For Photographers

Why I No Longer Ask Clients for Reviews on The Knot or WeddingWire

The wedding off-season coincides with the new year and is the time when many wedding professionals are setting goals for the upcoming year. I remember the moment I added winning the “Best of Weddings” and the “Bride’s Choice Awards” as a goal. I saw other wedding professionals with banners on their websites and I have to admit I wanted those awards too. It was 2010 and I had set my goal for the upcoming year! As of today, I have 143 reviews on The Knot and 155 on WeddingWire. But was this a good idea?

How they leverage banners for SEO benefit

Everyone loves awards. Bride’s love them too! I remember shortly after winning one of my first “Best of Weddings” awards, a bride exclaimed to family and friends on her wedding day that her wedding photographer was the “Best of the Knot”! Internally I knew that I wasn’t the only photographer who won that award, but the bride was really excited about it.

2012 Pick The Knot Best of Weddings
2013 Pick The Knot Best of Weddings
2014 Pick The Knot Best of Weddings

During this time I was a bit of an SEO guy. I ranked very well (and for the most part still do) for the keywords I desired. I quickly noticed the impact the code provided by The Knot and WeddingWire was having on their SEO dominance and the subsequent negative impact it was having on individual photographers. We’d put their code snippet on our websites and it would boost THEIR website via embedded anchor text and links back to their website, often from our own homepages and many times throughout our webpages (for example banners in footers). You see this very thing played out by Expertise (who are they anyway?) and others. Today the very directories we pay thousands of dollars to have leveraged us and taken the most valuable web placement from us. We’re often relegated to the bottom half of page one at best. Google (your city) wedding photographer and see the results for yourself.

WeddingWire Couples Choice Awards 2015
WeddingWire Couples Choice Awards 2016
WeddingWire Couples Choice Awards 2017

I personally changed how I display industry awards, and although that allowed my website to load faster, the masses continued embedding the code on their websites and we now have The Knot and WeddingWire at the top of search engine results. The damage was done. The impact is solidified yearly with new awards issued, new banners added to websites, and of course their push for you to share press releases with even more links to their websites. But that’s not even the worst thing.

The Knot & Shutterfly business agreement

The Knot Best of Weddings Hall of Fame

I had two really weird Shutterfly experiences with clients in 2019. The first was Spring of 2019 when a client was excited to show me the wedding album she spent two weeks designing with Shutterfly. She met me in my residential studio and revealed a surprisingly massive album. The template usage was evident, but she took the time (remember those two weeks) to add text to almost every spread. Although I was surprised by the heft of the album, I was immediately drawn back by the color of the images. They were blue, or at least much more blue than they should have been. My bride was excited and I would NEVER offend her. But why was she bringing this album to me, when right in front of us at my studio are MANY album samples she previously saw during our wedding consultation?

The Knot Best of Weddings 2015
The Knot Best of Weddings 2016
The Knot Best of Weddings 2017

A second experience provided me clarity. A wedding client thanked me for the coupon she received from Shutterfly. What? Here’s a little back story, I ask ALL of my clients to leave me feedback after their wedding day. In fact, in the same email in which I send them their Shootproof wedding gallery, I included an ask for the couple to leave feedback for future couples. You see I never cherry pick reviews. I’ve always wanted them to be the most honest reflection of every client’s experience with us. This strategy of asking every client is also why I have more reviews than almost any other photographer in my area. Enough about me. What I didn’t know was that I was undercutting myself in doing this. The Knot has a business agreement with Shutterfly. My sales rep for The Knot (and WeddingWire) just confirmed this via email with me today. Every client that leaves a review on The Knot is sent an email with a coupon from Shutterfly! WHAT?

My cost vs benefit analysis didn’t make sense

The Knot and Shutterfly business agreement was enough for me to stop being a paid advertiser on their sites. However, in recent years I realized the cost versus benefit of listing with them wasn’t advantageous. I averaged two booked clients from each site. I photograph 40 weddings per year, so on average, that was 10% of my bookings. After further evaluation, I recognized that those were lower average sales, often my bottom wedding collection. This isn’t a problem necessarily, but when I calculated my net income (not gross) on these weddings versus the advertising spend, I realized that the ROI didn’t make sense. Sure, some would argue that name recognition has benefits but that isn’t necessarily the intent of small business owners.

WeddingWire's Couples Choice Awards 2018
WeddingWire's Couples Choice Awards 2019
WeddingWire's Couples Choice Awards 2020

Let me make this real for you. Let’s say your lowest wedding collection is $3000+tax. My net is much closer to $1000. Let’s just say I spend more money on gear than I should, but I digress. That means my net from advertising on each site is a little over $2000. I was paying $185/month to advertise on The Knot! I would have accomplished the same financial benefit had I stayed home and watched college sports! The financial benefit was only for The Knot. I was struggling to break even!

What am I going to do about it?

So what am I going to do next? Well, I’ve already stopped paying to be listed on these sites. It simply didn’t make financial sense for me. It’s not that I didn’t receive leads, but many of those leads weren’t good matches for my business.

