The Wedding Photography Manifesto, 2011

As I write this, I’m just six weeks away from starting my 2011 wedding season. I have a diverse set of clients from Maine and away, and will be working at BEAUTIFUL locales, almost all of which are located on our rocky coastline, from down east to the southern beaches.

Beautiful Lori, Fairlee, VT - Oct '10

Weddings are a huge part of my business. When I first started in 2008, I was scared of getting pigeonholed as a “wedding photographer”, since I was already acutely aware of the insidious trend in this industry to pick one avenue (weddings, portraits, music) and become known for it. It wasn’t that I didn’t like doing weddings, it was that I also wanted to do other things. I was also slightly afraid of my “cool” factor decreasing. (I was 23 and very naive to the ways of the world).

Mary & her girls - Milford, CT - Oct '10

Well, in late 2009, it hit me: Rather than worry about what weddings would do to my coolness factor, I decided to bring the coolness back to weddings. I re-invigorated my passion for documenting the ritual of marriage, drawing from all aspects of my work to develop and push my wedding style to new levels. My imaging was only one slice of the pie, however.

Shana's Bachelorette Party - Portland, ME - Jul '10

I have worked in the wedding industry in different roles due to my years in food service – I have catered, bartended, and served food at countless receptions. I have helped plan, decorate, set up, tear down, and lug gear, tables, chairs, and tents. I have DJed, photographed, served as best man, and attended dozens of weddings in the last few years. I have heard the horror stories as well as the success stories, and what I have realized is that an entire industry is supported by the act of people tying the knot. The choices a couple faces are vast, and often confusing. I’m not saying the industry is evil in any way, but what I do see are many instances where vendors may not have the clients’ best interests at the forefront of their business. So, without further ado, here it is. This is how I do weddings, and this is how I think weddings should be done.

#1 – I will not complicate my pricing.

So often, I see the pricing for wedding photography vendors unnecessarily complicated by a breakdown in pricing to various “fees”. Often, this includes the strange “creative fee” for the photographer’s services. I have never understood this. You are a photographer, you are a creative professional. It is inherent in what you are doing, it is the very reason they are paying you. The “creative fee” in pricing is a nonpoint – It makes no sense.

Often, a “travel fee” is tacked on if the wedding is taking place outside of the photographer’s main state or city. While this is slightly more understandable than the “creative fee”, It is still something I am against in my practice. The vast majority of my weddings take place in Maine, and when I get to travel to somewhere else in New England, I view this as an opportunity to meet a new group of people and share my services with a totally new demographic – NOT as a reason to tack on another “fee”.

The bottom line is that “fees” are what we get when we forget to make our credit card payment or go over our minutes on our cell phone plan. They have no business being associated with the hiring of a creative professional on a day as important as your wedding.

My clients are quoted one all-inclusive price for my services, payable in three steps – 25% to secure their date (deposit), 25% on or before the day of the event, and 50% upon delivery of the product. Simplicity for the client – Priority numero uno.

#2 – I will not complicate my services.

This ties closely to #1. So many photography vendors offer “packages A-E”, with each package involving different pricing and different levels of service.

B.S.! This screams “The amount of money you want to spend directly affects how much I care about your wedding.”

Wedding photography is a very, very intimate endeavor. The images captured will be shown to generations. Do you really want to hire someone for “3 hours of reception coverage?”, or select a package with “400 images”? Get real. Your wedding day is more than a number.

Photographers need to be in it for the long haul.

When I am hired, there are no services to choose from, or hourly constraints. I belong to my clients for the entire day, and I will be giving them 110% the whole time, not watching the clock and waiting until I can bail to my next appointment – There is zero, ZERO intimacy in that.

#3 – I will get to know my clients – In front of the lens.

Most people, in their day-to-day lives, are not photographed professionally. Wedding days, for many couples, are their first experience being the focus of a photographer’s lens. It is expected that they will be nervous, and this may interfere with their ability to remain at ease and loose throughout the day.

While meeting clients for the consultation is a great way to get to know one another, it’s not enough – Remember what you have been hired for. Get them in front of the lens before the big day, either for a small engagement shoot, or the rehearsal dinner – It will go a long way in making them more comfortable and at ease on the big day.

#4 –  I will do more than just show up.

You can show up, take photos, stay for the whole gig, and still fail. You need to ENGAGE.

Suggest stuff. Get involved. Talk to people. Be a presence at the event.

There will always be a group of guests who will hit the bar early, be the first to start dancing, and are more than willing to pose for photographs. This is always fun, but don’t forget the back row – The people that aren’t dancing, and shy away from the spotlight. These people are just as important to your clients. Approach them. Engage them.

You have to do more than just show up. As a photographer, you are a major part of the event.

#5 I will get my clients the images. Fast.

One of my best friends got married a few years ago, and I was lucky enough to be the best man. The photographer, besides leaving after 4 hours of the reception, took FOREVER to get the photos available to my friend. I can’t remember the actual amount of time, but it was far longer than needed be. Additionally,  I have heard horror stories of 3-6 month waits for images.

Unacceptable.

A two-to-three week turnaround time is within reason of ANY professional photographer. We all take thousands of images at an event, and whittle it down to the best of the best. The process is largely uniform, no matter what your style is. The key here is focus. Two or three hardcore, Rockstar-guzzling nights in Lightroom is all it should take before the images are uploaded to Pictage and on USB ready for delivery. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been doing it for 3 years like me, or for 20 years like others. A 3-month wait time for images is absurd.

Thanks for reading. Best of luck to all my fellow wedding photogs this season, and congratulations to all the brides and grooms tying the knot in Maine and New England!





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About Peter Jensen Bissell

Commercial Photographer and aspiring brewer. Documenting interesting clients, Observations on Portland life, and marketing/biz ideas for photographers,
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One Response to The Wedding Photography Manifesto, 2011

  1. Pingback: How I Became a Professional Photographer |

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