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MAY NEWSLETTER 1981

WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHERS INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION AT LAS VEGAS

BILL BROWN
Bill Brown was talking on lighting and special effects. A lot of his lighting work was visual but he did come up with one pearl of wisdom which is good indoors or out, and that was that he "lit for the principal subject", or centre of interest which was usually the bride. He considered everything else to be secondary and wanted the lab to consider things in exactly the same way.

He also stressed that the position of bodies and heads and the angle of heads were terribly important. By tilting the body the wrong way or angling the head the wrong way you changed a "love photo" into a disinterested photo. If the head is tilted away from the bride instead of towards the bride, the pose itself says "Hey I'm not interested in this person". It relates very easily to the situation whereas if you turn your back towards somebody, you are snubbing them. If you turn your body away from them, you're not interested, you turn your head away, you're not interested, and the opposite applies every bit as strongly. The closer you get to a person, the more you are showing your interest. If you pose your photos with somebody turned away from somebody else in the picture, body language says that person is not interested in the other person. If you have two heads touching, that says this person is fond of that person. It's as natural as ABC, yet how many times do you observe this cardinal rule when you are posing people?

One can keep on talking all day about the basic examples of this if one wished.Bill Brown then went on to talk about special effects, and he opened his address by saying they at Bill Brown Studios in Toronto use a professional lens hood for all their special effects.

They use a Bronica ETR and all of their photographers have three lenses. They have the normal lens (75mm), they have a wide angle lens (50mm) and they have a tele-photo lens (l05mm). They use the professional lens hood for their special effects because it will work on any of these three lenses. He says you can adjust the lens hood to suit any focal length lens you are using and so you have more versatility. They used the wide angle at the house where they don't always have sufficient room and they use the tele-photo to get slightly better perspective when they're doing close-ups. They use a wide angle lens for 90% of their special effects. He said that most people have been through the fuzzy blob stage that some people get with their special effects. He says what their customers want now is a more recognizable, evenly exposed, believable photo montage. He said the photo montages should obey basic rules of composition. That basic rule is that a large image should be balanced by a smaller image further away. It should also have a theme. For example, you might have on the left a head and shoulders of an engaged couple, and on the right a photograph of the same couple walking hand in hand . you should not be able to see the line between the two photos. It should be blended in perfectly. This, Bill said, you can do much better with a wide angle lens than with any other lens.

Bill said a lot of people get the impression, that because he talks so much on special effects most of his weddings consist of photographs that have had special effects used on them. He said nothing could be further from the truth. Most of his photographs that he does on weddings are conventional type photographs. The special effects are just something to make the wedding look different. You could say, just the icing on the cake. They only produce about three or four special effects on each wedding. Their style of photography is very conservative and they are going back to the old basics -clean, clear photography, with mood and feeling and the modern look to it.

He then spoke on vignettes and his contention was that the vignette should blend in with the background. This meant that if you had a black background you'd use the black vignette If you're photographing outdoors and there are a lot of green trees around, you'd use a green vignette. I personally feel that the new Leon vignette may overcome a little bit of this problem in so much that it does let light through the mesh in the vignette and this would then therefore make the vignette just that little bit more subtle. Bill said the principle of a vignette is not to lead attention to the vignette itself, but to lead the eye to the centre of interest by blocking details at the edge of the photograph. Therefore the eye moves to the centre of interest, which of course is the subject. When you're doing multiple exposures, or photo montages you should always change the poses and the expressions. . . if you are going to use the identical pose of two different people, you might as well use a prism as you'd be able to do it a lot faster and a lot simpler.Bill then went on to speak about professional pro-hoods and why they use them.

He gave a brief history of professional pro-hoods, how they were first used in the very early movie industry, and he traced it right through to today. He then showed illustrations of two different pro-hoods. The popular one, the Hassleblad pro-hood, and the smaller, more compact Bronica pro-hood. He said there was basically one major difference between these two pro-hoods and that was that the Hassleblad rails project backwards and can interrupt with your focusing or fitting of a wide angle lens, whereas with the Bronica one, the rail projects forwards and so does not interfere with any lens.

He then went on to show some insert rings which worked equally well with a Hassleblad as with a Bronica. This insert ring can be purchased to fit the filter size of your lens so the Bronica or Hassleblad pro-hood can be used on a Nikon, RB67, Canon, Mamiya or what have you. In the States these adapter rings are available from Bronica. Bill Brown went on to say that when you're starting to do photo montages you should always use an aperture of F8 or larger. He said this helps the subjects to blend together much better.

