Craigslist and the wedding photography industry?

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by brian_cesario, Feb 22, 2010.

  1. I've been shooting weddings for a few years now as a side business, and am really loving it. I purposely don't book too many weddings per calendar year because I enjoy being able to give each client the attention they deserve. I have a solid portfolio, a good website, my prices are competitive for this area (without undermining the veteran wedding photographers), and I actively market myself. Long story short, I listened to the old pros when I was a newbie just getting my feet wet, followed their advice, and...nothing. I've had literally one booking this year. One. Uno. Ein. Un. Singular, not plural. I'm getting a little worried here!
    Some have proprosed that the slow-down in bookings is due to the economy continuing to wreak havoc on the wedding industry...but people are still getting married, right? Others have suggested that brides are just holding out longer before booking. I guess that's a valid argument, but I still feel like there's more to it. My theory is that the seasoned pros in the wedding photogrpahy industry are taking a backseat to the "bargain basement" photographers that put up ads on Craigslist, backpage, and other free public sites. And this trend is continuing. I know there's a lot of talent out there...and yes, maybe some brides got lucky and found an absolutely AMAZING photographer to shoot their wedding for, say, 500 bucks. The brides are happy with their results, so they tell all their friends, "Hey, I got a great deal on Craigslist. You don't need to pay a pro thousands of dollars when you can get someone just as good for a lot less". And so this results in a preponderence of brides-to-be scouring the Web looking for five-hundred-dollar wedding photographers. And THAT leads to people evaluating photographers based on their price more so than their work. The end result? We lose work.
    In a recent discussion thread on a popular wedding planning site (I won't say which one), a vendor was venting about how one bride got a photographer AND a videographer for a whopping $200. No, that isn't a typo...I even asked to make sure it wasn't...two HUNDRED dollars for photo and video. I was dumbfounded, yet I felt vindicated in a strange sort of way. I see the ads online. I get the occasionally "Can you shoot an eight-hour wedding for dirt cheap?" e-mail. What's the industry coming to?
    I can tell you that trying to educate these brides is like fighting a fire with gasoline. I get a lot of "give me your price" and then never hear back from these people again. I know people need to be savvy, but what are we to do?
  2. I don't know. I haven't seen a decrease in my bookings despite living in an area with an unemployment rate of nearly 20%. This year's bookings are more than 20% over what I had last year and brides book anywhere from 18 months to 1 month in advance. I don't compete with bargain-basement photographers and don't compete based on price and don't really have many "just shopping arounders" contacting me. The ones that contact me know what they want (me), we meet and I yet have to have a couple not book me after a meeting in person (knock on wood). The brides I'm dealing with are not rich by any means but they do see the value in having somebody with a good reputation/track record shooting their wedding as opposed to taking a gamble by hiring somebody for 200 bucks. Not sure if it's my style of photography or the way the site is worded, the advertising is targeted but I have very, very few of the "it would be good for your portfolio if you shot my wedding for almost nothing" brides and I wouldn't want those to be my clients to begin with. So it all works out.
  3. Presumably you can't make a living at $100/wedding or even $500/wedding, so these are likely to be people trying to build a skillset or portfolio or possibly reputation. But it is likely to put market pressure on people who are charging considerably more. That's not necessarily a bad thing, the market is supposed to decide what the fair rate is for this sort of thing. Sometimes it doesn' t work (like the Airlines for instance), but usually it does. If there are lots of people who will do a good consistent job for $500 or $1000 or $2000, then that becomes the average rate and to charge more you have to show that you offer more. Effectively the brides are taking more risk dealing with a lower priced photographer, sometimes considerable risk, but it's their risk to take.
    It's easy for me to say since I'm not a professional or a wedding photographer, but I would say that if you want to charge more you have to find a way to deliver more either in service or reputation or reliability. And you have to find a way to demonstrate that you are in fact worth more.
  4. You have to give them something the burn and churn photographers don't. That could be experience, artistry, exceptional customer service, etc. In the process of talking with brides who don't understand the industry, I usually end up calling on metaphors when discussing quality and what you get for your money. Normally, a metaphor directly relating to weddings works even better. I have told brides that they can hitchhike to the wedding in the back of a stranger's car (i.e. Craigslist) or they can ride in style with an established limo/carriage/vintage car company with a proven track record and... style. Both will get you where you want to go (hopefully, unless the Craigslist car takes you to a very bad place, which has been known to happen), but do you trust your wedding day to that... etc.

