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Is It Time to Expand Your Product Line?

Monday, May 1st, 2017


Is It Time to Expand Your Product Line? with Skip Cohen

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The hierarchy of why people hire a professional photographer in the portrait/social categories goes brides, babies, pets. With brides in the number-one spot, weddings represent a huge potential for a never-ending demand for your work, plus an incredible opportunity to sell new products and services.


I want to get you thinking about some fresh ideas along with a few tried and true standbys to increase your revenue. Let’s offer your clients a greater selection of add-ons.


Before I hit you with a list of things you should be offering, let’s talk about pricing. I bet that at least half of you have priced your product too low. As Sal Cincotta once said in an old video, and I’m paraphrasing a little, there’s no greater way to screw up your business than to wrongly price your products and services.


Review all your costs. Compare what you’re offering with your competitors. Understand the margins you need in order to eat something other than macaroni and cheese every night. Expanding services and products won’t help your business grow if you’re already running below an acceptable level of profitability.


This is a shameless plug for my videos: Search my name on Lynda and check out my video on pricing. I had a lot of fun doing it, and it’s loaded with solid tips and other resources to get you on the right track.


If you don’t have a solid profit foundation to start, none of these ideas will help you very much.


Engagement Shoots


Not every idea I want to share this month is new. Here’s an old idea—one that I’m amazed more photographers don’t use.


The primary reason to always do an engagement shoot has nothing to do with expanding your product line. It’s about establishing trust with the client. An engagement shoot gives you and the couple the chance to get to know one another. It’s about relationship building. On the wedding day, you’ve already established trust, so you’re more likely to get the natural expressions you want during the shoot.


Videos, Posters, Save-the-Date Cards, Stationery


If you do a great job on the engagement shoot, you should have plenty of images for the couple to share on social media. Here’s your chance to demonstrate pure creativity.

  • Engagement videos: It’s the perfect extension of your storytelling ability as a wedding photographer. I’m a big fan of Photodex and ProShow Web. Create a slideshow from the engagement shoot, and you’ve got a great first chapter of the story of a new couple. What’s even more exciting is taking full advantage of technology and bringing together a few short video clips with still images and great music.
  • Posters: Two years ago, Marathon Press launched Bella Art Prints, which offer a great way to promote the love story you’ve been hired to capture. Think about a Hollywood movie poster starring your bride and groom. If you don’t have the design skills, find somebody in your community who does. Bella Art Prints gives you a way to create an affordable poster that becomes an extension of your product line and an amazing surprise gift to your clients.
  • Save-the-date: Use your still images to create a postcard, video or stationery in a format your clients can mail. I know this isn’t a new idea, but it is if you take control of the process. You’re the one who implements the idea, working with a local printer/design company. Marathon can help you through each step of the process.


Holiday Cards


A holiday card is the perfect addition to the albums you’re going to create for the client after the wedding. As you’re shooting the engagement and wedding images, look for that opportunity to shoot something spectacular for the couple’s first holiday card.


Shooting for the Silver Frame


I’d love to take credit for the idea, but it belongs to wedding photographers Justin and Mary Marantz. The “silver frame” refers to an image that’s so outstanding it can stand alone, outside of the album. It’s the image the parents will have on the piano or fireplace. It might be a classic portrait or simply something unusual. This is a quality image with impact that shows off your skillset.


“What’s New?”


All it takes is one phone call to your lab to ask that question. Labs are always coming up with new products and ways to share images, but you won’t know about them if you don’t ask. While walking ShutterFest gives you a chance to see new products firsthand, you don’t have to wait until April every year.


“What’s Old?”


It’s not a typical question you’d ask your lab, but while you might be tired of canvas prints, many of your clients have never seen one, let alone owned one. I have two oversize canvas prints in my home, and I’m always surprised by the response from friends who visit.


We might be tired of canvas prints as members of the photographic community, but the public isn’t close to getting bored with the idea—especially when they’re the subject in print. A great lab can print on virtually anything. This is an opportunity for your creative skills to shine.


One Big Print


When a couple is scheduled to come in to see their proofs, wedding photographer Joe Buissink creates a special surprise gift. He picks one of his most favorite images and prints it nice and big. He frames and hangs it in his studio before the couple comes in. It’s his gift to them before they even begin thinking about their album.


Here’s one more piece of brilliance from Joe. He always signs the print. Why? Because he wants them to remember he’s an artist, and artists always sign their work.


Jump Drives, Proofs, Prints and iPads


Technology has given you the ability to do whatever you want with digital files. One of my favorite digital content companies is It offers an ample collection of creative ideas for the packaging of jump drives, prints, etc. You’re the only one who can create the excitement around the services you provide. If you don’t elevate the value of the images to the level they deserve, nobody else will.


First-Anniversary Sittings


Here’s an idea I learned from photographer David Ziser years ago. He would do his best to contact every bride within a reasonable travel distance of his studio on the couple’s first anniversary. He always wanted to be the first to wish them a happy anniversary. His special gift was a complimentary portrait sitting.


The younger the bride, the more friends she has who will be getting married. This is a word-of-mouth business, and a surprise call from the photographer who shot the wedding is going to spread to every friend and family member of the bride. You couldn’t ask for better PR.


All of these ideas can help you build a stronger wedding business, but don’t forget your skillset comes before pricing. You’ll never be able to justify your pricing if your skills aren’t better than Uncle Harry’s. Your clients deserve the very best, and so do you. You’re not just working to be an outstanding artist, but, in the wedding world, the ultimate storyteller.


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the May issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

The Big Shot

Monday, May 1st, 2017


The Big Shot with Sal Cincotta

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Getting the big shot looks easier than it is. Over the years, it has become a signature shot for my studio. Clients and photographers alike recognize our style. Clients pay a premium for that perfect signature shot of their day.


Let’s explore what goes in to creating that epic shot for your clients.


Seeing the Shot


It all starts with vision. My style is architecture-heavy. Find your own style and look for that big shot that best represents it. I prefer scenes that are somewhat clean—clear of clutter and other distracting elements. Some of that can be edited out in post-production, but there is only so much you can do.


If you are looking for an urban location, find a scene clear of people, trash and cars (mostly). That’s one of the big mistakes I see people make when shooting big. You are showing everything in the scene, so it’s very hard to block distracting elements. Cars are the most difficult thing to remove from a scene, and nothing will date your photo faster than some shitty cars in the background.


