This year has been incredibly blessed for my photography business. I have shot more weddings this year than any of my years before combined! That's huge and makes me feel so much gratitude to my Father in Heaven who knows it was needed and who also knows I love getting to do that!
Despite my success, my husband encouraged me to do a Bridal Show and I thought- what a great idea! It would be a quick way to reach a lot of brides at once. To me, it was better than online advertising because I would have a chance to explain to people what I do and why it's the best you can get.
We both thought if we were going to do it, we had to plan it out a long time in advance and make it WORTH IT by going all out and having the best booth ever. Did we wait and do that? Nope. I pretty much threw it together in a matter of weeks and put it all together BY MYSELF- but I still think the BOOTH was a success. I felt my backdrop and details surrounding it were eye catching and cute. Personally I thought it was better in person than these weirdly lit pictures portray. But even with a great booth and a killer talent in photography, I felt the show was ultimately not worth my investment. The brides I came across at the show just weren't my typical client. They didn't seem to care about investing in photography as much as they were looking for a deal. I'm not a budget photographer- I'm a legitimate professional and furthermore a professional "Fine Art Film Photographer". That title is reserved, I believe, for the best of the best wedding film photographers in the business. I would count myself one of those based off the film work I produce for my clients. My work has been featured on Alpine Film Lab, Richard Photo Lab, Belle Lumiere, and Contax Rental social media pages. Those last few are some of the biggest film shooters companies there are. I've been shooting it for a year....so I feel to have gotten to that point already is really saying something- and I'm so grateful for that! I'm grateful for the talent I've cultivated.
You can't see my pictures very well (the display ones) but most of those images are on my website: www.conniebphotography.com. I was glad I put some film negatives on that table- most people didn't know what I meant when I said I shot "film". They ALWAYS think video these days! It can be frustrating as a film photographer, talking to people who don't know what film is, to explain that film is, in every way, dominant to digital. They probably think I'm lying- that film is dead. That because they never heard of it, it must not be awesome. Well, film is definitely not dead- it's just reserved for photographers who are absolutely willing to invest in it, who understand true art, and who are true professionals in photography. There are a lot of digital professionals, yes. BUT there are NOT a lot of professionals that will pay for film- who will invest in their clients right back in that way. Let me explain it this way:
It costs me $2-3 per CLICK to shoot film. If I thought for a second it wasn't as good as digital I would NOT pay that. I'm investing right back into my clients because I believe in giving them the best. I've seen digital and I've seen film... and to me, "film is KING" (as film photographers say). They also say digital is like taking a knife to a gun fight. Yep. The average no-name film shooter that produces work I do charges their clients $4000+ to shoot their wedding. (No-name meaning they aren't nationally recognized- maybe just recognized in their area or in their smaller social circles.) I charge much less than that. Why? Not because I feel I'm not as good... it's just a few things: first, the market I'm in doesn't pay that. And second, because I feel the people surrounding my business are still learning about, and not quite yet appreciative of film cost and what goes into it. So, in the end, I lose money shooting it. But, over time, I will show people- shoot after shoot- that I am right up there with Jose Villa, Yan Palmer, and the like.
I learned another thing at this Bridal Fair... the spinning wheel wasn't effective or exciting to people. Why? Because it wasn't an immediate prize. It was ONLY something they got if they booked that day- but most people weren't looking to PAY for anything that day, they were looking for free stuff. Honestly, I was super frustrated after the first hour. Sure, I spoke to hundreds of people and got hundreds of leads.... but like I said, people were not there to find the best photographer in Utah. They were there thinking they would get something at a huge discount or for free. Yeeeaah.... I'm a professional. I'm NOT a mom-tog looking to make a few hundred dollars here and there. Ugh.
I showed brides my products like my USB photo boxes, albums, and prints. My work and my products are top of the line. I felt like a joke when there were people there who weren't even getting married but thought they could get some free stuff just by going- and they could. I honestly wanted to pack up my stuff and say "I'm better than this, I don't need this "advertizing"... and get the heck out of there to answer emails of REAL clients.
You can kinda see the LED lights i had under this shimmery table cloth. I also had some behind my logo on the wood backdrop- but they were way easier to see in person than in these bright pictures. NOT PICTURED is my iPad I set up to show a slideshow of my work.
The giveaway was the hottest part of my booth, not surprisingly. People were so willing to get something for free but no one talked seriously about booking. Okay, not NO ONE- but I did feel like there were only a handful of serious brides out of the "hundreds" there that I would've liked to work with. I'm NOT doing giveaways anymore. It cheapens what I do and shows people I *think it can be worth less. I really don't think it can. It pains me to do something for free and there are a few reasons for that: I leave my family and spend my hard earned money and resources to give someone else something they will likely not value as much as if they paid for it. The fact that I leave my kids with a babysitter for shoots is hard enough on me. I really have to weigh when something is worth my time over being there for my kids- and giveaway shoots just AREN'T. (Even if I LOVE taking pictures.) Personally, I think I need to raise my rates-increase the value of my products and services to show people I value them too... and that's exactly what I'm going to do next year and what I've continued to do since I started my business. Rightly so.
In summary, I don't count the show as a total failure. Who knows, maybe there are some brides that went that are still considering my photography services. But definitely, if nothing else, I learned. I learned that it's a market I'm not interested in- and it's not something I even need to do, to get clients. It was a waste of money, sure, but I know that now. Live and learn I guess.