    Why should they choose you and pay more for pictures when Uncle Bob with his new DSLR can take them just as well? Oh, he can't? Why? What's the difference? What do you offer for that higher price tag?
  5. The wedding market is changing and will continue to do so. Many reasons. The quality/value of photography is changing. The clients expectations of photography have changed. Some look around then decide, I can get most of those, I can see it on the back of the camera. Couples have different views toward marriage than in the past. More photographers are ready to take wedding photographs now than ever before.
    Break those topics in the first paragraph apart. You can think and write about all of them. Maybe even more.
  6. Raise your prices?
    The closer someone is to the CL pricing threshold the more they will feel downward pricing pressure. The $800 photographer is at risk of losing work to the $500 photographer because the prospective client assumes they are interchangeable on value. But the $8000 photographer is at no risk at all - the entire CL market doesn't exist as far as they're concerned.
    There's an unhappy place in the pricing curve where someone can be too expensive for undiscerning clients, and too cheap for discerning ones. The comfortable ground is always around the 60% price point of your total market (with the cheapest and most expensive at 0% and 100%).
  7. my target demographics do not include the bargain hunting brides, so they can go hit CL photographers all they want.
    bargain hunting brides are a bit too demanding and their expectation is a bit out of touch with reality.
    I show my brides what I can offer them. If they can find someone that can deliver the same type of results at a cheaper price then by all means I tell them to go book that person.
  8. "Hey, I got a great deal on Craigslist. You don't need to pay a pro thousands of dollars when you can get someone just as good for a lot less". And so this results in a preponderence of brides-to-be scouring the Web looking for five-hundred-dollar wedding photographers. And THAT leads to people evaluating photographers based on their price more so than their work. The end result? We lose work.​
    For each of those stories you can also find one that goes something like this:
    "OMG..I found this super cheap photographer in CL for like $500, but when we got our photos they were all horrible. What do I do now?"
  9. brian - if you are concerned, either you aren't a good photographer, or too cheap.
    CL photographers generally do two things: 1) get good and go pro and raise their prices or 2) drop out.
    either case, the CL coupels that you talk about they aren't your clientele, or shoudln't be!
    I say this as someone who started on craigslist, now a full time pro.
  10. I would guess merely raising your prices only works if you can demonstrate you are worth it. Not only do you have to BE worth it, you have to be able to effectively show you are.
    If the $500 photographer IS trying to build a portfolio and/or reputation, then you could equate it to going to a barber college to get your haircut. You might get a great cut, it will definitely be cheaper, but the risk of a disaster is substantially higher. A case in point just last week is that long thread of the failed wedding photographer. I don't know what she cost, but she looked a lot better on paper than she turned out to be in practice.
    On the other hand, preying on people's fears in order to inflate your prices when your work doesn't rate what you're charging is worse to my mind than charging too little. If you charge a lot, you should actually be worth a lot -- so be worth a lot and be prepared to explain why.
  11. >>>On the other hand, preying on people's fears in order to inflate your prices when your work doesn't rate what you're charging is worse to my mind than charging too little. If you charge a lot, you should actually be worth a lot -- so be worth a lot and be prepared to explain why.
    Thank you David. This captures my thoughts exactly. If you use fear to manipulate a bride into booking, you better be able to deliver.
    Also, per my observation marketing skills are more important than photography skills. A mediocre photographer with good business skills will find a way to book brides AND convince them that they product they actually got was awesome (expectations management). So along with your photo classes, maybe take a class on sales if you want to move out of the CL neighborhood.
  12. I would give anything for a "what happened" page for the results of these weddings. It would answer a lot of questions and steer people away before they risk it. You shouldn't really want to book someone who thinks of nothing but how-cheap-can-I go because there won't be add-on sales, and you will have nothing but price haggling to look forward to afterwards. Switch marketing strategies, but ignore the Walmart brides!