If you are looking for more of a landscape scene, don’t go too big. That is another challenge. Your subject will get lost. Keep your subject above the horizon line. If you shoot in a big landscape like in the mountains or a giant park, and your subject is below the horizon line, there won’t be enough separation, and your subject will be lost in the final shot.


Lighting the Shot


I almost always use artificial light in the scene to create separation from the background. I also like more directional light versus flat light directly on the subject. This gives a more realistic and pleasing look overall.


I use the Profoto B1 in the field, especially on a sunny day. I also use speedlights, but on a sunny afternoon, your speedlights don’t have enough power to light the subject. Something much more powerful, like a Profoto B1, is the better choice.


I also use natural light. If I am working on a wedding and the wind is coming from a direction that forces the bride to look toward the sun, I use natural light. This ensures the wind gives me a gorgeous blow of the veil, and it keeps my lighting setup simple. I love when this happens because it makes the shot that much easier to see—and, of course, less editing is always better.


Composition Is Key


Poor composition is by far the easiest way to screw up your shot. If you’re careless, you can wind up with poles coming out of your client’s head, a crooked horizon line or a horizon line through a head.


Composition is meant to drive your viewer’s eye to the primary element. It’s about the arrangement of elements in your frame that best expresses the goal of your image. In a wedding image, the main goal is to showcase the primary element in the shot, the couple. How you arrange the elements can make or break the image.


Is there a path leading to the client? Where does your eye first go when you look at the image? Is it where you want the viewer to go? If not, you might have a problem. What about brightness? Your eye tends to go to the brightest part of the scene. Is that where you want the viewer to go?


Hone your composition skills. It is one of the quickest ways to become a better photographer.


Here’s a trick I still use that can help you immediately. While looking at your image, close your eyes and open them. Where is the first place your eye goes? If it’s not your subject, you need to fix it. This can be done via lighting, posing or cropping. Second, look for natural lines in the scene, like a staircase, horizon line or railing. Look for ways to use that to drive your viewer to your subject.


The Devil Is in the Details


Now you have the lighting and scene right. Perfect, right? Wrong. Time and again, I see otherwise amazing images posted that lack the most basic of details or that have details that don’t make sense, such as an errant sun flare that looks completely fake, or emotion that doesn’t look sincere.


So, you are trying to create this gorgeous bridal portrait, and your couple looks like they can’t stand each other. Who would buy that for their home? What I love even more is when photographers are shocked that they can’t sell these images or that their clients don’t love them. Of course they don’t love them—they are lacking any connection whatsoever. Show your couples in love; that’s what they want to celebrate. This is not only in their facial expressions, but in their body language. If they look uncomfortable in real life, they will look even worse on camera, and they will notice that when they see your final images.


Spend time on the details and make things perfect. Perfect is not just lighting or the scene. Stop tinkering with your gear all the time. Lift your head to engage your subjects and get them relaxed on camera. Their expression and pose are seemingly small items, but so crucial in the final image.


Selling the Big Shot


After making the image, you’re still not done. You have to sell it. What’s the point of having this incredible image if it dies a horrible death on your hard drive? You have to sell it, and sell it big. One thing that has helped us sell big prints is to ensure we have large prints, metals, canvas and acrylics in our studio. If you don’t, how in the world can you expect your client to have enough vision to see how it will look in their home? It’s impossible.


Big dramatic shots are meant to be displayed big. When clients try to buy them as 8x10s, I immediately tell them no. I explain that it will look ridiculous, and then show them the size of an 8×10 on our wall. They see that they will be the size of an ant in the frame.


Something that has helped drive this message home visually is the new N-Vu platform (at It has a free built-in tool called Room-Vu. A client takes a picture of a room in her home, and with Room-Vu, she can see what various sizes of an image will look like on the walls.


The best way to improve your skills and wow your clients is to get out and practice. Push yourself hard to look for your mistakes. We all love to celebrate our victories, but the details matter. Every time you shoot, ask yourself, what did I miss? What can I fix the next time I do this? This is the quickest path to success.


I should know. I have been pushing myself for 10 years, and I have gotten better and better every year. It’s a journey, not a destination.


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the May issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

Stand Out by Mixing Up Your Style With ON1 Photo RAW Presets

Friday, April 28th, 2017


Stand Out by Mixing Up Your Style With ON1 Photo RAW Presets with Dustin Lucas

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We all want to stand out in some way from the competition to stay in the competition. Trying new editing styles and processes must be on your radar at this time of year. You should have already put up new work on your website by now. Go to your inspiration place (such as the magazine you’re holding). See what others are creating for a glimpse of what is considered a good image versus a masterpiece in the industry.

Of course, image competitions are one of the most resourceful ways to get feedback on your work. Enter your best images, sit in on critiques and learn something. I don’t know it all and neither do you. Don’t be afraid to be a student of photography. Because, let’s face it, you are getting in your own way. Even peers will be nice and say they love your work. Who cares as long as you make sales and your clients love you, right? That may be true, but what are you learning from them, and what can you do to step up your imagery?

Get Involved With ON1 Photo Project

Did you get inspired? Ready to start showcasing some styles? Perfect—let’s head to the ON1 website and see what they offer with their RAW 2017 software. Again, try out the software or just stop dragging your feet and buy the damn thing. It’s $100. On1 RAW is becoming my new best friend for creative post-production.

That’s why I am so excited about their customer support program called On1 Photo Project. (1) This is a forum-styled area on their website where you can share ideas and get your friends to rate it, and the ON1 develop team takes it into review. This is where you have a voice and can let your Lightroom-molded mindset roll out in the user interface of a better software. I will admit that I love the before and after develop panel view when editing, and Kelvin values for white balance, Lens Correction and better preset management. With user feedback, these sorts of options are becoming available with the next rollout update. Yes, preset management is a must for saving your stylized settings and rapidly applying them to multiple images. (2)

Presets and Custom Preset Packs

Much like in my last article, it took a lot of prep time to build and organize these presets. ON1 has an extensive collection of prebuilt presets for portrait and wedding work. Let’s jump into ON1 RAW and look over some of them. (3)

At first glance, the preset management felt limited. Since I am used to Lightroom, I move sliders to a good starting point and save my presets by holding Shift + Command and striking the ‘N’ key. Also, I can quickly save and store them in Finder for better organization. This allows me to drag and drop multiple presets into Lightroom without clicking the Install button in every dialog box that pops up.

