Every month, I sit down with an inspiring wedding professional for a Maroo members-only webinar. In April, I had the pleasure of chatting with one of the top wedding photographers in the world, Jose Villa. We chatted about everything from how he got his start, to working with multiple lead photographers, to pricing and how he structures his workflow and studio team. Missed it? Well you’re in luck because 6 of his takeaways are listed below!
Takeaway #1: Price increases tend to work best when made gradually and over time.
Believe it or not, Jose Villa’s business did not make a profit until about 5 years in. When he first started, he invested everything he made back into advertising and marketing. About 5 years later, he eventually raised his prices to $1,100 per wedding and shot around 60 events per year. Now, 20+ years in, Jose shoots 20-23 multi-day events per year.
Takeaway #2: Take care of your team and pay them well.
One of Jose Villa’s biggest pieces of advice? Always take care of your team and pay them well! Not only does Jose pay his seconds and assistants top hourly rates, he compensates them for travel days, extra studio time and pays a per diem. He also insists that his team fly business class to all events (especially for international flights). After a big event, he aims to treat his team to something fun. Whether that’s a hot air balloon ride, exploring the location and/or spa days! “Wedding weekends are intense,” he says. “I want my team to be as comfortable as possible!”
Takeaway #3: Negotiate NDAs and have an attorney on speed dial.
Jose Villa shared with us that there is a difference between buying out all photo rights and NDAs. If a couple is interested in a photo buyout, he charges 50% more to the client and that usually deters them from insisting on it. If the client is interested in an NDA, he immediately sends the NDA to his attorney. He recommends that all photographers should have a great attorney on speed dial who understands photography, photo rights and photo usage. In his case, when he sends an NDA to his attorney for review, his attorney will call out all red flags. From there, they will negotiate the NDA based on how interested Jose is in taking the event. In sum, he suggests that all photographers truly understand the NDA they are signing and feel comfortable in every aspect.
Takeaway #4: Communication with the client directly during the sales process results in higher budgets.
Get this: When inquiries come in, Jose Villa is the one to respond and chat directly with the prospective client. Not a sales assistant, not an associate, it’s always him. He has tried different processes in the past, including having an assistant or team member ‘vet’ the potential client before he talked to them, but he realized that nothing can replace him doing the talking. “As a brand, when I put myself in front, people get excited that they’re talking to the artist directly,” he says. Jose added that when he’s communicating directly with the client, listening to what they like and dislike and giving them his time, they in turn get excited about their event and tend to spend more money too!
Jose’s big tip: If you want to make a big impact on your business this year, increase communication with your clients to make them feel as if they’re the only one. And don’t be afraid to give out your cell phone number!
Takeaway #5: Celebrity weddings are not as glamorous as they appear.
Jose Villa is known for shooting celebrity events including Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra, Hailey and Justin Bieber, Paris Hilton, and more. His insight: celeb weddings aren’t always the most “fun” and the pressures run very high. These types of events require extra contract negotiation, extra team members, live photo editing and more. Although they go viral and often result in a ton of inquiries, most of the inquiries after a celebrity event aren’t qualified to book him and his team.
Takeaway #6: Never be difficult or demanding.
Jose also cautioned photographers against making tall demands and being difficult to work with. Do the opposite, he said. Be a team player and be super easy to work with. He described himself as a chameleon––able to bend to any situation, especially when things may stray from plan! “There are many curve balls thrown in our way,” he said. “Media, weather, wedding planners, paparazzi, and more. So being “good to work with” is always a must!”
Want more? You’re in luck! Rumor has it that Jose is going to jump-start his education courses and potentially plan a workshop in the near future! Next up: June 29th at 2pm EST for the next Monthly with Maroo webinar as I chat with Marcy Blum.