Thirteen years ago, Tracie Maglosky’s life changed when she photographed a wedding as a favor for a friend and found that she was immediately hooked on the rush.
But it was more than just the excitement of the event: Yes, she thrives in stressful situations and enjoys the challenges unique to wedding photography. But she also loves making brides feel safe and special. Most of all, Maglosky cherishes the thrill she gets when she delivers her images to the happy couple. It’s part of the reason she doesn’t just send a link to a gallery of wedding shots.
The Importance Of Meeting In Person
“We do in-person sales,” she explains, “so everyone comes into the studio and sits down in front of us to view their images. I couldn’t do it any other way. Running a business is stressful, and there’s a lot of work that isn’t shooting and it isn’t the fun part. But the only reason why you can keep doing this for a long time is because of that emotional connection, that life-changing moment when somebody sees themselves in a way they never knew. And with weddings, we’re actually showing people what their love looks like. And maybe they’ve never seen that from the outside in…and getting those reactions…Seeing that is the only way I can keep doing this. You need the feedback.”
And while a lot of photographers, Maglosky says, might shy away from this part of the business, for her, it’s central. “Honestly,” she says, “the delivery is the most important part of what we do. Making people feel something is one thing, but what we give them at the end, that’s the eternal feeling when they look at the images. We can’t leave that up to, ‘well, hopefully, they got their pictures and they feel good about them.’ I have to have that touch.”
Experience has taught her why an in-person sale is so important. “Early on in my business, I didn’t do IPS [in-person sales]. I would just give people their digital files,” Maglosky says. But she rarely got any feedback. “They wouldn’t write you back and go, ‘Wow these images are awesome.’ They’re just off doing whatever they want with the images.”
But IPS and meeting with the wedding couple in person let Maglosky reenergize that connection with clients. “I can do this forever,” she says, “because people actually appreciate what I’m doing.”
It also allows her to shoot fewer weddings. Maglosky used to shoot 50 weddings a year before switching to IPS. She says that shooting so many weddings was mentally and physically exhausting, and it kept her away from her family too much. “Now, for the same amount of income, I shoot 15 [weddings a year],” she says. Of course, in order to shoot fewer weddings, she does charge more, overall. But that business model works because she’s providing a premium experience via IPS, instead of a taking a “by the print” approach to sales.
“So I need one instead of three. Think about how much time I’m saving by not doing those other two weddings. It lets me give one person the most fantastic experience and all my time!”
Using Emotion To Craft A Strategy
Maglosky’s success with a premium strategy is evidence that wedding photographers may be delivering photographs, but, in fact, what they’re really selling is a feeling. Those who try to commoditize the process are missing out on building a sustainable business.
“This is the one thing that I wish more photographers understood,” she says, “that for a feeling, people will pay amazing amounts of money. If you think about amusement parks or the spa or the gym, people pay for those feelings all the time. So if we can change our thinking from clicks of the shutter or square inches on a piece of paper—because if I start going, ‘well my 8×10 is this price’ and then commoditizing my art like that, it becomes more difficult.”
In other words, people really want to buy something that they can’t get anywhere else. “So when it’s about how I’m going to make you feel,” says Maglosky, “not just now but forever when you look at your pictures, that’s hard to put a price tag on. I feel like people often are looking for this pat answer, ‘how much should my 8x10s be?’ And it’s like, well, it doesn’t really matter. What really matters is how they feel about you. Because it does change the way they view the work.”
How Wedding Photographers Sell Themselves And Build Trust
Maglosky feels wedding photographers should get away from focusing on just selling a print or a canvas or an album. “It’s [about] selling yourself,” says Maglosky. “Really, because people want to buy from people.”
To do this, Maglosky says she lets her clients know that she will be the one on the front lines. “‘Listen, you deserve the best, and no one is going to work harder than me.’ This is the exact verbiage that I use,” says Maglosky. “‘No one’s going to work harder than me, and I study every single day to make sure that I can bring my very best to you.”
Sometimes that means including components in a package that others might not, like the engagement session. “A lot of people sell that as an add-on,” Maglosky says. “I can’t do that. Everyone gets an engagement session because that’s where I earn your trust. I want you to know you can trust me 100 percent. And so by the time I show up on the wedding day, the bride’s like, ‘I’m so glad you’re here!’ Because they trust me. It’s so much easier to be photographed by a non-stranger.”