  13. David - great metaphor! With your blessing, I might just tell that to the next bride that asks me about Craigslist shooters! : )
  14. Ok with me.
  15. Suggest that instead of complaining about the CL shooters that you start by reviewing the marketing threads here at P-net..........
  16. Theresa, I think the "what happened" page sounds like a cool idea, but it would likely not be accurate and representative of the photos the client received. It would pit the very worst images provided by a burn and churn photographer against the very best overproduced shots of a high-priced photographer.
    That isn't to say that all Craigslist shooters are great and that all they need is a little photoshop + selectiveness in the images they give to the client. But it is to say that eliminating the bad images likely is the most important service a professional provides. As a mentor once told me "the difference between and amateur and a professional is that the professional shows you his best work, the amateur shows you ALL of his work."
    I know that weddings are butchered by amateurs all the time. Even so, I would imagine that there are quite a few talented businesspeople posing as talented photographers who are smart about the images they provide to clients and do a lot of post-production work to save sub-par images. At least when a bride books a CL photographer they know that they are taking a risk--I think that they should not put their apprehensions aside just because they spent a small fortune on their photography.
    The limousine metaphor above fails to capture the difference between wedding photography and a service like limo rental. With the limo rental place, I can go to the shop sit in the car, look at the outside and smell the interior. With photography I have some guy who assures me "the limo we provide for your wedding will be just as great as the one you see here--trust me." He might be right, but he might not but you have to trust that he is going to show up with his A game. His reputation should carry some weight--so you would do well to see how long he's been in business. Also, check the photographers blog. Images on their wedding site often are much better than what you see on his blog, and what he actually delivers is assuredly no better than what is posted on his blog.
  17. "I get a lot of "give me your price" and then never hear back from these people again." Try this Brain...

    When the people email you or call you, ask about their photography budget. It's a very fair question for you to ask. Then rapidly set up an interview date within 3 days or less. Needless to say ask what day the wedding is.

    Then let them know someone else just called you for that same date, but they haven't signed the contract, so if you sign the contract first you will gladly be their wedding photographer. I can't tell you how successful this marketing tactic works.

    There are just too many photographers out there, good and bad. Until you meet with them you are just another number. Once you meet with them you are no longer a number, you are now a professional photographer with wonderful images, the best in your area, booked every weekend, so they, the couple must understand you can't hold the date very long.

    Let us know how you make out.
  18. Bob, do you find that that kind of "marketing" works. To me it seems unethical but I know others in my area are doing it. They also offer one price, and say that if they don't book on the spot the price will increase by 25%.
    I have lost clients to these scare tactics before.
  19. I make most of my living off of craigslist. I also get a good share from google, and I don't mean the organic listings.
    (I should add that I don't look for weddings but I do look for event photography... weddings.. urk. People are so TENSE at weddings)
    google this >>> photography los angeles and find me in the top three most of the time.
    (kevin break) I say this so you know that I know what I'm talking about.
    There is a common and well placed perception that craigslist is to find the cheapest but IMHO it's also to find it right now, fast.
    You can call from the ad and someone (me) will probably answer immediately. This is faster and easier than any other way (but google itself)
    I am also frustrated by the bottom feeders always looking for the lowest price, they are prevalent on CL.
    There is a lot of dreck there since its free. However there is a lot of quality too.
    I try to steer the client to this question; "what is your budget, low to high, for photos?" and/or "Are you looking for the best you can afford? How much is that?"
    I pass on jobs every couple days since I say, "I'd rather spend a little time, and a little of your money, to make a photo you will never forget".
    Being able to take credit cards pays for itself, btw.
    Better or worse, the way the world and the computer/internet revolution is tending, is for instant gratification a la craiglist.
  20. Brian,
    Are you against advertising in Craigslist?
    Although there is sure to be a greater number of unfulfilled requests for information, there may be a few extra bookings.
    Craigslist is a powerful force to be reckoned with in today's instant gratification society.
    Everyone want's what they want, and they want it now. Craigslist provides that in a simple, localized package.
    My Opinion: The reason people are going from Pro's to Bro's.
    Everyone has a digital camera. Everyone has taken one good photo in their life. Therefore, photo's en masse are bound to produce a few adequate shots. This is akin to the popular 80's wedding tactic of placing a disposable camera on every table at a wedding. 30 cameras with 24 exposures is bound to produce a few presentable pix.
