Top Shelf | Book Clients Easily From Venues You Love Working With

Andy and I visited a venue during their open house while on the search for our own wedding. We fell in love with the venue, but more importantly, they had a selection of sample albums out to peruse while visiting. We found the PERFECT photographer. I mean, this photographer spoke to us in all the ways one can through their photography. We had to book them.

The problem was, there was no information anywhere on the album to tell us who the photographer was. The venue searched up and down for a clue to lead us to this mystery photographer. No dice. We ended up going with someone else, but had we known who the mystery person was, maybe we would have made a different decision. We still don’t know who it was. It’s imperative that you put your photography info somewhere permanently on the album, otherwise, no one will know who to contact.

But let’s back up a sec. The venue we fell in love with, also had an album from a photographer we fell in love with. Who would’ve thought we’d go somewhere and possibly make two decisions. Two purchases in one day. It’s the sample albums that venues showcase that help clients make those decisions. Are you following me?

Creating sample albums is one of the most IMPORTANT investments you can make for your business.

Here’s why:
Couples visit and book venues before they book photographers. We know that. But they book those venues based upon a walkthrough and what they envision their wedding to look like. Here’s where you come in. If you provide an album to a venue, they will advertise your work for you, just by showing couples what it could look and feel like.

Sample albums can be an expensive investment, especially when you are working at multiple venues. Instead, think of it as planting seeds. You’ll be collecting the harvest down the road.

Let’s do the math. Say you book 10 weddings a year, at 10 different venues. You create 10 sample albums, and you plant those ‘seeds’. Now every couple that visits the venue will have an opportunity to see your work, and at a venue they are interested in possibly using!

Even better, you may connect with a couple that saw your album at a venue they didn’t book, but was still blown away by your photography!

Also, venues are excited to show off new albums, especially when the album aligns with the season the couple is getting married in. Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter weddings don’t look the same. Help potential couples visualize their weddings and with your photos!

Couples are more likely to book a photographer who has worked at their venue. Win, win!

Sample album DO’s:

1. Create layouts that showcase the venue, couple, and wedding. You want this to appeal to couples while still showing off the uniqueness and beauty of the venue.

2. Meet with the wedding coordinator and deliver the album in person. If the venue is too far, connect with the coordinator and let them know you’re sending an album.

3. Make sure you add your contact information to the first page of the album. Think of it as a title page.

Sample album DON’TS:

1. Don’t wait too long before getting an album to a venue. Add it to your workflow.

2. Don’t add photos that don’t showcase your best work.

3. Don’t skimp on materials. Make sure this is an album you would share with couples you meet in person.

Tip: Create a layout in photoshop to import into each sample album with your contact info.

Top Shelf vs. Bottom Shelf | My Search for Good Business Education

When Andy and I started our business, we were in our own little photography bubble. Our growth in both photography and business relied on each other and from our experiences in providing both of these things to our clients. We weren’t influenced by what anyone else was doing.

I don’t know about you, but I have almost an obsessive thirst for knowledge. When I want to know more about something, I want to know everything anyone has ever said about the subject. I’m a little crazy when it comes to google.

Top Shelf vs. Bottom Shelf:
I have spent thousands of dollars on education, products, and videos in search of what I call ‘Top Shelf Information’, trying to further my photography skill and business ability, but as you can probably already guess, not all education and materials are created equal, or have benefited me at all. There is good, solid information out there, but you have to scrape and peel back the layers and junk (bottom shelf information) to actually find it.

So, starting next week, I am going to begin a series of blogs, containing what I believe to be ‘Top Shelf’ information to increase your bookings, value, and most importantly, happy clients.

Business Education | Michele Ashley Photography

How To Photograph Engagement Rings

About a year ago, I began getting questions from other photographers asking how I do this or that. I was caught off guard a little by the inquiries, because I thought, why are you asking me?
Shouldn’t you ask… someone else? Someone more qualified?

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to help. I didn’t have the confidence to teach the things I knew. One of the things I promised myself this year was to put myself out there and share some of the things I know. Bear with me as I work through the kinks of teaching again (for the record, I taught special education for 5 years).

So without further adieu, let’s do this together!!

Today I’m sharing my strategy on how to photograph engagement rings (complete with camera settings).

The equipment:
Canon 5D Mark III
Canon 100mm 2.8 macro lens
A sparkly engagement ring

I almost always shoot in natural light. All of the images below were shot in natural light.

How to photograph engagement rings
ISO 3200
1/80 sec at f/4.5
I chose a budding hydrangea and slipped the ring over the buds.
How to photograph engagement rings
ISO 640
1/50 sec at f/5.0
This was shot on the UMASS Amherst campus. In one of the flower beds, I noticed the tall thick blades of grass, so I gathered them and slowly let the ring slide down.
How to photograph engagement rings
ISO 1000
1/80 sec at f/5.0
Shot on a closed flower (or cactus, I can’t remember!) I was shooting at a garden nursery and wanted to throw a warm pop of color against the diamond. I always try to focus on a prong, and not the diamond itself.
How to photograph engagement rings
ISO 640
1/125 sec at f/5.6
This was shot on the beach within one of the sand dunes. Another gathered bunch of beach grass and slipped the ring over. In my opinion, photographing the ring directly in the sand takes away from the stone.
How to photograph engagement rings
ISO 3200
1/25 sec at f/3.2
This shot isn’t perfect. The berries are slightly more in focus than the closest prong on the ring, but I still love the color pop and angle of the ring. The ring belongs to a couple who had a December wedding, so the red/green contrast was a great tie in.
How to photograph engagement rings
ISO 1000
1/100 sec at f/4.0
Clearly I love photographing engagement rings on with a pop of color when I can. In this case, there wasn’t many options for me. This was actually shot horizontally looking down at the ring (which was barely holding on). Do what you can with what you have!
How to photograph engagement rings
ISO 800
1/125 sec at f/4.0
This sapphire ring spoke for itself. This was shot in late Fall and the browning of the leaves actually added some interest to the final image.
How to photograph engagement rings
ISO 400
1/100 sec at f/2.8
Mums became the striking background for this beautiful engagement ring.
How to photograph engagement rings
ISO 400
1/125 sec at f/3.5
I love how soft and romantic this ring shot is. There was really nowhere to put the ring, but I found a flower bed with a bunch of tangled old vines and gently placed it diamond up.

If you look at all of the settings, you will find that I almost always shoot at f/4.0 or higher. With the 100mm macro lens, you still get that beautifully blown out bokeh, even when you are not shooting wide open. Focus on the prong closest to you, not the diamond itself.

Be patient with yourself. Turn your ISO up a little higher and increase your shutter speed if you find yourself in a low light situation.

Check out my Instagram feed for more #bling
Questions? Feel free to comment below!