This is what I have found that has worked in my area. It is still a work in progress but these are the three things that I have noticed that has helped generate more leads, and ultimately book more weddings.
Become a Preferred Vendor/Work Closely with Wedding Venues
The lack or rapport with a couple can be a huge obstacle to overcome. This is one reason I have found that some couples will often hire a photographer who is a family friend or has shot events for the family or friends in the past. There is a certain level of comfort for the couple that they know this photographer they are hiring, which is why they don't bother looking elsewhere. The weight that a recommendation from a wedding venue has to a couple is HUGE. I repeat HUGE. When a venue recommends you it does two things: 1. establishes credibility 2. establishes rapport with the couple who you have not even met yet! Remember what I said, majority of the time couples will not look elsewhere because they are now in a comfort zone when someone makes a recommendation. So I will say this again you absolutely need to go out there and network with venues and vendors.
So now I know you are asking how do I become a preferred vendor? The first thing I would tell you, is do not ever reach out randomly to a vendor/venue asking for preferred vendor status, or asking what does it take to be a preferred vendor. Instead you should take the approach into making a mutually beneficial relationship. You should think about it like this, " what can I do for the venue that is going to benefit them in some way? and if you don't know what that is let me make a list of things that I have done when working with venues and vendors.
- Setup styled shoots at their location: Getting other vendors involved in styled shoots is a great way to meet vendors and establish credibility and rapport with them. The vendors benefit because they get awesome images showcasing their services, and when they share the images your business will get mentioned. You benefit because you are creating awesome images, the vendor will be sharing your work, and you've established a new business relationship with people who could potentially recommend your services if they had a pleasant experience working with you. (will touch on that in the next paragraph.) SO GET OUT THERE AND SETUP A STYLED SHOOT TODAY!!!
- Send your images from weddings to them without them having to ask you: Typically what I'll do while shooting a wedding is go around and try a photograph details of the vendors that were involved in the wedding. If a vendor is present, ill go introduce myself and ask "Is there anything you would like for me to photograph for you?" This questions is huge! Vendors are in the business of providing services to other people, so when someone comes up to them asking them "what can I do for you?" they are almost always dumbfounded. The best part about it is that when they mention something like "oh you have to photograph the (fill in blank) it is special because (blank), this is great information because you are now going to photograph something that you may have not noticed before. additionally you've created a new relationship and the vendor thinks you're amazing because you were looking after their needs. Once the wedding is over and my couples are sent their images, I will create an album for vendors involved in the wedding and send to them as well. When I send it the only thing that I ask for in return is for them to tag me if they choose to post up the images.
- Offer your services at a discount or for free: Now I know this can be controversial with photographers, because getting paid with "exposure" can be annoying to most photographers, and I get it we have bills to pay (or more gear that we don't need) Just hear me out, almost all of my free or discounted shoots, has lead me to more client work. When shooting for a venue you have to think about whats more important. Getting paid now, or developing and nurturing an ongoing relationship that can serve great potential to your business. You are the owner of your business and the answer to that is up for you to decide.
Create the Experience
What I will say is that one venue that I continue to work with and shoot photo/video for has chosen me solely on the purpose of me being pleasant to work with, even though there are plenty of more talented photographers than me. Most people would rather deal with someone they like as a person than an extremely talented arrogant photographer. I have heard too often of photographers demanding that their clients do things a certain way for the photos, or bad mouth other photographers work in front of clients! That's crazy! I have talked about this repeatedly on my YouTube Channel and Tiktok page.
Your clients to some extent are paying you for wedding photos. However the difference between a 1000 dollar photographer and a 6000 dollar photographer has more so to do with the experience you create for your couple, and less to do with the quality of your work. While yes your photos do have to be at a certain level to charge those prices, however, there is also an expectation of an experience that comes with paying that kind of money. Its the same reason why people pay triple the cost for a vehicle, while yes Toyota will get you from point A to B, but your paying more for the driving experience of a Porsche even though the cars do the same basic function. So if you wanna start charging more, find ways to level up the experience for your client.
Be Active on Social Media
In Order to have a leg up on everyone else who has the budget to pay for advertising, you have the ability to do a ton and I mean a ton of stuff to get the word out about your business that are completely free. Things such as Blogging on your website to boost your websites SEO. You need to be active on facebook and Instagram making multiple post day. (which admittedly I can do a lot more of.) In this day and age if you have a business and are not doing YouTube or Tiktok to get the word out about your business you are missing huge opportunities to grow and scale your business. Remember these things are all free, yes time consuming, but nonetheless free. While yes most of us may not be considered award winning wedding photographers, one thing we can do is dump out tons of content and position ourselves as the wedding photography authority in our area! If we establish that position, it doesn't matter how good other photographers are in your area, clients can barely tell the difference, but what they can tell is the person who stands out constantly. Dump out content, get in peoples faces with your work, blogs, videos, twitter...CONSTANTLY.
Remember the Squeaky Wheel Gets the Oil, and it is my firm belief that we are not putting out enough content, and we can always do more to get the word out about our business. Become the authority figure, and dominate your local market!!!!! Especially if you notice your competitors are merely posting a photo here and there, not blogging, not on youtube, tiktok, or twitter. Take advantage, because no amount of money in the world will out-market good ole' elbow grease.