The whole secret in doing good photo montages is to get them to blend together and to push the preview button before you shoot. By pushing the preview button, it stops the lens down to your taking aperture and allows you to see exactly what you're going to get on the negative. Photo montages work beautifully with a random background in the form of a lot of leaves, the same colour wallpaper, a black background . . it does not work quite so well if you blend a indoor photograph with an outdoor photograph, for example a church scene with an outdoor scene of the same couple in a park.

Bill Brown then went on to show many samples of his work in the photo montage field and did stress again to remember that he only did three or four of these photo montages per wedding.

WEDDING SURVEY (by Kodak USA)
(1999 I have read thro this very carefully and I am unable to find details that do not apply today as much as almost two decades ago…… email me if you think I am wrong
survey@ivan.co.nz )First of all the background of the survey. It was done by a recognized company in America who specialize in surveys. 500 brides who were married before October, 1980 were covered by the survey. It represented a statistical representative sample of all ages . . . the two eldest interviewed were over 60 years of age. In all, there were 2.4 million weddings in America during 1980. 75% of them had some sort of photography. 30% of those were remarriages, in other words, people being married for the second or third time. Whilst we're talking of the marriages, people doing the survey came to the conclusion that Yes, the divorce rate is going up. All those couples that were surveyed, were married between January and June of 1980. The survey was done in October of 1980 and by then 1% were already divorced by October. They did hope that the photographers had received their money in advance.The vast majority of the weddings surveyed were old-fashioned traditional weddings. 70% of them had a church wedding, 10% had a wedding at home, and 15% were married at a courthouse or by a JP. However, many of these were remarriages. There are only 5% that fell into the category of other locations, and these could have been married during a skydive over the Grand Canyon or at 140 leagues under the sea. They add that perhaps most photographers would not be interested in photographing that ceremony.

DID THESE WEDDINGS HAVE PHOTOGRAPHS?
89% of the weddings surveyed had some kind of photographs taken, and at 11% of the weddings, there were no pictures taken whatsoever. Of those 89% that had photographs taken, at 25% of those weddings there was no designated photographer. In other words nobody was asked to take photographs, it just happened there was somebody there. Therefore, if you add 11% that had no pictures taken, to the 25% where nobody was asked to take photos, you get 33%.That means only two thirds of the weddings had a designated photographerpresent, so there are plenty of weddings available if you want them. 28% of all the weddings in America were covered by a full-time professional wedding photographer. 17% were covered by moonlighters. Definition of these two terms - they define a full time as a full time wedding and portrait photographer. Not an industrial or commercial photographer.A moonlighter is defined as a person doing at least three weddings per year. This means that 45% of last year's weddings were photographed by a professional of some sort. Somebody the bride paid to take photographs. Of the remainder of the weddings that had a photographer, 30% of them were photographed by a person we'll call Uncle Max.

HOW WERE THE PROFESSIONALS CHOSEN?
41% of the wedding photographers were chosen by the bride alone and 35% by the bride and groom together. This means that in 76% of the cases, the bride was a significant factor. So much so that in only 10% of the weddings, was the groom alone responsible for choosing the photographer.This therefore means that the bride is still the main one to promote to for your wedding business.

HOW MANY PHOTOGRAPHERS WERE CONSIDERED FOR THE JOB?
On an average, most brides had considered between two and three professional photographers. How did they choose the photographers? 50% of the photographers were chosen or found by word of mouth. 30% of the brides knew a photographer and of course, in these two percentage factors there was some overlap. 6% of the brides went to the photographer because of advertising and 15% mentioned yellow pages.Therefore, word of mouth, i.e. your reputation is the most important element when the bride makes her initial choice.

WHAT MADE THE BRIDE MAKE HER FINAL CHOICE?
82% said quality was the key point in making their decision, and 14% mentioned the photographer's reputation, and again there was some overlap between these two figures. 52% mentioned that the photographer was recommended by friends, or relations. In 48% of the cases the photographer's personality was an extremely important factor in them making the decision.Therefore this makes us look at what is the professional selling to the bride? It is an image. An image of competence, cooperation and professionalism. An image based on the quality of his work and the way he deals with his customers. So it boils down to just two things which mean a sort-after wedding photographer. Quality and personality. If they were the factors that impressed the bride themselves, obviously they were the factors that helped to create the reputation and recommendations.So quality and personality, the way in which you present your work, the way in which you deal with the people to produce that work, are the things you must concentrate on to increase your business. In fact, only 27% indicated that price was an important factor in choosing their photographer. And only 23% said the photographer's location was important, so it doesn't matter where you are - you can be located in the next town or city. If the quality of your work is good and you're willing to travel you can get all the business you want and you can charge for it.

