Category: Pancake Sessions  |  View all recent posts

Wed. Apr 16, 2014 by Mary    Pancake Sessions

Pancake Session: Running the Client Meeting

A couple of days ago, I posted this picture on Instagram of us getting set up for a client meeting & we had a lot of people comment to say that they would be right over! :) And that got me thinking that one of the biggest strategies of our client meetings has really come to be just that: making them so fun that people actually WANT to be there! Making them so comfortable that we get a chance to really get to know our couples & none of us even realizes that several hours have passed by.

Let's face it. I can remember from when Justin & I were getting married: meeting with vendors can be stressful. Sometimes it can very really high pressure & salesy. It can feel like you're not getting all the info up front. Or it can feel like the person across the table is only saying what they think you want to hear.

So we decided in every way possible, to be NOT that. And we came up with a whole strategy for how we want our client meetings to run- in a way that will actually lay that foundation so that our clients quickly become our friends (Clients Turned Friends). Here are a few of our favorite tips that we've come up with!

1. Serve up some food & drink! If you had friends coming over, I'm guessing you would offer them something to eat or drink when they got there. The same should be true for our clients! Putting out a spread of food automatically makes it feel more like you're entertaining guests than putting on a high pressure business meeting. Plus, some of the best conversations happen over food, so it just naturally makes people more relaxed. Finally, it's just that above & beyond experience that you're doing for them right from the first second they walk through the door. We've had clients tell us that even their caterers didn't serve them food when they met with them, which is CRAZY to me because that's what they do! So when we do it, it's something unexpected and something that feels different from what they get anywhere else.

2. Pick things YOU love. While I'm at it, when you're picking the things you want to serve it's always best to go with the things you really love. Because then you're not just serving them something, you're sharing stories and more about who you are too. So when we have our meeting we serve wine, but not just any wine....our favorite wines (like the Kim Crawford New Zealand Sauv Blanc that tastes like grapefruit....incredible! or a Napa Valley Pinot Noir). And then that also opens the door to talk about our trip to Napa or how we're DYING to go to New Zealand! And we can also turn them on to new things, like our obsession with robusto cheese from Whole Foods paired with the fig spread. Which, incidentally, we were turned on to by our amazing past Clients Turned Friends, Kristen & Stephen, who brought it with them to their first meeting with us. So its full circle! If wine, chocolate & cheese are not your favorite things, then serve cookies & milk. Or Spanish tapas. Or Cheesecake Factory cheesecake & sweet tea. Make it your own & share who YOU are with your clients too!

3. Don't ask what you think you're SUPPOSED to ask. When Justin & I were looking to hire people for our wedding, we were absolutely amazed at how every one we were meeting with was asking the exact same questions. When's the WEDDING? What are your COLORS? Have you gotten your DRESS yet? And we very quickly started to learn that every one of those questions, at least when they came out in the first 30 seconds, was code for "I would like to sell you something." It felt fake. And it was a turn off. Instead, we like to start our meetings talking about anything else under the sun OTHER than the wedding or our photography. This is SUCH a great chance to find out how much you have in common with this couple & whether you guys will actually be a good fit. We'll talk about tv shows, where they went to school, where we went to school, what they do for work, what they love about it (or don't love about it), what the dream job is, our favorite wines, recent movies we've seen, trips we've just taken....basically, we share real life! And that's one of the reasons we are HUGE advocates of meeting on your own turf: it provides an endless list of options for conversation starters, like how we had to gut renovate our house or the amazing sunset right outside our window.

4. Don't try to sell them anything. Here's a crazy idea that changed everything for us: what if we truly went into our meetings with no agenda & not just going after the sale? What if we just approached our meetings as a cool chance to meet some new people & do kind of a "chemistry check" to see if we would be a good fit for each other? I can tell you what it does: It turns everything on its head. In the best way possible! It takes the pressure off!! It not only takes the pressure off of them because you aren't doing any kind of high pressure sales, it also takes the pressure off of you too. You can relax. You can be yourself. You can not TRY so hard. And in a weird, flip everything on its head twist of fate, it turns out that the more relaxed you are, the more relaxed they will be with you. The more yourself you are, the more you are going to attract your ideal clients. And the less you try to SELL yourself, the more people are actually going to feel good about buying from you. I've always been a big believer that business is a lot like dating. And just like dating, spending time with people who are trying too hard or have a hidden agenda....well, it's a major turn off! So let's be NOT that.

