I had a chance to interview Denver Wedding Photographer R. J. Kern of Kern-Photo.com about marketing his wedding photography business online. R. J. is a very well-networked photographer who has done a very good job of building relationships with other photographers (and getting numerous links as a result), as well as establishing himself as an expert in the industry in Denver.
If you’re a photographer, this post is a must-read. If you’re a small business owner, this post might stimulate some ideas. Check it out.
Jason: I’m always advocating that business owners build relationships with other business owners because that can lead to links, sharing content, etc. What are some ways you’ve managed to network with other photographers?
R. J.: Many of my dear friends are photographers. We talk more about life and goals and art and fun than buisness and photography gear, yet we refer weddings to one another frequently. I enjoy sharing services by second shooting with my ‘competition.’ We learn and share in friendly camaraderie without exchanging money. It’s the best way to connect.
Recently, I’ve started a blog column called “Ask the Expert” which focuses on highlighting the efforts of creative people who like to share. It’s been a great way to get to know other business owners, ask questions about their expertise, then pass that knowledge along to my blog audience, whether it be my wedding clients or other photographers. It’s a win-win-win situation all around. Interviewees receive free web exposure and a mini-portrait session, I get a chance to give back in my community, and my blog readers benefit from the focused content.
Teaching workshops (like this Elevate Workshop in Palm Springs) are another great way to build a network. Since the mind really learns 90% of what you teach, I think teaching is a great way to help me improve my skills. Still, speaking and giving workshops in the Denver Wedding Photography community is a great way to meet other wedding photographers, so it makes a lot of business sense too.
Finally, I try to ‘be present’ at the Denver Pictage User Group (PUG) meetings and enjoyed teaching a shooting workshop about light-painting at the 2010 PartnerCon in New Orleans. I also volunteer on the board of Mile High Photographers and have enjoyed participating in the active community.
Jason: Since blogs, forums, and social networks are a great place to build relationships and links, what are some of your favorite photography social networks, forums, or blogs?
R. J.: While Facebook and Twitter have their place, I enjoy in-person events and conferences vs online. We spend too much time with the computer. Genuine face-to-face time helps and inspires MUCH more online forums, especially when you get a chance to laugh and enjoy life without having to type about it. Getting out in the community opens creative doors and is more healthy and sustainable long-term. My worst nightmare would be to burn-out spending too much time in front of a screen.
Jason: What professional photography organizations would you recommend to an up-and-coming photographer who just struck out on his or her own?
R. J.: Is say forget global organizations and focus on your local community. If you can become known in your community as a ‘giver,’ and you’ll go far.
However, if I had to recommend some organizations, the International Society for Wedding Photographers (ISPWP), the Best of Wedding Photography, and Wedding and Portrait Photographers International (WPPI), are all worthwhile.
Jason: What do you think is most important to a potential wedding photography client? What do you think your clients look for in a wedding photographer?
R. J.: Hiring a wedding photographer isn’t easy. It can be scary, as you are “buying” something that can’t be held at the moment. It’s invisible. Among the most important attributes to consider:
Trust is number one because there are no guarantees in life. Iffy weather, family dynamics, and tight timelines can cause problems, and you need to find a photographer you trust to help you deal with whatever may come. To establish trust, I encourage my clients to do their homework, meet with potential photographers in person, and view their completed work. Wedding photography isn’t an industry built on cameras and lenses, but genuine like-ability. You gotta like the person you hire as a person first and foremost because, at the end of the day, the final experience and that images themselves are what matters.
I also think trust stems from being involved in the industry, because industry involvement speaks volumes about a photographer’s abilities and aptitude. I blog about my involvement in the industry because I want my clients to see that I am a leader in my industry, not just a follower. I want my clients to trust in me, and instill their faith that I take my job seriously. I want to make it easy for clients to trust me, as earning trust isn’t easy, yet paramount when it comes to wedding photography. I work hard to earn it, as this is among the best days of my clients’ lives and I am proud to be apart of it!
Jason: What are some of your favorite photographer websites?
R. J.: If I had to list my top three, I would say:
Jason: In your opinion, what separates a professional photographer from someone who claims to be a professional?
R. J.: Consistent images are really important (which is why you should always ask whomever you hire to present a full album of work), but don’t forget that a pro also has a good wedding photography contract, back-up equipment, and insurance.
Like a painter, hiring an artist for their unique “style” is key. It’s easy to showcase 30 great images from 5 years of work, but showing 300 great images from a single wedding is what matters. So, just to re-iterate, always ask to see completed work. That’s the best way to make sure you’re going to end up with a brag-worthy wedding album when day is over.
Jason: Just for fun, what’s your favorite YouTube video?
R. J.: Hollaback!