Bokeh Podcast Episode #35: The Most Important Relationship In A Wedding Photography Business – Morgan Holland

Morgan Holland has a bubbly, energetic personality paired with a sense for business that you can’t help but love and admire! She’s been an event planner in Chattanooga, TN for over 10 years, and the owner of Soirees for almost as long. In this endearing episode of the Bokeh podcast, Morgan shares how to best approach what is the most important business relationship a wedding photographer can develop, their relationship with wedding planners. You’ll love Morgan’s stories of not only some of the horrors of working with wedding photographers, but also about some of her best experiences, and bonus: you’ll learn what made the difference!

Wedding Photographer Business Survival Guide:

  1. Outsource things that get in the way of running your business!
  2. Create a contrast between proactive and reactive tasks.
  3. Build relationships with affiliate business professionals.
  4. Referrals – they work both ways.
  5. How to get “in” on a personal level.
  6. Be willing to do give business materials.
  7. Act like the PRO you are.

What NOT to do:

  1. Don’t be a diva.
  2. You selfied who?!
  3. I can’t believe you wore that.

Gain an in-depth perspective on why Morgan is so good at what she does, and how you can be that rock star you know you can be. Hosted by Nathan Holritz of Photographer’s Edit, the Bokeh podcast is one of our best yet!

Find out more about the 10 tips above by downloading the podcast from iTunes or on your phone.

Podcast:  Bokeh: The Business of Photography by Nathan Holritz
Episode 35: The Most Important Relationship In A Wedding Photography Business

Instagram: @soireeseventplanning
Website: soireesonline.com

Read the transcript and show notes

Show Notes:

Introduction to Morgan Holland [00:31]
Outsource things that get in the way of running your business! [06:13]
Create a contrast between proactive and reactive tasks. [08:40]
Build relationships with affiliate business professionals. [12:56]
Referrals – they work both ways. [18:17]
How to get “in” on a personal level. [19:44]
Be willing to do give business materials. [26:56]
Don’t be a diva. [28:43]
Act like the PRO you are. [29:58]
You selfied who?! [30:12]
I can’t believe you wore that. [31:28]
Where to learn more [38:41]

Instagram: @soireeseventplanning
Website: http://soireesonline.com/

Podcast Transcript: 

Nathan – Welcome to Bokeh, a podcast exploring the ever-blurring lines between the personal and business lives of professional photographers. This is your host, Nathan Holritz, and I’m excited to have you join me in connecting with photographers and entrepreneurs in the photography industry as we dive into real conversation about photography, business, and that sometimes messy thing we call life. This podcast is brought to you by Photographer’s Edit, custom post-production for the wedding and portrait photographer. Visit photographersedit.com. And now, let’s dive into conversation. Alright, we’re live. I’m sitting here with my friend, long-time friend actually, Morgan Holland, how long have we known each other? Has it been like 10 years?

Morgan – It’s been almost 10 years.

Nathan – Maybe even more than that?

Morgan – Yeah.

Nathan – Okay. So Morgan is actually the first person to come on the Bokeh podcast who is not a photographer, not technically from the photography industry, and I’m really excited about it, I wanted to do something different. Morgan actually owns Soirees, which is a local event-planning service and that’s putting it lightly, I think they’re the best in town and I actually had the opportunity as a wedding photographer to work directly with them, we’ll talk about that here in just a little bit, but I wanted to let Morgan share her perspective about what it means to work, for a photographer, what it means to work with an event planner and how the photographer should best approach that relationship because we found a lot of value from that relationship when I was involved in wedding photography, but I want the honest opinion directly from your mouth about how photographers should best approach that relationship, so we’re gonna get to that place, but first of all, let’s talk a little bit about you, where are you from? We’re actually in Chattanooga right now, are you from Chattanooga originally?

Morgan – I was raised in Chattanooga, so born in Knoxville, raised in Chattanooga, so not too far off the map.

Nathan – Okay.

Morgan – Went to college back in Knoxville at UTK, so my blood runs orange.

Nathan – Yes, go Tennessee.

Morgan – But actually decided right after I was finishing up my senior year in college that nothing was holding back and I’d always wanted to be in L.A. so I took off for a year and lived out in L.A.

Nathan – What did you do out there?

Morgan – So it was so crazy, ’cause I went out there with the idea of like, I wanted to get into casting, it always interested me over my college career, I’d gone back and forth to L.A. and done a bunch of intensives with different casting directors and so I just knew that that’s what I wanted to do. Well I went out there and L.A.’s just a hard place to live, it’s just different.

Nathan – There’s a a little bit of competition, too.

Morgan – There is, yeah, it’s not something that a bright-eyed southern 21-year-old is gonna just dive right into.

Nathan – Right.

