Thursday, March 5, 2015

tips for booking clients that fit your brand


Just for a second, think about what might be the worst part of being a wedding photographer...

For most people, the word "bridezilla" comes to mind pretty quick.

So how do you build a business where you get to photograph weddings for the non-bridezilla types, and better yet...for the kind of brides who fit your brand? I've learned a few tricks over the years :)


1. BUILD TRUST

For a wedding photographer, a bridezilla would be someone who stands over your shoulder and tells you what to shoot and when. This has only happened to me one time, but I made sure it would be the last. Looking back, I understand why this particular bride might have felt the need to micromanage me; she didn't trust me. And rightly so, to be honest! I hadn't given her any reason to put her faith in me and let me do my work. 

Since then, I've done my best to show my brides that I'm a resource for them to use. I help them create their timelines, give them recommendations for other wedding vendors, and create an image of professionalism from the early stages of planning until the very end. When your clients trust that you're paying attention to the details and not rushing through the process, they're going to surrender control and feel at ease about it. 

My goal is always to be the easiest vendor my clients have to work with. That means the quickest to reply to emails, the easiest to schedule, and the highest quality of customer service. 


2. KNOW YOUR WORTH

Knowing your price is tricky business. Price too cheap and you'll get clients who might not value photography as much as the other parts of their wedding. Price too high and you might miss out on some truly amazing clients who simply can't afford your outrageous packages. I've found that it's really important to spend some time shooting at each price point and settle on one that really seems to fit. 

Although it might be tempting to raise your prices as you see your talent increasing along with your fan-base, it's not always the best idea. I've been in a similar pricing bracket for three wedding seasons now and the reason is simple: I love the clients that are booking at this price. Their weddings might not be extravagant or over the top, but photography is at the top of their priority list. 

They are people that I want to become FRIENDS with because that's how great a fit they are for my brand.  


3. APPEAL TO YOUR IDEAL CLIENT

In order to appeal to your ideal client, you have to know who they are. This is something I wrote about a little while ago, and since then, I've had prospective clients email me saying "I am totally the Laura Kelly Bride!" before we even meet. That's probably the most rewarding feeling that you can have as a business owner.

I've found that it's important to curate and only feature work that fits your brand. For me that means happiness in each image. You'll be hard pressed to find a moody looking Laura Kelly bride and that helps me attract the clients that want those same happy and romantic images for their wedding. 


4. SET EXPECTATIONS

I get asked this question fairly frequently during the initial meeting:

"Do you do more editing to the photos on your blog/website 
than the clients would see in their actual gallery?"

I've heard this so often that I'm getting numb to it but in the beginning I was shocked that people would even wonder this! OF COURSE I don't do extra editing on my blog/website photos! How could I feel like I'm accurately representing my business if the photos on my site weren't the exact ones that my clients received? 

Setting expectations is so important in all areas of the wedding industry. In my opinion, you're setting yourself up for bridezilla-esque reactions from your clients if the images they receive don't look like what they saw online. This one really comes back to building trust.

I believe in the "under promise, over deliver" method of business. If I say a client will receive approximately 500 images, you better believe that number will be over 500, even if it's just by a few. If I say I'll have their gallery in their hands in 3 weeks, I work hard to make sure I'm delivering it at LEAST a few days earlier than promised.

Making a few simple changes to your business can dramatically change the clientele you're attracting. I absolutely love shooting weddings and it's largely because of the amazing people I get to work with :) 

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

FAQ | pregnancy + wedding photography


Since we announced the news of our second pregnancy, I've been getting all kinds of messages from photographers and other wedding industry pros with questions. I've been doing my best to answer them all one by one, but I figured a little FAQ post about pregnancy and the wedding industry might come in handy to a few...

By the way -- This post is sprinkled with photos of Coop (in the belly and out) just for fun!


"DID YOU HAVE TO CANCEL ANY WEDDINGS?!"

Short answer? Yes, two. And it broke my heart. 

Let me start this FAQ post about pregnancy & wedding photography with a little bit of backstory... We didn't really "plan" to get pregnant this time. It took us 7 months to get pregnant with Coop (and that's when we were actively trying!) and although we always said we wanted to have our babies close together, getting pregnant with baby number two so quickly was a total shock! A happy, happy shock :)

I found out that I was pregnant on December 5th, 2014, and learned that my due date was early August, 2015. At the time...I had 5 weddings booked for August. It was my busiest month of the year without a shadow of a doubt. 

I panicked. 

All I could think about was getting in touch with my clients and letting them know. Even if I was letting them know that the baby was coming months before their wedding or months after, I wanted them to know immediately. It felt irresponsible for me to sit on this information and not share it with my clients.

