Documenting the story of the wedding day is what many photojournalists are doing today. David Jay views his job as a creator and a reporter (as one of his mentors, Denis Reggie, would put it) and takes the storytelling one step further. He wants people to enjoy the day and remember it—as even better than it was!
"I want to help my clients remember having the wedding of their dreams. And if that means moving a dress or a pair of shoes to make a better picture or telling some jokes to ease the tension, then I have no problem doing that. I definitely shoot with a journalistic philosophy and style, but my client's wedding experience and memories are more important than the title."
Jay never went to photography school or took a business course, but he fits all the puzzle pieces together to make couples very happy with their images. "I tell my clients the truth. I help them in ways that sometimes don't help me, and I have experienced a pretty amazing response to living and working with a realization that there is more to life than just closing deals." Another mentor, Mike Colón, is his inspiration to that end.
His likeability is probably what draws couples to him in the first place. Jay quotes Harry Beckwith's book What Clients Love (Warner Business Books, 2003): "People don't pay you for what you do—they pay you for who you are."
Jay enlisted the help of website designer and friend Todd Watson to facilitate an easy-to-use site for long-distance clients. Watson created a video-driven website that allows clients to log on and essentially "meet" Jay and, in a small way, get to know him without meeting or even talking on the phone. "I believe clients are more concerned with who I am than in what sort of picture I am going to take, so if I can give them a good piece of that on the web, it'll save time in the long run."
After the initial inquiry and date availability email, clients usually send a date reservation fee without the meet-and-greet or chat. "I think this is able to happen because I treated my initial clients incredibly well and they know they can trust me, so they pass my name along and insist that their friends use me. Even though I think I'm a pretty good guy, I still find that it's incredibly difficult to sell myself—so I let others do it!"
Case in point: A bride's mother called from Chicago and booked a $14,000-plus package on the spot simply because a friend of a friend had seen a slideshow Jay had done and told them they should hire him.
And all this comes from a guy who plans on as little pre-wedding communication as possible. "Meeting in person takes a lot of time away from both of us. If I can develop a ‘relationship' with them through other more efficient tools, such as my website (www.davidjay.com) and my forum (www.opensourcephoto.net), I will gladly use that method in place of a personal meeting…and I'm finding that they would, too!
"Personal meetings happen as a means to develop trust, and because all of my clients come as referrals from their closest family and friends, I really don't need to do or say much for them to trust me."
His album process is also streamlined and hands-off. "The process works because we work with the best online lab in the world—Pictage—and the best album company in the world—Queensberry. My clients save the 50 to 100 pictures that they want in their album into a folder right on Pictage's website. Then Pictage FTP's those pictures back to me and we burn them onto a CD. Queensberry then sends a private courier to our door to pick up the CD and emails us a QuickTime file of the design a week or two later. We send this on to our client—they love it, Queensberry makes the album and ships it to us, and we pass it along to our client. The whole process is done with less than 10 minutes of work on our part."
A Canon shooter, Jay is able to shoot more freely and spend more time and energy focusing on clients rather than on equipment. "Canon has created cameras that function exactly the way a wedding photographer needs them to: with speed, reliability, and flexibility to consistently give our clients a quality product."
Jay gives the Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II a gold star for performance and can't wait to test drive his new EOS-1D Mark IIn. "I always shoot with Canon's newest professional camera, and my Mark IIns have just come in, so I'm eager to try them out and stick my Mark II's on eBay! Those cameras were made for us wedding folk—there isn't a camera in the world that suits a wedding photographer better than this."
Jay went digital as soon as the Canon D60 came out and hasn't picked up a film camera since. The reason: speed sells. "Being able to present our work to our clients immediately is essential because we are in an industry where people want things yesterday."
As for the quality argument, Jay says, "If you could see the 75-inch-wide print in my studio, you'd see that Canon wins again."