Morgan – So ended up, after four months of just playing around and having some fun, thinking I should probably get a job. So ended up working at a five-star five-diamond hotel in Beverly Hills which, just luck of the draw, they needed a southern girl to work the front desk to play all of those roles that they have.

Nathan – Did you mean any celebrities while you were there?

Morgan – All of them.

Nathan – All of them, really?

Morgan – Everybody humanly possible, so I was out there in like 2004, 2005, which is when all the HBO shows were getting big, so Sex and the City and Sopranos and all of that, so I know too much dirt on a lot of rappers.

Nathan – We could have a whole podcast just dedicated to that.

Morgan – Exactly, if you wanna veer off that way. So yeah, I know all kinds of dirt.

Nathan – That’s awesome.

Morgan – It was amazing, but I also got to see really fun event sides of that so I majored in public relations and communications so I knew that I wanted to do some sort of event type stuff but could never see myself sitting behind a desk and writing press releases my entire life, so out in L.A., just had a little bit of fun and then eventually decided, probably can’t raise the family here, so if I’m gonna meet someone, I should probably go back to the south. So I ended up back here in Chattanooga, just kinda seeing what was going on.

Nathan – And what year was that when you came back?

Morgan – That would have been 2006, so I was out there for about a year and a half, so 2006, came back and was like, “Okay, what am I gonna do now?” So I just started looking at local event planning jobs that were available and happened to stumble upon Soirees, it had been in business for maybe six months at that point. Met the owner at a Starbucks, she didn’t even have an office location yet, she was like, “You’re hired!” and I was like, “Oh, okay cool!”

Nathan – And I can see, this is Taylor that we’re talking about.

Morgan – Yeah.

Nathan – And I worked with Taylor directly for quite a long time but I can totally see her doing that, “You’re hired.”

Morgan – You’re hired, like awesome, come on, we’ll see you on Monday, kinda thing. And so, started out just working events and part-time with them and after her career and her husband’s career started to kinda take off at that point, she decided that Soirees was something that she couldn’t keep on the side, so she offered me the opportunity to purchase the company. So by the time I purchased the company, I’d only been with them for a year and a half.

Nathan – That’s amazing.

Morgan – I was 24 years old. I was 24 years old when I purchased the company from her and it was just so interesting because I was like, “Okay, I think I have a really great grasp “on event planning and things like that,” I had done numerous events at that point in time and led many of them, but then all of a sudden, I was like, “Oh, do I have to pay, these are taxes.” What do I do with that, what’s a property tax?

Nathan – So true, yes.

Morgan – I don’t own property, I don’t understand.

Nathan – This is the very thing that photographers run into too. I mean, I didn’t get into photography thinking about being a business owner.

Morgan – No.

Nathan – I just thought, “Hey, this is some really cool, “expensive camera equipment that I get to buy “and I get to go take some pictures with it.”

Morgan – Really good at that part, but.

Nathan – Gotta pay those taxes.

Morgan – Exactly.

Nathan – And we actually, there have been photographers that have gone too, and I think the school is closing down now but quite a well-known photography school that was based in Santa Barbara. They’d spend $100,000 or more to get a degree in photography and they might come out an okay photographer but they didn’t have a clue about running a business. It’s a really tough reality that business owners have to face.

Morgan – It is, and I think in the wedding industry especially back in that day, it was just now evolving so people didn’t realize what you were buying or selling or how to get into that business side of things so I think it’s really evolved over the years, but yeah, that was kind of a shocker for me at 24 years old. Being like, what?

Nathan – So how did you learn it, was it just googling, were you reading?

Morgan – It was one of those things where I immediately, I’m not good with numbers, I tell people all the time I can’t add on a calculator, so I immediately just deferred everything to my accountant and was like, I told her, I sat her down and was like, “Look, you’re gonna have to talk to me “like I’m a kindergartener and I will not get offended, “tell me what I need to pay and when I need to pay it “and we’re gonna have the best relationship “if you’ll just tell me what to do.” So I really relied on others in terms of just telling me what I needed to do for a long time, and that was people in the advertising agency, tell me how often I need to run an ad or if I even need to be in this publication or if I don’t, help me out, help me with determining my target markets. I know whose weddings I want to do and whose events I want to do, but I’m not really sure how to reach those people so deferring to other professionals and other small businesses was huge for me.

