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Working with wedding planners

Monday, August 19th, 2013



Working with Wedding Planners

If you’re one of the many wedding photographers that have had the experience of working with planners, I feel your pain, trust me.

But whether you have or haven’t had experience with them, I have some tips to make it as positive of an experience as possible.

Often times when we are working with planners, they take control of the day and rearrange the timeline to leave us no time for pictures, giving us the option to “deal with it”.

In order to combat this unfortunate situation, here are some things you can do:

1) When you find a good planner, stick with them!  Treat them like gold, give them all the free pictures you want, give their info to your brides!  There are a few planners we love to work with because they get what we do and they help us get what we need in order to make amazing images.

2) If you do happen to be working with a difficult planner, look to the bride for direction.  If a planner were changing a timeline to a point where I was worried about the images we would be able to capture, I would call my bride, let her know the situation and what she is at risk with in regards to the images we will be able to capture, and let her dictate what direction I should take. Don’t waste your time arguing with the planner. Let the couple fight this battle. After all, they are the ones paying you. Typically once I present the situation to my bride she reigns the planner back in, lets them know pictures are a priority, and I have the timeline back to where it should be.

3) You can also prepare your bride in advance with some tips and timing that create great images.  I create a document that lets them know all the important things that go into creating great images on their day. The bride can then pass this document along to the planner.

The next time you have to work with a planner, try killing them with kindness first, let them know you respect their job, and try to work with them. If that doesn’t work, go to the bride, and if the bride defers to the planner, let the bride know what images you will NOT be able to capture because of the set up, once the bride is warned, it is out of your hands and you have at least covered yourself once the wedding is over and the bride is wondering what happened. Work together so you are all in sync.

Think about it this way, its in the best interest of the planner to work with you. We can produce great images for them to use in their portfolio as well. Unfortunately, we have had more bad experiences with planners than good ones. I would say its probably a lot like photography. In the sense that, in our experience, the planners that are full time tend to get it (not always) and they respect us and other vendors. It seems to be the brides that planned their own weddings and now are planners on the weekends that create the most tension for everyone involved. Being a planner doesnt mean being a drill Sargent. Can you imagine how professional wedding planners must feel? – “everyone is a planner.”

Best bet to get in good with planners and develop that referral network, turn digital images around for them very quickly. Like in 24hrs quick! Give them something to post on their social media and you will be the hero.

Good luck to all of you who are and will be working with wedding planners, it can definitely be a huge benefit for them to help set up the day so that it is conducive to great images, so sing Kumbaya and try to make it work. :)



Scheduling Sessions 101

Monday, June 24th, 2013



Scheduling Sessions 101

When Sal and I first started our studio, scheduling was the bane of my existence. I could never get it right! I would mix up days, have Sal in 7 shoots back to back one day and then the next day have 2 shoots with a 4 hour gap in between them, it was miserable! Below are some things I’ve learned along the way that will change your life and make scheduling a dream!

Block off set times

Before I would work around my clients’ schedule, this usually ended up in Sal shooting 7 days a week at all kinds of hours in order to make the best time for our client. It was miserable! Now I block off set days and make my clients work around our schedule.

Monday-Wednesday are shoot days, Saturdays we have weddings, the rest of the days are for production, editing, marketing, etc. One Sunday per month we will book a day of shoots for those clients who cannot make a weekday work.

When scheduling my clients I first offer Monday-Wednesday, only if they cannot make a weekday work, do I present the 1 Sunday as an option. I am letting them know my schedule instead of asking them what their schedule looks like. Most clients are able to make the weekday work for their session.

I also have set times. I try to book two to three downtown senior sessions in the first part of the day and finish with an engagement session downtown. I do this because seniors don’t have school in the summer when they are shooting, so I can schedule them most anytime that works for me. Engagement sessions however have to take off work, by having their session last I can have them start at 5 or 5:30pm in the summer time so they don’t have to worry about taking off work, and its easier to shoot one person (a senior) mid day with the sun than it is to shoot two people in direct sun.

Just this one tip of setting your own schedule will bring sanity to your busy shooting season!

