Striving to get to the top with Wedding Photographer Stuart Wood

Show notes:

Do you ever look at the wedding pros who are at the top of their game and wonder how they got there? Wedding photographer Stuart Wood is well known for his fine art, high end fashion style wedding photography. Working at venues such as the Four Seasons and The Savoy and travelling the world shooting weddings – his career is thriving. In today’s episode I ask the questions about HOW he got to this point, to debunk the ‘overnight success’ theory and to show you what’s possible.

Find out more about Stuart

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Time Stamps:

Transitioning from Supermarket Manager to Photographer (00:02:07) Stuart discusses his journey from being a potential supermarket manager to pursuing his passion for photography.

Support and Taking the Leap (00:04:26) Stuart talks about the support he had from his family and the importance of embracing opportunities and taking risks.

Photographing Celebrities (00:07:26) Stuart shares his experience of reaching out to 250 celebrities and successfully photographing 25 of them, which changed his life and gave him valuable experience.

The transition to photography (00:09:42) Stuart discusses how he started in photography, his initial lack of creativity in weddings, and his journey to getting opportunities in the industry.

The big break with the BBC (00:10:41) Stuart shares his experience working on the set of Pride and Prejudice and how he got the main shot for the poster, leading to a significant breakthrough in his career.

Getting the Radio Times cover (00:11:38) Stuart talks about his goal of getting the Radio Times cover and finally achieving it in 2007 with a portrait of James Nesbitt in Jekyll’s, highlighting the importance of persistence and hard work.

The transition to high-end weddings (00:19:57) Stuart discusses his decision to transition from regular wedding fairs to high-end venues like the Atelier, the Savoy, and the Four Seasons.

Opportunity at the Four Seasons (00:20:48) Stuart shares how he got the opportunity to photograph his team captain’s wedding at the Four Seasons and how it led to becoming one of their recommended photographers.

Importance of relationships and representation (00:24:06) Stuart emphasizes the importance of building relationships, representing clients properly, and being professional in order to gain trust and recommendations from venues and clients.

The importance of branding and delivering quality (00:29:57) Stuart discusses the importance of having strong branding and delivering high-quality work to stand out in the luxury photography industry.

Challenging yourself and pushing boundaries (00:32:50) Stuart emphasizes the importance of getting out of your comfort zone, taking risks, and pushing yourself to deliver the best results for high-end clients.

Finding high-end clients through recommendations (00:36:46) Stuart explains that most of his high-end clients come through recommendations from wedding planners, venues, or previous clients, rather than through online searches.

The timestamp’s title (time it starts) Stuart’s Motivation (00:39:02) Stuart talks about how he realized that time was passing quickly and he is more motivated than ever to pursue his photography career.

Celebrating Success (00:39:56) Becca encourages Stuart to keep going and suggests celebrating his success by hosting a party at the Savoy or the Four Seasons.

Finding Stuart Wood (00:40:55) Becca discusses how to find Stuart Wood online by adding the word “photography” to the search and shares that she will include all of Stuart’s links in the show notes.

Transcript:

Becca: As we head into November, it can be a bit of a funny season for us wedding pros. The hectic summertime is over, inquiries are a little bit quiet, and proposal season is not quite here. So while people are starting to think about Christmas, I want to share with you eight things that you can be doing in your wedding business right now to make the most of the last two months of this year.

I’m Becca Pountney, wedding business marketing expert, speaker, and blogger, and you’re listening to the Wedding Pros Who Are Ready to Grow podcast. I’m here to share with you actionable tips, strategies, and real life examples to help you take your wedding business to the next level. If you are an ambitious wedding business owner that wants to take your passion and use it to build a profitable, sustainable business, doing what you love, then you’re in the right place.

Let’s get going with today’s episode. It’s November the 2nd, nights are starting to draw in, the days are getting shorter, and wedding season is well and truly behind us. You may still have a couple of odd weddings here and there, but most of the excitement of the summer season is behind us, and it may be that the next booking in your diary isn’t for quite a few months, and it’s easy for us to look at the diary and think.

Yikes. What is going on? Things are quiet. People are thinking about Christmas. What on earth am I going to be doing in my business? So that is why I wanted to put in today’s episode, eight things that you can be doing to make the most of this quieter season. The number one thing before I get into the eight though.

is take the time to have a bit of a break. This is the time for you to have your time off. This is the time for you to do some stuff for yourself, to enjoy family time and not to feel guilty about it. So before I get into the eight things you could be doing, make sure you’ve taken some break time as well.