Nathan – And by the way, for all those listening in, I did not set Morgan up for this conversation to promote the idea of delegating or outsourcing but of course, as the owner of an editing company, Photographer’s Edit, we encourage photographers to do just that, but it’s not just about outsourcing or delegating editing, it’s anything that is getting in the way of you being able to focus running your business and certainly those things that you’re not that great at or that you don’t know much about, it’s absolutely vital to be an effective, it’s not, when you’re running a business, you aren’t, it’s easy, especially as a photographer to just think about being a photographer and it’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae, the day to day running a business, but you have to be a manager to be an effective business owner, to oversee things and so this idea of delegating or outsourcing work to other professionals who, this is what they do, this is what they’re good at, they can educate you, you have to go that direction or likely your business at least is not gonna be as successful as it could be.

Morgan – Absolutely, and even bringing it to this day and age with the social media aspect of everything, that’s another thing that I’m just not good at. The girls that are graduating from college right now had classes specifically designed around these social media topics and how to navigate all of those correctly and when I came out of college, that was not a thing, I was still writing paper press releases and having to walk them over to people and be like, “Here, I’d like for you to publish this.” And so now everything’s just so much more fast-paced and it’s awesome to be able to bring them in and rely on them for those portions because if I spent all day paying taxes and posting on social media and doing all these sort of things, I would never have time to plan events or to meet with my clientele.

Nathan – Which is ultimately about growing your business, and I talk about this with photographers creating a contrast between tasks or activities that are proactive in nature, those things that are actually gonna grow the business moving forward and those tasks that, sure, they have to happen but aren’t really tied to increasing your bottom line and kind of reactive in nature, so again, delegating that work to people to focus so that you can focus on the proactive stuff, absolutely vital. That’s really great, wow. So that’s a cool story, so this was 2007.

Morgan – Yes.

 Nathan – And here we are 10 years later.

Morgan– I know!

 Nathan – And you just moved into this new space, we’re sitting in a new space that is absolutely beautiful.

Morgan – Yes.

 Nathan – And you’re overseeing weddings as well as other events, correct?

Morgan – Correct. So I would say our bread and butter, 90% of what we do is weddings, which is hilarious for me personally just because, again, sitting in those college courses, all these girls sitting around the table being like, “I wanna be a wedding planner.” And I’m like, “Ew, who would ever want to do that?” My first job when I was 16 years old was actually working at a wedding gown store, so I was selling formal wear and wedding gowns and things like that and I would just see the dynamics of mothers and brides and the bridal party and just all of that stuff that happens, all the stress and all the emotion and I was like, “Oh my gosh, I don’t ever want to be a part of this. “This is not something I could ever “see me doing in the future.” Fast forward.

Nathan – And here you are.

Morgan – Fast forward 15 years.

Nathan – Little bit of irony there.

Morgan – Yeah, so it’s just really interesting. So weddings are a lot of what we do but we also have a handle of non-profits that we work with and are very passionate about, a handful of corporate clients that we have continually, year after year, which are so fun, lots of private parties, birthday parties, baby showers, all that fun stuff, and all of those, just because we get to go outside the box and come up with fun themes and all of that stuff, so those are different and I love to use a creative outlet there, but yeah, weddings, we’re in it, we’re all about it.

Nathan – But here, again, 10 years later, congrats to you for making it this far.

Morgan – Isn’t that strange? I think about that all the time ’cause even when I started on this, I was like, “I can’t see myself doing this “in 10 years, I can’t see it being relevant in 10 years,” I guess is what I thought maybe. But it’s just over the years, the industry has changed so much and the way that I describe it to most people is that before it was a luxury item and through the evolution of TV shows about finding the dress and creating these amazing receptions and all of this stuff revolving around weddings, it’s become more of a necessity now, so instead of it being this luxury item of like, “Oh I have a really huge budget, I of course need “a wedding planner because that’s part of the package” kind of deal, it’s more of everybody needs one and is seeing more of the need for the actual planning and the logistics part of it because they do wanna enjoy their day so yeah, so the market has just grown for us in general, so it’s the first time that there’s ever been multiple in Chattanooga, there used to be one or two, and now there’s probably 10, there’s probably 20 that just keep popping up, who knows, everybody that plans their own wedding decides that it’s the best thing ever.

Nathan – It’s their thing to do.

Morgan – Yeah, they’re like, “I had a great time planning “my wedding, I’m gonna plan other people’s.”

Nathan – Now speaking of, you’re engaged.

Morgan – I am.

Nathan – Congratulations to you.

Morgan – Thank you so much.

Nathan – So how does that work for a wedding planner, an event planner, engaged, are you doing your own work or are you delegating that elsewhere?

Morgan – So we are delegating that elsewhere. The great thing about that is we decided, just because we have so many friends in the industry and so many choices here in Chattanooga, we’re running away, so we’re going to Mexico to an all-inclusive, and we are just, we’re taking some of our closest friends with us, it’s gonna be an amazing time for us to just all relax and enjoy. A lot of the people that are going are wedding professionals which is amazing too, ’cause it was one of the things we decided, if we were gonna stay in town, then obviously we would want our friends involved and our friends are gonna end up having to work on our day instead of enjoying it with us, and so we were like, “Let’s just take the question mark out of all of that, “and let’s just go, let’s just go somewhere.” So yeah, so we’re going to Mexico in July.

