Welcome to a new series I'm appropriately naming Your Flagstaff Wedding Vendors! Listen, Flagstaff is a hidden gem for many reasons but one of the biggest ones is our phenomenal selection of wedding vendors. From Photographers (represent!) to DJs, Florists, Rental Companies and Chefs I want to try to highlight as many as I can so you can make the most informed decision or referral when your next wedding comes up.
In this series of blog posts I'll be doing quick interviews with our vendors and share more about what they offer, who they are and how you can get in touch with them. What better way to test-drive this concept than interview myself as one of our local portrait photographers? Let's kick it off!
Who are you and what service do you offer in the Flagstaff Wedding Vendor arena?
Hi guys! My name is Jessie Strazzeri and I'm a short, fun and easygoing Flagstaff-based photographer offering wedding packages to couples looking to get married throughout Arizona (and beyond!).
How long have you been creating in your space and what made you decide to offer these services for Arizona couples planning their weddings?
I've been creating in the medium of photography for about fifteen years! But it wasn't until the last two years that I've really started to refine my niche and give more focus to couple photography, engagement photography and wedding photography (let's call it love photography) here in Flagstaff and throughout Arizona. When I first started out I didn't really love the idea of limiting my offerings as a professional service, but over time I've found what I enjoy most and I'm most skilled at is capturing love, silliness and connection between my clients. What can I say? I love love.
What is your favorite thing about your business?
There are so so so many things I love about what I do as a portrait and wedding photographer. The best way I can sum it up is by saying I love being an honorary member of people's families for the time we spend together. On wedding days I love that my clients feel comfortable with me by their side and trust me to have their back. I've oftentimes said it's my goal to be the sister persona when I'm with my clients and I feel very humbled to be in that kind of role.
How would you describe your "Dream Client"?
My dream clients are definitely go-with-the-flow people who over-prepare and then have faith in the process once the day actually comes. People who love to laugh hard and treat their vendors like family. People who see the value in what I offer. My dream clients don't need to be sold on me because they already know they love my personality and style and trust that I'll deliver as expected. My dream clients stick with me year after year as each new milestone comes up for them, even if it's just staying in touch on social media or something. My dream clients are the ones that say, "if you're not doing anything we'd love to grab a beer with you after this!".
What is your favorite review or piece of feedback you've ever gotten from a client?
I'm fortunate that I get so much feedback from my clients! But my favorite piece of feedback I've gotten from a client is that our time together felt like spending time with an old friend. That just made me feel like "Yes. that's what I want people to feel." It really helped set a standard for what kind of experience I want my clients to feel from then on out.
What was the biggest challenge or most unexpected obstacle you've had to overcome? This can be a general challenge or a specific project that tested your abilities.
My unexpected challenge and obstacle is kind of a weird one. I always thought it would be reading personalities or directing people through prompts, but what required the most of my energy to overcome was the unusual scheduling that photography demands. One of the things I resisted for a long time was the fact that being a photographer would mean I'm not always home to make dinner for my loved ones or lounge around on the couch. That I'll have to miss out on fun weekend get-togethers with friends to be that "honorary sister" for a client. It took a long time to come to terms with. Even today there are days I get a little sad when leaving for a shoot. But something that helped me overcome that is recognizing that my schedule isn't always that full. There are many weekdays I do get to be home. There are many weekends I do get to spend with my family. I get much more freedom scheduling vacations and what not because it's my own business and I create my own schedule. I could always say no to a job! But when I say yes it opens up much more freedom in my personal world.
What is your favorite photo to create / make? Why?
Again, this is impossible to narrow down! My favorite photo to create is anything candid where I get my clients laughing. One of the taglines for my business I've played with is "photos you can feel" and laughter or silliness my clients feel in those moments is the embodiment of that tagline. You can't help but smile yourself when you see some of the photos of my clients laughing or smiling authentically. But I also live for detail shots that help tell the story of the couple and "happy accident" shots of unplanned interactions between the bride + groom and their guests or with each other. There are so many favorite shots that are unplanned. I also have plenty of favorite shots that are a little more structured and planned. I love making sure to get it all!
What is the trickiest part about being a Flagstaff-based Photographer?