Okay. The first thing I want to remind you is not to panic. One thing I see a lot of this time of the year is panicked wedding professionals because you’ve had such a busy, hectic summer where you don’t know whether you’re coming or going and you’re getting everything done and you’re working at a million miles an hour.

And all of a sudden we go into this quieter time of year and you feel like everything’s failing. As small business owners, we can get inside our own heads far too much. And we start to think, Oh, I need to change this. This isn’t working for me. I need to change this. I need to do this. Where are all the inquiries going?

Is it my prices? Do I need to change everything? And I just want you to think for a moment. Do I need to be thinking like this or am I just in a panic mode? Whenever you go to panic, you always need to ground yourself with logic. So instead of panicking about things that need changing, start looking at the facts rather than the feelings.

So stop feeling like, Oh, everyone’s disappeared off the face of the earth and everything’s falling apart. Instead think, okay, let me look back at last year. What happened this time last year? How many bookings did I have in the diary this time last year? Are inquiries up or down on last year? What’s next year’s diary looking like?

Actually, have I got quite a lot of work in. The diary for next year. So therefore, it doesn’t matter that the inquiries quiet this time of year, is it that other people in the industry are seeing the same things because it’s November and December and the general public are totally overwhelmed by Christmas.

So the first thing I want you to do is not panic. Stop panicking. Okay. Let’s look at logic, look at reason, and enjoy the pause. Okay, once we finish panicking and we’ve taken a break, the second thing we can be doing is using this time to our advantage. Now one of the benefits of the lockdown and coronavirus, there wasn’t many benefits, but one of them was that we all had more time.

And one of the things we did when we had more time was learn new skills, learn new things, brush up, educate ourselves. So in this quieter season of the year, why not remember that feeling of having a bit of time and use it as an opportunity to brush up on your learning. The middle of busy season. Isn’t the time to start learning about SEO or Pinterest or how to do Facebook ads.

But now as things quietened down is a really good time to start putting in some more personal development. So if you’re a member of my wedding pro members lounge, for example, go in and use this opportunity to watch back some of the training, to think about the areas of your business that you know, you need to upskill in and to put some time aside to do it, perhaps think about taking a course, something like my wedding pro business builder, whereas four modules, it will walk you through.

Branding and finance and all of the things while you’ve got the time and space to think about it and make the changes. So that’s the first thing for this is brush up on your learning. So we’ve taken a break, we’ve not panicked and we’ve brushed up on our learning. The next thing I want you to think about doing is a little bit more practical and that’s check up on all your directory listings.

Now directory listings are those websites where you either have a free or a paid for advert with them. So perhaps you have. A listing on guides for brides, or hitched, or the knot, or wedding wire, or any of those things. And they are often neglected. And whether or not it’s a free listing or a paid listing, now is the time of year to go in there before proposal season hits, before they’re seeing their highest traffic of the year, and making sure you’re happy with it.

Go and check the wording, go and check the pricing. Are there things you could change on there? Could you change the images? Are the links working? Are you actually selling yourself on there? Are you standing out from the crowd? Do you need to be more clear about your offerings? Do you need to have a clearer link?

What could you do to improve those spaces? So write a list of all of the ones that you’re on and go through them. Yes, it’s a little bit boring, but it may make all the difference when it comes to the next part of the year. Sometimes we have the same wording and the same images that we set up on that directory.

years ago and it no longer correctly represents you. So, now is the time of year to go and have a look at it. Now, if you do have a paid listing on one of these sites, now’s also a good time of year to review that listing. Think about whether it’s working for you or not. Have you had inquiries? Have you had bookings?

And if it’s not been working for you as well as you’d like it to, ring up your account manager and Talk to them about it. Don’t wait until it’s time to renew that listing, but now while you’re quiet, take the time to have a conversation and as you’re doing those improvements, ask them what you should be doing to make it work better for you.

Listen and go in and change it. Okay, the fourth thing that you can be doing at this time of year is just generally updating your images. Again, this is the kind of thing on our websites, on our social media pages, on our directory listings, our images get stale. We’re using the same things over and over again.