    Furthermore, most of today's marrying genre are content to seeing pictures from a cell phone.
    So, what is a good picture?
  21. I'm torn on the issue with my business. I've debated advertising for churn and burn on Craigslist despite more than a decade of paid experience in photography, largely because I've shot everything but weddings. Luckily, I've got a few friends who are getting married in the coming month who happily agreed to free photography in the form of a wedding gift so I don't have to deal with the whole mess and setting up a false precedent for my pricing just to have something to put in the portfolio.
    There are photographers in my area who advertise less than $400 for a wedding and want to go professional, but I'm not worried about being undercut since I know they will either raise their prices or realize that prices in that range can't make for a sustainable full-time strategy and drop out. The only way this sort of pricing could work out is charging a low hourly rate and retaining copyright to make money from extremely marked up prints. Not a great way to get good word of mouth from the bargain hunters on Craigslist since they expect the whole package at an unsustainable price point for the expenses involved just in living, much less running a business.
    I hate to sound snobbish, but clients willing to pay more generally know that quality takes money going toward quality contractors. Lower tier clients, not so much. It's like they are expecting the quality of angus beef from sale priced ground chuck. Simple math on the business end can't support it.
  22. Then let them know someone else just called you for that same date, but they haven't signed the contract, so if you sign the contract first you will gladly be their wedding photographer. I can't tell you how successful this marketing tactic works.​
    And here I am thinking, "That's exactly what a used car salesman does." I sure hope this is an exception and not representative of what the wedding photography industry has come down to.
  23. I think there are a couple of missing economic elements in this equation.
    First is the assumption that all, or perhaps even a majority, of the current wedding photography suppliers are full time businesses. I think the growth in numbers has been in Weekend Warriors and people thinking about "eventually" becoming full time photographers to escape increasingly stressful or threatening job environments.
    Business models and profit scenarios that sustain long term viability in the strictest sense of the word may not apply. Someone looking to supplement their income, a spouse of a two income family where one has lost their job, or the ubiquitous salary downsizing could be manifesting itself here. An extra $500. is a BIG deal to many people these days when they are struggling to pay the mortgage.
    Add that to the usual number of shooters doing this work to stuff extra cash into their cookie jar, or to indulge their passion for photography, where the "windfall" income ends up in the coffers of the camera makers as they buy the new gear they couldn't afford before.
    Secondly, there are the clients themselves who are subject to the same economic realities. If given a choice anyone would choose a brand new car with a 5 year warranty over a used one with all the risks that come with it. Same with anything else, including purchasing wedding photography. It's not a matter of convincing them which is better, deep down, they know ... but they rationalize and prioritize it in different ways based on their own personal realities.
    Clients that DO have the money to buy top end products are some of the best "value" shoppers on the planet. While a $5,000. wedding package is well with-in their reach, it doesn't mean just pricing yourself there will magically bring them to your doorstep. Perhaps more than anywhere else on the social scale, this group relies on word-of-mouth amongst their peers ... which is why well established wedding shooters in that economic community continue to thrive, while making it increasingly difficult to penetrate the social glass ceiling.
    It is not easy out there. If you are not prepared to invest a lot of time and some money, and have the goods to back you up, then your competition will eat you alive on just price.
    Oh, and don't assume that all photographers entering this field of work are lousy despite the antidotal "distressed Bride." Shooting a wedding isn't brain surgery, and any decent journalist, or editorial shooter can pick it up pretty quickly ... or have done enough weddings as favors over the years to step right in and go. I have a friend, who is as good a photographer as any of those proclaimed as the world's ten best, that just shot a wedding in Shanghai China ... the results made my eyes bug out. One recent wedding he shot with me was hung in the National Gallery in St. Petersburg Russia as part of an international cultural show of weddings worldwide ... yet we here might well consider him a "newbie."
  24. And here I am thinking, "That's exactly what a used car salesman does." I sure hope this is an exception and not representative of what the wedding photography industry has come down to.​
    This is a recognised marketing tactic - what is so special about Wedding Photography that this should not be used?