You have similar functionality in ON1 RAW to access presets in your user library folder, and can zip files together to package them into a set or preset package. (4) The last step is to change the .zip file extension to .ONPreset; from there, you can drag and drop this file into ON1 RAW to install multiple presets at once. (5) This is how I installed the Guru Signature Collect Presets seamlessly. This includes 15 presets from four different ON1 Gurus, for a total of 60 free presets. (There are more options at (6)

Creating presets and customizing are simple as well. Let’s review some of the prebuilt and custom presets to dial in some of our own favorite recipes. Open ON1 RAW in Browse and click the Presets in the upper left-hand corner of the screen. Make sure you have an image selected in the Browse window, and select any of the Preset Packs listed below. The prebuilt ones include: Architecture, Black & White, Cinematic, Faded & Matte, Hipster, People and Weddings. Select the icon to the right of the pack name to explore the gallery of presets. (7)

This feature is awesome. Instead of having to click and see like in Lightroom, you get a grid preview of your image from which to pick your favorites. Now we can experiment and start mixing styles. (8)

Experiment, and Always Mix Things Up

My favorite presets are Cinematic, Faded & Matte, Film, Hipster and Weddings. I like to create Auto-tone versions of the presets to give me quick client-ready proofs and to get the images headed in the right direction. (9) It’s simple to customize any prebuilt or purchased preset to your liking. Click on the preset you want to apply, make Develop and/or Effects adjustments, click on Settings in the menu bar at the top of your screen and choose Save Settings as Preset. (10) Why not just update the prebuilt preset? Doing that requires you to export the preset to transfer it to another program, which damages the default presets.

Saving a preset lets you start organizing favorites into one preset pack. This is a must for processing multiple files quickly, and previewing a gallery of your customized presets is a mouse click away. Currently, exporting every single preset is a pain in the butt, but ON1 saves these custom presets automatically in your user library folder. (11)

What I love about creating presets in ON1 RAW is I can include adjustments made in Develop and Effects. (12) This doesn’t limit me to develop sliders only; I can apply prebuilt filters and fully customize them to different image needs. After applying the Crisp & Cool preset in the Cinematic preset pack, you will notice no Develop sliders have moved. So where are the settings adjustable? You need to go to the Effects panel, where you’ll notice the filters are applied. Now let’s get working. (13ab)

Something I noticed right away were the details brought out in heavy recovery of this preset. (14ab) I prefer a less HDR look, but retaining highlight and shadow details is important. Lowering the Compression slider between 50 and 75 in the HDR panel is a useful approach. (15) We can always tweak that later and finish off by adding a Tone Enhancer filter. This gives us settings like the Develop panel to add a matte look to the recovered tones. (16) Now we can decide if adding Auto-tone is a smart move. I am going to apply it for this preset. Now let’s save these settings to our Personal Presets pack, making sure we include Develop and Effects settings. Go to Settings in the menu bar at the top of the screen and choose Save Settings as Preset. Naming can be helpful when sifting through presets; I chose Cinema_Cool_HDR_Auto. (17)

What I like about the customization of my presets in ON1 is the ability to mix and match styles as well as preview my image with all the available presets in the pack. One thing you must consider when applying multiple presets to one image is that you overwrite all the settings in that panel. For instance, if you apply filters in the Effects panels, Auto-tone to an image and then a Sharpening preset, this overwrites the Auto-tone settings applied in the previous preset. Otherwise, fire away and build your presets as you see fit.

Wow Your Client With Final Touches

Now we can work with custom Develop settings and Local adjustments to get the image fixed beyond the click of a preset. I typically toggle the Auto-tone on and off to see where that takes the image. From there, I bump the exposure and sharpen the image. Not much needs to be done at this point but some dodging and burning.

For skin, I like to even out the harsh contrast of highlights and shadows as much as I can so it doesn’t look fake. In order to get the editing flexibility with the Develop settings and masking, I use the Tone Enhancer filter in the Effects panel. I have a dodge-and-burn preset already built that is like a Photoshop action. After clicking this prebuilt preset, you’ll notice it resets my stylized edit. Not to worry—we can add filters to this image manually. (18)

Starting with the dress, we need to burn down some areas where detail is completely lost. Recovering too much with global adjustments makes the skin look terrible. That’s why we need to brush in the small details to get things looking much better. (19) We can now burn down the sky. Gradient filter to the rescue. Simply add a gradient filter, drag it down to cover the entire sky, rotate to even out the effect parallel to the mountain line and you’re done. (20)

Dodging shadows on the subjects can be a tedious and less effective adjustment. We want some contrast in the image, but there is a fine line between removing this distraction and destroying the skin tones. (21) Again, I like to use the Tone Enhancer to fine-tune my recovery. (22) With some subtle dodging, we are there.

Remarkable Results

You can customize the crap out of your image with prebuilt presets. ON1 makes it so effortless to see what your image can look like with them applied at a click of your mouse. This is helpful when getting together some client-ready creative proofs.

Applying my go-to presets to large batches of images allows me to move fast in ON1 RAW. Why haven’t you tried it out yet? Stop hesitating and mix it up.


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the May issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

Curating the Editorial Wedding

Friday, April 28th, 2017


Curating the Editorial Wedding with Bobbi Petersen & Doug Weittenhiller

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the May issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.


Wedding photography began shortly after photography was born in the early 1800s. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert get credit for not only the first wedding photograph but also the first “re-created shot.” At that time, wedding photography was reserved for royalty and the wealthy due to the tremendous cost. It was not documentary photography as we know it now, but a single photograph. This severely limited any storytelling elements about the wedding day. Due to the bulk of cameras, most wedding photography of the 19th and early 20th century was relegated to the studio using traditional poses. Modern wedding photography became commonplace after World War II with the commercialization of smaller SLR and rangefinder-type cameras. Today we are seeing a further modernization of the genre: editorial wedding photography.


A traditional modern wedding photographer turns out classic, posed images of people and places. There are hefty doses of direction from the photographer to organize family photo groupings, the wedding party and portraits with the couple. Some studio equipment may also find its way into the fields and streets of the wedding as specific lighting conditions are masterfully created. In contrast to this, a photojournalistic methodology is very hands-off. There is a greater emphasis on storytelling; a photojournalist observes and records rather than interact with people and details. The results are more emotional photographs that highlight the feelings of wedding participants.


Most photographers today blend some of these two approaches in their telling of the wedding story. Editorial wedding photography unifies elements of posed fine art with the details of a documentary. Its roots are in fashion photography, with expressive compositions being mixed with dramatic lighting and shooting angles. The locations for portraits are a point of emphasis, such as never-ending landscapes or a bustling metropolis, and many details of the wedding are recomposed in a way that seems illogical. For example, a table centerpiece can be photographed as a setup for a conventional shot, or can be moved to a location with better lighting, more texture and other details, perhaps outside. Couples who would otherwise smile for the camera in front of a tree or wall can instead snuggle together at a campfire wrapped in quilts.


