Weddings

20 Things That Will Change Your Wedding Photography Business in 2017

Let’s talk 2017. It’s the third day of January and everyone is all, “OMG let’s be thinner” or “I vow to drink more water.” My social media news feeds are full of weight loss goals, detoxing and people are complaining about crowded gyms. Let’s get real, though. My resolution is to eat as much guacamole as I can because you never know where life will take you.

If avocados go extinct, I want to know that guacamole and I lived as loud as we possibly could. I also promised myself I would stop wearing all my old leggings with holes where my thigh gap could be. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, let’s talk about some actions you can start doing right this very second to give your wedding photography a damn good business makeover this year.

Here’s why you need to stop what you’re doing right now and start thinking about changing your business. The truth is, photographers (like all creatives) don’t have a background in business stuff. Sure, there’s the odd photographer here or there with a business-related degree or other experience. But most of us are just flailing around trying to fake it until we make it and figuring shit out along the way. I’m pretty sure as a collective group, most of us are in this because we like the photography part and the business stuff we should just chuck in the nearest dumpster and light a fire in it. It’s easy to give up when that stuff is so foreign and, truth be told, as boring as watching water boil.

My biggest challenge for you this year is to challenge yourself. If you want your wedding photography business to be bigger, shine brighter and pay the bills you have to hustle. You can’t just sit around doing the same thing you always do. I’ve met a lot of photographers who see things in their business that aren’t working, but they put them all inside their safety net, tuck that away in their pocket and let it weigh them down by carrying it day in and day out. Owning a business is a constant risk, friends. I get it. I really do. It might not seem like it in the words of this blog post, but I’m a ridiculously cautious person. So careful my mom frequently mentions how surprised she is that I’m even stepping out and owning not just one business, but four. I can’t say for sure, but if I had grown up, put a gigantic bubble around my house and never came out it probably wouldn’t have surprised her at all. I guess I’m just one of those people that thrives on the hustle at the end of the day. I can put my concerns aside because the challenge of hustling every day ultimately brings out the best in me. Right now, if you’re in your safety bubble all you have to do is pop it, and you’re out and exposed. Once you’re exposed, that’s where you can start challenging yourself to be the best business owner you can be.

Make it your motto to try new things this year. Try new marketing. Think about your business from a different perspective. Throw out the crap that’s not working and problem solve to replace it with a system that does work. One thing creatives are good at is problem-solving. Today I’m giving you 20 solutions for various business problems in our industry. If you’re brave enough to try something new this year, one of these things might just be the awesomesauce that turns your business around.

Let’s do this.

Disclaimer: I’ve thrown in some affiliate links in here. That means if you click something to purchase or sign up I may get a kickback. Since this blog is full of free awesome advice, it’s always super appreciated to get these little kickbacks if this helped you in any way.

