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Lesson 19 from: 30 Days of Wedding Photography

Susan Stripling

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Lesson Info

19. Marketing


Class Trailer

Day 1




Evolution of Susan's Style


Branding and Identity


Mistakes Made and Lessons Learned


Day 2


Introduction to Gear & Equipment


Lenses Part 1


Lenses Part 2




Day 3


Seeing the Scene


Seeing the Scene Q&A


Rhythm and Repetition


Leading Lines and Rule of Thirds


Rule of Odds and Double Exposures


Day 4


Intro to Business


Day 5


Financing Your Business


Day 6


Q&A Days 1-4


Day 7


Pricing Calculator


Day 8


Package Pricing


Day 9




Day 10


Vendor Relationships & Referrals


Day 11


Marketing w Social Media


Day 12


Booking the Client


Day 13


The Pricing Conversation


Day 14


Turn A Call Into a Meeting


Day 15


In Person Meeting


Day 16


Wedding Planning


Day 17


Actual Client Pre Wedding Sit Down


Day 18


Engagement Session Details


Day 19


Engagement Session On Location


Day 20


Wedding Details & Tips


Day 21


Detail Photos Reviewed


Day 22


Bridal Preparation


Day 23


Bridal Preparation Photo Review


Day 24


Bridal Prep - What If Scenarios


Day 25


Q&A Days 5-11


Day 26


First Look Demo


Day 27


First Look Examples


Day 28


Portraits of the Bride


Day 29


Portraits of the Bride and Groom


Family Portraits Demo


Family Formal Examples


Wedding Ceremony Demo


Day 30


Wedding Ceremony Examples


Different Traditions and Faiths


Wedding Cocktail Hour and Reception Room Demo


Wedding Cocktail Hour and Reception Room Examples


Wedding Introductions


First Dance


Wedding Toasts


Parent Dances


Wedding Party


Reception Events


Nighttime Portraits


Nighttime Portraits with Found Light


Post Wedding Session Demo


Post Wedding Session Critique


Wedding Day Difficulties


Post Workflow - Backing Up Folder Structure


Post Workflow - Culling Shots


Post Workflow - Outsourcing


Q&A Days 12-23


Post Workflow - Gear


Post Workflow - Lightroom Editing


Managing Your Studio


Post Wedding Marketing


Client Care


Pricing for Add-Ons


The Album Process


Balancing Your Business with Life


Post Wedding Problems


Parent Complaints


Unhappy Customers


Working with an Assistant


Assistant Q&A


Lighting with an Assistant


Q&A Days 24-30


Lesson Info


Hi, I'm susan stripling and welcome back to thirty days of wedding photography here for thirty days, teaching you everything that I know about shooting both technically and logistically, and then also everything you need to know about setting up your business, setting up your finances, setting up your pricing, getting that very first client taking care of the client, and then all the way through the workflow post wedding and everything that you need to know to deliver a beautiful wedding to your clients, keep them happy and get new clients. That's what we're here to talk to you about today, today, we're talking about marketing marketing is a really interesting and really logistically difficult thing because it varies by country, it varies by region, sometimes it even varies by city. What works for me in new york might not work for you in l a might not work for you in hong kong, but the great thing about marketing is there are so many wonderful different avenues in different ways that y...

