I remember when I first spoke to Kenda over the phone, I was drawn to the warmth in her voice, the ease of her laughter, and her affection for Ed, who would be her husband. I would say about 70 percent of the time, I don’t get a chance to meet my clients face to face until our engagement session, and I was SO excited to meet Kenda, and Ed. Not only that, but we spent the whole day together on this gorgeous spring day in our nations capitol, starting with breakfast, hanging out in the car :), and enjoying an early afternoon mojito. And now, I think I’m going to start finding time to hang out in DC so I can see them again! Their love is so gentle, sweet and deep, and it shines through their nearness to each other. It was pretty much awesome.
Monthly Archives: April 2011
Thought I’d take the most amount of time I could to decide what I wanted to ask you since there are so many questions that could spill out of me!
It’s evident that you establish some sort of connection or interaction with your subjects and that you make maybe even some of the nervous ones feel at ease. Do you use a certain technique to interact with your subjects during a session to capture your images or is it mostly candid?
Thanks so much! Love that you’re so helpful and generous!
As the photographer, I believe that what I photograph is a reflection of myself – my ability to draw out of my subjects, what I see in them, and the world. My clients will give me as much of them selves as I give them of myself. I always insist on shooting an engagement session, and when we schedule the session, I let them know, that we might end up spending the whole day together. Usually it starts with lunch and ends with dinner. Sometimes it ends with breakfast the next day :). There is often drinking involved, along with great food and general merriment. I let them know that at the end of the day, they will feel like they’ve had a bonding day, and I get to share a little piece of that bond. Think about how often you spend an entire day with someone you don’t know that well. I go out to lunch with my friends, dinner, dancing… but with my clients, I really spend the whole day with them – if I can. If not the whole day, at least a handful of hours. And when I show up for the wedding, we have that bond. So in the rush of the wedding day, we just slip right back into our relationship and things go a lot smoother than if they felt I was a stranger.
The photos I take are a balance between posed and candid. I set them up in the ideal spot and then I make sure that they are focusing on each other. That’s why we are here! Because of their love, their relationship. I say, go over there and be nice to each other! And that means something different for everyone. I also tell them embarrassing stories about myself. I tell them stories about my marriage. I try to make them laugh – I’m a pretty huge nerd so it’s easy to get people to laugh at me if I can’t get them to laugh with me!
a. How did you start attracting and most importantly ‘booking’ destination weddings?
I spread the word! And then the weddings just came to me. At first I shot some at expense, and now I have enough under my belt that I don’t have to do that any more. Now I offer packages that include travel, tailored each to a different continent. When you give the couple just one number to look at when they are dealing with the complexities of planning a wedding far away, it makes it easier for them to know that everything is already taken care of on my end. Plus – I get the airline points!
b. Does shooting film give you more time in the end vs. shooting digital? (i.e. you’re not behind a computer editing all your shoots for hours on end)
I said I would only answer 1 question per person, but this one is an easy YES!
- Are you right eyed or left eyed?
2. Talkers or silent people?
3. What’s your favorite movie(s)?
5. If you had to be named after one of the 50 states, which would it be? (You said you’d answer everything )
I don’t think the first three really apply to me, so I’ll go with Nebraska. But my friends call me Nubs.
Hi Punam! Your One-zie is doing the smiling for you….I like that.
I completely relate to “slow and droopy”. I just made the jump to being a full time photographer in February and I have to admit, my business is not quite booming like I thought it would be now that I have all this free time. I guess all my future clients didn’t get the memo. I would love to know what your favorite marketing idea has been over the years?
Become well educated in the world of wedding blogs, and them submit weddings to the ones that draw the kind of clients you want, having the kind of weddings you want to shoot. If you don’t have any publishable weddings, skip that next workshop you wanted to take and use the money to set up the shoot of your dreams (within your budget of course!). Andy and Ashley’s shoot (photo below!) was born out of this idea, and I booked many destination weddings because it was so well circulated for a year after I shot it!
Here are links to the shoot:
I’m a big fan of your work! I’m currently photojournalism student at UT.