  1. Let go of perfection. Life is not perfect. Your business is never going to be perfect. You are never going to be perfect. And that’s ok. The world needs less perfection. Messy is what makes us stronger and turns us into the best version of ourselves.
  2. Automate your client emails. It is impossible to keep up consistently with all your wedding clients sometimes. Before doing automated emails, I’m pretty sure not all my clients received the same customer service experience. Now my automated email system is filled with reminders, tips, and helpful info for all my clients as they go through the planning process. I use Pixifi to automate my emails. I highly recommend Pixifi. Their customer service is just so good. I also teach a class on automation (for my other business Rock Your Weird) that includes my email templates and a lot of other fun, excellent automation stuff.
  3. Create an annual marketing plan. Marketing works best well thought out and planned in advance. Sometimes we run late when it comes to planning a marketing opportunity, and we lose out on revenue by not being organized. Make a 2017 marketing plan with all the holidays, sales, and significant events you’re at to help point potential clients in your direction.
  4. Write goals for your business and give each goal 3 action steps you can do to make sure each of those things happens. Writing down clear goals is great, but you will get nowhere achieving them if you don’t have ideas for how to reach these goals also written down.
  5. Update your website portfolio. It’s easy to create a website and then forget about it. You should be updating it frequently with your new portfolio images.  Updating your site regularly helps keep it on Google’s search engine radar too!
  6. Rebrand! Don’t just create a new logo, though. Spend time building a brand people connect with on an emotional level, a brand with lots of personality! Rock Your Weird has blog posts on doing just that.
  7. Remember you don’t need to do business the way everyone else does. There are hundreds of ways to accomplish the same results when you’re a business owner. It’s up to you to create a business model that works for you.
  8. Be willing to break the rules. You’ve probably heard rules about adjusting your aperture based on how many people are in a photo. Or maybe you know rules about how many images you’re allowed to have on your website portfolio. Maybe there’s a rule about editing photos you follow. Break the rules and do what inspires you instead.
  9. Re-evaluate business expenses from last year and adjust your pricing to reflect your current finances accurately.
  10. Add your location to your website. It’s easy to forget to put where you’re at on your site. If you forgot, now is the time to take 5 minutes and add it so you can automatically increase your chances of booking.
  11. Start using Pinterest for marketing. Pinterest is where clients are at finding inspiration for their weddings. It’s the ideal place to find new wedding clients. If you’re not using it, you’re missing out. My friend, Fuse, has a business called Get Found with Fuse where she teaches SEO (search engine optimization) for creatives. She offers an excellent Pinterest SEO class to help you get found on Pinterest!
  12. Blog about tips that help your potential clients. Knowing what to blog about is hard, but the more resourceful you are for customers, the better your chances are of booking clients this way. Don’t know where to get started? You can download my 101 blog post ideas for wedding photographers for free! That’s enough blog post ideas to last you a couple of years if you post once a week!
  13. Automate your social media to create a consistent presence. Nothing is more freeing than knowing you’ve got your social media posting for you while you sit back and drink more wine and watch more Netflix. Plus all that free time means you can spend it accomplishing other marketing ideas.
  14. Reuse sneak peek images on social media. I spent years posting each photo I took of a client as a sneak peek and then never touching them again. I felt dumb when I realized I could keep posting them each year and gain new customers.
  15. Set business hours and keep them. Just do it this year. I need to do better at this.
  16. Create an editing workflow that helps you edit faster and get things done.
  17. If you’re one of those people who has a hard time being themselves in business, it’s time to take that wall down and practice being a little more vulnerable with your clients. Customers love honesty, authenticity, and vulnerability. However, it’s natural to act super formal in your business and forget to be yourself. The one truly unique thing you have going for you compared to other wedding photographers is your personality.
  18. Read Zombie Loyalists by Peter Shankman. Best business marketing book ever. If you want to know how to make your clients turn into walking talking billboards for you, this book will teach you just that.
  19. Find one editing style you like and stick with it. Consistency creates trust. Trust is everything in marketing.
  20. Only you get to define what success looks like for yourself. Figure out what success looks like for you and life your life according to your rules.

If just one of these 20 things stands out to you, do it. Remember to challenge yourself in business.

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31 Days to Better Wedding Photography

As photographers I’m sure most of you reading this have gone through a time when you’ve rebranded your business, relaunched and challenged yourself to take it to the next level. If you’ve been with me since the beginning of Photography Awesomesauce then you know all the different things I’ve tried, challenges I’ve given myself and you’ve seen my successes and failures first hand. I’m proud of all of them (the good parts and the bad parts) because they’ve helped shape where I am today and where I’m going in the future.

That said you can probably anticipate that it’s about time we give Photography Awesomesauce a new facelift, and a bigger, better purpose. So with that in mind we’ll be shutting down blogging completely during December to make some time to really revamp the website and prepare some awesome new things for you guys. December is also notoriously slow for blogging anyway if I’m completely honest with you. Traffic deters and people pay attention to their families. What time they do spend on their business tends to be in the mindset of goals for the new year and big changes they are making in their own business. So it leaves little time for new ideas when you’re taking all the new ideas you’ve had all year and are finally implementing them.

