If there's one thing Pennsylvania-based wedding photojournalist Mary Steinbacher gets more compliments about than anything else (other than "I love your photos"), it's staying in touch with her clients. "I have been thanked by so many people for getting back to them so fast. But I think it's all about making things easier for the client. The fewer steps they have to take, the better."
Citing an article she recently read in travelgirl: "The average wedding takes 250 hours to plan." Making the bride's life easier doesn't take nearly that long. "The client just needs to know I'm here and I'm ready," she says. "When I travel to a destination wedding, I arrive a day or two early and let them know I'm there. I stay at Marriott hotels and never worry about email access."
Destination weddings are a major part of Steinbacher's business. She works throughout Pennsylvania (many of her weddings are in the Philadelphia area) and also in Wyoming.
"I love Wyoming—the Tetons and the amazing connection between land and sky. I also love Cancun and the magic of Mexico. It's the combination of loving wedding photography and having the ability to capture the location as a landscape photographer would that clients seem to sense."
Steinbacher isn't just talking about having a physical connection to her clients. Emotionally bonding to the time and place and finding a way to visually capture the essence of the moment is her ultimate goal in shooting a wedding.
"There is such emotion, from the big laughs to the subtle nuances of a tilted head or a soft smile. Connecting and capturing those feelings is what I seek. "The Art of Life," as my slogan goes. A connection of place and environment could be a backdrop as big as an ocean or the Tetons, or simply a walkway or lovely room."
The initial "hookup" with clients usually takes place via email, because many clients find her through her website and blog (www.mary
steinbacher.com). Her extensive website is handled by a webmaster and includes sub-sites for both her wedding and landscape/travel photographs.
"It's my number-one marketing tool. It's my portfolio, shared work and visual view of my style." Very often, clients are referred to her, so they already know her work, style, and ethics. The relationship typically continues via email. "You have to dial in to the client. Couples have busy lives, and email is perhaps their main way of communicating. I'm fine with that interchange. It's actually fun, and we often become writing friends long before the wedding day."
A seamless, easy combination of photojournalism and an unobtrusive, easygoing manner of shooting are among the other reasons clients are drawn to her. "The extra steps I'll take for a photo or memory bring clients to me. For example, in January, I shot a sunrise over the Caribbean Sea so the couple from Canada would have a special sunrise. I try to do this often depending on the location; it's a gift of light."
For the next 50 years, the couple will view that image and be unable to put it away. That is what Steinbacher wants for her clients: "photos that are so emotionally charged, you feel as though you are still there and can never forget."
Products That Make a Difference
Ask Steinbacher for the one product that makes her the most productive and she just can't do it. She loves all her major product selections and tells us why.
"Pictage is awesome. It presents a full online gallery and proof books. The site makes things easier for me and for the clients. They can have family and friends order directly from Pictage and I make money on the sale."
Canon digital cameras are a profit booster for Steinbacher. "Canon is wonderful. I just shipped a camera back to them because I can't get the dust out. That camera will be back to me by Friday. You can't beat it."