Why Brides Say I Do to Pro Photographers
It seems like everyone has a camera these days, which places more of a burden on professional photographers to show and explain the difference they can make in situations like weddings. So how do photographers prove to brides that professionalism in photography is as important as in any other industry?
What convinces someone to choose a professional photographer is different from bride to bride. But after speaking to some satisfied brides who did hire professional photographers, we have a better idea of what sealed the deal…and turned them into word-of-mouth evangelists.
The Best Brides
The perfect client (bride, in this case) is not always easy to find. It’s not always the bride with the biggest budget or the most beautiful wedding setup. Often, it’s the attitude that makes the difference.
David Esquire of Esquire Photography found just such a bride in Anna Marie Huffman last year. From the beginning, Huffman was focused on her location and photography—they were her two biggest priorities. A self-proclaimed “theater and music kid,” she always had an appreciation for the arts, which might have helped her see the need for photography.
“I knew I’d try to live in the moment during the wedding day and would miss so many things,” Huffman says as she explains her reason for choosing a professional. “Photography lives on perpetually. It’s what you have at the end.”
Jamie Snively, an entertainment coordinator, also recently got married. As one might expect, Snively knew the ins and outs of the industry, but she and her husband didn’t want to hire their friends—they wanted them there as guests. Still, knowing the industry means she knew the value professional photography has, and she hired Leanne Reis of Photography by Leanne Reis.
“We were really nervous about the photography at first,” remembers Snively. “I always blink, and I wanted our photos to be perfect.”
How You Meet
Perfection is what all brides want (in a variety of definitions), and perfection is what professional photographers can help provide. First, though, the bride has to find her photographer. Photographers need to make this as easy as possible, perhaps by connecting with other wedding vendors, websites and/or blogs and even bridal shows.
For example, Snively did what most brides do at some point: Internet research. It’s important to have your website optimized at times like this, so your studio is sure to appear during a search. Initially, Snively was just browsing and narrowing her choices down via price. She found Reis online, but the kicker was that two acquaintances recommended her—and one was a professional photographer friend.
On the other hand, it was a bridal show that connected Huffman with her photographer, Esquire. She was looking for a certain artistic attribute and saw three photographers’ displays that she liked, but she wasn’t able to speak to Esquire until after the show. “We met him that evening for drinks and just meshed,” Huffman says. “I put a deposit down that night!”
Personality & Laughter
As a photographer, you know how important it is to connect with your clients to draw out their best. Well, brides are looking for the same thing. They want to feel comfortable with the person who is going to be documenting their entire wedding (though it is often a subconscious desire).
“Honestly, I knew the first time I talked to Leanne—I’d already made up my mind on the phone,” comments Snively. “It was her personality. She made me feel like a real person (and that she was a real person).”
That calmed some of Snively’s nerves about the wedding photographs. In fact, her friend commented on their compatibility after Reis and Snively walked through the wedding location. “She said, ‘You must have picked the right one because you were laughing the whole time,’” recalls Snively.
Personality also sealed the deal for Huffman, who was actively looking for that connection. In fact, her husband and her photographer just went to the movies together (the relationship has held strong even after the wedding).
Service & Professionalism
Along with personality, Huffman and Snively both point to their photographer’s outstanding service and professionalism as reasons for their satisfaction (and referrals).
When it comes to service, think about what you can do for your bride before, during and after the wedding that will make her life easier. Huffman was delighted when her photographer came location scouting with them, taking test shots and offering his artistic suggestions. He also suggested a videographer, and that resulted in shots she couldn’t have received otherwise. Don’t be afraid to give your professional opinion in matters like this—you could really build up trust in your abilities and in your investment to her wedding.
“It was a constant flow of ideas and communication,” notes Huffman.
Sometimes helpful suggestions like that can help you get hired by a bride. Dawn Sullivan, a bridal client of Heather McKay (McKay’s Photography), once told her that their decision to capture their celebration in pictures “really came together after meeting you and talking about our thoughts, wants and needs. It all was more than we could have ever imaged!”
Service extends from those types of suggestions to little touches that go a long way. Esquire brought lunch on the wedding day—something that is often forgotten in the mad rush. And he surprised Huffman and her husband with a slideshow of their engagement images during their reception.
It was the little touches that Snively enjoyed, too, from the shoot-only option that Reis offered, to her unobtrusiveness during the wedding. “We were already stressed enough during our vows, without adding cameras in our faces,” she explains. “Leanne simply wasn’t in the way, yet captured everything.”
And despite her initial reserves about photography, Snively admits that their favorite part of the wedding was after the ceremony when it was just her husband and her being photographed. “It was the most quality time we had all day,” she says. “Leanne was our bodyguard, keeping the others away, and it didn’t even feel like she was there.”
Such professional service shows the photographer’s competency, and it’s just one more way to reassure the client, an essential gift during a wedding.
“Before our photographer even left the wedding, she was on the computer, backing up everything twice,” Snively and her husband add. That little example of professionalism wasn’t even meant to be seen by the clients, but it stuck in their brains.
What Brides Want Brides to Remember
Yes, all brides want “pretty pictures;” but not many consider what goes into creating that. Snively’s call to future brides addresses the need to look beyond price and other easily visible attributes: “Other brides need to find photographers who make them laugh. It’s very helpful when you’re nervous!”
Still, not many brides work the desire for great photography into their wedding budget, even though photography is the one area where brides shouldn’t cut corners.
“It’s give and take, but you can budget the rest of your wedding and still do phenomenal things,” Huffman explains. “Maybe instead of a five-course meal, you could have hors d’oeuvres…but don’t cut the budget on photography. No one’s going to say they had a bad time at your wedding because the linens were cotton, not silk. But you WILL look back at your photographs.”
The Final Vows
When the cake is long gone and the dress is packed away, the images remain. Perhaps Huffman, a bride herself, sums it up best by sharing what she says to friends who have a friend with a pretty good camera: “You only get married once—don’t trust it to maybe ‘good enough.’”
Unfortunately, the average bride usually doesn’t consider the fact that photography is the one lasting keepsake of the wedding day. And they may not recognize the value a pro photographer can bring…without help. So reach out and help them see it with your website, your images, your service, your personality, your referrals. You might just end up with more evangelists like Huffman, Snively and Sullivan.