So that brings me to our own little revamp. While blogging may cease as we revamp the website we still have some important work to do. I’m going to be doing a 31 Days to Better Wedding Photography online event. Starting December 1st you can log into the Periscope app and learn a little bit about wedding photography every single day in December. Some days we might discuss lighting, other days we might discuss contracts. We’ll talk about marketing, posing and everything in between. I know so many of you are getting ready to dive in and start your first wedding season or are eager to learn more and up your game. I don’t think I have all the answers, or that how I run my own wedding photography business is perfect for everyone, but I’m happy to share the things I do know and let you decide if they’ll help you or not. There are a few things you need to do to participate so I’ll outline them below. Don’t forget a step or you might miss out!

  1. Download Periscope on your phone and follow me! Periscope is essentially a live video app that really helps other entrepreneurs learn from each other. While you can watch live broadcasts from your internet browser, you are limited to only watching and can’t ask questions or participate. That’s why you need to download the app. It’s free. Don’t worry about being live yourself, you’re just watching me live and can sit at home in the comfort of yesterday’s makeup, bedhead and no pants while you learn. Periscope saves live broadcasts for a limited time, so if you don’t catch a certain day’s as long as you log in soon after you won’t miss a beat!
  2. Follow me on Periscope. When you first download the app there will be lots of buttons to play with. Just head to the magnifying glass on the top left for the search function. Select ‘people’ and type in “carrieswails.” Once you find me select “follow.” From there the app will ask you to enable notifications. Feel free to not get the notifications, but if you want a little reminder sent to your phone everyday to remind you to log in and watch the free broadcast, then make sure you have notifications enabled. For a quick reference on how to download Periscope and just so you know what my profile looks like, below is a link to my profile as accessed from a desktop, just remember you can’t participate in a broadcast, just watch it (and PS I love answering questions live). >Carrie Swails Periscope<
  3. Follow Photography Awesomesauce on Instagram. I’ll be posting reminders and clips there as well to make sure you go log in!
  4. Sign up for the 31 Days to Better Wedding Photography emails. These emails will have links, resources and reminders all related to our daily content. The email list is the basis of everything, so if you don’t want to follow along in other places, at the very least make sure you’re getting the emails! There may also be some fun giveaways and interesting things from our sponsors via email!

Even if you’re not a wedding photographer there are probably lots of behind the scenes business tips and photography or lighting tips you can learn by tuning in! So share with your friends and lets spend December getting our knowledge on! I can’t wait to see everyone there!

WANT MORE?

If you want to learn more awesome behind the business stuff like this make sure you subscribe to our Facebook group, follow us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram, and even follow me on Pinterest where I love to pin social media, blogging, business, and photography tips from all over the web!

10 Things Photographers Look for in Second Shooters

I’d like to say I have some experience with second shooters. Unfortunately not all of it is good. I can’t point the finger at my seconds though, a lot of that blame lies with me for not knowing better. They say you can get knowledge from reading a book, but wisdom only comes with time. I’m about to pass on some serious wisdom to you. This is the stuff I’ve learned from the successes and failures I’ve had as a main photographer, a second shooter myself, and essentially as a boss.

