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Shooting non-repeatable events: weddings, recitals, plays, performances...


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Old September 6th, 2010, 06:13 AM   #1
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What do you do with extra Bookings??

Hi All

For some reason the first Saturday of the month during our busy season is always the most popular and I often book those days 12 months or more in advance. However, that doesn't stop people posting a booking enquiry on my website (despite the fact I have an up to date calendar for them to see with booked days in bright red!!)

I just turned away the 4th bride wanting the 2nd October and the 5th one who wanted the 6th November 2010!! I always feel bad that I have to turn away business but seriously I have no one that I can truly refer extra booking to that I am 100% happy with!!! If they totally mess up a wedding I have referred to them it might just come back in my face!!! (It actually did happen once too where the videographer managed to lose not only the ceremony footage but most of the speeches too!!... if that bride ever remembered that I was the "referrer" it could have done a lot of damage!!)

What do you do when you get all these brides wanting a day you have already booked?????

Chris
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Old September 6th, 2010, 10:04 AM   #2
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You might create a short list of those you feel are competent, and let the customer choose somone else on their own. You could make it clear that these companies don't have your personal endorsement, and that placement on your 'list' only means that their reputation in the industry is such that they might be worth consideration. In my case, I usually also tell them that I've not seen the finished product of each of these companies, so I can't judge the quality...anyway, it's just an idea!
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Old September 6th, 2010, 02:02 PM   #3
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Chris, sorry my friend this is a no-brainer. Accept that you can only do one a day the way you want to and let those who come late accept second best. Unless you want to create a studio and can successfully employ freelancers who'll work your way and not try to steal your business and reputation, just be grateful that you've got one each day

It's hard to earn a good reputation and yet so easy to lose one even by association.

The fact they've not properly understood or bothered to check your availability is down to them, not you.

If there's any lesson to be learned maybe it's that you are under pricing yourself. It's a decision that takes resilience and guts (which is why few ever take it) but most established wedding photogs and video people could benefit from putting up their prices by 40% year-on-year.

They'd have to lose 40% of last year's business before they failed to be ahead, doing less work for more pay.

Ours are going up by almost 30% in 2011 - my guess is that it's going to be a tough year so if we're going to be doing less work at least we'll be earning more per job, even after we've costed in the bunch of extra value things we've planned..
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Old September 6th, 2010, 07:52 PM   #4
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Thanks Guys

In fact while I was reading your responses I had another bride wanting to book the 6th November (which I originally booked in 2008!!!!)
I guess the standard "regret" email is about all one can do. I am loathe to even suggest a videographer and since the bride found me she should certainly be able to find other operators just as easy!! That way I am not involved and if the shoot goes badly the refferal never came from me!!

Philip, wow 40% is quite a jump!! Is that normal?? I went up a mere 10% in August as September here is the start of the season. I must admit I admire your courage!! Photogs here charge a lot more than we do but over here just a simple coffee table book costs the same as my entire video shoot so they have a lot heavier expenses.

I guess I should be pleased that I'm "in demand" even if I cannot help them find a videographer!!

Chris
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Old September 6th, 2010, 08:43 PM   #5
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Chris, my 40% suggestion came about when J my photographer friend was complaining how, since the demise of film, his workload had increased exponentially without any increase in income.

Working in a large centre like Manchester which in those days had at least three professional processing houses, he would drop the exposed rolls off on Saturday evening, on Sunday or first thing on Monday morning and pickup the proofs a few hours later.

Once the clients had selected their pictures, he'd give the frame numbers and print sizes to the lab. All the grading, colour balancing, retouching and tweaking was done by the boys in the labs. These exceptionally gifted men (and women) were masters at dodging and burning, masters of getting things right first time borne of years of practice - the typesetters of the photo image world.

The cost of the labs (which often worked a 24-hour shift pattern to meet the demands of the other big photographic print producers, the catalogues many of which - including the biggest - were based in Manchester) came nowhere close to the cost of the time the photographer now has to put in himself.

With a young family come to him late in life, time was critical for him. He was already established in his business, had a good reputation and hence my suggestion that he take the plunge and put up his prices by 40% - not a magic figure, merely a significant one.

It wasn't so large that it would push him out of contention so the gamble that he'd not lose more than 40% of his custom (in other words his income would remain the same which would satisfy him) was a reasonable one.

I'm not presenting myself as any sort of economic guru (you know well that I'm a guru of nothing!) but as long as the business in which we work has an element of conspicuous consumption above it (and don't we all envy those who've found the way to be there?), then I truly believe it is perfectly possible and reasonable that we should seek to improve our lot, year on year. After all, every union seeks to negotiate above-inflation annual increases for its members and in the industrialised world, unionised labour only has to even consider inflation-only increases at times of crisis.

