Welcome to Keeping it Candid – Wedding Photography Unfiltered for photographers who want to keep it real. I’m your host, Sandra Henderson, international wedding and family photographer and educator with a Marie Kondo-style approach to running a business – you know, keeping things simple and getting rid of anything that doesn’t bring you joy!. More importantly, I’m a strong enneagram 3w2 who is obsessed with tacos, and my love for travelling is one of many things that drives my passion for all things systems, workflows, and beating burnout as a business owner. Join me twice a month 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 grab your favourite notebook and pen, and let’s dive into this week’s episode.
Welcome back, friends!! I took a quick break from the podcast a couple of weeks ago because I was in Cleveland for a conference, and I wanted to give it my full attention to take in everything it had to offer. But I’m back! Refreshed and inspired and so, so excited for today’s episode.
If I could go back to the beginning years of my photography career with the knowledge I have now, there’s one major change I would make – and that’s making sure that my clients are prepped for their wedding day photos ahead of time. It just makes everything so much easier! And also gives my clients the experience that they deserve. It helps them get excited and helps alleviate any anxiety they might have – it’s likely one of their first times ever being in front of a camera like this and that can be nerve-wracking! Anything I can do to support them ahead of time truly does help everyone.
Today I wanted to share a few things you can do to prepare your clients for their time in front of the camera too:
First – Answering questions before they’re asked is the simplest way to get started, but it’s also a really broad statement to make, right?! How do we answer something that hasn’t even been asked? We aren’t mindreaders!
Well, you want to start by putting together a list of questions relating to your service. What questions have you been asked by previous clients? Are there any that have popped up a few times? Those ones will definitely be really important. Try putting yourself in their shoes, too, and think, what questions would I have? What information would help me prepare for my engagement session or wedding photos if I was the one in front of the camera?
Think things like “when is the best time to schedule our ceremony?” and “can we do engagement photos with our dog?”
Just simply getting yourself in the headspace of what your clients want and need will give you invaluable perspective on how to best serve them beforehand!
Now that you have this list, the next thing you can do is decide what the best method of delivery is going to be to actually get this information to your clients. I recommend something like a guide you can send as a printed magazine or a digital PDF, or even a series of emails that you can schedule to send out throughout the planning process. Whatever method you choose, use this space to creatively display all the answers to those questions you have on your list! You can put everything on an FAQ page, or you can create some short-form articles based on some of the answers that are a bit longer.
Your prep guide or email series are also a great opportunity to educate your clients on things like the best time of day for wedding photos or when to expect their photos to be ready afterward. The opportunities are endless! And you’ll now have an easily accessible, on-brand spot to direct your future clients to any time they have a question that you’ve already got an answer for.
**BONUS TIP!!!** Repurpose all of this to create content to use on social media, too! There’s nothing better than doing the work once and getting to indefinitely reap the benefits from it, amiright?!
My last suggestion is that once your clients have decided on a location for their session, or start thinking about the possibilities their wedding venue has to offer, consider sending them a gallery of photos you’ve done there in the past. If you’re heading to an entirely new location, send them a similar gallery instead. As wedding photographers, building the ‘know like and trust’ factor with our clients is SO important, and giving them access to galleries like this will help them get to know your work better, they’ll start thinking about what they like and don’t like in terms of posing and locations, and they’ll trust that you’re capable of doing more than just the highlights on your Instagram. They’ll be able to start daydreaming about what their own photos could look like, too, and hopefully, they’ll start getting even more excited to work with you!
Ok, so, to summarize – three ways you can prep your clients for their time in front of the camera are:
- Putting together a list of helpful, frequently asked questions
- Creating a guide or email series to educate your clients
- Send galleries for inspiration
You’ll feel so great when your clients are doing things like getting ready in bright, neutral locations, or having all of their details in one spot ready-to-go so you don’t have to rush around to find it all at the beginning of a wedding day – because you’ll have used your time leading up to the day preparing them!
Now, as I begin to talk more about what I’m doing behind the scenes in my photography business here on the podcast, especially when it comes to systems and workflows, I’m going to be sharing more about what that looks like for me, from the perspective of a business owner living with a chronic illness. So, for all of my listeners out there who are living with a chronic illness themselves or who maybe have someone in their close circle like a friend or family member that they want to support, I’m going to be diving into some topics a little bit further, because things can be a little more complicated when you’re running a business and navigating chronic illness life. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to a podcast or watched a webinar and thought to myself, “Those tips sound great, but it’s not that easy, that won’t work for me when I have so much else on my plate…” and that’s why I think this aspect of the conversation is so important.
Let me take things back for a minute, though, and tell you a little more about me and my story:
On June 24th, 2017 I was photographing a wedding, and while we were doing the bride’s getting ready photos, I was suddenly hit with period cramps so severe I could barely stand. I started sweating, felt nauseated, and looked at my assistant with panic in my eyes as I silently motioned for her to take over while I got myself out of the room without anyone noticing. I grabbed some water and some Advil, and 5 minutes later I pulled myself together to fight through the pain and get back to work. That was the day I knew something was wrong.
Over the next two years, I saw countless doctors, was sent for endless tests, tried treatment after treatment after treatment, and each time I left with no answers. Then I finally met a doctor, who, after listening to my story, said some pretty life-changing words:
He said – you have endometriosis. I have to go through the proper procedure to be sure, but I can say this pretty confidently.
I finally underwent laparoscopic surgery on Christmas Eve in 2019, and the biopsy results confirmed what my doctor had said. I was officially diagnosed with stage 4 endometriosis.
For anyone who isn’t familiar – endometriosis is an incurable disease where tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows in other places throughout your body. If you could see inside me with a camera right now, you’d find that tissue in multiple places from the organs in my pelvis all the way up into my chest. It causes chronic pain, severe inflammation, nausea, scar tissue, organ failure, infertility, and so much more – there is a seemingly endless list of other symptoms. In fact, I’m even snuggled up with my heating pad right now as I record this episode to help manage pain in my hips and lower back while I get through the recording process.
Endometriosis affects approximately one in ten women and a countless number of trans and non-binary people who are underrepresented in studies. That’s more than 176 million people worldwide – and yet there are only about 200 specialists appropriately trained to treat this disease. The more I learned about endo, the further I was able to trace back my own experiences, and it turns out I had been managing symptoms on my own since I was 13 years old, not long after I had my first period. And it would be another 20 years before a doctor would ever acknowledge something was, in fact, wrong. I could do a whole episode on the absurdity of it all – but I’ll save that for another day!
When the pandemic hit in early 2020, I was 3 months post-op and still not feeling great. I was told after my surgery that I would be in ‘remission’ for at least a few years now that the tissues they found had been removed. Instead, things started spiraling pretty quickly. Between the stress of the pandemic, lack of access to my healthcare team, and a somewhat unsuccessful surgery, by May I was in more pain than I’ve ever felt in my life. Over six weeks my symptoms flared up three times for more than a week each time. I couldn’t walk more than a few feet without help. Getting up my stairs to go to bed sometimes took me more than 20 minutes. On the rare chance I was able to muster up enough energy to get outside, I needed help getting up the two steps from my back patio into the house. I was nauseated all day, every day, and started losing as much as 5lbs a week because I couldn’t keep anything down.
It never really feels less surreal to talk about. I’ve never been so scared in my entire life. For four months I didn’t know what to do, where to go for help, or how I was ever going to find a way to keep living my life, let alone run this photography business I’d been dreaming of since I was 17 years old and had spent my entire adult life building.
Every day, I kept going through the motions. I just didn’t know what else to do, honestly. Then one day I decided that I had given up enough of myself, my body, and my life, to this disease. Enough was enough. My business was NOT going to go on that list, too. I didn’t come this fucking far to stop now.
I had to find a way to start actually answering the question – “how am I going to do this?”
First came getting some help from my doctors. After four months of living in my own personal hell, I was finally able to get onto a new symptom management plan, giving up my fertility in the process due to the medications I needed to take. But, I started getting other parts of my life back in the meantime.
I could walk again. I could eat a full meal again. I started to get some of my strength back.
I never went back to how I felt physically before the surgery, but I’ve had time to make peace with that. This is my new normal. I had to find a way to stop fighting against it; to embrace this new life instead and start building a new version of what it could look like instead.
On the personal side, rebuilding that new version is still a work in progress. I think it probably always will be and I’m okay with that. Therapy and doing a lot of internal work will help me heal mentally and emotionally along the way.
But on the business side of things – I knew that streamlining every aspect of my business was going to be my key to success.
There were the obvious places to streamline, like within my systems and workflows in Honeybook, but as I started piecing this new puzzle together I saw that there were so many other areas with streamlining potential.
Prepping my clients ahead of time was one of them.
Creating a system that keeps my clients prepped and excited for their time in front of the camera became even more important when I had to start making these shifts in my business. Chronic illnesses like endometriosis can be unpredictable on their best day, so that means I’m not always able to be at my computer doing all-the-things.
There was nothing worse on those off-days than not feeling well, trying to focus on my health and getting the rest I needed, but being weighed down the entire time with guilt and anxiety because I had sessions and weddings coming up that needed my attention… it made already hard days feel unbearable.
Setting up an email series to send out to my clients throughout our time together helped me rest easier knowing they were being taken care of and were getting excited about what was to come, all without me having to be actually present at my computer.
Honeybook automations let me schedule everything so I never miss a beat. Everything that I talked about in the beginning of this episode – sending out galleries, answering questions, and educating my clients on what to wear, where to meet, and how to reach me.
Instead of pushing myself past my limit to stay on top of things, I’m able to rest when I need it, so when I do need to get behind my camera I’m showing up as the best version of myself, focusing my energy on capturing memories for my clients. And my clients are showing up excited and ready to go because they know what ot expect, which takes a lot off my plate mentally as we get started. If you’ve ever experienced chronic illness, I know you understand when I tell you that taking even one decision or one task off your to-do list on a day when you don’t feel well is everything!
No matter what your day-to-day life looks like, chronic illness or not, I hope today’s tips help you start creating a dream client experience that takes some of the work off your plate in the process.
That wraps up today’s episode, friends! Make sure you head over to my blog at simplysandrayvonne.ca/blog to check out the show notes from today’s episode- there is a little bonus tip that I didn’t mention earlier and you definitely don’t want to miss out!
Thanks so much for listening to Keeping It Candid: Wedding Photography Unfiltered with Sandra Henderson! You can find full show notes from today’s episode at simplysandrayvonne.ca/keepingitcandid. In the meantime – let’s connect! You can find me on Instagram @simplysandrayvonne, and on Facebook in the Wedding Photography Unfiltered community! If you’re loving this podcast, I’d be so honoured if you’d go ahead and hit that subscribe button and leave me a review!
Until next time!