list for wedding planning. We connected, and I still get that warm fuzzy feeling when I look through their photographs.

Not everyone has to like me. Not everyone is the perfect client for me to work with. But when I do find those clients? It is magic. To me, ALL of my couples are high end, because I think they are the most fabulous people in the world.

What moments of clarity have you had that have brought you freedom?

Christine Tremoulet is a Houston, Texas Hot Mama Boudoir photographer and wants you to have a Business of Awesome. She also runs Wholly Matrimony, a destination wedding blog. She is a creative geek, having blogged since 2000 at BigPinkCookie. When she isn't taking photos or knitting, she is busy devouring all the info related to Marketing & Social Media and its powers that she can find online. Follow her on Twitter.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Attack of the Bridezillas!

So I just wanted to chat with everyone about a topic I frequently see come up in forums that kind of irks me: Bridezillas. There are some photographers who never seem to get them, and some that seem have more than their share. So what can you do to avoid these creatures from the black lagoon?

1. Do you attract them?
I'm a believer in Like-Attracts-Like. Brides hire photographers they relate to. If you want relaxed brides, make sure you're sending a "relaxed" vibe. Not a "walk-all-over-me" vibe, but a "I'm not going to freak out over every little thing because I'm not a drama queen" vibe. If you find yourself at a consult saying things like "I absolutely must get fed at the wedding, it's in my contract, and if I'm not seated with you for dinner, I will leave right then"....then a relaxed bride might be turned off, and a control freak bride might fall in love. I'm not saying that you can't have a policy like that, but tone and attitude are very important.

Also, what kind of clients are you targeting? I highly prefer couples who are in their 30's/40's, who are professionals. Why? They are running the show (not their families), they know who they are, and they have learned a little more about organization/responsibility/management. I target a client base who is less prone to teenage-style breakdowns. But when I have a client outside of my target demographic, I try to be extra sensitive to their potential lack of experience and/or added pressure from family and friends.

2. Cut 'em some slack.

Orchestrating a wedding is a full time hard core management gig. With no training, and no warning. Few people are naturals, and only a small percentage of the rest of us have Harvard business degrees. And lets face it, it really truly is all about the bride. She will be the one who gets kudos if it goes well, and cruel cruel gossip if it doesn't. So when your bride doesn't know how to handle the finances, scheduling, organization of the wedding, or isn't fully knowledgeable about contract negotiation and people skills and suddenly has a nervous break down from the stress....cut her some slack for heaven's sake!!! Offer your patience, and your assistance. Guide her through the process instead of expecting her to know how it works. If things get emotional, stay calm and be a solid rock she can trust.

I have a theory that at least 60% of the "Bridezillas" out there are really just normal women reacting normally to an extreme amount of pressure during an emotional time. Sure, there are some real ones out there...but a lot of photographers label brides as bridezillas too quickly.

3. Don't be a photozilla!

You are a photographer, a vendor, aka, .....*the paid help*. Ouch.

But you needed to hear it. Yes, you're an artist and can be a friend, and you get to be with the bride & groom more than any other person on that day...blah blah blah... But don't go thinking you're special....just yet.

You're special ONLY if you make your time with them special. If you're giving of yourself and you have a fun and gracious personality. But if you go in assuming *you* are special and that *you* should get special treatment and the day is all about **YOU**....congratulations, you have become the dreaded "Photozilla". The Photozilla isn't as rare a creature as you might think, and they have a natural tendancy to label normal brides as "bridezillas" at the first sign of an issue or power struggle.

Are you a photozilla? Check for these symptoms: High blood pressure, dilussions of granduer, fits of rage, impulsive behavior, scaley skin, deteriorating client relationships.

So to recap: Zilla's. Don't attract one. Don't mislabel one. Don't be one. Lets be kind to our brides, and get out of this witch-hunt mentality.

All the best,

Jillian Kay is a wedding & portrait photographer from San Jose, CA. By weekday, she is a mild mannered software engineer. By weekend, she is a joyful and energetic force behind a camera! Jillian enjoys tackling the tough questions about client relationships and helping others see win/win solutions. When not working, she loves taking walks, blog-stalking, visiting with friends, and enjoying life!.

Friday, March 20, 2009

On Sharing Pricing Up Front

I know that this is a hot topic for many photographers out there, and this is just my personal opinion -- not so much as a photographer, but from my own experience as a former bride.

When I was a bride and shopping for a photographer (and other vendors) 5 years ago, it drove me crazy that I couldn't find pricing online. That was where I was doing my initial shopping. For me, it is like browsing in a store; if I see something I like, I want to know the price. Then I will decide if it is too expensive or if I love it so much I will work it into my budget. Wedding photography is not the same as buying a pair of shoes - but my feelings on wanting to know the price up front are exactly the same. I was a lot more likely to contact photographers who had pricing information on their website or who was willing to email pricing to me.

