Text By Alice B. Miller • Images By Mike Colon
Wedding photographer Mike Colon likes to keep things natural. "Have fun, be you" declares his fashionable Flash website. That's part of the reason he's so awesome at capturing the spirit of his couples and the bare emotions of their big day.
There's elation in Colon's images that comes from within him. "I love shooting weddings because there's so much positive energy to capture," he says. "Everywhere you look there's something fun and happy to shoot. I'm pretty sure that I smile almost the whole time I'm shooting, although you might catch me with a tear during an emotional ceremony. It means a great deal to me that my clients will keep my images and albums in their family forever."
From the moment a couple becomes a client, he works to kindle a relationship with them.
"The main reason I include an engagement session in every package is to help me get to know them, and to build their confidence in me before the wedding day."
The images throughout this article illustrate exquisitely the best of Colon.
Going digital was a natural progression for him, as it offered so many advantages like reproduction quality, image preview, and a powerful workflow solution. "I've been shooting 100 percent digitally with my D1x, and I would never dream of shooting film again."
"I no longer have to number and store negatives and dig them up every time someone orders a print. My lab, Pictage, automatically handles all print orders and ships them directly to my clients."
With his album designer, La-vie Albums, he retouches selected images, burns a CD, and sends it to his rep in Santa Monica. La-vie oversees the entire album design and production. When the album arrives, he just calls the bride.
Digital also minimizes the amount of equipment Colon has to travel with for domestic and international weddings. "I bought a super-slim tripod that I take when I fly that fits into my suitcase in between my clothes," he explains. "An added benefit of traveling with digital is that you don't have to worry about your film being destroyed by the scanners in the airports. They won't affect CompactFlash cards."
One logistics lesson he's learned from traveling is to take into consideration where your layovers are and to check the weather conditions there. A few months ago, on a layover in Vancouver, he had to wait 10 hours for a snowstorm to pass. Fortunately, no weddings were scheduled for that day.
The Web and Watabe
Staying in touch, in-country or out, is a must, so he forwards his office line to a world phone to remain reachable for existing clients and prospective clients. He travels everywhere with his laptop to respond to emails promptly. Adds Colon, "I usually connect to the Internet from my hotel room or a local Internet café. If necessary, I can hook up my cell phone to my laptop for a wireless connection."
Preferring to forge his own trail, Colon doesn't spend time looking over his shoulder at what the competition is up to. "I've always believed that great images will set you apart from your competition. I try to select images for my ads, website, and publications that evoke an emotion in the viewer and give them a lasting impression. I don't try to please everyone. I just stay focused on my target marketdiscerning brides who demand the highest quality and are willing to pay for it."
Averaging some 25 to 30 weddings a year, Colon markets his studio through magazine editorials and advertisements, word of mouth, as well as his website, www.mikecolon.com, which has played a big part in his success.
"My revamped website, which went live on January 10, is built completely with Flash. It gives viewers the advantage of sitting back to view dissolving photo montages, examples of engagement sessions and family portraits, and the latest addition: streaming video of me at a real wedding."
The site is also a powerful time-saver, taking the place of costly, labor-intensive brochures, price lists, mailings, and press kits. It provides potential clients with details on his studio and style, gives current clients easy access to their online proofs, and streamlines the pre-qualification process.
"My wife Julie and I work as a team to stay on top of things and meet deadlines for our clients," says Colon. "We like to keep our staff small, but highly trained for efficiency. I designed my own job tracking software to keep track of our orders and job progress."