Nathan – Oh man, I love it.

Morgan – Taking our friends with us.

Nathan – That’s cool, congratulations to you.

Morgan – Thank you, we’re so excited.

Nathan – So this is, I mentioned earlier that this is kind of a different format for us because we’re actually bringing you in, not a photographer, somebody from kinda outside of the industry, if you will, but I’m really excited to get your perspective on this idea of developing a relationship with an event planner, a wedding planner. And I’ve told this story so many times before but we had the opportunity to work with Soirees years ago, I did as a wedding photographer who was hosting meetings with potential clients, we’d have a client come over, we’d sit down, show them albums, engagement session images, talk about the whole process, how much it cost, et cetera, but we developed such a relationship with Soirees, Taylor and yourself at the time, that Taylor would literally come over and sit down in our office and I would just sit on the couch quietly, she’d bring a client over, the client sitting there across from me, they’re looking at albums, Taylor’s sitting on the couch next to me and I’m sitting here, and literally, I’d just sit and I’d listen and we had such a cool relationship that Taylor would literally do the selling for us, she’d just go on and on and on about how great it was to work with Holritz Photography and the client’s looking through the images and listening in and I really didn’t have to do the work. And that’s kind of the ideal scenario, but I’m really curious to get your take, your perspective, having now been in business for quite some time, about what it takes for, or what you would hope, for in a relationship with a photographer, the photographer is saying, “Hey, I want to develop “a relationship with an event planner “because I know this is ultimately a really important “component of me growing my business.” How should they best approach that relationship with you?

Morgan – Right, so there’s so many different ways to initiate that relationship. A lot of people, again, it’s the same in all the different facets of the industry, but people are getting nice equipment and thinking, “Oh I’m just gonna “dive right into this,” so we have a lot of people cold call us and just say, “Hey, I shoot weddings, “can I send you my pricing and you can “recommend me to your clients?” Well no, that’s not exactly how we work. We have extremely close relationships with the majority of vendors that we use. And the reason that we do that is because we can honestly trust people, I tell people, with our packages specifically and the way that we work, we don’t take any of our kickback fees, referral fees, anything like that, so our clients know that if we’re recommending someone, it’s because we’ve worked with them, we understand how they work.

Nathan – It’s a genuine relationship.

Morgan – It is, it is, and we can tell them the ups and downs of what we’ve experienced and even give them referrals from other clients that have used them as well. Being in our clientele and using these same people, it’s a very honest relationship, it’s very open. So that’s one of the things where I feel like we do need to get to know each other, but also it’s one of those where I need to see you in action because everybody can put their 10 best pictures on a website, everybody can hand me a piece of paper that has pricing that’s comparable to other industry standards.

Nathan – Or even look like a nice person for five minutes, right?

Morgan – Absolutely, absolutely, but if I don’t see you on an actual eight- to 10-hour, sometimes 12-hour wedding day, and see how we’re interacting and how we’re jiving and how you’re working with my clients and things like that, then it’s very difficult for me to just recommend someone off the bat. So a lot of times what it is, is coming in and it’s being willing to spend a little time and sometimes money by developing that relationship, so whether it’s a stout shoot that you guys wanna get together on or whether it’s sitting down and just being like, “Okay, hey, I have a wedding, “if you are available, if you’d like to come “and just kind of see me in action,” that would be fantastic, we’re so open to do that because we’re always looking to grow our recommendation base so it’s interesting to me that so many people will just shoot me a website link and say, “Hey I do weddings,” because I feel like photography in general is way more of a personal relationship, it’s the closest vendor that you’re gonna have other than your event planner because you spend so much time with them and you have to be, it’s a really intimate relationship, which is strange to say.

Nathan – No that’s so true, absolutely. I can remember interacting with some of the clients that we had, I mean, you’re spending as much as 12, 14 hours a day with these people and on certainly one of the most important and intimate days of their lives, they’re letting you in and ideally you have that relationship where you’re almost, they would treat us like family. And it was just a really incredible experience, even looking back in hindsight, I’m not shooting anymore but I shot for about 10 years and I consider what an opportunity it was to be let in the way that I was, so absolutely, that personal relationship, not only with the client is important, but then the relationship with the event planner because I remember how closely I worked with you guys on that day and you almost kind of have to, to the extent that you almost learn to read each other, looking for each other across the room, you’re looking for that head nod, that, “Hey we’re getting to start cutting the cake,” or whatever it might be, but that close relationship is really important.