    If photography is your living then this should be at least considered even if you choose to reject it immediately on whatever grounds you choose (be it ethical or otherwise). Customers are free to shop around, to lead you on and get two parties bidding against each other, so why shouldn't the photographer-businessman use any tactics they want to encourage business? The skill is in identifying those (potential) customers who will recognise and resent the tactic and so kick you into touch.
  25. YGWYPF - especially on Craigs... ;)
  26. One of the tools I use that sets me apart from a CL or just "cheap" photographer is time spent with the affianced couple.
    I think it goes without saying that the better you know the couple, the happier they are with the images, because you knew what they wanted and had a good idea of their individual personalities - before you got to the site.
    Many of my weddings are booked with friends and referrals from friends. Facebook, if you're well-integrated with it, will yield a lot of invaluable marketing, just by your couples posting wedding pictures and referencing you... Anyway, the social circles that see my images online after an event are generally connected, or once removed, from me, and I have a general idea of who they are and what they life.
    If I don't know them very well when we meet, I ask for more time before the wedding. And strongly encourage engagement pictures.
    Just a few thoughts.
  27. The comment about an amateur showing all of their work, and the professional showing only their best, doesn't always ring true. I remember our wedding back in 2002... our photographer, who was still shooting with medium format at the time, took roughly two - three shots of each group during the formals - that I remember specifically. Throughout the wedding, I don't know what his firing rate was, but I do remember receiving a very thick box of proofs a few months later, with every single picture he took. There was not one throwaway in the entire box. Sure, there was the occasional wandering eye not looking directly at the camera, or blink, but all in all, every picture was framed, exposed, and captured very well.
    I will say that now that digital has more or less replaced film, the temptation to go with a machine-gun style approach to photography at events like weddings (aka, the "spray and pray" method), is very real, and I suspect that this is how these CL shooters are able to stay "in business" so to speak. I wonder what the value would be for the pros out there to perhaps go to a wedding as a second shooter one time, shoot exactly this style, and then put together a book with every single photo taken... then, show this side-by-side with their best album work to the B&G during the initial meeting to illustrate why the CL shooters are not worth their weight in salt.
  28. you're right, people are still getting married. So I'd say the problem is not with the market or a lack of a market. So, then what to do? Looking else where I'd say give your marketing efforts a good, honest review. Apparently what you're doing is not working. Look at what other approaches are available and at what others in your business are doing.
  29. you get what you pay for, everyone, including Brides should know this. I guess it just means you have to do the best you can to make people want to pay the extra dough.
  30. Brian, why do you worry about CL, since this is your side business? I assume you'll do well even if you won't get any bookings this year? If not, then you should start looking at CL as a tool. Also you should have a solid marketing plan. Where do you see your business in three years. I see mine well outside of CL world and in higher end of the client's buying power. For the time being, I use CL as traffic driver to my site, besides some other things.
    Robert Barkley, good picture is the one that makes you stop and look, causing you to react to what you see in some way. If it is good documentary or photojournalist photographer's picture, it'll tell the story by itself without you having to explain anything. If it is fine art photographer's photo, it'll pull you inside, and you'll drown in it.
    I remember old studio photos, made with large format (in most cases 8x10 inch) camera. When I compare them with anything I shot with my Zenit, they looked shockingly different. When I scan them now, I get 100MB file of astounding quality, as opposed to my 35mm photographs.
    Do you sense the difference?
  31. a thing to keep in mind is you are selling more than your time and their prints. you are selling the confidence that you can at least meet if not exceed their expectations. if they don't value or sense or need the confidence, then they're looking at price per print.
  32. Mr Winberry
    Do you really get what you pay for in the wedding photo industry? Is there some requirement that the novice of novices can't get a nice website, slap together a portfolio of second shooter prints, and charge 10% above market rate? No. So the bride and groom, and anyone else purchasing a photographer should look at portfolio. They should look at the blog. That's where the second-tier images go. The third tier images are the rest of what they'll get from their photographer.
    Before I joined PN I figured all of these guys (on here) who talked a big game about being the best in the wedding photography market and charging high prices would have great portfolios. Boy was I surprised. Most of them don't even know how to focus. If you ignore the best of the best selections on their websites and check out their blogs, you'll be floored at how bad expensive photography can be.
    You may get what you pay for, you may get a lot less.
