What does a wedding photographer do when it's not a wedding day?
Unfortunately this is not a question I get asked a lot. The usual question is Are you doing a lot of editing? or Is editing keeping you busy?
While this is not a completely off-kilter question, especially considering we're in the middle of the spring wedding season, shooting & editing weddings is not what I do with most of my time. If I'm caught up on editing (which happens maybe once a year), I'm not sitting at home fiddling with my camera waiting for the weekend.
So when it's not a wedding day, what do I actually do, you ask? Besides being the CEO of a small business, I'm basically every other department & so much more.
I'm the Accounting department.
I keep track of any & all expenses so I can properly prepare & file my own taxes. Once a month, I'm recording all expenses & checking them against bank statements. During March & April, I may be a little slow with responding to emails, because I'd rather have you mad at me than the IRS.
I'm the Social Media Manager.
I used to roll my eyes when I saw job posting for "social media managers." Surely, there is no way that is a full time job. Oh, how I was wrong! These past few months I've really made an effort to post more strategically. On Mondays, I'm planning out my social media blog posts for the week (thank goodness for apps like Buffer). I'm pulling my favorite photos from any & all recent weddings or photo shoots & publishing them on all social media platforms. I'm stalking every single vendor my clients used for their social media pages so I can tag them in any & all appropriate photos & blog posts. I'm writing informational blog posts like this one.
I'm my own Personal Assistant & the logistics coordinator.
I'm reminding clients to schedule their photo shoots with enough time prior to their wedding. I'm offering suggestions for when & where we should do their photo shoot. I'm following up with those clients to make sure they acquired the appropriate permits for their photo shoot. I'm advising my clients on the most efficient wedding day timeline possible. I'm gathering their family members' names to formulate a shot list that doesn't keep everybody waiting 2 hours. I'm keeping track of products clients from 2 years ago have yet to pick out. (You know who you are.)
I'm the wardrobe expert.
When clients are planning their engagement or anniversary sessions, they're asking what to wear so they look & feel their best. What's the latest trend? What's a trend that should not be a trend? I don't like my arms, so how do I hide them?
I'm the Marketing team.
Should I take out ads in print magazines & online postings, or keep things word of mouth only? Should I have a booth at a wedding show? Are my sample products up to date? Does my website adequately convey my photography style to potential brides & is the website easy to use?
I'm the Research & Development team.
Whether I'm researching psychology hacks to better phrase my instructions while on location to put my clients at ease, or researching new & better products to offer my clients, I'm constantly looking for ways to better my business. I want my clients to feel at home when they're with me. I want them to have the best products at their disposal, so they can showcase their wedding in the best light possible. When it's time to upgrade my gear, I'm looking for the best equipment at the best price.
I'm the fulfillment department.
When a client picks out their choices for their discs/USBs, their desired large print(s), or their choices for their album, I'm all over it as quickly as possible. For discs/USBs, I'm checking & triple checking that I pulled the correct 50 photos out of 146, then resizing, watermarking, & copying them to said disc/USB. For large prints, I'm pulling, sharpening, uploading, & ordering, making sure I have their current mailing address. For albums, keep reading!
I'm the design team.
I design all of my clients' albums. This entails pulling their desired photos & organizing them in such a way that tells the whole wedding day story coherently, which is no small feat when a client pick out 200 photos for a 10 page album. (The struggle is real, y'all. I had the same problem with my own album.) I make revisions when the client wants to rearrange a few things.
I also create custom cards & other printed products for my clients. Not every photographer offers design services outside of albums, so this is a little bit unique to me. I love helping my clients design their Save the Dates or wedding invitations. Starting in late October, I roll out my pre-designed Christmas card line & start taking orders for custom cards.
I do all of my own branding.
This covers everything from my website, to business cards, to customized disc cases or usb drives, to packaging, to photos published online–I want everything to consistently follow the brand I set up for myself.
I'm a go-to wedding expert with answers to the most random not-necessarily-photography related questions.
Since I'm usually one of the first vendors to get booked after a date is set, I am with brides through most of their engagement. I encourage them to come to me with any questions, photography related or not, & I love when they do! What material should the bridesmaids wear? If my venue doesn't allow sparklers, what other options do I have? What should I do with my purse during my engagement photo session? When should I change into my reception dress? Do most weddings have a fancy car send off & where do they find those cars? Do you recommend full face makeup even if I don't normally wear it? Where should we go for bluebonnet photos? How many people traditionally give toasts or speeches at the wedding reception? Can you give me vendor recommendations...for everything?
I'm the post office.
You guys have no idea how many trips to the post office I make a week. Both of my regular FedEx delivery guys knew me at my old apartment (both thought the senders got my address wrong when I moved down the hall–they tried delivering to the old apartment), & all of the workers at my favorite shipping store know me & have extreme patience with me when I bring my giant bag of crinkle cut craft packing material & make a mess. (I always clean it up.)
I'm constantly interviewing for jobs.
I'm answering all leads & inquiries. I'm organizing a time, date, location for initial meetings. I have to make sure my presentation stays up to date, & I can give my sales pitch (I hate calling it that, but let's face it, that's exactly what it is) as quickly & efficiently as possible while answering any & all questions. I'm following up on all meetings to put things in writing & to answer any additional questions. Sometimes I won't have a meeting for a few weeks, sometimes I have two in one day.
I edit all of my photos.
This is the #1 thing people think I'm doing with my time if it's not a wedding day. If I'm not shooting, I must be editing. While this is time consuming, it's far from the only thing I do!
Did I start out doing all of this? No. Did I cover all of my hats? No. Does every wedding photographer do all of this? No. Could I outsource some or all of this? Yes. But, this is me & what I want to do. (Well, I don't want to pay self-employment taxes, but in order to stay out of jail I do.) I make things as difficult or easy as I want them to be.
My number one goal, though is to provide my clients with the best experience & the best photos I can deliver.