But in reality, how many photographers and video/film people not working for a salary regularly enjoy that sort of increase?

I have no idea of your business model but I bet 10% barely covers your total increase in business costs taking into account equipment depreciation, maintenance, insurance, fuel etc. In many ways your 10% needs more guts than the 40% in my model because in your model you cannot afford to lose anything from your your business.
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Old September 6th, 2010, 11:39 PM   #6
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Hi Philip

Thanks for all that info.
Has my work load increased in 2010?? I doubt it but I can see where photogs might have extra expenses or huge amounts of unpaid time.

Seriously my overheads haven't increased in 2010..fuel still costs the same and my other expenses have actually dropped a bit due to no having to buy bucketloads of MiniDV tapes.

My enquiry rate has increased quite a lot but so far overall I have roughly the same amount of bookings as I had last start of season...it's just that the 2011 dates have found different months to prove popular. Feb was quiet last season and virtually full this coming season!!

Just got another bride wanting 6th November..it would be nice to have 12 hands and 6 cameras in our busy months!!

Chris
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Old September 7th, 2010, 02:43 PM   #7
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If this was happening for more than just a few select days, I would say your pricing would not be in line with your reputation or the market. But as you state Chris, it's just a couple of days so far. It's frustrating to see lost opportunities, but hardly worth looking to capture those lost opportunities with additional people/gear.

Something to possibly consider, a tiered pricing for prime season, and off prime or some such arrangement. Hotels have been doing it for years, might be time to consider that for your business as well.
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Old September 7th, 2010, 08:57 PM   #8
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Chris, why not hire freelancers? Charge less for your freelancers because their work is not as good as yours. The bride is going to end up hiring someone not as good as you anyway. Put that money in your own pocket.
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Old September 7th, 2010, 11:16 PM   #9
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Thanks Guys

The problem with freelancers is are they reliable??? can they produce decent footage??? Chip is already tearing his hair out with an assistant who is obviously not producing the results he expects.

At least I KNOW that I will turn up for a job even if I have flu!! A freelancer could quite easily say "Sorry I'm ill!!!" Guess if I can find someone with the same passion as me for weddings it's certainly worth looking at!!

Maybe an online ad to see if I can spot any freelancers that are worth looking at and working with ??

The advice is much appreciated

Chris
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Old September 8th, 2010, 03:23 AM   #10
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Chris, you know me well enough to know that I would regard Michael's suggestion as absolutely wrong. You've already pointed up some of the negatives, add to those the fact that if they are any good they'll be wanting to steal your business anyway.

The only way basis on which to employ people is with a clear, enforceable contract with a clause which prevents them from working on your turf for a period of time after leaving you.

I'm very pleased with the number of people who started in our company over the past 30 years and who have gone on to much greater things, but what they took from us and often developed were our techniques, our ethos and our attitudes, never our clients.
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Old September 8th, 2010, 03:51 AM   #11
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Chris, I have to say that your pricing is one of the cheapest I've seen in our area (and you still throw some promo specials too!). With that much skill and experience under your belts, I think you deserve to be paid more IMHO.

If I'm getting married in Perth I'll probably won't say this, but since I'm getting married overseas; I think you are truly entitled to increase your price quite drastically and even then I'm confident you won't lose clients. :)
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Old September 8th, 2010, 04:13 AM   #12
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During my first years I was fortunate to be able to draw on students from my college to assist and my idea (hope) was to get one or some of them to be able to cover weddings on their own but that never came to be for various reasons.
By my third year in weddings I was in this situation where I would be getting calls for dates already booked. From a business point of view as well as being the sort of person who like to help where I can I felt unhappy having to turn people away. So I scoured the area (word of mouth and wanted ads) to find interested people with suitable kit to shoot on my behalf and I would do the editing. That turned out to be a disaster both with commitment and with ability. One returned with no sound (battery in his mic had gone and he hadn't monitored), one seemed to have a tripod with one short leg (almost every shot was on a 15 degree slope).
Others would be non-committal when the booking was a year or more in advance and they hadn't booked their holiday; one was working with a competitor and playing us off against each other, as well as making his own approaches to guests on the day touting for future work for himself. I did consider asking friends (none volunteered) but thought that might be a quick way of loosing them as friends if things went wrong.
I realised that I was going to quickly loose the reputation for good work that I had built up.

