Thursday, November 20, 2008 at 2:01 PM
As part of my ongoing attempt to answer most/all of the questions from the "Ask Jamie a Question" post I am here to tackle yet another! It's been fun doing these; I really appreciate the comments I get from fellow photographers letting me know it's been helpful--I'm doing it for you guys! :) If you missed the other answers, you can check them out here: Before and After Processing and Interacting with Clients. So, the question is...
I would like to know how you became so successful at such an early age? How did you start marketing your business and getting so many weddings booked per year? Did you start second shooting with someone to begin with? Who? When was your first wedding "solo?"
Oh, you are so sweet! How do we define success? Success in my eyes is getting to do what I love day in and day out and God has blessed me so completely in that area. I feel like this is the question I get emailed to me the most often and the one I feel least qualified to answer.
However, as far as marketing goes, there are a few “key” things I did before I started my business. I started Jamie Delaine Photography in June 2007, but since January 1, 2007 I had been a part of the OpenSourcePhoto Forum created by David Jay. I was only 16 at the time and I had an interest in photography after a vacation to the East Coast. I had a lot of fun with my dad’s Rebel XT camera and wanted to see “what else I could do with it!” I stumbled across DJ’s blog which then lead to the forum. I was amazed with what I found! A whole network of professional wedding and portrait photographers full of business and practical shooting knowledge. I just soaked it all in. I read, read, read, read, read—All. The. Time. Seriously. I’m sure I spent hours on that forum. Every new aspect of business that would come up as a “I wonder” question in my mind, I would do a search. Bam! (Did I just say Bam? Wow.) There would be pages upon pages of discussing about things like setting prices, marketing online, setting up a blog, getting your logo on blog images, interacting with clients, figuring out album predesign, etc.
From the OSP Forum, I got connected with a lot of photographers online. I posted a topic one day about looking for second-shooting opportunities and a few weeks later a Seattle photographed named Libbie Mistretta sent me an email. She had two weddings back-to-back on a Saturday and Sunday in Bothell, WA which is only about two hours from my home in Surrey, BC. I jumped on the opportunity for my first chance to photograph a wedding with another photographer! I think that was on August 16th and 17th, 2007. I had such a fun time with Libbie and it was a wonderful “introduction” to weddings. From these two weddings I got about thirty portfolio images that I then placed on my portrait site. When I look back now, it’s just hilarious as I had sections for babies, kids, teens, families, travel and then….weddings. 4 Sections for portraits, 1 pathetic one for weddings. It took me three months to put those images up—I was so hesitant to jump into this business, believe it or not! Anyway, I did. During the last three or four months (since June) I had been photographing family portraits and pictures of my friends just for fun. Well, my first wedding photography clients found my name through grad pictures I had taken for my friend Jess (want a trip down memory lane? The photos are here!) The bride emailed me and asked if I took wedding photos and if she could get a quote. I responded, yes, I do photograph weddings, however my experience was currently limited to second-shooting. She emailed back, liked my quote, and I was booked! This beautiful bride was Tamara and I was there to capture her wedding to Dean on May 18, 2008.
Another invaluable thing in business is networking. One of the first photographers I emailed was a couple from Vancouver known as Chris+Lynn. I saw Lynn on the forum and sent her an email about second-shooting opportunities. A few months later, we met up for dinner with Tim Co. (one of their photographer friends from Florida who is also a part of OSP!) at Cactus Club. I was just amazed at the industry’s willingness to help out young photographers. Honestly! I look back on that night, which was only a year ago and I am just amazed at Chris+Lynn+Tim’s willingness to meet with a young, shy, newly-turned-seventeen year old and inspire her in her business. Networking is just soooo wonderful! Another example, when I knew I was going to be in Arizona for two weeks in March, I emailed a handful of AZ photographers (once again, via the forum!) and asked if they had any weddings I could tag along at. Unfortunately none of the weddings aligned with my schedule, but I got lunch offers from quite a few photographers and we made a get-together out of it! I met with Melissa Jill, Rachel Priddy and Jen Schleicher and we had such a good time getting to know one another. This meet-up then brought another opportunity just this summer when Melissa Jill was looking for a photographer to second-shooter with her in San Francisco in July. I saw her posting on the forum and emailed her and she called me back right away and said she’d love to have me! Creating a network of photographers is so valuable---and bonus, it’s fun! I love meeting new people. I could go on and on, but I won’t—you get the idea.
As far as finding clients and booking weddings, it was a combination of word-of-mouth (how I got my first wedding!), online marketing through my blog as well as networking with other photographers. Chris+Lynn sent me the super sweet couple Kristina and Marshall way back in April and I’m so glad they did! I’ve also found facebook to be an invaluable tool for marketing. I keep my facebook page and my facebook group updated with all my latest blog images and some more information on there. I find that not everyone will read my blog, but lots of facebook “friends” like to keep tabs on my work via the group. It’s awesome if you can “tag” your clients in the facebook photos because then your images will be on facebook for all to see—next thing you know clients will be coming your way!