5. Give them something just for meeting with you. This goes back to that above & beyond idea. This couple had to take time out of their schedule & possibly drive a good way to meet with us. The least we can do is give them a small thank you gift. We like to do the following: a gift bag filled with a wedding magazine (Well Wed or Martha usually), our pricing sheet, our sample contract, cards of vendors we recommend, and then a gift just for gift's sake. We like to do our "Stuff We Love" card that says "Mary: Starbucks Junkie" with a $10 Starbucks card and "Justin: Apple fanatic" with a $10 iTunes card. But again, it can be anything. And it should always be something YOU love.

6. Bring it on home. So just to recap, our usual meeting looks like this. Couple arrives & we greet them with an awesome spread of food & wine. We spend about two hours getting to know each other with no pressure or set agenda. At the very end of it, when THEY ask about pricing, we give them the gift bag and spend about ten minutes going over everything. Then we don't ask for the sale. We keep it low pressure and try to be as opposite of a used car salesman as possible! If they want to go ahead and book (which about 95% of the couples we meet with do!) then they initiate it. Which means that they always feel really good about the decision and feel like it was their own/they were never pressured into it. And that's the best way we can start that Client Turned Friend relationship!

As always, we hope this helped! If you are looking for more information about how to run a successful client meeting, we go over this a TON in The Guide including: what to say, what to serve (our "meetings in a box" ideas for four different kinds of branding styles), the "reverse sell," the two-minute drill, our pricing sheet & all the contents of our info box, plus a few other fun surprises we have up our sleeves, as well as a ton of other info on marketing, branding & getting your name out there. If you want to grab a copy, head on over HERE!!

Tue. Apr 8, 2014 by Mary    Pancake Sessions

Short Stack: Our Secret Weapon

Happy Tuesday friends!

Here is a little bonus short stack addition to the letter I wish I could have written to myself my first year of shooting weddings.

I think we've all found ourselves in that position where there is just nothing to hang the dress on. Or maybe there is a pretty cabinet to hang it on, but it is nowhere near the good light or not in the direction that we want the light to fall on the dress (we like it to rake in left to right or right to left to create direction & dimension). And it can be super stressful trying to get a good dress shot.

Well in those cases, we have just learned to turn to our go-to secret weapon that we try to always carry with us: a silver 3M Command Hook!!

We keep one of these little babies in our Think Tank Airport International bag, along with some refill strips. You just peel off the back of the strip and now you can hang the dress anywhere you want! Plus it still looks really nice because we spring for the pretty "silver" looking ones ($3.88) instead of just the plastic white ones. :) Then when you're done, you just pull the tab on the bottom and it pops off the wall and no one will ever be any the wiser.

A few words of disclaimer. This will work on most dresses, but if it's an extra heavy dress it won't be able to hold it. Also, we have never had any trouble getting the hook to come off without leaving any marks/taking off any of the paint, but still be extra careful and just pull the tab really slowly so you make sure it doesn't cause you any problems.

Ok, that's it! Go rock it out friends!


Sat. Apr 5, 2014 by Mary    Pancake Sessions

Pancake Session: Notes to Myself My First Year of Weddings

This journey with photography is just's a long & winding road that, if you do it right, it never ends. You never, ever, ever stop learning. And if you really love it, you Forrest Gump it. Just when you think you've arrived, you turn around and start running back the other direction. Just so you can get a look at the opposite side. While a Bob Seger song plays in the background.

But y'know, I recommend not growing the beard.

Still, even though I know there are many more miles to go and even 8 years in, this journey is really just getting started for us & photography....there are a few things that we've picked up along the way. Things that if I could, I would go back and put in a letter to the first year of shooting weddings me. The me who had no idea about aperture and shutter speed and ISO (funny enough, they don't teach that in law school). The me who thought the "Exposure Triangle" was a new gameshow that just started on NBC. Hosted by Howie Mandel. The me who was still just trying to figure out where the road even was. Let alone whether or not she had it in her to run.

