Four Tips to Surviving Your First Bridal Show

bridal show tips

This year I had several things on my 2015 goal list. Some, like shoot a wedding in London, unfortunately did not pan out (still holding out hope on that one though). The goal I had underlined on the list was “Step Out of Your Comfort Zone”. I’m a pretty introverted person, so working from home is usually ok for me, but I knew if I wanted to take my business up to a new level I was going to have to put myself out there. During a trip to one of my favorite (and wedding bucket list worthy) destinations in Wisconsin, I stumbled upon a flyer for a small bridal show. It looked perfect for my brand and was in a location I have been dying to book weddings in, and so I jumped on the chance to be a part of the show. Then I panicked. Putting together a show in the middle of wedding season was not an easy task, but I survived, and I’m so happy that I jumped.

Here are four important things I learned while preparing for my first bridal show.

  1. Find The Show Thats Right For You – Those big box one size fits all bridal shows are not for everyone. While you may get a ton of leads, those leads aren’t worth anything if they aren’t the client you want to advertise to. Look for local shows or unique shows in a demographic that matches what you want to attract. Even though it may be a smaller show, the clients you meet there may boost your business ten fold. You can also meet other vendors who share your similar style, and vendor friends are always a great thing to have.
  2. Set a Budget – Bridal shows get expensive quickly. Be prepared and set a budget for yourself. With any show there is going to be cost, but make sure to factor in the additional start up costs of building backdrops, ordering canvases, printing supplies, etc. Just like starting a business there are lots of small things here and there that add up quickly. I thought I would be saving money by doing a smaller show but that wasn’t the case.
  3.   Think Outside the Box – Bridal shows don’t have to be stuffy or impersonal, they are the perfect space to create a 10×10 foot space of pure awesome! What do you want clients to feel when they walk into your booth? What do you want them to remember most about you? Make sure your aesthetic is there from the moment they see your booth to the time they leave with something to remember you by. For my booth, I knew I wanted it to be modern, but have that same feeling you get when you walk into an Anthropologie of pure rustic and quirky happiness (maybe thats just me). I found lots of elements from my office at home to give my table a more personal touch. What elements of your brand stand out most to you? Take those as the blueprints of your booth, and build up from there.
  4. Collaborate – One thing I knew was that I did not have time to build a booth. Wedding season was in full swing, my kids were going back to school and my husband was traveling for work. Ain’t nobody have time for that. I reached out to a local furniture rental company and was able to get my backdrop and table from them. It saved money on building supplies and was able to get something way prettier than I could afford to buy. Check out rental companies, florists and other vendors in your area, they may be willing to trade for supplies to make your booth stand out, and its another vendor relationship that could help your business in the future.

Bridal shows can be scary, but are completely survivable. If you have been on the fence about doing one, it is a great way to get out of your comfort zone and another way to get your name out there. Even if you don’t book a single client (which hopefully you do!), you may meet a vendor who can take your business to the next level. I know I’m guilty of doing the same things over and over again, but I think for a business to really grow and thrive, you have to leap sometimes.



What are some ways you went out of your business comfort zone?

How to Edit a Wedding in Less Than 10 Days

Edit a wedding


Yeah.  You read that right but before I continue, let me say that this isn’t going to be for everyone and I understand that.  The one thing that I pride myself on is my turnaround time for my couples.  I’m seriously impatient so I’m just going to assume that everyone else is too.  I am also a single mom, I do customer service for Pixifi (what seems like 24/7), I have a life and I take vacations and go out.  So with all that said, if I can do it, then you can too.

Wedding season is upon us (yay!) and here we are with weddings back to back to back, along with other sessions in between.  There are days where we feel like we are drowning in edits and as days go on, all I’m hearing is “it’s taking me 4-5-6-7+ weeks to deliver weddings.  WHAT?!?!  I mean I get it, I’m busy too (as I write this, I should be taking a shower getting ready for a hockey game) but there is really no reason that you can’t bust out a wedding in less than 2 weeks.

Well oh wiseass one, how do you do it?  Oh well thank you for asking because I’m about to tell you.  Go figure, right?  I’m simply going to break it down day by day.  Unfortunately I just started editing a wedding yesterday or I would love to have exact times for you.  The first couple of parts I do so you can kind of guesstimate to the best of your knowledge the rest of them.

Day after the wedding (or night of depending on what time you get home)
(Note:  Saturday’s wedding was 6 hours, just me shooting and I had 997 finals.  Took me 1 hour to cull/sort)
Upload to Lightroom
Cull through wedding.  As I’m culling, I’m rating and color coding them.  5 stars are ready and out the door, color codes are the time of day (prep, details, ceremony, etc).  Once these are done, I export to individual folders per the time of day so each one is in it’s own folder.  Word to the wise, do this.  When I upload them to Pixieset to deliver, they all go in different folders to.  This makes it so much easier for your client to find a particular photo.

