July 13, 2022
What does it take to become a “luxury” wedding photographer? A white-glove client experience, stunning photos, and… what else?
It’s hard to know what will help us stand out from the crowd of wedding photographers and establish our services as a truly luxury service provider.
As a luxury wedding photographer myself — and a coach for other wedding photographers — I believe that the “luxury” element resides in the experience you’re curating for your clients. From the moment they contact you through your website, DM, or phone number, to the moment you deliver the finalized, retouched images, each touchpoint should receive care, grace, and attention to craft an elevated experience.
If you want help standing out in your market and establishing yourself as a luxury wedding photography brand, keep reading. I have some tips to help you do just that.
When I think of luxury, I think of something that stands out from the crowd. Something that is elevated, unique, and offers people an amazing experience. And if you’re sitting here thinking that’s a difficult thing to achieve when you’re offering a manual service like wedding photography, I want to challenge your thinking on that.
Think for a moment: What would you, as a consumer, need to be given during the photography session experience (from first contact to final delivery) in order to feel like you received a luxury service? This is what we want to provide for our clients.
Here’s the thing: the key to crafting your luxury service is going to be about so much more than capturing, editing, and developing photos themselves. Don’t get me wrong — the final product needs to be elevated and flawless. But whether you’re photographing an intimate backyard wedding or a high-end destination wedding, the ways in which you instill luxury into your service will remain the same.
It’s about the experience you provide your clients. Take some time to analyze each element of your client experience. When they first view your website, what are they really seeing? What about your email correspondence?
Some key elements of a luxury brand include:
You’ll also want to take a few of the following tips to heart because they’re going to really drive home the luxury element of your brand and service.
You want to show your clients that you appreciate and care about their formal event. Because of that, you need to dress professionally and appropriately for the event. I’d even argue that you want to dress professionally during the discovery process too, whether that’s in person or via Zoom.
Do not show up to a wedding in a t-shirt and blue jeans. Wear nice slacks, a dress, or a suit. My team and I often wear all black to blend in. The goal is not to stand out — instead, as photographers, we want to become another party-goer so that we can catch those beautiful, intimate moments.
I also advise against wearing open-toed shoes. Trust me, I’ve learned from more than one unfortunate dance floor incident that open-toed shoes are not a photographer’s friend!
The way you present yourself to a client will instantly (and often subconsciously) tell them whether or not they should view you and your service as luxury. When you meet potential clients for the first time, show up prepared and on time (if not early). Also communicate in professional tones, with full sentences and clear language. And, on the day of the event, arrive early and introduce yourself to all those in the wedding party.
Create rapport with everyone who will be part of the wedding — and do so professionally! You’d be surprised at the number of times my team and I have partaken in wonderful conversation with the mother of the bride or the best man, and then gotten a call years down the line with a referral from them.
Lastly, do not talk about other weddings or vendors while at a session! I know how tempting it can be to bring up another wedding you’ve photographed recently or will be photographing in the near future. However, doing so will make the client feel as if they are just another slot in your calendar. Instead, we want to give them a personalized experience and make them feel as if they’re our only client — because, for that day, they are!
Always uphold a level of respect and kindness, no matter who you’re speaking with. Whether it’s the couple getting married, a member of the bridal party, the bellman, the janitor, or a hotel guest who isn’t even attending the wedding, always be respectful and kind. The impression you make on others will LAST.
Where other vendors are concerned, it can be difficult to navigate when it is and is not appropriate to add to or bring them into the discussion. My main rule is to never talk poorly about a vendor, planner, or another photographer. Period.
This is especially necessary for any other photographers who work with their spouses! Brad and I will sometimes have disagreements over a session or artistic decision, and being married simply adds another layer to that disagreement. However, we ensure that the discussions are always kind and pay very close attention to our body language.
One of the biggest compliments that I feel we can receive is when someone says: “I didn’t even know you were married! I thought you were just business partners.”