Love this question! Flagstaff is such a sweet, magical place, but it's also tricky for wedding vendors. So the trickiest part about being a Flagstaff-based photographer is that a lot of my engagement clients are visiting. If I shoot a proposal in Sedona, those clients are often visiting from out of state. So I find my conversion of engagement clients to wedding clients is smaller than it might be if I were a photographer based elsewhere. It's such a gift to live near amazing locations like Horseshoe Bend, Sedona Red Rocks, The Grand Canyon, etc, but it's definitely bittersweet to not be able to see a project through if my client doesn't have the means to work with me as a traveling photographer for their wedding. I am seeing more and more clients stick with me even when they get married out of state but overall I'd say this is definitely the trickiest part.
From start to finish how long does it take you to make what you make? If you have a variety of offerings, how long does it take you to make the most popular item?
From start to finish- ohhhhhh. Okay. Let's talk wedding photography since that's our focus for this blog! I'd say on average it takes about 1 week to work out contract and deposit details with a client once they choose to book with me. After this I do a few client calls to work out details and in between booking and the wedding day there are a lot of texts and emails with updates to the client's file. My wedding packages range from 6 to 10 hours but the most popular package is my 8 hour package. Then about three or four weeks of editing (if I'm uninterrupted and don't have another few sessions lined up to edit right before the wedding day!). On any editing day it's about 8-10 hours a day glued to the computer... for three weeks haha. So, not counting the months / year of lead time in between booking and the event, I'd say it's a 5-6 week process of active work.
Is there someone in your industry that inspires you to keep going when things get tough?
Absolutely! One of my biggest inspirations is a photographer named Alexx based in Utah. She's a single mom of two boys who has overcome so much in her photography business and personal life. Her work always inspires me to shake up my perspective, look for details in story telling and to lean into my relationships with clients. One of the first things I did when I launched my photography full-time was schedule a one-on-one mentorship call with her. That call really helped me learn where to set boundaries in my business and how to nurture relationships with my clients.
Do you have a price range for your services you feel comfortable sharing here?
I won't dive too deep into the nitty gritty price details - for anyone who decides they'd want more info we can chat further! - but my wedding package price range right now (in June 2022!) is between $1400.00 and $2000.00. I have a variety of add-ons that I break down in my wedding booking guide for clients when we start the booking process. The add-ons include a second photographer, a "Documenting your Day" guidebook to help with planning the big day, additional time shooting on the big day, and more.
Where would you like to see your business one year from now?
A year from now I'd like to have it so I have all my wedding clients booked a year in advance. I've made a lot of progress this year filling out dates a year or so out, but it I were able to be more fully booked for weddings earlier on it would really help me know where I can plan personal things / trips / breaks in my own life and help me budget better. I'd also like to see more conversions with my engagement clients to wedding clients. I'm working right now on a handful of passive income opportunities, products, etc in my business that I hope opens up time in my schedule to elevate wedding client experiences even further. It would also be rad to have more travel wedding gigs so I can explore all kinds of venues, cities, etc! Lots of ideas, goals and plans!
What areas (if any) outside of Flagstaff do you offer your services to?
While I'd love to fill my books with Flagstaff weddings I definitely love the idea of traveling more for weddings. Like I said I'd love to travel more to explore different wedding venues and cities. As of right now I primarily offer wedding services to Flagstaff, Phoenix and Southern California (which is where I grew up!). But I'm always willing to dive into conversations with clients about other out-of-state events.
Where can interested potential clients connect with you?
The BEST place to connect with me, see more of my personality and my portfolio is on Instagram. I'm a sucker for silly Instagram reels and sharing authentically there. If a potential client wanted to dive right into discussing booking I urge them to do so by using the booking inquiry form on my website- after which I'll connect via email. Here are all my links!
Who are some vendors you feel could use some more recognition in Northern Arizona?
Off the top of my head there are three vendors you should absolutely have on your radar if you're planning a Flagstaff wedding. My friend Rachel and her business partner just launched on of Northern Arizona's only wedding rental companies called Something Borrowed. Another awesome vendor and connection I've made here in town is a baker named Victoria - her business is Honeycomb Pastries. Her desserts are a must have for your wedding! Finally a florist that can do no wrong is Four Sisters Floral. I'll do my best to get them interviewed for this blog ASAP so you can learn more about what they offer and who they are.