There’s this business I know personally. It seems like every week I see them floundering when it comes to marketing. Whether you’re a business owner yet or not you’ve probably seen another business and thought the same. You’ve wondered how they have survived so long on such a minuscule marketing plan. I wonder that about businesses sometimes. I was having a conversation with someone the other day and they said this business is ‘reactive’ and not ‘proactive.’ I’m pretty sure that statement created immediate fireworks and has sat with me ever since. Reactive marketing. Proactive marketing. I’ve been throwing those words around inside my brain for weeks now and decided to write about it.
Here’s what I’ve realized. Reactive marketing is the kind that responds to customer complaints and tries to fix problems after they’ve raised. Proactive marketing anticipates everything in advance, plans in advance and avoids those kinds of fixes and complaints that come with not being prepared. So…I want you to be prepared! The best way to prepare yourself for any business marketing is to create an annual marketing plan. I realize it might be March, but that doesn’t matter. We don’t have to start these things at the New Year no matter how much my organizational issues like it.
An annual marketing plan can help you create a plan of attack in advance that anticipates customers needs, reactions and basically beats them to the punch. Not all business owners are planners though. I get it. I know I’m in the minority with my hand written planner, notebook full of scribbled notes and need for a very specific type of pens in my office. Even though planning and organizational skills come natural to so many people you can still work toward having a more organized approach to your marketing plan and here’s a few tips that can help.
Create a marketing calendar. This is your first step. I don’t care how it’s done. Print out a blank monthly calendar, write it in your planner, write down the months in your Evernote or a Word document. Just create a calendar somewhere right now, or at least after reading this blog post. In order to create an organized marketing plan you need a calendar. This calendar will serve as a place to make notes on what you need to do to prepare in advance for different events.
List out holidays and events. Tons of businesses plan holiday-related sales and events. I want you to go through your calendar for the remainder of this year (or next year or wherever you are in the future reading this) and mark down any holiday you are using as a marketing opportunity for business. If you’re a photographer and you do Fourth of July mini sessions, or Halloween Costume photo sessions you need to mark down the dates and set them aside in this calendar right now. The more you plan in advance the more successful you’ll be.
Planning! That’s what’s next. Now that you have your calendar and your dates you are holding events or need to plan marketing events around you actually have to do the work. If you have Fourth of July mini photo sessions on your calendar then you need to go in and mark the date when you are going to start marketing and selling these to your customers. If you want to get really fancy, maybe make a few notes about how you are going to do the marketing. Email, social media, fliers…you name it. This is how you build your marketing plan.
I’m hoping this blog post helped you stop what you are doing and break out a notebook and pen (my preference) or Evernote (eww digital stuffs) and start brainstorming and creating some organization for your business when it comes to your marketing efforts. You’re going to be so much more prepared and booked when you’ve spent a few minutes planning in advance. This isn’t a project that has to take hours or days by any means. Just sit down for an hour and make a list or two and put it somewhere you’ll be able to find and check into regularly. Add the reminders for your marketing plan into your Google Calendar or iCal. Take some action and you’ll see the results!
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If you’ve never attended WPPI (Wedding and Portrait Photographers International), it might be hard to understand the scope of what I’m about to write about (and why it even needs to be written about). The thing is, Las Vegas is a whole bucket of cray-cray all on it’s own. Add tens of thousands of photographers to that mix, throw in a handful of photographer “rock stars”, and a ginormous trade show to boot? It’s like crazy took crazy pills. There is so much to do, so much to see, so many vendors and new gear and demonstrations and platform classes and that’s just the photography side! Add the parties, the casino floor, aaaaaall that cigarette smoke, the focus groups, the meals and meetups, the let’s-go-test-what-we-just-learned-and-have-a-photoshoot-in-our-room-oh-crap-who-can-we-get-to-model-forget-it-we’ll-just-shoot-each-other moments, the no sleep, the endless walking, the lights, the shows…. it’s seriously nuts.
And if it’s your first time attending, it can be really (REALLY) overwhelming. It’s easy to get lost in the fray and to feel truly starstruck as you walk around passing by your photography heroes and meeting so many people that seem to be doing all the things you wish you were doing too.
