Pro Talk; Mike Colon

"None of my sample albums have family formal shots. I intentionally leave them out because they're not what I specialize in."

"A lot of it comes down to your client's expectations before the wedding," Mike Colon says of his relationship to the bride and groom. "You have to talk about what they're really expecting, what they've always dreamt of in their wedding photography. If you don't ask, you won't know."

Photos © 2006, Mike Colon, All Rights Reserved

And if you miss a key photograph because you didn't ask, that will be what the bride remembers. "She might think your style fits her exactly, but if you don't communicate, don't ask questions, if you don't pull the information out of her before the wedding, you may never know that she needed a shot of her and her grandmother together. You think you nailed the wedding, but everything is marked by missing that shot."

Brides-to-be come to Mike because they've seen his work; they know what they're going to get. "None of my sample albums have family formal shots. I intentionally leave them out. If the bride or her mom asks about the formals, I'll pull out the proof books to show them I do take those shots, but they're not what I use to promote myself because they're not what I specialize in." Mike is frank in establishing his position: "If they want a photographer to shoot all that stuff, they can get one at a lot less cost. What I specialize in takes a little more skill, a little more talent, a little more of an eye, and the ability to manage your equipment to capture the great moments."

But if the bride wants something specific, Mike will get it. "She just needs to tell me," he says. "A lot of photographers shun the idea of a bride giving them a list of photos, but I welcome it. I tell brides, if there are certain shots you want that you haven't seen in my books, or something you want to be sure I don't miss, give me a list. I'll have my assistant check those off as I get them."

The initial meeting and the engagement photo session that Mike offers as part of every wedding package are opportunities for him to get to know the couple. "When I'm booking the wedding, I can educate them about me and my style. I want them to know who I am and what I'm about, so they can decide if I'm the one for them. The engagement session helps educate me--I find out what the couple is like together and how they react to the camera."

It makes for more than good photography; it's also good business.

"Business is a huge part," Mike says. "A lot of great photographers are struggling. I get calls all the time--`What's going on, how are you booking these weddings? I'm struggling, and I know I'm a good shooter.' And it's because they're neglecting the marketing side, which I think as an artist you tend to neglect."

Mike isn't about to do that. He has a degree in marketing and his eye is always on promotion. "You have to invest time and energy in getting involved in the industry and becoming an expert. You can be an awesome photographer, but if no one knows about it, you're not going to have any work. You have to know how to get those images and your name in front of people."

Mike Colon is a Nikon "Legends Behind the Lens" featured photographer. The current "Legends" story and an archive of profiled photographers, including Mike, can be found at www.nikonnet.com. Mike's website is www.mikecolon.com.

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