Only one word comes to mind to even remotely describe 2012 with accuracy: whirlwind. Phew! Brian and I photographed 30 weddings this year, which many experienced photographers in the wedding industry tell us that this is a good number? Hahaha all we know is, it was a lot for us! Don’t get us wrong- we love our job, and we get to do it together! We wake up every morning in awe of how blessed we are to be able to do what we love for a living! I get to create art and Brian gets to be a scientist (lol, photography really is a perfect blend of both), hang out with people on the happiest day of their lives, eat cake, and then bring all the joy of a wedding day back to our brides and grooms when we hand them their wedding images or show them their wedding album. But, we have been feeling like we’ve been fighting all year long trying to keep up, which has kept us in a constant state of self-evaluation. We made a lot of sacrifices this year in order to keep up with everything, and know that if we continue to keep our workload and workflow the same for 2013, we’ll just end up exasperating ourselves down the road. Our final wedding of 2012 was delivered just before Christmas, and we still have a couple of months until our 2013 season kicks off, so we’ve had some time to think and discuss what we’ll be doing differently next year to make Project:Life Photo the absolute best it can be! Here are a few changes (in no particular order) that we will be implementing beginning today, January 15th, 2013, that we think will benefit us greatly and by association, our wonderful clients as well!
(Also, enjoy a few sneak peaks from our whirlwind fall and winter. Can’t have a blog-post without some gorgeous photos!)
FIRM HOURS OF OPERATION:
This is a big one. We know that one of the advantages of owning our own business and working from home is creating our own hours. But up until now, those hours have been 24/7! We understand that the majority of our clients work standard business hours and obviously prefer to schedule a lot of wedding-related business on the weekends (i.e. engagement sessions, bridals). But we took a look at our scheduling over the last year, and guess how many weekends we had completely off, no weddings, engagement sessions, bridal portraits or meetings? 5. We had five weekends off last year, which means we worked 47 weekends last year in addition to the 50+ hours/week we put in Monday- Friday. We honestly didn’t realize it as it was happening, but looking back we realized that we turned down a lot of family dinners and barbecues with friends, missed family while they were in town and sacrificed many a date night in order to accommodate our clients’ schedules (which would be fine if it were only every once in a while, but this was happening way too often)! For this reason, we are going to be more firm this year in limiting our photography-related weekend commitments to weddings only. If you already have a weekend session on the books with us as of January 15th 2013, of course we will honor that commitment and we will be there with bells on ; ) But from this point forward, we are simply going to be asking that our clients view their engagement, bridal and lifestyle sessions as an important investment of their time as well as ours, and if that means taking a day off of work or arranging to leave the office a little early, once or twice probably isn’t going to get you fired ; )
We will also be limiting ourselves to answering phone calls, emails and texts during our office hours of 9:00am – 7:00pm.
Another big one! After shooting several thousand images at a wedding, and spending multiple hours immediately after returning home backing up those files in 4 different places, it typically takes us 60 hours to complete our post-production process. Per wedding! Obviously, we were shooting weddings faster than we could churn them out this past year, so we took a workshop this past fall on how to effectively streamline this process while still keeping the same quality of our work. We were honestly skeptical, but we actually learned a lot! Our new efficient workflow will not only give us more time and energy to infuse into our creativity, but will also result in our clients receiving their images sooner!
LIFESTYLE PORTRAIT SESSIONS ARE BACK:
We haven’t been accepting non-wedding-related portrait sessions during the last 2 years, because we’ve been up to our eyeballs with weddings! Now that our wedding workflow is streamlined, we will be taking on lifestyle family, children, graduates etc… sessions again in 2013. However, because we will be highly impacted with weddings during certain seasons, we will only be taking on lifestyle sessions on weekdays during certain times of the year so that during wedding season, we can remain focused on the weddings we have booked. Lifestyle sessions will be available on weekdays during the month of February, and again from July 22nd until October 25th!
We realized that most of our absolute favorite portrait sessions have been “styled” shoots. This is where the client brainstorms with us ahead of time to coordinate wardrobe and props, resulting in finished images that really tell a story that makes true statements about who they are as a couple with a lot of variety and detail. One of our goals for 2013 is to really emphasize the benefits of styling engagement, bridal and lifestyle sessions! And with our newly streamlined editing workflow, we will have much more time to devote to researching, pinning and collaborating with our clients to put together style concepts for their sessions ahead of time!
