Michelle Harris joined me for a short, sweet, and incredible interview all about a problem wedding photographers everywhere deal with all the time – getting ghosted by potential wedding clients.
And today on the podcast Michelle and I are talking all about why it happens and what you can do about it to help improve your booking strategy before engagement season.
Sandra Henderson (00:00.318)
No matter who you are or how long you’ve been in the wedding industry, I know that this one scenario is something that every single wedding photographer can relate to. You get an inquiry and it is from a dream client. You could not be more excited. It’s the perfect venue and a couple that you think that you are going to click with perfectly. You send your pricing information. You may even have a consultation with them and then it’s crickets.
Ghosting has become a huge problem that we deal with as wedding photographers. And today I am diving into that very topic with the one and only Michelle Harris. You’re listening to episode 33 of Keeping It Candid.
Welcome to Keeping It Candid. I’m your host, Sandra Henderson, an international wedding and family photographer and business coach. I help wedding photographers use systems to build out the backend of their businesses to gain control and continue to thrive no matter what life throws their way.
And on a more personal note, I’m a strong Enneagram 3-wing two who’s obsessed with tacos. And my love for travelling combined with navigating chronic illness life are just two of the many things that drive my passion for all things, systems, workflows, and beating burnout as a business owner. Join me every week for a candid behind-the-scenes look at what it’s really like working as a wedding photographer, where I’ll give you actionable steps to take your business to the next level.
Absolutely no fluff here, friends, so go grab your favourite notebook and pen and let’s dive into this week’s episode.
(Music fades out)
Sandra Henderson (01:32.522)
That’s right, friends. Today on the podcast, I am joined by the one and only Michelle Harris. If you have not heard of Michelle Harris, then you may have been living under a rock for the last few years, but she is a destination wedding photography industry leader based in Washington, DC and is renowned for her expertise in couples posing. Her exceptional skills have garnered features in prestigious industry publications like Martha Stewart Weddings, People Magazine, and The New York Times and her unwavering dedication to inspire and empower photographers worldwide drives her passion to help them achieve six-figure businesses through innovative marketing strategies and advanced photography techniques, all while avoiding the burnout of a relentless hustle.
So you can see that Michelle and I, our vibes totally align. I’ve had the pleasure of taking some of her workshops, both online and in person, and let me tell you guys, you’re going to have so many takeaways from this conversation.
Like I was saying earlier, ghosting is something that’s happening more and more in the industry and it can be really frustrating and disheartening. I know all of you are pouring your hearts and souls into the business that you’re running and so it’s frustrating when you don’t hear back from people, especially when you’re just really excited about the potential of working with them. So that’s why I was so excited to dive into this topic with Michelle.
She and I talked about some of the main reasons why people are ghosting their wedding photographers and other wedding vendors that they’re reaching out to. And we talked a little bit more about things you can do in your business to make sure that this is happening less. We both agreed that it’s something that you really can’t prevent from happening altogether, but there are definitely steps that you can take in your business to make sure it’s happening less and give you a little bit more success in your booking strategy.
I don’t know if maybe we’re just more aware of it now or if it really is happening a lot more than it used to, but photographers everywhere, we’re getting ghosted all of the time by our clients. And I would love to hear from your perspective, what do you think is like the biggest reason that keeps happening to wedding photographers?
Well, I do think that it is something that is getting more and more popular because I feel like people are reaching out to more and more photographers before making a decision as of late. I also feel like people are planning their weddings a little bit on the shorter range because of COVID. I think they’re scared to plan things too far out. That is the main reason why they’re like, okay, let me just inquire with a whole bunch of different photographers and then whichever ones we can’t afford or we don’t like, they just don’t say anything. And I think it’s just because nobody really wants to admit that they can’t afford something. Like it never feels good. So I feel like that’s the number one reason is because they literally either can’t afford it or like something else has a little bit more value for the same price, whatever it is, it’s typically price. All based on, excuse me, it is all based on the fact that they don’t wanna have that negative feeling where they have to say, hey, I can’t afford you.
Yeah, that’s such a good point. And then I always feel like too, in the times that I have had to have that conversation and being like, sorry, this is out of my budget. I worry that people are gonna like counter it. And I don’t wanna have to have like a back and forth. So I think that possibly comes into play as well for these couples too.
Absolutely, because I mean, it’s just not a good feeling. You might even just say, hey, you know, we just decided to go with another photographer due to budget. And then when the photographer says, says something back, then they’re going to be like, oh, well, maybe it really wasn’t price. We won’t really know, but it’s just going to make everybody uncomfortable. So they just won’t say anything. Yeah, that is so true. So what do you think are some ways that photographers can stop this from happening? Do you think that’s even possible? Do you think that it’s just kind of something we have to embrace as part of the job now? Well, I mean, I do. It’s definitely not possible to just eliminate ghosting.
Yeah, I agree.
It’s just what it is to respond to everyone. But I do think the number one way to avoid that is by getting your clients on the phone as soon as possible. So not just saying, oh, send an email back immediately saying, let’s get on the phone and do this. It’s calling them. Because if you have a problem with any company, if your internet goes out and you’re calling Verizon and you’re like, hey, my internet is out. We go online and you say, hey, my internet is out. What’s going on? If someone picks up the phone and calls you, you’re gonna be ecstatic because someone cared enough to solve your problem. That’s what clients are having. They have a problem. Their problem is they need photography. So they go and they say, hey, I’m getting married on this date, can you help me with this? And the first person to pick up the phone and call them is gonna stand out over anybody else. And it’s really that simple.
It doesn’t matter how great your email template is, it is not going to make you stand out over someone who actually had a genuine connection on the phone with somebody.
Yeah, that’s one thing that I’ve always loved in following your education and things that you teach other photographers is how you push this connection over the phone. I think it’s so different from what everybody else is teaching. So why do you think it is that it works so well?
Just because we want everything now. Okay, like we want to order things online and we want it like in our hand immediately. Like as soon as you press the button, we want it. Now we’ll wait a day or two now, because we’re spoiled. We can’t film that fast. But like ultimately we want everything when we want it. So the faster you can respond to an inquiry, which is all different types of different studies out there saying like, you know, if you get to them within an hour or 30 minutes or whatever, that they are more likely to go with you.
and that’s just talking about email or any other way that you respond. But when you have a personal touch, which is very rare nowadays, actually genuinely connect with a human, then it’s definitely gonna make you stand out.
(Then, CLICK HERE to grab my wedding workflow freebie to help you get started!)
Yeah, that is so true. And do you think that there’s any benefit to the way that you’re reaching out to them? Like should photographers be just making that phone call? Do you think reaching out by text to set up a time works best? Do you think there’s any like right way to approach it?
I mean, I don’t think there’s a right way for anything, because there’s a million ways to do all the things. Yeah. But I’ve found that picking up the phone and just calling them, step one, is already exactly where you need to go. But if they don’t answer, don’t leave a voicemail, because nobody likes voicemails. Nobody likes having to listen to a voicemail. So at that point, you can text them and say who you are and that you tried to give them a call. And you can either try to set up a phone call within that text message, or you can say Look out for an email that I sent in response with all of the things that you asked for, whatever, depending on all the information you collect in your contact form.
I love that because it really gives you an opportunity to show the couple that you’re actually reading the things that they’re putting in their inquiry, and they’re actually not just another faceless couple to you.
Right. I mean, and that is why I think it’s so important to make sure that you have certain questions on your contact form so that you don’t have to ask them.
So like a lot of people just have names and then email or message or something like that. But if you have both of their names, if nothing else, you have both of their names, you can at least call them and say, hey, it’s so-and-so, I’m calling for so-and-so. And then when you start the conversation, oh, how did you and so-and-so meet? Cause you have their names. So that’s already like a little bit more personal and just helps you connect with them faster really would help, I think, build into that know trust factor that we’re all achieving or striving for in our businesses, that chance to just kind of have a quick little chat. And again, just letting them know you actually read their inquiry, they’re like, oh, this person actually, we can trust them to pay attention to those little details.
Absolutely. So do you think that when you’re able to make these connections over the phone as the couple is first inquiring that it’s still important to have in-person consultations down the road?
I personally don’t. I mean, my in-person consultation down the road is engagement session. Yeah. And then the wedding. And then if you want to do in-person after, then yeah. But I mean, it’s just the day and age right now. Like people are not wanting to get in their car and drive somewhere and go speak to people when they know that they could right after making dinner, sit down and turn on Zoom and talk to somebody. Yeah, that’s so true. A lot changed after COVID. We realized how easy it is to connect virtually and how not everything is completely lost if you don’t meet someone in person.
Sandra Henderson (10:36.518)
Oh, that is such a good point. I can’t remember the last time I had an in-person consultation. I give people the option, but they all just want to hop on Zoom. And I am totally fine with that because I’m in my house. I can just roll on upstairs, put a nice shirt on, and we’re good to go.
Absolutely. I mean, and then it’s really easy. When you’re on Zoom or Skype or whatever anyone’s using, you can easily share your screen and show them different galleries or walk them through your price guide, different things like that.
So I mean, with the technology we have, I don’t personally think that it is a big deal to me in person, because you can absolutely feel someone’s energy and their vibe through the computer.
Yeah, absolutely. I totally agree with that. Well, that really was short and sweet, but covers all the questions that I had. Do you think that there are any, like if listeners are gonna take one thing away from this episode that they’re gonna apply to their business as soon as they are done? What would you hope that one takeaway is for them?
It would actually be something right before we get to the point where you pick up the phone. So I have a lot of photographers, there’s a lot of different information out there where they say, oh, well, someone told me to put all of my pricing on my website. Someone told me to just put my starting price on my website. Anywhere you look, you can find different advice for that.
I personally believe that you should put your starting price or average price, either one or both, choice is yours. But the most important place to put it is right above your contact form. Because people may go to the investment page that you have set up somewhere, or you may have it in a dropdown that they didn’t click. And you’re like, how did they not know how much I cost? I have the investment page. Well, they didn’t go. Because in 2023, your Instagram is your portfolio. So people meet you, they’re like, Hey, what’s your Instagram? Not what’s your website. And so they’ve already seen your work. They’ve already maybe even gotten to know you a little bit like virtually, and then they clicked on your website. They’re probably just going to go to the contact page. Yeah. And so if they just go there and you don’t have Hey, I start here or my average, you know, collections are this, and then they fill it out. You’re way more likely to get ghosted because they had no idea where you started and just filled it out. And then when you start at 5,000 and their budget’s 1,500, they’re not gonna respond because there’s no meeting in the middle. If somebody only has 1,500, the likelihood that they’re just all of a sudden gonna have five is relatively low. So they’re gonna feel uncomfortable and they’re going to not respond most likely. So if you have that right above there, they’re not going to fill it out. So like, yes, it’s our job to show value in what we do and maybe upsell them from where we start.
But it is not our job to get someone to triple or quadruple their budget because they inquired. So that’s my take on that. That’s such a good point. And I think it helps to just have that information. It feels redundant to us, but we have to remember you brought up that good point. If it’s on the investment page and that’s the only place that they can find it, there’s a high likelihood that they’re not going to see it. And so when you have it in all of these places…
It attracts the people that you want. It repels the people that are not going to be able to afford you and helps eliminate that ghosting factor too. Yeah, because I mean, not having it on there at all, no matter where you are, like where you start, can be problematic. So, and another colleague of mine, we started exactly the same, but he did not have his starting price on there. And he’s like really, really popular on Instagram and things like that. He’s like two or three times the amount that I have. And so this girl inquired and she was like, hey, I’m inquiring because I know that I can’t afford him. And, you know, made some sort of joke, but like, here I am, you know, inquiring with you. And I’m like, we’re the same price. Yeah. I was saying nothing. But like that just deterred her because she was too afraid to have to have that awkward conversation of I can’t. So she avoided it all together and inquired with me because it says where I start.
Yeah, that’s so true. I would totally be the same as her in that situation for sure. If you don’t even realize how many people don’t value themselves, so they may have a lower price than you could have afforded, but we’ll never know. You never know, right?
Yeah, exactly. Those are such great points. Well, thank you so much for that. And I have one final question. That’s just a little kind of like fun would you rather question.
Sandra Henderson (15:20.135)
So I was wondering would you rather book a local wedding at your highest package or book a dream wedding at your lowest package?
That is so hard. That’s insane. I wanna say my highest package down the street from my house. Yeah. But I think that comes with me having done this for eight years now. I’d rather just make a lot of money and go home. I can take some of that money and go travel to wherever that dream wedding would have been. Right. But I mean, I know a couple of years ago, if you’d asked me, hands down, it’d have been the destination, but it all just depends… definitely close to home.
Yeah, I have to agree with you. Like I love to travel. I love destination weddings, but it is so nice when I only have a five-minute drive home from a wedding at the end of the day.
I mean, people don’t realize how much extra work it is and more often than not, how much more you sweat. And all of the things that come with it, it looks glamorous maybe on social media, but it’s like, oh, we’re gonna do it on the beach. Like, yeah, you’re sweaty and covered in sand and it’s disgusting.
The pictures will be great though! It’s not that fun sometimes.
No. I don’t know if this happens to you, but it seems when I do destination weddings in the tropics that the hottest day of my week is the wedding day. Without fail. Every single time.
100%. That is always how it’s going to go. You gotta be mentally prepared for that or stay home.
Yeah, for sure. Awesome. Well, thank you so much again, Michelle. This was amazing. All of these tips were incredible. I know they’re going to be so helpful to listeners. So thank you so much. And I hope that our paths cross again one day soon.
Girl, they better.
We love a short, sweet and powerful interview around here. And this conversation with Michelle was just that. We aren’t very far away from engagement season right now, which means booking season is just around the corner too.
Sandra Henderson (17:20.698)
I hope that you got some takeaways from this interview that you can use to make this the best booking season that it can be. Now if you want to hear more from Michelle, there are a couple places that I want you to go and check out. First, the M. Harris Education Community on Facebook. I have been in Michelle’s communities on Facebook for years now and they are such a friendly community to be in where people just genuinely are there to help and support each other and cheer each other on and that is 1000% my vibe so I highly recommend going to check that out.
And then the next place is the Hustle Vault, which is Michelle’s monthly membership. And this is filled with so much education in terms of posing, client experience, running your business, so many things. So if that’s something that interests you, head over to the show notes and you will find links for both the community and for the Hustle Vault in there. Now next week on the podcast, I am gonna be back to talk all about self-care practices for wedding photographers with chronic illnesses.
It’s a topic that’s near and dear to my heart because it’s something that I deal with day in and day out. Whether you also have a chronic illness or if you are a parent or a caregiver, have a full-time job or any other sort of responsibilities that takes you away from the business that you’re running, this is an episode that I think is going to be so valuable for you. Especially heading into October, they say that October is sweating photographers what April is to accountants.
In my experience, that couldn’t be more true. So this is the time of year that I really, really like to drive home the importance of self-care and taking time out for yourself as a business owner. As I was recording this, I almost started going off on a whole tangent because I’m just so passionate about it. But I’m going to save all of that for next week’s episode. So make sure you check back next Wednesday.
Thank you so much for listening. You can find full show notes from today’s episode at simplysandryvonne.ca/keepingitcandid. In the meantime, let’s connect. You can find me on Instagram and TikTok, just search @SimplySandryYvonne. And if you’re loving this podcast, I’d be so honoured if you’d go ahead and hit that subscribe button and leave a review. Until next time.
Michelle Harris, a destination wedding photography industry leader based in Washington, DC, is renowned for her expertise in couple’s posing. Her exceptional skills have garnered features in prestigious industry publications like Martha Stewart Weddings, People Magazine, and The New York Times. Michelle’s unwavering dedication to inspire and empower photographers worldwide drives her passion to help them achieve six-figure businesses through innovative marketing strategies and advanced photography techniques, all while avoiding the burnout of a relentless hustle.
October 4, 2023