ou can go about getting your name out there. And hopefully I'm here today to help you with some of them to help you improve your marketing efforts, maybe get started if you're a brand new business and don't know where to go or if you've been in business for quite a while and you're stuck maybe feeling a little stagnant. You need sort of a kick in the pants, marketing wise, maybe something that I'll tell you today will inspire you to try something new that will help you out. So thank you very, very, very much for joining me again and today, let's talk about marketing, so the first thing that I want to talk to you about is assessing your competition now, there's a sort of conflicting schools of thought about this. Some people say it's not important to know what your competition is up to, you just need to have laser focus and keep on ly yourself in mind don't look at what other people are doing around you. And then there were others who will say it's really important to know what everyone around you is doing because if you're not, you know, conscious of what you're calm a petition is doing, you can't be conscious of the moves that you need to make to stay ahead of them and that's the school of thought that I subscribed to, I want to know what the photographers around me are doing. I want to know what they're charging. I want to know how their marketing I want to know why clients are hiring them instead of me, and I want to know what they're doing to get those clients toe hire them. So the first thing that I think is very important whether you're a new business or you're an established business is assessing the photographers that are your direct competition. I'm not talking about every single photographer that lives and works in your area because not all of them are going to be your direct competition. I'm talking about the ones that you lose weddings too. I'm talking about the ones that when it's between you and another person who's that other person that's, the competition that I'm focusing on and not knowing who you're going up against for weddings I think is very short sighted I'm not asking you to crawl around in there shrubbery and get to know their day to day life it's not that type of assessment but it's very important, I believe, to know what the other photographers right next to you are doing so that you can do it better or so that you could do something differently and more effectively. So the first thing I want to tell you to do is to do do not secret shop people seriously, don't do it don't make a fake email address don't email a client pretending to be an inquiry so that you can get their price sheet I know some of you have done it to me, I know you've done it to other photographers, whatever, but don't do it not only is it is it really just not you know the most terrific ly ethical of things I don't think that it's a huge massive big deal you're not you know, doing something really really bad there are large corporations that do send out secret shoppers to find out what other people are doing I get that but I really just think that it's not really a good polite um use of your time and efforts when it comes to figuring out your competition there is no need to secret shop all the secret shopping is going to do is get you there inquiry response email and their price list and after a certain point how helpful is that to you? It's not very the first thing that I would suggest that you do is look at vendor directories now a lot of this is what I did when I moved from tallahassee, florida to new york city and I knew nothing about the photography market in new york I didn't know about brides I didn't know about then use I didn't know about vendors and I definitely didn't know about other photographers I was fortunate in that I did have some local friends that were photographers but I didn't really have a handle on who my competition was going to be so these are the things that I did when I first moved to new york and these are the things that I continue to do year in and year out to keep an eye on my competition because it does change as photographers come into the market and photographers go out of the market and people raised their prices and people diversify into other things and stop shooting as many weddings it's always going to be changing your competition, some of it will be constant and some of it will be new. So I do these things on a yearly basis just just to take a look at what's going on around me and as I've said, we've talked about pricing and we've talked about managing your finances in a smart way I think it's incredibly important there's no such thing as too much information so information is is power, as they say, and I like to know everything I'm very data based, so knowing what my competition is doing is very important to me. So the first thing I did to find out who my competition was was I looked at vendor directories and I started at the top I looked at who was advertising in style me pretty his little black book I looked at who was in june bugs, weddings, wedding directory I bought town and country grace armand martha stewart new york wedding magazine and I made a list of everyone that had advertised I even made a list of the size of ad that they had knowing full well that a quarter page black and white ad is much less expensive than a full page four color ad, I went after the photographers, we're taking the big ads, and as I looked through these magazines, and as I looked through these directories, some of the same name started floating to the top. So I put those those people on my a short list of such. Then I started looking at vendor blog's. I went a little further into the style, me pretty archives to see who is being featured regularly in the new york new jersey connecticut philadelphia area, on these blog's, who was shooting at the four seasons all the time, who was being continually featured on it's on the website of the waldorf astoria. I wanted to know who was continually working at these venues and it's, not that hard to find. All you have to do is sit at your computer for a while and do enough google searching and these names. We're going to start rising to the top for you if there are local blog's that do regular features, who's, continually contributing to those blog's. And that way, I was able to tell, okay, these were the venues that I kind of know that I want to work at, and these are the photographers that air repeatedly shooting at these venues and above and beyond that you know, seeing who works where once I took that information I was able to sort of go off off of that now if you google susan stripling pricing, you're going to find enough brides and enough message boards talking about what my rates are that you'll get a general sense of what my start prices without having to email me and secret shop me to find that out so once I sort of had my hit list of photographers, so to say that I figured we're going to be my competition when I eventually started booking weddings in new york and continue to be my competition now I was able to take a look at them and then do some google searching of their names to sort of figure out start prices and there are some sites like if you go to the not or if you look at w p j or things like that it will have photographer rates start at and it just gave me a ballpark. Understanding that rates start at could mean anything from time and files to time files two parent albums at a new home there's really no way to tell but it was letting me see that a lot of the photographers that I thought were going to be my competition when I moved to new york and continue to be my competition now we're in a certain price bracket so he gave me an idea of where I would need to be