1. Who are your favorite photographers?
2. Where do you hope to be in five years?
I have a hard time with favorite questions, so I’ll answer the second. In five years, I would like to have 3 kids, living in sunny Southern CA with my huz. I’ll be teaching workshops and I’ll have 4 associate shooters, and I’ll be shooting only film.
Hi, Punam! I am a longtime reader but I think this *may* be my first comment. Thanks for the opportunity to ask questions and the possibility of meeting/speaking with you. I am Australian but am going to be in NYC soon so I may as well have a go, right?
I have a zillion questions to ask you because I think you’re rad, but today I am going to stick with something that’s been quite pertinent to me of late: finalising bookings via email. I am getting a reasonable number of inquiries via Google – I am not currently blogging but plan to rectift that ASAP. When I reply and send a pricing sheet, I never hear back. If I don’t send the sheet and suggest meeting for a coffee instead, I don’t hear back either. It is incredibly disheartening and something I am really struggling with. Would you mind sharing some of your approaches to ‘selling’ via email and do you feel that blogging does part of the ‘selling’ for you? I would be forever grateful for some insight!
Hmmm. I don’t think of myself as selling myself. Wedding photography can be rather nerve wracking, as weeks and months go by and you don’t book anything. I probably only hear back from 10 percent of the people who contact me. I get about 60 inquiries a month when we are not in booking season. When we are in booking season, I usually get about 200 inquiries a month. So over the year, I probably get 1500 inquiries a year. I get maybe 60 meeting or second emails out of that number. I actually book 25 weddings a year. Any more than that and my head starts to spin – especially since I usually also do destination engagement sessions!
Now that I’ve been doing this for a little while, I no longer feel the need to sell myself. I once had a 4 month stretch go by where I didn’t book anything – it was a little scary because we weren’t shooting during time either. But I still booked 27 weddings that year. And so I realized, there is no point in stressing. If I have to push myself on these people, I already know they aren’t my clients. So now, I don’t think of my self as selling my self. I think of my meetings as an opportunity to meet new people and have a nice meal – especially since the life of a wedding photographer can somewhat mirror that of a hermit’s. Mine anyway – especially now that I live in the woods in a town where I don’t know many people, and until today it’s been mostly freezing. So after my meeting is done, if they don’t email me again, I just don’t spend much time thinking about it.
That being said, you need to start blogging :). The reason I say this is because this gives people the opportunity to establish a relationship with you before they contact you. If they feel a kinship, if they are excited to watch the progress of your career and work, they are more likely to view you as the only possible person who could photograph their wedding. And the more of your self and your life (with out going off the deep end of course!), that you share, the more people will want to share them selves, their life, their relationship, their wedding, with you and only you. When you get your blog going, treat it like a living thing. Feed it your hopes and dreams of the photographer you long to be, and the clients you’ve always wanted will find you. If times are tough, if the season is slow, keep photographing, keep posting, use your work as a tool to get where you want to be. Your clients, the ones who could have no one else but you shoot their wedding, will find you!
I know it’s taken me a while to get this post up, as it’s taken me a while to track down a copy of this (one of my favorite wedding magazines) here in the middle of the woods and all. Any hoo, it’s kind of been a dream of mine to be published in Real Simple, and I an SO EXCITED – I didn’t even believe it was true until I had a copy of it in my possesion! Well, ok. Multiple copies. Just to be safe :).
ps – I’m hard at work answering your questions! The next edition of Answering Everything will be up on Monday!
Yay! Thank you all so much for your questions!! There was quite a few, and I’ll be answering them in batches over the next few weeks! But in the meantime – the winner of the mentor session is……….
Woo hoo! Congrats Alexandra – I’ll be in touch soon!!
And just so we have something pretty to look at, this is my drive to the gym, on film. Uh huh. That’s where I live.
And since Alexandra is our winner, I’ll answer her question first:
Hi Punam! Thank you for the opportunity to ask you anything! For me, the most difficult part in the business of photography was to set prices. I’ve been doing freebies for so long, it was hard to work up the courage to charge for my work. Specifically with weddings, what kind of packages do you offer and what do you include? Also, what do you bring with you when you go to meet your potential clients for the first time?
