As 2014 comes to a speeding end and "Engagement Season" begins, many photographers (myself included) are taking a look at where and how they spend their advertising dollars for the coming year. My first year in business, I paid to advertise on one website: Offbeat Bride. My criteria for online advertising (I currently don't advertise in any print publications except Catalyst Wedding Magazine) at the time were:
a. Do My Dream Couples use this site?
b. Does the site see a high amount of traffic?
c. Is there an overwhelming number of other photographers listed in my area?
d. Is the ad reasonably priced given (b) and (c)?
For Offbeat Bride, the answer to (a) was a resounding "yes"! I aim to work with couples who are fun-loving, not Wedding Obsessed, creative, and want to live outside the Wedding Box. (B) was about a million unique visitors per month, which is stellar! And at the time, only a handful of other photographers (C) were in their "Virginia" section. Given that, the less-than-$1000 pricetag was more than affordable (D). I bought an ad in August of 2013 after shooting only four weddings (technically three weddings and a reception) and crossed my fingers. In 2014, I shot 20 weddings (and my goal was 12)!
Now that I have a little more buying power and a much better idea of who my dream couples are, it's become more complicated to decide where to spend my ad money. However, I have also added an additional question to my list, which has eliminated a couple major wedding blogs. It is the new "item a" in my criteria list, and if the answer is NO, I am definitely not advertising with that site.
a. Does this site publish the weddings of LGBTQ couples?
Believe it, friends: in 2014 (almost 2015!)--when 35 states offer legal marriages to same-sex couples, and over 64% of the U.S. population lives in a state currently issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples state-wide--there are major wedding blogs that do not publish the weddings of LGBTQ couples. Yeah, I'm talking about you, Southern Weddings and Once Wed.
As a feminist, I recognize that the Wedding Industrial Complex can be a hotspot for all sorts of mind-fuckery and questionable (at best) gender/race/class politics. But I am ever-so-slightly heartened by the fact that I can subvert homophobia, sexism, racism, and classism in this industry by divesting from companies and publications that don't support equality.
After adding that new criteria, my current roster of advertisements is a split between Offbeat Bride, A Practical Wedding, and (recently) Grey Likes Weddings. All three of these sites are openly pro-equality (APW is even openly feminist, swoon!) and I encourage other photographers to look into their awesomeness! So far, through those sites and referrals from past clients, I have a strong docket of 10 weddings next year -- more than halfway to my goal of 16!
- Crunch numbers before buying. Make sure you won't be paying $$$$$$ to be lost in a giant sea of photographers or, worse, for a site that doesn't get much traffic.
- Advertise with sites that support your philosophy and your politics.
- Keep being awesome.