We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Walter Afalla a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Walter, looking forward to hearing all of your stories today. It’s easy to look at a business or industry as an outsider and assume it’s super profitable – but we’ve seen over and over again in our conversation with folks that most industries have factors that make profitability a challenge. What’s biggest challenge to profitability in your industry?
Over the past 2 to 3 years, I’ve seen an increasing amount of creatives in the photography and videography industry. Many of them are creating their own businesses and charging customers at such a lower rate. For my business, I can’t compromise to meet the lower budget clients mainly because my quality in service and product is far superior to the average wedding videographer. Is it frustrating? Absolutely, however, I keep pushing forward and trust my own instinct.
Many of my clients see a big difference in the work that I produce compared to those who are charging their customers cheaper prices. One of the most recent clients that booked their wedding with me compared my collections (packages) to others and said that although my prices were a little higher than the average filmmaker, they immediately knew that they were going to get a high-quality product and superior service.
Awesome – so before we get into the rest of our questions, can you briefly introduce yourself to our readers.
I’ve been very blessed to have many God-given talents. I graduated from the Art Institute of Seattle in December of 1989 with a degree in both graphic design and photography. I had to choose one field of work to pursue and chose graphic design since photography was so expensive to get into back when digital photography didn’t even exist. I worked for various Fortune 500 transportation engineering firms over my 25 years of experience and continue to have a strong presence in the industry as an independent retainer contractor for local mid to large-scale engineering firms providing art direction and project-related landscape photography.
In 2009, I was one of many who were affected by corporate layoffs due to the hardships of our national economy. At that point in my career, I was totally burned out and felt that it was the right time to start my own photography studio making use of my education degree. At first, I named it Afalla Photography but after doing my own market research in creating my own brand name, I still had the desire to do graphic design. So I decided to call my business AfallaStudios.
My first three years in business were rough mainly because I really didn’t know what type of creative studio I wanted to establish. I knew that I didn’t want to portray my business as the ‘one-stop shop’. I was providing both graphic design and photography services. For graphic design, I was providing brand design and marketing services for small businesses. And for photography, I did just about everything: high school senior portraits, families, babies, weddings, engagements, pets, landscapes, products, headshots, etc. You name it, I shot it. So I really didn’t have one type of focus at that time.
Then in August of 2014, my father fell ill and passed away. To make matters worse, my mother was so heartbroken that she passed away nine months later. She just could not live without my dad. So from 2014 to 2017, I did not pick up my camera. I was sending clients to other creatives and battled depression until one day my friend and mentor, Peter Hurley (famous headshot photographer based in New York City) woke me up from this deep state of depression and told me to get back into the business by attending his headshot intensive workshop in Houston, Texas.
Using Hurley’s headshot techniques, I was able to branch out in creating my wedding brand called White Tiaré Weddings. I provided both wedding photography and videography- a hybrid approach that separated my business from all the others in my industry. I connected with two of the most experienced wedding vendors in my market, Morgan Events (wedding planner) and Angelina’s Floral and Events (Wedding event floral designer). Together we booked high-end, luxury wedding clients based on the high level of products and services we provided.
Over the past three years, doing both wedding photography and videography started to take a toll on me. Although I was very capable of doing both, I felt my passion started to lean towards wedding films. Having a strong photography background as well as a graphic design marketing background, I was able to convert my business to do just one type of service- wedding films. I did this mainly because the market was saturated with way too many wedding photographers. Many of them are so competitive that they would lower their prices just to create these quick and easy photos of their couples using presets of their liking. Everyone was creating the typical over-exposed light-and-airy look to the brown hues of a dark-and-moody look. And it’s so simple for these photographers because its just one click of a button and suddenly you’re this amazing photographer.
So as of this year, 2022, I decided to focus more on telling the wedding day story through film. I hate using the word “videography” mainly because it sounds antiquated (outdated) and would rather say wedding “film” or “cinematography”. I’ve learned to separate myself from the vast amount of creatives out there. And just like photographers, many filmmakers are creating wedding films that consist of slow-motion clips to pretty music of a wedding day. I like to take things one step further. I like to incorporate good, clear audio of the reactions when the groom first sees his bride at their “first look” to the voice of the officiant during the ceremony. I use not one but up to four or five cameras at various focal lengths during the ceremony giving me a variety to choose from when I create the wedding film. I also have an assistant to help run the camera gimbal when we want smooth moving film footage to flying a drone circling the event venue at the start of the wedding day.
