In The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, a young d’Artagnan asks the brooding yet wise Athos for advice in a matter of the heart. Athos pointedly refuses even to hear the question, saying that people ask for advice for one of two reasons: So they can blame someone afterward or so they can go ahead and ignore it anyway.
For wedding photography, there’s no shortage of advice and guides about pricing your work these days. We believe that Athos, while certainly brooding, dour and cynical, was also largely correct, so in this brief article, we want to turn the question around somewhat. Instead of giving advice on how to price your work, we want to look at it another way: How will your clients value your services?
First and foremost, remember that first impressions matter greatly. Everything about your first interactions should be professional, and there are actually several distinct first impressions—online, on the phone and in person. Your website and social media are incredibly important. A would-be client will scour both to get a feel for you and your skills. Think of both as part of your brand. The way you answer the phone should make the caller think you went to elocution school, and in person, present yourself as personable, confident and genuinely eager to help make the client’s wedding memorable. You don’t land the job with these first impressions, but you can easily lose it.
Once you’re past the initial meet and greet, you’ll be in competition with a relatively short list of other photographers. Your would-be client will be judging you based on your photographic style, the professionalism of the finished packages you can provide and your personality. It’s important to know yourself because trying to be someone you’re not will result in a poor experience for the client, and that will come back to haunt your business. If you’re headstrong with a carefully crafted way of shooting that clients can either take or leave, don’t pretend that you’re an easy-going shooter who gets along with everyone and you can take direction from a client whether or not they know the difference between an ƒ-stop and a bus stop. It’s no good to land a job that you have no hope of being able to complete to the client’s satisfaction.
Take the time to listen to your prospective client. Talk to them about what they liked when they saw your website. Be prepared to get contradictory information between what they say they want and what they say they like. It’s like when someone says they love Ansel Adams’ photography, but they just wish there wasn’t so much black-and-white.
In a world with Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, the final impression is almost as important as the first impression. Ask any successful wedding photographer, and they will tell you that word of mouth is some of, if not their most important, advertising. The timeliness and manner in which you deliver the job to your client is going to determine a lot of how the whole job is perceived. A beautifully executed, perfectly presented album, along with image files that are appropriately named with proper metadata attached, will go miles to getting you good word-of-mouth referrals. And always follow up. The last impression you leave on yesterday’s client will be the first online impression on tomorrow’s client.