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 plus 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 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, friends!! You’re listening to the very first episode of a special series here on Keeping It Candid!
There are so many different types of vendors that come together on a wedding day, and we all have one main goal – helping our clients have the wedding day of their dreams. And yet, for some reason, it’s so common to find vendors acting like they are the only ones who truly care about the couple, and that every other vendor on the team not only doesn’t know what they’re doing, but is also harboring negative, ulterior motives to make sure the other vendors can’t succeed.
Why is that?! Why do we think things like this?!
Let’s pause for a minute and really think about it. Who is benefiting from one vendor preventing another from doing their job? Not the clients, that’s for sure. And definitely not either vendor.
Now listen – I’m not saying shitty things like this never happen. People suck and do questionable things sometimes. But as a whole, the majority of the time it’s wrong to assume that anyone has intentions any different than yours – to serve the couple, to make sure they have an incredible, stress-free wedding day, to have beautiful decor and eat delicious food and dance the night away, and of course – to have all the photos and videos they can to cherish for years to come.
That’s truly what we all want from a wedding day, and when every vendor can come together with that same mentality, with community-based thinking that drives collaboration and supporting one another – that’s when you get a dream-team vibe that will not only make your clients happy, but also make the whole wedding day so much more enjoyable.
And that’s what brought me to creating the Local Vendor Series, a five-part podcast series where I connected with different vendors local to the London, Ontario area that I’ve had a chance to work with over the last few years. We talked about things like why it’s so important to work together to create that ‘dream team’ vibe, how we can support and serve one another, and some of the ‘do’s’ and ‘don’t’s’ we’ve come across during our time in the industry.
First up, my good friend Dave, who also deserves a special shout-out for being one of my top podcast listeners. He’s the owner of The Alpha DJ Company and is widely known and respected as one of the top wedding and event DJ’s in the London, Ontario area. He began DJing in 2001 and has put in the work to get to where he is now, DJing some of the biggest events in the city and growing his business to now include a team of more than 15 people.
This interview was the perfect way to kick this series off, so let’s dive in, shall we?
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Sandra: Thanks so much for joining me, it’s going to be really weird talking to you and like such a formal setting.
Dave: I was feeling the same way, like, are we supposed to pretend that we aren’t actual friends? Are supposed to like just act like we’re network fellow professionals?
Sandra:(laughs) Awesome. Alright, well tell me a little bit about yourself – who you are, or where you come from…
Dave: I would love to, I would love to. Thank you for having me. My name is Dave in real life, or my business is The Alpha DJ Company. I am more commonly known as DJ Alpha in the wedding industry. I’ve been DJing for about, oh gosh, 20 years now, and I have a wife, who most of the time loves me very much, and two amazing boys.
Sandra: Yes, we love Amanda, and the boys. You get third place in that, but that’s just the rules. That’s how it happens.
Dave: Yeah. I love finding out secondhand, like, things that my wife has sent to you guys to use as collateral against me!
Sandra: It’s one of the reasons, one of the many reasons, why we love her so much!
Dave: (laughs) She’s up for anybody who, like, non-stop harasses me!
Sandra: It’s the best!
Alright, so, I wanted to put together this podcast where I talk to different wedding vendors in the industry, to kind of broach the subject more of like putting together a dream team of wedding vendors and getting rid of the idea that everybody needs to compete for the same space because our end goal at the end of the day, is all to be serving the same couple, and the same clients, and there’s no one, as far as I know anyway, that’s showing up on the wedding day, that’s just there for themselves and no other purpose and like, wants to screw other vendors over to make their lives more difficult or anything like that. So I wanted to know, what has your experience been like working with wedding vendors – er, wedding vendors, (I meant) wedding photographers, in the past?
Dave: I’m happy to say that most of my experience with wedding photographers has been really good. Most photographers are quite easy to work with, quite flexible, happy to do a bit of give-and-take in terms of making sure that the outcome of the wedding a successful. So most of them, I would say, are definitely here for the right reasons. And it really makes a difference on my end too, because obviously, you know, worrying about making sure the couple is having the best day of their lives should be everybody’s top priority. And, you know, worrying that some vendor isn’t going to do the thing they’re supposed to do or might prevent you from doing the thing you’re supposed to do… Like, that should not have had any time spent on it at all.
