Hey! Wedding Photographer!
Does meeting couples in person make you nervous? Do you feel a little bit like an impostor when you sit down for a cup of coffee with a bride and she starts asking you questions about how you work? Are you wondering why brides who email you keep dropping off the face of the planet when you’ve sent them the nicest messages breaking down all your wedding packages for them?
I got you, girl. I’mma help you.
Want to hear something crazy?
I’ve never had a one-on-one meeting with a couple who didn’t book me for their wedding. That is, EVERY SINGLE TIME I’ve met a bride and groom about shooting their wedding, they have hired me. Every time.
I don’t think I have some kind of magical power (Not when it comes to this, anyway. Brownie-making powers, though? Very possibly.), I’ve just figured out a little bit about what couples are looking for when they meet me. And I think you can do the exact same thing.
First of all, you gotta meet them.
Every time I get a wedding inquiry, I send across my pricing brochure, but I always follow it up with, “I’d love to get coffee and chat over details with you!” (Any excuse for a coffee.) If they’re not local, I offer to have a Skype call. (During which I also suggest we drink coffee.)
I do have a few couples book me without taking me up on my offer – I find those guys have already pretty much decided they wanted me before they ever emailed, and most likely just wanted to make sure I was free on their date and in their budget.
If I don’t hear back from a couple three or four days after I’ve sent them my info and offered the coffee date, I’ll follow up with a nice email just checking in, making sure they don’t have any questions, offering that coffee again if they’re having trouble deciding and want to chat about it.
Don’t be a psycho.
This one’s so easy, because you’re not a psycho.
Which wedding photographer to hire is one of the biggest decisions a couple can make about their day, because their photographer is going to be with them all day long. You’re going to be with the bride when she’s half-dressed in the morning, having her makeup done and drinking champagne with her girlfriends.
You’re also going to be with just the two of them when you whisk them off for portraits after their ceremony. They’ve just promised forever to each other, and now they have 30 minutes to stare into each other’s eyes and whisper, “We did it…I love you…you’re my wife…” And you’re the one standing with them while that happens.
As wedding photographers, we can’t take for granted how vulnerable couples make themselves to us, and that vulnerability doesn’t come naturally to everyone.
So part of that meeting with them is just saying, “Look, here I am. I’m a nice person. I’m normal. I will make you feel comfortable. I have boundaries and I know when to disappear into the background. I’m funny. I’ll make you laugh. I’ll protect you if I need to. I’ll respect you.”
It’s not hard, because that’s who you are.
Basically, all I’m saying is, be yourself. What I find with couples I meet for wedding consultations, is that they’re already 99% sure they want to hire me. Our coffee date is just a chance for them to make sure I’m going to fit in well with them and their friends. Once they realise I’m just a normal, nice person, they’re ready to go that last 1% and book me.
Let them know they’re safe.
I met with a couple this week about shooting their wedding next year. They were so lovely, and excited about their day, but the groom kept alluding to the fact that the bride was feeling really stressed.
After talking for a little while, she finally admitted that she hadn’t enjoyed the wedding planning process so far.
They told me that several other wedding vendors offered them things in their consultations, and then, when it came time to book, the offers were taken off the table.
Like, “oh no, sorry, those included linens we told you you could have were a special February deal and it’s March now.”
Just when they thought they’d figured something out, the goal posts were moved.
The bride was on the verge of tears, and here is the gist of what I said to her:
“I am so sorry that has happened to you. But I want you to know that I won’t do that to you. I only take on a limited number of weddings every year because I want to serve you and respect you. I want to know you by name. I’m not a wedding machine. I’m a good photographer, and a really nice person, and you can trust me.”
We forget, when we’ve shot dozens of weddings, that this is usually the first and only time our clients have planned a wedding. We can’t become desensitized to what a big deal it is for them. And yes, it’s business. But they’re people, too. And I just want to treat people the way I’d want to be treated. (It’s called the Golden Rule, guys. Ever heard of it?)
And finally, don’t pressure them.
Simon and I were trying to buy a car a couple of years ago, and talked to a guy named Chris at a dealership about what we wanted. He showed us something we liked, talked us through the whole thing really patiently, and we connected with him over the fact that our kids were the same ages and he understood what our priorities were.
We went away to think about it for a couple of days, and then went back into the dealership, thinking we were probably going to buy the car. Except Chris wasn’t there. Instead, a guy named Dave came to help us…except when I say “help”, what I really mean is “pressure” us.
Dave was pushy and salesy. He was the epitome of a “used car salesman”. When we had questions, he only vaguely answered them. And he kept using lines like, “It’ll probably be gone tomorrow,” and “That’s a cheap car. Have you looked at this one?” (that costs £1000 more than you’ve told me you can afford?). In general, he just made us feel kind of…icky. (We left. And bought a car somewhere else.)
I don’t know about you, but one thing I don’t want couples to feel when they meet me is “icky.”
And there’s no reason they should.
When I’ve given a couple all of the info, and bought them a coffee (or a glass of wine. Or a giant slice of cake. Go crazy!), and answered all their questions, then there’s no need for me to pressure them at the end.
Here’s what I say:
“Are there any more questions I can answer for you? No? Why don’t you guys go home and chat about it tonight, and if you feel like you want to book me, then send me an email tomorrow and I’ll draw up a contract for you.”
The pressure’s off. They can go home and have a heart-to-heart and make a decision, feeling like they’ve been treated well, and they can email me tomorrow and say, “Yes, we really want to book you!”
OR. What’s even better, and what happens a lot, is that they look at each other, and use that silent ESP eyeball language that couples who really know each other have, and then they look at me, and one of them says, “No, I think we know. We’re happy. We’d really like to book you.”
At which point you say, “YAY! Great! I’m so excited about your wedding!” And high-five them and do a little dance.
Or, you know, whatever comes naturally to you.
Don’t be afraid.
You can do this. You’re not a psycho. You’re a talented, kind person, and that’s what your couples need to see. They’ve contacted you because they’ve seen your work, and they already like it.
So all you need to do now is buy them some coffee and be yourself.