We have photographed weddings in some pretty fun places all over the country including Kentucky, California and of course (our favorite), Charleston! We’ve enjoyed traveling to photograph these weddings so much, and we’d really love to do so more often. As of January 1st, 2013 we will be accepting wedding commissions booked after this date, anywhere in the world outside of North and South Carolina, at no additional cost to our standard package pricing (yes, we will take care of our own travel expenses)! We definitely will not be offering this little deal forever, so take advantage now!
Since we began Project:Life Photo, we’ve operated under a policy of not turning away any wedding or wedding-related business which we are available to take on. This is what allowed us to quit our day-jobs and take on photography full-time initially, but over the last year we’ve realized that this policy could potentially present a few dangers in the future. God has been good to us in that this honestly hasn’t happened yet, but from what we’ve heard from our colleagues in the industry, booking with a couple we don’t fully connect with, or whose wedding vision doesn’t totally inspire us could really hinder our creative process and ultimately not serve in anyone’s best interest. For 2013 and beyond, we’ll be approaching initial consultations with prospective couples as a two-way street. While the couple is interviewing us to make sure they are inspired by our work, our approach to wedding photography and our creative process, we also be asking a lot of questions to make sure that we are truly inspired by their vision for their wedding day and that we connect with them on a personal level.
Lastly, but certainly not least, we know that a lot of you out there wonder why wedding photography is priced the way that it is. We’ve seen the ignorant DIY bridal blogs complaining that wedding photography is overpriced and that photographers don’t do enough to deserve what they charge. Of course none of this is true, but the fact that this strong opinion exists always makes us a little uneasy when we feel the need to raise our prices. So let us premise our price-increase with a little clarification from our side why wedding photography is valued the way that it is: We need to have equipment that is of a high enough caliber to produce quality work. We need to maintain and insure this equipment, and have liability insurance on our company. We have to pay for our own medical, dental and vision insurance (sooo expensive)! We are 100% responsible to market and advertise ourselves all on our own. We don’t have a team of researchers with college degrees in marketing- just us and our brains; we have to invest in a lot of different methods of advertising to find out what works best for us through trial and error. We have a lot of software updates to keep up with in order to keep our workflow running smoothly- that is certainly not free. Another thing to take into consideration is the stress-level that comes along with this field; we may seem calm, cool and collected on the job, but we never let ourselves forget the weight of what we do, that a wedding is one of the most important days of our clients’ lives, and we don’t get any do-overs! 8 hours on our job = weeks or maybe months of 9-5 days at a paper-pushing job. Time is money, and after we shoot a wedding, there are incalculable hours of sorting through, editing, retouching and organizing we have to do on the 600-1000 images we typically give each client. Not to mention how much digital (and physical) storage space each wedding takes up, and all of the different hard drives we have to have in order to back up and store files from unfinished weddings. And, of course, we are working on a weekend- lots of weekends! Many businesses charge extra to perform services outside of standard business hours; we work standard business hours during the week plus create more work for ourselves all over again over the weekend ; ) And let’s not forget we’re paying all our own taxes! Another photographer address an ignorant bride criticizing wedding photographers for what they charge, and went into a much more detailed explanation of what our expenses look like as photographers, which you can find here: http://www.petapixel.com/2012/01/26/why-wedding-photographers-prices-are-wack/. After all of these expenses, we are basically workaholics with very little to show for it, and it’s time to raise our prices to more adequately compensate ourselves for the amount of time, energy and expense we invest into our dream-career!
Sooo… Ya, that’s pretty much it : ) We know that was a lot to read. But honestly, all of these changes are the reasons we call ourselves Project:Life. We never claim to be perfect, and this adventure in self-employment is exactly that: an adventure… a project! We are learning as we go and last year, we learned A LOT! All we can do is thank our family, friends, the best clients in the world for their support, and the Lord for blessing us with such an incredible opportunity!
Yesterday, as we wrote up the photography agreement for the wedding that will break 2011’s record for the number of weddings we’ve photographed in a year, it got us reflecting on the strides God has allowed us to make in this business. As we’ve grown as photographers, people, small-business owners and as spouses, it’s been interesting to learn what a catch-22 our jobs really are! Last year, I wrote on our blog about the necessity of a price-increase on our packages, explaining how we needed to raise our prices in order to justify quitting our day-jobs and be able to focus on photography full-time.