For many clients, figuring out how to hire a wedding photographer is hard. They have a lot of photographers to look at, and initially the photographs and the price are the main things they have to start with to weed through all of them. If they find a photographer whose work they LOVE, they will want to know how much it costs right away. That way, they can determine if it fits in their budget. If they love your work a lot, even if it is out of their initial budget, they might start to work the numbers so that they can make it happen.

Photographers often comment on how clients start with asking us the price, and how that doesn't help them establish a relationship with them. I've said it countless times before, but this is where your blog can really help you! Let them get to know a bit about you up front through your blog, and the relationship is already being built!

I try to run my business the same way I would want to be treated if I was a client. I post my pricelist online. The abbreviated promo card is on my blog, and if anyone emails me for more information I include a link to the full PDF of prices. An added perk to this is that by the time I meet with a client, they have my prices. I rarely talk about money in my meetings - we've already covered that. Instead, my meetings are all about getting to know one another, finding out what their expectations are for their photography, and discussing what I can do for them. It makes the meetings so much more comfortable for me.

What do you do? Do you post your pricing online? Do you send out your pricelist? Or do you prefer to meet with them in person first? Feel free to discuss it in the comments - everyone has a different take on this, and I would love to hear your thoughts!

Christine Tremoulet is a wedding & boudoir photographer from Houston, Texas. She is a creative geek, having blogged since 2000. When she isn't taking photos or knitting, she is busy devouring all the info related to Social Media and its powers that she can find online. Follow her on Twitter.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Importance of a Good, Consistent, Easy to Recognize Avatar

So often, I see people use avatars (those little icons that represent you on social media sites) that are anything but an easy to recognize photo of themselves. Maybe they use their logo, their favorite signature photo of a client, a photograph of something pretty like a flower, or even a photo of themselves -- with a camera in front of their face.

When you use photos like this, guess what? No one will ever recognize you.

At WPPI, I had people tell me daily that they recognized me -- often followed by the question, "red wall?" Why? Because I use the same photo everywhere. Me, easy to see, with a red wall behind me. Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, OSP, Fast Track Photographer Forums, here on PhotoLoveCat. All the same photograph. I joked after the second day that I was going to figure out a way to have a piece of red poster board behind me at all times so I would be even easier to recognize.

While at a party one night, I was approached by another Twitter user who wanted to introduce herself. Because she also has an easy to recognize avatar, I remembered her right away - it was an instant visual connection. (Needed, because the party was so loud I could barely hear!) We work in a visual medium, and many of us remember things we see faster than we remember names.

This helps your clients too -- put a photo of yourself on your website so that if you are meeting them outside of a studio setting they can spot you easily. Don't cause them the stress of wandering into Panera or Starbucks and wondering which person sitting there with the laptop is the vendor they are supposed to be meeting with!

Get together with a photographer friend, shoot headshots of each other that you really like, and get them online! Make it easy for people to know who you are! Be sure to use a photo where everyone can see your whole face so we know who you are!

Christine Tremoulet is a Houston, Texas Hot Mama Boudoir photographer and wants you to have a Business of Awesome. She also runs Wholly Matrimony, a destination wedding blog. She is a creative geek, having blogged since 2000 at BigPinkCookie. When she isn't taking photos or knitting, she is busy devouring all the info related to Marketing & Social Media and its powers that she can find online. Follow her on Twitter.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Subliminal Marketing Tactics: Making Brain Connections

I don't watch a lot of TV, but when I do, I'm always interested in the ways that advertisers are marketing their products and services. Last week I caught a glimpse of two new commercials that were brilliant marketing strategies based on actual brain science about how memory works! If this sounds a little complicated, good... keep reading because I make it easier to understand.

We've known for a long time that if you want to remember something, repetition is a key element in memory. This is especially true when new information seems completely distant or unrelated to everything else you know. This is what a lot of things were based on over the last century - repetition. It was part of the reason why teachers invented math homework and memorizing the multiplication table, with the idea that if you repeated something enough, eventually you'd just remember it. It's why our social science teachers made us memorize names and dates rather than telling amazing stories that related to current events. It was how the industrial revolution was born - by making one machine or person simply repeat the same small task over and over again to ensure perfection and consistency. Last but not least, it was also how advertisers made money on selling multiple ad spots to one company- with the research supporting that multiple exposures will increase the memory of a company's brand.

However, as any creative person knows, repetition can become quite boring, especially if you've mastered the concept that you're being asked to repeat. Likewise, when we know something is a commercial, we have no problems walking away or ignoring it, even if the content could be relevant. This is why buying ads on Google or Facebook, despite their genius ways of finding relevant material to partner with, can get you paying for a lot of clicks but not turning up as many paying clients.