I took the day to really study my calendar and figure out my plan. It was the saddest thing ever to realize that I had to cancel two weddings, one on August 2nd, and one on August 15th. There was just no conceivable way that I could put those clients through the stress of not knowing if I was going into labour ON their wedding day. But I used the knowledge from my last pregnancy to make the other tough decisions. 

I remembered back to how I felt at 9 months pregnant, even just a few days before delivering Coop. Could I have shot a wedding? I honestly would say yes. I was blessed with a terrific pregnancy and giving birth taught me that I'm a pretty tough cookie. 

"HOW DID YOU TELL YOUR CLIENTS YOU WERE PREGNANT?"


The morning after I found out about this pregnancy, I drafted three different emails. 


The first one was for clients whose weddings I would have no problem shooting in the months leading up to August. I let them know of my due date, and shared some information about my last pregnancy and how I shot a wedding at 7 months pregnant in the dead of Winter and that it wasn't even a problem.

The second one was for clients whose weddings I would still be able to shoot, even though it would be in the next few weeks after the baby arrived. I told them about my recovery from my last pregnancy and how I remember feeling after about 5 or 6 days that I was back to my old self completely and could shoot a 12 hour wedding if I had to. (Thankfully I don't shoot 12 hour weddings anymore, but you get the idea.)

The third email simply said that I needed to talk to my two early August brides about something that just came up. This was the hardest part.

"HOW DID THEY REACT?"

The reaction from my clients was something I wasn't emotionally prepared for. I received countless emails that all shared the same sentiments. They congratulated me for my big news, told me that they trust my instincts fully as their wedding photographer and that's part of the reason they trusted me with the job in the first place. They asked how they could make my experience of shooting their wedding any easier, and they wished me nothing but the best for our growing family. 

I cried. 

I remember sitting down after reading the messages pour in and just thinking that I was exactly where I was supposed to be in my business. I was photographing weddings for the most amazing clients; clients who trusted me, believed in me, and treated me like a friend rather than a business partner.

When I spoke with my two early August brides on the phone and let them know that I would have to cancel on them and return their deposits, they shocked me by saying that although they were so sad that we couldn't work together, they were simply happy for me and knew that it would all work out for the best. I helped them find the most amazing wedding photographers for their dates and I can honestly sit here right now and say that they're both in great hands. 

I feel lucky that I had the opportunity to photograph their engagements and although I am sad to be missing their beautiful weddings, they'll always be Laura Kelly brides in my heart. 

Part of the reason I think my clients reacted to my news so well was because of how upfront and honest I was with them. Every single one of my 2015 brides knew that Ryan and I were having another baby before our parents did. Let me just emphasize that part again... they were informed of our news before ANYONE because I respect their trust so much. The worst thing I think I could ever do to a bride is announce my pregnancy on Facebook or Instagram when the 12 week mark finally rolled around, leaving her to try and calculate how far I must be, and what that would mean for her wedding.

I can't even imagine doing that.


"HOW PREGNANT WILL YOU BE SHOOTING YOUR LAST WEDDING?"

My very last wedding before the arrival of baby number two will be on July 18th. I will be just about 8 months pregnant :) There will be a big baby bump but I can barely wait. 

It's going to be an amazing wedding for a stunning couple. I'm so pumped to photograph their engagement session in March! 

"WHAT WILL BE DIFFERENT ABOUT THE WEDDINGS YOU SHOOT THIS YEAR BECAUSE OF THE PREGNANCY?"

When I photographed a wedding at 7 months pregnant last time, the only thing that was slightly different was an intense need to be properly fueled for the whole day. I ate more on that wedding day than I'll ever admit and it was because that's how I kept my energy up to my regular peppy self :)

The back pockets of my ShootSac were filled with sleeves of graham crackers , ziplock bags of fruit, and a pack of KitKat Bites. I took out one of my lenses and stuck a HUGE water bottle in there, and I think I even had a bag of skittles tucked in my dress somewhere. My clients that day will remember me sharing my graham crackers with them when we all started getting hungry together. 

It's times like this that I'm so thankful I pack very lightly on a wedding day. AND I'm grateful for TOMS.



"SHOULD I BE WORRIED ABOUT GETTING PREGNANT DURING WEDDING SEASON?" 

That's a tough question! Every pregnancy is different and if this was my FIRST pregnancy and I didn't have any personal experience to reference, I'd probably be panicking about my August due date. 

But every mom knows that you learn SO much about yourself by going through a pregnancy and a delivery. Personally, I learned that I am a really low stress person. I handle being busy very well. When I look at my year at a glance and realize that I'll have two babies at home while shooting a full wedding season...I feel calm. 

Because I HAVE to feel calm. 