The Knot Best of Weddings 2018
The Knot Best of Weddings 2019
The Knot Best of Weddings 2020

This one is difficult because it disrupts what I’ve been doing for nearly a decade: Telling all of my couples, during the consultation, that I’m going to ask them (all of them) for a review later. I’m no longer going to ask most of my couples for a review on The Knot and WeddingWire. There are other options available.

You’ll want to make the decision that’s going to be best for you. I simply wanted to let you know how The Knot and WeddingWire are not only benefiting from you paying for ads (nothing wrong with that), but also leveraging you for their SEO benefit (hmm), and undercutting you by persuading your clients to purchase from Shutterfly (not cool).

Zeiss Batis 2.8/135 Lens Review

The 135mm is currently the longest lens of the Zeiss Batis line of lenses built specifically for the Sony E-mount mirrorless cameras. The Zeiss Batis 2.8/135 drew my attention when I outfitted my team with the Sony a7iii and a7riii cameras systems. After spending a summer with this portrait lens, it’s a good time for me to share my experience with this piece of glass.

Here are a few things that I absolutely LOVE about the Zeiss Batis 135mm lens:

 

Unique Bokeh

The Zeiss Batis 2.8/135 (that’s the way Zeiss communicates the lenses maximum aperture and focal length) has a bokeh pattern that really appeals to me. It’s the reason why I chose the Zeiss Batis 1.8/85 over any other currently available option and is a strong point for the 135mm as well. It’s almost as if there is more to their bokeh pattern than just the circular-ish formation of the out of focus areas. It’s not easy to explain, but something I LOVE!

Zeiss Batis 135mm lens review 01

Captured at f/3.2

 

Responsive Autofocus

The lens focuses on-demand, quickly. This is another trait of the Zeiss Batis line up. Many of Zeiss’ most premium lenses are manual focus lenses, however, the Batis line up not only provides autofocus, but it does so with confidence. In the image below I had completed the pre-ceremony portraits and was walking towards my subjects when I noticed them holding hands as they walked off. It immediately hit me that this was a representation of the closeness of their relationship. When I lifted the camera to my eye I was afraid that I was too close to them (they were walking right past me) and that I wouldn’t catch the moment. The Zeiss Batis’s speed and focus assurance nailed the shot. Below is the full-frame capture, not a crop.

Zeiss Batis 135mm lens review 02

Captured at f/3.2

 

Sharp as a Tack

Another thing that is evident in every image example is that the lens is sharp as a tack wide open. The images above were photographed at f/3.2, and the remaining images below were photographed at f/2.8. What’s clear is that the lens provides a clarity and sharpness the pops the subject from the background.

Zeiss Batis 135mm lens review 04

Captured at f/2.8

 

Zeiss Batis 135mm lens review 03

Captured at f/2.8

 

Brilliant Color

The color provided by the Zeiss Batis line of lenses is simply remarkable. Color is something I don’t hear many lens manufacturers highlight about their lenses, but Zeiss has been providing a very pleasing color to sensors for decades! The skin tones are wonderful and the rendition of the color pop authentically.

Zeiss Batis 135mm lens review 05

Captured at f/2.8

 

Very Compact

Here is something that really caught me by surprise. This lens is very compact! I, like many of you, have achieved the 135mm focal length by means of a 70-200mm zoom lens. The Zeiss 135mm lens is about half the size of my zoom. And, it’s feather-light in comparison!

Zeiss Batis 135mm lens review 06

Captured at f/2.8

 

Is there anything I don’t like about the Zeiss Batis 2.8/135? When it was announced, it was the first and only native mount prime lens of this focal length. Today we not only have other options but faster apertures as well. However, you’ll want to ask yourself if you even want to photograph your subjects any shallower than the f/2.8. Most of the time I’m photographing couples and need to stop down in order to keep both in focus. Shooting at f/1.8 or so could prove problematic.

 

In Summary

The Zeiss Batis 2.8/135 is now part of my small bag kit. That kit is completely Zeiss Batis, composed of the 2.8/135, 1.8/85, and the 2/40. It’s my default for couples portraits, allowing me to spend more time with my clients and less time wrangling gear. If you’re looking for a very compact + stellar tele portrait lens, the Zeiss Batis 135mm deserves your consideration.

 

Note: All images captured with the Zeiss Batis 2.8/135 on the Sony a7iii.

Zeiss Batis 2/40 CF Lens Review

The Zeiss Batis line of lenses have been available for several years now, but there is a newer entry to the series. Announced almost a year ago, the Zeiss Batis 40mm f/2.0 CloseFocus lens is the latest in a series of Zeiss autofocus lenses built specifically for the Sony E-mount systems. This review isn’t intended to provide you with advanced technical details, but rather to share the perspective of a full-time wedding and portrait photographer on this rather unique lens.

When this lens was announced, I was a bit puzzled by anyone’s desire for a 40mm focal length. I honestly thought maybe filmmakers might have some application for it. I already own a 35mm f/1.4 and a 50mm f/1.4, both designed by Zeiss for Sony. However, the Zeiss Batis 40mm CF turns out to be so much more than “just in-between” the 35mm and the 50mm.

