My husband and I had a couple of different marriage celebrations. The first was a traditional all-night ceremony in a tipi about 4 years ago with mostly my husband’s relatives, and another was a couple of years ago where we had both families fully represented and mixed our cultures (mine Anglo Saxon and Darryl’s Navajo).
For the second ceremony, I was looking for a great photographer to capture wedding pictures that we could treasure forever. I have high creative standards when it comes to pictures because, as I mention often, my Dad is a professional photographer and I grew up around photography. OK, I admit it, I am a photo snob.
So I did the usual thing … Googled "wedding photographers in Arizona." After looking at a number of sites that had the typical boring staged shots, I stumbled upon Sergio Photographer’s site. I was really taken aback by the photos — they had energy, color and life, and they communicated a lot of emotion. I was intrigued.
I called Sergio and immediately felt comfortable. He was accessible, easy to talk to and asked lots of good questions about what we were looking to capture with our wedding photos. We ended up hiring him, and I soon saw a number of things he does well that we can all learn from as entrepreneurs:
How a creative entrepreneur "gets it":
- He has a specific niche. Obviously, as a talented photographer, Sergio can take shots of just about anything: nature, nudes, children, business, stock photos, etc. But he chose weddings because of the specific emotional content of the events, as well as the work flow that fits with his lifestyle. I am sure that if you asked him he would also say that within the wedding photo niche he also has a particular kind of client that he loves to work with: non-traditional, multicultural, creative and family-oriented come to mind by looking at his portfolio.
- He has a clearly defined style. Rather than taking posed "say cheese for the camera" shots, Sergio acts as a photojournalist, capturing the movement and action of a wedding. The intimate father/daughter shots in his portfolio are some of my favorites. I cry when I look at them, even though I don’t know the people in the photos, because I can feel the tender emotion in the moment. He also uses lights, camera angle and color in a specific way that show signature style.
- He is doing the work he is meant to do. You cannot spend one minute with Sergio and not know that he is meant to have a camera in his hand. He loves what he does, and that love shines through in every part of his business. And he is damn good at it.
- He has great partners. Sergio often shoots with his partner Kelly Rashka who also worked on our wedding. She is an amazing artist in her own right, and the two of them work really well together. It is nice to have both male and female photographers, since sometimes only a woman can really understand and fit into the "female bonding" part of a wedding, and only a man can capture the male equivalent. Both flow seamlessly through many different situations, and compliment each other’s strengths and shortfalls.
- He understands that the way he works is also part of his brand. One of the best things about Sergio is that he gets along with anyone. When we first met, he said "The way I want you to feel about me at your wedding is not as a photographer, but as a family member." And that is exactly what happened. He laughed and joked with my husband’s relatives and my relatives, sampled the roast mutton and fry bread (it is a Navajo thing!), played with the kids and was quietly respectful with the grandmas. This ease made everyone relax which, of course, is the key to great candid photos.
- He has clearly defined packages. Once we decided to go with him (which for me took about 30 seconds), he made it really easy to buy. He outlined a very clear wedding package and sent an organized contract right away. That made me feel comfortable, knowing that if he was organized in his business that he was most likely going to show up to the wedding on time and deliver the photos as promised. Which he did, right when he said he would.
- He provides added services. This slideshow of my wedding is an example of what he offers that is more than just a set of prints. Depending on his customer base, he could also offer custom photo books like these from Lulu.com. (just a thought Sergio!)
- He charges what he is worth. He is not the cheapest person on the block, but is worth every penny. By charging a good rate, he ensures that those he works with value his services. He is not so busy running from cheap gig to cheap gig to pay the bills that he has time to plan and prepare for outstanding events.
- He has a clear brand. His website, printed materials and blog all have a similar look and feel. They capture the spirit of who he is. And a funny note … after almost finishing this post without looking at what he had written on his blog, I read that he described himself this way:
"I create un-cheesy images and never say cheese.
I have been a
wedding photographer for about five years and I love doing this more
than anything else in my life. I enjoy every single aspect of my job.
From the moment I get an inquiry and everything throughout until I
deliver the album after the wedding."
Funny, that is exactly what I said about him as a customer! That is true brand harmony.
- He demonstrates love. For any wedding photographers out there, you know that sometimes weddings are the last places love is found. From screaming mothers of the bride to drunk relatives to uptight grooms, they are tense emotional experiences. But because Sergio approaches his work with an open heart and no judgment, things work out. You can feel when someone cares about you as a human being and not just a customer. That is not a communication technique, it is love.
Like many of you, Sergio used to be a cog in a corporate machine. Fed up, he jumped ship to launch his business. Each of us, in our own way, can learn from Sergio about showing up in our businesses in a big way. Thanks for your talent, friendship and artistry Sergio!
(and FYI, he took my headshot on this blog too)