Ahh spam, a wedding photographers nemesis. Doesn’t it get boring telling every customer to check their spam folder? Wouldn’t be nice to know your email arrives first time, every time? Why do emails end up in spam anyway, and what can I do about it? I’ll cover all this and more, so if you’re serious about your photography business, put aside an hour and let’s get started.
Quick Background: I’ve worked in web development for over a decade, I’ve built and launched dozens of websites from scratch for many different companies, I also personally manage a weekly newsletter with over 50k subscribers. Needless to say, I’ve had to learn everything the hard way, and luckily you can skip the trial and error and get back to the good bits – capturing beautiful wedding photos of your couples!
How do I know I have a problem?
Easy! It takes 10-seconds to know if you’ll benefit from this article:
We’re aiming for a full-house of green tickets, if you have any yellow explication marks, fear not, I’ll show you how to fix this below!
Why do my emails go to spam?
There are – dozens – of – reasons – I won’t go into, email has been around since 1972 and its history is long and complicated. Instead, I’m going to focus on the steps you can implement right now to significantly decrease your likelihood of ending up as another spam casualty!
So… What can I do about it?
Interestingly, you have a LOT more control here than most people realize. In the development community these are seen as best practices, but unfortunately, most wedding photographers don’t have time to learn about email authentication.
In this article, I’ll cover 5 tips that will help your emails actually reach your wedding photography customers. I’ll use the simplest language I can to describe some of the scarier technical terms, and if in doubt, send this article to your developer.
- Add an SPF record to your Domain – Time: 15 minutes
- Add a DKIM record to your Domain – Time: 10 minutes
- Setup DMARC reporting – Time: 5 minutes
- Routing Emails through your Website and CRM (advanced – 30 minutes)
- Knowing when you’ve Bounced
Ok, let’s get started!
1. Add an SPF record to your Domain – Time: 15 minutes
Plain English Definition: An SPF record lets you ‘whitelist’ all the places your emails can be sent from. For instance, you might whitelist your website, or maybe you use a CRM, or even a newsletter marketing system. Your SPF record tells the world, “here are the places I allow emails to be sent from”.
So how do I do it? All you need to do is add 1 line of text to your domains DNS. “Ahhh, what the hell is a DNS?!” Remember where you purchased your domain name and setup your hosting (yoursite.com)? Login to your host and they will have a page where you can update and edit your (Domain Name System). If you’re not sure, contact their support team, they’ll be able to help.
Pro Tip: I use Cloudflare to manage my DNS as it updates entries instantly, most other providers take 24 to 48 hours.
Here’s was a basic SPF record looks like if you route your emails Google G Suite (recommended):
If you use webmail on your domain, or your website sends emails with a contact form, or you use things like Zendesk, Mailchimp, or another provider that sends email on your behalf, you’ll need something a bit more sophisticated. Each service you use will have instructions on setting up the correct SPF records. Here’s a more complex example:
Each domain should have it’s own SPF record (including subdomains), never have more than 1 SPF record per domain.
Tip for Experts: For my nerdy brethren out there, here is all the technical SPF record documentation you can poke a stick at.
2. Add a DKIM record to your Domain – Time: 10 minutes
Plain English Definition: DKIM act like a personal assistant who verifies each email as it’s sent to prove it came from you, and you alone.
Not every email provider supports DKIM, but if they do it’s fairly easy to set up. Here are the instructions for setting up your DKIM records with Google G Suite. Any email provider that supports DKIM will have a similar setup, but you may need to contact them if you’re unsure.
- Login to your email provider, in this case, Google G Suite
- Go to Apps > G Suite > Gmail > Authenticate Email – see official Google instructions here
- Select the domain you want to generate a key for, click “Generate new record”.
- This will create a ‘private key’ that Google keeps safe for you, and they will create a ‘public key’ you need to add as a DNS record
- Login to your DNS manager, in my case Cloudflare – see official Cloudflare instructions here
- Create a new TXT record with the Name and Content as per the record generated above
- Save, and you’re done!
It’s really that simple, but so many photographers fail to implement this simple step and it can make a huge difference to your email deliverability.
