Before Atlanta-based André Brown became a wedding photographer, he’d never attended a wedding. Looking over the wedding photography on popular websites like The Knot and Junebug Weddings, he didn’t particularly connect with what he saw—bright and airy images with cold smiles. With a bachelor’s degree in recording arts, Brown had moved to Los Angeles when he was 19, where he managed songwriter and producer Ric Rude and worked with artists including Busta Rhymes and Destiny’s Child, among others. As a result, his exposure to photography was on sets for TV shows and movies and at editorial shoots for magazines.
He wanted to make wedding photos in that editorial style. “I’m looking for things that are going to be more like art,” he says. “That is what I’m trying to create.” As he got deeper into the craft, he realized that some wedding photographers were making that style of imagery, and the first opportunity he had to put together an editorial wedding image, he took it. Working with a groom and his groomsmen, Brown posed the men at various points around the space, some standing and some sitting on bar stools and chairs—not a single cold smile in the mix. It was a breakthrough.
“People liked it,” he says, “and that became the defining moment for what my style would be. Once I saw that people were OK with what they looked like—versus the bright and airy that is plastered all over the web—I thought, This is cool.”
He makes those editorial-style group photos at almost every wedding, he says, capturing them in just a few clicks of the shutter. Posing a large group comes naturally. “When I see a group, it’s easier for me to pose that group than a single person,” he says. “I can walk into a situation and see where I want the people to be placed, which person will be where based on whatever their strengths are. Or a person is here but maybe they don’t look good in that pose, and I swap them out with somebody who can do it.” He often enters these group shots into competition where composites aren’t permitted and has won prizes for them. Plus, his clients love the photos’ regal look.
Brown travels a lot for his wedding work, so workflow is vital for his business, he’s found. “I pride myself on having a really good memory,” but when you’re always on the go, things fall through the cracks, he admits. Many of his clients are referrals hoping to receive identical treatment to the friend who referred them. It’s important that all wedding clients have the same experience.
For this reason, Brown uses 17Hats combined with Active Campaign email marketing to automate his business communications. He’s such a believer in the importance of workflow that he gives workshops on the topic and, with the help of his project manager, even provides consultations to photographers who need help implementing their flow. This month, he leads an educational session on the topic, “Winning with Workflow,” at Imaging USA. “Having everything automated in one place enables me to be sure that everything is congruent from client to client,” he says.
All client communications are automated—from the pre-engagement session style guide and the list of wedding day tips to post-wedding sales offerings and the marketing that continues after a client has wed. “The typical life cycle is engagement, marriage, pregnancy, baby, so after they’ve gone through the wedding cycle, they go into the maternity workflow,” he says. While weddings are Brown’s primary focus, he also does portraits, including maternity. He added maternity marketing to his workflow when a wedding client did a maternity session with another photographer then expressed regret that she hadn’t known he did maternity portraits as well. “We can’t assume our clients are aware that that is what we do,” he says.
Brown’s workflow includes communications about where clients can find their contract as well as notifications about when their gallery will expire. When a client comes to him wondering why they can no longer reach their gallery, he has evidence of communications that had notified them of the expiration date.
Brown makes tweaks to his workflow continuously. He recently received an email from a client who was wondering why she could no longer access her gallery, which had expired in 2017. She wanted to order photos, but when Brown saw the ones he’d made for her, he didn’t like the quality of the editing, which he’d updated post-2019. He preferred to send her photos that reflected his new style. So, he extended the offer to refresh the editing on her photos for a fee and included a before-and-after example in the email showing what the improvement would look like.
To Brown’s delight, she took him up on the offer, and when four more pre-2019 clients reached out wanting to order images, he made the same offer to them. Two accepted. As a result, he’s tweaked his workflow so that pre-2019 clients receive automatic email communications offering this refresh service for a $1,000 fee. He outsources his editing, and the plan covers unlimited projects, so he loses no time or expense to this service. “It doesn’t cost any additional money to me at all.”
Brown is always on the lookout for ways to multiply sales. He’s set a goal for himself to make 40 portraits of people over the age of 40 in a year. He uses his wedding sales sessions as a lead to that offering. After a wedding, he hosts the couple and their parents at his studio for a reveal of the photos, serving charcuterie and champagne. While they’re in the studio, he shows them his portrait work and offers to waive his session fee minimum if they book a portrait session within 60 days. He averages $3,650 per portrait session, so if one of the parents of the couple schedules a portrait session, that guarantees him another $3,650 within 60 days of the wedding sales session. Recently, he had a wedding client who was already $20,000 in with Brown via an engagement session and wedding photography, and then she and her mother came in for a post-wedding, Mom-and-daughter portrait session. “So, that is $3,650 on top of that from one client just by making them aware of the options that I have for them,” he says.
Many of Brown’s clients are referrals. In fact, he’s done between nine and 11 weddings among the same group of friends, he says. “So, yeah, I’m part of the family now. I need an honorary degree from whatever college they went to,” he laughs. Those multiplying referrals are a testament to the appeal of Brown’s signature style and to a workflow that guarantees each client has the same exceptional experience. His timely communications take clients step by step through an automated process that leads to additional sales. It’s a workflow streamlined for success.
Amanda Arnold is a senior editor.