Scan the pages of ads in any newspaper or magazine, and you will find a plethora of over-hyped and candy-coated slogans and catch phrases that are designed to lure you to a particular product, service or moneymaking opportunity. The strategies vary, but the motives are usually the same: gain more business by emotionally drawing in an audience.
Many of these techniques have their place and value, but let’s face it: they’re a dime a dozen, and often not that credible.
You certainly wouldn’t want your pitch for professional services to be associated with these kinds of cheesy come-ons. And with all the stress involved in preparing for a wedding, the last thing a couple needs to be questioning is the integrity or experience of a wedding photographer candidate.
You can leap this credibility chasm, exciting your potential clients rather than scaring them, by putting together a quality written presentation of your wedding photography career.
A superior biography will give your clientele a compelling perspective on what has defined and molded your career. It’s not only your chance to communicate your training, education, work history and major accomplishments, but also the unique skills, philosophy and approach that have made you the photographer you are. Solid facts laid out creatively and concisely will draw clients to your business with great effectiveness.
For some folks, especially those who are relatively new to wedding photojournalism, putting together a quality biography may seem somewhat daunting. A lack of experience or absence of significant awards may discourage some from fully and effectively describing their history, thinking there is not enough impressive material to present. Others may see a biography as an overwhelming writing project that is just not their forte.
But writing an effective biography isn’t particularly difficult if you have a roadmap. Here, then, is some guidance to help you through the process.
Take a solid inventory of the real-world experiences that developed your skills as a wedding photojournalist. This initial step should include all of the people, events, and moments that have defined your career. It may have been snapshots you took of your family that sparked your interest in photography, or you may have accidentally ran into the world of photojournalism and soon fell in love with it. Neither is necessarily more impressive than the other, because your story is what makes you a distinctive member in your profession.
A lack of achievements and awards should never stop you from putting your career pathway into words, because there is no cookie cutter journey. If you ask yourself the correct questions, you will be able to see there is more material in your life for a quality bio than you ever realized. Ask yourself the following:
Feel free to toot your horn about the awards and accomplishments of your life. These facts are essential for your potential clients who want to know that you take your work seriously and this vocation is not simply a side hobby. Through showing your accomplishments, potential clients will have a much more objective viewpoint and will be able to see your strengths. This is not the place for false humility either. If are good at what you do, people need to know about it.
Lay out your accomplishments in a proud, polished manner, but do not exaggerate them beyond reality. Honesty is critical in a biography. Exaggerating stats or embellishing accomplishments will eventually come back to bite you when people see that what you are presenting is not as hot as the wording was. This does not suggest that you lower your praise, but you certainly shouldn’t mislead potential clients to an image you can’t live up to.
Don’t use your bio as an opportunity to squeeze in advertising and promotional plugs. Because of the nature of the wedding business, over-promotion through a biography can work against you. It is easy to slip into advertising and “plugging”, because the photography industry generally involves a degree of salesmanship to attract potential clients. Yet this can dilute the professionalism of your business and communicate the wrong message that you are simply just looking for the bottom line dollar.
Your web site and promotional materials should function as places for marketing, but let your biography simply speak the facts about you. Of course mentioning your business is a great piece to include, but remember to keep the focus on your personal work and career.
Keep the pacing of your write-up as positive and upbeat as possible without employing tacky lingo or overly used catch phrases. Also, make sure that the information of your career doesn’t get clouded in frothy terms and lengthy metaphors; that could take away from the effectiveness of your message. A major misconception about biographies is that the longer they are, the better they will be. On the other hand, using two or three sentences to sum up your career is not the best way to communicate either.
Overusing quotes and promotions can come across as unprofessional and can detract from your overall presentation. Customers and professionals alike can spot a corny promotional pitch and they will easily see the motives behind too many self-quotes. When you quote yourself too often, you can lose the opportunity to have an unbiased opinion given about you and your business.
Consider asking a skilled writer to contribute part or all of the bio objectively and confidently for you if you find promoting yourself and your career to be difficult. You are a wedding photojournalist, which does not mean you are qualified to be an eloquent writer. Having someone else write your bio may also give it a feel and look that presents you better than might be possible on your own.
Renowned literary critic and biographer Leon Edel once said, “The secret of biography resides in finding the link between talent and achievement.” That bit of advice is undoubtedly true, but like many things, locating that key intersection is easier said than done.
The tips listed here should help. You’ll also benefit by reading the biographies on the back flap of popular books or online. Notice the style and word usage. Pay special attention to what the particular biographies focus on, and be sure to check bios of experienced individuals as well as those of people who are just embarking on their career. All of this will help to give you a sense of what a solid biography should communicate and a feel for how it should be presented.
The result from all this will be a quality biography that effectively portrays the unique qualities you bring to your profession. After all, you’ve earned it.
—by Mark DeJesus for the Wedding Photojournalist Association