priced to be competitive with these photographers in this price bracket. So doing this research, understanding what the other photographers in my area are doing and where they're working and what vendors they're working with more often than not was giving me information about what was going on in the market around me, which was really, really helpful. And before I say anything more before I talk to you anymore about getting your work out there and getting your name out there and putting yourself on blog's and in magazines, and what not that the most important thing that I can tell you is that the work matters, nothing that I'm telling you today is going to make you successful if you're not a good photographer, and nothing that I'm telling you today is going to be such a secret marketing trick that it's going to mask the fact that your work isn't good. So before you really put effort into these things before, you really start shoving your name out there are continuing to shove her name out there or taking out magazine ads. I really strongly suggest that you work on the work. Working on the work is something that we're continually doing you're in and you're out is working professionals but the best advertising in the world is not going to bring you clients if you don't have the work to back up the advertising do with that what you will but I don't want you to lose sight that the work does matter and that advertising and marketing and branding and the best website in the world it is not going to make up for shoddy or worse mediocre work. So now that I said that the question I get asked more often than not when we're talking about marketing is do I have a target clients and the answer to that is no no I don't I used to try to do the thing that they would always tell you to do which is sit down and try to figure out who your target client iss where do they shop what do they do? What do they like what brands do they wear? What restaurants do they eat at? And I realized that when I was doing all of that I was getting a really narrow world view of who my clients were and for every client that I have that lives on the upper west side and shops at barney's and loves it manolos and all of those wonderful cartier fancy things that's discounting the clients that are getting married at the barn in vermont who have almost no budget whatsoever but prioritize their photography budget so that they can hire me. I have noticed that my clients fall into several different brackets and none of them overlap. So for every client who hires me to work at the plaza where my fee is less than the cake, I have somebody who hires me to work at their backyard wedding, where my fee is more than the catering. So if I do have a target client, the target client that I have is simply a client that values beautiful photography and is willing to invest in that some of them have money, some of them don't. Some of them are getting married in fancy places, some of them aren't. And if I am to narrow the view of those clients, I am alienating all of these other clients for which photography is very important. So my target client is a very blanket statement in that it is anyone who values good photography and is willing to make the investment in the good photography it's not oh, rich people who are willing to spend money, its clients who are willing to invest, invest in beautiful work that is going to last them for years and generations to come. That is my target client that said, now that I have that target client, how do I get them to find me? How do I get them to pull my name out of the hat of thousands of other photographers on the internet? Well, this is what I do first of all, my goal is to get my name out there and as many different ways and variations and variables as possible. I want people to see my work, whether they could afford me, whether they want to hire me, whether they end up hiring me, whether they're not even my target client at all. I want to just start blasting my work out there because I view it as a fun. Now some of it is a wide reaching a kind of effect, and then some of it is very targeted, but when I start with reid reaching that's, throwing my name and my work on the internet and as many places as humanly possible because I am a junkie for rejection and people telling me that my work is not good enough, I like to enter competitions and my personal favorite online competition, which I didn't enter even once this year, so I have a very bad competitors is fearless, fearless photographers is an absolutely extraordinary organisation and what it values above anything else is being fearless in your work, whatever that may be to you, maybe it's catching a wild moment, maybe it's a client jumping in a pool, maybe it's putting yourself into your work in a way that you were afraid to do before but it embraces whatever is fearless in you and I think that that's a beautiful thing in the industry the competitions are beautiful, the work that comes out of these competitions is mind blowing and inspiring and it pushes me to be better as a shooter now on the marketing side of things it's great you place in more competitions your work is out there more your name gets up to the top of your region I was in the you know in top photographers in two thousand twelve and then didn't enter in two thousand thirteen don't do that please stay with it but not only do I have you know, twenty pictures up there in my fearless gallery it also pushes me to become a better photographer so it's a really great one two punch and that it's a good marketing endeavor but it also makes me work harder as a shooter every single year because an online competition isn't painful or difficult enough for me. I also enter w p p ay sixteen by twenty print competition so not only do you have the difficulty of finding the images that you want to enter, then you have to go into the wonderful realm of printmaking which is is extraordinarily difficult animal on its own, but I do enter w p p ay every single year that does a wonderful one to think of getting my name in front of photographers, which does help with my teaching career, and it also gets my images online. It's another hit in google when a client looks for my name and it might get my name out there in a way that other people haven't seen the competition's that I've done, the things that I've done, they all go online in my press section of my website and even things like the top ten list with american photo magazine, which was kind of a ridiculous, extraordinary honor. I've had clients find me that way. I've had clients find me through fearless I've had clients find me through whatever rabbit hole they fell in in the internet. It led them to the winners of the sixteen by twenty print competition, and they found me that way. So anyway that I can get myself out there. The great thing about competitions is that you can use them for press put them on your website it's, a wonderful resume line item but it's also another listing on the internet that a client could possibly stumble across, which is fantastic. I will also put my name on any free online listing that will have me anything I don't care what it is paying for, it is a completely different thing entirely. But if it's a free listing if it's a free vendor listing if it's anywhere that I can put my name on the internet as a photographer, I'm going to do it. I'm going take it. Why not? Why wouldn't you put your name everywhere? I want to just reiterate that anywhere that you can get your name out there anywhere that you can put yourself in front of a client in any way get your name on the internet now. Let's, talk about a little bit more specifics beyond that, getting your name out there anywhere for me