Now, I’ve been in this business full-time for over a decade now, and I feel like I’ve finally gotten the hang of this whole insane conference thing. I had the opportunity to not only room with a few people who were brand new to WPPI this year, but to observe several different levels of experience. I spent time with WPPI’s marketing team, with one of this year’s Grand Award winners, with various “famous” photographers, with a lot of the vendors, and with a whole lot of people just like me who spend their year day-in-and-day-out in the trenches of this business. One of the things that struck me was how people choose to let their conference experience go.
Hands down, the best advice I can possibly give to anyone attending WPPI (or similar conferences) is this: go up and talk to people.
It sounds simple, but let me expound for a minute here. I watched so many new conference goers “fan girl” and freak out about talking to someone (a photography hero, a vendor, etc). I’ve been that person myself. I’m watched people do the circling-to-land maneuver, flying around the periphery before finally working up the courage to say a simple hello. And I can’t tell you how much I’ve seen people leave the conversation at a simple “I love your work”, take a selfie, run away combo.
Whether you’re new or not, I would urge you to try to connect with people. Is it terrifying? Yeah. Of course it is. Even the most extroverted of people get a flutter of I’m-about-to-make-a-fool-of-myself when they open themselves up like that. But I’m telling you, there is nothing more inviting and nothing more rewarding than being vulnerable. It is the universal connector. It is the author of authenticity. If you see a photography hero in the halls, walk over, introduce yourself, tell them something you learned from them, and then listen. Ask them a few questions. Connect with them as a person. Smile. Be confident in knowing that you’re both just people. Give them the space to do what they need to, but acknowledging the vulnerability you both feel to be opened up to the world like that will allow for a genuine connection.
Don’t have time to talk one-on-one with someone (ps – after a class or presentation is a bad time to try to do that), that’s ok. Leave them a thank you note (scribbled on the back of an envelope if you have to, but if you bring cards, awesome!). Tell them something you’re thankful for in their presentation. You’d be surprised how many of the presenters never hear that stuff. Leave your email address on the bottom and let them know you’d love to connect.
But the bottom line? Choose connection. Choose to talk to people instead of skirt the edges. Choose to be vulnerable. Choose to put yourself out there not only with presenters and “famous people”, but with the people you sit next to at your classes, the people you bump into on the trade show floor. Go to lunch together in that lame food court and learn from each other through conversation and shared stories. Grab coffee or sit in the hallways charging your phones and really listen to what the people around you have to say.
The best moments at a place like WPPI rarely come from the presentations or the tech talk or the selfies. It’s the people and connections you make. I promise you won’t regret it.
* Brienne is a the snarky chick behind the camera and under the water for briennemichelle.com and hipeanut.com. Besides her love of sarcasm and wine, she also loves to connect with people, mentor, educate, and generally get her geek on with photography. Have questions? Want more input? Email her directly connect through the cool crowd on her website — briennemichelle.com/coolcrowd *
During that time as a photographer where I was just delving into the wedding world I would find myself lying awake at night staring at my popcorn ceiling wondering if photographing weddings was a path I truly wanted to follow. Weddings are just so big and incredibly final. What would happen if I messed up? I’ve always been a cautious person so these thoughts are the ones I always found racing through my mind at inopportune times, like the night before I was going to photograph a wedding and really needed the sleep.
Despite the challenges that weddings possessed I took the ups and downs and learned as much as I could from them. I am still learning. I’ll always be learning, but today I hope to pass down a few tips that I wish I’d learned before photographing weddings. It’s easy to see these points written down on a blog post in some far corner of the internet and not take them seriously. In fact, I would venture to guess most people reading this blog post will be nodding and thinking they’ve got all this stuff down. You probably do. Or maybe you’ve heard these things a thousand times before in a Facebook group when some newbie photographer posts asking for tips and all the experienced togs swoop in with world advice and experience and scare off that newbie. My hope is to never scare anyone away from doing something they love, but instead to be here with a few tips to remind you of just how important weddings are before you start documenting the memories of the day.