So perhaps it’s time to switch out some of the photos on your website for some newer images. Perhaps it’s time to start getting some newer images. Maybe you need to book a brand shoot. In, perhaps you need a product shoot. There’s great product shoots where you can send your products in the post and people take professional photos of them.

Perhaps it’s time for you to organize a styled shoot between now and Christmas while the season’s quieter. The venues are quieter, the suppliers are quieter. It’s a really good time to do it, so now is a really great time to focus on getting that imagery you need. If you don’t have the images. It’s important that you work out how you can get them.

It’s also a good time to chase if there were weddings in the summer that you haven’t had the images for go to the couples, go to the photographers. If you know who they are and ask for copies of them, because if you can get those images, that’s really going to help build your portfolio. Okay, the next thing you can be doing at this time of year is starting to schedule ahead.

Now I’m always a little bit envious of the people who do this really well because they really do set their year off to a good start. When it’s really quiet it’s easy for us to just sit and watch Netflix, but actually we can really help next year’s Becca or next year’s you right now in the quiet season.

So things like blog posts, if you have a blog on your website, why not write down now a list of the next 12 blogs, if you do one, one a month and start working through them. I know people that at the end of each year, spend a couple of days and just write the whole year’s worth of blogs and schedule them on their website, schedule them in their social media so that all year, whether they’re busy or quiet, their blog posts are going out.

There’s a strategy behind the wording that they’re using on them because they. Thought it through all in one go. And for the rest of the year, until this time next year, they don’t even have to think about blogging. No one has time for blogging in the middle of August when you’re busy doing weddings. So why not be kind to your next year’s self and start thinking about some blog posts.

Same with social media. Perhaps you could start thinking about. scheduling some of your social media out. Get ahead. There is no reason you can’t start social media posting for the next couple of months. And then you’re taking the pressure off of yourself. So be kind to your future self and start scheduling ahead.

The other thing I always recommend doing at this time of year is to start planning out your time for next year. I’m actually going to be running a 2024 planning session on the 22nd of November. So look out on my social pages and emails for more information about that. But one of the exercises I always recommend you do is look at next year’s diary, plot in any bookings you’ve already got, and then plan when you’re going to take holiday.

If you take your holiday midway through the year, you will not find the space to do it. So put in the holiday time now so that you know when you’re going to have a break in the next. Yeah. Okay. Next thing you could be doing with your time is one of my favorite ones. And I’ve been doing this a lot over the last couple of months when things have been a little bit quieter and that’s get together in real life with people.

Go grab some coffees. This is a really great time to organize a little supplier meetup. Just message a few of your supplier friends. Go for coffee, go for drinks, go for dinner, talk about business, go to some networking events. This time of year is full of great opportunities to meet up. I’m speaking at the guides for brides conference in a couple of weeks time.

That’ll be a great opportunity for wedding pros to get together in person and network. This is the time to be doing that. So have a think about how you can organize some coffees. It doesn’t have to be a formal networking event. It can just be you pop in a Facebook group and see if anyone lives in your area and fancies getting together.

for a cup of coffee. I’m going to Vegas, as of tomorrow when this goes live. And while I’m there, I’m going to Wedding MBA, which is the biggest wedding industry conference in the world. I want to make the most of my time and having meetings with people. So I just put in the free Facebook group, does anyone want to come for a drink on Sunday evening?

And a couple of people have said yes. So not a big event, not one of my big networking things, but just me and a couple of people in a bar having a chat about wedding businesses. And I know that that will be incredibly valuable. So don’t feel like you’ve got to organize. But use this opportunity while you’ve got a bit of extra time to meet up with some people for coffee.

Be brave, reach out and chat with people. So much good stuff comes when you meet people in person. On the same kind of subject, the seventh thing on my list is to use this time to connect with wedding venues. I know lots of you want all the time to build relationships with wedding venues and in the middle of a busy summer season, isn’t the time to do that.

Now, again, you need to do your research on the venue because some venues are very busy this time of year with Christmas parties, but some venues will be in a slightly quieter period and it can be a good opportunity to work out how you can start building connections with them. Again, with some of the things I’ve already talked about, why not consider asking them if you can go down there and take some photos so you can write about them.

in a blog post. Why not ask if you can record an Instagram reel about why their venue is amazing and just go down to the venue and do it. Why not find out if they’ve got wedding shows coming up and showcases in the new year. That’s a busy time for wedding showcases and see if there’s anything you can do to assist them with that.