I’m constantly trying to stay ahead of my competition by providing something different for my clients. For me, its all about my clients investing in my talent to tell their love stories. My marketing approach is also different. For one thing, I like to use technology that we all have access to. When a potential client contacts me, I’ll set up a consultation phone call digital presentation where I ask the client to click on a link in the email that I just sent them. From there I control my 20 minute digital Apple Keynote presentation that explains each collection in detail. Then I encourage them to look at other services out there and if they’re interested to contact me to book their wedding film. After the wedding, it’ll take at least 2 to 3 months to edit their wedding films. Yes, there’s more than one film that they receive in our most popular collection which consist of five films total: one full-feature 10+ minute film, one full ceremony film, one medium length 6 minute film, one full reception speeches film, and a one minute social media teaser that they’ll receive within 48-72 hours of their wedding day. We also use our own lighting for the reception speeches and multiple cameras to create a library of clips to edit from. All off these digital files are presented in a customized USB thumbdrive along with a some other goodies like a bottle of wine. I’ll present these films to my clients when they come to my studio and view them in my outdoor living area (if the weather is nice) or in my studio. I usually include a light snack and beverage as well while they watch their wedding films and re-live their wedding day. My favorite part is watching their reactions when they view their films.
For me, its all about servicing the client and making them part of the White Tiaré family. I’ll limit a certain amount of weddings each year so every client can have nothing but their absolute best effort from me and my staff.
Can you tell us about what’s worked well for you in terms of growing your clientele?
My most effective strategy in growing my clientele is based on my past experience working in the marketing sector of transportation engineering firms. I based everything on the art of building relationships within my field of work. When you build healthy relationships, you eventually build trust. For example, I heard of a brand new wedding venue being built between the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth so I inquired about it by setting up an appointment to meet the director of marketing and sales. This was the start of a long-lasting relationship. I offered to photograph their venue, fly my drone to capture both photo and film footage of their beautiful venue, and even took several 360-degree photos of their interior. During the start of the pandemic, they were not able to open their doors for tours due to the city ordinance. Their sales director was in a panic because she had five tours booked that day. I told her to not worry and sent her a link to the 360-degree photos of their interior and created a virtual walk-through. She contacted her clients and did virtual walk-throughs and in the end, she was able to book three of the five couples for their wedding. Since then, the venue has sent me many clients and I became their number one go-to vendor.
Building relationships is so important in our industry and it’s one of the best ways to share with clients to provide both photography and videography for their event.
What do you find most rewarding about being a creative?
The most rewarding aspect of being an artist in my field of work is the joy of telling the story of a couple’s wedding day. I love to get to know our clients prior to their special day so I would usually take them out to lunch and get to know them as people. By doing this you build trust, especially with the groom because he’ll be smooching his bride on the wedding day. I love to capture the little private moments that my couples experience immediately after they are pronounced husband and wife. I like to take them away from the guest so that they have their special moment in taking it all in. Often times I would take them to an area somewhere on the venue’s property and have them take five minutes to just have a moment with each other and without our cameras. Once they experience their moment, my staff and I would film them walking hand in hand, hugging, stealing kisses, etc.
When I create the library of film footage and start the post-production in creating my wedding films, I really study my client’s personality when selecting the right music that would play in the background of their wedding film. It’s all about telling their love story in the most special way possible. I love capturing the little in-between moments that happen on a wedding day like the playful side of the groom when getting ready with his groomsmen to the sisterhood that goes on in the bridal suite. I love capturing moments when the bride first walks down the aisle and the reaction of the groom full of emotions. Or the moments when the flower girl would steal the show in how she tosses rose petals onto the aisle. And don’t forget the moments when the father gives his daughter away with that twinkle in his eye knowing that his little girl will be taken great care of by his new son-in-law. These are the most rewarding aspects of what I love to do.
- Website: www.whitetiareweddings.com
- Instagram: @white_tiare_weddings
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/whitetiareweddings
White Tiare Weddings Promotional Video
Direct link to view video: https://vimeo.com/683064773Tyrel & StephanieDirect link to view video: https://vimeo.com/
Logan & ChelseaDirect link to view video: https://vimeo.com/
658361979Shawn & VanessaDirect link to view video: https://vimeo.com/ 572776742Jacob & TiffanyDirect link to view video: https://vimeo.com/ 439770750