Sandra: Ya, I totally agree. So when it comes to, like, events during the reception and things like that, do you have a lot of interaction with photographers and kind of, like, making sure that things are running on schedule and things like that? How much do you like to kind of get input and feedback from the other vendors on the wedding day?
Dave: Ya I think that’s a great question, in terms of kind of what is expected from me. And I guess, kind of maybe what I expect from other vendors, specifically from photographers. I do try to keep the lines of communication is open as possible. Mostly because I respect that certain things that they do are very time-sensitive whereas most of the things in my role are not time sensitive. So if you’re going to do anything from, you know, those late-night sparkler shots, to maybe even firework shots, to sunset shots… Those are all things that, like, it really matters that they’re very close to the time that they’re supposed to be at, whereas for me, you know, whether we have the first dance at 8:00pm or 9:00pm, it doesn’t actually change the first dance at all. So my timeline’s a whole lot more flexible than theirs. So I try to be as open and transparent as I can with them and also find that I’m often kind of on the side, you know, one of the proponents of saying like ‘let’s get this timeline back where it’s supposed to be’ – as we know most weddings kind of lean towards running a little late, so anytime I can help to move things along – even 5 minutes, I find, can sometimes can make a pretty big difference in the world of photography. I try to keep it, you know, it’s as close to the timeline is can possibly happen.
Sandra: That’s one of the, like, my favourite thing about working with your team and with other DJs that have the same kind of idea is that, like, I don’t want to take the couple and disappear for sunset photos and then have the DJ go to start the first dance and can’t find anybody. Like, I think it’s so important to have that open line of communication throughout the whole wedding day regardless of what your actual job is for the next few hours.
Dave: I couldn’t agree more.
Sandra: I’m so do you have any like “please do” or “please don’t” scenarios that you can think of from previous interactions with photographers – speaking of like people making a couple disappear on expectedly and things like that!
Dave: Yes, yes, absolutely, I’m glad you brought that up. Actually, let’s start with that “please don’t” ‘cause you just mentioned it. So, obviously, from our perspective, you know, wherever, and whenever you need to take a couple, like, that’s something that you two agreed to, and probably agreed to with the venue. So it’s like, you know, far be it from us in the DJ role to try to overstep there and say, ‘oh you shouldn’t do this.’
I would ask, as a humble request, if, for example, if there is a way that we can arrange the timeline that, as such, so that once we start the party that we don’t then take out the couples, that we don’t take out the heart of the party and go off to do, you know, 30-40 minutes of pictures outside or with family or whatever. Again, this is in a perfect world it wouldn’t happen like that, only in the way that you know, once we lose our couple from the dance floor, everything becomes a lot harder for our, from our perspective, for our jobs and you know, usually if they don’t see a bride or groom or someone who just got married out on the dance floor, they seem a lot less inclined to want to spend time out there unless the drinks have really been flowing for the past couple hours. So, yeah, in a perfect world I’d love to make sure that didn’t happen.
But in terms of “please do,” amazingly, the bar is super, super low. Obviously, you know, please let us know what it is that we can do to help you out. Again, from a selfish perspective, we would love absolutely love if you maybe include us when you send out the albums to them, if you – if that’s something that is permitted, depending on your agreement with the couple. We would love – because we love to see the pictures! But also, you know, we’d love to see if we made the album at all. We use those pictures for everything. We use them, obviously, for marketing and promotion. That’s a huge purpose of them, but we also use them for training. For example, I just shared an album with our team last week, where we had about a dozen pictures of our DJ in the background. And one of the things that we teach our DJ’s is, you know, make sure at all times that you’re actively listening. So you’re never just back there scrolling on your phone or kind of, you know, dead-faced, looking at your laptop, especially during speeches. And this was the example, is we had about 12 pictures where our DJ was in the background reacting to the speeches. So you know, looking sad at times where it was a little bit sadder, laughing along with the guests at the wedding. All things that, you know, you’re- you’re literally in the background of the people speaking, and so there’s 200 people who can see your reaction to the speech. So act like you want to be there and be part of this.
