This is the last piece from the series of articles written by Oli Sansom – an awesome Australian photographer with a decade of experience in advertising and design. If you missed the other 3 articles, we highly suggest you check them out – all the golden nuggets of wisdom and Oli’s signature witty and sarcastic voice make them a pleasure to read.
Check out this article to learn about the real purpose of a website, this one to read about clarity vs jargon, and article #3 to see how you can draw inspiration from history to design an original brand.
Today’s article is a must-read for EVERY photographer because it talks about an extremely important topic: representation. Grab a coffee, relax, and enjoy the read!
“Is it bad that I’m filtering them by not feeling nauseous and ones that have done stuff with The Queers (TM) before?”
After chortling at the nauseous thing and nearly spitting coffee at my screen, I sat on this line that I received by one of my couples over DM, in response to me sending them a list of local videographers.
Aside from the feeling nauseous thing when watching some cheesy wedding videos (comments like this are why “wedding photography that won’t make you throw up” is part of my branding), they were instantly aligned more, to videographers that simply displayed representation of two girls getting married, in their portfolio. That simple evidence of someone showing they had cared for people like them before, made them instantly more trusting, and bought-in to their work.
It reminded me of a conversation at a wedding expo years ago, where I got asked a question that I wasn’t prepared for, and later was a little bummed that they even had to ask.
“Do you know how to edit black skin tones?”
I was able to show work to prove this, but we went into the experience that had led him to feeling he had to ask this, and it was around a photographer delivering images that simply messed up his skin tone. Naturally, he and his partner were concerned about a similar experience, and let’s just say that representation of darker skin on the photo walls of this expo was more sparse than mullets in a military brigade.
It’s tough to imagine when you’re in a majority, but… just try to imagine being in such a large space – either physical like the expo, or even just our industry in general – looking to commission someone to represent you, and having to peel apart haystacks to find any small evidence that someone can care for you.
In a line of work where our job is to see people (see: to be validated, to feel trusting), it’s our responsibility to make sure that if we want their trust, then those people should feel seen long before we’ve even pointed the camera at them.
Fortunately, there are a few simple, actionable ways of doing this.
How do we make people feel seen?
We show them.
It’s really that simple…
I was tempted to go on and on with metaphor and story, but this is too important to spend excess words on.
To make people feel seen, we have to make them seen. In our portfolio.
On our marketing collateral.
Show the people, that you want to show up for.
Using customisation to better represent people
Anyone who runs a small business knows that the bit we love doing, in fact, occupies about 5% of our time in the business. The rest is a relentless downpour of admin, editing, systems, social media, returning to the fridge for the 27th time that day(/hour), and… the list goes on. So naturally, we fall into a line of thinking that says we should streamline and standardise absolutely everything, which might make us miss some beautiful opportunities to show up differently to those around us.
So, I’m going to challenge that, using our pricing and information sheets as an example.
I don’t know about you, but when they reach out to me, most of my couples make it pretty clear that they’re either getting married at a certain venue or are a certain combination of guy-girl, guy-guy, girl-girl (etc.) ahead of time.
This information is all we need to make sure that our response to them is anything but standard.
Three tips to making people feel seen and connecting more strongly before the shoot
- Show a wider range of representation in your portfolio. This one is a no-brainer. You don’t need many. You don’t need to do a giant overhaul, and shotgun-spray everything under the sun. You just need to sprinkle representation, of who you’ve cared for, here and there. So that all types of people viewing your website, see their type of people, somewhere.
- Create custom information and pricing sheets: Spend an hour – this is all it will take – to create 5-10 variations of your pricing and information sheet. This might be the best hour you will ever spend. It’s crazy to me that I have not seen anyone else do this. In each variant, keep a strong focus on representing the type of enquiry that will be seeing this. Two girls enquired? Send them the pricelist that has 70-80% of the images in it representative of their unique combination. With a giant image on the front cover. A guy and a girl getting married at a specific venue you regularly shoot at? Have a pricelist ready to go, with their relationship combination and a majority of images in the pricelist at that venue. You will not only blow them away with that personalised response, you’ll instantly connect with them in a way that no-one else will be able to. Champion them from the get go, and imagine how awesome it would feel to have the first, smack-in-the-face image you receive from a photographer you’ve enquired with, representative of their exact relationship, on the very front of your price-list.
- Think about where else you can artfully add bespoke customisation, without adding more time for you in the long-run. One example is the custom price lists above. Another are custom workflows in your CRM, where you update some of your automated email workflows to verbally reference the venue they’re getting married at, anecdotes, etc. Another might be in a last-minute mini guide they receive a week or two out from their wedding, where you again re-enforce that they are going to be cared for, and here are a bunch of awesome photographs of similar relationship arrangements to get excited by. Endless possibilities.
The beautiful thing about getting better at representation on the front-end? We don’t just make the experience tangibly better for enquiring couples – we play an active part in turning an industry that historically had a pretty narrow scope of representation into something wider and better, and that does greater good far beyond the “wedding industry”.
Thank you so much to Oli for taking us on this wonderful 4-part rollercoaster of wisdom, tips, tricks, and thought-provoking topics. If you want to connect with Oli, you can do it via one of his websites:
Or via Instagram: instagram.com/olisansom