  1. Gear – A main photographer may want to know exactly what gear you’re shooting with. It’s not a slight on you if you don’t have the best camera body in the world, but a lot of us are curious about lenses so we know your lens choices might compliment the ones we’ve got. Some photographers, but not all, also want to know the brand of your camera and feel it may mesh better with their brand if everything is the same. Be prepared to share a detailed list of your camera bodies and lenses before getting hired. It’s also important that you take care of your gear. It should all be in working condition. If it needs to be repaired or cleaned, that’s on you as the independent contractor to take care of. Don’t come to work at a wedding (a once in a lifetime event) with gear that is limited by its malfunctions.
  2. Experience – There’s this ironic thing in the wedding industry. Main photographers want second shooters who are experienced to work with them, that way they can trust them to split up and take photos as needed without intervention. At the same time as an industry we tell people they shouldn’t shoot weddings until they’ve gained a lot of experience as a second shooter. It’s kind of an awkward thing. The truth is, most of us want an experienced photographer by our side. We can trust them to shoot parts of the day we can’t supervise and we know it’ll mesh with our style effortlessly. The more experienced a second shooter is, the easier the day can be. Experience does matter. If you’re looking to gain wedding experience and you feel like you’re getting rejected a lot, it might be because the photographer is looking for someone with even more experience. Then it’s good to offer to assist for free, or ask if maybe they’re looking for a third shooter. When you start looking for your own second shooters you’ll want to find someone whose experience mirrors your own. If you fell down and broke your leg at a wedding (knock on wood), you shouldn’t have to worry when your second takes over and runs the day.
  3. Style – A great second shooter has a style that matches your own so your images blend together well in the final gallery for the client. Working with a second shooter who shoots with similar lenses and similar settings is a start to finding a style match. Make sure you check out the work of the second shooters you’re considering before hiring and see if your style is a match. If you’re looking for second shooting gigs, it’s good to check out the photographer’s style before you work for them and make sure you understand what they may be looking for and what you’re capable of creating for them. It can be a mistake to go in blind and really have no idea what the photographer’s work is like when you work for them.
  4. Professionalism – This one is a big one, or as some say…”it’s bigly.” How you dress and present yourselves to your main photographer’s clients is a really big deal. Friending their clients on Facebook, texting all day, and handing out your own business cards must be avoided. Remember these aren’t your clients, they’re the main photographer’s clients. When you’re shooting a wedding as a second shooter you are a direct representation of their business in all your interactions.
  5. Contracts – Different photographers might require different things in a second shooter agreement. Some may let you use the photos, some may not. Every photographer is different.
  6. No Second Guessing – It can be easy to go into a situation and expect one thing and end up with something else. If you haven’t really chatted to your main photographer or researched their style you may not really know what your in for. Some photographers work with a specific niche of clients or do things a certain way. Remember that the main photographer knows their business best. The clients booked them for their work. So don’t second guess their every move during the day and ask why all the time. Those questions are better saved for later. In the midst of a wedding there isn’t really time to get in detail about why someone has a specific workflow.
  7. Different Angles – A lot of wedding clients will say they want different angles of their day. I can’t speak for all photographers, but I know that having a second get a different angle is important, but not as important as capturing the other things around us that are happening. If the main photographer is photographing the groomsmen getting ready, then the second photographer is photographing the bridesmaids. Sometimes it’s better to be in a different place instead of offering the same angle of something the main photographer is shooting. If you’re not sure what the main photographer wants, just ask!
  8. Initiative – Second shooters that take initiative by asking questions and getting things done is awesome. I think this is a skill anyone would want in an employee or contractor. Weddings are busy and often times you don’t get the time to explain what would be best and where to go during the day, so having a second shooter that can anticipate where the best place to be is, or what they could be doing to make things even more awesome is great. Don’t sit back and wait for instruction, take initiative and get things done. If there’s one skill that will really impress me (and maybe others), this is it.
  9. Positive Attitude – Being a wedding photographer is an intriguing mix of being both an artist and a business owner. There are lots of times we put the needs of our business first and our art second. For me, personally, it’s important to have a second shooter with a positive attitude. Weddings are stressful and nothing gets me in a bad mood more than a second shooter who is complaining about my clients all day long. Sometimes clients drive us nuts or things get stressful, but it’s better to vent about that stress after the wedding. Venting about it throughout the day puts me in a negative mood and I try to keep those negative things at bay so I can create the best art possible.
  10. Memory Card Options – This is a little detail, but every photographer wants to get their second shooter’s files differently. Some have you shoot on their cards, with no access to your files later. Some have you shoot dual card slots with one of their cards and one of your own. Some have you shoot with your own cards and transfer the files later via Dropbox or another file sharing service. They might transfer the files over at the end of the night before you leave too. Be prepared for a variety of options since each photographer may have a vastly different workflow.

Want More?