Portraits and details take on new, beautiful meanings, with layers of variety and splendor—which blog and magazine editors love. There exists a certain liberty to photograph beyond the specific constructs of the wedding: a blue sky matching the bride’s eyes, the local flora at the venues or rain droplets on a window of a dressing room. And therein is the appeal. No longer is the wedding narrative just pictures of the couple marshaling through the timeline; rather, it’s their story interwoven with those of friends, family, places and accoutrements.


An editorial wedding narrative—and by extension the client’s experience—needs to be created by the photographer. This begins long before the first client contact, through a combination of strategic marketing on social media and the true storefront of a modern business: the website. These images are intended not to retain current clients but excite new ones. Published images should reflect a consistent style and brand. The attraction of potential clients to editorial photography begins with a bride holding a wedding cake in the middle of a field at sunset. Consultations are no longer about showing off products but instead finding connections between three human beings. This simple change alone helps personalize the experience for everyone.


None of this matters if there isn’t a specific wedding experience before, during and after the wedding day. A consistent product is made much stronger with a consistent construct for every client. A common mistake new photographers make is to change their shooting style and approach to deliver a product the client requests. While this sounds like good customer service, no favors are paid to anyone. Unnecessary time is spent trying to figure out what is needed instead of what can be created.


A wedding timeline must take advantage of lighting conditions. Editorial wedding photography requires adequate time allotted during certain portions of the day. Sunset can be an important factor in the creation of a timeline. If a warm sunset glow is part of the documentary, go over this in detail at consultations. Set aside however much time is needed to discuss required detail shots. It helps set the tone and allows for more successful client management.


Once a contract is signed, execute a planned workflow that prepares the client for the needs of the editorial process. Give them a gentle nudging a year before the wedding to discuss vendors, timing and family concerns (before the invitations go out). This can help avoid pitfalls that derail the wedding. Planning too much time for photographs at midday can wear out the couple before the beautiful light begins. On the other hand, unfavorable locations or unnecessary stops in the timeline can inhibit the creative process. Engagement shoots give the client a taste of editorial photography. A prewedding questionnaire offers an easy way to organize the final details, and is a tool that reiterates a cadence for the wedding day that will create a beautiful narrative. This time investment makes for happier clients and a much less stressed photographer.


All this setup makes sense on the wedding day. The clients trust the brand and have a clear understanding of the needs this approach demands. It’s not about client or photographer needs any longer, but about what can be done to serve the editorial process.


The wedding narrative 100 years from now will look completely different than it does today, because of technological advancements or breaks with tradition. Curating an editorial wedding narrative takes time and trust, careful marketing and communication. It starts before any contract is signed and continues long after the client has received the finished product. Making a desirable brand, be it editorial-based or otherwise, is the easy part. The challenge will always be in the creation of a unique experience for every client.


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the May issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

3 Steps for Coaching Emotion with Wedding Clients

Friday, April 28th, 2017


3 Steps for Coaching Emotion with Wedding Clients with Mariea Rummel

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Putting emotion into your images can set your work apart. There is something magical about an image that tells a story. Whether that story is about passion or laughter, people are drawn to these images. It’s so simple, yet very few photographers can tap into this with clients.

My journey to photographing emotional images started six years ago when I was tired of using the same poses with my wedding clients over and over. “Smile. Now don’t. Pretend you’re dancing.” Ugh. The feeling of being stuck and uninspired spurred me to change. I knew I needed to alter my photography style, but how?

It was when I dug deep that it finally hit me. I didn’t need to “pose” my clients. I just needed to help them tell their love story.

And so I started building a style of photography that would drive my whole brand. Here are the steps I took to create emotional photos and build trust with clients so they could relax and become vulnerable in front of the camera.

Step 1: Build Your Relationship

Trust and time are the keys to getting your clients to open up. Meet with them face to face when booking them. If they are out of town, use FaceTime or Skype. Let them talk. Get them to tell you their love story.

After booking, I send out a small questionnaire titled “Getting to Know You.” These few questions help me understand their personalities. I refer back to them right before their engagement session or wedding.

  1. How did you meet? I want details.
  2. What was the first thing you thought of when you saw each other?
  3. What do you love about your future bride/groom?
  4. Tell me about the proposal. I want details.
  5. What does a perfect day together look like?
  6. What are your hobbies? What do you like to do together?
  7. Who’s the extravert? Who’s the introvert?
  8. What are you both looking forward to the most during your wedding?

If your clients feel you are truly invested in and care about their relationship, they will feel more comfortable with you. Adding an engagement session into their collection is a great way to build a stronger bond before the wedding. They see how you work behind the camera, and you see how they are in front of it. On the wedding day, they are relaxed because they know what to expect.

Step 2: Coach Your Clients

Having photos taken, for the average person, is a little nerve-wracking. Our clients aren’t all models. If we threw them in front of the camera and said, “Do something,” they would freeze up. They want to know that you have this under control. Before most of my engagement sessions, I take them out for happy hour. We chat and laugh, and I get them to relax before their sitting. I’m watching their personalities a bit more so I can plan the best approach for the shoot and sales. I reassure them that I will help every step of the way and that we are going to have an awesome time. I give them a funny example of my coaching method so they completely understand.

Be confident. Be witty. But remember that what works for one couple might not work for another. I don’t tell a more reserved couple to yell out their favorite cuss word. Evaluate your coaching topics for each couple.

When talking to your couple during a shoot, keep it simple. Let them relax between coaching topics. Don’t throw the whole book at them. You’ll overwhelm that poor couple and yourself. For your own sanity, make it a goal to try one new coaching topic every few clients.

We have a million things going on in our heads during a shoot. “Where’s the sun? F-stop, ISO, WB…is that dirt on her dress? Where did this wind come from?” Stop. Breathe. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Focus. You got this. Now you are ready to deliver.

Just like an actor, you are setting the stage, and delivery is everything. When you are coaching, take the camera away from your face. No one can hear you behind the camera, and your voice and facial expressions set the mood. I walk right up to my clients, inches from their faces, and whisper, “Luke, kiss Sarah like it’s the last kiss you will ever give her.” The whisper and the closeness is a perfect delivery. If I stood 15 feet away and loudly said the same thing, the outcome would be far less emotional. You want to take the shots right after you offer suggestions. Those reactions contain the true emotion you are looking for.

