Now, I’m sure by now you’ve seen lists along the lines of “342 questions you MUST ask your wedding photographer” on places like TheKnot.com. Lists like this one from www.bride.com. The problem with lists like this is that if you send an initial email inquiry with a list like this copied and pasted in, the person reading it (who just might be your dream photographer, although obviously you don’t know it yet) may end up thinking…
- This couple obviously has no idea what they want because they’ve clearly copied and pasted this list of questions from some website somewhere and half of the questions aren’t even relevant to me and my business/weddings in this area.
- They’ve sent this initial email inquiry to a list of 40 local wedding photographers and haven’t even hidden the other recipients by using the BCC option. I’m not feeling the love right now…
- Has this couple even looked at my website? Some of these questions seem to indicate they haven’t even bothered…
- This couple clearly has no faith in my abilities as a photographer and their email just isn’t very friendly. I don’t think this couple is a good fit for me…(Yes, good wedding photographers are looking for their dream couples – and sometimes turning down bookings from couples they feel aren’t a good fit for them).
Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t care if you hurt the feelings of other wedding photographers out there. I don’t even care if you hurt my feelings (well, ok, maybe I care a little bit. I am a sensitive creative type after all). It’s not about that. The point is that, just as every email I write to wedding couples, every phone call I make and every client meeting I go to affects whether or not a couple chooses me, every email you write to vendors, every phone call you make, every meeting you go to helps establish the kind of relationship you are going to have (or not have, as the case may be!) with that vendor.
So what’s my advice to couples who are trying to track down their dream wedding photographer and have no idea where to start?
#1 Google is a good place to start.
But be prepared to search deeply, especially if you are looking for somebody with a unique style or you’re on a budget. There are usually a lot of wedding photographers in any area with a decent population. Google is an easy way to locate those that have been around for a long time and/or are savvy at digital marketing and generally speaking the easier the photographer is to find on Google the more likely they are to be towards the top price-wise for the local market. Try and find 10 – 20 photographers who’s work you like. Don’t overthink it. You don’t have to become a wine connoisseur, you just have to figure out whether or not you like that particular wine. How do their photos make you feel? Do they make you feel anything at all?
#2 Get referrals.
Ask your friends who have been married in the same area who they used and how happy they were with their photographer and their photos (sometimes two different answers!). If you have any vendors lined up that you love, ask them which photographers they recommend? (The more you love the vendor, the more they are likely to give you a recommendation that is right for you).
#3 Narrow it the hell down.
Like I said, in most areas there are a surprising amount of wedding photographers. The more you dig the more you’ll uncover. Write a nice friendly email to the 10 – 20 wedding photographers you have found who’s work you dig. Include as much info about yourselves and the wedding as possible. Include stuff like;
- Your wedding date (spell out the date fully – day of the week, day, month and year to avoid any confusion) and whether it’s confirmed or tentative. That way, if they’re not available and your date is locked you can scratch them off the list. (Remember, narrowing down your options is a good thing).
- Tell them your venue/s so that they can hopefully tell you that they’ve shot several weddings there and know the venue well. They may even be able to send you sample wedding photos they have shot at that venue if you ask nicely.
- Your personalities, the kind of wedding you want (keep it simple – use just 3 words to describe your dream wedding), the style of photography you are after (again, keep it simple, you don’t need to use “photographer speak”).
- If you feel comfortable tell them roughly what your budget is. Again, this may help eliminate some photographers who are totally out of your budget and aren’t flexible with their packages. If you feel nervous telling them straight out what your budget is ask them for a rough price indication and if it’s out of your budget but you like them and their work go back to them and tell them what your budget is. You can always ask them if they could do anything for that price because you love them and their work so much and see what happens.
- Choosing your wedding photographer is a lot like dating. You will need to get to know them and they will need to get to know you before you can figure out if they are the right photographer for you and your wedding. Good communication, whether by email or phone or in person, is an important part of that process. Moreover, once you DO choose your wedding photographer, having already built up a good dialogue (even if none of it was in person) is helpful towards you feeling comfortable with them. And if you don’t feel comfortable with them your wedding photos won’t be as natural, relaxed and beautiful as they could be.
- In your ongoing communication with those that pass the initial email reply test feel free to ask some of the key questions you have found in your list of “Questions you MUST ask your wedding photographer but try to make sure they are actually relevant to your wedding/the vendor you are contacting and try to write them in your own words so you don’t sound like a wedding robot.
#4 Trust your instincts.
Once you’ve narrowed down your preferred wedding photographers to a manageable number, meet with them in person (or have a video chat on Skype or Google Hangouts if you can’t meet in person).
Trust your instincts – do you actually like them as a person? Do you feel comfortable with them? Do you trust them?
If not, keep searching until you find somebody you click with. You will be spending a lot of time with your photographer on your wedding day and if you don’t like them (a) you won’t enjoy your wedding day as much as you could, and (b) your wedding photos won’t be as natural, relaxed and beautiful as they could.
Right, I hope you find the above helpful in your search for your dream wedding photographer.
#5 Free email inquiry templates to send to wedding venues, photographers, celebrants etc
Actually, I just might have to follow this post up with an email template you can use for your initial email inquiry to potential wedding photographers. Guess what? Busy wedding photographers often use email templates or studio management software to help them write emails to clients. After all, we don’t want to forget to ask or say something important. And writing good emails is often half the battle in turning an email inquiry into a booked wedding. I’ve always thought that couples planning a wedding could benefit from using the same approach when sending email inquiries to wedding photographers and other wedding vendors. I have been thinking about approaching a number of local wedding pros (only those who are awesome of course) and asking them (a) what questions they wish couples would ask them about their services and products, and (b) what information they wish couples would give them at the early stages of their inquiry. I could then use this info to create email templates to send to wedding photographers, to caterers, celebrants, you name it. Waddayareckon, would this be helpful? Let me know in the comments below if this is something you would find of interest.