  33. And here I am thinking, "That's exactly what a used car salesman does." I sure hope this is an exception and not representative of what the wedding photography industry has come down to.​
    That's not marketing; that's closing.
    It doesn't matter if it's a used car or a wedding photographer: Everyone does it because saying, "Excuse me bride and groom, would you mind opening your wallet and handing me some cash?" sounds predatory. Those who don't use an artful substitute will stand helpless as business walks away.
    I have consulted to dozens of small business people over the years. In addition to evaluating their ongoing marketing efforts, I always insist on watching them close. The successful ones all have a closing tactic. I'll admit that some of those tactics make me cringe, but my clients have come to believe that what they do and say works . So, unless I know of something that will work better, I try and accept my own cringe factor as an unpleasant necessity.
  34. Ms. Ramirez most cameras (lens) have automatic focus, which I rely on quite often because of failing eye sight, it comes with age for most people. The above is especially true with moving subjects. If the couple is happy with the images for the price they paid, who am I to say they are wrong. I love my Jeep as much as any person may like their Porsche;-) Good thing that I have a nice paying job as more and more people are using pro DSLRs and doing part time photography. That is the nature of the beast concerning digital, film was much more difficult to master.
  35. The closing is the most important part of selling, also the most difficult for people to master, a long long time ago I was used to be a used car salesman, did very well. If you want to sell, you are selling your talents, you have to ask for them to pay and reserve the date.
  36. It doesn't matter if it's a used car or a wedding photographer: Everyone does it because saying, "Excuse me bride and groom, would you mind opening your wallet and handing me some cash?" sounds predatory. Those who don't use an artful substitute will stand helpless as business walks away.​
    Everyone does it? Not the studios that contract me, that I'm aware of anyway, and I'm often present for client consultations. And what you call "artful" (lol) I call downright deceitful. A fine line separates the two. Frankly, if a photographer has to resort to such tactics to close a sale, then the product must suck, or the personality must stink. Couples know a winner when they see it. Of course, photographers who are so bad at this that they have to resort to such slimeball tactics probably have never seen a couple react to a "this is the one" moment.
    So, unless I know of something that will work better, I try and accept my own cringe factor as an unpleasant necessity.​
    Good for you. Personally, I would just find another profession if I had to devolve into pond scum in order to be "successful." Being able to sleep at night is nice.
  37. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Not the studios that contract me,​
    Can you name some examples. Maybe point to your web site so we can see what is obviously so much better than "pond scum" work.
  38. All arguments and justifications aside, my question would be ... is it a good policy to fib about potential availability?
    Should a honest working relationship with a client begin with such divisiveness?
    I would think that either a client wants what you do, and is willing to pay for it ... or they do not.
    If they are on the fence, are there not other ways to tip them your way other than making something up?
    BTW, this is a pretty public site ... is it wise to reveal such "used car salesmen" techniques here?
  39. One sales technique I've used successfully is to have a friend or colleague call my cell phone when I'm on a customer meeting. I'll answer and act as if it's a celebrity on the line looking to book me for the same date as the bride I'm meeting with. "Certainly Mr Cruise, I'm available that day to shoot your function", or "Of course, you can tell President Obama and the first lady that I would be honored to photograph the gala".
    This usually creates a great sense of urgency with my prospects, and they usually end up booking me right on the spot.
  40. All these so called 'sales techniques' make me feel pretty embarrassed. Is that really how a lot of people get their clients?
    I get mine by showing them my work and having a nice chat. Don't know about anyone else, but I've always been in a relationship-based business, where mutual trust, respect and understanding are paramount. I've always taken the view that if you don't treat people like they're stupid, they won't assume the same of you.
  41. I don't advocate telling clients that someone else wants their date (unless someone actually does.)
    On my website (on the pricing page--gasp--I post pricing) I do use the phrase "Now booking summer/fall 2010" and the day I added that, I started to see more people make inquiries. It was a call to action.
    That said, I do tell people that dates are booking fast (totally true) and that if they don't let me know of their intent to book, I will not notify them before I sell that date. I don't think this is sneaky at all, and it helps me to get the brides who really love my work. The lukewarm brides who asked about a date, but weren't proactive in contacting me get their date sold out from under them. I want to work with people who love my work.
