For the most part I've gotten out of the business. At least business as usual. And I'm doing better than I ever did.
I've closed my studio, fired the receptionist, stopped Yellow Pages advertising, quit going to bridal shows, stopped sending brochures, keeping mailing lists, making sales calls, and selling packages. I'm doing 50 weddings a year, all over the world, and making more now than I ever did.
My magic formula? I've moved my sales efforts to the Internet. This old dog has learned some new tricks. I have three websites: one for San Francisco (www.andypark.com), one for Denver and the Rocky Mountains (www.andypark.org), and one under construction for elsewhere (www.andypark.net).
These websites, identical except for their home pages, contain complete information about my wedding services, including prices, references for every client, and access to at least 10 weddings. By the time a bride contacts me, usually via email, she has very few questions and the sale has generally been made. And if she has seen my website and doesn't like what I offer, we don't waste each other's time.
Since I generally don't meet the bride and groom until their wedding day, I usually have to walk into a room of half-clothed ladies and ask, "Which one of you is the bride?" This isn't how most photographers operate, but it works for my clients and my business.
My pricing is also controversial. I only charge enough up front to pay for time and expenses, plus a 100 percent markup. The real profit comes from after sales, such as albums, prints, and family orders.
Here's a closer look at how the Internet has helped make my business profitable and efficient. . .
• My websites, which I built and maintain, come up near the top of any search engine. Try inputting "San Francisco Wedding Photography" or "Denver Wedding Photography" on a search engine and you'll see.
• I use Collages.net, which is about the greatest sales tool I've ever seen.
• Brides can book me online, by mail, or carrier pigeon. When payment arrives, the date is booked. A contract can be completed online.
• When I shoot the wedding I stay as unobtrusive as possible. Of course, I also shoot the posed family shots to keep Mom happy.
• I use three Nikon D-70 cameras with SB-800 flashes on Stroboframe. I keep a Nikon F-100 in the trunk of my car as backup.
• At the reception, I collect emails, with my clients permission and at their request, and notify them when the wedding is online. These orders account for thousands of dollars in reprints.
• Weddings are posted within 48 hours. As orders come in, I use the lab partner FTP of Collages.net. Marin Film Works does most of my order fulfillment and CPQ Digital Imaging in Tennessee makes large canvas prints.
• I collect 100 images, in sequence, from the client and FTP them to GraphiStudios in Italy for the album. After a PDF file with the suggested design comes back, the bride tweaks and approves it, and the album goes into production.