5 Tips For A Successful Wedding with Justin Yoder
There are a lot of elements that go into making a wedding successful from a photographer’s perspective. A lot of times we feel that if the client is happy, then mission accomplished! But if that’s your only gauge of whether a wedding was successful or not, then there’s a lot you’re missing out on. I want to help challenge you to look at other aspects of a successful wedding day, from before you even book a client to getting bookings from guests at the wedding. Once you finish this article, I challenge you to make a list of items that define a successful wedding for you. But first, let’s jump into my top 5 tips for a successful wedding.
1. Meet with Your Prospective Client Before You Book Them
To me, this should be obvious, but I’m amazed at how many wedding photographers don’t do this. If you are currently doing In Person Sales (IPS), this is the first step to big sales at your IPS session. If you aren’t doing IPS (I highly recommend it), I still recommend meeting your prospective clients before sending out a contract. Obviously, we all want to make money, so it’s easy to think the first step should be to get a signed contract as quickly as possible. But consider this: if you’re booking clients that make you hate photography, that isn’t a healthy way to run your business.
If your prospective client doesn’t want to meet with you, explain to them that their photographer will probably be spending at least eight hours with them and their families on a wedding. Encourage them that no matter who they book, you recommend meeting them first to be sure they will enjoy working with them. Worst case scenario, do a video call with them. During the meeting, find out how they met. Ask about the proposal. Find out if they grew up where you are located. Really get to know them. You want to make sure no red flags show up. Most importantly, start building a good relationship with them. After all, if they do book you, there’s a good chance you will be doing their engagement session, bridal session, wedding, and IPS session and this is the foundation for making all those connection points go smoothly and build trust.
2. Do a Shoot with Your Couple Before the Wedding Day
Wedding days can be a stressful time for the couple and all involved. Part of a great photographer’s job is to help relieve stress for the couple. If you have never met before the wedding day and you’re walking in as a stranger who is now trying to give them directions while attempting to capture their day beautifully, their natural stress can easily shift to aggravation with you. However, if you have met with them before the booking and had a fun shoot with them before the wedding, you are a safe, comfortable, familiar face to them. They know you know what you’re doing and that you can be trusted. This helps relieve a lot of stress for the couple, which translates into them being easier—and more fun—to work with.
If they don’t want to do a shoot beforehand, tell them you will do one for them for free. This is time only—they would have to pay for any digital files or prints (and they will want those). This is important so they will get to see how you work, and that brings so much value and comfort to a couple on their wedding day.
3. Signature Shots Take Time
Most of my wedding shoots are accomplished by capturing things as they happen. Sure, I will give some direction while things are happening, but it’s usually not a “Let’s stop everything in its tracks for a photo!” situation. However, if you look at my website, what draws my clients in and what they expect of me are those impactful, dramatic images which would make beautiful art for their homes. To be able to accomplish this, I set the expectation at our consultation that these shots take time. I usually tell the client and the planner that I want an hour with just the couple. (Realistically I end up with 30-40 minutes if I’m lucky.) If I’ll be shooting in an unfamiliar venue, I will arrive early to look around for the location for these shots, so I know exactly where I’m going to do them after family photos. I have my assistant get the lighting all set up and ready so there’s little to no downtime. My first shot is for the epic signature image. After that I can relax knowing that shot is secure, so if the planner cuts us off early I still have the signature image.
4. Hook the Bridesmaids
At a wedding there are a lot of eyes on you. The way you treat family and guests and how you present yourself can mean the difference between booking future clients from a wedding or not. I have actually had four sisters that all hired me for their weddings because they saw how I worked at each wedding and loved my style. I also won their mother over and think she cried when viewing the photos each time. Making moms cry—in a good way—is always a huge bonus!
Aside from how you carry yourself and act at a wedding, there are two other things that can help turn bridesmaids into clients. In my top package, I offer a Same Day Slideshow. I shoot in RAW and JPEG. During the reception, I have one of my team members use the JPEGS to create a slideshow that we show during the reception. This is always a huge hit! The couple, the family, and guests love it every time!
I also create a surprise for the couple. I have my team member put the slideshow on a Playbook from PhotoFlashDrive and give it to the driver of the getaway car to give to the couple on the way to the hotel. It’s presented nicely with a handwritten card from me congratulating them on their wedding and saying this is a small gift from me to them. Then, they have the slideshow that they can take with them on their honeymoon that they will rave about on social media. It’s a win-win for me.
I have an additional “gift” that I do for all my wedding clients. During my dinner break, I use my camera’s Wi-Fi and send 2 or 3 images to my phone. Using mobile Lightroom, I edit them and place my logo on them. Then, I text the edited images to the couple and all the vendors. They all absolutely love this and share and rave over this like crazy. The bridesmaids will also notice this and it will be something they remember when they get married.
5. Back Up the Files Immediately
I get it, this isn’t a fun tip, but it’s so critical for a successful wedding. I shoot on two cards. When I get home, one set goes on my desk while I start dumping files to my hard drive. The backups go into a small, sealed manila envelope with the couple’s name on it and then into an unlocked fireproof safe in my closet (unlocked because I don’t want the whole case stolen if someone thinks there’s money in it). The backups stay there until I am completely finished with that client. Only then will I take them out and format them. Just recently, I’ve started experimenting with Amazon Photos. If you have a Prime account with Amazon, you have free unlimited photo storage. This is another way to protect them against fire or loss.
On the way home from a wedding, if you stop for any reason, it’s important to keep your cards on you. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard of photographers’ cars getting broken into and their gear stolen with the cards in their bags or cameras. Gear can be replaced, but wedding photos are irreplaceable, and you never want to have to make that phone call.
I hope these tips help make you a better photographer and make your weddings more successful. I would encourage you to take time right now to go over your wedding steps and find ways to improve the success of your weddings.