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The Importance of Community

August 30, 2017

One of the questions I get asked at almost every client meeting is “what happens if you can’t make it to our wedding?”  This is such a great question!  While I do my absolute best to make it to a wedding that I’ve agreed to photograph (I actually went to a wedding this year when I was throwing up the morning of – the bride never knew – I was running on about 2 crackers and Sprite, no coffee or breakfast or lunch), there are times when things are simply out of my control (like Hurricane Harvey).  When those things do come up, it’s great to have a strong community of friends who are in your same industry.  Right now, #CommunityOverCompetition is a trending phrase in the wedding industry because it is so true!  Here are some examples that I’m aware of where having great friends within your “competition” is a great thing.

A) There was a huge storm, tornado included, that hit the Austin area two years ago on a Saturday during wedding season.  Dylan and I were photographing a wedding that day (despite the tornado) and our sweet bride sent all her friends and family (and vendors) home early, so they could make necessary arrangements.  (I truly believe we get to serve the best brides!  They’re all sweethearts!)  We made it home safe and sound, but that wasn’t the story for all our other wedding vendor friends that day.  One of our photographer buddies was at a venue that is only accessible by a one-lane, low water crossing bridge.  With all the rain, the bridge was impassible at the end of the night.  The electricity to the venue was cut off and no one could leave.  Guests were sleeping on the floor of the venue, along with the couple on their wedding night.  Unfortunately for our friend, that was a huge stressor for him, as he had a second wedding the next day that he needed to photograph.

Instead of letting the situation get the best of him, he phoned a friend and fellow wedding photographer.  That friend prepped his own wedding gear and was prepared to photograph the first photographer’s wedding in his place.  Luckily, the water went down by the next morning, so the first photographer could make his own wedding.  The problem, then, was without having electricity at the venue, he didn’t have charged batteries for his gear to get through wedding number two.  The second photographer had already charged his, so they arranged to meet so that the first photographer could borrow the second photographer’s batteries to shoot the wedding, as planned.

B) A few years ago, a friend of mine was about eight months pregnant and put on mandatory bed rest by her doctor.  She still had one more wedding to photograph before her scheduled maternity leave, but didn’t want to put the baby at risk.  So, she called me and I was available to shoot her wedding that same week.  I’ve been asked at least three times that I can think of to be on “stand-by” for other women wedding photographers who are expecting a baby, but don’t want to bail on their couple.  If their baby came early or on the day of the wedding, they had a friend who was also a wedding photographer who was willing to step up and shoot it for them.

C) Just this Summer, a friend of mine’s second shooter (an extra photographer on a wedding day to help capture things that are going on in other areas of the wedding who also act as insurance to the wedding photos should something happen to the main shooter’s camera or memory card) told her she wouldn’t be able to make the wedding… two hours before she was supposed to show up.  My friend sent out a “Hail Mary”, as she called it, to see if someone could help her out.  As it so happened, it was a Friday wedding and I was available that day.  It would take me 1.5 hours to get to the venue, but luckily, I had my gear already ready to go for my Saturday wedding.  I made it just in time and the bride never had to worry!

D) This weekend, a wedding planner friend of mine couldn’t fly out to Baltimore like she had planned, thanks to Hurricane Harvey forcing all flights out of Houston, where she is located, to be cancelled.  She was able to find someone that she doesn’t know, through her community, to step up for her clients out of state!  WOW!  That to me says so much!  Having friends of friends, that you’ve never met, willing to fill in for you is such a blessing!

More than having a community to step up for you when things don’t go as planned, having a community will also help get you booked as a business owner.  Some of our first referrals came from friends at church, friends I went to church camp with, friends that went to high school with us, friends that we used to work with.  Those referrals are still coming in.  However, now, we’re also getting referrals from wedding coordinators, other photographers, and wedding venues.  The reason is that “All things being equal, people will do business with a friend; all things being unequal, people will still do business with a friend.” (Quote by Mark McCormack)  As a business owner, I refer people who I enjoy working with who will do a great job for my clients.  If we’re already booked for a wedding date, I refer other photographers (my “competition”) who I like as people and who are great photographers.  Together, we can get each other’s calendars booked, but only if we both support each other.

While this community is such a great thing to have when you work in an industry where there are no re-do’s (you only get one chance at the wedding day), the idea of community applies to all walks of life.  At the risk of getting “churchy” on you, the Bible instructs us to “Live in Harmony with one another” (Romans 12:16) and “Do to others as you would like them to do to you.” (Luke 6:31)  Aside from having a community around us in just business, a community will come aside you in tough times, personally.

A community will bring you meals after you have a baby (we have SO MANY friends in this category right now); A community will lend you what they have when you need it (we just got our ladder back from a friend who needed it when they were moving); A community will find you a place to lay your head if they have the space (we’ve had friends live with us and have found somewhere to stay on a cross country road trip in a home where we’d never met the owners, but knew a friend of a friend);  If you’re new to a town, my number one recommendation for finding a community to come alongside you is to find a church you love and plug-in to a small group!  Ours has been so helpful and created lasting friendships that we know we’ll have for years to come.  If you’re new to town as a business or simply new to a business, after you find a church to get plugged in at, you may want to look into the Rising Tide Society to meet some of the local vendors in the wedding industry.

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