Meet Clay Souza of Photos by Clay, a Brazilian native living in the USA for over 20 years. I’ve been doing photography for about 6 years now and it all started with my passion for motorcycle racing. I got into wedding photography about 3 years ago and I’m now getting close to 100 weddings. I don’t take more than 30 weddings a year. I still like shooting families and high school seniors, so I save some dates for those. I also like traveling with my wife and doing creative shootings. It helps me to decompress, relax, and experiment with new techniques and ideas.
Do you work alone or with a team?
My wife is my second shooter. I honestly don’t trust many people to second shoot with me. The second shooter culture needs to change. A second photographer must be as good as the main photographer. He/she should be reliable, professional, and creative. I also bring a lighting assistant with me, which is usually an upcoming photographer who wants to get into weddings. I like helping people out and I’m always available to answer questions when asked. I also run group photoshoots where I give instructions if needed.
What made you decide to get into the wedding industry?
When I was in college one of my professors told me I should be a writer. I like telling stories. It only clicked to me a few years ago. Why wedding photography? As wedding photographers, we are photojournalists when we’re shooting the ceremony. We are product photographers when we’re shooting details, portrait photographers during the portrait part of the wedding. For me, it’s all about the story. I’m a storyteller and that is what got me into wedding photography.
What makes your services unique to the wedding industry?
Passion for wedding photography and dedication to my couples regardless of the size of the wedding. I’m very passionate about what I do and understand that it isn’t only about the images. The experience I provide to my couples is what makes me unique in this very competitive industry.
Why do you think that couples should hire a wedding photographer?
A good wedding photographer should be way more than a photographer. There’s so much going on on a wedding day, that a person with good photography skills but no experience with weddings will fail. A wedding photographer should be able to draw a timeline, predict moments, and most important, pivot when necessary. I think a good wedding photographer is the one who plans 100% of his/her day. A bad wedding photographer is the one with no game plan. An excellent wedding photographer plans about 70% of his/her day and pivots the other 30%.
Describe your ideal wedding client and the questions they should be asking you.
The ideal wedding client for me is the one who understands the value of photography. At the end of the day, food, music, flowers will be gone. What stays with you forever? Photo and video. These are the vendors I believe couples should focus on. That’s where the budget shouldn’t be tight. Regarding questions, there are many, but an important question that should be asked is WHY. Why are you a wedding photographer? I’m asked a lot of how when they look at my portfolio. How did you do this? How did you do that? These are easy to answer. But the industry will only get better the day we start being asked why!
Describe your most successful experience.
The highlight of a wedding experience for me happens when my couples come to see their images for the first time. When I see their emotion, laughter, hugs, and smiles it only validates that we’re on the right track. Success for me is measured by how happy my clients are with the product I give them. Again, it isn’t about me. It isn’t about being published or invited to teach a workshop. It’s about my client’s satisfaction! That’s my measure of success.
What steps do you take to handle last-minute changes or unexpected challenges that occur before or during an event?
I always make sure I have a timeline. If I’m not given one, I create one together with my couple. A timeline is the day blueprint. It’s very important to have one. Think about this. Everything else we can do-over. Family, engagement, HS senior photos if something goes wrong, we can do-over. But weddings we have one shot to do it right. There’s no do-over. We have a single opportunity, so planning ahead is crucial. With all that said, I plan but I’m not rigid. Like I explained in the other question, I plan 70% of my day and pivot the remainder 30%. That has saved me many times, believe me. Plan, but allow the flexibility to deal with unexpected situations, because they will happen!
Cost can be a huge factor for couples who are looking to hire a photographer. What advice would you give to them about this concern?
Book early. The earlier you book, the easier it is to negotiate prices. Ask for a payment plan. Budget in advance and don’t lose focus. Also, don’t be intimidated by a photographer’s imagery. I’ve had some of my brides tell me that they were intimidated by my style of photography before meeting me face to face. My photography looks expensive, but I’m not that expensive. I’m not the cheapest one, but not even close to being the most expensive. Meet the photographer, you might surprise yourself.
What tips can you offer for couples who are planning their wedding?
Have a wedding planner, especially if you’re having a good size wedding. I’ve seen more than a handful of wedding days gone bad because a coordinator wasn’t hired. Also, make sure to have a face to face with your photographer and ask to see a printed portfolio. Nowadays, phones and tablets screens have such great resolution that makes almost any image look good. A couple should be seeing a printed portfolio with large size images. My samples are all 24×36 inches. I want my couples to have peace of mind when they hire me. Value your photography more, because 10 or 20 years from now, that’s all you’re going to have. Someone said one day ‘If you don’t value photography wait until the day that’s all you have’. Value your memories!
Is there anything else you would like to include?
Trust the vendors you hire. It’s a two-way relationship and trust is very important. Make sure you identify with the photographer’s style. You’d be surprised by the number of people who we meet and book, but never even looked at our website. Honestly, it blows my mind. Last but not least, give your vendors time to do what they were hired to do. We’re team bride and groom and are working for you. We create memories together. It isn’t me by myself, neither the couple by themselves. It’s a collaboration and when that partnership happens, the day goes well and the results are EPIC!!
If you are planning your wedding and are still looking for a videographer, I would love to talk with you! Let’s connect today!
Since you’re here, you may also want to see: Meet Adina Starke of Enchantment Designs