Here are a few of my coaching topics.

Love coaching

  • Without saying a word, show how much you love each other.
  • Say what you love about each other.
  • Close your eyes. Think about what a blessing you are to each other.
  • Close your eyes and touch foreheads. Breathe in and out together, and think about when you knew you were in love.
  • Cuddle tight like you’re trying to stay warm. Close your eyes and, at the count of three, slowly open your eyes and look at me. (This is three reactions in one.)
  • Tell each other three things you are most thankful for.
  • Cuddle with just your faces.
  • Wrap your arms around your future spouse. Without words, show that you are here to always take care of this person.

Laughter coaching

  • Say the first thing that comes to mind when I say: honeymoon, sexy time (in your best Borat voice), bridezilla, your best man.
  • Whisper something sexy in the other’s ear.
  • Go in for a kiss but don’t let the other kiss you.
  • Tickle your partner’s neck with just your lips.
  • At the same time, yell out the color the other was wearing on your first date.
  • Who’s the saver? Who’s the spender?
  • At the count of three, yell out your partner’s favorite cuss word.

Yes, you will act like a fool and you might feel a little out of your comfort zone. But your images will be amazing, and that’s all that matters. My clients always say their time with me was a blast.

This form of coaching isn’t only for your couples. You can tweak these suggestions for the bridal party and other photo opps.

Step 3: Empower Your Clients

Throughout the engagement session and wedding day, remember to praise your clients. Sometimes we are too deep in our own thoughts that we forget to empower the people we are photographing. Tell them often that they are doing a wonderful job. Whenever they might feel awkward, give them praise. Don’t be afraid to show them the back of the camera. Instant visual gratification is a confidence booster.

Don’t overwhelm yourself trying to memorize all of these coaching suggestions. Pick one or two and perfect them. Use them to break the ice or when you feel stuck. Challenge yourself to think outside the box and create your own suggestions.


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5 Common Wedding Mistakes

Friday, April 28th, 2017


5 Common Wedding Mistakes with Melanie Anderson

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This month, we look at how to keep your gear lightweight, items to pack for care kits for your bride and you, one of the most important mistakes that wedding photographers make, and how to showcase images and create suggestions of products at the sales session.




A preconsultation is so vital in wedding photography. This is the only genre where I meet with potential clients before doing business with them. This is the opportunity to find out if we are a good fit, to learn their needs and personality, and to educate our clients on the importance power of the print. Showcasing albums and wall portraits allows us to presell products and create an awareness that not only are you there for the day of the wedding, but that you actually care about creating heirloom products for them. Explain how important it is, that years from now the investment will be one they will not regret.


I pour everything into the wedding day—this is a day that I too cannot get back—so I want to know that my investment in time is worth it. I also want to ensure that I actually get along with the potential clients.


Occasionally I learn that our product prices are too expensive for a potential client. This is a perfect time to suggest a gift registry for the after-the-wedding sales. We create a custom link with graphics for the couple to share on social media via their custom website if they have one. Most couples create these so their friends and family can keep up to date on wedding plans. Brides use the for journaling their experience. These custom sites are a great place to link a registry directly or via a link. We can link to our website and create a shopping cart in any denomination. This money is tracked and used for their albums and wall portraits. It’s a win-win for your studio and your bride and groom.


Encourage parents of the bride and groom to join in on consultations. They are often the ones paying for the wedding, and if you can make a connection with them, chances are they will be willing to increase their budget and include parent albums in post sales.




The gear musts for me include the Spider Camera Holster. I use the strap as well as the holster system. I had the company create a dual unit for me so I can carry two camera bodies at the same time. I don’t shoot without it. The Holster is an extension of me. Having my gear at my hips saves my lower back, shoulders and neck, and allows me to be hands-on with my clients. I can fix their hair and position them more easily. It alleviates having to set down my camera or having it swing from my neck all day.


Having two camera bodies lets me keep a 24–70 lens on one and a 70–200 on the other, giving me versatility throughout the ceremony and reception. The other lenses in my bag are a macro to capture the detail shots, a wide angle or fisheye for more create and cinematic imagery, and an 85mm for portraits. I like the 85mm, which I shoot wide open, allowing me to photograph anywhere.


I bring speedlights, which are portable, lightweight, durable and dependable. I like to have three speedlights so I can capture depth; I set up two or three side by side to overshadow the sun, creating more cinematic images and allowing the sky to shine through. Some lightweight stands, extra batteries and MagMod systems round out all that you need for any lighting conditions.


One last piece of equipment I always bring is a stepladder. It’s useful for special dances and cutting of the cake, where I might want a higher angle.




Lack of self-care is one of the most important mistakes photographers make. We stay so focused on the bride and groom along with everything around us that we might forget to eat and hydrate. You are no good to anyone if you don’t feel well. I keep Pepto and Advil in my arsenal. An extra set of clothing is a good idea. Accidents happen. Someone could spill something on you, clothing could rip or you could sweat through. Changing before the reception keeps you looking and feeling professional. I also keep water, soda and small snacks on hand.


I also keep a mini notepad and pen for any last-minute changes that I need to remember, such as a family member requesting special shots that the bride and groom had not mentioned, and that I will do my best to accommodate if time permits.


Bridal Care


I keep a bridal care kit with me that includes bobby pins, safety pins, clear nail polish and hairspray. I also pack small snacks and water for the bride.




This is the most common mistake wedding photographers make. Always invite your bride and groom and their parents to come back to your studio to view the art prints and album options. Otherwise, you are leaving money on the table. You can make more money from product sales than the wedding coverage. It starts with educating your client at the consultation, where you explain your process and the importance of printing their images and creating heirloom products.


Action Plans


  • Create a gift registry.
  • Create a self-care kit.

Create a bridal care kit.


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Adapting to Changes in the Wedding Photography Industry

Friday, April 28th, 2017


Adapting to Changes in the Wedding Photography Industry with Michael Anthony

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Change happens. Some of us love it and others hate it. Change can impact your business for the better or worse. Change can be something as small as new colors that are trending at weddings or something large, like the rapid transition from film to digital that occurred in the early 2000s.


Now, the thing about change is that it benefits some and is detrimental to others.
I don’t write about business a lot, but we have a very healthy photography business, shooting over 100 weddings a year. In business, I have learned one thing, no matter what: Change is inevitable. Those who learn to adapt to changes quickly are the ones who will have the most longevity in our industry. Think about businesses that failed to adapt to change, such as Kodak, Blockbuster and BlackBerry—the list goes on and on.