Is there something you can provide? If they’re hosting Christmas parties, is there an opportunity there for you to provide something for them? Now is a really good time for you to start really thinking about, okay, what venues do I want to meet with? What venues do I want to connect with and how can I get myself in front of them?

What can I do for them as opposed to what can I get from them? So have a think about the kind of venues you could be connecting with. Again, another thing I do sometimes is I will just go to a venue with my laptop and work in their hotel bar. And then if I get a chance, I’ll say, Oh, is anyone from the wedding team free?

 I love to have a look around cause I’m posting about the venue on my Instagram and it’s just an off the chance hope that they might be. Sometimes they’re not, sometimes they are, but either way, I’ve been in the venue. I’ve taken photos of myself in the venue. I’ve tagged myself on the venues page on Instagram and I’ve started to build a bit of a relationship.

With them and the people that work there. So really simple things you can do to stop building relationships with venues. Okay, I feel like I’ve given you a huge long list of all the different things that you can be doing, but there’s one more thing that now is a good time of year to be doing, and that’s to start thinking about automations.

I’ve been talking about this a lot recently with my Wedding Pro members, because automations take a lot of time at the start, but then save you so much time in the future. So quiet times of year like this are a really good time to start thinking about automations. Automations are things like email sequences, signups, lead magnets, where people fill out the form and then things happen.

So for example, for the wedding pro agency that I own, we’ve recently been working on some email automations for a wedding venue. So we’ve edited and recreated the form of the wedding form that they had on their websites. We’ve rebuilt it in MailerLite. So now that’s embedded in their website. So when someone fills out their wedding form on their website, which looks exactly the same as it used to, now that couple get an email.

Instantly with information with prices and with a link to book into their calendar. And then the next three emails are also automatically generated over the next week to try and encourage them to book a venue tour. This is going to save that venue so much time. All of that following up that they weren’t getting time to do is now happening automatically.

And the venue can not even barely know anything’s happening. And the next thing is someone’s booking a venue tour in, which is obviously the goal. So spending that time now in this quiet season, they’ve been really smart to do that because when things get busy and the inquiries start coming in, in the new year, they’re going to be really set up and ready to go because all of their systems are automated.

The form is coming in. They’re getting the emails back. They’re able to book a tour on Calendly. And then all the team. have to do is do the tour and make the conversion into the booking. So now’s the time to start thinking about things in your business you could automate or alternatively things in your business you can outsource.

It’s also a good time to get on top of things like your file management. How organized are your files? Do you need to spend some time organizing your files? How organized are your finances? Are there things you could do to improve the system around your finances? Spending the time now on these systems, on this automation, I promise you, will save you so much time.

And the future you will really thank you for all of this work that you’ve put in. So to conclude, because we’re going to, okay, this is a short episode today, because I’ve given you so many things to do. You need to now go and use the time to do it. So to conclude. At this time of year, it is a funny time of year.

It’s a funny time of year for everyone. It’s not quite proposal season. The busy summer season’s finished and we’re in this kind of weird lull. So instead of feeling down about it, use that energy, use that time to do something great. Take a break, take some time out, but then do some of the following things.

Number one, Don’t panic. Number two, brush up on your learning and self development. Three, go through and check your directory listings. Four, take the time to update your imagery. Five, start to schedule ahead blog posts or social media posts, and definitely get those holiday dates in your diary for next year.

Six, take the opportunity to grab some coffees, meet up with people, go and have some chats. Seven, use the time to connect with venues. Think about a strategy to do that. And number eight, think about those things in your business, those systems and processes that you can start to automate. That’s given you loads of things.

I hope that’s encouraging for you. I want to remind you that everyone’s in the same boat. Don’t feel down about your business. Don’t panic about what’s going on. Now is a weird time of year, so use that energy. Channel it into something positive. Get some of these jobs done so that when we go into the new year, when we go into proposal season and we head into next summer, you’ll be thanking today’s self that you did all of that stuff right now.

To help you out in the future. If you need help with anything, do reach out to me, come along and join the wedding pro members lounge. All the details in the show notes where you can get loads of support, accountability, and of course, business training. And if you need help with any of your automation, setting up your email lists, et cetera, then reach out to me and I can give you a quote for the wedding pro agency.

Have an amazing week, go out there, get all those jobs done and I’ll see you next time.

Becca xo

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