“Boy, I never knew I could look so good.” – Lisa Binder, Washington DC
If you were to create a list of the various components for building a successful wedding photography business, you would most likely include things like great customer service, personality marketing, understanding your ideal client, great photography, recognizable style, and unique product offerings. Yet, there is one component—arguably the most important component—that probably wouldn’t make your list. It’s what I consider to be the “magic bullet” of wedding photography and the one thing that leads to more bookings, more sales, and more happy clients than anything else. Ironically, it’s also the trait that I find to be almost a lost art in today’s highly competitive wedding photography market!
So what is it? THE most important skill for successful wedding photographers is the ability to make people look great. It’s the ability to take FLATTERING photographs of real people!
Human Nature Hasn’t Changed
So what has changed about wedding photography in the past 9 years since I first squeaked out a living as a wedding photographer? Well, pretty much everything, I won’t argue about that. But what has the digital revolution changed about human nature itself? Nothing. People still have the desire to look good and feel good about the way they look in their pictures-sometimes even hoping to look better in photos than they do in reality. If this was not the case, photographers would not be going to such great lengths to meticulously retouch their images and clients would not be demanding the service.
But, in the age of Photoshop allowing photographers to add fill light and smooth out skin or liquify arms after the image has been taken, have we lost the art of creating and crafting FLATTERING images of our clients? Photoshop is a useful tool, one that I’m glad is there. But, I would argue that if we paid a little more attention to lighting, proper lens choices, angles, posing and the unique facial features and bodies of our clients, so much PS would not be necessary saving time and therefore money!
Set Yourself Apart
The industry is in a major period of upheaval right now with Uncle Bobs, Momographers and other types of “Fauxtographers” popping out of the woodwork to seemingly steal our precious weddings from us. Their cameras are just as good as ours, and they may even have good timing and be able to catch a good moment here or there. But what don’t they know? How do we set ourselves apart? Through study and practice and knowledge of our craft, what can we bring to the table that they can’t do by simply opening a box & reading a camera manual? What is the one thing that makes a client overjoyed & truly delighted with their wedding images? What is the baseline over which you can only improve upon with great composition, beautiful emotion, interesting lighting, and great storytelling? I believe and I believe strongly that it is first and foremost creating flattering images. When people look great, they can then look beyond themselves to appreciate an image for all of the other reasons it’s great. But if they have 8 double chins, their feet are twice the size of their heads and their arms look fat, it just doesn’t matter how cool the angle is, how hard it was to get your off-camera light to fire, or how awesome your post-processing is. To the people in those photos, unflattering = bad, flattering = good. Have you ever wondered why your favorite image from a client’s wedding didn’t make it into their final album design? I can almost guarantee that it was for the exact same reason you untagged yourself in that awful picture someone posted on Facebook.
So how does putting flattery first and foremost benefit your business? It benefits you in every way. Flattering images lead to better print sales, more images in albums, more thrilled clients, more referrals, more trust. And from there it’s a vicious circle without the vicious…more trust leads to better clients who will allow you to do your thing. Because they know you are going to make them look great.
A quick note: I realize that this blog post is perhaps more food for thought than it is particularly instructional. But if you find that you agree and would like to learn more specifically about HOW to make people look great then please comment below and I will follow up in future blog posts with more specifics.
Written by Justine Ungaro
Justine Ungaro has been photographing weddings in her own clean, classic style since 2003. A second generation photographer, Justine grew up in the Washington DC area and moved to Los Angeles in 2006 where she expanded her business to include children’s and music industry portraiture and soon after began giving workshops and speaking at photography conventions. She currently maintains studios in Los Angeles and DC.