I had an ex-employee who used to complain about the number of changes I’d make to our studio policies. As a business owner, I keep my ear in tune to even the slightest shift in consumer behavior. If something seems off in your business, trust your instinct, because you’re probably right. That employee didn’t understand that the changes I made to our policies were in response to the consumer behavior I was sensing.


If something is broken, it needs to be fixed, and sometimes the fix is staring you right in the face but you fail to see it. My pet peeve is when a business takes too long to fix something that is obviously broken. I am guilty of violating my own pet peeve, and my business has suffered because of it.


After we started our associate program Studio 23 last year, there were glaring problems with the structure of the program that needed to be fixed, specifically regarding personnel. We had problematic employees who were causing our clients grief. I had already assigned these employees to shoot weddings, and didn’t want to switch them out on our clients. But waiting until it was too late to make a change could have severely damaged my company. In the end, it worked out, and we changed Studio 23’s structure, while at the same time cutting down our costs and providing a better-quality product. Had I held out replacing my bad staff, it could have caused irreversible harm to our business.


Changes in the wedding photography industry are happening swiftly, and those of us who are not ready for change could get left in the dust. I run a very active wedding studio and believe that anybody you learn business from should be running an active and profitable business, so understand that the trends I point out below are from my own experience.


  1. Wedding photography is getting more expensive for consumers.


This is a good change—for you—but you must understand that regardless of trends, when prices go up, so do client expectations. According to The Knot, the average price of wedding photography is up 8 percent this year, which is ahead of the rate of inflation. This is a good sign for photographers, and can be attributed to people like Sal teaching photographers how to run a profitable business, along with an exodus of people who are not running a profitable business.


While this is seemingly a good thing, let me explain why you need to be concerned. With anything in life, if the price goes up, the value needs to go up with it. Clients’ perceived value of your product can be objective to them, but you need to address their needs so that clients feel like they are getting a lot for their money.


When a client tells everyone you are expensive—and if you are charging a profitable rate, they probably will—it must be followed up by, “They were totally worth it.” If that is not the follow-up that you receive, those potential new clients won’t reach out to you. Nobody wants to pay too much for anything. It doesn’t matter if they are wealthy or not: Clients want to feel they are getting value for their money.


  1. Clients are becoming more demanding for a professional level of service.


Gone are the days when you could respond to your clients in two to three days. You have a life, maybe kids and a lot of other clients to deal with, but in your bride’s mind, she expects to be your only client. This may be a result of generational mentality, but I think it must have more to do with the fact that big businesses are providing value with exceptional service to justify increasing costs. This is good for the consumer, but a single photographer doesn’t normally have the resources to provide immediate service. When a big business like AT&T runs into customer service issues, they are often a result of a misunderstanding or mishap, and are sometimes the fault of the consumer or the business. AT&T understands that keeping a customer happy is a better option than having an upset customer (but keeping a $49 activation fee).
Today’s consumer knows this, and many push for a concession that is ultimately granted by a large company that benefits more from a happy customer than the small charge being disputed.


Bring that back to photography. If there is a misunderstanding on your pricelist or with a delivery time, most photographers aren’t in the position to give away a print or album for free, because we often work on low volume and high margins. You can’t simply say no to a client without offering a reason and a solution.


If that solution is not a form of concession, it is more difficult to maintain a happy client, regardless of whether you are right or wrong.
If I told you I didn’t run into customer service issues, I would be lying to you. You simply cannot always operate at 100 percent efficiency. Clients are less forgiving than they once were.


The answer isn’t simple. You must increase the efficiency in your business and be extremely responsive to clients. Many brides like to be contacted weekly, and if that means setting an auto reminder to shoot a client an email to check on them six months before their wedding, then so be it. Understanding this trend is the first step to getting ahead of it. Larger markets like New York City and Los Angeles see these trends before smaller markets, so keep that in mind if you are not seeing the same thing.


Here are a few things you can implement to bump up efficiency. First, get a solid CRM. 17Hats is amazing at helping you get the job done, and Ally, its lead management, will help with your responsiveness with prospective clients. Next, automate everything that you can. We use email templates for everything from initial inquiry, to follow ups, to upselling parent albums. We have some available on our website for photographers.


  1. Aesthetic preferences are changing.


The days of rustic and vintage weddings are dying—slowly, but still dying. The film-look craze that has replaced natural-light shooting is also on the way out. Clients are looking for more cinematic, romantic and artistic imagery that is technically well executed, well lit and with modern post-production. To be clear, I am not saying clients are looking for off-camera flash in the middle of an epic scene. I am saying their taste in photography is improving, and they are looking for photography that stands out. Vanessa Joy and Sal Cincotta both have completely different styles of photography, but they both produce images in line with all of these qualities.

Clients are more in tune with what makes a good photograph. They are not always correct, but they are paying more attention. “Fake it till you make it” doesn’t work anymore. You need to up your skillset and push yourself to try new things to stand out.


This means you need to practice, and if your portfolio from your paid shoots is not keeping up with aesthetic trends, you need to stylize shoots. We stylize bridal sessions bimonthly to make sure we are creating good content for our clients. Those sessions feature dresses, lighting and scenes all in line with the modern aesthetics.


Here lies the threat to your business. Other photographers are seeing the shift in clients’ preferences to be more in line with that of the photographic community, but that means increased competition.
Off-camera flash is getting easier and easier to learn, and simply underexposing a background and correctly exposing your subject with flash isn’t enough to make your work stand out. Like Sal says, innovate or die.


  1. An album is no longer an album.


Including a wedding album in your packages is no longer an add-on, it’s an expectation. I used to get inquiries from people who told me they did not require an album. In recent years, those inquiries have turned into people requesting an album. That means your competitors are all offering albums. If you are not offering albums, you are selling your clients an incomplete story, limiting your profitability and not standing out among your competitors.


Your albums must be different, just like your photography. I am talking paper options, larger than normal sizes, multiple cover choices, etc. Most important, your storytelling ability must be on point and able to evoke emotion in your clients.


Our studio uses a combination of Signature Collection Albums, Graphistudio Wedding Books and for our different levels of albums. All three offer unique albums with exceptional customer service.


  1. Traditional advertising is a turnoff to the modern bride.


I will get flack for writing this, but you need to modernize your marketing. The days of paying for a magazine ad are over. Your bride is not finding you on Channel 7 during Judge Judy, and you are certainly going to turn off a lot of people if your ads are pretentious (“We care about you, the bride, not like all those other photographers who only care about their portfolio”).