Somehow it's going to work out and I'll come out the other end stronger because of it. I will work harder than I've ever worked this year because there's no option to give anything less than 100% to every piece of the puzzle.

However, if just reading this post is giving you anxiety, you might not want to embark on a busy wedding season during your pregnancy. It can be really unhealthy to stress your body while your little baby is growing, and the last thing you want to do is feel like you're not giving enough attention to your clients. You have to make the right decision for you, and I hope after reading this, you can rest assured that your clients will support your decision :)

(photo one and two were taken with a self timer, 
photo three was taken by Brittany Lee Photography during our family portraits)  

Monday, February 9, 2015

a little personal announcement!


This blog has been terribly devoid of personal updates over the past year, but many of you will know that I post pretty actively over on our family blog instead. I wasn't sure how I'd feel about having two blogs, but in retrospect I am so glad that the personal and the business side are being kept separate. 

I like knowing that I don't have to have a "standard" of photo quality for photos I post on our family blog. They can be dark, black and white, crappy iPhone photos and not worry that my clients think I took that with my real camera. I like knowing that a prospective client who comes to my business blog for the first time doesn't have to weed though a ton of pics of our growing Coop to find some beautiful couples doing couple-y things.

Sometimes, though, a personal post is just what this blog needs. And today is one of those days because...

We have a little announcement!! 


This family of three is becoming a family of four in August! We could not be more excited that Coop is going to be a big brother :) We're going to have two babies under one and a half and that's going to be a fun and exciting and tiring journey, no doubt. 

But we're totally up for it. 


Since the day I found out, back in early December, I've been writing about my pregnancy on the family blog and keeping the posts in draft until we formally announced the pregnancy. Well, my friends, we made that announcement yesterday and you can now read the first post in our pregnancy story, chapter two :)

P.S. I've been getting so many messages from photographers from all over, asking questions like "how did you tell your clients you were pregnant!" and "how pregnant will you be when shooting your last wedding?" There's not a ton of info like this floating around on the internet, so I am putting together a little FAQ to answer some of these questions. 

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

rachel + matt | winter couple session styled shoot


I am so excited to finally share some photos from a beautiful styled couple session that I photographed in December :) I love everything about this shoot, from the adorable models (I know Rachel from high school!), to the neutral wardrobe and dramatic red lips. All of the styling magic was created by Brittany of Satin & Snow. She really is SUCH a goddess and I'm so thankful every time I get to work with her. I'm also sending love to Amy + Jen for the vintage rentals they graciously provided! 

As you take a peek at the images below, you should probably be aware that it was MINUS TWENTY-TWO outside the day we shot this. That's right...Rachel is wearing a pair of heels in the snow and the blush on her cheeks is because she's freezing. That's dedication :)

Enjoy!








Rachel and Matt are adorable! We are so thankful for them for braving the cold for this shoot :)

























Tuesday, January 20, 2015

announcement: the school sessions


I have some really exciting news :) 

A friend of mine (actually, this girl was my inspiration to become a photographer way back when!) has embarked on the most amazing project. Many of you will have already heard of Jamie Delaine or maybe you've seen some of her beautiful wedding and engagement work on Pinterest...

Along with her husband, Randy, they've created The School Sessions:  
The School Sessions is a one-day event across the globe on Sunday, April 12, 2015 to raise $200,000 to build a school in Haiti. Portrait photographers can sign up online to photograph one (or more!) portrait sessions and donate 100% of fees to The School Sessions. 

$200,000 will buy land and build a ten-classroom school for 220 students. The previous building was destroyed by the 2010 earthquake and these children (ages 3 to 16) are in need of a earthquake and hurricane-proof school to learn and grow. 

By empowering hundreds of photographers across the world with a simple way to give back, together we will meet our goal. Join us in Making Haiti’s Future Bright. 

I am really excited to be one of the photographers who is helping to raise the funds needed to build this school. 

I think what Jamie and Randy have put together is simply amazing. I've been in awe of them since the launch of The School Sessions, and their message about putting their business to good use. 



I'll be offering THREE MINI SESSIONS on April 12th to support the cause. A mini session can be used for family photos, an engagement, maternity, even headshots. Totally up to you. 

DETAILS:

DATE: Sunday April 12th, 2015
TIME: 9:30am, 10:00am, 10:30am
LOCATION: To be determined closer to the Spring
COST: $250
PHOTOS: 25-30 edited images in an online gallery for download to your computer.

100% of the proceeds will go to The School Sessions, and instead of sending in a payment, you'll be donating to their website and showing proof of your donation by email.






In order to grab one of these three mini sessions, please fill out the contact form on my website :) 

If you would like to find out about some other ways to donate, please visit The School Sessions' website. It's so beautifully designed (Jamie wouldn't have it any other way, that's for sure!).