3. Setup DMARC reporting – Time: 5 minutes
Plain English Definition: DMARC acts like a police officer who monitors your email traffic globally. You can tell this officer to:
- Act as a watchdog – do nothing, but report all suspicious activity – “none”
- Setup roadblocks – quarantine all suspicious activity – “quarantine”
- Move to a full state of emergency – reject anything you haven’t officially approved – “reject”
OK, before I continue, give yourself a round of applause for getting this far, I know this can feel like a chore. DMARC is a powerful tool that can help you not only reach someone’s inbox but also helps you protect your photography business’ brand, identity, and ultimately the trust of your customers.
There are several ways to setup DMARC, I’m going to skip to simplest and most elegant solution I’ve found:
- Postmark has an awesome (free) DMARC setup
- Enter the email you want to receive the report at
- It will then generate a DNS entry you can add to your domain (see section #1 above)
- Once set up, make sure to verify you’ve received the confirmation email form Postmark, and you have verified it on their site
- As soon as it’s been verified, it will tell you “You’re all set”
I would suggest setting this to p=none initially. This will give you a weekly report that you can monitor to make sure no one is spoofing your photography business.
If you want to move into the p=quarantine mode, just understand this will force unverified emails to peoples spam boxes. This is great if bad actors are using your email or company to try and spam people, but bad if you have a newsletter that isn’t properly verified, it’ll nuke your campaign.
Only setup p=reject if you’re a bad-ass and you know what you’re doing. This will literally tell Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, and other ISPs, “do not accept ANY email I have not explicitly allowed”. Again, this is great if you’ve setup everything correctly, but great power comes with great responsibility.
For some more technical reading, here is the official Google Guide on Adding a DMARC record.
4. Sending Authentic Emails from your Website and CRM – Advanced: 30 minutes
Plain English Definition: If you send emails from your website to make sure you get all the benefits of SPF, DKIM, and DMARC, by setting up your websites emailing system properly. Don’t set up your email, and then forget to verify emails sent from your website or CRM!
I’ll admit, I was pretty excited when I figured out how to do this. It’s fairly in-depth setup, but it’s worth the time to set this up correctly.
Some CRMs like StudioNinja (Get 50% off using the code TWOBLUSHINGPILGRIMS) make this step SUPER easy, but if you use WordPress then authenticating your email properly can be complicated. Luckily there are plugins with online guides that will help you set this up properly.
What you’ll need:
All you need to do is:
- Install the plugin
- Setup your Google API Console
- Follow this guide by WPForms – How to Securely Send WordPress Emails Using Gmail SMTP with WP Mail SMTP
Setting this up will take you between 10 and 30 minutes depending on your website host and technical knowledge.
5. Knowing when you’ve Bounced
Sometimes a new photography inquiry will have accidentally misspelled their email address. If you have an auto-reply, or even try and respond to them with your package, the email will bounce as it doesn’t exist.
In most cases, you’ll hopefully get a ‘bounce back’ email, but if your email isn’t properly authenticated, or you’re not using a proper email provider, you may not receive these bounce alerts. That can be the difference between impressing a couple with your managerial prowess and looking like a sloppy photography business owner.
A huge benefit of setting up steps 1 through 4 means you’ll be notified when emails bounce! Here’s an example:
There are no steps required to make sure you receive these. I would suggest sending a fake email to using each of the email systems you use (G Suite, Website, etc), and make sure you’re getting bounce-back emails.
Wow. If you’ve read this far, you’re serious about your wedding photography business and your couples. Well done!
Let me know how you go and feel free to get some technical support in the comments. I won’t be able to help everyone, but I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction.
PS: A lot of time and energy goes into writing posts like this, do us a favour and follow us on Instagram, Facebook, or just link to this article somewhere to share the love and help someone else struggling with email delivery!
Disclaimer: All information in this article is provided as general help only, do not do anything you don’t understand, and make sure to seek professional advice if you feel you’re out of your depth. Completing the steps above correctly can have a huge impact on how many of your emails reach someone’s inbox, conversely, completing them incorrectly can make things significantly worse.