In May, I started a short series about the client’s perspective in photography and discussed my search for my perfect photographer. I shared how I narrowed my list and honed in on a few photographers. But, then the question remained: how do I choose? After speaking with many Two Bright Lights photographers, I came to realize that few clients ever tell them why they don’t choose them, and sometimes clients do not tell them why they DO choose them. I am going to walk you through the process that helped me choose who I did and who I did not.
Before I start, these views do not represent the views of Two Bright Lights, and I do not intend to speak for all brides. I just want to share my personal experience, to give you insight into my process in the hopes of adding value to your client acquisition process and strategy.
After narrowing down my list to about 6 photographers I spent considerable time looking at a few key items to get a better sense for who was going to be a good fit for us. I was looking for the photographer whose online and offline presentation presented and communicated the following elements the best:
In particular I looked at a few key areas:
Their portfolio: I looked for diversity in the types of shots featured: I wanted to see examples of all the different type of work they did.
Weddings: I looked for a variety of moments featured – from romantic/epic shots to the first kiss to the grandma dancing!)
Engagements: I was looking for examples demonstrating their creativity and ability to reflect the couple’s style, not just their own – so I looked for variety in style of shots and perspective.
Non-wedding Work: I was hoping to get a sense of how they saw the world and what non-wedding work struck their fancy. This gave me a sense for who they were. If it was mainly baby images that gave me one sense, if it was mainly fashion, it gave me another.
I wanted someone with a documentary approach to photography – who focused on taking beautiful pictures of real moments versus someone who took the epic, but more posed shots. Because I knew what style I wanted, when I looked at their portfolios, it helped me narrow down the list – eliminating those with different styles and keeping those who did.
Their client praise section
I know that photographers often ask the brides who they felt were pleased with the ultimate work to provide feedback to share with other clients. Understanding that what I was reading was from people who were asked – I looked at the type of praise they chose to give. I looked for comments about how the photographer created work that really reflected the wedding, about how the photographer was non-intrusive, about how the photographer was easy to work with, made clients feel at ease being themselves, and that the work was fantastic.
Content. I wanted to see what work of their own that they chose to feature and the commentary they wrote. I was looking to understand how the photographer positioned themselves within the field. The photographs they chose to highlight gave me more insight into their style. I looked at what other sort of content they wrote about – did they highlight the work of other vendors, did they report on industry trends, did they seem up to date and excited about quality equipment, etc.
Social Media. I looked at their Facebook page and Twitter feed. I was not judging the number of followers, though I did hope to see enough to seem like they were connected to their peers. All I wanted was to have evidence of their engagement in the industry, as noted by the content of their tweets/posts and when it came to Twitter the people they followed.
Features. It was important to me that they had been featured on blogs or in magazines, and that they understood that was important. I looked for links to their features and checked out who featured them and what work was featured.
Lists and Professional Affiliations. I kept an eye out for any lists they were on, such as Green Wedding Shoes or Style Unveiled. I paid attention to what industry groups and professional organizations they belonged to. It was important that this information was easy to find and was there.
After I had a good sense for who they were, I called them. Because I lived far away I was unable to meet them in person. I realize this is a somewhat unique position, but like in a meeting I was hoping for a good connection, someone who I felt understood what I was looking for, someone who I could be comfortable around. Their personality and professionalism mattered to me. I wanted to feel like they were excited about me and wanted my business, but were not desperate for my business – so little intonations and word choice gave me clues to this. It also mattered that they knew the answers to my questions and that the answers came smoothly. I asked about how they would describe their style, what their favorite part of shooting a wedding was, how their pricing worked, what their training was, etc. Charlie (my fiancé) also talked to them – and we compared our impressions.
Price was also a factor, but the photographers we like had almost identical pricing, so the decision came down more to fit and follow through than anything. Because we did not have a chance to meet in person, it was essential that they returned calls and emails promptly, followed up on the what they said they would send, and were quick to answer questions.
So, who did we pick and why?
We picked Otto Schulze of Otto Shutlze Photographers. Why? Well, in brief he had an extremely professional website and blog, took award winning documentary style photography, was delightful on the phone, and conveyed a genuine sense of excitement to work with us. The other photographers were also amazing, but they missed some of the key elements I outlined above.
So far the working with Otto has been amazing. Charlie and I are in love with our engagement pics (which we will feature soon) and cannot wait for the wedding pictures!!