Morgan – Yeah, and it’s important for photographers too to encourage their clients to outsource the event planning because as a photographer, you know, if there’s not an event planner, then it’s you that it falls on, you eventually become the event planner, telling people what to do, when to do it, and you’re not being able to focus on your craft at that point, which is so difficult.

Nathan – I’m hearing a theme through this whole conversation, the importance of delegation, right?

Morgan – It’s crazy, I mean, that’s just, again, in this industry, as it’s evolving, a lot of people are trying to come up and do this one-stop shop kinda deal where they’re trying to have everything in house so you’re gonna walk into a space and they’re gonna provide you with all of these people that are ideally cut from the same cloth, and I’m just really different, I have a different take on it where I think that each piece should be very individual so that that person is focusing on exactly what they’re best at and are able to bring their best quality work instead of the event planner also trying to do your makeup, that’s not something that you can do well at both. And so same thing for the photographer, I don’t think that they can do their job well if they’re running to this side of the room and having to corral the bridal party over here but then also having to run to the other side of the room, find the mother of the bride and then queue the deejay to announce the cake cutting, it just doesn’t work out, we need you there for the organic moments and for those special in-betweens that aren’t those posed shots of, okay, they cut the cake, that’s great, you got that, but did you get all the stuff before and after when you were running back and forth. So it’s huge for us to be able to have that relationship because that’s what we ultimately want from our photographers on the day of, when I need you, I want to know where you are, I want to be able to come over to you, tell you exactly what’s gonna happen, and you’re just doing your job, you’re not doing anybody else’s job, so it’s so nice to be able to have that relationship with someone.

Nathan – How would you say the photographer should approach developing that relationship in the first place because like you said, just sending a website, that’s not gonna do the trick, how would they begin that process with you?

Morgan – Absolutely.

Nathan – And to be clear, I know you talked about the idea of inviting you, for example, to a wedding, to come see, but I’m thinking more on a personal level. One of the things that I’ll recommend to photographers is hey, you know what, first of all, start with just inviting them to coffee or to lunch and have a real conversation with them. Be upfront with them about the fact that you’re in this to do business together, I hate fake relationships and so if there is that honesty and transparency upfront, it seems like it would be really important.

Morgan – It is, and that’s exactly how I explained it to my clients as well, you can look at their websites, you can look at their pricing, everything could be comparable at that point in time, but what I’ll do is I’ll have them narrow down that 10 that’s all comparable to two or three that they wanna meet in person and I sit them down over coffee or here in my conference room and I want them to meet in person, I tell them all, we’ve already looked at all the details, you already know the specifics, this is not a business conversation. This is you guys getting to know each other. I was like, they’re gonna ask you weird questions about how he proposed and things that might make you feel uncomfortable because you don’t necessarily think that you would be talking about that with a vendor for a wedding, but that is so important that they understand how the two of you all operate in relation to how they’re gonna photograph you. And every single time, it happens just as I say it will, they know who they click with immediately and that becomes their wedding photographer. So yeah, those personal relationships are very, very important to us, but in terms of meeting with us as an event planning company, I think sitting down, going to coffee, explaining to us about how they work on the day of but then also being willing to hear how we work as well is very very important.

Nathan – You have to kind of set ego aside.

Morgan – You do.

Nathan – I’m amazed sometimes at some of the things I read from photographers, there is such an ego where they kinda expect the world to revolve around them, the photographer, on the day of the wedding, and that’s just not what we’re there for.

Morgan – It’s so hard for event planners and myself and even other vendors to deal with that kind of personality because ultimately, that person is not there to benefit the greater good because I feel like with a strong wedding team, all the vendors are working together to make sure everything is flawless and when you have that one person that’s setting themselves aside instead of being available and being open to doing this, that, or the other, they are demanding their vendor meal and they wanna go and they wanna sit at a reserved seat for them with the bridal party, so there are so many things that I feel like the flexibility of it needs to come into play, so let’s talk about how you do business, but let’s talk about how I do business and how can we make this work together? And so a lot of times when people do sit down and hear how we operate and how we like for that personal relationship to be above anything else, above the logistics and the timelines and all of that, they really start to think about it and be like, “Oh, that actually could work for us.” So it’s fun to kinda see that evolve as well.

Nathan – You’re educating them.

Morgan – Yeah it’s kinda fun to see, especially when they’re new to the industry, they just don’t know and it goes from A to Z and so they can be the ones that are too concerned about the logistics and the payments and only this many hours for certain things and then it can go to the polar opposite of them just being too creative and all over the place and you can’t reign them in, so I think that understanding of being able to work off of a timeline and having a certain set amount of time for certain creative aspects is very important. But yeah, so sitting down and being able to chat through all those details beforehand, lets me know a ton about how you operate on the day of, what client that I could place with you, because that’s another thing, I’m not gonna sit there, say Holritz Photography, I’m not gonna bring all 40 of my wedding clients every year to Holritz Photography. Just not all of them are going to be in that, whether it’s a budget situation, whether it’s a style situation, whether it’s just a personality situation. So it’s really important for me to know a lot about my client before I’m able to even recommend the photographer.

