It’s funny isn’t it? You think you know it all and then reality comes crushing down on top of you.
As someone who started and grew my own Wedding Photography business from a really young age I originally fell into the industry with little business knowledge, a camera and a limited skill set. I failed miserably in my first year as a Photographer, I lost more money than I care to think and racked up more debt than I’d care to mention because I was bit of a fool with my money and didn’t nail the fundamentals behind running a Photography business, or any business for that matter.
Now, if you’re reading this and you’re just about to make your first forays into the industry please don’t let what I’ve just said scare you. What I have just disclosed was not something I enjoyed telling many people, but here I am pouring my heart out on the internet, the biggest stage on the planet. I’m writing this because I want you to succeed where I had failed, and prosper where I had faltered.
I’m confident that with this guide in tow, you’ll be well prepared for all the trials and tribulations the Wedding Photography industry can throw at you (well, almost all of them).
1. Be Ready
Make sure your skills are up to scratch. I made the fatal mistake of thinking I was already a great Photographer that would find everything super easy. This was before I even had any real experience shooting a typical wedding day. Knowing how weddings run and the pressure you can be under is key here, expect the unexpected.
I overcame this was by building my experience second-shooting under someone else’s business. I shot 15-20 weddings before I shot my next solo wedding. You can’t put a price on that experience.
2. Age Isn’t An Excuse
Young or old, it really doesn’t matter!
Many people who already know about my beginnings often ask me this question and my response is always the same, if you produce quality work, then there’s no worries. A great peripheral skill to add to your arsenal is develop some great marketing tactics to nail future work; when you throw this in with strong branding and quality photography, you can’t really go wrong. You do still have to work hard for it though, so toughen up and get to work.
3. Learn, Learn, Learn!
There are tonnes of useful blogs and videos out there for Wedding Photographers to discover new skills and hone existing ones.
Here at Freedom Edits we work tirelessly to deliver quality content over on our blog, but you can pretty much take lessons from anyone within the industry. It’s important to be open-minded and realise that everyone has something to offer, so get out there and learn.
Be sure to surround yourself with the best mentors by checking out Engage Live and some of the great photographic educational videos they release.
4. Second Shoot Like A Boss
Do you want my honest top tip for second-shooting? Agree before hand what happens with the images. You want to be able to use these images in your portfolio if you’re just starting out so it’s vital to secure this agreement prior to shooting.
Oh, and be sure to work your ass off during the wedding day (obviously).
It’s important to meet with your fellow photographers. Here in South Wales, all of the wedding photographers are great friends and there’s around one hundred all together, pretty big family if you ask me. We all get along extremely well and share referrals, advice and gossip with each other regularly to help each other grow!
If you don’t have a circle like this in your area, why not try starting one yourself? Get in contact with some wedding photographers and socialise, organise hang outs and coffee meets. I’m even part of a young photography group who organise amazing styled shoots.
Just get out there, have few beers and meet some awesome people who can become great friends and allies. I personally love the honesty of being good friends with other photographers and knowing that when we all work together, the possibilities are endless!
6. Studios Are Not For Everyone and Not Everywhere.
This was probably my number one downfall when I started out. I opened my own high-street studio back at the beginning of 2014, initially on a one-year, trial basis contract. The aim for my studio was to utilise it as a client consultation base whilst also serving my larger commercial clients.
Be aware that owning a studio isn’t for everyone and it definitely wasn’t for me at the time! I didn’t have many clients, it was in the wrong location for my clientele and realistically I wasn’t established enough. If you’re asking yourself, “should I open a photography studio?” Before you even glance in the general direction of an estate agent, ask a tonne of friends, family and colleagues their honest opinion on it and think it over for a few months.
There may come a better time for you and your business such in my case. After the fiasco of the first studio, we sat down, mapped the year ahead and set to work. Now we have a thriving Photography Studio in Cardiff, which is worth its weight in gold; you just need to remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day.
7. It Is Somewhat About the Equipment, But…
Sorry, I may be contradicting myself here but hear me out on this one. I feel you need to have a decent level of equipment to do your job properly, as well as having good backup options.
But, the moment I stopped being so engrossed in what gear I had and actually started concentrating on finding incredible light and developing skills to cover myself in difficult situations was the moment I noticed a considerable difference in my photography and my business overall. Be passionate about your equipment, but even more so about your photography.
8. Presenting Yourself
The importance of a strong social image is a huge aspect of being a successful Wedding Photographer. Investing in some headshots or promotional images is something I feel goes along way with clients. Not only does it allow your clients to actually see you before they meet you but also shows your confident and have experience being on the other side or the lens also.
Believe it or not, more brides than you think are actually afraid of having their photos taken, and by you taking the time to immerse yourself in the experience of having your photo taken goes a long way, easing their overall experience for both you and the client, before you even pick up a camera.
Just for the record, I hate having my photo taken but after my experiences I genuinely feel that I am able to get more from my clients now. Just put yourself out there. What’s the worst that can happen?
Do delve further on presentation tips check out Gary Vee’s social media pages for more incredible tips on how to grow your business through online media.
9. Shooting For Free
This is always a difficult one as shooting purely for ‘exposure’ is a dangerous thing not just for you, but for the industry as a whole. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve had people contact me because it was great ‘exposure’, but how much exposure is great exposure?
I personally shoot for free a few times a year and I’ve even give away a free wedding package to achieve a large social media presence, but this is a personal approach and I appreciate that to some people, this isn’t the way they want to operate.
The question to ask is, “what am I actually getting out of this?” It’s important to gauge where and when to shoot for free. If it’s going to help your business and you don’t mind doing it, go for it. If someone is trying to get a deal out of you, politely tell them where to go. Operate on your own terms and don’t get bullied into taking work you don’t want to take.
10. Quality of Product
This is something that works both ways; the quality of your product not only helps dictate the prices you charge but also the way people perceive you. Finding suppliers who I can form relationships with is an important thing for me, with many businesses targeting Wedding Photographers and the photography community in general as their prime target audience, it’s a buyers market of course.
Attending trade shows is something I love doing, not for the freebies and the deals, but mainly to speak with suppliers and get to know the people who provide me wiht amazing products which in turn ‘wow’ my clients. It’s important to take your time with products and find items that will stand the test of time.
Whilst you’re here, take a look at how my experiences grew to shape Freedom Albums.
During the infancy of my business I was failing, big time. If I could give my younger self just one piece of advice it would be to never underestimate the effect outsourcing and systemising can have on a business, either succeeding or failing.
If you want the hard facts and figures backing these claims, and also to see what we did to turn our business around, ultimately shooting one hundred and twenty weddings per year, check out our post on ‘Why Photographers the World Over are Moving to Freedom Edits’.
Take advice from other photographers who automate their business with great effect! Come chat with us at Freedom Edits and see how we can help systemise your post-production for a stress free existence.
12. Finding Your Style!
Last but certainly not least, finding your style is important but nailing it is even more so. Incorporate your branding to match the style of your shooting and be freaking proud of it!
Too often I see Wedding Photographers being lazy when it comes to their imagery with each wedding edited differently and consistency lacking in abundance. What baffles me is if client didn’t like your style they wouldn’t have booked you in the first place, so stick with your guns and identify what works.
Tying into my last point on outsourcing, after many trial and error scenarios I managed to find a company that kept my style consistent and took my weddings from 0 to 100, real quick. That company was and still is, Freedom Edits.