As photographers we often pride ourselves on getting into the minds of our portrait subjects to try to identify, and then reveal through our images, the essence and personality of our clients.
It’s one of the defining skills of a talented portrait photographer, but how many wedding photographers can really do the same thing? There are a lot more people involved in a wedding than in an intimate portrait session, which can make this kind of deep personal connection very difficult to achieve during a wedding, except perhaps during those rare quiet moments. Then there are the time constraints that we need to be respectful of too.
Why Do We Focus Instead On Selling Books, Prints & DVDs?
When I sat down to write this post I was thinking about a recent sales call that I had with a wedding prospect, where I really didn’t do a great job of persuading her to come to the studio for a consultation. She loved my work, was exactly the kind of client I was looking for, her date was open, even the investment was within her expectations – everything seemed like a great match… but I just couldn’t get her to commit to a meeting where I might be able to persuade her to hire me. As far as knowing how to book weddings goes, I didn’t feel as though I did the best job i could.
After I got off the phone, I tried to think of a possible reason for why I messed this up. Where did I go wrong?
Then I was struck by the realization that we had talked mostly about the material things she would get and that I had, on this occasion, neglected to connect with her about the emotional aspects of her wedding.
Of course, it’s our responsibility, not the bride’s, to develop a conversation based on emotion. She doesn’t pick up the phone to call us and say, “I’m looking for an emotional photographer who’s going to know that what I really want is someone who will feel every moment of my wedding day as if it’s their own…”
No, she’s going to do what 99% of people do, which is to ask how much and what do they get.
Therefore, we need to be the one to take that first step down the emotional yellow brick road. We have to identify the elements of her wedding that inspire feelings of romance and excitement for her, and let her understand that we feel that way too.
Brides Want A Meaningful Connection
By the way, for the purposes of this article, I’m talking primarily about those brides who “get it”; the ones who understand the value of photography and are aren’t just looking for the cheapest photographer in town.
I really believe these brides are looking for a photographer they can relate to, someone who understands them and can feel the emotional elements of their wedding day – the romance, the relationships, the excitement and fun of the wedding they’ve always dreamed of.
So, when we chat with the bride on the telephone or meet them for a consultation, we must focus on the emotional aspects of wedding photography, and especially on the importance of a bride and groom making a meaningful connection with their chosen photographer.
We Need To Deliver On Our Promise
On the wedding day our job is to make good on our commitment, and immerse ourselves in the raw emotion of the wedding day, to fully understand the significance of every moment that takes place, no matter how fleeting it might seem.
Most professional wedding photographers, I believe, have a genuine investment in achieving exactly this goal. Is every wedding perfect, or does it work out every time? No, of course not. But, the vast majority of professionals do at least aim to make it happen.
This Is Not A Sales Gimmick
If we’re serious about our work, which I believe most of us are, then communicating with our prospects and clients on an emotional level is not a sales gimmick designed simply to trick her into booking us. Instead, it stems from a genuine, heartfelt love of what we do, an honest desire to see past the viewfinder into the heart of what’s happening before us, and the ability to stop looking and to start seeing.
There’s no real way that Uncle Bob or fraternity sister Jane can offer anything remotely like this (unless they just happen to be professional photographers themselves, in which case why is the bride talking to us anyway?). I think most of our prospects are smart enough to appreciate this fact, we just need to illuminate it for them.
Watch Your Vocabulary
This is where our choice of vocabulary can be so important when we’re talking with a prospect or client. We need to choose words that help us convey the emotional aspects of our photography and the timeless qualities of our work. Words like “picture” or “shoot” just don’t do that – in fact, they can clash directly with the very meaning we’re trying to communicate.
For example, “portrait”, “photograph”, “image”, “portrait session” or “wedding assignment” are much more effective at evoking an emotional response in my opinion, without sounding overly pretentious.
Look To Yourself For Inspiration
If you find communicating on an emotional basis with someone you don’t know difficult then be reassured that it gets a lot easier with practice. I was horrible at this when I first started out, and a bag of nerves on the phone, but with perseverance, I learned to become better at it through being genuine and just being myself.
For inspiration, all I needed to do was to delve into the memories of my own experiences that related to my conversation with the bride. We’re all human and we all share the same vulnerabilities and emotional highs, and sharing those stories with your prospects can forge a very powerful connection indeed.
Become Personally Invested
So, in short, our clients are looking for an emotional experience with their photographer, and for someone who can empathize with them on their wedding day, their engagement, or bridal session.
In order for us to be able to do that we need to become personally invested in our photography (which most of us probably are), but we also have to open up on an emotional level to our clients. We must demonstrate that we’re real people, just like them, who can immerse ourselves in the human elements of their wedding to bring out the very best from their day in a story that will be told with love and enthusiasm for many years to come.
If you found this article useful, then please don’t keep it to yourself… be nice and please share it with someone you think might benefit from it…