(Editor's note: This post was a collaboration between WeddingIQ's founder, Jennifer Reitmeyer, and co-editor Kyle Bergner.)
One of the most common complaints we hear from wedding industry colleagues is that they find it difficult to market themselves without relying on images from professional photographers. It was one of the excuses thrown around in the #weddingphotogate conflict we wrote about on Wednesday, and it's the topic of many of the anonymous rants we receive.
We've written before about how to go about requesting (and properly using) professional photos,both here on our blog and on Jen's monthly article for WeddingWire's Education Center.We're also speaking on this topic at The Planners' Suite Conference in January.
We stand by our advice, and our belief that photographers aren't obligated to provide images upon request (or, especially, on demand), even when it would make sense to do so from a relationship-building perspective. Still, given that it's such a challenge for so many vendors, we decided it was worth offering some tips for how wedding vendors can market themselves without requiring the use of professional photos.
Here are 5 ways to take control of your own social media and marketing promotion:
1. Get comfortable with amateur photos. NO, we're not advocating using these in your print ads, on your website or in a brochure. However, iPhone and point-and-shoot snaps are totally legit for social media, where the entire point is to show off where you are, whom you're with and what you're doing. Posting a quick image from your weddings gives your followers an idea of the breadth of your service area and the kinds of venues and vendors you work with. Sharing images from networking events, social gatherings, your own studio or office, and fun behind-the-scenes looks at your team's activities also give people an opportunity to connect with you.(Bonus: tagging the people and companies in your photos can help build your following,and is just a decent thing to do.)
2. Create your own mini photo studio. This is a great option for wedding vendors who produce something (floral designs, cakes, invitation suites, jewelry,accessories) in their own place of business before delivering the finished product. If you have a tabletop or nice floor and a blank wall, you’re in business. Natural light is easiest to work with, so position yourself with a window to the side or slightly behind but not shining directly on the subject. If it’s too direct or bright, hang a white sheet or other translucent white material over the window to soften the light. Turn off your flash and any lights in the room and photograph with your phone or point-and-shoot. This is exactly how Kyle photographs all her wedding albums before she sends them to clients.No kidding - sometimes she doesn't even use her professional camera. Most of the time, she's photographing on her dining room table or a shelf in her bedroom. (For another perspective, check out how a vendor worked with a photographer friend to build a "real" studio right on her desktop, in this post on The Garter Girl's blog. Pretty cool!)
3. Become tag-happy. Don't go crazy, of course, but tagging other vendors and colleagues on social media is a great way to promote that you're excited to work with them, to acknowledge their contributions to the success of your events, and to stay in contact between events. Like many businesses, Jen's DJ company posts vendor shout-outs for the upcoming weekend's weddings - they've been doing since at least 2011, and it's been a big success. (Just make sure you're tagging people/businesses for legitimate reasons so you don't come across like those weird MLM-scheme fly-bys on Instagram!)
4. Focus on non-visual ways to self-promote. Obviously, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ are perfectly appropriate platform for text-only statuses. Consider sharing your recent reviews, awards and accolades, media mentions, new client bookings, tips and advice for engaged couples, upcoming wedding shows or other promotional events, and general commentary. For visual platforms like Instagram and Pinterest, remember you can use sites/apps like Canva, WordSwag and InstaQuote to create your own graphics with custom text. Finally, ensure you're making the most of your blog - it's a great opportunity to showcase all of your own services and successes, as well as showcase other vendors you admire.
5. Share and share alike. Even if you post to social media or your blog very rarely, there's a real marketing and networking benefit to interacting with other's comments. Liking/favoriting, leaving comments, sharing/retweeting/repinning - it's a great way to show others you are interested in them and their businesses, with no photos required.
As a final note...we completely understand how powerful and effective professional images are when it comes to marketing. That said, it would probably benefit us all to practice being patient - the truth is, it's extremely rare that a wedding or event is truly "breaking news," wherein posting an image right away is really all that important. The fact that many companies, ours included, post #flashbackfriday-style images of weddings from years past, and that those images are just as well-received as the most recent ones, is a testament to the fact that weddings are generally pretty evergreen. While you wait for professional images to be edited and delivered, use that opportunity to exercise your creativity and find other ways to fill in the gaps in your marketing. You'll end up with a more interesting, balanced social media presence, and enhanced connections with others in your field.