Quality and personality. That is what is important . .

WHAT WERE THEY OFFERED?
What were the brides offered in the way of photography and what did they select?
70% said they were offered a variety of packages.
41.4% of these selected a standard package.
39% selected a standard package and customized it to their own specifications.
17% did not select any packages but completely designed their own.

So offering your customers some choice of standard package seemed to be the way in which to market your services. 61.4% of those who ordered only a standard package, ended up in ordering extra prints.Getting your customers to buy extra prints is the easiest way to increase your profits or getting them to order bigger prints . . . according to the brides the vast majority said the largest print they were offered was an 10 x 8. That is what they thought they were offered. So if that's what they thought they were offered, you have to do a better job in marketing larger photographs.Here are some additional points on some of the packages. 88% of them looked at previews of some sort. On an average, they looked at 95 photographs and took 38 of those photos for enlargement. 22% said that after several months they wanted to order extra photos.

51.4% were offered quantity discounts. That means, if they bought a quantity of photographs the unit price would be less. However, 55% said they would have bought extra prints had there been a price advantage. In 73% of the cases an album was offered as part of the package.

PRICE (In 1980 US$)

Now one of the most important factors. How much did they pay? The average total amount expended on photography with a professional photographer was $350. This covers fees, photographs and albums, etc. 82% of the brides said they were satisfied with the quality.

Now for those who did not choose a professional photographer - in other words they chose Uncle Max. They considered the price was the second most important thing in choosing a photographer. Number one most important thing was still the quality. That is why they probably chose Uncle Max because they knew him and they knew what his quality was like. It also means they would choose you if they knew you and if they could be convinced that the extra quality and service would be worth the extra money they would pay. 28% of those who did not engage a professional usually did consider two or three professionals just like the brides who did hire one.

The average that it cost these girls whether they paid or Uncle Max paid in the form of wedding presents etc., was $75.for all prints including albums. 75% of the brides were satisfied with their results, but then of course, their level of expectation was not quite as high as it would have been with a professional.

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THE PHOTOGRAPHERS
Now let us look at the other side, the photographer's side. The survey covered 200 different photographers. The average number of weddings photographed by these photographers was 68%. The medium figure (medium means half did more, half did less) was 148 weddings per photographer.42% said they were doing more weddings today than they were three years ago. The average increase was equal to 51.4%. 23% said they were doing less weddings than they were three years ago and this was 30% less. This indicates the tendency either to move in or out of wedding photography.

INCOME

They were asked what percentage of their total sales volume came from weddings.The answer was on an average, 39%.41% of these photographers offered standard packages. 38% offered only customized orders, and 18% offered only packages. With those that did offer packages, it was on an average of five packages and again the medium was three. This means that many are offering up to nine choices and that is too many.The ideal is about three. 51% of the photographers offered extra photographs at discount prices. 10% of the photographers pre-edited the choice of photographs they showed the bride. All professionals used 120 film and 16% also used some 35mm. Packages The most expensive was $500 plus on an average, and they also got an extra $200 worth of prints. The most popular was between $300 and $350. 20% of the photographers said the most expensive packages were also the most popular, and that is too high a percentage. That many should not be buying the most expensive, because when the most expensive becomes almost the most popular, it is time to re-adjust your prices.

THINGS YOU CAN DO TO IMPROVE YOUR BUSINESS

First of all you should look at why you are in the wedding photography business. It could be one of five reasons
One... you have nothing better to do with your weekends.
Two... you love to work under incredible pressure.
Three... you need at least one good cry a week, and you always cry at weddings.
Four... you need to sweat a lot and photographing weddings creates more sweat than jogging five miles.
Five... or do you make loads of money photographing weddings?The last answer may be the silliest of them all, as it looks like from the results of this survey make it look as the common answer is for the sweat and not for the money.

