Being attentive to clients and anticipating their needs can make a world of difference to a bridal couple planning their big day. Cory Parris, of Cory Parris Photography in Seattle, Washington, knows there is no better way to operate a successful business than to have clients appreciate, respect, and promote you.
“Around 65 percent of my business this year came from referrals from clients, other photographers, and other wedding professionals,” he says.
Parris fosters relationships with his peers, as well. “I try to get to know other wedding photographers and vendors in my area and beyond. These friendships not only provide the water-cooler camaraderie that is lacking for independent operators, but also help business. I love the idea that the people I enjoy being around are also good for business.”
Obtaining referrals is just the beginning. Photographers also have to impress prospective clients with their business savvy. That’s where Parris’ second-most important marketing tool comes in: his website.
“I take a lot of pride in the way I present my work. I believe my website does an excellent job of making that initial presentation. You only get one chance to make a first impression, so take full advantage of the opportunity with music and photography that draws in visitors and activates their emotions.”
When they’re starting out, many photographers—Parris included—think they just need to put out a shingle and people will come rushing to them. Unfortunately, that’s not the way it usually works.
“You have to find your photographic self, display it in a compelling way, let potential clients know you exist, and work to create extraordinary happiness when those prospects become clients.”
Beyond that, running a successful business means generating a profit.
“Overspending on equipment, advertising, studio space, or anything else makes it that much harder to turn a profit and pay yourself a salary,” Parris says.
It’s not surprising then that Parris is extremely selective about his equipment.
“My cameras—Canon EOS 30D, 20D, and 10D—are all great investments. They work quickly and consistently to capture images in much lower light than I could capture with film. I pretty much stay with high 1600 ISO, with or without flash.” While he prefers not to use flash, he does when the available light isn’t suitable. In a reception hall with overhead lighting, for example, Parris uses flash—mostly camera-mounted—to change the character of the light so that it is coming from the side, bounced off a wall, rather than from overhead lighting.
“It’s very important to me that lighting retain the character of the environment. So when I do use flash, I take care to balance it with the available light,” he explains. “This may seem contradictory, but when we are talking to someone during a wedding and the lighting makes dark pits in their eyes, we generally don’t notice. In photographs, however, it’s much more noticeable. I tweak the lighting so it looks natural, as well as flattering.”
Most photographers who shoot in a similar style prefer low-key processing techniques that mimic the color and black-and-white tones of traditional film photographers. Says Parris, “I blend a traditional photojournalist’s eye with the amazing post-processing techniques that allow digital photographers to create awesome color that can add mood and feeling within an image,” he says.
Love is in the Air
A self-described creator of emotional photostories, Parris captures the events of the day with drama and detail.
“I’m fascinated by the ability of the human face to portray so many emotions. This is what drew me to photojournalism when I was in college and when I interned at The Herald, a daily newspaper in Everett, Washington. The reality of a wedding is beautiful—two people making a lifelong commitment out of love. No embellishment is necessary, just a way to record and find the moments that emphasize the beauty.”