Here are a few things that I absolutely LOVE about the Zeiss Batis 40mm CloseFocus lens:

 

CloseFocus (CF)

The Zeiss Batis 2/40 CF is the first lens in the lineup to feature CloseFocus. This feature, a combination of high micro contrast accessible at a wide aperture, that makes all the difference. It somehow provides a depth of detail, while beautifully separating the subject from the rest of the scene.

Zeiss Batis 40mm CF lens same image 08

Captured at f/2.8

 

Zeiss Batis 40mm CF lens same image 06

Captured at f/5.6

 

Responsive Autofocus

The autofocus on this lens is responsive. I’d go as far as labeling it professional. That’s because it has never let me down. I have several Zeiss Batis lenses and their autofocus responsiveness and accuracy provide an assurance that separates them from other options. This along with it’s 40mm focal length provides me with a “normal” lens perspective suitable to capture the action during the “getting ready” portion of a wedding day without missing a beat.

Zeiss Batis 40mm CF lens same image 01

Captured at f/2.0

 

Zeiss Batis 40mm CF lens same image 03

Captured at f/2.0

 

Better than Sharp

This lens is no doubt sharp, but it’s better than that. Look how this lens is able to render depth of detail (my manor of describing the depth of focus) while losing the background in a macro like fashion. It’s sharp everywhere you want it, and nowhere it’s not desired.

Zeiss Batis 40mm CF lens same image 02

Captured at f/2.0

 

Unique Bokeh

This lens’ ability to separate the subject of the photo from the background is another major asset, especially for a lens in this focal length. In the image below the detail in the gown almost overtake the engagement ring, however shooting at f/2.0 softens the adornments allowing the engagement band to be honored.

Zeiss Batis 40mm CF lens same image 19

Captured at f/2.0

 

The CloseFocus and bokeh collaborate in the image below.

Zeiss Batis 40mm CF lens same image 10

Captured at f/2.0

 

Lifelike Color

The color Zeiss Batis lenses provide color very honest and pleasing. I love how honest the greens are delivered in the image below.

Zeiss Batis 40mm CF lens same image 14

Captured at f/3.2

 

Is there anything I don’t like about the Zeiss Batis 2/40 CF? If I had to pick something, it would have to be one of the things many photographers find appealing about the Zeiss lens line up: the sleekness of the lens design. Although I would not call the lens slippery, it doesn’t have the tactile feel you might find in other professional lenses. However, that’s a reach and I suspect I’m unique in that assessment.

 

In Summary

The Zeiss Batis 2/40 CF has found a place in my photographic toolset due to it’s many unique and superior attributes to the lens of similar focal length. I comfortably and assuredly maintain this lens for normal focal length scenarios as well as the occasional macro like detailed image in which a standard normal length would fail. I’m thoroughly impressed!

 

Note: All images captured with the Zeiss Batis 2/40 CF on the Sony a7iii.

 

PPNC Shoot Social | December 2017

I’ve been a member of the Professional Photographers of America since 2007. I recall realizing that I wanted help with the transition to digital. Up until then, my photography education was passed on to me by my dad, a lifelong film shooter. Going digital meant that I would no longer select the film speed needed from my beloved Kodak Portra NC line. I’d no longer deliver canisters of film negatives to my local lab, now out of business. The film to digital shift was well underway, and as much as I held out, it was time for me to move on from my Minolta cameras.

PPA has a local affiliate in North Carolina, the Professional Photographers of North Carolina. I’ve enjoyed their annual Carolina Photography Expo, but never really took advantage of their educational opportunities and community until 2016. As much as I love the educational opportunities, it’s the community of working professionals that I most enjoy. They inspire me to grow beyond my comfort zone which is something I’ve been a bit reluctant to. That is, until now.

On Monday, December 18th, 2017 from 11 AM to 5 PM, I’m partnering with George P. Joell for a Shoot Social that will take place at his studio in Fayetteville, NC. We will discuss off-camera lighting and review two remarkable lighting systems: Profoto and Godox. In addition to learning more about the use of on-location strobes, attendees will be afforded the opportunity to shoot with both systems.

If you’d like to join us, contact me here. The social is free. Just bring your camera and an eagerness to learn.

 

Professional Photographers of North Carolina

Obtain pricing, availability or schedule a consultation by contacting the studio via the button below.

 

Raleigh, NC
Residential Studio

Studio Hours
(By Appointment Only)

In His Image Photography

1000 Holtridge Dr
Apex, NC 27523
Phone: (919) 404-9707
Email: studio@inhisimagephotography.com

By Appointment Only

SundayClosed
Monday11:00 AM - 8:00 PM
Tuesday11:00 AM - 8:00 PM
Wednesday11:00 AM - 8:00 PM
Thursday11:00 AM - 8:00 PM
Friday11:00 AM - 8:00 PM
Saturday11:00 AM - 8:00 PM