Study hard and invest well. Never cut corners. Do you hear me? NEVER CUT CORNERS. A wedding is (hopefully) a once in a lifetime event. If you’re cutting corners and just doing the minimum amount of work to get by then you’re doing the clients a disservice. Be an advocate of their wedding day and do the best job you possibly can.
Get that back up gear! When I started photographing weddings I couldn’t afford all the fancy lenses and camera bodies that all the big leaders of the time used. Sometimes it felt as though I could never be a real wedding photographer without all the fancy equipment. We know that’s not true. The talent comes from behind the camera and the equipment is just a tool you use to create. Back up gear is essential to making sure your clients are secure and you’ll always get the shot. Camera drops into a fountain? Falls and breaks? You must have extras! The problem is that we don’t all have the financial ability to run out and buy whatever we want. Make sure you build a budget into your business for renting back up gear until you can afford to buy it. That way you’ll never let your clients down.
Contracts are essential! You’ve probably heard that before. I know legal agreements are daunting. You might be nervous about having clients sign one. Just remember contracts aren’t just for you. You’re not using this tool to hoodwink your clients into submission. This is a tool for both of you. It protects both them and you. It outlines and sets the expectations for the day. A contract makes sure that everyone knows exactly what is happening and precisely what their roles are.
Be prepared! There are so many levels of preparedness that go into weddings. I don’t think it’s even possible to be prepared enough. Anything that you can do to prepare yourself for this big business step of shooting a wedding is something you should do. If you have the opportunity to go to a venue walk through, do it. The wedding rehearsal? Do it. If those aren’t happening schedule a time to visit the venue on your own. Read anything and everything you can find about photographing a wedding. Second shoot as much as possible or be an intern at a wedding. Take every opportunity to learn and you’ll become more prepared.
Timelines are essential. A wedding timeline is something you can work together to create with your clients and their planner (if they have one). This timeline will help you prepare for any major lighting traditions and let you know when you have time for a quick bathroom break. You need a timeline. If nobody has created one, talk to your clients about creating one. Everything seems less stressful and rushed when there is a timeline, even if you deviate from it.
If you’re getting ready to shoot your first wedding don’t be afraid to ask for help and tips. Sometimes you just need someone to commiserate with when you’re nervous. Just remember everyone who was ever successful at photographing weddings was EXACTLY where you are right now asking themselves the same questions. If you want to learn more awesome behind the business stuff like this make sure you subscribe to our weekly newsletter below, where we’ll be giving out extra special discounts and a few free products only for subscribers this Winter. You can also join 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! If you subscribe to our newsletter you’ll need to head on over to your email after you hit the submit button here to confirm your subscription. If you don’t see a confirmation check your junk/spam!
There’s this feeling the day after a wedding. The feeling I’m talking about is not “Oh, what a wonderful life I live! I got to photograph the best day of their lives! Rainbows! Unicorns! LiveLaughLove!” The feeling I’m talking about, is the one where you feel like you got hit by a truck. Your back hurts, your head hurts, your feet hurt, your eyes hurt. Your arms are sore. It’s like an actual hangover, with a lot less alcohol. I haven’t found a way to not feel like crap the next day, but there are ways to make it a little more bearable. Decompressing after a wedding is important. There are a LOT of feels and touches and talking on wedding day. So how do you decompress?
I walk into my house, barefoot (because the shoes come off in the car), and take my pants off. Yeah, I went there. It’s true though. I then try and drink a water or Gatorade and eat. Depending on the time I get home, I might also take a bath. And then I SLEEP HARD. I usually end up sleeping 12 hours the night after a wedding.
I asked a group of photographers what they do when they get home after a wedding. Here is what they said.
Sweats, messy bun, and wine
Tequila. Hands down.
Hot bath with one of those bath bombs, LOTS of water, Netflix, and comfort food.
Pants off, food, a drink, bath in that order.
Feed cats. Feed face. Pants off, Golf Channel on. Beer in. Stress out.
Drink lots of water and watch tv.
I take some magnesium, warm shower and relax a little with a cup of tea on the couch before bed.
What are your favorite ways to decompress after a wedding?
As videographers, we have a LOT of gear, which can be both a blessing and a curse. We have the ability to get a lot of incredible and creative shots all day long, but since tripods and other gear are big and cumbersome, it is essential to anticipate the action. Since Bobby and I specialize in wedding videography, that will be the focus in this article. However, a lot of these ideas can be used in commercial shoots, non profit work, and other events.
