Recently I've been asked how I book so many weddings every year. Yes, my prices aren't in the high range and yes I know that higher prices means less weddings. This post is truly catered to people who are in their first 5 years of their wedding photography careers and how to find and book more clients.
I've heard alot from other photographers that they've used Wedding Wire, The Knot, Facebook Ads, flyers, promotions through instagram, and so many other things but somehow they're not getting close to the 30 weddings a year that I am consistently booking. The first thing I can say about how to get your schedule booked, is to work your ass off. Seriously.
In early 2014 I booked and did as many weddings as I could. I tried not to do tons of "discount" weddings but I was able to get my hands on abou 28 weddings in my first year as a "full time" photographer. I never really intended to do this many weddings, but I knew that I needed the experience and the only way to get that is through booking weddings. At that time, I received most of my wedding bookings thru Wedding Wire, which steadly decreased and I began booking more thru referalls in 2015. The 2015 wedding season I had 31 weddings booked and second shot multiple times as well. This season was really my "defining" season so I could fine tune everything for my 2016 year. Now, it's 2016 and I'm booked solid with weddings that I am so confident in that are going to be amazing.
I get a little errked when I hear from so many photographers that they have problems booking when they've only done 10 or 15 weddings and are beginning to charge in a range that is not meant for them. You really NEED to work around the concept of gaining experience. Your photos may be wonderful and beautiful as well as your styled shoots, but having true wedding experience is such an important thing because unless you can fine tune and react to anything and everything that weddings can and WILL throw at you, you shouldn't be doing them, or worse charging as much as the ones who do have the experience.
Why is experience, any and ALL experience, so important?
1. You won't book weddings without it
2. Learning how to work with other vendors
3. Dealing with the stress from the wedding day
4. How to talk with your clients during their stressful chaotic wedding day while also maintaining your own professionalism and doing your job, WELL!
5. Managing unexpected situations: bad lighting, poor scheduling, unhappy couples/guests, etc.
6. THE MOST important thing I've learned from experience is that just because I'm the wedding photographer, the wedding is NOT all about my shots. It's about the experience. I want to elaborate on this because I hear SO many people complain about videographers and the caterer and anything else. Well, that sucks for you, but this isn't your wedding. You are here for your clients and regardless of how other people are going to treat you or other priorities that may not be catered to the photography during the day, you still have a JOB to do and your job? Is to take amazing shots despite all the other things. I love working with other vendors because the goal is the same, or should be, for your CLIENTS to have an AMAZING wedding EXPERIENCE.
Doing these things, will get you an amazing referral and gained more experience/expertise on how to handle unforseeable and uncomfortable experiences. This may be from my counseling background (I'm working on my Masters in counseling) and I see life from the perspective of being authentic and honest. If you are these two things, and you can authentically CARE about your clients wedding experience, you'll be amazing
*Also, in order to book weddings, you need EXPERIENCE not just to shoot them well, but to get an inquiry! Brides are looking for reviews and experience regardless of what it is, you need to show experience. Second shoot or assist other photographers to GAIN that experience you need! This is just like any other job where you need to WORK for what you will MAKE.
But first, more about referrals.
I've tracked my bookings and I currently pay to be on Wedding Wire and do receive a few bookings from them, but 68% of my weddings come from referrals. Meaning, I've done a wedding and the bride or bridesmaid, or a guest at the wedding or even another vendor reccomends me to someone who is looking for a wedding photographer. Why are referrals so amazing?
Every wedding I do I think of it as not only me working for my clients, but I need to work for the 150-300 people who are all watching what I'm doing as well. When you're at a wedding you are not just showing off your amazing skills to your clients but also their guests. I want to work my ass off for my clients, but also for the people who are watching me. Almost every wedding I go to at least two or three GUESTS comment on how fantastic I'm doing, they'll come up to me and say "your'e doing such a great job", or "wow I didn't even see you there, you're everywhere". This gets not only my name out there but my presence. These people have SEEN me in person and when a couple asks around for "Wedding Photographers" theire more likely to put my name out there because hey, they saw me in action
The Price & Package:
There really is a "sweet spot" for pricing your collections and creating your wedding packages. I always try to include something "tangible" with every wedding collection (doesn't include the elopement) because it's important for people to HAVE something from their wedding! Plus, if you don't then you're just asking for a flag from the governement for not paying sales and use tax (I'm not an accountant so I'm not going in depth into that statement). The way I do my collections and price them accordingly is based off of my "Cost of Doing Business" I've created a spreadsheet that determines how much I need to make off of EACH wedding (given that I am shooting for 25 weddings per year) not including income from portraiture so that I can make XX amount. From there, I realized that I need to average a certain amount from each wedding based off of my cost of doing business| expenses, taxes, fees, etc. Additionally, the products I include in each package are already accounted for within the Cost of Business. I choose the 5 hour collection, two 8 hours (one without and one with a second shooter) and the 10 hour package because I've found that I get a true mix of what everyone needs for their wedding. Definitly a good policy is to have prints in your packages as well as a flash drive. I love flash drives and sending off prints because it's kind of my "end" to the story I've created. This of course is the end to MY part in their story, because after all the saying on my site is that LOVE HAS NO END, which is TRUE!!!
Anyway, hopefully this help with your photography business endeavors and sheds a little light into how I book so many clients and where they are coming from so you can ALSO work towards booking many clients!!!