Top Ten Things You Should Know and Do
There is no doubt that wedding photography can be very profitable. For several years I was a wedding photographer and over that time I had a kind of love-hate relationship with it. I loved the money I made doing it but I hated the responsibility and pressure that came with it.
That pressure and responsibility eventually came to outweigh the money aspect so I stopped. Looking back on the experience I’ve come to realize the things I did right and the things I did wrong and will share with you 10 things you should consider if you want to be a wedding photographer.
1.) Realize that spending the day taking pictures is a very small part of the process.
The majority of time you’ll be marketing, selling, meeting, processing, accounting and planning. It’s true that wedding photography is where art meets business. Unfortunately, the art part is about 10% of the process while the business of wedding photography dominates. If you don’t think you’ll like being a business person, wedding photography is not for you.
2.) Don’t be cheap.
I’ve heard wedding photographers say, “I’m Cheap!”, like it’s something that they’re proud of. In context though, what they’re referring to is that the bride and groom will be getting a lesser product from them because they’re prices are less than everyone else. The bride and groom don’t expect less. Trust me, the bride and groom expect as much from the photographer that’s charging $500 as the one that’s charging $5000. Don’t be cheap. You’re just setting yourself up for problems in the long run. If you’re technically not a good photographer, you shouldn’t be doing weddings — cheaply or otherwise.
3.) Don’t give away things for free.
Many times, when I’ve been going over my packages with the bride and groom, I’m told that so and so is doing this for free or they’ve been offered a free this or a free that from another photographer. Remember that nothing is free. You’re paying for it and your time certainly isn’t free either. If you want to give a “free” engagement session that’s fine just have it priced into you package. $100 print credit? That’s okay too, just make sure the package is priced $100 more. Free is a misnomer. You’re paying for it. Get compensated for it.
4.) Communication is key.
If you’re not a good communicator, photographing weddings is not for you. You must be able to talk to people, be social, be understood and understand others. A successful wedding shoot happens when the photographer talks to the wedding party and cajoles great shots out of them. Take a Peter Hurley workshop and see how he prompts great portraits out of people. Take what he’s doing and extend it to the wedding gig.
5.) 2 is better than 1.
Having a co-shooter makes everything easier. It’s true, you’ll make less money but the entire day will be easier and less stressful. Also, a different point of view and style can only strengthen your business’s wedding portfolio.
6.) Don’t overdo it with the equipment.
The day is long. Don’t make it longer by lugging around a huge camera bag overflowing with lenses, lights and filters. Beside an odd filter or two and flash triggers, two bodies, two flashes, two to three zooms – 17-55, 28-70 and 70-200 will be fine. Having more won’t make you better. Taking great pictures makes you better (Jeesh, that was cliche’).
7.) Equipment is expensive. Don’t be afraid to rent.
A wedding is one deal where fast glass is needed. Places of worship and reception halls can be dark and the faster the lenses you have the easier it will be for you and the better your pictures will be. Unfortunately, fast glass is expensive. Consider renting your lenses. It’s less than you might think and you can rent top shelf, quality stuff. What is fast? Well, f2.8 should be the slowest lens in your bag. Those lenses I suggested above come in f2.8 but they’re expensive. Rent them until you can afford to buy them. Also, if you only have one camera body, rent a backup so you might avoid disaster.
8.) Avoid the artsy fartsy shots.
Yeah I know we’re artists and this is our craft, but believe me, a picture of grandma in her pretty blue dress will be more appreciated and SELL more than that soft focused, 8-point-starred, candle glowing shot of the bride and groom’s rings.
The key here is to not forget that a wedding is a people event. Take the best shots of the people at the wedding having a good time. Lots of kids photos, old folk photos, wedding party photos. Remember to communicate with the bride and groom before the wedding to find out what they want. If they want a pretty soft focused candlelit shot of their rings, than certainly take the time to set that shot up during the reception. Otherwise, concentrate on the people.
9.) Maximize Social Media.
Don’t shun facebook and twitter. Word of mouth is your most powerful advertising tool and social media can help you get your brand heard. Setup a wedding page on facebook, tweet about your weddings. As quickly as you can, post on facebook some pictures of the wedding you just took and tag the wedding party. Have easy links back to print purchasing and links to your website where a new client can find you. Involve yourself in dialog and always be positive on social media. Don’t rant and complain about a wedding, a bride or a groom. Your presence on social media is what the client sees and it will be who they believe you are, for better or for worse. Make sure it’s for better.
10.) Regularly reassess where you are and where you’re going.
I read in a business book (I’m sorry I don’t remember which one) that business people spend 80% of their time tending to things that only make them 20% of their money. You regularly need to reassess where you are in your business and figure out what’s making you the most money and what isn’t. Prioritize the money making things and tweak that which isn’t working out or drop it all together.
For example, is part of your package going to the brides home before the wedding but you’ve found that the pictures have tended to suck and you’re just an annoyance as everyone is hurriedly and nervously getting ready for the ceremony? Well, stop doing it. You’ll save the time and the money not doing something that wasn’t adding any value to your wedding package. Examine every facet of your business and don’t be afraid to change where change is needed.