Revised April 28, 2023
As a wedding photographer I know it’s easy to feel as though you’re missing some secret key. That if you just had xyz or understood what that girl understands, you could finally book more clients. Or book the kinds of weddings you see other photogs booking. Maybe you’ve even already started down the rabbit hole of how to raise your prices and book more and better jobs and got stuck on the advice to “build your relationships with vendors.” But hooooww?? Wedding coordinators and other vendors are super busy, always seem to already have “their people,” and aren’t exactly open to just grabbing coffee with me. Sound about right? What if I told you there’s one easy and really over-looked way to build those relationships with fellow wedding vendors? Here is one of my simplest tips for wedding photographers looking to book more weddings and grow their photo business organically…
You can nurture valuable vendor relationships in an authentic way and help ensure you’re the obvious choice for your prospective clients by always sharing your work with your vendor team.
Why strong vendor relationships are crucial to book better and more weddings
Right off the bat, let me clarify for you who your wedding vendor team is: your vendor team is made up of every single business or individual that contributes to making a wedding day, or shoot, happen. For example, on the last wedding I photographed, these were the members of my vendor team:
Hair & Makeup artists
Linens & furniture rental company
Paper goods creator
Wedding gown designer and bridal shop where purchased
Specialty decor providers
The Beer Burro 🙂
If you’re a portrait photographer your vendor team will look a little different, but if you give it some thought I’ll bet you can think of other people or companies that contributed to making your shoot happen (ie: the brands that provided your client’s outfits and/or props, or maybe the venue or area in which you shot their session.)
If you’ve already been digging into tips for wedding photographers and strategies to up-level your business, you’ve likely already been told how essential vendor relationships are. But I’m a numbers girl, so let me highlight some real, and pretty dang convincing, stats from my own wedding photography business. In 2020 over half of my inquiries were referred by another vendor. Those vendor referrals converted to actual paying clients more often than those referred by Instagram, Facebook, Google, and prior clients combined. Finally, the couples referred by a vendor who booked my services spent an average of $3100 more on their package than those referred by Instagram and booked me 20 days faster. What?! These numbers not only suggest that clients who find you through another vendor are super likely to be high quality leads, but also that your time and energy would be well spent figuring out what makes you the kind of vendor the others want to send their people to.
Lest your takeaway from the advice I give you today be “make other people happy so they’ll do stuff for you,” let me point out the obvious- looking out for your vendor team is not only good business, but good life. You’d most certainly be thankful for them making your life easier and helping you build your business, so do like Mama taught you and treat them how you’d like to be treated. It’s true what they say…people will remember how you made them feel long after they forget what you gave them or did for them. It’s true for your relationships with your clients and it’s certainly true for those with your fellow wedding vendors. How do you make your peers feel? What are you putting out in to the industry you hope to be a happy home for you? If you don’t love your answers, start there :).
My #1 tip for photographers to get more clients: Make it easy for your team to show off their skills
If there’s anything my conversations with wedding planners and venue coordinators have made clear, it’s that they need and want access to their clients’ photos to grow their own businesses, but getting ahold of these photos can be a total pain. Weird watermarks, copyrights, and busy or unresponsive photographers can create a lot of extra work for vendors trying to get ahold of photos. The truth is, photographers often end up preventing the other vendors from showing their work in a beautiful way. Yikes! Imagine the impact you can have on the businesses of fellow vendors by solving this problem for them! What if my friend Coley Kuyper Art didn’t have professional images to show off her gorgeous hand-lettered wedding invites?
Above: Coley Kuyper Art
The great news is, sharing your images with vendors is a nearly effortless step to add to your wedding workflow. For example, in my own photography client workflow, which I’ve built out in HoneyBook, I already create a beautiful, user-friendly photo gallery for my client. My client gallery also holds separate folders for a small sneak peek and some of my favorite images, which makes it even easier for someone to download a smaller selection of the best photos (the ones I really want them to feature) to use for their own purposes. After I’ve delivered the galleries to my client, I’ve set my HoneyBook workflow to remind me to pull up a template email to the vendor team with links to the galleries and a password so they can download high-resolution images for their own use. It’s nothing fancy…just a couple of friendly lines with everything they need to get ahold of my images and how they can use them. I’m also sure to share every blog post of our event with the vendor team so they know exactly where to go to save some curated, web-ready images on the fly to share on their social platforms or their own blog. It’s really so simple!
