Becoming a Professional Wedding Photographer
Creating a successful wedding photography business is a lot of hard work but doesn’t come without its rewards. Just because you can take a good picture doesn’t mean that you are ready to start your own wedding photography business. There are many stages involved in building a successful wedding photography business. Believing in yourself and your abilities as a photographer is essential in starting your new business in wedding photography.
Some things to consider when starting out. What makes your images unique, for example, are your images more of a photojournalistic style capturing candid moments, and working in all natural light? or do you enjoy working with off camera flash in a studio like setting. Always be true to yourself, find your own creative style. If you perfect your skills in a certain style of photography you’re passionate about this is the best way to building confidence in yourself. Practice on friends and family, but don’t take their word for how good your work is as naturally they are going to be bias. The average customer you will get as a wedding photographer is going to be more critical about your work.
You might be wondering how to get exposure out in the field? You currently have no portfolio to show potential clients, and no experience dealing with new clients. From my experience, one of the best ways to start out in the Wedding Photography business and start building your portfolio is to find work as an assistant or second shooter for an already established photographer or studio. This is the best way gain confidence, and get first hand experience not just for producing some great images, but also customer service and learn how to direct a shoot. Even at this early stage you should always carry a backup camera.
I wouldn’t recommend taking on a friends wedding as the main photographer, this is way too much of a responsibility, even if you think you are well prepared. Its their special day and shouldn’t be time for you to practice wedding photography.
You need to also be critical of your photography. Know that you’re good, but also know where there is room for improvement. Rather than trying to compete with a million other wedding photographers out there, set yourself a personal high standard. If your not at the level you need to be at, find a photographers work that you admire, research what makes them successful, understand the quality of work they have to offer and know whats involved in producing it. Forget about the rest, there are a lot of ordinary photographers out there too. Remember you need to aim high. Research what you need to get to that high level. You can never spend enough time researching new photographic methods and the latest equipment on the market. Always use your camera in manual mode, know your equipment like the back of your hand. This will give you the confidence and practical skill that you will need as a professional.
It is also of great importance to be proficient in post processing, spend plenty of time using Lightroom and photoshop, buy photography magazines, watch tutorials online, you can educate yourself, as everything you need for honing your photographic skills is online. I’ve always thought that if you do a course in photography, you are only ever going to be as good as the person that teaches you, their technique is not necessarily the best, teaching yourself builds more confidence, you are learning your own style not someone else’s!
After gaining some experience as a second shooter, and you have your own portfolio, you might be thinking that your ready to begin your own business, remember not to don’t rush into it. Try to save as much money as you can from your assisting work to go towards advertising your business. If you have enough work on as a paid second shooter you can think about advertising your business locally and online, and see what kind of response you get. If you have a good contact that you are assisting for that has plenty of work, I wouldn’t recommend moving on to your own business until you are close to fully booked for a year.
When setting your prices an important factor is knowing your value. don’t set your prices too low, people will second guess your quality, even if you do great work, they will perceive it differently. Of course don’t charge too much either if you are just starting out, you don’t want to lose clients because you’re too expensive! I find smack bang in the middle is a good option. That way clients won’t second guess your prices. If they like your work enough they normally have a set budget for their wedding photography, and they’ll hire you. The average for photographic coverage with all images in high-resolution on a disk is $2500, this doesn’t include an album, but with the disk they can print as many photos as they like for their own personal use, and perhaps create their own album.
Establish a relationship with a local print lab learn about the proper conversion of files from digital to print, get some test prints done and figure out what type of finish best displays your work. Make sure you have a logo, and business email, its these finishing touches that make a big difference in how you present your business.
Look into wedding album suppliers, and have some ideas for when a client requests an album, getting a sample album made up is a good option, you can take this or an iPad with you to show clients your portfolio.
When running your own wedding photography business, start locally. Pick an area and start advertising with local business linked to weddings. That includes:
wedding venues etc.
Get some quality business cards and brochures made up to give to them. A good idea is to offer a finders fee for any referrals. 10-20% is a good amount. This will mean that they will be actively promoting you by passing on your business cards, and brochures and recommending your work to new customers looking for photographers.
After registering your business, you should be promoting your own website online. A great way is doing some SEO – search engine optimisation, again, this takes a lot of time and research, but you will reap the rewards if you put the hard work in. There are great tools online that will scan your website for keywords, meta titles and tags, this is how people find your website. If you don’t promote it online, you will not have a presence. People will never see your work. Pick only your best images to display online. Photomerchant.net offers some great web templates specific to a professional photographers needs with pages in HTML format which you need for optimising your site. Make sure you monitor your site online using Google analytics and web master tools. If its not performing as well as you’d hoped, you can do tweak as necessary by doing more SEO.
There are plenty of wedding photography business listings online that are worthwhile to sign upto, a lot are free, and some can charge $100 or more per month, most of the time their reasoning behind charging that much money is because they get so many views per month. Check compete.com, this shows how popular their site is and then maybe you can possibly trial them for a month and see if you get any leads.
A very important aspect of being a wedding photographer is your customer service skill, always be on the ball and be very clear with your clients, don’t wait to long to reply to their emails, and keep them unto date with whats happening by confirming their payments, and delivering contracts to them.
Its very fulfilling when you start your business from scratch. Your images should speak for themselves when it comes to marketing yourself, but with wedding photography producing great images is 50% and the other 50% is great customer service. If they loved working with you they are going to pass on the good word to their friends and family. Do your job well, and you will find most of your work is in referrals.