What works today? You need a well-rounded strategy based on (but not dependent on) multiple sources of lead generation. Let’s look at some popular ad methods.


Social Media and Google


Facebook was very successful for us in 2013 and 2014, but, as it became more popular to advertise on Facebook, users have become numb to it. This is an example of traditional advertising. The problem is that the same ads are displayed repeatedly to the wrong people, and that’s ineffective.
Where Facebook and other online ads do work well is in retargeting people who have visited your website. This can be done by installing Facebook Pixel on your site.


If you have a large following of other photographers or have nontargeted people visiting your website, this could be a difficult strategy, but there are workarounds you can explore to make sure you are showing ads to the right people, such as targeting visitors to a landing page.


Instagram ads are the way of the future. Organic reach is still high, but I have found that as of today, these ads are ineffective.


What’s more important than where you advertise is how you advertise. People want to get to know your brand and studio. Bombarding them with offers and discounts does not work like it used to because they see that all the time. Consider making a promo video offering free advice for wedding planning, and offer that to brides in exchange for their email. Once you have the email, you can use it to retarget your brides and send your offers and discounts. They will be more receptive this time because they already know you.


Referrals and Vendors


Word of mouth is your best friend, but vendor referrals can sometimes fall on deaf ears. You want your past clients talking about you. If you are like me, you don’t have time to go on a weekly tour of your community with cookies and gifts, hoping to get on a vendor list that more and more venues are charging to be on.


While it’s a good thing to work closely and be referred by vendors, if you invest too much of your time with that, once that catering manager is replaced, you must start all over. Instead, make sure you are talking with your good vendors once a month, but don’t expect anything from them in return. Sincerity goes a long way, and if you are friendly and helpful with your vendors and clients, they will be more likely to refer you. People base referrals on their experience with you, your brand and your team. It may seem like shop talk to bad-mouth that difficult client to a wedding vendor, but you are placing doubt in their mind as to whether you can handle their client.


Treat your clients like gold. Spoil them. Take care of their timeline and don’t let them have a single bad experience on the wedding day. If you do it right, they will refer you to their friends and family like clockwork. Referrals are by far our best source of new leads and bookings.


Paid Directories
Directories like WeddingWire and The Knot can work if your price point is lower than that of your competition and your quality is higher than average. These websites pit all vendors against one another in a free-for-all; without getting to know your brand, all they have is your imagery and your price, which both sites encourage their vendors to display because research shows that clients want to see price before shopping. The problem is that when price is a talking point, it will be highly considered in the decision process. Without showing value through your products and personality, it will be hard to charge an adequate amount for your services.


These websites work in conjunction with other marketing techniques to provide confidence in your brand and products. But they can be expensive, and shouldn’t be used for starting your ad campaigns.


Email Marketing


Email marketing can be incredibly effective, but first you need a quality list to send to. It takes a lot of time to build a list, and because of the nature of what we do, brides will need to be moved to a separate list after their wedding. Use free content to encourage brides to sign up for your list. Your content must be engaging. Brides who don’t care about what you are offering won’t sign up with you.


  1. The industry is becoming more competitive every day.


When I was the new kid on the block five years ago, I remember being dismissed by local photographers. We are now one of the largest Los Angeles wedding photography studios by volume and sales. This came from hard work, perseverance and making tough decisions. It also came though relentlessly adapting to changes in the market.


I see many competitors that have the same fire and determination that I did. The difference is that I do not dismiss them. I watch my competitors every day to make sure that wherever they are going, I am already there. It may sound harsh, but business is cutthroat.
In a first-season episode of House of Cards, Kevin Spacey’s character breaks the fourth wall and says, “The higher the mountain you climb, the more treacherous the path.” It’s great advice, and so true.


When Jen and I were starting MAPhoto, we looked to the larger businesses to see what they were doing, and went unnoticed by many of them. Today, we can’t make a move without every photographer in L.A. knowing about it. It has been harder and harder to get help or advice from local colleagues since we are seen by many as one of the targets to knock down. We have heard stories from vendors about other photographers badmouthing us (we make it a point to be in those venues with prints on the wall). We have had clients tell us that competitors and ex-employees were badmouthing us (we always book those clients).


Once you’re successful, others will try to tear you down. You must resist the urge to sink to their level. If you are reading this article, you care about the success of your business, and that means you must do everything to protect it, even if it means swallowing your pride when you run into these situations.


Hopefully these tips will help keep you in tune with today’s market and bride. Stay in tune with the market, and you will see continued success. Don’t be afraid to make changes when things aren’t working.


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How to Defuse Bridal Bombs: 4 Tips for Avoiding and Dealing With Client Catastrophes

Friday, April 28th, 2017


How to Defuse Bridal Bombs: 4 Tips for Avoiding and Dealing With Client Catastrophes with Vanessa Joy

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The first time I had a bride complain about me was when I shot my first wedding, for which I’d charged just $500. Long story short, the bride didn’t like the pictures. Looking back at those pictures now, nine years later, she certainly had every right to complain because they just weren’t that good. It was also my fault because I didn’t provide her with clear expectations of what she should expect from my photography.

If you’ve ever had a client upset with you, you know that it can flip your life upside down. You can’t sleep at night. All you do is worry about it and talk about it to people who really don’t want to hear it. Thankfully, there are a lot of ways you can avoid client catastrophes, especially with brides. There are ways to handle these unfortunate events that will leave your bride happy without letting her walk all over you. Brides can be the most difficult clients, but if you follow the steps below, you’ll be able to breeze through transactions with or without confrontation.

Tip #1: Set realistic expectations.

Setting expectations is where it all starts. If you set expectations for your photos, your customer service, your product delivery and anything else that involves clients and what they receive, you won’t have a problem meeting those expectations. If you don’t set them, you run the risk of your client subconsciously setting them for you—and likely setting them beyond your capabilities.

Setting expectations starts with your website. The second they come to your site, they subconsciously create expectations about your brand, your photos and what they can expect from their wedding pictures. When I meet with clients, I talk about their wedding day and show them pictures that look like what I envision for their final product. If they’re having a church ceremony, I show them how I photograph in that setting. If they’re not doing any of their photos until after sunset, I show them a winter wedding.

Setting expectations early on means you will be able to communicate with your clients more effectively and they will have realistic expectations of what you’re going to deliver to them. Set expectations for quality of the product and turnaround time as well.

