Viva Las Vegas Puts the Wild in Weddings

Photographer Spotlight: Kalin Ivanov

Kalin Ivanov is a pretty busy guy. He’s an IT tech, plays Elwood Blues in musical productions, and is a very successful photographer. His trick, he does all those things for Viva Las Vegas where he takes all of the wedding pictures for the very popular Vegas chapel, edits and loads them to their PhotoReflect account, and makes pretty good money doing it. (We are "trying" to be coy in saying Viva Las Vegas is one of PhotoReflect’s most profitable and prolific users. Recently they have announced that they have published their 5,000th online event. Loading images into your PhotoReflect account is a feature under the "proservices tab" in the DARKOOM software.)

DARKROOM: So Kalin, thanks for your time, it has been hard getting a hold of you. I guess you’re pretty busy?

Kalin Ivanov: Totally. It is pretty busy. Normally we can expect around 400 weddings a month, most of which I shoot and edit with an assistant. This week has been particularly crazy. There is this Scottish-Vegas group, called Glasvegas, that started their tour with a secret MySpace production at our chapel. I can always say that at this place there’s never a dull moment but it goes double for this week.

DARKROOM: No doubt. You do some pretty wild stuff.

Kalin Ivanov: Well, we are proud of our more traditional weddings, but our theme weddings are a lot of fun. Darth Vadar officiates the Star Wars themed wedding. The Egyptian Wedding features two men carrying the bride in a caravan… Really we do pretty much everything you can imagine.

DARKROOM: Do you have any favorites?

Kalin Ivanov: My favorite is the Blues Brothers themed wedding because I get to play Elwood Blues. It is nice to sing and dance for a couple on their big day. The most popular… hmmm… I think it is the Pink Cadillac Wedding. Elvis drives the bride and groom into the chapel in a 1964 pink Cadillac convertible to the tune of Space Odyssey mashed with That’s All Right Momma. Smoke, lights, the works while Elvis escorts the couple out of the car, serenading them the entire time and getting all the guests dancing before officiating the vows. It’s pretty exciting. All of the productions are pretty exciting.

DARKROOM: How do you do it? I mean, you’re wearing three hats and getting good work out, in, did you say four days?

Kalin Ivanov: Yes. I publish all the events online in less than four days. When you do 10 to 15 events a day and at least 50 on the weekends, we have to take advantage of any technology solution that will help us.

DARKROOM: You use PhotoReflect, but do you use DARKROOM?

Kalin Ivanov: Yep. We use DARKROOM Professional Edition. DARKROOM Pro does three big things for me that now I cannot do with out. I use the advanced photo editor. I use the automatic Digital Download feature and I sell a lot of Digital Delivery disks. Oh, and we print in-house to our trusty Noritsu! Only Professional Edition can do all of these things.

DARKROOM: You’re right. But you can, of course use use Photoshop or other technologies if you wanted to.

Kalin Ivanov: Oh no no no. I have to edit about 30 pictures in 10 minutes. Photoshop won’t let me do that. We’ve taken Photoshop completely off of our computers. DARKROOM doesn’t work with the original files so making quick or elaborate enhancements and repairs happens pretty quickly. Then it takes one click to put them online. We’ve been using DARKROOM since version 8.6. Thank you for giving us that feature in later versions. It’s been a great helper.

DARKROOM: You said you fell in love with Version 8.9 for the Digital Delivery and Digital Download features…

Kalin Ivanov: Yes. The digital products are our biggest sellers. We’ve seen a big boost in sales being able to sell digital downloads on PhotoReflect and DARKROOM automatically fulfills the orders for us -– so I don’t have to email or find the photos in the archive. Thank goodness.

DARKROOM: You sell a lot of digital pictures? A lot of photographers worry that it cuts into their print revenues. Are you worried about that?

Kalin Ivanov: Well, for us it has been a big profit maker. We charge $35 for each downloaded picture to overcome the potential loss of our print revenue. But the fact is, while everybody might want a couple of 4x6s of their wedding day, everybody wants at least one digital image. It has completely increased our per sale average… by a lot.

DARKROOM: Do you print in house?

Kalin Ivanov: Yes. We use two Noritsus to print pretty much everything that is smaller than 20×30. It is here where Professional Edition shines. Anything larger than that we use Labtricity for.

DARKROOM: Do you sell packages?

Kalin Ivanov: Nope. Everything is a la carte.

DARKROOM: What are your most popular prints?

Kalin Ivanov: Everybody buys 4x6s. Then there are a lot of 8x10s. Then it varies a lot. Except for the digital stuff.

DARKROOM: Oh yah, you sell a lot of Digital Delivery products. What do you sell?

Kalin Ivanov: No bells and whistles. They choose what they want on a disk. We sell a 12 image disk for $350, a 24 image disk for $500 and a 36 image disk for $650. I’m glad they are popular because it would take about 70 4×6 prints to equal a $350 order.

DARKROOM: What advice can you give DARKROOM users reading this?

Kalin Ivanov: I’m pretty sure we are a strange client for DARKROOM. I guess some tricks we’ve learned lately has been to discontinue printing during the event and giving proofs away. They’re not environmentally friendly and expensive on us. We now do everything online. Unless they insist, we don’t sell anything in person or on the spot. So, using DARKROOM to publish to PhotoReflect handles, pretty much, our entire photography business.

I also would say that I take tons of pictures. But again, we are a little weird. The weddings are no longer than 30 minutes and the picture taking session is about 10 minutes. So we just shoot like crazy and quickly edit only the best pictures before putting them online.

…And, we don’t do any marketing. We have a pre-recorded announcement that plays before the wedding when all the guests are seated telling them to go to vivalasvegasweddings.com and to find the pictures using the groom’s last name. That’s it and it seems to work just fine.

DARKROOM: What are your most popular pictures?

Kalin Ivanov: You would think group shots would be popular, but they’re not. Close ups of the couple are the biggest sellers so I try to shoot as many of those as possible. Also, candid pictures taken outside on a nice day with no flash are also very popular. I guess that’s not too surprising, but I love them too, I get to be a little more creative.

We loved the last statement — from someone that is Elwood Blues when his camera is down. We had a great time getting to know Kalin and Viva Las Vegas (I’m actually booking my vow renewals with them right now). Learn more by visiting their website.

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