Of course, once we did leave our day-jobs last October, this enabled us to take on a larger number of weddings, which has allowed us to figure out our limits as a business. We photographed a number of weddings over the past 3 years, where DIY-brides were left rushed and stressed-out on their wedding days as their visions were not being captured by their budget- limited vendors. The most common regret we hear from our past brides is that many of them wish they’d delegated better, and to a more professional caterer, florist, coordinator etc… Not only does it break our hearts when wedding plans are not carried out to the fullest vision of the bride and groom, it makes our jobs more stressful on those wedding days (dodging itinerary changes or working around design elements that did not come through), and also increases our work-load in post-production!
What we’ve learned is that our work-load is streamlined considerably when the weddings we shoot are designed with a lot of detail against the backdrop of a beautiful venue, and are coordinated in an organized manner. When we have as little cropping, lighting adjustments and color corrections to perform as possible on the images we take, we’re able to devote more energy to and invest as much creativity as possible into our shooting, editing and marketing. When a wedding is organized and being coordinated by a talented wedding-planner or day-of coordinator, the whole event flows much smoother and allows us to shoot more freely, thereby coming away from the wedding with the highest number of quality images possible. We cannot stress enough the importance of choosing vendors who deliver quality product and service! In addition to making it as easy as possible for your photographer to deliver gorgeous shots that truly capture the essence of your wedding day, your wise choice of vendors can also greatly enhance your wedding-planning experience and best infuse every detail with the personalities of you and your fiancé.
As we continue to grow, along with the needs of our business, we’ve found that once again it’s time to raise our prices, this time to accommodate these types of events. But as we raise the cost of our packages, we’re also creating new ways for our future clients to save which will also (hopefully) contribute to the streamlining of our workload by adding to the overall beauty and flow of these clients’ weddings!
We’ve created a list of vendors we have confidence in, who we believe to be valuable assets to couples during the planning process! These are vendors who most directly contribute to the organization, decor and level of detail on a wedding day, people who give us something to capture, who make our job very fun! This list of vendors can be found here: http://projectlifephotography.com/how-to-make-us-give-you-free-stuff/. Of course there are many other vendors who are not on this list who do a fabulous job and deliver exceptional quality in their product or service; this is just a list of vendors we’ve wither worked with in the past and seen their work first-hand, or vendors we’ve heard rave-reviews of and we’re excited for the opportunity to work with soon! As of today, June 4th, couples who book Project:Life Photography for their wedding as well as 2 or more of the vendors on this list will be eligible to receive either a print-credit to their online gallery or a complimentary bridal portrait session!
This was our first time submitting our work for publication… and Carolina Bride Magazine featured one of our weddings in their new January-April issue! Congrats to Fred and Stacy Buckley, on becoming our first published couple! 🙂 They were married on October 22, and the deadline for us to send in the images AND the extensive submission form to be filled out by the bride was November 1! Stacy was such a trooper, filling out the long form and sending it to us from Florida just 2 days after returning from her honeymoon! Stacy wrote some truly kind words about us, so pick up a copy of CB to read what she had to say about Project:Life! And of course our job would have been a LOT harder if Serendipity Weddings & Events hadn’t been there to make the whole event so beautiful. Thanks Stacy, Carrie Ann, and of course, Carolina Bride for giving us this chance to become published : )
We’re scattered a few more times throughout this issue of Carolina Bride. Photos of two more of our couples, Aaron and Dena as well as Tate and Kelly can be found in Carolina Bride’s “Wedding Album.” Serendipity Weddings & Events used one of our images from our collaborated styled shoot with The Cordial Churchman to promote “Stems by Serendipity.” Our new logo is displayed in our own business spotlight! And, of course, Fred and Stacy are featured again in our ad.
Lastly, I put together a super-cute centerpiece last night- we had Brian’s brother and sister-in-law over for dinner and… I’m not gonna lie… we made some delicious food. But I can’t really get over this tulip centerpiece… so I snapped some photos this morning as I was documenting our Carolina Bride feature, and included them at the bottom of this post : )
Page 1 (above) and Page 2 (below)
Congrats to Kelly and Tate (above) and Aaron and Dena (below) for making it into the Wedding Album!
And go Callie (below)! Thank you, Serendipity Weddings and Events, for using our photo in your business spotlight : )
Our business spotlight!
And here’s my centerpiece ♥