After that I would just turn away enquiries and when asked if I could recommend anyone I would truthfully tell enquirers that I hadn't seen any of my competitors work so I would suggest that they ask to see some and make their own mind up. This wasn't such a problem for new cold enquiries but those I did feel unhappy about were the ones from family or friends of previous clients, I would have liked to be a bit more helpful for them.

I then decided that I would make efforts to find out what others in the area we offering so started to contact those that I knew about. Most either didn't respond or wondered what my angle was until I was fortunate enough to meet someone in a nearby city (one I didn't actively promote in). We had very similar approach, level of equipment and quality of outcome and customer service. We hit it off straight away both as we both had the same concern over turning away enquires originating from previous work. We spent some time at each others studio so we were both comfortable with the products each was producing so we agreed that rather than work on either's behalf, or charge each other for referrals (as many photographers and other wedding service suppliers would do). We would pass the enquirer directly on.

That was over 12 years ago and we have worked this way every since, as well as co-operating on large commissions together. During that time we have found a few others who have fitted into our ethos which has enlarged our pool for referral and also given us some sense of security in the event of one not being able to attend an event (this has happened just twice)

I think if you are in the position where you have a full and constant work supply (weddings can have a very patchy demand - some weeks with none others with two or three) and not all with multiple enquires it may be possible to contract someone on an exclusive basis, not many people are happy to give you their full commitment if you only require them on an ad-hoc basis.

Last edited by George Kilroy; September 8th, 2010 at 06:16 AM.
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Old September 8th, 2010, 04:47 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Harding View Post
........Chip is already tearing his hair out with an assistant who is obviously not producing the results he expects........
Chris
But Chris.... you forgot to mention how CUTE she is !!!!

I completely agree though. Michella tries really hard and has a ton of promise. But not being behind the cam on a regular basis, and knowing each other perfectly yet, as you would want from someone you are sending out solo, it's a crap shoot as to what is coming back.

The days you mention Chris, as busy as they must be, even the mediocre freelancers are going to be booked for that day as brides scramble to find someone.

I still think a tiered pricing structure might be in order. If you come here on the weekend of a Green Bay Packer home NFL game, every hotel in town is going to nail you for two nights at their highest rate, or you aren't getting a room. There are no single night bookings those weekends, and every hotel is full.
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Old September 8th, 2010, 05:36 AM   #14
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I don't think that wedding DVD pricing compares with that of hotel rooms. A wedding DVD is still a discretionary spend whereas if you have to overnight in a city away from home on an event day you need a room and will have little choice in what you'll be asked to pay.

Most wedding enquiries arrive via one of three route:
directly from a previous client, family or friend.
from a professional referral such as a photographer or other wedding service provider
cold from advertising, promotional event or website.

In the first instance your work is already sold and price is not usually an issue, you could almost ask what you want. If all of our work was from this source life would be wonderful and you could increase year on year without a problem.
The second is maybe not quite so certain. A professional recommendation will carry weight and an expectation of a price level, depending on the referrer. With this type they may still be in the "looking around" stage so will be looking for best value (note I say value not price) so you may have a good chance to progress beyond the enquiry and show them your work.
The third almost always will lead with a price enquiry, you may never even get a chance to show them any work. Almost every cold enquiry I've had this year starts with "How much do you charge for a DVD?" or "We don't have much to spend on DVD, how much do you charge?". Trying to get further may not be possible if you are just one on a list they are contacting.

Add to this the very uncertainty of how your enquiries will fall. I too have dates that repeat but I also have dates, even high season dates, that I never get a call on.

Finding the correct pricing model may be the most difficult part of the business. Advice is useful but in the end we have to operate on the basis of what our own particular market will bear. Too high and you'll loose to many, too low and you won't last long or will feel exploited and undervalued. Especially when they want to pay less for the DVD than they do for a cake, or balloons.

Last edited by George Kilroy; September 8th, 2010 at 06:17 AM.
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Old September 8th, 2010, 06:15 AM   #15
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Hi Guys

The advice is always appreciated ...just remember that I'm not looking for bookings at all..in fact it just saddens me to have to turn away brides (but then again it's their fault for not booking early!!!)

I should really be happy (pricing aside) that I have to turn away clients!!! Freelancers would more than likely be more trouble than they are worth and as already mentioned could quite easily end up taking away your business!!

Pricing will increase later..at the moment I'm new in the Perth market as the majority of my weddings shot over the last 20 years were not here...this is only my 3rd season coming up and as I get established so will my prices. Thanks Philip ..your advice to always respected ...but you know that already!!

Finally yes what Chip's assistant loses in camera skills she makes up for in looks...I received a glamour photo of her draped over a vehicle with Chip's comment ...this is my new camera assistant!!!

Chris
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