I bring my iPad. I find it to be an invaluable tool for meeting with clients – I have my pricelists, contracts, and full wedding galleries on there, and it makes it super easy to communicate to them what I’m about and how I work with my clients. It’s hard sometimes, especially when it’s February, and you only have 8 weddings booked for the year, and you have no idea if this will be a macaroni and cheese kind of year or a Ramen kind of year. When I first started, I did a lot of freebies. I didn’t have real pro equipment, so I didn’t start charging real prices until I acquired it. I doubled my prices a few times when I first started because I was booking way too many weddings. I shoot around 25-28 weddings per year – which for me, is an ideal number, since so many of them are destination weddings, or have destination engagement sessions. Also, with a husband who travels I try to be available so we can travel together – otherwise we would barely ever see each other.
I have three packages for the most part, and all of them come with an engagement session (no DVD except for the top package). 8 hours of coverage with a DVD, 8 hours of coverage with a DVD and an album, or 10 hours of coverage, known in some circles as the Kitchen Sink package, as it comes with a lot of goodies. I price my packages based on where the wedding is. There is a Domestic Package, for weddings in the 48 states. Whether they are around the corner, or across the county, my prices are the same. And if we can swing it with out too much expense, this also includes doing a destination engagement session if needed. Many of my clients don’t live near me, and this facilitates our relationship building, which is why I do the Engagement session in the first place. Then I have North American Packages for weddings in Alaska, Hawaii, Canada and Mexico, and then we pretty much go by continent by that point – so one for Asia, Europe, South America, Africa, and Australia. We’ve shot weddings in every continent except Australia. I find that with pricing, the less you end up adding on later, the more likely they will book me now because there will be no surprise expenses. One flat travel fee, covers everything we would need – but if you go this route and book a wedding in India or Africa, just be sure your rate allows for the cost of vaccinations!
hi punam! you’r work is amazing! what kind of camera do you use? are you a nikon lover or a canon lover? and why?
I am a canon lover all the way! The colors, the lenses – yum! I actually started out with a Nikon D200 4 years ago, but once I could afford to get a 5D I jumped ship very promptly. I think that Nikon and Canon both have their own strengths and weaknesses, and for what I wanted out of my equipment, Canon served my purpose better. Canon cameras tend to be a little slower, their flash systems and focal speeds (depending on the lens), aren’t as reliable as I’ve known my old Nikon to be. However, the lens choices are awesome with wide lenses available like the 50mm or 85mm 1.2, and the 24mm 1.4. And also, the color is magnificent!! I hear that Nikon is making up the difference with some new lenses coming out that are on par with Canon lenses, but you really can never beat that color!
My Question for Punam…
When are you coming to New Zealand?
And for all of you participating in the competition, I have been lucky enough to actually do a day mentor course with Punam as well as assist her at a wedding. Both experiences were amazing and totally helped me grow as a photographer and gain more confidence in my work. And not only is Punam a super talented photographer who I know you will learn lots from she is also a hell of a lot of fun! So if you haven’t entered this comp I would totally recommend doing so! Greta xxx
You are awesome! Well we should have an in depth discussion about this. Yes!
I was introduced to your website by Emily of Emily Takes Photos and I love it! You are the first person I look at when I sign on to my reader.
I am in the process of launching my business and I love photography but am rather shy when it comes to directing people. My question to you is what can someone like me do to gain confdence in posing and directing?
Thanks for answering my question!
I find that my self confidence is like a muscle. I have to exercise it in order to develop it’s potential. You have to get used to the idea of directing your clients, and sometimes it helps to just spend a whole day with them, especially if you are shooting their wedding – before the wedding. Become their friends, get to know them. Spend some time with your camera in it’s bag and share a meal. It’s invaluable for them and for you to build your relationship. It enables you to build your confidence and repore with them, and it enables them to accept you as part of the family when the wedding day comes.
