So you’re newly engaged and ready to start planning your wedding and approaching wedding photographers. You’ve found a selection of photographers’ work you love, so it’s time to drop them an email or fill out their contact form and see if they’re available for your wedding date.
Being a wedding photographer, I run my business with a business hat on, but I admit I do react differently to each enquiry I receive. Like most wedding photographers, I love receiving emails or enquiries that are personalised and full of interesting details. I like it when couples really talk to me about their plans for a day, or how they met or proposed. It makes me want to work a little harder for them.
There are so many benefits to taking your time when you contact potential wedding photographers. It can save you a lot of time in the long run to know a bit more about them before you arrange several consultation meetings with them, and it can ensure you get the package (and photographer) that’s right for you and your needs.
Occasionally, I’ll receive a Facebook message with “how much r u?” No date, no venue, nothing. I appreciate people don’t always have a lot of time to write a long spiel about their wedding, but key details matter. While I appreciate it’s an enquiry, I’m also wondering whether the couple are even interested in my work and whether they will be happy with what I produce for them given their primary concern seems to be my price – even before availability on their date.
So what’s the difference between writing an email with lots of interesting information, versus a short 13 character enquiry via social media?
Firstly if you tell me a bit more about your wedding plans, I may send links to blog posts I think might be relevant to you, showcasing previous work. This might help you to form your opinion of whether my wedding photography is right for you. If you’re getting married in a castle, for example, I might send you work from a similar type of venue. If you’re planning an outdoor ceremony in the summer, I may send you a link to a wedding blog post from a similar time of year.
From your perspective I think it’s really useful to gauge a photographer’s reaction to your wedding – is this person really passionate about what you’re planning? Do they appreciate your vision for the day? Do they seem interested and excited by what you’re sharing with them? If you’re planning on emailing several photographers about their work and wedding photography services, this can be a useful way to work out who you want to meet.
For some photographers, filling them in on details can also impact the quote they send you. For example, some couples may be planning an elopement, and my normal full day wedding photography isn’t always the right package option for them. Alternatively, couples planning a small wedding may also benefit more from a half-day package. If you’re getting married and there’s a lot of travel involved, some photographers may prefer to know this to give you an accurate quote which incorporates any additional travel costs.
Reading through those initial response emails can tell you so much about a photographer before you make arrangements to meet them, and it can really help the first consultation flow more smoothly.
Some of my favourite weddings have come from couples who’ve sent me amazing and interesting first emails. I had one bride who told me all about the shoes she’d chosen for her bridesmaids. I have to admit, I was pretty keen to book her and I was really excited to meet her for the consultation. One of my most recent, the bride told me all about her proposal story – it was pretty awesome and I was thrilled when she booked me. All of these details give me such an insight into their lives, about what matters to them, and it helps me to see them as the people they are, rather than anonymous enquirers. I love my job, but I love it more when I’m excited about what I’m doing and the couple with whom I’m working. It makes me feel more creative from early on in the process, and that in turn inspires my best work.
Make your enquiry personal, not just to you but to the supplier you’re contacting. It can really inspire us before your wedding has even started. Commenting on the photographer’s past work can really help a lot. It allows the photographer to understand your aesthetic preferences a bit better.
Of course, there are stock phrases every wedding photographer (and supplier) will read in an email. Here’s a few things you may want to reconsider and rephrase….
1. “We’re on a tight budget”
Most couples who enquire with wedding photographers will have a budget in mind for their wedding photography. Sometimes there are mitigating circumstances which mean that you are indeed on a tight budget for your whole wedding. However there is a difference between low priority and low budget, and for most suppliers it’s fairly easy to assess which is the case with their enquiries. Sometimes it’s worthwhile telling the photographer how much your budget is from the outset. If their price is slightly out of your range, it’s worth think about whether you can go up a bit in budget, or ask about reduced coverage options. However it’s worth remembering that if you have opted for a Saturday in July (or any weekend during peak wedding season), photographers may prefer to save that date for an enquiry for a full-day wedding booking.
2. “Can we have a discount?”
