Putting Their Hearts Into It Cotton and Pierce
Wedding Images With Friendship
TEXT BY SUSAN SCHECK
IMAGES BY BLEU COTTON & ALISON PIERCE
Building relationships is what it's all about with Bleu Cotton
and Alison Pierce. From the professional and family relationships
that have sculpted them into the shooters they are, to the client
relationships that sustain their thriving Costa Mesa, California,
business, they are both "people" people—and wouldn't have it
any other way.
The soon-to-be husband and wife work weddings as a team most of the time, at their clients' request. Often, they become friendly with their clients, to the point of socializing with them months before the wedding. This establishes a rapport that helps them capture the couple's unique rhythm on the big day.
MASTERS OF THE SOFT SELL
As one might expect, this client-centered focus garners lots of word-of-mouth business for Cotton and Pierce. "We treat clients as they would want to be treated and always take care of them and fix their problems. So they keep sending us their friends."
But the couple's natural marketing efforts don't end there.
"We put irons in lots of different places," Cotton explains. "We develop relationships from the heart with different people in the industry—florists, DJs, and so on—so everyone's a winner."
Attending industry functions and other networking activities is a great way to become known, Pierce says. The couple socializes with fellow shooters, swapping stories and relieving the stresses of life in photography. "We reassure each other that we're normal," laughs Pierce.
Cotton and Pierce get many contacts as well from their website, business cards, and a few magazine ads. Although the latter is expensive and not a major source of business, it does increase their exposure.
"We want the bride to have heard our name three times before she even walks in the door," says Pierce.
Apparently, their efforts are paying off handsomely. Cotton and Pierce will soon move into their new 1,700-sq.-ft. studio in Costa Mesa, described as being "like the Taj Mahal." It has a gallery, three offices, a bridal suite, and a huge courtyard. Next year, they'll begin giving classes in this location.
MASTER OF MAGICAL LIGHT
Cotton is most adept at posing subjects in natural light, and believes this is where most wedding photojournalists fall short.
"Many photojournalistic photographers don't have the ability to balance poses. People want candids, and still want to see themselves in good light, but many shots are taken in dark areas. I put people in great light; the pictures have great expression, as well as a photojournalistic style.
"I try to find soft lighting—weddings are a magical time and require magical light. I stay away from shadows or harsh light and use lots of window and doorway lighting. As the light comes through, I use a reflector and bounce more light off the back. Expression and body position are most important, and the light bouncing up into the eyes. If the soul is not there, all the other stuff doesn't matter."
Cotton and Pierce have gone all digital for weddings now (see Studio Photography & Design's June Wedding Tips, p. 14), and have even brought their retouching in-house since they've made the switch. A part-time Photoshop pro does all their retouching work on-screen. If Cotton and Pierce approve the job, it's just click
For more images,
Bleu Cotton and Alison Pierce are getting married November 9,
2002, in a venue inspired by one of their clients. Pierce recalls
how the idea was born: