Anna Wu Photography is ten! Ten years simultaneously feels like it’s just flown by and has stretched on forever. Actually, if you reach back, from exploring photography as a child to getting affirmation for it at summer camp, to taking a class in high school, and then building on my interest in college, in many ways the ten years is actually an underestimation of how long this business has been brewing. I’ve learned a lot along the way, and when I think back on it all, the biggest feeling I have is gratitude. I am so grateful for every client, friend, and family member who has supported me along the way.
In honor of the anniversary, I threw a little birthday party for my business in the backyard of my studio. Thank you to everyone who helped make this possible, to everyone who came and to everyone who sent their well wishes and their support along the way.
By the way, if you scroll all the way down to the bottom, I share ten tiny (and yet life-changing) tips I’ve picked up along the way in my wedding photography biz. Hope they can be helpful to some of you too!
Gorgeous florals by Maria of Studio Wildflower. We went bright and colorful for the celebration!
I put my latest hobby, watercolors, to good use with my own DIY signage.
Milk glass goblets and clear champagne coupes were provided by Katybirds.
Some cold brewed tea for the hot day!
All the cake stands were provided by Julia’s Cake Stand Rentals.
And some super delicious whiskey caramel corn, also made by Joyce.
Thai tea cake as well! I forgot to get a photo of the inside.
Hooray! Thank you to David for this photo of me.
Finally, some gems from my “selfie station,” which was my cell phone mounted to the wall, haha. Thank you all for coming and celebrating with me!
And Now, Ten Tiny (Yet Lifechanging) Tips I’ve Learned in the Last Ten Years of My Photography Biz:
- Use checklists for everything. If you’ve ever read Atule Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto, you’ll know the proven power of a checklist. This is something I started and even blogged about pretty early on in my business. I have a master checklist for my entire workflow for every client, from booking all the way through final delivery of files. It also includes packing lists for when I go shoot the actual sessions. I also have other checklists for packing for trips, and I really x out every single item as I go.
- Boomerang and Bananatags for your emails. Boomerang allows you to schedule emails to go out at a later date (like send it in the morning instead of 2am when you’re really writing it). Or you can bounce an email back to your inbox at a later date (like I don’t need to have this in my inbox right now, but if no one responds, have it come back in 14 days). Bananatags allows you to stalk your emails! Track whether people have viewed the email, and also track when they click on your links. This also works when someone reopens your email 4 months later and you think to yourself, hmm… are they still thinking about booking that wedding??
- Time.gov. Now we’re getting into the wedding/photography-specific tips. If you’ve ever shot with multiple cameras or a second photographer, you’ll know it’s annoying to not have your cameras synced to the same time, because you’ll have things just slightly jumbled out of sequence when you go back to look at the photos. And yet, syncing your cameras at the beginning of the day is just about the last thing on your minds when you start the wedding. I learned this one from shooting for my friend Junshien: Just sync each of your cameras to time.gov the night before. That way you’re all on one standardized time, and no one has to fix it after the fact or rely on waiting to sync things together. Lifesaver!
- 16-Bay AA Charger. I used to hate charging batteries the night before a wedding. Camera batteries were annoying, but even more annoying was all the AA batteries I needed for my lighting equipment. I had two different 4-battery chargers and they would be all over my house, and they would charge so slowly… Anyway, I read an article on SLR Lounge about this 16-battery charger, and it revolutionized my life. So, get that. And cry no more about charging all those batteries.
- Tiny Timeline Info. I use a google doc to gather all the timeline and other info for each wedding, and then I print a tiny version (4 pages to a sheet, but printed front and back on half a sheet of paper) to keep on hand for reference throughout the day. I give a copy to each of my assistants and second photographers too. Of course you could look at the digital version on your phone, but I like having the paper version, which seems more subtle, and you don’t have to worry about problems loading or phone batteries dying.
- Name Sticker On the Camera. Sometimes I get halfway through an engagement session, and suddenly I’m not really sure if I’m saying the right names of the couple I’m photographing. 99% of the time I am, but it just stops sounding right and then I’m paranoid and just start saying “you” and “you,” which is never good. So I saw this on someone’s CreativeLive once: I just put a little cheat sheet sticker on the bottom of my camera that says the important people’s names. Just in case!
- Dress Hanger Trick. If you’re trying to hang a wedding dress on a slippery hanger and the straps keep falling off the sides, run the straps of the dress through the middle of the hanger first and then loop it over the ends. It’ll look a little twisted, but it’s like magic and will help the dress to stay! This one is better illustrated than explained.
- Sticky Tack & 3M Hooks. If you’re trying to get a shot of the wedding rings standing up, use a tiny bit of sticky tack. Voila! Gravity-defying! Also, if you can’t find a good place to hang a wedding dress, bring along your own 3M hook and tabs, and create a place to hang it on a wall of your choice.
- Cull Backwards. This one I learned from my friend Sarah. When going through and culling images from a shoot, I’ll sort by reverse chronological order and start from the end of the day, working backwards. One, if you took multiple shots of the same thing, your last photo is probably the best one and you’ll see it first instead. Two, I think this psychologically helps you go faster instead of getting bogged down in the sequence of the day when you go forwards.
- Find and Accept Help. And Offer Help Too. I’ve always thought of myself as independent, and it was one of the things that made starting my own business so alluring. In the beginning, it really felt like I was a lone wolf, carving my own path. But the truth is, nothing I do is really on my own. I am privileged to have a whole network of support through my friends, family, and clients, whether that means financial support, sharing knowledge, or having examples to follow. I was never one for ‘networking’ but in just the last couple years, I’ve found a wonderful group of peers and finally feel like I’m part of a community of creative entrepreneurs rather than going it alone. Along with knowing how to find and use your resources, I think it’s important to give back with what I’ve learned. It’s taken me ten years to get this far, but I’m excited to think about how much further we might all go in the next ten years, hand in hand, sharing and pushing forward.
Cheers to ten years!
Anna Wu is a wedding and portrait photographer based in San Francisco. She creates beautiful, soft, and timeless imagery while capturing the most fleeting of moments. View her work at annawu.com, follow her daily adventures on instagram, and contact her to book your own session today.