Day 2 – Cull for blog post
Culling for blog took me 15 minutes
– This is where I will go through each individual folder and pull for the blog post and put them in a separate folder.

Editing for blog post was 1 hour 20 minutes
– Once I’ve done that, I will start to edit those.  Saturday’s wedding ended up with 86 photos (it was family so there was A LOT included).  I normally don’t put that many photos in a blog post but it is what it is.

Day 3 – Post blog
This will usually take me about an hour.  I know some swear by BlogStomp but I didn’t like it so if you use it and love it, this will take you less time.

I’m going to stop right there for a minute.  Do you see how each day is only about an hour, maybe 2?  This is where other editing comes in, letting the dogs outside because they heard someone walking down there street and procrastinating.

Day 4
On the forth day….1-2 hours depending on how many finals
Start picking a folder.  I usually start with prep and work my way through the day.  Sharing on Facebook/Instagram as I go through them.

Day 5 – Next….
On to the next folder.  I may have already gotten 2 parts of the day editing depending on what I picked so this also many turn into a skip day.

Day 6 – Definite skip day
Usually on this day, I’m shooting another wedding so I’m not touching last weeks wedding at all.

Day 7
Working on starting the process all over again because I had a wedding on day 6

Day 8 – Finish up another folder
At this point I’m probably at formals.  Family formals I don’t touch because I’ve already edited them in Lightroom.  I’m more focused on the bridals because if anything is getting printed and blown up, it’s going to be those.  Editing time is about 2-2 1/2 hours depending.

Day 8
Finalize reception.  I spend maybe 30 minutes on these.  I’ve editing most in Lightroom so I might pull them into Photoshop if there’s a first dance shot that I didn’t convert to b/w in Lightroom or there is something that I need to edit out.

This is where I will take the ones that I edited for the blog post and put them back in the main folder.  I have a separate folder that are already watermarked that were uploaded to the blog and then will eventually go on Facebook…when I get around to it.

Day 9
Send them to the client and you’re done!

So going back, let’s add this up.  With a quick estimation, I have about 10 hours into a wedding in 9 days.  How is that 6-8+ weeks?  Do not get me wrong.  I get that other people’s way of doing things is different.  This is what works for me and this is what my clients love and tell others.  I shoot 30-40 weddings a year so obviously this is going to depend on how many you shoot.  I will not shoot any more than that.  I’m not a photographer that will jam pack my calendar just to say I’m shooting a wedding every weekend.  I know my limits and have no problem saying no.

You need to do what works for you.  You need to get in that groove and don’t get out of it.  I’m a huge procrastinator so if I don’t edit this way, I’m sitting on a session/wedding for what seems like forever and I don’t like that.  I don’t like making my clients wait so I don’t.  Understand that it’s okay to have in your contract that you take up to 8 weeks, I have in mine that it will take at least 4 weeks but remember under promise and over deliver.

Why Wedding Photographers Should Plan to Be Early

2015-09-06_0012As a wedding photographer you’re in charge of capturing the visual element of memories of someone’s wedding day. It’s a big job and your clients are putting their trust in you to be there and help ensure everything goes as planned. That’s why, more than anyone else present at the wedding, it’s so important for wedding photographers to do everything they can to make that day happen.

I’ve seen weddings where the officiant showed up late because of traffic, or not at all. Being the cause of a 3 hour wedding delay is not something you want on your shoulders. Trust me. You don’t leave the wedding in good standing and you may have just ruined the positive atmosphere of someone’s wedding day.

In my many years of teaching and educating photographers, particularly wedding photographers, I’ve always put an emphasis on the importance of arriving to a wedding early. Here’s the thing, you never know when you will get that flat tire, get stuck in that terrible traffic, get into a car accident (knock on wood) or get a speeding ticket. You can’t plan for all the possibilities out there, but one thing we can do is plan on if that ever happened how we’d handle it and how we’d prevent it from ruining our client’s day.

I can tell you now, completely from experience, about getting a speeding ticket on a wedding day AND…better yet…getting into a car accident on my way to a wedding, because just that very thing happened to me last week. Here’s the thing…nobody was hurt, my car is on the mend, but most importantly I planned and built in time for something like that to happen on my way to a wedding so I still arrived EARLY to the wedding. And you know what? I rocked that wedding, had a great time, took some amazing shots and didn’t let it get me down.