But I can’t believe how many times… Like, I’ll even have a photographer take pictures of me, or of DJs on our team and, you know they’re going to be great shots ‘cause it’s like you with, you know, a full dance floor, maybe like a cool angle of you and, you know they’re great and they exist somewhere in the universe, but they don’t exist in my inbox, that’s for sure. And I’ve even, same with videographers, I’ve reached out after the wedding and I feel like there’s some unwritten rule that I just haven’t learned yet. But I can tell you, for every 99 photographers who say like “oh I’ll send these to you!” – they even take my phone number or email – one of them actually comes through and delivers on it. It’s unbelievable and I’m not sure why – there’s a culture that exists that I do not understand.
Sandra: Oh, that’s so true. I hear that from a lot of different vendors too. I know for, like, myself, sometimes I just forget but yeah, it’s definitely… In the, like, photography community there are definitely mixed vibes when it comes to giving photos to other vendors. I personally think that it’s a great way to network and make connections and build those dream team vendor relationships, but there’s definitely people who don’t feel that way. I think that goes across the board!
Dave: It’s so wild. Like why even take the picture though? If you’re like, if you’re like, this is not how I choose to network with other vendors. Like why act like you do, right?
Sandra: Yeah. Oh absolutely. I totally agree with that! So, I’m glad that you brought up the topic of getting photos. When it comes to DJ’s specifically, like, we can’t necessarily perfectly capture what it is that you’re doing. Like, we can take those, hopefully, images of a packed dance floor and things like that, but from the photos that you have received are there ways that you think that have worked better than others, when it comes to capturing what a DJ is fully bringing to a wedding day?
Dave: You know, honestly, I’m not sure that there is. I’m not sure there’s a great answer to that to say like ‘here’s an album of, whatever, 10 pictures and now, after you’ve seen this album you know exactly what to expect from this DJ.’ I think, like, if anything, you could maybe give some indications of what, you know, in terms of like, how does this DJ dress? What does DJ look like? What does their equipment look like? You know, how does a dance floor react to the things they do? I think you could answer those questions but yeah, to say, like, here’s 100% of what you can expect if you hire this DJ because of these 10 photos, I don’t think so. And also, if I can just add, I also, like, this is… I wholeheartedly respect that no photographer has ever gone to a wedding for a client in been like “here, I’m going to, after I get all these couple photos, like part of my job is to get pictures of your job. Like I know that it’s not and in fact, like even if you took pictures of people dancing and everything like I know that those are going in the album. That’s the point of those pictures. I’m just saying that if I ever, since I was asked! I’d love to also be able to have those pictures. And like, please watermark the hell out of them because that actually save me from going in and finding, ‘oh ya, where did this photo come from six summers ago?’
Sandra: Absolutely. Ya, I totally agree with that. I know if I were not the one behind the camera, I would want to find a way to make the transaction of exchanging photos mutually beneficial and things like that and not just make it seem like, you know, everybody is looking for the photographers to do more work. Like the work is already being done. There’s a way that it can, it can be, we can share the wealth. That’s for sure. That’s my opinion!
Dave: I think, too, like, in the world of photography is like you guys probably don’t think much of, you know, I guess I should say like, the frequency of pictures that you give or take, because this is your life. All you, all you do is talk in pictures. Whereas like, even if you’re like “oh you know, I captured a picture of the caterer just as they were getting ready to serve the meal”, which is like, you just happened to get that picture. Like that caterer probably has about five pictures. Like, even if they’ve been doing it for 30 years, they probably have five pictures of them about to serve their meal because like, who’s ever taking that picture? So, like, to that caterer, I feel like that’s such a valuable thing that they will hang on to forever, whereas I get it, like, in your world, you’re like, this might even be a throwaway photo, like, the couple probably doesn’t want this photo, right? So I get it, I get it. It’s a totally different perspective.