Talk to the couple in advance about their schedule & any “surprises.” One of our brides had prepared a special dance for the groom, so this was good for us to know about in advance. Another couple had planned fireworks, so once again, it was important for us to be one step ahead.
Have a schedule. For weddings we always tell our couples when we first meet, that we would like the wedding day schedule when it is finalized. Often times this is a week or two (or day or two) before the wedding day, which still leaves us plenty of time to review and make sure we have all the details. We make sure we have all of the addresses, and remind our couples that we will start during prep, to tell the story of the complete day.
Communicating with the planner, photographer and DJ. Those are the three people that will likely drive the day forward, so it is essential to be on the same page. For example, if you are going from the prep location to a new location for the first look, make sure the photographer knows you need a couple of moments to set up (and photographer…make sure to allow us that time). From there, it is important to make sure the planner knows you are there (as not all weddings have videographers), and that you will be there to capture the whole day. Once the reception is about to start, we check in with the DJ not only about audio, but also to touch base about the schedule. It is essential that we are one step ahead for big events such as the grand entrance, first dance or toasts. If we ever has a DJ who just starts toasts ahead of schedule, and doesn’t give us a heads up, we have a very stressful few seconds. However, even if the DJ forgets to tell us (and deviates from the schedule), it is still possible to be ready! This leads us to the next point….
Being aware, always listening & looking. If the DJ goes rogue and doesn’t give you a heads up for the first dance, if you are listening and looking, you will figure it out. Once they are about to make an announcement, they will likely check a schedule and pick up a mic, in which case, you can get there and be ready. We have also learned very important information during weddings days but just being super aware. Once we had a groom that was running very late due to a fire that had closed down the main road. The bridesmaids knew that the bride would get stressed if she found out, so we got on the same page as the bridesmaids by simply listening to them talk to each other (and then checking in with them to get the whole story). Another time we found out that the bride’s grandfather had recently died, so knew to be extra sensitive to that side of the family. A few years ago one of our couples had a family member who was deployed and had prepared a video for the couple. This was not officially on the schedule, but good to know so we could capture the reactions of the couple. Don’t expect someone to always come up to you to fill you in…be aware. And…
Being mobile & ready to move at any time. During prep, get there early and get set up. I generally start shooting on a monopod and Bobby starts with a wide angle on a slider or ronin.. That way, no matter what happens, one of us can capture the action. From there, one of us can easily follow the action in one direction, and the other can stay and capture what is happening in the prep room. If the father of the bride shows up and the moment is about to get emotional, it is key for one of us to easily be able to capture the reactions. We keep our cameras ready the entire day for anything to happen. Can you imagine if we both had our cameras in the corner and something important happened without warning? Be ready and be mobile.
Keep the bride in sight. I stay with the bride pretty much non stop (or at least keep an eye on her and am aware of what she is doing). Don’t worry, I do this in a way where she probably doesn’t realize I’m keeping tabs. I give her space! But this way, if someone appears and gives her a gift, I know and am able to capture it. If she is standing there and looking beautiful, I am able to capture it. Once the reception starts, no key events will happen without her, so if I know where she is, then I can anticipate what is about to happen. I am able to do this, because Bobby is always thinking about what is next and not only shooting but planning for the next thing.
Have 2 shooters. We absolutely love being able to capture the action from two angles, and being able to get set up for the next event. I am able to stay with the bride essentially for the whole day because Bobby is the one getting the audio setup for the ceremony and then reception. He is the one grabbing rad drone shots. He is the one moving gear from one location to the next, and getting additional cameras set up, or shooting time lapses. We know a videographer here in Minneapolis, John Hoel from Vibrant Films, who shoots solo and does absolutely incredible work! However, we have no idea how he does it all. I think he is a ninja 😉
In the end, it is essential to go with the flow, and if things don’t go according to plan, continue capturing the beautiful day. You may have a moment where you are internally freaking out, but take a deep breath, and make it happen. You are being invited into a couple’s story; don’t forget this is an absolute honor.