Robert J. Hill's Clients know that when they book him for a wedding, they’re not only getting images, but a yearlong experience. They go seamlessly from booking to the event to the album process all through what he calls his Connection Points (CPs).
“Finding a wedding photographer is about finding work you feel connected to but more so about finding someone whose personality and vision aligns with yours,“ the Portland, Oregon-based shooter explains. “I believe a wedding photographer’s job entails much more than just one day of shooting. For me, every wedding is an opportunity to create something memorable and to tell a greater story that surpasses the visual and relates to the emotion within a moment. Authentic connection inspires me, and the relationships built between my couples and I are reflected in the work I love to share.”
Hill typically cements his client relationships through hundreds of Connection Points per couple. “An initial call to meeting for drinks, arranging, planning and styling the engagement session from wardrobe to location, group-texting throughout the months of planning, working on albums (even through video chats)… these all form CPs with me and my couples.”
Brand-Building in Print
Whether it’s a wedding in Portland, Bali, Iceland, the Pyrenees Mountains of Spain or even Belize, Hill says he gets booked consistently to travel all over the globe for the same reasons: his style and brand, his niche albums (more on those later) and for the relationships he fosters over time.
“I’m incredibly brand-centric,” he says, “and I am all about the power of print. From the moment I talk to my couples in our initial conversation, I am focusing on the relationship and intention between us and always planting the seed about how important albums are for our families.”
The Story We Tell
“I’ve literally branded my albums as if I am an album company,” Hill explains. “And the stories we tell are the starting point for the products we sell.”
His album line, Nostalgia (which is a sub-brand of his Robert J. Hill brand), is a handcrafted collection he has customized through RedTree Albums in Louisville, Kentucky, and is used, he says, to give a family history to his clients. “Nostalgia is a memoir that will age alongside you and will have a unique place in your family. It is not just a book of images from the past, but a collection of stories that will create other memories for your family every time it is pulled off the shelf. It reminds me of how every Thanksgiving we go to my wife’s grandparents’ house and out come the family albums. There’s no TV, no phones—we are totally disconnected and caught up in looking through past memories.”
He continues: “While print might be said to be dying, I have built my Nostalgia line around the premise that photos are not meant to be on your Facebook wall but rather on your own walls of your home and in your albums.”
The photographer constantly references his album line in his conversations with clients, even during his engagement sessions with couples, he says.
Hill also incorporates videos on his site (robertjhill.com/albums) to dive deep into his process with a behind-the-scenes look.
Take one couple’s album, for example: ”Margot and Lukas,” he says in the video, “got married in Burgundy, France, in a 12th-century monastery, and the breathtaking location definitely merited the maxed-out album they chose”—a 12 x 12, 40-spread, 80-page book, very thick, with a same-size duplicate to ship out to their parents in France.
A week out from the wedding, Hill says he emails his couple to touch base one last time before the wedding, and within a week or two after the wedding, he sends an email (another Connection Point!) saying the images are done. “We set up a meeting to go over the album, then I design everything in Fundy v7 Software. They have an online proofer that creates a digital album my clients can preview, so the first thing they see after the wedding are 40 to 50 images in a slideshow that fits their wedding as well as my brand. Watching them see their images for the first time is a content reminder as to what our jobs are for. It often happens online through a video chat as my clients are from all over, and they breakdown and get incredibly emotional as they go through their memories from their big day.”
Hill asks his couple during that time which spreads they want to keep or toss and utilizes an album credit in his pricing: “A maxed-out album is $5,250 and my couples typically start with a $1,000 to $1,500 credit. He says he over-designs an album to 45 or 50 spreads so a couple has options but also has to delete images to get down to the max spreads allowed. “They have to remove five to ten spreads as I can only print up to 40, and it is downright painful to delete images,” he says. “Couples get seven days to swap out photos to perfect their album to their liking and then they receive it in the mail within two months. “I always tell them three, but that’s just so I can over-deliver one last time.”
The Look of Love
Over time, Hill has perfected his album line to be even more aligned with his brand. Everything he does comes down to three words: relationships change everything. “If there is a secret sauce, this is it. Be intentional with those who step in front of your camera.”
CreativeLive Video Tutorial: Shoot and Design Wedding Albums, taught by Yervant