    So I don't advocate telling them someone else has their date (unless they do) but I don't hesitate to say things like Saturdays in June are booking fast--because that's the truth.
  42. I've recently been giving thought to having a friend call me during a client presentation. My thinking is I'll pretend he's a famous photographer calling from the grave to commend me on my work.
    After that I would have the friend call again but this time I would pretend he's a famous religious figure calling from the grave to commend me on my ethics.
    To complete the rouse a third call may be necessary, but I will need to determine that on the fly, using a predetermined code to alert my cohort if need be. Perhaps this call would entail a deceased celebrity?
    Of course, none of this pertains to the original post, but apparently that is not important.
  43. Well, the original post asks about strategies for how to book, in light of the existence of CL. Granted, Mr. Douglas had a funny post suggesting a clearly preposterous circumstance to illustrate how creating a sense of urgency in brides can go too far. I don't think we're nearly as far off track as you might think. Further, I just barely posted what I thought were relevant strategies for booking brides. I was in a lower price bracket a couple of years ago, and those strategies helped me to keep business moving along.
  44. Brian Cesario:
    "I have a solid portfolio, a good website, [...]"
    I found your website by googling. I know you did not ask for criticisms of your website and it's probably not the problem with your business, but I think your site could use some help. It looks as if not much thought was given to the graphic design, and it's guilty of some web design no-nos, such as the FAQ and other texts being in embedded clunky Scribd windows, when they could just as well be regular, readable web pages. Add links to PDF versions that people can print, if that's needed. The photos in the 'Nature' gallery are snapshots that don't seem to have much to do with your business and I think take away from the impression of professionality.
    Sorry if I'm putting my two cents where they don't belong.
  45. The point is that it is a fine line. It's always better to be artful than crude: Don't you agree?
    Pond Scum? Hmmm...artful or crude?
    The ability to close in no way denigrates (or verifies) the quality of the work. The fact is that some professionals are weak at closing and need help with it. Every working pro has a technique that they believe works for them.
    By the way, there's a difference between working with studios and working with bride & grooms to be: Studios are very likely to understand the entire process and its challenges while consumers generally speak the language of perceived value. Even still; the bigger the deal the more likely a good closer will get it. But once you have the deal, you better be able to deliver the goods.
  46. I think if you have to lie to the clients with the "hey there is another couple looking at the same date so you better book with me now" line then it probably means you are charging too much for the quality that you are producing.
    but that is just my opinion.
  47. Financial Darwinism:
    "The economy blah blah blah" "blah blah blah this economy" We are all familiar with the term of darwinism, and it's happening in the fiscal world now too. Yes this economy sucks... but right now a lot of people aren't adapting to survive. Times are changing, guess what the digital revolution happened. A lot of these "old hat" photography companies are slowly being out (the ones refusing to adapt anywho) I'm not here to offer a solution, I don't think i'm wise enough to offer anyone such advice. But i know for myself I have changed to fit the world around me and the kind of clients I want to bring in with the kind of money I want to pay. Take a good look at what you think you need in the context of the world right now. It's true the quickest way to learn is to hear from those who have gone the path before you, but sometimes new trails need to be blazed.
    Be strong :)
  48. There are too many variables for anyone to tell you, Brian, how to get your bookings up. Markets vary by location and situation, as well as where you are in your career as a wedding photographer. There is no way anyone who didn't already have an in depth knowledge of you and your situation, could tell you what to do.
    I do know that it helps me to think about the most basic idea behind the buy and sell process--the idea that a buyer does not buy unless he or she thinks he is getting his money's worth (value). So a seller, if not selling on price alone, must give the buyer a very good reason(s) to spend the money. If you aren't getting bookings, ask yourself whether you are giving prospects a good reason to hire you, over and above price, and then take steps to provide that reason.
    Maybe the problem is communication. If you have a good reason, maybe you aren't communicating that reason. Take steps to remedy that. In previous threads, Marc Williams has suggested that instead of sending the usual e-mail back to prospects, you send a document meant to help them--give them a reason to both remember you and respond back.
    So--do you have a good reason(s) for a bride to hire you above the cheapest Craigslist photographer? If you do, are you getting that message to the prospect?