Back to Back

Schedule your shoots back to back, utilize your time, be efficient! Sal would get so frustrated waiting hours in between sessions because he didn’t have enough time to do production work so it ended up being wasted time.

Now I schedule our sessions back to back, I make sure that when one session is scheduled to end, the next session is ready to go. So if a senior is scheduled to shoot downtown from 11-2pm I’ll have Sal’s next senior ready at 2:30pm to allow him time to travel to the meeting place or grab a snack if needed. Also when you are scheduling sessions back to back, make sure they are in the same location. Don’t have one session at the park and the other downtown, you’re wasting time driving! Have Monday dedicated to downtown and Tuesday dedicated to park settings.

When trying to coordinate with your client follow these steps:

1. Figure out if they prefer park or urban settings
2. Offer date that coincides with your sessions scheduled for those areas (Monday downtown, Tuesday park)
3. Give them the time slot at the same time “Ok I have Tuesday the 1st at 3pm in the park open or Monday the 7th at 5pm available, let me know what works best for you”

Give them details

Lastly give them details, don’t just tell them, “meet at the park at 3pm”, where in the park?! Here is part of my email I send to my clients once we have finalized their session details ;

“We have your engagement session scheduled for June 3rd at 5pm meeting at Al’s Restaurant located at 1200 N 1st St, St Louis, MO 63102, shoots typically last about 1.5-2hours, please be sure to arrive 10 minutes early so we can start on time as we typically have shoots and meetings back to back.”

Give them an exact address to meet at so they can plug it into their GPS, don’t make them search for an address, make it as easy as possible.

I hope these tips help you and make your scheduling as easy as its made mine, there is always room to improve and become more efficient, have a great shooting season!











Email Etiquette

Monday, April 29th, 2013


Email Etiquette

Some of you may see this title and think “Really? I know I handle email fine”, but you would be surprised at some of the emails I receive from other companies. Just as there is phone etiquette, there is also email etiquette, below are some tips to make sure you’re emails look professional to your clients and vendors!


Create email signature for you and your employees. Make it consistent with your brand and with your staff. Some items to include are : your name, company name, website, relevant phone numbers. Everyone’s signature should be formatted the same within your company, same font, same size, same arrangement. Keep it simple! The worst thing you can do is clutter your signature with every social media handle you have, your studio hours, pricing policies, etc.

Below is our studio manager’s email signature.

Screen Shot 2013-02-20 at 4.09.52 PM


I know it’s a pain! But use correct grammar, punctuation, capitalization, at least until you get to know your client. Once a client has booked us and we are comfortable with each other, I’ll let the caps and punctuation slide (as MAC mail doesn’t auto correct like Outlook does).


If there is an issue with a client or vendor where you reference a previous email, don’t just say “see the email I sent last October”, attach the ACTUAL email. Why make your clients do extra work and get frustrated. This makes you look organized and reliable, and saves your clients from getting more frustrated.

Cc or Bcc?

If there are multiple clients on an email, I will always Bcc. I want each of our clients to feel as if they are our only client, so I never want them to be connected to each other or see all our other clients. However if I tell my client in email “Alissa will handle that for you”, I’ll Cc Alissa (our studio manager) on the email so now everyone is in sync, and the client can now work with Alissa without having to ask for her contact information.

In conclusion, emails count, there should be uniform etiquette across your company that is in line with your customer service and your brand.

For more tips on email etiquette here is a great article by Microsoft, enjoy!

Getting Vendor Referrals

Sunday, February 17th, 2013

Vendor Referrals


This time of year can be very slow for photographers, so its time to focus on marketing!

When we opened our studio in St Louis, bridal shows were key for us.  About 60% of our bookings were from bridal shows, but now as our studio has grown and matured, our lead sources have changed dramatically.  For 2013, 45% of our weddings come from client referrals, 33% from advertising and marketing (bridal shows, google, and magazine ads), and 22% from vendor referrals.

I want to focus on vendor referrals.  Vendors can include; reception halls, florists, planners, dress shops, you name it!  Previously we would wait for our slow season, and then go through all our weddings from that year and print an image for each vendor as a 16×24.  This process was painful; digging through old images, taking forever to find the right one… it was a mess!