Sandra: Ya absolutely. But like you said, when we’re going through those photos, it might not be something that the couple is like, super excited about, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a throwaway photo. There’s definitely ways that you can get the most out of the work that you’re already doing.
Dave: And I think like, I mean, even that example is like, who knows? Maybe the catering was actually the thing they loved the most about their wedding. And if they had a photo of the person who made that happen, it’s like, sure, they’re probably not going to print it out and frame it but like, I still think they value it. I still think they would show people.
Sandra: Oh, a hundred percent. Now that you say that, I’m like – wait a second, I wish there was a photo of the guy from my wedding, ‘cause we had like –
Dave: Right? Like, if you loved your food, it’d be kind of cool.
Sandra: We loved our food and a friend of mine, like, worked with the company that owned our reception venue, and so they pulled some strings and had a special chef come in and like, he was super nice.
Dave: Oh ya, like, I feel like that’s a perfect example. Yeah. And how often does like cool stuff like that happen? Like, when it does I feel like, you know, capturing it is, is – it would be a great idea.
Sandra: Ya, absolutely. We were looking forward to the food from our wedding above anything else (laughs)
Dave: Amazing! Amazing. I feel like a lot of people do. They put in their top three at least!
Sandra: Right? It’s so true. Alright, so into the last question – what impact does it have on you as a DJ on the wedding day when all the vendors that you’re working with are coming together as a dream team and not fighting for the space and just working together really well throughout the day?
Dave: I mean, thankfully, most of the vendors that I work with are very easy to get along with. That being said, I never really thought about that question at all before you asked it, and I guess, I realize that, you know, I always try to show up, you know, my best self and put forward my best work. But there’s definitely a notable difference in the air of vendors if you have a table of vendors, sitting together having a genuinely great time over dinner.
If you are working together out at, you know, a hot and sweaty ceremony but you’re you’re happy to be working with the people that you’re working with. But I think there’s also kind of, I don’t know if it’s a confidence or a self-assurance to be like, ‘hey, you know, I’m going to work today with Sandra, or a wedding planner or videographer, whoever it is that I just absolutely adore, and not only am I going to have a great time, we’re going to, we’re going to probably have some laughs, we’re going to enjoy ourselves, but I also know that like if I slip up or Sandra slips up, that like, this isn’t going to make headline news, right? Like we’ve got each other’s back. I’m going to make sure, you know, Sandra is, you know, whatever the case is – like, aw there’s no outlets around – well, she knows that I have some outlets under my table, she can charge batteries back there. And we also know that, you know, if I forgot some tape to tape down to my wires, like, you know, a good wedding planner is gonna have my back and they’re not going to be showy about either, and act like they saved the wedding. And to me, that – there’s a real value in kind of that assurance of knowing on your way there, like, ‘do I have everything? Yes, I’m sure I have everything but just in case I don’t there’s other people here who are going to help me out’.
And those are just like the obvious examples. Never mind the, I mean, you know, I’m trying to think of like real-life things have happened to me. Like, I’ve had photographers who have been out, just trying – they haven’t captured that shot yet that they really have been working towards. And so you know I’ll go back and tell the venue coordinator like ‘they’re on their way, they’ll be here in two minutes’ knowing full well they won’t be, but just be trying to buy a little bit of time because this is like, somebody who would have my back too, right. And, and I think there’s there’s a lot of confidence and assurance that comes from that, to say like, no matter what happens today, I’ve got a small group of people who are going to have my back.
Sandra: Yeah, that’s so true. I love that answer.
Dave: I genuinely, I’d say, like, even thinking about driving to the wedding, like it makes a difference on your drive there, waking up that morning to be like, all right, I’m working with this All-Star lineup of vendors today.
Sandra: I totally agree and it’s nice, too – you and I have talked about this, how a couple sometimes are surprised when they know that we know each other, that we have a friendship outside of like, you know, we’ve met, we’ve worked together before – we’re friends, we hang out. They are very surprised by this fact. And so, I think the more that like, vendors are able to make those relationships, it really has such a benefit to the couple as well.