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3 Ways to Be Prepared for Anything on a Wedding Day

 

Wedding days tend to be a marathon and as photographers who are there the majority of the time it’s important to be as prepared as possible for any emergency. A missing button or a bridesmaid with a headache doesn’t seem like it should be our problem, however it could mean missing an extra 20 minutes of bride and groom portraits if the timeline veers off course. Here are three ways I make sure I am prepared for anything on a wedding day.

My Wedding Day Emergency Kit – to each wedding I shoot, I bring my emergency kit with me to the getting ready room. This box has grown considerably over the last few years because of the different situations I’ve encountered. It’s usually used at least once, and has saved the day on more than one occasion. Some of the things currently in my kit include: sewing kits, first aid supplies, individually wrapped pain reliever pills (tylenol and ibuprofen, allergy medicine, stomach medicine, a crochet hook (for stubborn dresses), moleskin for blisters, wrinkle release spray, lady products, clear nail polish, batteries, water and granola bars, phone chargers, etc.  I recently upgraded to a larger box I found at Target and it’s been invaluable this wedding season!

Hangers  – I bring a box of 25 nice suit hangers (whoo Target!) and keep it in my trunk for every wedding. These are great for the entire bridal party, or just the brides dress if she doesn’t have a cute hanger. Usually I will throw one in my bag for the Bride. I tend to forget them in the hotel room, hence the giant box.  These have been great for detail shots, no more ugly plastic hangers – whoo!

Rain Supplies – I live in Wisconsin so rain happens a lot here! For each wedding I bring 16 black umbrellas (I got mine from Ikea for $2 each and just pick some up each time I go), and one fun clear umbrella for the bride and groom. For easy storage, I keep mine in a light stand bag so my assistant and grab and go if needed. I also keep two sets of clear shower curtain liners (about $3 each) in case of rain or mud to put under the bride’s dress so it doesn’t get dirty!

While it’s not technically part of the job description, it’s so important to be prepared on wedding days, especially if your client didn’t hire a planner! Not only do you save the day (and the timeline!), you also show your clients how much you care about them.

Want More?

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How to Handle Pokemon Go at Your Portrait Session

agidian events place

You may discover it is a little harder to find a spot in your cities more popular public places for your portraits sessions, and it’s not an Uncle Bob.  No, it’s a more menacing threat that you may be facing, a group of people just trying to catch them all.

That’s right folks, your favorite photo location might just be overrun by people playing Pokemon Go.

Now, I should preface that I personally love Pokemon Go (team red represent!) and think it’s a fun game with tons of nostalgia. However, at a few recent weddings I’ve shot, we’ve arrived to our planned photo locations and have found hundreds of people playing Pokemon Go. Lawn chairs, pizza, and people everywhere sitting and playing and just looking for a Snorlax on a Saturday afternoon. Can you say stress for your family or bride & groom? It’s hard to get those genuine photos when there are tons of people mulling about. It’s even harder when the location is a spot your client has dreamed of having their photos taken in.
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Photo By: Calfa Photography

So, what can we do about it? Largely, there isn’t a ton we can do. It’s impossible to try to keep people from playing their game in a public place. Throwing Pokeballs at them to get them to move is probably going to be frowned upon. However, you can do a little extra planning to make your wedding day or family session running smoothly and avoiding stepping right into a Poke Gym.

1 ) Scout Your Location – The easiest way to prepare is to scout ahead of time. Visit your portrait spot around the same time you’ll be doing portraits another day of the week, see how the flow of traffic goes and try to find a few alternate spots in that location that aren’t as popular. There may be a less populated section of the park you can take your clients into. Weddings can be pressed for time as it is, so picking a few back up locations will help you save time later!

2) Find A More Secluded Spot – If your location is totally overrun and your client doesn’t have their heart on a more popular location, perhaps finding a private venue would be a better fit. Make sure to check out if they require a permit!

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Photo By: Elizabeth Haase (iphone)

While not 100% ideal for us as photographers, Pokemon Go is here to stay and is something everyone will eventually run into. These “Pokefolk” might be in the way, but most people are understanding that you are doing formal photos and will move if you ask them nicely. If they don’t, you can always drop a lure on the other side of the location to get the group to move!