I drove my car from the scene of the accident (it seemed drivable) to pick up my second shooter, we drove up to the mountains and while we were waiting for the wedding to start happening since we were early I realized my car was leaking fluids and scheduled a tow to happen during the reception. My second shooter took care of prepping for the tow, I called and did phone stuff during eating time and it didn’t get too in the way of my day.

All I can think is that I am incredibly lucky that I am the kind of crazy cautious person who plans in advance for the worst, because it meant I was still able to deliver my best to my clients – and that is ultimately always my goal.

So, if you’re a wedding photographer think extra hard about what would happen if you were to have anything slow you down from getting to a wedding? How would that add stress to your day? How would it affect the creativity and photos you took? How would it affect your clients if you weren’t there on time as promised? Always put your clients first, even if that means 99% of the time you arrive so early to a wedding that you have nothing to do but walk around and plan shots, or sit in the parking lot and blog from your car (I do this all the time). Be as prepared as possible!

What is the Difference Between a Photography Assistant and a Second Shooter

The difference between a photography assistant and a second shooter?  Well with me an assistant gets to take selfies and behind the scenes pictures….


and a second shooter gets to ride in the golf cart

IMG_9483 web

In reality through, there is a difference between the two so let’s break it down a bit.

Photographers assistant
For the most part, an assistant won’t shoot and gets paid less than a second shooter, usually around $10-20/hour depending on your area and what you want to pay them.  Don’t get hired to be an assistant and think you’re going to be all sneaky and shoot to build your portfolio.  No, it doesn’t work that way.  That’s also a great way to get “axed” from ever being an assistant with anyone.  Wedding photographers talk, yo’.

Photographers assistants are the go getters.  Go get me a lens.  Go make sure grandma isn’t running away after ceremony, we need formals done.  Go get mom because we need to get the bride dressed.   See where I’m going with that?  It’s not all about being a “gofer” but you are the go getter.

Photographers assistants need to have an eye for detail.  You are our 3rd (after the second shooter if there is one) set of eyes so making sure the brides hair is in place, or her dress is fluffed, etc is a huge asset to a primary.  Nothing worse than editing hair when it all could of been avoided at the time of shooting.

Photographers assistants will keep the time line going according to plan or at least as close as possible.  Even though I know what time it is, my assistant always makes sure we have time to do things and aren’t running behind.

A photographers assistant needs to be assertive but yet nice.  With my assistant, she is the one that’s making sure family isn’t pulling the disappearing act after the ceremony.  We crack through family formals in about 10-15 minutes, depending on family size and she’s right behind me…”Grandma & Grandpa, you’re on deck, don’t go anywhere”.


Second shooters

Second shooters bring there camera, duh.  Depending on your area and their expertise, a second shooter can get paid any where from $25-50/hour.

Second shooters will either shoot on your cards or hand over cards at the end of the night.

Second shooters will shoot for you and your business.  They are not there to build your business unless they are in it for the long haul.  I’ve been blessed to have the second shooter for 3 1/2 years and it’s come to the point where clients are thanking us both.  Gives me a happy chill.

Depending on your business model, second shooters can use the images they shoot to help build their portfolio AFTER the client has been delivered their images.  As a second shooter, DO NOT post images of a shoot before the primary, do not tag clients, and do not pass the wedding off as you shot it on your own.  Usually when blogging/Facebooking photos, the primary will ask that you mention you were a second shooter and link back to their site or tag them in Facebook.

As a second shooter, don’t be lazy.  Don’t think that since this isn’t “your wedding” that you can just stand back and click the shutter.  You’re representing the primary’s business.  Hustle just as hard as if it was your own.  Not only will that help the primary out but it also makes yourself look great so that you can second shoot again.

As a primary looking for a second shooter, makes sure you are looking at someone that has the same shooting style as you.  You want to make sure when you deliver the images to a client, they aren’t going to be able to tell who’s images are who’s.


The best thing to do when you’re looking for someone, whether an assistant or second, is sit to meet with them, talk with them, grab a drink/coffee/whatever.  With an assistant, it’s kind of hard to lay down the whole interview thing but if you’re wanting someone for the long haul, you’re going to want to make sure they mesh with you and that they will be a good asset to your business.  Same goes for a second.  Look at their shooting style and not their editing style.  Remember, they aren’t editing your photos so while they may edit a totally different way then you, it’s more style/composition that you’re looking for.  Who knows, they could have a little bit of creative flair that will push you to start doing the same.


Avoiding Wedding Season Burnout

Copyright Shmily Face Photography

Welcome to hell.

Just kidding. Kind of.

It’s officially summer, it’s officially one of the hottest on record, and it’s officially wedding season, swimming season, summer vacation, time to show off that bikini because you faithfully did your pinterest workout everyday season, and Orange Is The New Black, Did They Really Kill Jon Snow season.