Now I have a simple and seamless process!  Once my bride and groom come to the studio to view their images ( I use Lightroom for this process), since I already have all their photos in Lightroom, and have now gone through all of them with them, after they leave I’ll go through the wedding images, and select the best ones for each vendor.  I’ll flag some flowers, reception photos, and details for the planner, close-ups for the makeup artist, etc.  From there I created an export action that resizes the images and puts our logo on the bottom.  I’ll export each category into a separate folder labeled with the couples name and the vendor category, for example “smith_florist”.

Then I’ll burn that folder to a branded DVD, but that in a branded DVD tin, include a typed letter thanking them for their beautiful work, letting them know that the images included are for them to use on their website and marketing material as long as photo credit is given (and our logo is not cropped out).   This letter is printed on linen paper and inserted in the DVD case so that there is no way they can miss it.  This process takes me maybe 30 minutes per wedding, and now as a result, our images are all over St. Louis, on every major vendors website, and every vendor LOVES us for getting them images so quickly.

Find a process that works for you and your business to get images for your vendors in a reasonable amount of time after the event to create a huge referral network that will generate more business for you then you could ever imagine!











Photography Magazine / Couples Boudoir

Friday, January 25th, 2013

// Photography Magazine


Last month I shot my first boudoir session ever! And it just happened to be a couples boudoir session!

I booked a wedding client, got to know my couple, and as we’re talking about ideas for their engagement session, I mention that we offer destination engagement sessions. Their eyes lit up and  immediately its set on New Orleans, where they got engaged. We start throwing ideas back and forth and then they ask me “would it be possible to do a sexier session too?” Naturally I asked what they had in mind so I could make sure we’re on the same page.

They asked for a couples boudoir session. We talked ideas, concept, and inspiration until we covered everything we needed. I told them that after their engagement session in New Orleans, we would head back to their hotel in the french quarter and finish with the boudoir portraits for another 30 minutes.

I was elated after our meeting, I had never done a boudoir session before, but I’ve always wanted a session of Sal and I together, so I felt I knew exactly what they were looking for. Plus it didn’t hurt that  they were a gorgeous couple!

The engagement session went amazing and the boudoir part even better. I had about 20 minutes of light left (thanks to a gloomy day) so I worked quick but kept it romantic, whimsical, and classy. The entire day went so well, my couple spent nearly $3000, with 2/3 of that spent on the boudoir portion!

Tips from a first timers perspective? Definitely schedule a meeting or call with your client to get a clear vision of what they are looking for, what they are comfortable with, and what they ultimately want to do with their boudoir images. Plan out exactly what you want to get and how you’re going to get it, and then just be yourself and let your own style guide you! Good luck!




business automation | photography training

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

// photography training



Automatic Email Reminders

Hopefully you all are using a CRM (customer relationship management) software of some kind to keep track of your customers, invoices, calendars, etc.  Currently we use StudioCloud.  There are many important features you’ll want to have in your CRM system, such as: customer accounts, invoices, calendar appointments, etc.  But one major feature that should be a deciding factor on a system is automatic email reminders.

Screen Shot 2012-12-30 at 10.55.11 AM

When Sal and I started our studio, we used outlook calendar for all our appointments.  But constantly I would have our clients forget about their appointment, not show up, mix up the times, creating alot of lost time and frustration on both ends.  It was then I realized I needed a system where I could create custom automatic reminders for each type of appointment I had.  Enter StudioCloud.

Now I have over 60 different automatic email reminders, all dependent on the type of calendar appointment.  For example, lets stay I block of Jan. 1st 2013 for a wedding.  I have my system set up so that anytime I schedule a wedding, 3 months prior to their date, it will send out an email I created directly to the client, letting them know we need to schedule a day to review their timeline.  30 days prior to their wedding my system will send them a reminder that their balance is due in full.

Screen Shot 2012-12-30 at 10.47.34 AM

Screen Shot 2012-12-30 at 10.47.52 AM

Its custom email reminders like this that make scheduling and customer communication so easy and manageable.  Be proactive and find a system with automatic email reminders.  It will keep your customers happy and impressed at your organization as well as eliminate wasted time and stress so you can focus on the important things!

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