Weddings are long. Those days can be 12-15 hours, and it’s important to maintain a positive outlook and service attitude throughout the entire day. I pack protein bars, protein drinks, and plenty of water for myself and my team to ensure we keep our energy up all day and give the clients an easeful, amazing experience.
Sometimes, we will run into uncomfortable situations, whether it’s with rude guests, handsy groomsmen, or misbehaving children. No matter what, always remain collected and professional.
This is one of the biggest subtleties that makes the largest difference, especially when it comes to wedding photography. Don’t interrupt emotional moments, know when to step back, and regulate your own emotions and the emotions of those around you to the best of your ability.
For example, I’ve been at more than one wedding where a guest has passed out. I live in the South and it gets hot. People have overheated or become dehydrated and lost consciousness right in front of me. In those situations, it’s extremely important to maintain calm and help them out. Don’t cause a scene — get them water, retrieve the wedding coordinator, or flag down help without drawing too much attention.
Beyond that, it’s extremely important to be aware of your clients’ emotional state, as well as your own. If it seems like your groom is overwhelmed as he gets ready, it’s okay to take a break from the session, step out of the room, and give him time alone with his best man. Similarly, if you can tell a client wants more photos or would like a picture of a certain moment, it’s important to know when to step it up and take more.
Having this emotional awareness will make you so much better at your job, and will make your client and other wedding attendees so much more likely to refer you.
Clients pay attention.
If you promise a 6-week turnaround, you had better make sure that you have those photos to them in 6 weeks or less. If you promised them a complimentary hour of coverage, don’t leave 15 minutes early.
Whatever you say to the client, ensure that you’re always following through on your word, from the moment they first contact you to the end. Even if you’re tired or feel like it’s just one more thing to add to your already full plate, make sure you follow through.
If you don’t think you can follow through, don’t make that promise in the first place.
Situations are going to arise that make your client experience less than stellar. As a new mom, I’m learning that there are going to be times when I can’t make good on client promises or do a session because my child is having an emergency and I need to be there for them.
I never, ever leave my client high and dry. Instead, I clearly communicate to them exactly what’s going on and then offer a solution. Before you ever go to a client with a problem, you want to have a solution worked out for your client so that they feel completely taken care of through the transition.
Every single thing you do is a reflection of both your brand and your reputation. This is why it’s critical to maintain consistency throughout. Whether it’s the way you edit, how you deliver client photos, how you dress, how clients book with you… be consistent.
If you have a client refer you to one of their friends, that friend is going to expect a similar aesthetic, editing style, and experience. Give it to them! Professional referrals will also expect this of you. Remember, they’re referring you based on what they know you’ve delivered in the past — not what you might deliver in the future.
For example, I worked with a photographer once who would sometimes stay an extra two hours at a wedding, and sometimes wouldn’t. She said it was because she cared — but if you truly care as a photographer, you will deliver to every client exactly what you deliver to others.
If going above and beyond for you means staying an extra two hours, that’s great! But you’d better do that for every single wedding, not pick and choose.
I hope these key touchpoints will help you create a white-glove edge to your luxury brand so that your clients always feel seen, heard, and taken care of. Remember, elevating your client experience is the number one way to grow and scale your photography business quickly.
I know that creating an authentically luxury brand can feel like a lot. You might not be sure exactly what sorts of pieces to bring into your closet in order to present yourself to your ideal clients. Or you might have trouble figuring out which systems to implement in order to make the client process smooth, simple, and intuitive.
If you find yourself wondering about these things, I would like to invite you to my intimate mastermind experience, Leveling Up to Luxury. Inside this 6-month mastermind, you’ll have the opportunity to work directly with me and a small cohort of peer photographers. We’ll help you devise a plan to elevate your business and make a name for yourself in the luxury wedding space.
Click here if you’re ready to craft a white-glove experience for your clients and work with a luxury photography business mentor who can help your business grow.