THOSE WITH NO PHOTOGRAPHER
The next question asked to those who had not engaged a photographer was why they did not have a photographer at their wedding. A small percentage said there was no photographer because it was not their first wedding. However, remember that 75% did have some sort of photography. 12% said photographers were too expensive, 6% said their wedding was too small, 5% said nobody remembered to bring a camera. And 50% plus never thought of photography, or thought it too much of a bother.

IMAGE

What is most important is your image as a professional photographer. The image you project .. . . If you call yourself a professional photographer, then produce professional work, not just competent work. A professional photographer produces imaginative, creative and sensitive work, work that will convince the next bride that calls that you are the photographer she wants. . . So now let us look at the image you project. . .

You start projecting that image the minute someone walks into your studio, if you have a studio. In fact you project it whether you are there or not. So your studio should reflect a high quality and professional atmosphere. It should be attractive and tasteful to look at. And of course, it should be clean and uncluttered. What counts is not the quantity of prints on the wall, but the quality.You should also watch that you don't have a too expensive look as it may scare away some of your customers. However, if you deal with what could be classified as the carriage trade then your image should look expensive.

Also if you wish to handle a broader range of clients, you should look expensive.In your studio you are really selling yourself! No doubt about that. Show you are worth what you are asking!You are also selling service. You must show the bride that you care about her wedding. You must show the bride you are concerned about her needs. So therefore the first thing you can do is to accommodate the working woman, this means you should have your studio open two evenings a week.Then, you must indicate to her that you will not treat her wedding like just another job. It is special to her, and you must show that it is special to you. You must show that you are not going to order either her or her guests around. . .

You are not going to insist that things are done your way, or else you will throw a tantrum at the reception.Although you've photographed a lot of weddings, you must show you will not be bored by hers, and of course the fact that you have been to a lot of weddings means you have a lot of professional experience and can offer her the kind of service that comes with it. And remember you can offer it to her. You can also offer her understanding. You know she will be nervous and excited and you will know just how to calm her down.

You can offer her advice and sympathetic cooperation.Sure Uncle Max can take pictures cheap, but he can also take cheap pictures! And he can also poke his lens at all the wrong people at all the wrong times and generally make a nuisance of himself. Creating a professional positive image of yourself can be beautiful, even if you don't photograph the wedding.

Remember, many of the brides that don't hire a photographer do shop around and they can be convinced to sit a formal studio portrait.If you are worried about prices and that they do shop around, then they will learn that a bridal portrait in a studio does certainly cost less than the complete wedding. And bridal portraits do make beautiful presents to parents and friends.On the other hand, the image of you and your studio can convince the bride to buy up. . . buy a more expensive package or extra prints.

For example if you use your studio to show how they can display large prints in their home and if you use a print projector to show selected poses enlarged up to 25 x 214 or bigger, then you can easily sell large prints to the bride.

A lot of the brides interviewed simply never thought of photography in the form of large prints and a large number may have never thought about decorating with photography. Remember, they must however have some poses that they can decorate with. So, pictures rather than record photos are a requisite.

A visit to your studio can be an education to her and it can mean increased sales for you.When you show a prospective customer your work, make sure they are in albums. After the wedding, when you are showing the bride her originals again show them in an album. Certainly a thick album is a lot more interesting to them than a thin stack of photos that you pull out of a box. And of course, it makes the bride aware of the importance of placing her own photos in her own album. An album should be made part of one of the packages you offer, and you should offer it as soon as the bride asks about your prices. Remember only 73% of the brides said they were offered albums. And this is far too low a number.

Displaying your originals in an album makes them look better, and increase the possibility that the bride will order extra prints.Paul suggests you should edit your negatives and show 70 to 80% of what you photograph in the 10 x 8 size . . . however, that if you do offer 10 x 8s you should have a contract for 30 to 36 10 x 8s. People will be more willing to buy 10 x 8s when they see 10 x 8s. And if you only show them 5 x 4s they may not appreciate the added value and the added impact the 10 x 8s have on their wedding.The easiest way to increase your profits is to sell more prints, and larger prints. You should consider offering extra prints at a discount price.

Perhaps the Lisle Ramsey Brides Dream Package. Remember, 55% of the brides said they were not offered quantity discounts and they said they were interested in purchasing more. It's probably an almost sure way of increasing your sales. . . also, perhaps you should develop a direct mail piece that you send out to the brides a few months after the wedding, offering them one more offer to get extra prints. . . one out of five of the brides interviewed said they did want more prints a few months after the wedding.

