For all its reputation as a money-spinner, wedding photography hardly ever guarantees a steady flow of income. For the most part, it has got little to do with creativity or talent. There are plenty of gifted photographers out there but very few make it big.
It sure is exciting when you decide to go “pro” from being a hobbyist, but for the long haul you need a lot more than just skill.
What’s common among the ones who get left behind is pretty much their inability to handle the “business side” of photography, which we must admit is also the primary reason why the successful ones seem to pull it off every time. While there are multiple aspects to the non-creative, but essential side to professional wedding photography, we have narrowed down to five of the most common business mistakes that budding photographers make.
No.1: Ambiguous scope and deliverables
“You promised to take pictures of all my relatives, but there isn’t a single image of them onstage with us.” “Our wedding pictures are on your Facebook page. How can you do that? We own the copyrights.”
Sound too familiar? Yes, customers can be difficult at times, but they are well within their rights to make demands that might seem unreasonable to you but not to them. Because you failed to define clearly what you will deliver and what you won’t. And you’ve likely overlooked key things, apart from ownership rights, such as the number of images you’ll deliver, how soon you’ll get the album ready, package inclusions, and so on.
Here is a very powerful solution—the photography contract. Often considered a mere legal formality, if done right, a contract can be more than just a safeguard. It can help set customer expectations, so you can deliver on your promises and go beyond as well to delight your customers. Often times, a thrilled customer is your gateway to new projects. How do you go about creating a contract that has all bases covered? Stay tuned for an upcoming post on drafting the ultimate wedding photography contract.
No.2: Poor customer relationship
For most wedding photographers, customer relationship means landing up at the venue on time, capturing some kick-ass images, and delivering a beautiful wedding album. And, a couple of phone calls in between to set up appointments and intimating the customer about timelines and such. Also throw in a good handshake, a warm smile, and manners that can get you an extra drink at the bar.
True, what you deliver holds great value. But, how you go about it can make the difference between a testimonial…and a recommendation. Between a passing reference about how good your work is…and the bride being lavish in her praise about how wonderful a person you are, how easy it was working with you, and how her besties are going to absolutely love having you as their wedding photographer too.
Like in every relationship, your aim should be to impress. And to unleash the lovely personality that you’ve reserved only for your close pals. Pretty soon, you’ll be making friends among the customers you work with as well…friends who can be your megaphone.
No.3: An inefficient workflow
Overheard at a cafe—“It will take me about a week to choose and process five random good images and send them to you. And, in another couple of months I can send you the entire batch of edited files.”
And, by the time the photographer delivers the album, the wedding would be all but forgotten. More dreadful are stories about how photographers crashed their hard drives, and lost all the images. For the customers who end up losing the only memories they have of the most important day in their lives, this occasional blunder is unforgivable. Have you thought about your production workflow yet?
There are multiple ways and numerous articles online on setting up efficient workflows. The key things you need to remember are: shooting with your production processes in mind (RAW/jpeg, camera settings, etc.), a multi-layer foolproof image backup and copying habit, sorting and repeatable editing workflows, and a consistent delivery timeline. We cannot emphasize enough how sloppy, unorganized workflows can quickly put you out of business. Customers love a photographer who is always in control of things.
No.4: Average responsiveness
A customer who has to wait is a customer who is no longer with you. Reacting quickly or responding to a requirement (or even a suggestion) is a direct measure of how much you care. Most photographers, both new and established, come up short in this must-have attribute. New photographers mostly because they’re underprepared, and established photographers simply because they’ve too many things to handle.
It takes time and effort to build the ability to be quick and ready with a favorable response. For newbies, that is. It starts with realizing the need to be responsive, so the studio next door doesn’t benefit from your sluggishness. And it starts right from responding to queries and acting on needs and suggestions to being fast overall in delivering your product. Established photographers…well, you can perhaps hire an extra pair of hands while you can focus on making images that your customers will love.
No.5: Treating every project as a stop, not a channel
In the age of social media, it is a crime to think networking is optional. And that every project ends as soon as you deliver the wedding album.
You’re better than other photographers in town because Sunny and Ayesha said so. Through their testimonials on your page and recommendations to friends. Through a “follow this photographer” post on their wall. Through the wonderful pictures of their cake that you sent across to the decorator. Through the next few weddings of their cousins and friends for which you’ll be the obvious photographer of choice. One good project can often kick-start a chain reaction—it is up to you to see an opportunity for future business in every single wedding you shoot. And, act accordingly.
This is our list of the top business mistakes wedding photographers make. If you have anything to add, do write to us.