Trust is crucial for a photographer who wants to go above and beyond with every assignment, to push boundaries creatively. She couldn’t do that without trust.
“I’m always trying to change things up so that I’m not always doing the same thing,” Maglosky says. “Because I think monotony kills my creativity. So I try to switch things up as much as I possibly can. Going back to that very first touch with couples and getting the trust and being the trusted adviser and then doing the engagement session and winning the trust again, on wedding day….”
That’s how Maglosky says her clients end up saying, “‘Do whatever you want, we trust you 100 percent. Use your creativity, you’re the artist.’”
Tracie Maglosky’s Approach To Photography: Continual Learning
Maglosky’s drive for maximum creativity—to always deliver something special for her customers—led her continually to learn more and more about lighting and posing techniques. For her, it’s an approach that sets a true professional apart from the crowd.
“Early on, I was a natural-light shooter,” she explains, “and I pushed natural light to its absolute limits. I tried everything. And every once in a while, I still shoot natural light. But 99.9 percent of the time, I know that unless there is perfect light—and that’s rare, by the way—I am going to need help. And I get it to what is good for me. When I was shooting natural light, I began to notice limitations. And as I grew in my work, I wanted light on everything, and then I kind of gave up on shadow completely.”
Maglosky started out by using flashes. “And then I was like, these flashes are great but man is the light harsh.” It’s why she started learning about light modifiers, making her flash heads produce soft light, before eventually moving up to high-end Profoto flash equipment, which better enables her to achieve one of her signature looks—balancing strobe with natural ambiance.
“I just realized I had outgrown my tools,” she explains. “I needed something more powerful because I really liked getting the starburst of the sun, and I really enjoy being able to see the blue sky. So I got Profoto B2s, and they were awesome, but then when I found the limitations there, I moved up to B1Xs. And then I was like, I love this but I wish the light was softer, so then I got an XL umbrella.”
It’s at this point that Maglosky realized that if she could control everything, she could make anything she wanted. “That was the turning point for me,” she says. “With natural light, I’m kind of left to the devices of the sun. What’s going to show up? What do I have to work with today? But with strobes, all of a sudden the world’s my oyster. And if I can imagine it, I can make it.”
These days, Maglosky says that her lighting technique begins with determining the appropriate ambient exposure, modifying it to fit the mood, then adding the strobe on the subject.
“It depends on what I’m trying to create,” she says. “If I want something super moody, I’ll dial in the ambient and maybe drop it down half a stop or maybe even a full stop. It depends; am I getting color in the sky? Then I’m going to go down a full stop because I really want all that rich color, and then I bring my strobe in and light my person. But I’m almost never a one-light setup. Usually, we are doing at least two and maybe three lights because often you bring in that light, and then you still need that fill just to come in and soften those shadows a little bit. I always get my scene first, and then it’s super easy. And with Profoto, it’s super easy because it’s a one-shot-skin thing, and you’re done.”
“I feel like I’m just touching the surface of what can be done,” she adds. “I feel like I just put my toe in the water. Every time I shoot, I’m so excited to see what we’re going to make today.”
For Maglosky, it’s this excitement about the possibilities that generates more questions: “How can we make this cooler? How can we add atmosphere or gels or fans, make hair move or freeze motion or add a bunch of blurred motion? Even multiple exposures. How can I really amp this? I feel like I’m just constantly in a state of learning. And I think that’s part of what’s important: knowing that you haven’t arrived.”
One Simple Trick For Successful Wedding Posing
Tracie Maglosky’s Posing Advice for Wedding Photographers
Award-winning wedding photographer Tracie Maglosky travels the world teaching photographers how to run a more successful photography business, how to light better and how to pose couples for maximum effect.
Maglosky also has very useful tips when posing the bride and the groom: “Brides’ dresses are hard to move,” says Maglosky, “so get the bride’s dress set first. Move the groom around the bride instead of moving the bride every time. Also, it’s easier to move heads and hands than it is to move bodies. You can move heads, hands and eyes and not move any feet, and you can make a million different poses and have a million different feelings and have a million different expressions—smile, kiss on the cheek, a whisper in the ear—without moving bodies, which takes a ton of time.”
And what does she do when she’s crunched for time? “Take care of heads, hands and eyes in every pose and then move bodies,” Maglosky says. “And if you have to move a body, move the groom first and make the bride’s movement the very last option because setting that dress can be so much work.”
To see more of Tracie Maglosky’s work, go to traciejeanphoto.com.