Dave: I couldn’t agree more, I think, ya, they think maybe we exist in silos or that we- we don’t ever want to work with each other. I think people seek out the vendors that they think are similar to them and that they like and trust and kind of form whatever, whether it’s a work friendship or a real friendship, or whatever it is. But I definitely think there’s a value to that and I think too that it offers, albeit a little biased, of a, of an opinion of somebody’s asking for a recommendation or referral. I think it also gives you the opportunity to stay like, listen. I- I know Dave as a DJ and, even being honest, to be like straight after learning about you too I don’t actually think he’s the right DJ for you. If that’s the case, which like, honestly I really appreciate it, right? Because like, thanks for the referral but this couple, like, our energies don’t match at all, right? Or inversely, to say like, ‘listen, you’re not looking for any DJs – Dave is the only DJ that is going to be at your wedding and I’m going to text him right now to tell him to hold the date.’ You know, those kinds of things, ‘cause I think genuinely, like, it’s it’s easy for other vendors to kind of sit in a position be like, ‘you know who’s the perfect, whatever, officiant or caterer for this person’ it’s like, I know because I’ve met them all and I know he’s perfect for you. I think there’s a real value there, assuming that you have that trust that that couple you know, truly believes that you were – you put their best interest first.
Sandra: Ya absolutely. Alright – well, to wrap things up if you can let us know, where can we find you online?!
Dave: Oh, for sure. Everything is ‘The Alpha DJ Company’. So Instagram – @thealphadjcompany, Facebook, of course you can look it up on Google, or our website is just alphadj.ca.
Sandra: Amazing. Well, thank you so much again for being here. I absolutely loved this conversation. For everybody who’s listening – make sure you go and give Dave a follow. If you pop onto the show notes, you’ll find some links there to make everything super easy for you. And if you’re local to the London area, make sure you check out some of the events that Dave is a part of during the year. You can usually check him out at Rock the park and other things like that you will definitely not be disappointed.
That was such a fun interview! Just like most things, podcasting is just more fun when your friends are a part of it!
I mentioned at the beginning of the episode that this is just day one of a five-part series here on Keeping It Candid – new episodes are coming your way every day this week! If you’re ready to start cultivating genuine relationships with the vendors in your area to make next year’s wedding season the most fun, stress-free season you’ve had yet – you don’t want to miss an episode so make sure you check back to listen to the rest!
Before I jump off – if you’re listening to this week’s episodes in real time – you know it’s Black Friday week! Make sure you head over to my Instagram – @simplysandrayvonne – because I’m going to be acting like your personal shopper all week long, sharing my favourite items, apps, services, and more that I use to run my business – including things like website templates and contracts!
If you caught last week’s episode of Keeping It Candid where I chatted with Paige Griffith from the Legal Paige, she mentioned that her entire contract shop is on sale for 40% off this week! The sale officially launched today, and if you pop into the show notes for last week’s or today’s episode, you’re going to find a code to get an extra $10 off during the sale!
Hiring an attorney is expensive and something that’s completely out of the realm of possibility for a lot of wedding photographers. That’s why I LOVE the contracts in Paige’s shop so much and have been using them in my own business for years – they’re easy-to-use, easy-to-understand templates that will help you protect the business you’ve worked so hard to create. I know there are tons of Black Friday sales happening this week, but I promise this one is one that you don’t want to miss!
You’ll find all of the links you need in the show notes, including shortcuts to my favourite Canadian law templates in the TLP shop!
I’ll be back tomorrow with part two of the Local Vendor series, talking with my friend Ally, a wedding planner from Perfectly Designed Events.
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!
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Dave’s passion for DJing began in 2001 and he has turned it into a career that he’s proud of. From humble beginnings as an intern at a record store, to bars, nightclubs, and house parties, he took every opportunity possible to perfect his skills. He brings the same approach to all his performances; “do it with passion or not at all”. Every single time someone trusts him to step behind the decks at their event, no matter the size, he feels filled with gratitude and is so thankful to be able to live his dream.