So what does your wedding photographer actually do? What's involved in creating a beautiful wedding album? How do photographers stay relevant and popular in a cut-throat and highly competitive industry? We went behind the scenes of Bunbury business Henderson Photographics to find out "a day in the life" of these very busy, very talented individuals.
Henderson Photographics is owned and run by husband and wife team Jeff & Sarah Henderson. They've seen the industry grow and change vastly in the 12 years they've been in business together. Sarah has been shooting weddings for 16 years, and Jeff is a multi award winning press photographer with 18 years of experience. When they joined forces, Henderson Photographics was born. They keep busy with a lot more than just wedding photography, much of their during-the-week work is commerical, with portraits after hours, they have a strong following with newborn photos too. However weekends are dedicated to weddings.
Sarah & Jeff balance this very busy business with the challenges of raising two seven year old twins. They take turns with the school run and after school playing with kids. When I interviewed them, Sarah was heading off to canteen duty at the twins' school. Their studio and office is purpose built next door to their house. With this work space right next to home they can switch roles as needs be, clients can visit the studio without having to visit their house. Like most of us they prefer to work in clean and crisp environment and they try to keep the office space separate from the home space but there is an inevitable overlap. On weekends, Jeff's mum takes one for the team and comes around to mind the twins if both Jeff and Sarah are shooting weddings.
Most wedding clients choose either Jeff, Sarah or one of their two other photographers on staff, and some opt for a second shooter as well. So on a weekend, Jeff might be at a wedding in Harvey and Sarah at a wedding in Margaret River, with one of them having a second shooter if the clients requests and their fourth photographer shooting a wedding in the Ferguson Valley. Jeff and Sarah are two strong people and they told me they're always laughing about competing with each other and working hard to get the best shots! But that's not the reason they don't shoot weddings together much anymore - it's just that they're so busy!
Of course there is a lot more to wedding photography than just the day itself! A lot of the work happens in the office afterwards, editing and compiling photos into albums. Nowadays there's a team of four in the office most days putting together and working on high-end editing finishes for the clients in between shoots. 15% of a photographers time is spent liaising with clients and working behind the scenes putting the shoot wedding, 10% on the shoot, 75% is post wedding editing production putting together albums and making high end feature photos. Along with their team of four, Sarah and Jeff are justifiably very proud of their turnaround times on wedding photos. Clients come back on week two or three after the wedding to view and take home all fully edited photos on a CD at high res and to view their hardcopy album and make any changes, previous to that they've received Facebook sneak peeks on week one and a smart phone app, YouTube clip and Pinterest boards too. Then the albums are ordered from over east (the best quality) which takes around five weeks - it may seem like a long time but in the industry this is considered a very fast turnaround.
Over the course of 12 years as Henderson Photographics, the rise of social media has changed what Jeff & Sarah offer their wedding clients in a fundamental way. Instead of going down the "my photos are my art and must be seen by no-one but the client" path and shutting their eyes to social media, the Hendersons have gone copyright inclusive on all their wedding packages, which means clients enjoy complete ownership of all images at highest res for unlimited usage. With the permission of the clients, Hendersons can post photos on Facebook and other social media sites. However, most people are very keen to see their photos appear on Facebook, and Hendersons can include "sneak peeks" as part of their social media bundle, which also includes a YouTube clip with your own wedding music and Pinterest board. The latest addition to the social media package is a smartphone app that allows you to show your favourite pics to friends and family. They've really evolved their business to give clients a strong social media album as well as a traditional wedding album. One client in Port Hedland said "I secretly watch the youtube clip at least once a day" and who wouldn't! It's a great idea.
We also made sure to pick the brains of these experienced wedding folk who have just seen absolutely everything. Jeff said that there are so many simple things that people don't think of that the photographer ends up helping with - how to put the dress on, do the laces up, how to put the corsage on, tying ties, and so on. They are there to get the best shot so are happy to make suggestions and help where needed!
One tip was to make sure you get your bridesmaids ready first so that they can then help the bride get ready and look her best. It's almost your duty as a member of the bridal party to get organised and be calm on the day! Remember, you're there to do one thing, to see the bride & groom get married.
However, Sarah piped up with a comment on how this kind of advice is almost becoming obsolete, given how professional other wedding suppliers are. The flowers are always there well before the photographers, the hair & makeup artists are punctual and professional, and the transport is always punctual too. The local industry has become much more slick and refined. Some might think that means that the personality and fun goes out of the day - Sarah and Jeff say that it isn't so!! They're still seeing beautiful weddings where nothing is over-planned, where people are organised beforehand so they don't have to be a super-scheduler on the day itself, making the day more relaxed.
For more info on Henderson Photographics, head to the Coast to Country Weddings website.