The adage “Don’t ask, don’t get” plays a role in this, but this line is fairly blunt and suggests you don’t actually value the quality of the service being provided. If you’re planning an elopement or small wedding, then it’s wise to point this out in the initial email. Some photographers specialise in elopements and small weddings and will provide you with a quote which is reflective of your plans. However, when photographers receive this line in an email, with little or no explanation as to what makes the situation deserve a discount, don’t be surprised if your request is rejected.
3. Listing all the things you dislike about photography
There are certain things I can agree with couples about when it comes to photographs. I’m not a huge fan of having 20 formal family group photographs, nor am I really about lots of posing for my couple portraits – but I sort of hope that comes across in my portfolio. However, when I receive an email which says something along the lines of “we don’t really like having our photograph taken and we’re not big fans of photography but we reluctantly feel obliged to book one”, makes it hard as a photographer to wonder if the couple are going to be happy with the results. All photographers want their couples to be happy with their wedding photographs, but we need you to want that too. It’s hard to feel like you’re going to have a receptive audience to your work if couples start their introduction negatively.
4. Sending a long (long!) list of questions
Every photographer expects to be asked questions about their services. How much their packages are, how much albums or second photographers cost, what’s included, etc. However, sending a very long list of questions you’ve found on a forum can be a bit overwhelming. I’ve seen lists of 30 or so questions or more sent out from couples asking about everything from what equipment does the photographer use, can people provide references, to watermarks, copyright and cancellation policy – basically everything that generally gets covered in the contract. People have asked photographers to describe their style of photography as well – something that actually you should be assessing yourself and basing it upon whether you like it, not how the photographer chooses to label it. I’ve heard people ask photographers about what they plan to wear on the wedding day, when the wedding is two years away. The question I have is, what does that sort of information tell you? Does it matter whether the photographer shoots Nikon or Canon? Does it impact whether you like their photography style more or less if they give it a label? From a photographer’s perspective, such a long list of questions can be enough to make you respond with “sorry, I’m not available” and head for the hills. Keep the questions simple and straightforward. You should be able to glean most of the information you’re after from reading any brochures you receive from the photographer. If you have a consultation meeting, this is a good time to bring up any additional questions.
I don’t like ending posts with negatives, so I thought I’d include five positive things to include in an initial email!
1. Venue and date, and your partner’s name!
A few basics always helps with venue and date. A photographer might be available on your date, but travel logistics with other bookings around your date may impact their ability to photograph your wedding. It’s also good to know the name of your partner that you’re marrying as well, simply so the photographer can respond to you both in their reply.
2. Tell them a bit about your day!
It’s fine if you’ve only booked the venue so far and don’t have a lot else to share. Tell the photographer a bit about why you chose that venue, whether the ceremony and reception will be in the same location, or roughly how many guests you are planning on inviting. Is your wedding going to be formal or relaxed? are you planning a big surprise for your guests? It sets a scene about your wedding day.
3. Tell them about your budget….
If you’re on a tight budget, sometimes it’s useful to tell the photographer about what figure you have in mind. The photographer may be able to provide a workaround to help you meet your budget, for example advise reduced coverage.
4. Tell them what you like!
This is a good time to tell the photographer about what you like about photographs. Do you like natural and unposed photography? Do you like photography where the couple are small in the picture (e.g. landscapes, or lots of negative space around them)? Do you like bright photographs, colourful photographs? Do you like old film photography? Do you like lots of photographs of guests enjoying themselves (candids)? Browse through the photographer’s portfolio or blog, and make a note of any particular images they’ve taken that you really liked and compelled you to contact them. You don’t need to know the terminology to explain why, so don’t feel embarrassed describing a photo you like.
5. Tell them about you
Anything you’re willing to share. Are you a fan of selfies? Do you prefer being behind the camera? How did you meet? What was your proposal story? While you’re emailing a stranger right now, this may be the person who ends up being with you on the biggest day of your life, so give them a chance to get to know you better.
6. Tell us how you found us!
Photographers invest a lot of time (and money) marketing their business in print, at wedding fairs, to past clients, online, so it’s really useful for us to know how you found out about us. Sometimes we also have special offers via a particular marketing campaign, so mentioning how you found us can end up benefiting you too.