What a ridiculous title right? But search engines might like it and what better way to start a blog post about all the sales games and self promotion that rule the wedding industry these days.
- "Top Rated" - What exactly does that mean anyway? Top rated by who? My mom thinks I'm pretty great, does that count? See also: Award Winning.
- "International Wedding Photographer" - I photographed a wedding in the French Alps once so I guess that's me. I mean sure it was just for a friend but it sounds better if I give the impression that I'm jet setting around shooting glamorous weddings all over the world.
- Online Reviews - Obviously they're not a bad place to start but have you noticed they're almost always 5 star reviews? I feel like there's a few reasons. First, anyone can leave a review on some websites so I'm guessing some of the vendors that have just started out but have 50+ reviews are either hitting up anyone they can think of to leave them a review and maybe even offering incentives to leave positive reviews. It makes my entire day to get excited emails from my clients about their photos and I'm proud that all my reviews are completely organic. But why all the perfect 5 star reviews? I'm guessing it's because unless a wedding vendor COMPLETELY messes something up a bride or groom really don't have much of a frame of reference of what to expect anyway. I feel like your best course of action as a client would be to get the overall feel of the reviews and then ask around with your planner, venue, and other vendors. Trust me, we know who truly works hard.
- Wedding website "Best Of" awards - Every year I see essentially everyone I know in the Asheville wedding industry post their "Best Of" award badges within a day or two of each other. They sound exclusive yet they're all the best? Got it. But really I don't blame them, I have so many brilliant friends in the industry and they probably deserve them! It just feels like such a game that the wedding websites play with all of us. Which brings me to those very websites...
- Wedding websites - You know the ones. Well, here's the thing, the more we pay as vendors the further we get in the race to your eyeballs. It's as simple as that. It's not skill, professionalism, reputation, or our portfolio. If I started as a wedding photographer today I could go to a few workshops, buy a website and pack it full of those fake wedding photos, and throw a bunch of money at the wedding websites to jump right to the top of your vendor search. Does it mean I have any clue as to how to photograph a REAL wedding? Nope.
- Workshops and Styled Shoots - I'll start this with a disclaimer: there are some brilliant photographers leading workshops and I think I photographed a couple styled shoots over the years. However, wedding workshops are notorious money grabs that prey on brand new photographers looking for shortcuts (or portfolio images) and styled shoots are completely unrealistic representations of real weddings. Do you know how easy it is to photograph two beautiful models on top of a mountain with perfect hair and makeup? Don't even get me started about a styled shoot of wedding table settings and details. You want a photographer who can capture those effortlessly throughout your day. You want the photographer that can breeze through portraits with a sixteen member drunk wedding party on a timeline that's thirty minutes behind due to hair and makeup having to do and redo eight bridesmaids' hair and makeup. Oh, and of course that groomsman was in the bathroom when it was time for portraits and the shuttle driver got lost on the way back from the Biltmore House. ;)
- Preferred Vendor Lists - Did you know that vendors can pay to be on some of them? Did you know that if a vendor pays to be on a list they will almost certainly be recommended over a potentially better choice for you? That better vendor might even be someone less expensive! Because guess what, if someone is paying to be on a list they're passing that cost on to you. There's exceptions to all of this of course but always ask if vendors pay to be on the list or be "in the group" or "in the sales brochure" because at least you'll know if that's a factor. Personally I want to be recommended because of the quality of my work, professionalism, and experience and NOT because I paid to get there. And yes, experience matters a lot when it comes to your wedding vendors if you want someone who can handle whatever might come up throughout your day.
I know, I know, this could come across sounding overly negative and that's not really my intent. The good news is the wedding industry in Asheville is actually amazing! Many of my best friends are also my direct competition and we've always helped each other out. And outside of my own friend circle are all the professionals that I know do incredible work but we're all just too busy to have made the connection with each other yet. And finally, many of the things I write about above I've even done myself or have seen nearly all of my friends and acquaintances do. I'm just trying to convey the absurdity of some of it and suggest that you take some time to ask the right questions. To get a sense of who is just playing the games versus who will put in the real work for you on your wedding day.