Half the time I shoot, it’s the first time that I am meeting the couple. I think a lot about what I’m about to do before I go out and shoot. I usually take an hour and sit in a quiet room, and I envision how our session will go. Sometimes I’ll jot down very rudimentary sketches of posing (I am no sketch artist, they usually look like a child did them but they get the point across). If I’m familiar with the lay of the land, I’ll try to envision the light and the backdrop. The point is, I’m wrapping my mind around it. By the time I get there, I’ve already photographed the whole thing in my head. It relaxes me, even if it doesn’t turn out at all the way I envisioned. I’m constantly coaching myself – sometimes I feel like I’m done with a particular shot and I’m ready to move on, and another idea occurs to me. I feel like leaving it and walking away, but I remind myself, no. Get in there. Take that picture. This is your only chance. I find these little mantras go a long way in keeping me on track, when I’m not already on track. If you have a vision, you can mold the world to it instead of molding yourself to the world. At the end of the day, it’s up to you and your commitment!
You work is fabulous and so inspirational!
My question is, you said in a much earlier post that you learned all that you learned from Flickr, correct? Was there anyone–or rather any page–in specific that you seemed to look at more for your knowledge or was it all a hodgepodge of pages that you liked?
When I was an actress, I had (and still have) an intuition about the things that make people tick. I have a good grasp on the essence of people – and some people have louder essences than others. As soon as I could sense it, I could imitate it. This is how I learn best. By doing, and by imitation. Flickr has such an enourmous wealth of budding photographers in the realm of surrealism, glamour, fashion, modern artistic sensibilities. I swam through that ocean of images and clung to my very favorites. I was actively looking for ways to imitate photos that I loved. I felt that if I could copy an effect or composition, it would teach me about that effect or composition. That’s how I learn best – by imitation. And from there, my work grew and changed and now that I learned all the rules, I can create my own original work from what I learned imitating others. Some of my favorite and most inspirational photographers are Lara Jade, Joey L, Rebecca etc.
What a wonderful opportunity, i have to say that i enjoyed reading all the comments such wonderful questions, as you know your work has inspired me , the destination wedding are incredible no ignoring that but it is the way you capture the in between moments, the story telling that is told by your work draws one in instantly as if the viewer is feeling those moments themselves.
oh how i would love to ask you many questions but the one i am going to ask is this one
What do you do if you miss the shot (i never do formals) but what happens when after all is said and done, you realize important shots were not up to par- how do you address the client, do you address the client if they do not mention it. I think you extremely talented so i am not saying this happens to you but it must at times.
or are you okay at the wedding asking for a do- over, i try to be so invisible in away it is odd, i do not want to direct or be intrusive, but more so document the exact moment. I have worked with photographers who have ask the bride and groom to do over their first kiss, i always feel as if they will know when viewing the photograph that it was for the photographer and the not the very moment.
I tell my clients before the wedding, that I am there to capture a body of work that represents the essence of the wedding day. I’m not there to capture a specific shot. Some photographers will use flash during a ceremony. I don’t. The photographer who uses flash may also ask their subjects to reenact, or hold a pose. I don’t. My goal is to reflect the truth of the situation as it unfolds. If at the end of the day, I can look through all of these photos and remember that emotions were high, that there was a lot of love to go around, that the details came together, then I’ve done my job. And of course I’ll always try my best to hit those quintessential moments, but no one is perfect, and no equipment always runs flawlessly. So, I don’t address it, because I don’t see it as an issue. If a bride comes to me and asks me where the photo of them kissing, I’ll simply tell them there isn’t one. Sometimes it’s just circumstance – there is nothing you can do but be as prepared as possible. Once the day is over though, there is no point focusing on the photos that you didn’t get because there are hundreds of others that you did.
Hi Punam! Your photography rocks my world.
Question: do you get nervous the night before a shoot?
PS I actually met you during your short stint in Los Angeles
as an actress. You interviewed at a talent agency that I work at as an assistant. (O’Neill Talent Group) I thought you were an awesome actress as well!
Yes! I still do get nervous. I always meditate for an hour before I have to go shoot. I like to wrap my mind around what I’ll be photographing and it goes a long way to calm my nerves!