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  April 2009  •  Volume 33 – Number 4  
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Miguel Pola
Building Relationships For Success

By Caresse Muir

Miguel Pola, of Etched in Time Photography, has been photographing weddings full-time for a little under five years, and has built his North Orange County, CA business into a success by developing relationships with his clients and vendors, blogging regularly and joining a wedding referral group of fellow wedding photographers.

Miguel grew up in Bakersfield, CA. In sixth grade his family took a trip to Puerto Rico. His father purchased a Canon AE-1 Program for the trip and Miguel tried it out and fell in love with the idea of stopping time by taking photos. He attended college at Long Beach State in California, majoring in physical therapy with a minor in photography. After finishing school, he began working in the physical therapy field and did so for 12 years until he got laid off. He had been doing photography on a part-time basis but when he lost his job, it pushed him to go full time.

Bride photo shoot

Miguel is married and has two beautiful little girls. When his second daughter was born he had to move his office out of the spare bedroom to transform it into a nursery. He remodeled their garage into an office/gallery where he now meets with his clients and works on day-to-day business activities. He put in air conditioning, façade walls lined with portraits and a flat screen TV. It makes for a warm, inviting atmosphere for he and his clients to really get to know one another and to view albums and their images after their wedding day.

Three Steps to Miguel’s Success
Step #1: The majority of Miguel’s clients find him online. He uses blogging to get his name out there and says it is one of the best ways for his potential clients find him.

Step #2: Working with vendors closely is a networking technique Miguel does regularly. At the wedding he talks with each vendor and exchanges business cards. He sends them an email showing them his blog with their names mentioned in it. He allows vendors to take photos off of his website for their use, and he creates a collage of photos with their logo and his name on an 8x10 and sends 100 copies to them. In an attempt to build a good rapport with the vendors, he often sets up lunch dates with them. All of this has helped him to get more referrals.

Husband and Wife Flower Girls

Step #3: Miguel has a referral group of five wedding photographers who share their calendars. They all shoot with similar styles and if he is booked for a particular date he refers the wedding to one of the members of his group. They, in turn, do the same. They each have access to each other's calendars and this is works very well for them. He is also a member of the Pictage Forum, The OSP forum, and a Spanish Photographers forum (forodefotografos.com) where information is exchanged about wedding photography, which helps him learn new information and exchange ideas. Miguel believes that today's successful wedding photographers have to be consistent with their style and products and constantly be willing to change to keep up with the latest technology. Being a member of groups like these really helps.

Capturing Clients
Miguel admits to having the "gift of gab," and is able to connect with his clients from their first conversation on the phone. He says it starts with his email to the bride after her website inquiry. He always responds by answering their questions, includes his pricing information and has a photo of himself next to his signature. He feels the photo is very important. It gives the client a feel of whom they are talking to. His initial email response includes eight to 10 questions regarding the wedding: Where is the venue? Who is the coordinator? What are the colors?, etc. He also includes one of his most recent newsletters from a recent wedding. These newsletters are one page, and have photos and a brief description of the wedding or engagement session. There are also links to his website, blog and a slideshow of his images. He says his potential clients often forward these to friends, which means even more potential clients. Now when he talks to them for the first time on the telephone he knows something about them and their wedding. He always tries to be just himself on the phone.

Wife and Husband walking along lake Husband and Wife surfing

When the couple decides to meet with Miguel to discuss their wedding he asks them questions such as “How did the groom propose?” He keeps the focus on them to show he cares and wants to know as much as he can about them. They have already seen his prices so he asks if they have any questions. Once he is hired, many of his brides will just call him out of the blue about something they may have seen on his website and he will chat with them for a while. He says the majority of his clients become his friends. Miguel feels that being successful is so much about building relationships and his hope is to become their photographer for any maternity, children and family portraits sessions they may need in the future.

Bride Alone

Most of his wedding clients book a package, which includes an engagement session, photographing eight hours on the wedding day and a $500 credit towards any products. His average client spends approximately $4000–$6000 total. Miguel uses Pictage for online proofing. His clients usually view their images within 14 days and Miguel then designs an album within 60 days. He retouches the images he will use in Photoshop and uses the Yervant Page Design software to design albums, which takes thirty to forty hours. The couple then schedules an appointment to come back to his studio to preview the album he has designed. Miguel serves refreshments to make it a very relaxing and enjoyable experience. He doesn't allow an online preview of the album because he says, "It can be confusing for the bride and groom that way." They view a slideshow and he asks for their approval on each page. He allows three changes and then charges for any additional changes. The albums are delivered within eight to 10 weeks. He currently uses Leather Craftsman, GraphiStudio and Forbeyon.

Miguel admires the work of Mike Colón, Becker and Joe Photo. He likes their style, look and brand. He has two close photographer friends, Greg Bumatay and Rodolfo Arpia, who he meets with often to share ideas and enjoys the camaraderie between them. He says he is most inspired by his wife of 11 years, Amelia, and his two girls, Nayah, 7, and Ava, 3. "I want to be successful for them," he says. No doubt, he will be. To see some of his work be sure to visit his website www.miguelpola.com.

Caresse Muir is a Certified Professional Photographer and a Master Photographer. She specializes in family, high school senior and children’s portraits. She is a member of the Professional Photographers of America, Wedding and Portrait Photographers International, the Professional Photographers of California and the Professional Photographers of San Diego County where she served as president for two years. She has won awards for her photography on the national, state and local level.

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