Nathan – And I’m client you mentioned something about the budget too because one of the big value ads in our relationship with Soirees was the fact that we went from shooting weddings, we started, I think, well the first wedding I shot was like 250 or 350 bucks, but the first time we started putting price lists together, I think the base wedding package was like six or 800 bucks and it went from that to literally $10,000 for a wedding and you can’t, as you’re increasing your prices, the idea of getting referrals from this past client that you shot a wedding for $1500 for when your prices are now $3000, it just doesn’t work because more than likely, their friends are in the same income bracket, so working with a wedding coordinator who can refer you, just like you said, to the appropriate budget, makes so much sense and that was where we found a big part of the value in the relationship that we had with Soirees.

Morgan – Yeah, it’s fantastic though because your clients in general don’t understand necessarily what photographers do and especially in relation to an actual event day, so they’re gonna come in and they’re either gonna be, one of a few things, budget-minded, so they’re gonna come in and they’re gonna look at your price sheet and they’re gonna say, I can afford package A, B, or C, which unfortunately is not always what’s gonna be best for them, but it’s what they can afford, so that’s what they’re gonna focus on. Or it’s gonna be the idealistic one that’s like, “I want all of these things, I have to have all of them,” but here’s how much money I have to work within. And so you have to figure out how customize that package and make that work for them, so I think that that is a huge thing, where the budget comes into play, is figuring out where they come into play in terms of the income bracket, but also what we need to create for that specific person because there’s plenty of people that you could sit down and sell an album too that is never gonna open it up or that you’re giving your digital files to that’s never gonna print them. So being able to know what and how flexible our photographers are and being able to have that conversation candidly with our clients is very important. I tell all of our photography vendors that it’s something where, I get that you have it all printed out, but if I can come to you, if you’re willing for me to be able to come to you and say, “Okay look, I have this client that I think is going to be “the best style match for you, you guys are gonna get along “so well, you’re gonna gain a best friend out of this, “you’re welcome, but also they only have x amount of dollars “and this is what I need to happen for our timeline,” so can I have an extra hour, can you gift me an engagement shoot, help me out here because it’s gonna be beneficial for you in the long run but maybe they’re just not reaching that income bracket. And so by having those really cool personal relationships that I can come to a client candidly and then come back to a vendor candidly and say, “Okay, work with me here, how do we do this?” It is a huge benefit to everyone, I think. So that’s definitely something to take into consideration.

Nathan – You’re talking about bringing a significant amount of value to the photographer and one of the things that I’ve talked about with photographers is the importance of, in developing a relationship with a wedding coordinator or wedding planner, to figure out ways to add value to that relationship, how can photographers best do that from your perspective?

Morgan – In terms of adding value to our relationship, it’s again being willing to do those things that also highlight our business, so as we’re sitting at the conference table right here, you see all these books piled up, I know that it costs money to create those books, these beautiful canvases on the wall, I know that there is time and effort and money that goes into those, but by being willing to do that, it only helps me be able to sell you even better because even if a client comes in and isn’t even thinking about photography yet because their first stop was the venue and the next stop, the event planner, but they’re sitting there and they’re looking through all these books that we’re talking about, “Oh, this wedding happened here at the venue “you’re interested in, and this so happened to be “photographed by so and so,” and they’re like, “Oh, I love the look of that,” it’s the easiest sell in the entire world, so I turn around, I have pricing already printed out and I say, “We can talk about this, “but it can be flexible with your budget “once we kind of dive into that.” So I think the product side of things and the availability of being able to step outside the box and do fun things like styled shoots with us, again, those things, they do, they cost time and money and resources and we recognize that, but that’s what helps us as a vendor be able to promote you even further. So being willing to do that I think is a huge portion that photographers don’t necessarily, there’s a lot that get it, but there’s a lot that don’t get it.

Nathan – Which I think is a brilliant segue, actually, what are some of the craziest things that you’ve seen from photographers at events, just name one or two things that come to mind, of course we’re not gonna name names but.