Always give yourself a buffer in turnaround time. I tell my clients their proofs will be ready in around three to four weeks, even though I know I’ll have them done in one to two weeks. This gives me two possible outcomes. I’ll either deliver the product early to them and they’ll be happy that I’ve exceeded their expectations, or, if some things are holding me up on the backend and I deliver past my normal one- to two-week turnaround, they will still get their photos “on time.” It’s a win-win either way.

Tip #2: Keep lines of communication open.

Your clients should always be able to get a hold of you via email or phone. You should also be easily approachable. If they’re having a problem, you want them to feel comfortable coming to you. When they come to you at the beginning of a problem, it’s easier to resolve it. It also ensures that your client isn’t getting madder and madder, while you are completely unaware something is even wrong.

Throughout your relationship with the bride or groom, email them asking how things are going and if there’s anything you can do to make things better. This may open up a can of worms, but it will help diffuse problems before they begin—and it gives you the chance to rectify existing ones. Create a client exit survey that can help you avoid problems with future clients.

Tip #3: Sympathize and listen.

When a client comes to you with a problem, you need to be able to respond favorably. I realize that half the time clients come to you with a problem, their expectations or demands are petty, and you want to roll your eyes at them. Don’t do that.

When they talk to you about their concerns, sympathize with them. Tell them you understand how they feel and you are sorry about it. Repeat what they say back to them in different words so it’s clear that both parties understand what is going on. (These techniques will not only help you with your client relationships, but pretty much any relationship you have.)

Tip #4: Ask them what they want.

It might seem like a really bad idea to ask a hypersensitive, emotionally unstable bride what she wants. Give clients the benefit of the doubt. When you ask a client how she wants you to compensate for a problem, verbalizing the problem will help make them more rational. Ask them what you can do to make things right, and you’ll often arrive at a practical solution.

When you do reach a reasonable solution, overcompensate. Offer an additional free canvas or some extra pages in their wedding album. Your goal is to turn unhappy clients into very happy clients, and one of the best ways to do this is by overcompensating.

If you’ve never had a bridal bomb explode in your face, trust me, you will. I’ve been in business for almost a decade, and I’ve had my share of client confrontations. These methods have helped me manage clients in a way that keeps them happy throughout our relationship.


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Engagement Sessions

Friday, April 28th, 2017


Engagement Sessions with Craig LaMere

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Engagement sessions are one of my favorite sessions to shoot for a few reasons. You get to use almost any shooting technique you want. You can shoot in natural light or in the studio. You can shoot with off-camera flash. You can shoot editorial style. Another reason I love shooting engagement sessions is because the clients are so in love. They want to show the world, and are eager to try about anything at the shoot.


The engagement session offers one of the best ways to build rapport and trust with your future bride and groom. It’s a fantastic calling card for future business. You have to do engagement sessions with a strict game plan, or they can get away from you. Let’s look at four big things to keep in mind when shooting future married couples.


Digital vs. Prints


One of the biggest gaps in photography is between shooters who are cool with selling digital files and those who are not. My studio is product-based. A tangible product is far superior to a digital file. As technology progresses, digital imagery is likely to become obsolete in its current form. Eight-tracks, cassette tapes and compact discs are gone. But digital images have a place on our menu. Engagement sessions for me, are one of the genres where digitals make sense for me to sell more than prints.


When I first started shooting, I was firm on not offering digitals to engagement and wedding clients. Without fail, each person who contacted me wanted to know about digital files. They all wanted them for their announcements. I would tell them the studio offers announcements. They would be so excited right up to the point of finding out what their investment would be on the 400 announcements they wanted. I lost a lot of business because I held tough to not selling digitals. Then I realized if I wanted to capture some of the business that was walking away, I would have to change what I was doing. I decided to offer digital files to my engagement sessions.


I implemented a per-file rate, with price breaks on volume orders. The files were formatted so they would only print up to an 8×12 before they started to break apart and pixelate. My clients could use the images for announcements and to print out images to place around the reception tables, but they could not use them to make large prints. I decided that if my clients wanted big prints, they would have to go through the studio.


Appetizer vs. Main Course


One of the other pitfalls I fell into was spending way too much time shooting sessions. When I started shooting engagement sessions, I treated them like a main course and not an appetizer. I had my clients bring three to four clothes changes and we would go to a bunch of locations. I shot 300 images per session. After culling the images, I was showing 100 to 120 images at the view session. What I did not understand was engagements are just a teaser to the wedding, and the wedding is the big show. I was putting all that effort and time into the engagement session and putting my clients through it all too; I found out pretty quickly that it was not the right approach for a couple of reasons.


One of the reasons this approach was bad was because I was asking so much of my clients. They were stressed out about all the clothes they had to bring. The time investment was hard on my clients. They would come to the studio all pumped up, and by location three, they were pretty tired. At the view session, they were overwhelmed looking at that many images; they quickly started to all look the same, so my clients started to second-guess. The biggest problem with my approach was that my clients did not want the number of images I thought they did. In my mind, I was shooting the session to sell an album, which at my studio would be around 20 to 30 images. My clients wanted just five to 10 images. I found that my clients didn’t budget a lot for the engagement because they were allocating the lion’s share of their money to the wedding and the wedding photography.


Nowadays, instead of four clothes changes, we do two. One is casual and the other is formal or semiformal. We go to two locations and we shoot around 60 images for the entire session. The session is an hour or less. At the view session, I show no more than around 40 images. My clients are happy and I’m happy.


Makes the Wedding Day Easier


I love shooting engagements, but the goal is to book and shoot the wedding. I look at the engagement as one of the best ways to set yourself up for a successful wedding shoot. I have shot weddings where the bride and groom had someone other than me shoot the engagement. But shooting the engagement is a fantastic lead into the wedding day for a couple of reasons. When you shoot the engagement, you establish a rapport with the couple. The day of the wedding will be crazy, and it helps when they trust you are going to take good care of them.


The engagement session also prepares you for their personalities and tastes. Time is of the essence at a wedding, and with nerves and stress levels so high, it is a huge advantage to know how the couple likes to be shot, how they take direction, if they like structure or if they are more in the moment. All these factors help you use the time you have to your best advantage.


Incentivize the Shoot


Because shooting the engagement is so important and because our end goal is to book the wedding, we use the engagement session as an incentive for clients to book the wedding. In some of our packages, the engagement session is built in. Or, if my client is at a certain spending level, I offer the engagement as a bonus after they have booked.


I know it seems strange to give something away once they have agreed to pay for it, but I know I’m going to do well with the wedding and I think it goes a long way for a value-added experience. Giving away a few hundred dollars is worth the word-of-mouth returns.


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