Please keep in mind, this advice for new wedding photographers is meant to build better photographers and encourage the ones who truly want to do this correctly. There is no animosity towards new or prospective wedding photographers from me. But it’s no secret that I believe the wedding industry needs a good shot of chlorine. Let’s begin.
1-There are already too many wedding photographers-
Don’t let that discourage you, if this isn’t a “going after the gravy train” attempt. You’re serving couples on the biggest day of their lives, with friends and family they often rarely see. No pressure, but don’t F this up for them. At that point, I doubt there would be much forgiveness for lower prices. If you want in the wedding photography industry, do it for the right reasons. It’s not easy money like many think. You have to love working with couples to give them a great experience, and tell their story, while passionate about it. Don’t be just another one.
2-Have solid systems-
From a solid contract with clear terms, such as photo delivery time, what is included, etc. to backup equipment, it all matters. I’ve heard about many $500 wedding photographers who ran out of batteries, failed to deliver photos, clients having to hound them to get photos, etc. It’s a buyer beware service. Often, couples don’t want to hear that they didn’t hire an amazing photographer for a cheap price, they hired an amateur without a proven track record. Also, online gallery interface and means of file delivery should be nicely presented and user friendly. Not ambiguous to the couple.
On the day of, a solid proven system of working also helps the experience. As well as being responsible for delivering a signature and consistent product. Being organized and systematic is a reminder to the couple of why they hired you. Have experience and systems before taking on your own weddings. Learn from pros, pay dues. Not a popular piece of advice, but too bad. Being unqualified, no matter how cheap, is never cool.
3- Think like a smart business person, not emotionally –
You’re better off gaining experience being mentored by pros and working on your own style, and coming in as a freelance with an advantage. Building equipment, experience with not only technical photography aspects, lighting, and procedures with weddings, is time consuming and expensive. Be realistic about your skill set, if you’re ready, and don’t be afraid to charge what you’re worth. Don’t apologize for charging to sustain your business.
“Oh, Kaitlyn charges $800 and gives all photos, etc.” So what? Lowering your prices to compete with that fictitious character is an emotional decision, not a sound business decision. When you factor in your time with the clients, photographing the event, post production, blogging and presentation, print products, etc. as well as expense, the math has to make sense. Taxes, insurance, paying for and learning software, and overall value we provide clients are part of what they’re paying for. You pay someone for what they know, not just what they do.
4- Why hire you? –
I remember years ago sitting with a middle aged businesswoman interviewing me for her wedding photography. She said, why should I hire you? I was in the early days of being known for my photojournalist style of wedding photography, which was why she called me for a meeting. Deep inside, I was peeing myself when she asked me that, and she probably knew it, lol.
I simply said, I am assuming the reason you called me here is because you like the style of photojournalist, non-intrusive coverage, and you knew what you wanted. Otherwise you wouldn’t have contacted me. It worked, I think she just wanted to be sure I would be confident and organized. Clients who are informed hire wedding photographers for the following reasons.
-They like you.
-They like the style and experience you provide.
-They see the value in what you offer and your products. Notice I didn’t say cheap or price. Value.
If price is the main reason you’re being hired, there’s a good chance you’re targeting the wrong clients and your own experience will become frustrating. Have a vision and a plan, or be just another one.
5- Not everyone is your client
Perhaps the best advice for new wedding photographers that I didn’t scare off already, realizing that not all business is good business. Being desperate and taking any client, dropping prices enough to get them doesn’t win you the right business. If you refer to the above segment, you know that the most qualified clients hire for your signature style and approach, they gel with you, and like your systems and products.
I’ve had couples that have been lovely and were pleased as punch when I put together a small intimate package for them. Especially on an off month, and that was all they needed. It’s the ones who want the farm for peanuts and are demanding that are often problem clients. Experience teaches you things like this in business. Those who learn and adjust their systems, are likely to succeed. Those who blame others and don’t learn from things, are just going to fall out of love with what they do and burn out. Love of craft is good, passion for business and clients is the one thing that holds that together.