Dear Newbie Wedding Photographer, Here’s Some Honest Advice…
Last week I received an email from a local wife-and-husband team of wedding photographers. Here’s what it said…
We hope your wedding season is going well and you are enjoying this beautiful weather!
We are a husband and wife photography team based out of [a Wisconsin area] who still have dates available to book for weddings this year and next. We would love to be able to coordinate with you on dates that you may already have booked but are getting inquiries from prospective couples.
As part of this collaboration, we would like to offer you $50 for each booked wedding package that you refer to us upon completion of the wedding.
Our portfolio and packages, starting at $900, are available on our website www.example.com to view. Since we work together for each wedding, we have the advantage of being able to shoot multiple angles and styles for each moment of their big day.
We look forward to hearing from you and collaborating with you in the future!
[The Wife and Husband Photographers]
I have been thinking about that email over the weekend. I felt I had to say something. I didn’t want to talk about their $900 wedding package. Nor did I want to ask them why the boy in the first image I see on their website is out of focus. I wanted to talk about something else: wedding photography ethics.
So today, I sat down, put together and emailed them my response:
Dear Wife and Husband photographers,
Thank you so much for the generic email you’ve sent out last Friday. I’ve talked to a few of my colleagues and it seems like we all got the same copy/paste version.
Bravo for doing your homework and making it very much personal!
Now, I don’t want to sound like a complete a**hole, but let me tell you few things here.
I know you’re just starting. I know, because I see “under construction” message on your About Us page. “This site was designed with the Wix.com website builder.” banner beautifully sitting right above your website navigation says so. And 4 posts in your Instagram account is pointing at it.
And let’s be honest: your pictures say so as well.
And it’s OK.
And I’ve been in your shoes.
We all started from the scratch.
But I never took shortcuts.
And that’s exactly what your email is.
A lousy shortcut.
A shortcut, that won’t take you anywhere. In fact, it will make quite a few wedding photographers you’ve emailed mad. Or at least it should.
And there are a few reasons for that.
First of all, we’ve never met. I don’t know who you are. You don’t know who I am. And you didn’t even bother to learn my name and put it in your email.
Why I should pay attention to anything you have to say if your email looks like the rest of the emails that go to my Spam folder: “Dear Sir or Madam?”
Second of all, your wedding photography style is not what I offer to my clients.
As a wedding photographer, I have one job: to give my client what they want and do my best while doing it. So by default, if I am booked, I will try to match a couple with someone who’s wedding photography style is closest to what I offer.
Thirdly, (and that’s a biggie) if I refer a wedding couple another photographer, it will be someone who I trust. Someone who will push through the day no matter what. Someone, who will do their absolute best. Because if my recommendation fails, I fail as well.
Finally, the whole idea of paying someone for a referral in the wedding photography industry is disgusting. Because if I would accept your offer, unless I’m really sending a client the next best recommendation available, I’m simply would be serving my own interest.
And that’s not how a client and wedding photographer relationship should be.
So, thanks for offering me $50, but no thanks!
I hope you still have a real job and didn’t jump into full-time photographer’s career yet.
Because on your path as a full-time photographer there will be a lot of homework to do and a lot of inner demons to face.
And for sure it won’t happen overnight.
Or over a year.
And the formula is really simple: Be nice. Work Hard. Care about people. Repeat.
It’s simple, but it’s not an easy formula to follow.
And shortcuts won’t take you anywhere.
And maybe you know it already, but from your email, it doesn’t look like it.
I won’t explain to you how and where to begin.
You’ll have to figure it out yourself. It’s really not that difficult if you push hard enough for long enough.
And if you do, you’ll be rewarded.
Also, I can tell you right away, while exciting, this journey won’t be easy. And it definitely isn’t for everyone.
I hope you’ve read all the way to this line.
I wish you the best of luck.
About the author: Paulius Musteikis is an award-winning wedding photographer based in Madison, Wisconsin. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Musteikis’ work on his website, Facebook, and Instagram. This article was also published here.