With this article, I don’t want to ruin someone’s life and business or stop them from pursuing their passion, dreams, or whatever they’re after. But I do want to speak about this subject, as my frustrations with unprofessional wedding insiders have been slowly building up in the last few months.
These are wedding professionals that base their recommendations to their client on fees they receive from other vendors. These are new competitors in area that offer lower prices and directly threaten to ruin your business if you don’t send any recommendations their way. These are those who suggest not booking your wedding professional until the last minute so you can save money.
These are just a few examples of what I’ve been seeing and hearing among my fellow wedding photographers. And this email from my wedding colleagues that I received last week kind of became the last straw for me.
I want to speak up, because I want to see wedding industry improving. Learning. Growing. Because I want better experience to all wedding clients out there.
Here’s what the email I received said:
I am wedding photographer who still have dates available to book for weddings this year and next. I 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, I would like to offer you $50 for each booked wedding package that you refer to me upon completion of the wedding.
My portfolio and packages, starting at $900, are available on my website to view. Since my 2nd photographer and I work together at each wedding, we have the advantage of being able to shoot multiple angles and styles for each moment of their big day.
I look forward to hearing from you and collaborating with you in the future!
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?”
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.
I know my response to wedding photographer could have been nicer.
I’ve consulted starting photographers before, met with new people in town, introduced new people to my local colleagues, etc. But this time I chose a different response.
And I know for sure that if the wedding photographer who sent me the email had chosen honest and humble approach, he/she already could be assisting weddings for several people they have reached out to. Not getting referrals, but learning wedding photography on steroids by taking a legit shortcut.
Thanks for reading.
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.