Morgan – We will remain nameless. So some of the things, unfortunately, that I have seen, again, I mention the vendor meals which I always think is hilarious, I get that you have to eat, I’m on site probably for at least, whatever your hours are, add five to mine and I tell my staff, bring snacks, you’re not eating all day. You can come in the morning and you can bring your breakfast, you can go to late-night Crystals at two a.m., but you’re not eating all day unless you bring your own snacks because we’re on the go the entire time so I understand that vendors have to eat, I totally get that part, but when you’re standing there, when I’m in the middle of coordinating something or if I’m loading gifts in, taking them out to the car and you’re demanding, “Where is my vendor meal?” Or if I know that the caterer is going to bite your head off if you walk into the kitchen at that point in time when she’s plating up a meal for 350, if I tell you just to hold on a second, don’t pull the diva move on me and just be like, “I demand to eat, it’s in my contract and I have to eat!” That’s happened more often, I have a power bar in my bag, I will bring it to you if you just wait.

Nathan – Be practical, you’re doing a job.

Morgan – Exactly, exactly, so there’s been some diva moments. Other moments have included things like using your personal cameras, iPhones, things like that, to take pictures of your own self.

Nathan – Interesting.

Morgan– I’m not a huge of fan of, hey I’m gonna take a selfie of me in the middle of the dance floor or a video of me on the dance floor, dancing with the guests.

Nathan – So tell me your perspective on this because I think this has become kind of a popular thing to do, at least based on what I’ve seen online.

Morgan – Yeah, it’s different when there’s that personal relationship of like, “Oh we’re gonna step aside “and we’re gonna take a picture to document, “hey I was your wedding photographer, this was so fun, “I love to take selfies,” those are awesome. But when you are physically in the middle of the dance floor, not photographing anybody else on the dance floor but you’re dancing along with the guests or you’re at the bar grabbing a drink, for whatever reason, that just crawls all over me, I just think it has an air of unprofessionalism, I think that it’s taking you, especially for drinking, it’s taking you out of the game, you’re just not as aware of what’s going on around you, so if you’re in the middle of the dance floor, enjoying the party, or if you’re at the bar, enjoying the party, I just don’t think that you are doing the professional job that you were hired for, so I’ve seen a lot of that and it’s unfortunate that it has to go that way and those are the people that I can’t recommend, I can’t trust my clients to them because at what point does that line get drawn.

Nathan – And again, it’s making it about them versus the client focusing on their job there are the photographer.

Morgan – Right, that’s huge for me, attire is another thing.

Nathan – Okay, yeah, talk about that.

Morgan – My girls and I, we’ve always just worn standard black, a lot of the professional photographers I know where standard black, again, it’s a nice outfit, I get that you have to move and bend just like we do, I can’t tell you how many times I’m in a dress but I’m still on my hands and knees underneath somebody’s dress, fixing something, so it happens. But I just think that you’re more neutral colors, you’re blacks, fade into the background, plan on fading into the background. But when you have brightly-colored hair or when you are wearing some ridiculously bright red shirt, to come and photograph somebody’s day, I just think that that really distracts from what’s going on, I think as vendors in general, we should all fade into the background because ultimately, I want my clients to be able to take credit for what happened, I want the mother of the bride to be like, “Oh, thank you so much for complimenting me “on my daughter’s wedding day,” I don’t want it to have to defer to me that it was my event or anything like that.

Nathan – Interesting, I love that.

Morgan – But yeah, so I think that’s really important for photographers to take that into consideration too, ’cause it goes a lot with that professional appearance, I came prepared for the day, it’s not about me, I’m here to service you and let’s do this together. So yeah, I think that’s huge, but I’ve seen a lot of different outfits.

Nathan – I can only imagine. Okay, so let’s kinda flip that and go to the opposite extreme, what are some of the things that you get really excited about, that you see from photographers, that you’re like, “Oh man, we’re tracking together, “this is good,” talk about some of those things.