Yea, I would like to give that girl some Cliff's Notes.

Dear Boo (I think I would call myself Boo),

A lot of this won't make sense yet, but you just gotta trust me on this. Kind of like Bill & Ted and their excellent adventure. But without the phone booth. And George Carlin. And all of the causality problems.

Here are some things you're GOING to want to know about weddings:

1. You will be served some shockingly bad things in some shockingly bad seating conditions (like that one time you're given actual fried spam for dinner and are asked to stand INSIDE an unfinished wall with open electrical wires to eat it). Always, always, always pack apples and protein bars.
2. Let's just get this one out of the way now. Holding your camera at a crazy tilted angle does NOT make you artistic. Please stop doing that. You'll regret it later.
3. While we're at it, trying a totally different action at 100% on each image in a blog post also doesn't make you look artistic either. It makes you look like you don't know who you are. Which I guess is part of the process, because right don't yet. But don't worry too much about it, someday you will.
4. Now this is a biggie. Those stunning bangle bracelets at your first Indian wedding? Yea, they go in a specific order. Don't mess that up.
5. This is another biggie. Try to remember that the mom's of the brides have also been looking forward to this day for the past 27 years. It's an emotional day. Don't forget to take care of them too.
6. Start this early. Try to train yourself to never get so caught up in what you have to get done and the way you like to do things that you miss real life unfolding right in front of you. It's way more beautiful that some shoes on a chair.
7. Learning to shoot manually is a great, important skill. You should know your camera inside out. That being said, there will come a time in the industry when people try to make "shooting manually" the pinnacle of what it is to be a professional. Trust me on this, there are far, far, far more important things (like developing a lifelong love affair with light, cultivating an instinct for anticipating moments, and pursuing simplicity of background) you will need to push yourself on to make yourself the photographer you want to be. Because the truth is, it's really hard to be a storyteller if all you're ever doing is looking down at your camera.
8. You are going to put the dress, shoes, rings, and pretty much anything else they'll give you in some CRAZY locations. Do yourself a favor: if you can't tell a logical story for how those things might have ended up where you put them without you being there, then mayyyyyybe don't put them there. Authenticity, simplicity & honesty are beautiful things.
9. When you're posing people, figure out ways to add in movement to everything, even the still poses. And for the love of man, please stop having them do the "back to back" pose. Unless you happen to be photographing Kid N' Play. Then I guess it's ok.
10. And finally, STOP trying to be like everyone else. Just stop it. Take this deep breath with me and listen. Everything about your work and the way you see the world that's different....well that's the best thing that could have ever happened to you. And there's a reason you were created that way. Stop tying yourself in knots trying to be not that. No, run with that. Do MORE of that. Make yourself known for that. Because when you're not like anyone else, guess what. It means you're not competing with anyone else either. And more importantly, it just might be that the world is waiting for your voice.

That's all I have for now Boo. Except to say never stop running. And never, never, never give up.

Oh and listen to more Bob Seger. Because he's just awesome.


And if you're looking for some more advice on the wedding day, they have officially announced all the release dates for our new Profoto videos (whoop whoop!!!) You can see the full schedule of dates in the ad below, but a brand new one- The Girls Getting Ready- just came out today. So head on over HERE to watch it & to catch up on any that you may have missed so far! Happy Monday you guys!

Thu. Mar 20, 2014 by Mary    Pancake Sessions

Pancake Session: Shooting in Tough Locations

Happy Pancake day friends!!

Today we want to talk to you all about some go to strategies for shooting in tough locations! We hear it ALL the time in workshops & mentoring sessions that people will say "well, we don't get weddings that look like yours..." And while it is certainly true that we have been blessed with some absolutely GORGEOUS weddings, we still find ourselves shooting in tough locations ALL the time. That never goes away! We just shoot it in a way where you wouldn't necessarily know it. And that is such an awesome challenge to give yourself (to shoot it in a way where the viewer wouldn't know what it really looked like) for two reasons: 1) it just really sharpens the skill set & keeps you on your become a better photographer when you have to shoot in tough situations, and 2) when you are shooting the weddings you are getting like the weddings you WANT to get, you are much more likely to attract that bride!