  49. Can you name some examples. Maybe point to your web site so we can see what is obviously so much better than "pond scum" work.​
    With all due respect, sorry, but no. My identity has been hijacked online before and it was a complete crapfest to clean the mess up. Suffice it to say that I work for some of the biggest newspapers in the Los Angeles area and I also subcontract as a photojournalism specialist for several high end studios here.
    As far as "pond scum" goes, I guess you have to ask yourself the question: if a friend asked you to shoot their wedding and you had to turn it down, would you refer him/her to one of these "photographers" who are all set to have a partner call them on their cell phone during a consultation to "create a sense of urgency?"
    I sure wouldn't. But that's me and the way I view friendships and business relationships. YMMV.
  50. I just got an inquiry from my ad on Craigslist.
    That doesn't mean I'm going to offer to do it for $500.
  51. My Craigslist inquiry is an Indian wedding for 275 guests. They just want the files afterwards, to be finished in India. I quoted a $4,000 creative fee. We'll see.
  52. If I want to earn more than $500.00 for a wedding then I have to show the B&G why I am worth more.

    People do not buy primarily for practical considerations but rather for emotional reasons. Let's face it. If we really look at the wedding portfolios that are available online they look pretty much the same. (To the customer.) To our (hopefully) trained eye there are subtle differences but often they are so subtle that the B&G won't see them. They don't critique an individual photo but rather a general impression. On the other hand if you look at the advertising for women’s clothing in, say, Cosmo you see a search for a unique look. But a unique look within certain parameters. One of those parameters is that the models are all drop-dead gorgeous. Look at the portfolios of the best (and most expensive) wedding photographers around and they most often look like the Cosmo models and not the typical wedding models. Why? Perhaps because, like Cosmo, we sell a dream. The bride sees herself in the pictures we show her. She is going to be slim, have a flawless complexion and be surrounded by the beautiful people. That is the dream. Does your web site build that dream?

    I have often wondered why wedding photographers try to find the best of the actual weddings they have shot without sprinkling in a goodly number of shots carefully crafted using professional models and locations. After all. We are supposed to be the creative ones.

    I have several friends who do not use an online portfolio other than an introduction page or two. They design their web site to move the B&G to call and schedule an appointment. That is all.

    I am of the school of thought that I want to present my pictures not leave the couple to find them. If you are not getting bookings ask yourself this. How many couples have I met with in person? How many formal presentations have I made? You can’t rely on your web site to sell. Nor can you sell on the phone. The purpose of a telephone call is to get an appointment. If you are selling on the phone and sending the couple to your web site you are doing it all wrong,

    BTW. I am against prices on the internet. I prefer to tell them you have packages designed especially for them and that fit all budgets. And I prefer to say all weddings are treated with the same pride and professionalism that leads someone to seek a professional wedding photographer.
  53. Lee,
    I understand wanting to put real models in your portfolio and show a true dream wedding, but if they ask if it's a "real wedding" or staged shoot, I'm going to tell the truth. Besides, if it's a shot that can't be replicated (at least in large part) on their wedding day, I feel like you're misrepresenting your abilities, and opening yourself up to trouble.
    You do make a good point, though. Since I started shooting more attractive brides, I attract more people. I haven't had to do a fake bridal shoot, but I have chosen very pretty friends and I have done fake engagement shoots. Those shoots have sold packages, so don't underestimate the value of fake. That said, be honest when people ask.
    The other great thing, is that beautiful people not only sell packages, they sell more beautiful people. If your brides don't look better than the bride who is considering purchasing your service, she may go for a lesser photographer who has a more attractive girl in her portfolio. People don't always love my photos that are technically the best, they love my photos that have the prettiest girls in them.
    I post prices because I don't have a package designed to fit all budgets. If you can't afford a certain baseline amount, I don't want to bother meeting with you. I'm far too busy to be giving sales pitches to lukewarm brides all day. People who have an out-of-home studio may have an easier time meeting clients--if their clients have time to come down to the studio and see them. My brides are typically younger and really appreciate my transparancy in pricing.
    I don't know what the point about "all weddings are treated with the same pride and professionalism" is about, but I don't think that ANY smart professional treats their low-price package clients less professionally, they just provide less in terms of time at the service, prints, albums or other goodies.

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