Calendars on Photography Websites?

"I value the friend who for me finds time on his calendar, but I cherish the friend who for me does not consult his calendar."
~Robert Brault
Most photographers are moving toward flash websites and loving the idea of updating it themselves! New flash sites allow us to use very user friendly Control Panel and add new pictures from our recent weddings! This is great because we don't have to wait several weeks for our web designer to "get around to it."
For example, many flash templates with the option of adding a calendar. When I first launched my website I thought it was a very cool idea and had put my calendar up. My thinking was that this would let brides know if I'm already booked for their dates. This would save me time as I didn't have to email them back telling them I'm booked. The bride could save time (after some tears of course) and she continues her search for another wedding photographer. This made a lot of sense to the time.
After about six months of having my calendar up on my website, I only had two brides actually contact me to ask if I could refer any other wedding photographers. Also I had several brides contact me and say, "My friend 'so and so' said I needed to contact you! She loved your photos but saw you were booked for her date!" So I started thinking about whether I should have my calender up or not.
Sometimes I like to use a more simplistic decision making approach. In the book On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin created a Pros and Cons list to see if he should marry. I decided to take the same scientific approach of this great naturalist. Basically I developed a pros and cons list for having a calendar on my website. Simple but very effective.
Here is my list:
* Save me time since I don't need to email the brides when I'm already booked.
* Shows brides what venues I'm shooting/shot at.
* If brides see that my calendar is filled up, they will feel more confident and expedite the booking process.
* Never get to talk to the brides to try to book them on some engagement pictures.
- I've booked several e-sessions with couples whose dates were already booked.
* Never know who would have contacted me.
- Keeping track of these couples' info is very valuable! It helps me understand who my clients are.
* Never know how they found me.
- Understanding where they came from to get to me is valuable, too.
* Never know how many brides are actually contacting me and willing to pay for my services
- Let's say that 10 brides a month are inquiring about my wedding photography. This helps me better understand my demand and essentially helps me price my wedding photography accordingly.
* Never allow me to refer to other photographers.
- My referrals come from brides and other photographers! So it is important to strengthen my relationships with other photographers.
o Never know if my efforts are paying off (ads, links, referrals and leads.)
- I do have one magazine ad, many links and pay for some online directories. So I NEED to know if these are worth my investment.
o Never get to start a relationship with the couples.
- Wedding photography is all about relationships and I like to create a relationship with all couples that contact me. I want them to say to their friends, "We wanted Rob Nicholson of Humbled Eyes Photography...but he was booked! You need to call him!"
Wedding photography is about building relationships, building referral networks and understanding how and where you fit in to this "crazy wedding game." Having a calendar up limits you from gathering information and understanding your business!
~Rob Nicholson