It’s that precious time of year where you go from being emotional over the father daughter dance, to a very different type of emotion when a memory card fails. It’s when you decide if you want to look uber professional in all black, and risk heat stroke, or dress like a guest, and lose your “on-sight” professional aura. The struggle, my dear togs, is real.

Lest we forget, we’re also standing and bustling through each wedding for 6, 8, 10, and 14 hours, (unless you got an Indian wedding, in which case, you’re beyond us all) fighting for the ability to capture portraits, not cell phone cameras, get all the detail shots while having a bridesmaid lean over our shoulder to tell us she had a secret pinterest board she wants you to take a look at because she’s *just sure* the bride will want all of those shots as well, and for those of us brave enough, getting up the next day and shooting another one.

All that being said, I’m here to remind you that YOU STILL MATTER. I know, it’s our time to edit and crank out weddings in 7 to 14 days (yes, you can take longer, no, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to take three or four weeks) while upkeeping a blog, updating our social media daily, taking classes to make sure we’re on top of our game, OH, and maybe also seeing family, husbands, kids, best friends, etc. And I’m aware that you have to work like it’s the end of the world as we know it, because come winter, we’re gonna be relying on what we make now to survive–if you’re a full time sort of tog, everyone else, carry on.

I know it sounds like I’m trying to overwhelm wedding photographers, but that’s not my intent. At all. My hope is to provide you with several tips to help you keep your sanity,  give you some much needed validation that downtime is just as important to you as it is to the people who legally get 2 full “Leave my problems at work” days a week, and give you a goal to pace yourself towards – Winter Vacation.



1. Ibuprofen and a 5 hour Energy right after the ceremony is the best advice I have ever received from a photographer, ever. Honestly. Just as you’re having to face several hours of awkwardly trying to look busy while waiting for the next “thing” to happen, it’s nice to know that your feet aren’t going to be punching your brain in the face for the next few hours. Try it. Seriously.

2. The “Nature Is Kind Of An A-hole” Kit:
-Bug Spray
-Tweezers (Because Ticks)
-Bandaids (preferably the sushi shaped ones, because they’re adorable)
-A tiny bottle of Whiskey. Just….just in case.

Keep that kit in the back of your car, or get compact sizes and keep it in a plastic baggy (spills happen, people) in a side pouch of your camera bag. You’re welcome.

3. BRING ANOTHER OUTFIT. Pants tear. Skirts rip. Wine spills. Blood drips. Infants explosively spew vomit and fecal matter simultaneously. IT HAPPENS. So be prepared.

4. Prep in advance for when you get finished. That might mean prepping a meal you just have to throw in the microwave, oven, or your mouth, as soon as you walk through the door–or maybe you might order glorious takeout-regardless, have some good food awaiting you when you get home. Chill some wine. Have the AC going full blast in your room. Take a long, glorious shower or bath. Whatever helps you wind down and get rest and mental and physical relaxation, do those things.

5. Make an editing schedule. If you’re one of the people who’s figured out that outsourcing your edits is the best thing since sliced bread, I salute thee. Way to make your life about 800% easier, I’m sure you’re probably enjoying pool time right now, you sly minx. For the rest of you who may have the same control-freak issues that I face, I totally understand. Until we find that unicorn editor that can give us the freedom to also read thought-provoking novels by the pool, I recommend a schedule. Pinpoint your goal completion date for each wedding, and work backwards. Delivery, Blog Post, Final Touches/Look Over, RAW/Batch editing, Culling, Sneak Peek, etc. Totally doesn’t have to be in that order in any way, that’s just an example. Just figure out what you can *reasonably* do in a day (while still giving yourself time to eat, poop, and see other human beings) and make sure you stick with it. I even give myself a “pillow” day, where I can move my work to that day, should something come up that doesn’t allow me to finish when I was supposed to. Try it!

The most important tip is really that you make sure to take your time off seriously. Guard it as jealously as  a Bieber Fangirl would guard Bieber’s Twitter Feed–with irrational, almost religious fervor. Like it or not, stress manifests in ways that can affect your cognitive abilities, sleep, interactions with other people, and can cause physical issues, like headaches, depression, anxiety, etc. If you find yourself trying not to scream in panic because another bridesmaid is opening up Pinterest, I think it’s safe to say you need a vacation. Don’t let it get that far. Make time to relax and unwind without pressure or fear of deadlines at least once a week, and MORE if you can. I’m giving that as a bare minimum guideline, don’t feel guilty if you find you need several days to recover. There’s nothing wrong with knowing your limits and taking care of yourself.

What about you? Have you found any great tips, tricks, and post-wedding rituals that you use to keep your cool and make wedding season a little easier? Share your awesomesauce advice with the rest of us!