In the last 2-3 decades, more and more research has been done about how we can improve our memory, learn faster, and make ideas stick better in the brain. Turns out that if you want someone to remember something, you could use repetition, but you'll make a quicker impression if you can connect to something that person already knows and understands. When I was a teacher, this meant relating to the student's current world of understanding before asking them to try to understand something completely foreign to their experience. This is also why it's so important to know your potential clients BEFORE you start trying to tell them anything about your service or product. Once you know what they care about, you can make stronger connections from your product or service to the things they are already passionate about.

While burgers and football aren't things that I'm passionate about, it's obvious from recent commercials that Arby's Roast Beef Sandwiches wants to become the alternative to eating a burger, and Subway Subs is the ideal food for people who watch sporting events. Oh, and if you love someone, you don't really love them until you give them a diamond. These are all invented connections that were made by advertisers, who connected their product to something their target market already understands and cares about.

What does your target market care about, and how can you make a better connection to that passion?

(See also: previous post on Relationship Marketing)

Anne Ruthmann is a lifestyle & wedding photographer from Boston, MA. She spent 10 years practicing marketing & management in corporate and non-profit businesses before pursuing her passion for photography as an independent small business. She loves helping others find creative and low-cost solutions to business problems. Follow her on Twitter to see her daily adventures and thoughts.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

How Viral Is Your Brand?

Sounds kinda gross, doesn't it? However, if your business brand is what needs to be spread, you'd better make your brand is as viral as possible! The more viral your brand is, the easier it will be for people to share your work, talk about you, and bring your brand to a larger community where it can be found by more potential clients and supporters.

You already know how viral blogs can be. In fact, you probably found out about this blog from someone linking to a particular post or talking about it somewhere else online. Yet, in this Web 2.0 world of "everyone has a blog", why do some blogs NOT have an RSS or ATOM feed (or don't make it publicly available)? People are becoming increasingly efficient about managing the information they get and consolidating that info into things like feed aggregators so that they don't have to frequent a list of bookmarks just to see what's new. If people can't easily get your RSS feed into THEIR preferred feed aggregator, or if they prefer to get email updates and can't easily subscribe to your blog via email, than chances are that they won't be viewing your conent as much as the blog that makes these subscription methods easy to find and use.

Let me take feeds a step further by suggesting that you make sure your blog feed allows the ENTIRE post to be viewed by an outside aggregator and not just a snippet that then requires people to click through to your blog. While it may be easier for you to track your stats and visitors, how annoying is it for the reader who starts one of your posts in their aggregator only to have it cut off after so many characters? Do you want that annoyance to be associated with your brand? Is the hook & bait communication method part of your brand identity? What subtle suggestion does this send about you as a person or business?

... where I'm at. If I'm your client and I'm on facebook, meet me there. If I'm on myspace, meet me there. If I'm on linkedin, meet me there. By letting potential clients discover your brand and connect with you on a platform that they're already using on a regular basis, you increase your chances of being referred to your next great client through that very same platform.

If you're setting up a calendar, are you going to set it up on a platform that can easily be exported, downloaded, subscribed to, or transferred to my preferred calendar so that I can view your events side by side with my regular schedule? Or, are you going to force me to look at your site or manually enter all of the events I'm interested into my calendar? What's going to make my experience better as a person interested in your product, service, or brand? How much more likely will I be to attend your events if they're easy to add to my own calendar?

One of the worst things you can do for your brand is to make your potential clients feel dumb or confused. Common sense, right? Then why do some companies insist on creating sites that aren't user friendly? Creativity and uniqueness is valuable, but only if it's done in a way that makes people feel smart. If your potential client has to spend more time trying to figure out how to simply use your site, find the information they need, or decipher what you mean by the words you choose to use rather than just experiencing your product, brand, or content with ease- than your desire to be unique may be adding layers of confusion and frustration to your brand. Are you making yourself more or less accessible in the way that you structure your site? In the words that you choose? In the information you make available about yourself and your company? Is your ideal client easy to identify through your branding and content?

Some people don't want to be easy to access, which might be you if you have more work than you can handle. However, if you find yourself lacking in inquiries, than perhaps it's time to ask yourself if you've made your brand too inaccessible or difficult to understand based on any of the things I've mentioned above. The more accessible your brand is, the quicker it will be spread and shared with potential clients that would normally be out of your immediate reach. There are plenty of smart and savvy people who will simply not waste their time on something if it seems like it will take additional time to navigate or investigate. They aren't dumb, they just have little patience for things that take too much of their precious time. If your navigation is easy to use and your information is quickly understood, than you've created a positive experience with your brand that makes your potential client feel smart and savvy- which in turn, makes your brand feel smart and savvy.

Anne Ruthmann is a lifestyle & wedding photographer from Boston, MA. She spent 10 years practicing marketing & management in corporate and non-profit businesses before pursuing her passion for photography as an independent small business. She loves helping others find creative and low-cost solutions to business problems. Follow her on Twitter to see her daily adventures and thoughts.
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