What’s New In The Wedding Business?; Challenges And Opportunities

Successful wedding photographers have been through a lot of changes in the past year. Couples who turn to a professional (instead of someone’s cousin with a camera) are looking for more than ordinary snapshots. Today, you need to offer more style and greater value to maintain a successful business. Current industry trends for wedding photography styles include fine art, photojournalism, fashion, and well-crafted, traditional portrait style. Added value includes exceptional customer service and extra services like a blog on your website. In this column we will talk with several photographers about what’s new in their wedding photography business, how to successfully present portfolios and sell their services. We will also look at new technology marketing techniques, including the effectiveness of websites.

© 2009, Jeffrey and Julia Woods, All Rights Reserved

Shutterbug: What marketing techniques have you tried in the past that may no longer work, and how do you market and sell your wedding photography services today?

Julia Woods (www.jeffreyandjuliawoods.com): We used to do bridal shows, but we have found that they do not attract the right level of bride for us. We have always felt word of mouth and networking with other wedding vendors is the best source of wedding referrals.

© 2009, Jeffrey and Julia Woods, All Rights Reserved

Jose Villa (www.josevillaphoto.com): I used to pour advertising dollars in magazine ads that would never get me any real direct phone calls. I stopped doing this when I decided to gather 50 photos from my favorite weddings and send them to wedding magazines like Brides or Elegant Bride. I was sending these images for a chance to get the wedding published as a “real wedding” in their magazines. My goal here was to get editorial photo credits and it ended up being the best thing I ever did for my business. Brides began to see my name in these beautiful magazines and now I have booked more weddings by getting published than I ever thought possible!

Aaron Pepis (www.pepisstudio.com): In the past going to bridal shows with a booth, we would find there would be 10 or more photographers and it was not the best experience. We found that the shows where you could get an exclusive (only one of each type of wedding service) could work much better for us. We are no longer in the wedding mass-market business so we do not do any of the usual marketing. We don’t compete on price and presently we’re doing a referral-only business. Since I have been doing this almost 40 years we work with a certain level of clients that make the 40-plus man hours of labor for a wedding worth it. Presently I am getting referrals down through generations of my clients. If you do the right thing for clients they will not only come back time and again as they move through the major moments in their life but they will also tell their friends. It is important to clarify what I mean by the “right thing,” I have always been a quality technician and delivered work based on my technical expertise.

© 2009, Jose Villa, All Rights Reserved

Jennifer Gilman and Mark Garber (www.markgarber.com): One of the biggest changes we have seen in terms of marketing to brides is the shift from traditional bridal marketing, such as direct mail, magazine ads, and bridal shows, to more of a “networking” style of marketing. Networking has always been a critical part of our bridal marketing, but now it has become the most important and most lucrative form of marketing for us. Most of our brides are busy career women trying to juggle careers, households, and wedding planning. They don’t have the time (or at least during traditional business hours) to attend bridal shows or read tons of bridal magazines.

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