Having sufficient photography skills and the right equipment are critical, but are not the focus of this PhotographyTalk.com article. Success, as a wedding photographer, will have as much to do with your business and people skills as your ability to deliver high quality images to your clients; sometimes more so.
2. The first important business skill is realizing you are operating a business; and like any business, you should have a legal, financial and management structure in place before you accept the first job. Read these and other PhotographyTalk.com articles for more detailed information.
3. The next important step to operate a wedding photography business is to create an identity for yourself: name, logo, business card and Web site.
4. Of these, a Web site is absolutely crucial, as it will be your primary marketing tool and where most of your prospective clients will learn about you and view samples of your work. A wedding photography business Web site doesn’t require many bells and whistles.
5. Your home page should display a few samples of your best work, maybe in a rotating series to give the page some movement, and then complemented with a short, but compelling message that answers the common question in every prospect’s mind, “Why should I hire this person to photograph my wedding?” The answer should be in the form of benefit statements, such as your reliability, delivering on time, excellent customer service, etc. You also want to include one or two testimonials on your home page from previous clients.
6. Other minimum Web site pages are a portfolio page, “about you” page, testimonial page, packages-and-prices page and a contact information page. Make your portfolio page more than just a display of your best images. Group them by weddings, so you can add brief descriptions about how you shot the wedding and under what conditions as well as testimonials from each client.
7. Visit PhotographyTalk.com to learn about Zenfolio, one of the largest Web site developers for photographers. Zenfolio will help you grow your photography business just as it has done for so many other successful wedding photographers. Memberships start as low as $25 annually, and $100 for yearly professional plans.
8. The secret to marketing a small business, such as wedding photography, is not to spend large amounts of money on advertising, although a “test” ad in your local suburban paper may be a good idea occasionally.
The actual secrets are networking, referrals and community involvement…and some shoe leather.
9. Networking refers to visiting (preferably) or at least contacting other small businesses in the wedding business: florists, cake makers, dresses, tuxedos, caterers, etc. You want to make sure all these businesses know who you are. Refer them to your Web site to see samples or show them a quick sample portfolio on an iPad or tablet.
Take a further step and ask if they would like to form a professional relationship. For example, offer a discount when a bride and groom hire ABC Florist and Joe Smith Wedding Photography together. Ask these businesses if they will allow you leave a stack of business cards on their counters.
10. It’s been proven again and again that a proactive referral program is one of the most efficient marketing tools for small businesses. This starts by asking your clients, and prospects, for referrals more than once during your contact with them. Asking for referrals is often a major obstacle for many businesspeople because they think they are being pushy, but “if you don’t ask, you don’t receive.”
An equally important part of any referral program is re-contacting your past clients once or twice per year to ask for more referrals and simply to remind them of how happy they are with their wedding pictures.
11. Community involvement is another efficient method for spreading your name throughout your market area. Join a business club; volunteer your photography services for community festivals and events; etc. Then, make sure you distribute a press release every time you participate in these activities.
12. A major failing of many wedding photographers and small businesses, in general, is the lack of a proper workflow model. Your business will stagnant and reach a ceiling very quickly without it.
As a wedding photographer, you must travel the same path with every client from initial contact to shooting the wedding to the presentation of final prints to annual follow-ups. All the steps of this path should be documented and described thoroughly, and revised, as needed.
The primary benefit of a proper workflow model is that it allows you to manage each client project as efficiently as possible, so you have time for more clients.
13. Wedding photographers are clearly in the people business. It’s the personal connection you make with your clients that may be more important to whether you are successful than the quality of photos you shoot. If your clients don’t recognize quality and professionalism in your character and they don’t see the value of having you so intimately involved with their wedding and families, then they simply won’t hire you.
There are plenty of materials available with the tools and techniques to develop your people skills. If you expect to be a successful wedding photographer, then spending time and money doing so is a very beneficial investment.
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