also involves seeking publication on blog's. My work is not exactly trendy. I don't follow the whole vintage aesthetic of fields and mason jars and really do saturated images, which is, you know unfortunately, in my opinion, still very big in the industry right now, I feel like my work is more clean. It's more classic. I hope that it will really stand the test of time, but the problem is, is that makes it very unsuitable for a lot of bloggers that are out there now there are blog's such as june bug who really values beautiful photography and beautiful moments. Yes they need to show beautiful weddings that will inspire the brides that read it but they have a very strong premium on the photography that they show which is a really lovely thing the problem with that is that there are very few blog's that will take my work so unfortunately like a glutton for punishment I continue submitting and resubmitting and resubmitting on top of that because every once in a while they d'oh and the publication on the blog's drives readers to my site it drives clients to my inquiry form and it does book me weddings above and beyond the big ones above and beyond the june bugs and the style me pretties look for your local blog's look for brooklyn bride which is a wonderful resource for new york weddings look att tthe e uninjured z bride which is a really wonderful blawg for weddings in new jersey that are that are different that air beautiful that have wonderful photography look for things that are local look for things that are local to your cities look at the blog's that perhaps the venues that you're working at do they have a blogger does your florist that you work with a lot have a blawg you know don't just look straight to the top for that look anywhere that you can get your work featured on anyone's website and approach it when you're looking at publication on blog's when you're looking at publication even on the local florist blawg look for what their submission guidelines are and follow them. Don't just send out a blast email dear blawg person, here are my images follow their submission guidelines to the letter it will ensure that you get looked at stay in the loop and if you do get a rejection letter, don't get disheartened, send it back out to someone else. If you're looking for doing a lot of blog's submissions, there is a company out there called to bright lights. They will allow youto upload an album, customize inspiration boards and then send those inspiration boards off to various publications, both exclusive and non exclusive. And if you're rejected by that publication, then you have the opportunity to take that wedding and then re submitted to another one that's a really, really great resource. I do use that for a lot of publications, but as I work with blog's more and more as I know the people that I'm talking to about the submissions more and more, then I have the opportunity to emails my submissions to those people directly. So when you're trying to get published on different blog's and on different places online, don't just continue to be anonymous, make an effort to learn who runs the blawg, make an effort to learn the person that you need to talk to in terms of submissions. And it's just one extra step to hopefully pull you out of the pack of everybody else that's pushing submissions at them all day every single day. So another thing to not ignore I know that blog's air a really massive thing right now magazines are also huge that's why I just recently took out a full page ad in new york weddings magazine because I'm noticing a lot of clients trending back to not just looking at blog's online but buying and reading magazines and being published in a magazine for me if I can get a six page spread in grace armand that's like getting six full page ads and I know a lot of people will say, well, yes, but they're just taking their work and you're taking they're taking your work and they're not paying for it they're just using it to make money you should really hold out. You should only submit to a magazine if you're being paid for it and for some I would say yes, but for someone but also say no, this appear this ah picture that accompanies these slides is of chiara and peter's wedding in august of two thousand thirteen in newport and it recently just ran is a multi page feature in the new england issue of grace armand I did not really feel like spending for five full page ads in this magazine but in essence this is five full page ads promoting my work and I have gotten calls and I have gotten emails from it already and it's only been on news stands for a very short period of time so you have to gauge your comfort level if you're going to allow a magazine or a blawg to use your images without compensation are you comfortable with what the results of being published might get you and for me for something like this I definitely am it's also wonderful to be published in magazines you can tear them out you can have your tear sheets I put them in the press section of my website you can put them in any promotional packages that you might want to send your clients it's a really wonderful way to show that your work is being validated whether it's real validation or not clients like to see that your work has been out there it it almost makes you look more trustworthy which I know seems a little absurd but I can't tell you the number of people who have come to me and said I think we found you online maybe it was in a magazine or I mean I think we saw you in a magazine but we also saw you ana blawg and they really don't know how they found me it means that putting my name out there in all of these different ways is really working so I want to urge you not on ly to seek publication on blog's but to not forget magazines to not forget that they're out there and do not forget that people are still reading them so beyond that I'm also looking for publication in trade publications and you might be asking what is a trade publication? Well, for example, think of all of the different camera cos that you work with and software companies that you work with and album companies that you work with they all have websites. A lot of them have blog's a lot of them take out ads in magazines if you work with a company that you really love contact them. Hi, random album company. I see that you have a blogger where you feature, you know, the albums that you put out I just got an album from you, it's really fantastic. I took a bunch of pictures of it. I wrote this really great article on how I sold it to my client and how my client loved it. Please feel free to take this and use this on your block if you'd like to know things like that well, they mostly be seen by photographers. Yes, you never know when a prospective client might stumble on it and it's also another thing for you to take and to put on your resume of sorts, which is your press page of your website or the press page of whatever marketing materials you give to your clients. It's also a really wonderful way to strengthen the relationships that you have with other vendors in the industry. Just another thing to consider, and I'm not saying that you have to do that. You have to look nationally or internationally for this. It doesn't have to be your album company. It could be your florist down the street, who's thinking of doing an ad, and you can put your image in their ad with your name right on it, there's a million different ways to take this one and run with it. So look at the area you live in. Look at your city, your state, the venues that you work with and see how you can sort of leverage the publishing opportunities in all of the variety of different ways that you can go about it with these different vendors.