A letter to them combined with attractive prices may be all that is necessary to keep them interested in your services.Be sure you promote to the bride the idea of giving photographs as presents. Perhaps in the folios that are now available in New Zealand they could be made to look like very attractive, beautiful presents.Thank you cards are another use for photographs. You can offer Wallets at special price so they can be used on the thank you cards. This is an additional item which would not normally sell.You could also use the wedding to develop other portions of your business. By collecting names and addresses, you can with direct mail, or even a phone call, invite these people to come to your studios for a free portrait sitting for display. They will be flattered, and a large number will accept the invitation.

STRAIGHT BUSINESS ADVICE

Paul Ness then went on to give some what he called straight business advice. He said the point in offering the customer a packaged deal is to make buying easier for them. Offering them too many packages defeats that purpose.

He then covered the Lisle Ramsey principle of good, better and best, and said that this was a standard business practice. You should therefore stick to three or four packages, then customize those for your customers. Remember, your best wedding package should only appeal to a few of your clients, because of price.

If it appeals to too many put another package deal at the top and slip the one off the bottom.You could also include in the various packages a certain number of hours, with extra time at so many dollars an hour.Credit cards are moving into New Zealand, with Visa and Bankcard, so make sure you offer these. (1999 Join the Retail Assn and your credit cards will only cost you 1.9%)

It costs you a certain percentage but it will also help increase your order. The people with credit cards are given up to two years to pay for the items that they charge on the Visa. Doing this, they never have to admit to you, the photographer, that they can't afford to buy their photographs at the moment, because charging it to their Visa means they could either be paying it immediately or over the next 24 months.

Offer them a hedge against inflation. . . offer them a guaranteed price if the they pay in advance. If you're booking a wedding twelve months ahead, and you're quoting a guaranteed price without any monies being paid, think carefully. What else can you buy in this world for a guaranteed price without paying any money over? Everybody today understands inflation so use it to your advantage.

INCOME

Kodak discovered that the average income from a wedding was $537. This includes all photography, packages and prints. The average cost for materials and services per wedding is about 55% of gross sales, leaving a 45% gross profit, or $442. They found that there was an average of 29 hours spent on a wedding, which meant the hourly rate was $8.34 gross. This means net would be even less.What happens therefore if you sell an extra $200 worth of prints? Do you make an extra $200 extra profit?. . .

Well, almost, because the job will still only 29 hours and your overhead costs for those extra prints will not be 55%. Now let us say that it is 55%. You will still make an extra $90, which will put your gross profit up to $332, or $11.34 an hour. By selling an extra $200 worth of prints you have given yourself a salary increase of almost 45%. And of course as your overhead for those extra prints is not 55% your actual personal increase in income is much higher.

So do your sums. Keep accurate records for each wedding. Find out if you are only in weddings for the sweat. Remember there is plenty of room for growth in the wedding business. In America 1.3 million weddings were not covered by a professional full-time photographer. You will probably find the figures are very similar on all these things here in New Zealand.

SELLING EXTRA GROUP PHOTOGRAPHS
Let us take a situation of a family group of three people Mother Father and one child they have no Grandparents what so ever and no Brothers or Sisters on either side in other words nobody to give photographs to.On this free 5 X 4 promotion they decide to take the free 5 X 4 and take no photographs what so ever.

The conversation should go something like this;Brackets indicate your customers conversation (We just want the 5 X 4 photograph thank you)   Fine that is quite OK, do you mind if I ask a question?(No what is it) What are you going to do with this 5 X 4 photograph?(We are going to put it in our photograph album) Great a good Idea but wait....

Have you ever considered what Johnny is going to do for a family group, he won't know what his parents looked like at this particular age had you considered getting an extra photograph to go in his album? Let me ask you another question before you reply to this. Do you have a photograph in your album of your parents

Do you have a photo in your album of one of you Grandparents Most occasions you will find that people have photographs of neither and so this is a very strong selling point for getting a photograph for their child to go into the child’s photo album. If the child does not have a photo album sell them the idea of starting one for them now so that when they reach their age and have family of their own they his parents are not forgotten by their Grandchildren and great Grandchildren.

If they say he can have ours when we die your answer to this would be... now just when will this be ? if you live till you are 90.... and there is no reason why you shouldn't .... and your son marries at 20 and they have a child within 5 years that child will be 45 by the time you are 90 and will probably have no idea with today’s jet-age mobility what his grandparents looked like in 1981 think about it today’s memory’s can only be kept with photographs.