To be or not to be.. – a Wedding Photographer
So, you love photography and possibly love Weddings or you would like to explore the possibilities of making a living from photography? Weddings can be such a good area to be operating in. It comes with many pitfalls and risks but with huge pay offs; which are not always financial but more personal development, enjoyment and sense of achievement.
How did I end up as a Wedding Photographer?
As an Engineer for me Wedding Photography was a great unknown, I’d shot landscapes and experimented with street, wildlife, macro, sport and portrait photography. It wasn’t that long before I found myself at a crossroad where I was stagnating with ideas and feeling the limitations of my equipment with no real justification for upgrading any of it. I decided if I were to make some money out of photography to then re-invest in better equipment that’ll be a double win and keeps the hobby progressing! I simply started Googling making money from photography, scaling forums and reading magazines which filled me with ideas; one of which was Wedding Photography. It worried me to have all that responsibility, but it never left my mind.
Where to start? – The fast and risky way
Offer to cover a wedding for free or ultra-low cost. This gets you hard and fast experience, is it a massive risk? Yes! This literally is jumping in the deep end, the Couple could end up with poor and missed shots throughout the day and yourself as the Photographer could completely fold under the stress or even physical exhaustion. Of course, if the mixture (control of risks, photographer experience, customer expectation etc) is correct this method could work but the Couple and the Photographer should be comfortable with the risks, which include total loss of all images.
Remember if you tarnish your reputation on your first few gigs it may forever be hanging over you, this can be likened to ratings on Amazon or Ebay – would you buy a 1, 2 or 3 star product/service?
The longer and less risky way
Research everything! Equipment, software, business & administration, Website creation and maintenance, competitors, types of photography skills required etc.
There are so many aspects to think about as a Wedding Photographer, the key is controlling and mitigation of risk within them all. I would whole heartedly recommend a going to a wedding photography workshop; there really are so many. Choosing the right one may be difficult, so email ahead with questions prior to booking as to what you are looking to get out of it, ie your worries or knowledge gaps. Some are ‘styled shoots’ and get you portfolio shots, some are business/marketing orientated, others are niche skills such as flash photography and some are a mixture. Another option is mentoring, but be careful – a Mentor may not give up all of their knowledge if it is the key to their business. Before undertaking training or a mentorship you must figure out what you would like to gain from it as they are always costly, it is wise to draft up a list of questions you would like to be answered; but save these for the end of the training or modules in which they would naturally occur.
Research is a continual loop, when you have a problem to overcome or an ideal you would like to explore it is always back to research.
What are you going to do? what will you provide as a service? Who are you aiming your service at?
The best way to tackle this is starting from the beginning of the whole process through to the end and everything you will need in between.
Example: Attracting a potential client will require communication and the best vehicles are directories, search engines etc. What do these then need? Contact details and probably a website/info page.
A process called Plan, Do, Check & Act is an excellent way to determine the success and act upon anything you do.
Wedding photography is completely different to most forms of photography, you are essentially ‘running and gunning’ with limited time to turn the images around coupled with the sheer amount of images; which is usually around 3500 images to process after a full day. You need to be prepared!
Camera and lenses? done right? – are they suitable for the various applications, versatile, robust? – do not forget the accessories!
OK – what about Insurance, Website costs, accessories, software, subscriptions to services, computing power etc.
Most of all, your time! as a Wedding Photographer time becomes your most precious resource!
Essentially from your ‘Planning’ take all of the points and list out what could go wrong, both in and out of your control.
Any risk should be interrogated and a way of mitigating or eradicating the risk entirely.
One of the major risks is image loss, how do you eradicate this? Well, not take any photographs! – not an option. Seriously – How do you mitigate risk on image loss? At least two of everything, plan for the unexpected; camera bodies, batteries and memory cards do fail! I would only ever use a camera body capable of writing to two memory cards at the same time at a wedding. With two memory card slots if a card fails, the other one is still OK, change the cards keeping them separated from the rest and figure out which one is toast after the event. Even when you’ve got as far as you can with reducing the risks there will probably better solutions but not feasible because of cost.
The risks can be reduced, but first they need to be recognised and dealt with. A degree of openness is required to let the clients know what may occur. You can always get caught out too, there are so many articles and guides on weddings and wedding planning along with horror stories regarding wedding photography. The favourite one here is what do you do if you are ill or have an accident preventing you from covering the wedding? For me I answer this by explaining that I am part of large Wedding Photographer networks where emergency cover can be found. So, be prepared for such important questions.
Marketing & Networking
Marketing comes in many forms, the main aim is to raise awareness of your services or products, there are many platforms and plenty of 3rd party companies offering services that are less cost effective than things like Google Adwords, Facebook advertising etc.
Networking online and in person can be fantastic, again there are both positives and negatives to it – much can be learned about the ‘norms’ within the industry and also finding out that you are not alone with the stresses and strains of the profession. There are many ‘development’ groups and inspirational communities available online, nothing is a one stop shop so you may find yourself looking at a multitude of sources to gain valuable information.
Facebook groups, forums and clubs/guilds are great sources for getting connected with other like-minded people.
Although it is perfectly possible to chuck yourself into everything it may be better to ease into it, take lower positions of responsibility for experience such as being an Assistant (equipment set up and security) or as a Second Shooter (Second Photographer covering the angles that the main Photographer cannot). These roles are absolutely fantastic for gaining valuable experience and a small amount of cash. There are various ways of landing these jobs, one I’ve found to be helpful is Facebook Groups such as the Second Shooters UK group.
Be honest, go with your gut and turn down work if you know you’re not up to it.
Tastes change, fads rise and fall and technology advances! Research and personal development is always key to being at or near the front of the pack and being successful!
This article is literally the very tip of the iceberg and there are so many pitfalls, take your time, be sensible and do plenty of research and you’ll learn, develop, become successful and hopefully enjoy doing it!