There is no such thing as “stepping” into the world of photography – it’s a jump! Once you’re in it, it’s sink or swim. Unfortunately, most people sink after two or three years of being in business. Although there are many important factors that determine the success of a business, etiquette and customer service are two of the most important.
The world of wedding photography is quite small… most credible vendors either know each other or at least know of each other. New photographers don’t always realize just how small this group of people is until they burn a bridge. Bad idea. REALLY bad idea. Etiquette and customer service isn’t just important when dealing with clients, it’s equally as important when dealing with fellow vendors and wedding professionals.
Below are a few tips to help newer photographers as they leap into the wild world of wedding photography.
#1 – Keep your email turnaround at less than 24 hours.
Whether you’re dealing with fellow vendors or with potential clients, having a fast turnaround time for emails is essential. With brides and grooms using the Internet to do a high percentage of their wedding planning, they are contacting more vendors than they ever have before! Think of how easy it would be for a bride to have 5, 10 or even 15 tabs open in her web browser – all of those tabs different photographers websites! If that bride contacts every one of those photographers, there’s a good chance that she’ll book with one of the first few who email back. Wait too long to reply and she’ll long have forgotten about you. Furthermore, keeping speedy replies with fellow vendors shows your dedicated, organization skills as well as commitment to service. Providing excellent service as a professional doesn’t just stop at your clients.
#2 – Use automatic reply functions for when you cannot reply within 24 hours.
If you’re going to be away without email access for more than a day, set up an automatic reply function. Let the people who are trying to contact you know how long it will be until you return their messages.
#3 – Dress professionally when with clients.
Whether you’re shooting an engagement session or a wedding, make sure to dress professionally! And girls… let me remind you that low cut shirts are a big no-no! (And really, even semi-low neck shirt should be a no-no if you happen to have an ample chest.) You’ll be bending, twisting and leaning in order to get the best shot possible – it’s crucial that you’re not flashing your clients your cleavage while doing so! Frankly, it looks very cheap and unprofessional. Same goes for low-rise dress pants. You’ll be swatting, crouching and kneeling throughout the day. The last thing you want is for the wedding guests who are seated behind you to be able to see your underwear poking out of your pants. If you do choose to wear a sleeveless top on a scorching summers day engagement session, leave the spaghetti straps at home!
#4 – Say thank you!
Don’t just say thank you in person, send your clients and other vendors hand written thank you cards! Hand written notes are personal as well as professional and will leave the client with a great memory of you. Personally, I don’t believe in giving coupons with thank you cards. I find it in poor taste to send a thank you card with a coupon… it’s like saying “Thanks for your business…. if there any way in which I an entice you to spend more money with me?” Again, just my opinion.
#5 – Keep your turnaround time reasonable!
I’m sure you’ve heard stories of brides waiting over a year to get their wedding photos, right? Well, you better never leave your clients in a position where they say that about you! The best way to achieve reasonable turnaround times is to properly budget your time. If your time management skills are poor then your customer service will be, too. In terms of image turnaround, keep your clients in the loop after their wedding. Show them some sneak peeks and do your best to give them an estimate of job completion time. If seasonal workload is at it’s peak and you have editing coming out of the wazoo, offer to provide them 4 or 5 high res photos (of your choice) via email that they can at least include in their thank you cards (which is typically a concern for clients).
If your turnaround times are getting too high because of the amount of work you are commissioning then you need to start saying ‘no’ to new work that walks through the door. Don’t want to say no because you need the money? Then reprice your services. Don’t make the client suffer with long turnaround times because you can’t manage your workload and finances.
#6 – Get off your high horse and learn to be humble!
This is the part that most people struggle with, especially people who know they have raw talent (or at least have been told that over the years). I’ve mentored many photographers in the past several years and I’ve seen a lot of this type of attitude being throw around by newer photographers and there is nothing that will terminate a mentorship quicker than the new photographer being full of themselves. You can think you’re the most talented photographer in the world, but until you’ve earned the respect of your potential clients, fellow wedding vendors, colleagues and mentors you will never grow beyond your amateur years.
Although the amount of etiquette tips can be endless for the new photographer, hopefully these 6 tips can help you swim a few more laps after you jump into the wild world of wedding photography.