We’re about to go on a string of weddings spread out all over the country. In the next few weeks we’ll be going to California, Maine, New York, Michigan, North Carolina, Florida, New Jersey and of course we even have a few weddings here in Georgia.
Two years ago when we started photographing weddings, we knew that we wanted to travel a good bit. Until then I hadn’t really visited much of the United States and even though sometimes it’s just a quick drop-in and fly out situation, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes we actually find the time to stay for a few days and check things out. Of course – other times it’s flight after flight – especially since I’ve also been flying everywhere for family portraits and engagement sessions. Well, that plus the fact that I can’t seem to book direct flights anywhere, so even flying to the next state over has required a layover somewhere in the middle… or completely out of the way.
And. I. Love. It.
This month alone I get to fly to California, New York, Maine, and TEXAS. Trust me. I’m excited about all of them. I’m excited about photographing everything I see, or don’t see, or want to see (hey, I don’t always make sense when I get excited alright?)
Now – we’re often asked how we’ve been able to book so many out-of-state weddings. While it’d be nice and flattering to say that we’re just that good - the fact is that it’s more likely due to our 100% money back guarantee. If you know us, or our guarantee – we mean 100%.
So that includes travel fees. Yes. It’s ridiculous and insane and ridiculous again.
It mostly comes from the basic idea that unless we deliver a product that our clients are happy with – we don’t get paid. Which also means that we don’t keep any money. Now – if you’ve ever read a standard wedding photography contract, there is usually an ‘act of God’ clause, which states that in the event of acts of God that prevent the photographer from completing their job, they are only responsible for everything but the deposit. Deposits range anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 of the total amount.
We just know that we would feel bad. Really Bad if we took money for work we didn’t do – even if we blamed it on an act of God. Yes – there is a degree of self-protection and covering your ass that photographers want and many times, should have. We decided to let go of that protection and just trust that everything will be okay.
Okay – there’s a little more to that – and we’re not completely crazy. At the point that you’ve signed your contract and paid your deposit with us – it means that we think you’re awesome. Which also means that we think that you’re a good fit for us. Not just a good paycheck. Honest. The risk is too great if you’re a client who doesn’t really get us and what we’re about. Or our style. Or our jokes. I always say ‘it’s going to be a long day if the client doesn’t think I’m funny.‘ Of course – funny isn’t exactly the right word – but we’re going to be spending 8 hours together so we’d better not be annoyed by each other. And it’d be better if we liked each other. Sounds like duh but we’ve heard too many stories where the clients didn’t even like their wedding photographer.
That’s. Just. Insane.
You should really like your wedding photographer. At least if you care about your photos. Not everyone cares about their wedding photography – and that’s okay (I’m obligated to be polite and say such things… ummm.)
I’ve been flying out of state for engagement sessions recently – and that’s always a big test. For both me and the clients. Remember – they can still fire me and I can still fire them. Let me tell you what it’s like on one of these engagement sessions. Because they’re very different from the ones I do here locally in Atlanta.
I’ll usually fly into town in the morning or just before noon (and since I always have a connecting flight – I’m usually leaving my house at 6am.) The couple picks me up at the airport (I don’t check any bags) and then we get coffee. This is the first time I’m meeting them in person so hey, I like to spend 15 minutes and just talk before I start barking orders and posing them.
Then we go from location to location for the next 3 hours. Sometimes it’s 2 hours. Sometimes it’s less. But there’s also usually a good bit of drive time – and all of this time is valuable – so I’m talking. And talking. And talking. The selling is done. It was finished before I arrived. Now it’s my job to just be interested in my clients and find out more about them while at the same time being the wedding professional that I am now. Remember – at this point I can comfortably assume that I’ve attended many more weddings than they have and usually there’s some amount of help I can offer that’s not related to photography at all.
But no matter what – I’m interested in my clients – it’s why I’m there – it’s why we do this at all. Forget ‘art’ and the idea that my wedding photography is something bigger or more important than the couple getting married. That is ego talking and whenever a wedding photographer starts down that path, feel free to punch them in the throat and remind them that weddings are about people, not photos.
After 3-4 hours of hanging out, they drop me off at the curb and I hop on my flight back to Atlanta… well, after my layover in Charlotte, N.C. – then I hop on my flight back to Atlanta (seriously – I’ve visited Charlotte six times and not once have I stepped outside of the airport.) I usually arrive at home just before midnight (except for that one time when I spent the night AT THE CHARLOTTE AIRPORT.) Yes – some of these ‘engagement sessions’ have been 18 hours of ‘work time’. It’s not always going to be that way – and I’m not always going to be doing this – but for now, while we’re still growing the business – I’m willing to do whatever it takes it seems. It’s a mentality I hope I never forget.
(You know – kind of like in Rocky III where Rocky loses the title to Clubber Lang (Mr. T.) because he’s lost that ‘Eye of the Tiger!’)
Okay. Um. I seem to have veered way off course, but I have to go to a photoshoot with the Intern Army so I gotta cut this short. See you tomorrow.