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Ratings and Reviews

Misty Angel

oh Susan, you are AWESOME!! I am not a wedding photographer (despite dipping my toe in this intimidating pool for one of my dearest friends), I shoot all forms of portraits and love sports too! Your '30-Days' has been the single most influential and educational moments since I started my venture into photography in 2009! THANK YOU! Your honesty, directness, bluntness, humor and vulnerability makes these 30-Days the most worthwhile time spent away from actual shooting; while simultaneously is the most inspirational motivator to push you out there to practice these ideas/techniques! #SShostestwiththemostest You raise the bar in this industry, not just with wedding photographers, but with all genres of photography! I wanted this course to learn about shooting and thought, great... I'll get a little bit of the business side too... OMG! I got it ALL! I'm dying! What an awesome investment in myself, my business and in YOU! PLEASE keep doing what you are doing! I love your new Dynamic Range, I feel that it is a wonderful extension of the work you do with Creative Live! I watch you EVERY DAY, every morning... I know that I continue absorbing your wisdom through repetition! I don't want to be you, I want to rise to your level! So thank you for the inspiration, motivation and aspiration! Keep on being REAL, its what we love about you! We embrace your Chanel meets Alexander McQueen-ness! :) Thank you for stepping into this educational space and providing us with your lessons learned so we can avoid the negative-time investment making mistakes... we are drinking your virtual lemonade!! HA! Like the others, whatever wisdom you offer in this medium, I will be jumping at the opportunity to learn from you! THANK YOU!


All the positive reviews say it all. When Susan took on the challenge of teaching this course it must of looked like attempting to climb Mount Everest...and she accomplished just that. Susan is a detailed, well-organized photographer and this clearly comes out in her teaching. Using repetition, clear instructions, a logical and well laid out presentation, she answers most any question you might have when it comes to wedding photography. I felt like I was having a private consultation when watching the course. She is real, honest, tactful, funny, and a gift to the photography community. Finally, her photography is professional and inspiring. Thank you Susan for the tremendous amount of work that you put into making this an outstanding Creative Live course for us all.


Wow. What a super, comprehensive, entertaining, informative course. Well done. I've taking a lot of photography classes and this one is definitely top of the list. Susan Stripling was very well prepared (and great job by the CreativeLive Team too). Terrific course. Susan shared so much. Thank you! P.S. Love the CL boot camp courses.

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