Chapter 5: The Contact Form
The purpose of the Contact Form as opposed to just listing your email address, is that many couples don't know what and how much information you need to provide them with the best possible service from the very start. You have no idea how many email enquiries I used to get with not even the most basic information included.
At the very least you need to know the couples' names, some way to reach them/respond, and their wedding date. Additionally, knowing the location/venue(s) for the wedding day is important to calculate any travel fee or determine if you can make it fit with your calendar in case you have another booking the day before or after.
A reason for requesting additional personal information not only lets the client know that you are truly interested in getting to know them, it is also the prefect opportunity to personalise your response and create a connection with them right away. Perhaps you share a favourite travel destination, or you have previously shot a wedding at their venue, or you love hiking as much as they do. Even if you can't find common ground at this point, you still have an opportunity to show them that you paid attention to their message. In a world full of auto-responses, pre-recorded greeting messages, and waiting-music, people will take notice of someone who makes them feel heard and seen.
By creating a contact form you can also streamline your communication as much as possible, put your email templates to good use (we'll talk more about that in the next chapter), and save so much valuable time. If you leave it up to people to choose what to tell you, you will often find it necessary to create a completely new email for every single enquiry, requesting additional information. Having a carefully considered sequence of communication is a great service to your busy clients too.
If you want to make sure people can still reach you even if your contact form has technical problems at one point, you can write your email address next to the form. Most people will still choose to fill out the form.
I'm not really the funny type, but if it suits your personality, there are many fun and cute ways to personalise your contact form.
Here are suggestions for the information you could request in your contact form. I wouldn't include all, though, as you don't want to risk clients clicking on to another photographer's website because it seems like a huge task to fill it all out. Only choose the ones that make sense for your brand and personality:
Names (of both partners)
Phone (if you like to talk on the phone)
Location and venue(s) for the celebration
How did they find you/who you can thank for the referral (if you want to be even more specific so you can do some statistics on where your best channels are, you can add this as a fold out multiple-choice menu. On mine they could choose between Google search, Danish Island Weddings (the wedding planner I most worked with), Instagram, Personal referral, Junebug Weddings (For a year I paid for a listing on Junebug's website), Other). Whenever a couple mentioned a past client or colleague or industry peer as their source, I emailed that person to thank them for passing on my name.
What expectations they have of their wedding photographer.
Their budget for photography
How important photography is to them on a scale of 1-10 (and leave the box blank instead of a set choice, so if someone one day writes 10.000 you know they are worth every bit of your time and attention ;-)
How they like to spend their free time/weekends/vacations
What they value most in their everyday lives.
You can ask them what it is about your work that attracts them
Three words that best describe the atmosphere or style of the wedding they're planning (this is often the box that raises red flags for me, if for instance they write things like, black tie, elegant, luxurious etc I know I am not the photographer for them (anymore). But if they choose words in the genre of cosy/relaxed/rustic/family/nature/informal etc I know there is a good chance we will be a perfect match, even if I see they have chosen a castle or other decidedly elegant venue, I know their focus is somewhere else and I would still be open to collaborating with them)
Have a blank box at the end and encourage them to tell you as much as possible about themselves and their plans, even the "silly" details like choice of dress etc. or link to their pinterest board (not for photography but for style and design).
Leaving out vital information is not always a question of indifference from the client's side. While most couples planning a full on wedding day used to book me 12-18 months in advance, I have experienced exceptions, where a couple are simply the spontaneous types and may have decided not to have a photographer at all, and then somehow come across my website, fall in love and hurry up and write me because their wedding day is just a month or two away, and in the hurried process forget to include something important. But while a lack of important detail isn't always a red flag, other things are.
A red flag for me personally is if they don't mention me by name but just write "hello" and go straight into the message. Most of the time that means they are copy pasting one message and sending it to lots of photographers. Or, they haven't even bothered to read my about page or even really noticed the name of my business. Either way, they are not invested in working with me specifically but just trying to find a decent photographer, any photographer. Also if they can't be bothered to call me by my name, I doubt they will be respectful and kind on their wedding day either.
But if a couple write me and gush about my work, talk about my farmhouse or in other ways let me know that they have done their research on me, and I am available on their date, I will mostly say yes and completely don't care about any other aspects of their day. Because in my experience every obstacle or hesitation mean nothing if there is mutual respect and admiration.
If you don't have a contact form on your website, create one.
If you already have one, go over it with a fine tooth comb to make sure you get the information you need and mark the most important points as 'required' so the couple can't click send without putting in the most basic info you need to create an attentive but streamlined response.