CHOICE: The Heart of Finao

I’ve spent 25 years in the album business and during most of that time I’ve wished I could talk directly to the brides, but professional album companies get censored by photographers.  A bride gets to see what her photographer thinks she should see.  The photographer says, “I don’t want choice.  I offer my brides two sizes and three colors.  That’s really all they need and they are all happy with that.”  And the photographer is right.  If that’s all that’s offered then the only clients he/she will attract are clients willing to settle for what is offered.  Maybe that’s enough brides to keep said photographer in business and therefore there really is no need to offer more.  Same for photographers who offer only files because, “albums are to much trouble.”  These photographers will make less per job, but will also spend less time and be done with it.  If this photographer has a satisfactory income, again, not much I can say.  Personally, I’d always think to myself, “hmmmmmm, if I just put a little more into this, it might mean a nice vacation or a new car,” but that’s me.  Others will say, “choice is confusing, people have a more difficult time making-up their minds when offered too many choices and, besides, it’s really all about the images anyway.”  And again, you might attract just enough business to keep you afloat.

However, from what I see in the industry, it doesn’t seem that most photographers are happy where they are, and it does seem like they want more business or need more business.  This is where albums and choice come into play.

Key word: CHOICE.

Let’s look at how choice works in our society.  The cereal aisle is filled with options.  Add eggs, pancakes, waffles, and toast as possibilities.  Then you might have to pick between ham, bacon or sausage, unless you’re at Denny’s and then they all come on one platter.  Photography and albums are a much larger decision than breakfast, but we have to remember that everyone starts out their day with choices.  We are surrounded by choice everywhere we look and manage to make decisions on any number of things, big and small, in our everyday lives.  Malls do better than stand-alone businesses because they offer choice.  Stores do better with a variety of merchandise than if they favor only a very limited, defined market – choice.  We choose from hundreds of cars and thousands of wedding dresses, and no one seems to have a real problem with this.  In fact, they demand it.  They say, “I’m different.  My needs are not the same as the person next to me.  I want what suits me, my taste and my budget.”

Major marketing companies recognize the power of choice.  Coca-Cola is trying an experiment with the ultimate in beverage choice.  They have introduced soda dispensers that allow the consumer to mix any flavor with any other flavor in any amount they want.  The machine has every flavor of every beverage available company-wide.  So you can have an iced-tea-ginger-ale, or an orange-root-beer, or just a plain Diet Coke.  The machine sends real time data to a central location that then decides on the syrup usage and orders the machine to be replenished.  To the executives’ surprise, they found every single option had been selected more than one time.  Every mathematical possibility had “sold”.

People like choice.

That simply tells us that if we look at the world around us, we see that choice thrives.  In weddings, choice thrives more than ever before.  A bride is presented with a myriad of options in everything from dresses to table linens.  Everywhere she turns she gets to touch, taste and try.  Once upon a time, a hotel had two colors of table cloths, now there are 50 choices in chair covers.  The bride gets married anywhere and everywhere, the bridesmaids don’t all wear the same dresses, invitations don’t come from the big book in the corner and cakes have taken on a life of their own.

It’s time for photographers to jump on the bandwagon.  On the budget list, photography is moving down and virtually everything else, except tuxes, is moving up.  Brides spend for what they feel is important and what best meets their needs.  So if few album options are presented, or the presentation is minimal and does not engage her, the client may instead shop for “files only” coverage.  She really doesn’t want just files.  She wants a beautiful album that shows every facet of her dream wedding.  She wants to feel great leathers and fabrics, she wants to “design” an album that reflects her taste and the feeling of her wedding.  If she is getting married in an old farm house with a wild flower bouquet, a square black album probably wont reflect the mental image she is holding on to.  But the photographer may not have listened.  The photographer is not hearing the joy as she describes every facet of her day which will be like no other, ever.  We know that’s not the case, and a long white dress is a long white dress.  But to her, it’s anything but a long white dress – it’s Barbie’s Dream Wedding and she will make it totally unique.  And you, the photographer, had better convince her that not only can you create unique, one of a kind images, but that you will also deliver the best in a unique, one of a kind album that looks like it belongs right there in the midst of the actual wedding.  Together, images and album, fit like a glove to make sure her dream remains a reality forever.

When you believe this, your potential clients will believe it.  You will have more clients who will spend more money.  Your album company will continue to offer more and more choices because, just like the coke machine, every possible combination has been ordered.  Some very, very good and some, well, not so good.  Doesn’t matter.  It’s not your dream, it’s hers.