We posted this new J&M Editorial Shoot from Hamburg a few days back, and the reaction here and on Facebook & Instagram was absolutely overwhelming! It was one of our most popular posts to date! And I just had to laugh because ohhhhh if you guys had seen the tough situation we were shooting in THAT day!

Basically, all of the tour stops here in Germany have been taking place in ballrooms like the ones you see below. And the turnout has been absolutely AMAZING.....which is SO awesome, but it also means we are shooting in some pretty tight situations. Most of the rooms when we're shooting look like this: tons of people, a big projector screen, and about six feet for us to move around in! There wasn't really room for us to set up any backdrops, so what do you do when you're in a tough situation? Make it work! So we decided to just use the projector screen. And then during the break, Justin would take our models outside for a few more shots. But using our go to strategies, we were still able to get some images that we love!

So let's talk about what those strategies are!

1. Dimensional Light & Simplicity of Background. First & foremost, we guide our decisions by two simple principles that have never steered us wrong: look for spots with directional, dimensional light & simplicity of background. You will be amazed how much prettier, more elegant & more high end an image will appear when it shot with dimensional light and not a lot going on in the background.

2. When in doubt, go closer! Crop out edges, cut out anything in the room that isn't working or is busy or distracting. If you don't show it, people won't know that it was there. Instead, focus in on what's beautiful or emotional about the scene.

3. Use contrast to your advantage. By feathering (shifting away) your light from the background, you can create a darker background. The image you see directly below was still shot on that white projector screen, but by feathering the light away from it while still keeping it on our subject...the background starts to go a darker gray. So you have a lot of options available! You can really put this to use in an ugly hotel room. Bring your subject close to your window light and allow that contrast/fall off of light to the background make everything else go dark so that it hides what the room really looked like. If you really need to keep light off of your background. a soft box will work best because the sides are blacked out & will really help you focus the light!

4. The larger the light source, the softer your light. So a great window or a large umbrella will give you softer, more "painterly" images, while the soft box or bright sun will give you a harder, edgier light. We used both in our brand new editorial shoot from Munich that you see below & you can see the different results and that both can be really nice!

5. Shallow depth of field. If you really need to hide what's not working about a room, using shallow depth of field is a great way to do that. This means not only shooting more wide open (for us we shoot totally wide open at 1.4 for Nikon 85-90% of the takes a lot of practice to always nail your focus that wide open, but it's worth it!), but also moving your subject away from the background and moving your feet to be in closer. Both of which will enhance the fall off of a shallow depth of field.

As always, we hope this helps! If you have any questions, just leave them in the comment box below. If you don't have any questions, just say HI! Comments make our hearts happy AND they let us know if these posts are helping so we know to keep them coming! :) Also, enjoy our latest editorial shoot from Munich!

Happy Pancake Day!

Wed. Mar 12, 2014 by Mary    Pancake Sessions

Pancake Session: I Dare You to Move

Happy Pancake Day you guys!!

Today we wanted to share a little something for anyone who is feeling the sting of the Comparison Monster. For anyone who might be getting sucked into the race that nobody ever wins of who has more. For anyone who is finding themselves getting too worried about what success looks like for someone else that they've forgotten what it looks like for them. Anyone who has gotten away from why they're in this in the first place.

This is the video of a talk I gave last year at United called "I Dare You to Move." And I am SO thankful that they recorded it. Because they are words that *I* need to hear often. Words that I need to listen to. And I just wanted to put it up here in case anyone else needed to hear it too.

It is one of the most honest, raw talks I've ever given. There are more than a few tears. But like I always say, there is truth in tears.

It's about an hour and a half long, so watch it whenever you have the time to watch it all the way through. And whenever that may be, I hope that it helps!


United 2013 | Mary Marantz | I Dare You to Move from Showit on Vimeo.

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