“Competition is a good thing; it forces us to do our best.” Nancy Pearcey
I was at my first wedding exhibition at the beginning of the year. I’d worked hard on my stand, thought about my giveaways, competitions and offers. I had enough flyers to paper the inside of the stadium we were exhibiting at. Unfortunately, it snowed heavily all weekend and the predicted footfall never materialised. That left all the suppliers a LOT of time to network with each other. There were more photographers exhibiting than any other supplier and a few of them guarded their work and price lists ferociously refusing to chat or share information. The majority, however, were blooming lovely people. 🙂
One older chap who’d been in the wedding photography business for double-digit years came over for a chat. Not only was he really complimentary about my work, he also reassured me that I was doing well for my first year of trading (compared to his own first year) and offered me some helpful tips for a wedding venue I was shooting for the first time the following weekend. Later on my way out of the stadium, my mini got stuck in the snow and he helped push me free!
Did he have anything to gain by helping a newbie like that? No. Was he worried I was going to steal his clients? No. We are based in totally different locations, with very different styles and price points.
As I drove home, carefully in the snow, I reflected on how different this exchange was to some in my previous life as a banker. There you had to be mindful of office politics at every meeting and watch out for people looking to undermine, blame or usurp you at every turn. Yes, people would help you, but often it was for their own gain (so they could add Mentor to their CV for example!). Now before you think I am bank bashing I suspect all large blue chip companies are the same.
Since I have become self-employed I view the world differently. People that really are my competition (as in they could get the gig rather than me, instead of they might get a bigger bonus or promotion over me) have in the main been utterly amazing. Facebook groups of like-minded photographers will happily share their tricks and techniques, provide constructive criticism on your images and even be a virtual shoulder to cry on when the going gets tough. Several photographers I’ve reached out to individually for have been nothing but kind (shout out to you Red Peacock Photography!). Photographers will share their work actively on Social Media. This enables other photographers (like me) to take inspiration, work hard to push the envelope even further to delight my clients and gain confidence that my work is totally on a par (or better 😉 ).
The rise in wedding suppliers has unfortunately also led to the rise in wedding scammers. It breaks my heart when I read peoples accounts of pictures of their wedding not being delivered, or with key moments missed, or blurry images, the list is endless. I don’t class these people as my competitors, they are criminals. They give professionals like myself and my competition a bad rep. I am heartened by how quickly we respond to couples in these situations. Offering advice and sometimes free reshoots.
Sometimes though, couples are complaining about how long their professional is taking to get their pictures to them. Or not staying in contact regularly. Or just being downright rude! That’s when I take great pride in the service I offer. My customers get regular contact from me. I quote 4 weeks for wedding images to be delivered but usually get them out the week after the wedding. With a sneak peak the day after the wedding. I aim to surprise and delight my customers at each interaction and my customer reviews and testimonies certainly reflect that.
So here’s to all my fellow photographers! For working hard to capture memories and for inspiring me to be the best I can possibly be.