Morgan – The timeline portion of things is huge for me. So, and that begins even in the pre-planning stages, that’s not even just on the day of, it’s all leading up to it, so a photographer that’s willing to sit down and be flexible with us in creating that timeline is so important because again, your client, if you don’t have an event planner, your client doesn’t necessarily understand how many minutes need to go into a posed family shoot or how many minutes need to go into your bridal party shot and they’re willing to tell you things that might be untruths, “My family’s not that big, “it’s not that big of a deal, we’ll just knock out “maybe 15 minutes for that,” so you as a photographer are going in and thinking, “Okay, so we’ve got 15 minutes “scheduled for posed photography, post-ceremony,” and all of a sudden you see these people crawling out of the woodworks for these giant family pictures, you’re like, okay, 45 minutes later. So I think coming together and making that realistic timeline beforehand and that even goes into your posed shot list which I place so much value on and it wasn’t until probably four or five years ago that I really sat down with some of my local photographers and was like, “Talk to me about this posed shot list, “because a lot of you include it in your information “on the front end that you want them to,” but they don’t really know how to create these posed shot list and they’re getting online and then they’re sending you really irrelevant pieces of material that say things like, “Dress draped over back of chair.” “Bride gazing at groom.” It’s totally irrelevant, they’re gonna get those pictures, it’s like wedding rings, we’re gonna get a picture of your wedding rings, not a problem, but your photographer might not know that your grandmother’s wedding gown lace is embroidered on the inside of your dress or that you have a special piece of something hanging from your bouquet or your groom’s gonna give you a gift of some sort, these are the things that we need to talk about. Also, they don’t know who your Aunt Susan is, so I need to know if Aunt Susan is really important to you, I need to know that she needs to be in a photograph and at what time, pre-ceremony, post-ceremony, how close is she to you? So it was awesome when photographers sat down and explained to me how much time was allotted for things, what was ideal, and then also how to really create and help them create that posed shot list, so I would encourage photographers as well, your client has no idea, they’re just so, “Oh no, we’re gonna hurry to the reception, “we wanna get to the party, my family’s small.” Is it really small, because you’re the one that needs to determine whether it’s large or small for you. Do you have one shooter, do you have three shooters, because that helps you determine that timeline as well. So a photographer that’s gonna come in, be willing to have those conversations with me on the front end and then ultimately sit down with the client and say, “This is what’s realistic.” It is gonna take us 30 minutes to get through all of your bridal party because you want this, that, and the other, or you guys aren’t gonna see each other so it is gonna take this amount of time. And then alternately, on the day of, just letting us kind of corral people and bringing people in is so helpful because it’s a team effort.

Nathan – It’s so helpful to us too, makes it so much easier.

Morgan – Such a team effort at that point in time, so letting us even hold that posed photography shot list and start calling out the names, Johnson family, up here, Smith family, up here, it just makes it go so much smoother on the day of, so I think a lot of those are pre-planning conversations and so remembering to have those and being willing to be flexible on those, we have so many photographers that are like, “Oh no, I’ll just talk to the client about it.” You can, but the client also has zero realistic expectation of what that looks like, so from our perspective and the hundreds of weddings that we’ve done, it’s important that you realize how the day’s gonna go because we’re trying to help you, ultimately, we don’t wanna be tapping you on the shoulder and saying, “You have four minutes, you have three minutes, “you have two more shots, let’s go,” we’re not trying to cut into the creative process necessarily, but at the same time, we got places to be. So I think that that’s where a lot of the discord comes between event planners and photographers, is there’s not that realistic timeline of figuring out, the photographer knows that the sunset is gonna be so incredible at this time but if you don’t communicate that to the event planner and say, “I need to sneak them out “for five minutes from 7:40 to eight,” then there’s this shock of “Okay no, that messes everything “up because that’s cake-cutting,” so talk to us about being flexible, just as event planners are extremely flexible, there are times that are on a timeline, but it’s just a guideline of how the day’s gonna go, but we like to know those specific things and kinda what your likes are and what your special things, ’cause each photographer has this special little thing that they like to do, so here in Chattanooga, if it’s running from the Hunter Art Museum over to the Blue Walking Bridge to get that iconic shot, I know that that’s gonna take you 18 minutes to do, so you need to tell me that so that I can make time and so that your guests aren’t turning around and wondering, “Where’d the couple go? “What’s supposed to be happening?” So that’s huge for me, so that works really well when we’ve pre-planned all of those things.

Nathan – Communication.

Morgan – It’s huge.

Nathan – I think you can really just sum it up with communication.

Morgan – Exactly, it’s so huge, but it might take you an extra meeting or an extra hour or a phone call with your event planner to sit down and discuss all those things, but you being realistic in what you want and them being realistic in what their client needs and coming together with that happy medium is huge.

Nathan – And it only further bolsters the relationship, which can only be good for both businesses, so that’s really awesome. This has been an incredible conversation, such a massive value add to the wedding photographers listening in, I really can’t thank you enough for making time to sit down and do this, this is awesome. Where can everybody find out more, for the brides to be as well as the photographers, where can they find out more about your business online?

Morgan – Absolutely, head over to our website, which is Soireesonline.com, it’s got a link there directly to where you can send us messages with any questions that you have, we have active social media accounts as well, so Facebook, Instagram, at Soirees Event Planning, so yeah, come check us out.

Nathan – This is so great, thank you so much, Morgan, for doing this, I can’t thank you enough, this has been awesome. Thanks so much for listening to the Bokeh podcast. Please let us know what you thought by leaving us a review in iTunes. If you’d like to hear a particular photographer or entrepreneur in a future episode, don’t hesitate to email me, nathan@photographersedit.com. The Bokeh podcast is brought to you by Photographer’s Edit, custom post-production for the wedding and portrait photographer. Visit photographersedit.com.

 

 

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