If you don’t have access to the email addresses for all of the vendor team or can’t find them with a quick internet search, ask the coordinator if they’d be willing to pass the links along to the full team as they likely have a list on hand from their pre-wedding communications. Remember to keep the vendors’ process for retrieving your photos quick and simple…the goal is to make their job easier and ensure that both of your work gets shared often and freely!
Common concerns about sharing your photos
You might feel worried about vendors using your images in ways you’d prefer they didn’t – we’ve all had someone add an embarrassing filter to our carefully edited shot or forget to credit us in their post. In general, I’ve found that other wedding vendors are fairly sensitive to these issues, and in the rare instances that someone doesn’t know the proper sharing ettiquette, a gentle and kind reminder is all it takes to right the wrong. In my experience, the gain to be had from sharing generously far outweighs the risk, so don’t let this concern keep you from it.
You might also be wondering if you can incorporate this workflow step if you rarely work with a coordinator or are not photographing weddings. The answer is yes! There were likely other vendors or companies involved in that wedding or shoot you photographed, and if so, send the photos to each of them. And of course, don’t forget to share with one of your most high-impact vendors of all: the venue. Your potential clients’ first stop will almost always be their wedding venue, so ensuring that your venue friendors have access to your photos is a must!
An added legal tip for wedding photographers: if you’re not sure, it’s a good idea to verify the permissions you’ve written into your contract with your client to be certain you’re able to share freely and avoid making mistakes in this area.
How to Become the obvious choice for your clients
So what happens when you make it suuuper simple for your vendor team to put your beautiful photos to use in their biz? One, you made their work a little easier, and they’ll remember that next time they’re asked what photographers they like to work with. But let’s also follow the path of your prospective bride (let’s call her PB), shall we? She’s not yet engaged, but already day-dreaming of marrying her best friend, PB regulary scrolls ideas on Pinterest and happens to come across a shot of one of her dream venues pinned from your blog. She saves it for later. She of course follows various wedding vendors on Instagram, and several of them regularly post your work and tag you.
Now PB is engaged, yay! Her first stop – wedding venues. There happen to be some of your images on most of their websites, a pretty album you made in two of their waiting rooms, and the on-site coordinator from the last venue they visited told her what a dream you are to work with. PB books her wedding planner, who also happens to have your work on her office walls and in a book on her desk. She tells PB how awesome you are too.
Wedding planning is now in full force and PB pins a cake you photographed and a florist she loves – your photos are on the florists’ website too.
It’s finally time to lock down her wedding photographer…you see where I’m going here? You’d better believe all your sharing has paid off- PB remembers YOU, thinks you’re probably the bomb.com after all the places you showed up and the rave reviews she’s heard, and a nice hot lead drops into your inbox.
Above: Photos by me, and the amazing Andaz Scottsdale, Details Duo, Sarah’s Garden, Konsider It Done, Freed Hands, The Confetti Studio, Prim Rentals, La Tavola Linen, and BBJ Linen and A Bake Shop. Whew! It takes a lot of people to create all this pretty!
Wedding photographer tip: When you share your images with every vendor team you work with, wedding after wedding, you exponentially increase your brand’s trust factor and exposure, and secure your place as an obvious choice for prospective couples and other vendors.
As wedding photographers, we have an invaluable gift and skill to bring to the table – it’s rare the other vendors on your wedding team can or would take the quality of photos of their hard work that you can provide! We also have the opportunity to be generous and proactive in sharing our gift with the rest of the vendor team, nurturing these vital relationships and making a real impact on everyone’s bottom line in the process. Win win!
My advice for you, photographer: today, right now, go add a step to your workflow, wedding checklist, or wedding project reminder list that prompts you to send your client’s gallery to their wedding vendor team. As I mentioned, I have created a task in my wedding client workflow in HoneyBook, that reminds me to send out a gallery to my vendor team on each and every project, making it super easy to be consistent. Then, spend a few minutes processing and take at least one step toward making it really simple for them to get ahold of and use your photos. Even a basic password protected gallery will work!
Bonus Insta tip: if you’re not already doing so and are on Instagram, make sure that you’re tagging every single member of your wedding vendor team every time you post a photo from the job you’ve done together in your instagram feed or instagram stories. You can make a quick list of instagram handles that you can copy and paste each time you need it without having to go digging through email for vendor lists or searching for everyone in Instagram from memory. Take every chance you get to give your team a shout out and keep the love and exposure growing across all of your platforms!
This is something you can definitely do! Take just a few minutes of your time today for a big impact on your business and relationships later – my favorite kind of investment! Have questions about how best to share photos with your vendors or how I do this in my own wedding photography business? Leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to help!